Multiple Paths to Literacy, Joan Gipe makes a distinction between revision and editing that I had never thought of before. She describes revision as be concerned with content and editing being concerned with mechanics. Revision is when you consider reordering the information, grouping it together or splitting things apart, adding material or taking away material, etc. Editing is when you scour the paper with a fine-toothed comb looking for missing periods, misspellings, and other grammar mistakes.
I know that I am a very good editor usually. My brain is wired that way, to understand the rules of writing and to abide by them. My weakness is in revising and considering what content should and should not be in a piece of writing.
What struck me most about the distinction was the emphasis that Gipe put on revision. She suggested students do several drafts where all that is done in between is revision. She even said that good writers are seldom concerned about correct language conventions until they are ready to edit their work. This surprised me, having such an editors mindset. I think first about grammar mistakes. It makes sense however -- why bother thinking about whether that sentence needs a comma or a semi-colon if you're not even sure if that sentence is going to be in the final draft at all?! Who if you use who versus whom if you're still considering what characters to describe in your story and how much description to use?
This suggested to me the principle of the plank-in-the-eye image from the Bible. I am often concerned with the small specks in my writing, and the few pieces of writing my students turn in. What I need to focus more attention to is the outlining, the content, and the revision steps that my students and I go through when producing a paper.
I also need to implement a draft or two with the lab reports my students produce, so that they can look at what they have and what they need to add/change. Currently I only look at their lab reports after they are "finished" and I immediately grade that piece. Consequently, their writing is usually poor, and missing crucial elements. I do allow them to resubmit a second draft, but it might be more beneficial to all of us if we all did that purposefully, rather than some doing it haphazardly.