4 Tips for Assessing Growth in Student Writing in Google Docs

It’s safe to say that most educators agree that feedback should be given to students not just at the end of an assignment, but also during.  Many educators would even say that the “during” feedback is more important, especially in writing.  But, how do we do that efficiently?  Reading & assessing student work twice takes up lots of time.

Well, I have 4 tips that I think can help.

By comparing a rough draft (or earlier draft) to the final draft (or most current draft), the teacher can assess the changes being made and decide if additional changes are necessary.  It’s also a great way for teachers to see what areas for improvement students are and are not catching.

Google Docs offers some great functions for doing this.  In this post, I’ll share 3 tips with you to help with this process.

Tip 1: 

The easiest, is to go to File > Version History and click on the newer “versions” of the document to see the changes.  This is nice and easy, but it has a few drawbacks.

  1. If the student has done multiple days worth of edits since you last viewed the document, you’ll have to look at each version to see all of the changes.  (See Tip 3 below for help with this.)
  2. If you want to display these changes somewhere, like on a digital portfolio, this strategy won’t give you that option.  (See Tip 4 below for help with this.)

Check out the #EduGIF below to see how this works (and check out the Pausable #EduGIF version here).

Google Docs Revision History Animation

Tip 2:

When looking at those versions discussed in Tip 1, it’s actually possible to rename the Versions. One possibility here is to rename them with steps of the writing process such as prewritingrough draft and final draft.  Check out the #EduGIF below to see how this works (and check out the Pausable #EduGIF version here).

Name Versions of Version History Animation

Tip 3: 

One of the issues with Tip 1 is that you may have to look at multiple versions in order to see all of the edits made since the last time that you observed a document.  For example, if I look at a student’s doc on Monday and again on Friday, but they edited on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as well, that means I have to look at 4 different sets of revisions.

Well, at least that’s what it used to mean.  Because I discovered something new.  You see, If I combine Tip 1 & Tip 2 with a button that you probably never noticed we can isolate specific versions to look at changes between them.  If I give Monday’s version a name–let’s say rough draft–and Friday’s version a name–let’s say final draft–I can click on “Only show named versions” to combine the edits made between those 2 days.  🤯  I was so pumped when I discovered this! Check it out in the #EduGIF below or the Pausable #EduGIF linked here.

Compare Only Named Versions in Google Docs Animation

Tip 4: 

Now, back in Tip 1, I mentioned another drawback – the ability to display the changes between the versions on a digital portfolio.  Tip 4 will solve the that drawback but, as you may have guessed, has drawbacks of its own.  The Compare Documents option in Google Docs will create a new document that displays all changes between any 2 versions of a document.  Before we get to the #EduGIF, here are the drawbacks:

  1. You end up with 3 documents instead of just 1 – the early draft, the newer draft and the comparison.
  2. The comparison doesn’t have a Version History of its own.
  3. Deciding where to communicate feedback with students (the current version? the copy of the early version?  the comparison document?) might be confusing.

Diving Deeper into Tip 4:

If you’d like to see what Tip 4 looks like, check out the #EduGIF below.  Step-by-step directions are underneath the GIF.  A Pausable #EduGIF is available here.

Google Docs Compare Documents Animation

Step-by-Step Instructions for Tip 4:

  1. Click on File > Version History.
  2. OPTIONAL: Click the 3 dots next to any of the Versions to give them names.
  3. Click the 3 dots next to the older version that you’d like to compare.
  4. Select “Make a Copy.”
  5. Give the Copy a Name so that you’ll remember that it’s the old version.
  6. From within the old version, select Tools > Compare Documents.
  7. Locate and select the newer version.
  8. You’ll now have a 3rd document showing those changes.
  9. You can delete the 2nd & 3rd versions of the document after viewing them, if you’d like.

Published by

Jake Miller

Jake is a Google for Education Certified Trainer and is the Lead Technology Integration Specialist for Brady Middle School in Ohio's Orange City Schools. In the past he taught STEM, Science & Math in Stow-Munroe Falls, Ohio, where he was also a leader in the district's Technology Leadership Team and a co-advisor for the middle school's STEM Club. He has been an educator since 2003. His Bachelor's Degree is in middle-level education (math/science) from the University of Akron and his Master's Degree is in Instructional Technology from Kent State University. He has enjoyed providing more than 100 professional development opportunities at conferences and school districts across the state of Ohio. He is very involved in Twitter (@JakeMillerTech) and provides regular pointers for educators with his #GAFETip tweets.