To Correct, or Not to Correct?

This year, I started a new elective class called “Digital Literacy” that focuses on building the core digital literacy skills and, specifically, working on our school’s online newspaper. Later on, I’ll do a series of posts about the creation, implementation, and benefits of the school newspaper. For today, however, I want to put into writing a question I’ve been considering since starting the newspaper:  How thoroughly should I edit student articles before they are posted?

On one hand, this newspaper represents the school, my students, and me, so I have incentive to ensure that everything about it is as close to perfect as possible. Despite this incentive, I’m approaching this newspaper with the mindset that student growth and their appreciation of that growth is most important. To help them identify their growth as writers, I’ve restricted the number of edits I make to their writing so they can see how an article they wrote in June is better than one they wrote in January. While that is how I’ve decided to approach the newspaper, this debate is something I continue to think about, especially because this concept of correcting versus overcorrecting extends to all aspects of teaching.

If teachers overcorrect, we might spoil opportunities for students to “fail forward” from their mistakes, and also make them feel that failures are bad and have no place in school. It also has the potential to make students shut down and wait for teachers to give them the answers. If we undercorrect, students might become too comfortable with subpar work, feel aimless, or get so frustrated by their failures they stop trying.

Like most things in life, it’s about finding the balance between these two extremes. Part of the artistry of teaching is knowing when to step in and when to take a step back. It’s something that I think pretty much every teacher is working on constantly, and the school newspaper has been a catalyst for my own thinking on this topic.

I’m going to end this post without any definitive conclusion, because if there is one for this debate, I haven’t discovered it yet.  My own goal is to keep this idea in mind and make sure I don’t veer too far to either extreme. I would love to hear from others on this topic, especially with regards to school publications like the newspaper.

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