Giving Feedback on Student Writing II. Lecture 5 Teaching Writing in EFL/ESL Joy Robbins. Last Week’s Task.
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Teaching Writing in EFL/ESL
Last week I asked you to prepare a short presentation in which you showed us the kind of written feedback you would give 2 of my former students who were studying general English at this university. I also asked you to say why your feedback would be the way it is…
Over to you!!
Here are a few more questions about feedback for you to discuss which relate to last week’s session…
Maho (Japanese undergraduate)
Samorn (Thai postgraduate)
It seems as though the written feedback she got on her writing was at least partly to blame…
‘…the feedback given to [Samorn] on grammar appeared to be counterproductive, in affective terms, even though it had a positive effect on her texts.’ (Hyland 1998: 277)
Why? Why do you think Samorn might have reacted negatively to her teacher’s feedback on her writing?
‘I think that my grammar is good but I didn’t get any comments that ‘oh your grammar is good, but you still have to, you still have to correct about something like this’ But all the comments come that my writing is not so good, so I feel that everything is poor. […] I think that at least she should admire me some points. […] From that time I discouraged a lot and I feel don’t like writing.’ (Hyland 1998: 277-8)
‘It was certainly true that no positive comments on grammar were made by Nadia. Instead she tended to show Samorn her problems by underlining and indicating the area in which the problem lay.’ (Hyland 1998: 278)
‘The fact that positive reinforcement on grammar had been given to her previously had created an expectation for Samorn. After Nadia failed to fulfil this expectation, Samorn felt cheated and appeared to lose confidence in her ability to function as a writer in an academic environment. […] She said that her lack of confidence in her writing ability would cause her to “try to avoid writing at all costs” in the future.’ (Hyland 1998: 278-9)
‘Samorn claimed that she wanted grammatical correction; in fact, she stated that this was the feedback that she “loved the most”. However, she also wanted praise for her grammar. When faced with a large number of grammatical corrections and no positive comments on her grammatical ability, her confidence in her writing ability suffered, together with her motivation to write. Her teacher knew nothing about Samorn’s unhappiness and commented in Samorn’s final report that she had made good progress in her writing.’ (Hyland 1998: 279)
How could Nadia have ensured she gave Samorn the kind of feedback that would produce positive effects, rather than negative effects?
‘I think I’ve already got enough confidence so I don’t need any more good comments. The problem, um, I want development, so I want to know the weaknesses most.’ (Hyland 1998: 280)
Hyland claims that the way to give each type of student appropriate feedback is to find out what they want:
‘To help prevent miscommunication, teachers and students should talk together in detail about their aims and expectations with regard to feedback. Teachers need to allocate some time for face-to-face discussion with the individual student on feedback issues, to gain an awareness of the student’s perspective and an understanding of what each individual student brings with them to the course in terms of past experiences and expectations. It is also possible for discussion on the various types of feedback to take place in small peer groups, so that students can make comparisons with their classmates. […] Such contrasts allow students to see that there are many different ways of using feedback and may encourage them to try new strategies and to abandon ones which have not been effective for them. (Hyland 1998: 280)
Let’s have a look at what she says in more detail…
‘Some teachers and students work within institutions where writing and what someone has to say about writing is highly valued. […] Conversely, other teachers and students work within contexts where writing…is seen as an exercise in developing grammatical and lexical expertise. Even teachers who do not believe that writing instruction should have as its raison d’etre the development of linguistic competence may be hard pressed to provide written commentary on content and rhetorical concerns in the manner they believe is effective because of the pressure to respond to students’ grammatical and lexical errors first and foremost.’ (p.11)
‘No matter what view of writing an institution or program professes to hold, requirements based on number of words, drafts, or papers, plus entrance and exit exams, exert strong pressure on teacher commentary and student revision.’ (p.12)
Goldstein also makes the point that the teachers’ workload and class sizes will influence how much and how thorough the commentary can be (p.14).
Goldstein (2005) nicely captures all of these contextual considerations in the following diagram…
the teacher’s pedagogical beliefs about how to comment
attitudes toward specific student characteristics
attitudes toward each student
attitudes toward the content about which students are writing
expectations of students at a particular level
expectations of particular students (Goldstein 2005: 18)
goals and expectations
past learning experiences
preferred learning styles and strategies
content knowledge and interest
attitudes toward the teacher, the class, the content, the writing assignment, and the commentary itself (Goldstein 2005: 18)
‘Without understanding how students feel about and respond to teacher feedback, teachers may run the risk of continually using strategies that are counter-productive. As teachers give feedback on student writing, it is crucial that student responses to the feedback are fed back to teachers…to help [teachers] develop reflective and effective feedback practices’. (p.145)
Unsurprisingly, the student who trusts the teacher and has a good relationship with her values her feedback and works hard to improve his writing, profiting from her feedback…While his colleague, who doesn’t trust the teacher’s abilities and who doesn’t make as much effort, doesn’t…
So it’s not only about the quality of the feedback; it’s also about the student—teacher relationship…
‘Once students have completed a revision of a paper after getting feedback…, they can be asked to submit with the revision a cover memo that explains how they addressed the comments and suggestions given by teachers and/or peers, what changes they made, and what suggestions they chose not to act upon and why.’ (p.113)
Ferris DR (2008) Feedback: issues and options. In P. Friedrich (ed.), Teaching Academic Writing. London: Continuum, pp.93-124.
Goldstein LM (2005) Teacher Written Commentary in Second Language Classrooms. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Hyland F (1998) The impact of teacher written feedback on individual writers. Journal of Second Language Writing 7(3): 255-286.
Lee G & Schallert DL (2008) Meeting in the margins: effects of the teacher—student relationship on revision processes of EFL college students taking a composition course. Journal of Second Language Writing 17: 165-182.
Lee I (2008) Student reactions to teacher feedback in two Hong Kong secondary classrooms. Journal of Second Language Writing 17: 144-164.
Chapter 7 of:
Ferris D & Hedgcock JS (2005) Teaching ESL Composition: Purpose, Process, and Practice.
Lee I (2004) Error correction in L2 secondary writing classrooms: the case of Hong Kong. Journal of Second Language Writing 13: 285-312.