Student Response to Instructor Feedback on Writing

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Marti Sevier, English for Academic Success/Linguistics

Project team: Elaine Yanlin Zhang, research assistant

Timeframe: Beginning in summer 2012

Funding: $2,950  

Final report: View Marti Sevier's final project report (PDF).

From the final report: "The focus in this study has been on student attitude toward feedback, and it has been determined that, in this small group of learners, attitude is also extremely complex." Read more >>

Description: I plan to address the problem of why students enrolled in Canada and the World: Global Issues, which is part of the Preparation in Academic Skills (PAS) program, do not apply instructor feedback in their writing. The problem is important because a positive response to feedback should result in improved writing. I hope to find ways to make my feedback clear(er) to students and to incorporate systems which will require students to apply feedback received on writing tasks to subsequent writing tasks.

The students I will be working with are international students with a relatively low level of English proficiency (the entry requirement is IELTS 4, defined as "basic competence … limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language” by the International English Language Testing System). Their academic goal is admission to Fraser International College. The writing tasks that I intend to work on come from their e-journal assignments. Given that these are primarily short summary assignments belonging to a single genre, students should be able to apply the feedback they receive to subsequent assignments even if they do not rewrite the critiqued assignments.

The desired learning outcomes are that students will learn how to apply feedback and ultimately will internalize the feedback so that their writing in future courses will be more effective in terms of proper grammar usage, appropriate use of vocabulary, improved organization and development of ideas, and better understanding of the genre requirements.

Questions addressed: The main question for consideration is "Do students apply instructor feedback to their writing assignments? If not, why not?" In addition, there are several sub-questions:

  1. How well do students understand the feedback they are given?
  2. What do students think about the feedback? (For example, do they consider it threatening/trivial/helpful?)
  3. How, if at all, do students use feedback? Does feedback result in improvement in writing?
  4. Will students’ feelings and attitudes to feedback change as a result of participating in this project?

Knowledge sharing: I will share my insights with other Preparation in Academic Skills instructors and will be happy to speak with others who are interested in the topic.

Sevier, M., & Zhang, E. (2014, May). Student response to instructor feedback: provocative or provoking? Poster session presented at the Symposium on Teaching and Learning: Provocative Pedagogy, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC.