An exploration of teacher response and its effects on student learning

Material Information

An exploration of teacher response and its effects on student learning
Hirad, Hila
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
vii, 64 leaves : ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Grading and marking (Students) ( lcsh )
Teacher-student relationships ( lcsh )
English language -- Rhetoric -- Study and teaching ( lcsh )
English language -- Rhetoric -- Study and teaching ( fast )
Grading and marking (Students) ( fast )
Teacher-student relationships ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 61-64).
General Note:
Department of English
Statement of Responsibility:
by Hila Hirad.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
783862702 ( OCLC )
LD1193.L54 2011X H57 ( lcc )

Full Text
Hila Hirad
B.A., University of Colorado Denver. 2008
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts

This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Hila Hirad
has been approved
by .
HongGuang Ying
Michelle Comstock

Hirad, Hila (M.A., Rhetoric and the Teaching of Writing)
An Exploration of Teacher Response and its Effects on Student Learning
Thesis directed by Associate Professor HongGuang Ying
Teacher response entails dialoguewhether verbal or writtenbetween the teacher
and the student; it involves how this dialogue is initiated, how it is practiced, and
perhaps most importantly, how this dialogue is effective to student learning and
development. The thesis explores teacher response and tackles different rhetoric in
this field, such as praise vs. criticism, encouragement vs. judgment, direction vs.
guidance, where students and teachers make meaning of such phrases and use each to
benefit the learning of the student writer. It includes an analysis of this rhetoric,
detailing how the intention and interpretation of each phrase often contradict each
other, having a problematic influence on student learning. This thesis argues that
while teacher response allows the students to become aware of their errors and learn
to improve on those mistakes, it also entails certain negative repercussions depending
on the manner provided. By reviewing research and other studies previously
conducted on this field, this thesis examines the possible effects teacher response may
have on students of writing and their learning. It concludes by offering seven teaching
of writing methods that teachers can incorporate into the undergraduate classroom,
which will not only help teachers provide effective responses to their students, but
also help students learn and improve from the responses given, and become active
learners of writing.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.
HongGuang Ying

I dedicate this thesis to my family, who has contributed immeasurably to shaping me
as a strong, determined individual; their influence and encouragement has been
invaluable and has made my goal of pursuing a master's degree possible.

I am deeply grateful to my advisor, Dr. HongGuang Ying, who has been highly
influential in the preparation and development of this thesis. His professional and
profound insights have guided me through my research and in the writing of this
thesis. Also, I extend a special thanks to all of those who have assisted in the
completion of this project.

1. INTRODUCTION............................................... 1
Thesis Objective......................................... 3
Problems with the Study...................................3
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE....................................5
End Comments........................................ 6
Ethos and Teacher Response...........................7
Marginal Comments.........................................8
Using a Dual Approach: End and Marginal Comments.........10
Written and/or Verbal Teacher Response.................. 11
Written Response....................................12
Verbal Response.....................................16
Elaborate vs. Basic Feedback.............................21
Positive and/or Negative Teacher Response...........24
Positive Effects of Teacher Feedback.....................25
Negative Effects of Teacher Feedback.....................29
Too Much Teacher Response...........................31
Timely Teacher Response..................................33

Teachers Views on Response to Student Writing..........
Students Views on Teacher Response to Student Writing
Comprehensive Approach to Teaching of Writing
Modeling Samples........................
Specific Writing Goals..................
Pre-Writing Activities..................

Effective teaching of writing seeks a balance between teacher instruction and
student learning. Encouraging self-reliance and confidence in students are often the
goals of the classroom, but instruction and guidance from the teacher, in the form of
teacher response, is necessary for student learning and growth. Teacher response
initiates a communicative interaction between teacher and student, where a transfer of
meaning occurs. It should be tailored in order to help the students to pin-point and
recognize their weaknesses and learn to improve their weaknesses in writing. At its
most basic level, teacher response is defined as information that is provided to the
student by the teacher, in order to encourage improvement. While teacher response
may be offered across the curriculum, the focus of this thesis will be the development
of student writing, impelled by teacher response provided in an undergraduate
composition writing course.
According to Susan Brookhart in her article "Feedback that Fits" (2008),
effective teacher response (or feedback; terms are used interchangeably throughout
this thesis) describes the student's work, comments on the process the student used
to do the work, and makes specific suggestions for what to do next" (56); however,
certain styles of feedback that are effective for some students may not be as effective
for others; therefore, when exploring teacher response, it is important to note that
effective teacher response should not only motivate students to attempt writing, but it
should also encourage students to continue writing. In the article. "Formative

feedback to students: the mismatch between faculty perceptions and student
expectations (2008), authors Perera. Lee, Win, Perera. & Wijesuriya include studies
that have shown the positive effects of teacher response on students. These life-long
effects include: improvement on interview and communication skills", "physical
examination skills, "technical skills, "problem based learning, "team building,
and personal and professional behaviors (395). Skills gained from the learning that
accrues from teacher response are positively diverse and are transferable among
various aspects of life.
Adopting the right method of teacher response that is effective for the
individual student is dependent upon each student and his writing level, the class, and
each students writing goals. Each time a student receives feedback or commentary
relevant to his writing, however, the student is given the opportunity to develop as a
writer; without pertinent teacher response, improvement of writing will not be
achieved, thus, halting the opportunity to learn. Deirdre Wilson and Dan Sperber
propose the notion of Relevance Theory in their article "Relevance Theory (2004),
that states that a response is relevant to an individual when it connects with
background information he has available to yield conclusions that matter to him, for
example, by answering a question he had in mind, improving his knowledge on a
certain topic, settling a doubt, confirming a suspicion, or correcting a mistaken
impression (608). Student understanding, and thus learning, of teacher response can
be increased (or achieved) by making the responses beneficial to that individual
students writing and learning needs.

As learners of advanced writing skills, college students are striving for success
and teachers can assist in this quest by providing their students with thorough,
constructive teacher response. As long as the student is receiving specific,
individualized teacher response relevant to his own writing, learning is personalized
in ways that are appropriate for the individual, enhancing his knowledge and allowing
improvement in writing.
Thesis Objective
The objective of this research is to promote effective teacher response that
successfully meets each students writing needs. Considering that every student in a
composition course is different: beginning at different levels, utilizing different
learning methods, progressing at different speeds, having different prior academic
experiences, etc.... stressing the significance of specific, tailored feedback that
applies to the individual students writing is essential in the field of teaching of
writing. This exploration will achieve the following: 1) encourage comprehensible
verbal and written dialogue between the teacher and student, and 2) promote student
learning through effective teacher response.
Problems with the Study
The difficulty in providing effective teacher response lies in the lack of
teacher familiarization with each of their students. Providing students w ith tailored,
personalized responses that benefit the student's writing requires teachers to acquaint
themselves with each student and her personal writing goals, which then, enables
teachers to know what each student's strengths and weaknesses are in writing. This

way, teachers are able to better assist the student in improving her specific
weaknesses through teacher response that is relevant to the student and her learning
needs. Additional concerns that arise with this theory are lack of classroom time
needed for teacher familiarization and a high student-to-teacher ratio. This thesis will
address these concerns and contribute to the study and field of teacher response by
offering seven classroom activities, such as student-teacher conferencing, modeling
writing samples, establishing relevance in writing, etc... that will help teachers
familiarize themselves with each of their students, provide effective teacher
responses, and actively involve and engage students in their own learning of writing

There are many components of teacher response that will be explored in the
following sections. Within each area, there are narrower terms that will also be
examined. These components include arguments over what kind of feedback is most
effective in increasing student learning and understanding of writingwhether end
comments or marginal, written or verbal, elaborate or basic teacher response. In
Teachers Rhetorical Comments on Student Papers" (1993), authors Robert Connors
and Andrea Lunsford write about the history of teacher response on student writing,
noting that prior to the 1950s in America, teachers would only mark a grade, but it is
after the 50s when teachers and educators realized that formal and/or rhetorical
feedback is required on student papers for the understanding and learning of the
student (200). Jim Burkes book (2003) includes a study conducted by Langer and
Close, in which they conclude that when appropriate support (or scaffolding) is not
provided, [students] may go off task, lose interest, or give up completely" (qtd. in
Burke, p. 83). For optimal student development, therefore, teacher response is
essential as it provides the support needed to improve writing. This reason is also
accentuated by Charles Bazerman in his article Reading Student Texts: Proteus
Grabbing Proteus (1989), where he strongly defends the idea of teacher response and
its positive effect on students, by writing: The interaction that occurs between
student and teacher across the student's papers is framed and driven by the reason

[teachers and students] have come together in such a contrived dyad: for the students
to learn to write better (143).
When determining the type of teacher feedback that is most effective on
student learning, it is important to consider the length of the response, where it is
placed on the students writing, and how relevant the content of the feedback is, as it
pertains to the individual students writing needs. In addition, effective teacher
response has the power to encourage the student to want to learn to improve his
writing, while at the same time, be motivated enough to actually learn from his
teachers feedback; this requires that the student actually understands what his teacher
response is saying and knows how to use it correctly in order to make the response
useful to his learning. Although this may seem to be dependent entirely on the
individual student, the teacher has a profound influence on these factors, as it will be
discussed below.
End Comments
One area of teacher response is called the end comment. End comment refers
to teacher feedback that is provided to students in letter format and paragraph form
regarding their writing piece; it references the student's writing as a whole. In The
Genre of the End Comment: Conventions in Teacher Responses to Student Writing"
(1997), author Summer Smith analyzes 208 end comments and discovers that teacher
response presented in the end comment form tends to follow a common format, where
the teacher begins her feedback with a positive evaluation of the entire paper (265),
followed by a negative evaluation, which includes "suggestion[s] for the student's

next paper and offer[s] assistance" (265). It then concludes with a positive comment
and/or advice for improvement. Smith cautions that excessive use of this format can
leave teachers feeling disconnected from their student's writing; therefore, providing
the student broad, non-specific comments. For example: some teachers may write
positive evaluations of the paper without actually believing them, simply to conform
to the generic conventions (Smith 253-254). Consequently, this can create a
rhetorical problem for the teacher, impeding her ethos (credibility) with the student
when the student observes the insincere statements' (254).
Albeit the end comment form of teacher response is lengthy (response is
written in paragraphs) and addresses the students writing wholly, it is disconcerting
that it can become routine for some teachers; that the positive feedback provided
pinpointing the students areas of strengths in writingmay not necessarily be
genuine. What is more troubling is that the lack of honesty in teacher feedback is
actually prevalent to students and results in losing their teachers trust and any
credibility she might have on future responses she provides. Following a routine or a
procedure for providing teacher response leads to ineffective feedback and hinders
student learning.
Ethos and Teacher Response
Thomas Batt writes in his article, The Rhetoric of the End Comment (2005),
that according to Straub, the teacher's ethos (or persona) has a strong influence on
how her comments are read by the students and interpreted. Of Aristotles three forms
of persuasion, Batt claims that ethos is the most effective of the three, because the

teacher has to persuade her students of her credibility in order for them to take her
advice in the feedback and become credible writers themselves. Batt discusses the
rhetorical stakes of teacher feedback by writing: The instructor draws from the
available means of persuasion to convince her student to do the same with his writing.
To a degree the success of the instructor's rhetoric is reflected in how well the student
succeeds with his rhetoric (210).
In order for teachers to persuade their students to take their advice on
improvement in writing, it is essential that they use honest, encouraging language in
their feedback. Specific examples of this type of language will be discussed in a later
section below. Students awareness of their teachers lack of authenticity causes them
to lose interest in their writing assignment as well as their willingness to make the
changes and learn from their weaknesses. Teachers need to make certain that they are
providing students with feedback that is genuine and shows personal interest in
improving the individual student's writing.
Marginal Comments
Contrary to end comments, marginal comments are brief (consist of a few
words, at the most) and are provided in the margins of the student paperin close
proximity to the corresponding reference in the student's writing. In "Less is More in
Response to Student Writing (2002), Clyde Moneyhun encourages succinct
comments such as marginal ones, and writes that teacher responses should ask a
question [rather] than make a specific suggestion (328), which will enable students
to think of their own response and claim ownership of their writing. He writes that

content-specific and serious comments should come first, followed by less serious,
general comments (grammar, mechanic, etc...). An important aspect of this response
method, though, is that every student is different, and thus, Moneyhun cautions that
even with this approach in mind, teachers should focus on what the student needs the
most out of the two areas of comment. He argues that teacher response should serve
as only one of the forces that help create their text (327). Excessive feedback will
eventually cause the replacement of the students writing with that of the teacher's
thoughts and ideas during the revision process. It is important for teachers to
remember that the response they provide should help students improve their writing
rather than change it to meet their teachers wants.
This idea links well with Richard Straubs concept of control, discussed in his
article, The Concept of Control in Teacher Response: Defining the Varieties of
Directive and Facilitative Commentary (1996), where he reject[s] styles that
take control over student texts and [encourages] instead to adopt styles that allow
students to retain greater responsibility over their writing (223). Straub identifies
teacher feedback as either directive or facilitative, authoritative or collaborative,
teacher-based or student-based (224). He studies and analyzes different teacher
feedback and discovers that when teachers attend to their students' writing processes
and gear their comments to the writer and not the writing, they are implicitly giving
ethos back to the student by acknowledging the student's credibility as an on-going
leamer/writer and, thus, giving control and authorship back to the student (233).
Straub concludes that regardless of the arguments behind directive or facilitative

feedback, all comments that recognize the integrity of the student as a learning
writer and that look to engage him in substantive revision are better than those that do
not' (248). Straubs article is useful to the research of the rhetoric of teacher response
as it addresses the importance of teachers framing responses not only to direct
interaction with the student, but also to build the students' ethos and, consequently,
confidence in their writing abilities.
Marginal comments that are short and concise prompt the students to actively
ask questions and seek ways of improving their weaknesses in writing. This way, the
students are more involved in their learning as they have to seek ways to understand
what their teachers responses mean. In addition, this demonstrates that the teacher is
confident in the students ability to learn to improve on his own based on the short,
marginal comments of the teachers and trusts that the student will know how to make
the correction on his own, once the weaknesses are pointed out to him.
Using a Dual Approach: End and Marginal Comments
In The Rhetoric of the End Comment (2005), Thomas A. Batt observes that
effective teacher feedback relies on Aristotles three kinds of rhetoric: forensic
(marks examples in students writing that needs improvement), political (suggests
action for improvement), and epideictic (gives praise to the student's strengths in
writing, and reflects on rather than criticizes his weaknesses) (214). Since there are
many factors at stake, such as the students attitude toward writing, the course, and
the instructor; his confidence in his ability as a writer; his willingness to continue
developing his abilities; and his openness to the instructors criticism (Batt 210),

utilizing a dual approach in teacher response will provide the student with a complete
overview of his strengths as well as his weaknesses. The marginal comments allow
teachers to use forensic rhetoric, while the end comments allow teachers to use
political and forensic rhetoric. This amalgamation keeps the teacher's response
formal, which grants authority to the teacher and her suggestions, but also keeps it
friendly and personalized with the letter format, which shows that she cares enough
about the individual students improvement to write a letter to him about his writing.
A mixture of formality and friendliness help support the stakes mentioned earlier,
where the student will be more open to his teachers denunciations and trust that the
teachers comments are credible, this will ultimately benefit the student and his
Written and/or Verbal Teacher Response
Tee Odells essay, Responding to Responses: Good News. Bad News, and
Unanswered Questions (1989) offers a comprehensive analysis of teacher response
to undergraduate students of writing. He provides examples of student reactions and
responses to teacher responses and proposes that these student responses are caused
by the students concern about the judgments of only one other person, the teacher
(222). Odell argues that teacher responses that simply mark the students paper are
not only vague and misleading, but can be misinterpreted by the student as a
judgment of wrongdoing. Rather, Odell suggests providing students with
encouragement by trying to provide more and more occasions for writers to receive
responses to their drafts (221) prior to turning it in for the final grade (another form

of judgment by students). This way. students will learn that writing is an interactive
process, where teachers are responding to their writing as a form of encouragement,
and they are responding to their teacher's responses in order to fully understand the
communication and subsequently progress.
When considering the form of teacher responsewritten or verbalit is
important to consider the student and his way of learning, as well as the information
in the response. Teachers familiarizing themselves with the students will allow them
to understand the individual students learning style and, therefore, tailor their
teaching and responses to that learning style. Some students may necessitate one form
over the other, and some may need both forms, verbal and written teacher response;
as long as the responses are relevant to the students writing needs, the student will
have the highest level of success in learning writing. Another important factor is the
information in the response itself. Some responses may be self-explanatory and brief;
however, there are some teacher responses that require further elaboration as to avoid
confusion and/or misunderstanding from the student. In addition, other responses are
highly urgent or important for the student to learn and follow; therefore, the form of
the response depends on how best the student learns (his learning style) and how
important the teachers responses are to the student's learning. Below, both written
responses and verbal responses are discussed, and suggestions are offered, explaining
when or how teachers should use either form.
Written Response

Maria Treglia's article, Teacher-Written Commentary on College Writing
Compositions: How Does it Impact Student Revisions?" (2009), discusses many of
the positive attributes of written teacher response. She claims that providing honest
and considerate [...and] meaningful written commentary [to students] leads to
interesting conversations after class to further explore our viewpoints" (67-68).
Treglia continues to claim that teacher-student interaction is crucial in getting
students involved (68) in their academic learning, and stresses the importance of
honest language in teacher responses. Her article includes studies that found that
teacher feedback [that] focused on surface-level errors, viewed first drafts as fixed
and final products, made arbitrary corrections, wrote contradictory comments, and
rarely offered specific suggestions or strategies for revision" (68) were not only
ineffective to the students learning, but were also unresponsive and unhelpful in
creating dialogue with the student. Treglia mentions another study that found that
teacher feedback should be 1) detailed and, if possible, provide examples, 2) clearly
phrased so that students can understand them, 3) factual, avoiding "mere differences
of opinion, and 4) positive or encouraging rather than sarcastic" (69). She concludes
that comments including such factors and honest, text-specific responses engage
students in an exchange about their work. Response rhetoric that is relevant to the
individual student, promotes student learning, and encourages student-teacher
dialogue is essential in the process of learning writing.
Teachers viewing students' writing as final drafts hinders students learning
and progress; they will not provide thorough feedback if they think the students will

not revise their writing. Offering students the possibility of producing several
different draftsor even one additional draft, other than the final pieceencourages
students to read their teacher's responses carefully and make corrections in their
writing accordingly. This also helps create and promote a healthy conversation
between the teacher and student, where the student reads his teacher's comments
regarding his writing, asks questions or requests further explanation from the teacher
in return, and revisits (revises) his writing to make corrections; thus, learning and
progressing as a student writer.
Quinton & Smallbone address in their article, "Feeding forward: using
feedback to promote student reflection and learning a teaching model (2010),
another significance of written dialogue: it provides a permanent record for later
reference (127). Response written on the student's paper allows students the
opportunity to read and reread the feedback as often as needed in order to understand
the suggestions offered. Engaging with and reflecting on the written feedback
received is a crucial step in effective transfer of knowledge (Quinton & Smallbone
125). With this, the authors suggest dedicating classroom time allocated for
reflection on written feedback where students write on another sheet (referred to in
the article as the copy sheet) questions or comments they may have regarding their
teachers written feedback (125). The authors call this active learning where not only
are the students reflecting on what their teacher has written, but they are also
conversing in a written manner with their teacher in an academic, yet individualized
and personal way.

In addition, written response from the teacher demonstrates well-written
writing. When students read their teachers responses, they are viewing it as a sample
of what their writing should look like. This is particularly important for end comment
feedback, where the teacher is writing in paragraph form. The way teachers portray
writing in their responses is important to consider, as it influences the students
perspective on well-written writing. In the journal Preventing School Failure (2010),
Lisa Siewart stresses the importance of providing well-written teacher response,
because it provides an opportunity for teachers to model correct responses, as in the
example of spelling words and that "written feedback [used] in this manner provides
students with concrete examples on which to pattern future work (p. 25). Even with
marginal comments, it is essential for teachers to use grammatically correct language,
as their students observations of their teacher's writing will carry on into their own
Cauley & McMillans article, Formative Assessment Techniques to Support
Student Motivation and Achievement" (2009), offers examples of the language or
rhetoric of teacher feedback that encourages student learning and growth. They
consider one type of feedback as the "quick and quiet type, where teachers quickly
observe the students work and ask "the student for clarification [e.g. 'Please explain
why you placed this sentence here] or supply a clue about what response would be
best [e.g. Remember to introduce your topic first] (3). In addition, the authors write
that formative feedback should also emphasize progress toward the students learning
goal by stating examples of how teachers should phrase their language to a struggling

student: Thats okay, were just starting this topic. Try to think of it this way. You'll
get it as we work with it more or Youre almost there. Keep working at it (4). The
authors argue that this kind of formative feedback and/or assessment motivates
students to continue their work and provides them enough teacher guidance to
complete their writing without being concerned about a final grade. Again, this
stresses the importance of providing written teacher feedback on earlier drafts of
student writing, allowing the student time to review and revise.
Verbal Response
In the article, Moving beyond the Written Comment: Narrowing the Gap
between Response Practice and Research (2001), authors Fife & ONeill identify the
problem with (or gap between) teacher response and the numerous studies and
research that is conducted on this field as a failure to connect; they claim that what
research suggests teachers should do and what actually occurs (classroom practices)
are two different entities. In an attempt to narrow this gap, they suggest that in order
to effectively improve student writing through teacher response, teachersas well as
new studies/researchshould focus on including student voices in discussions about
writing (302). Fife & ONeill conclude with the argument that getting students to
talk and write about their writing like writers can construct a reality where they are
writers (316). This way, students will learn more as they are actively engaging in
conversation with their teacher.
Christine Chin wrote an article (2006) about student-teacher interaction,
which includes studies and research focusing on the processes and effects of verbal

teacher response, demonstrating to students that writing is an interactive process. The
following is an excerpt from her article:
As a follow-up to a student's correct answer, a teacher could proceed
in either of two ways: (a) affirm the answer, reinforce it, and then
move on to further expository talk via direct instruction; or (b) accept
the answer and then ask another related question or series of questions
that build on the previous ones to extend the line of conceptual
thought. On the other hand, in response to a students answer that is
incorrect or that deviates from the scientific norm, corrective feedback
could be via (c) explicit correction followed by further expounding of
the normative ideas, or (d) evaluative or neutral comments followed by
reformulation of the question or challenge via another question. (Chin
By verbally responding to their students works (asking questions, discussing ideas
present, etc...), teachers are able to encourage further responses from their students as
well as promote conceptual thought by asking students questions regarding their
writing, listening to the students response(s), and generating another response based
on their students verbal words.
In contrast to Quinton & Smallbones claims on written feedback discussed
earlier, Carol Rodgers argues in her article, Attending to Student Voice: The Impact
of Descriptive Feedback on Learning and Teaching" (2006), that descriptive
feedback engages students in a verbal dialogue with their teachers, which deepens
trust between teacher and student" (209). This oral conversation between teacher and
student is beneficial for both, as students are able to express their concerns and listen
to and learn from their teachers experiences, and likewise, teachers are able to learn
more about their students and, subsequently, teach reflectively [based] on their
students learning (210). Rodgers highlights the use of descriptive feedback between

student and teacher as a learning tool. She defines the term as a reflective
conversation between teacher and students wherein students describe their
experiences as learners, with the goals of improving learning, deepening trust
between teacher and student, and establishing a vibrant, creative community on a
daily basis (209). This reflective conversation between teacher and student can occur
during a student-teacher conference, either scheduled during class time or at another
time that is suitable for both teacher and student (i.e. office hours). Student-teacher
conferences will be further examined in a later section below.
Tilly Wamock writes an interesting essay on the relationship between teacher
responses to Kenneth Burkes rhetorical theory of language. In An Analysis of
Response: Dream, Prayer, and Chart (1989), she writes that both forms of language
have motives that are communicative from the selection of symbols, to their
modification, to their reception by others and that according to Burke, the symbol is
a strategy used by writers and readers to encompass situations (60). Using Burkes
theory as a reference, Wamock continues to write that teacher response is action,
motivated and consequential, with explicit and implicit purposes, on both the
speakers [teachers] and the listeners [student's] parts (63). She argues that teacher
response is a response to a situationthe students questions or problems that arise in
student writingand students will only understand those teacher responses if they
are part of the conversation at hand (63). Wamock lists five examples of ways to
respond to student writing: text-centered, author-centered, reader-centered, subject-
centered, and context-centered (68-69). And through these illustrations, she concludes

that in every response [...,] symbolic actions are motivated and consequential (71).
Or more simply stated, every teacher response initiates a student response; thus,
verbal dialogue is established between teacher and student.
With any form of teacher responsewhether written or verbalstudents are
consequently concerned about final judgment from their teacher: their final grade.
Of course, grades are inevitable and serve as a barometer of the students overall
progress and help assess the students' particular set of demands; however, with
writing instruction, it is essential that students have several attempts to write and
rewrite their content before submitting for that final judgment. This is because writing
is versatile and can always be built upon; no one creates the perfect draft the first time
she writes it, but through revision (re-examination of writing), new ideas or expansion
of old ones are generated, and weaker ideas are omitted, with the aim of making the
purpose of the writing stronger. Chin (2006) proposes that teachers allow students to
evaluate themselvestheir own writingprior to submission for final grade
(1334). This is particularly important during the writing/re-writing process as students
are able to make corrections and feel more confident about their writing before it is
judged. Chin writes about a successful study conducted using this method:
Teachers prompted the student to self-evaluate her own thinking, reflect on her
incorrect assumption made earlier, discover the fallacy in her reasoning, and to
rectify her mistake (1334). Consequently, the study found that the teacher also
stimulated the student to evaluate her proposed method to see whether there were

possible sources of error (1334). By self-evaluating their own writing, students are
able to judge their writing without finalizing their work, which grants them the
experience to read critically, self-assess, and make corrections based on their own
thoughts and judgments about their writing.
According to Quinton and Smallbone (2010), student reflection on teacher
response is a mental process that incorporates critical thought about an experience
and demonstrates learning that can be taken forward (126). Similar to evaluation,
reflection is an important step in the students learning of writing, based on the
feedback given to him from the teacher regarding his writing. Often times,
misunderstandings and/or miscommunications occur, where the student misreads or
confuses his teachers comments; thus; hindering progress and student growth. If
learning from feedback is to be effective, [writing courses] should be designed to
include dedicated classroom time allocated for reflection on written feedback, thus
providing an opportunity for feeding forward and for self-development for university
students (Quinton & Smallbone 125). Before leaving the classroom, students should
communicate with their teacher any queries, concerns, or uncertainties they may have
regarding the feedback they have received on their writing. This way, when they are
revisiting their writing for revision and rewriting (improvement of weaknesses) at a
later time, they have a better understanding of what they did wrong and most
importantly, why. Students will be able to better learn from the teacher response
provided and, therefore, progress as students of writing.

Elaborate vs. Basic Feedback
In the article, The Differential Effects of Elaborate Feedback and Basic
Feedback on Student Performance in a Modified, Personalized System of Instruction
Course (2009), authors Chase & Houmanfar compare and contrast the effects of
elaborate feedback versus basic feedback on student learning and growth. They define
elaborate feedback as comments that indicate a wrongdoing and explain why the
answer is incorrect, as well as comments that indicate strengths (well doings) in the
students work and why these areas are strong (247-48). Basic feedback, on the other
hand, simply indicates a wrongdoing, without an explanation of why the answer is
wrong; thus, indirectly asking the student to correct their wrongdoing (attempt to
figure out the right answer) on her own (247-48). The authors argue that elaborate
feedback is more effective and useful to student learning, as students are able to see
what they did wrong and learn from the teachers why explanation (248). By
communicating an explanation with their feedback, teachers are contributing to their
students understanding of the rhetoric.
Susan Brookhart provides an example of these two different forms of
feedback in the following excerpt from her article Feedback that Fits (2008):
General praise (Good job!) or personal comments [basic] don't help.
The student might be pleased you approve, but not sure what was good
about the work, and so unable to replicate its quality. Process-focused
[elaborate] comments, on the other hand, give suggestions that move
the work closer to the target, such as, Can you rewrite that sentence
so it goes better with the one before it? (56).
With elaborate feedback, students are provided with specific guidance from the
teacher on what to do to improve their writing. This helps students work and focus on

particular problem areas; thus, exerting their actions on making improvements rather
than attempting to figure out their weaknesses.
To avoid misunderstandings in elaborate feedback, Deirdre Burke suggests in
Strategies for using feedback students bring to higher education (2009) that
offering direct, feed-forward teacher response is essential. As an example of this kind
of elaborate feedback on student writing, she cites her colleague's teacher response
on student writing: Most of my comments suggest youll want to work on the
following three things in your next essay (1)...(2)...(3)... (48). This way, students
know exactly what to do with the feedback they are given. Cauley & McMillan
(2010) write about areas of focus for elaborate feedback:
Feedback to students that focuses on developing skills, understanding,
and mastery, and treats mistakes as opportunities to learn is
particularly effective. By showing students specific misunderstandings
or errors that frequently occur in a content area or a skill set, and
showing them how they can adjust their approach to the task, students
can see what they need to do to maximize their performance. Feedback
about their progress in learning gives students hope and positive
expectations for themselves. (3).
Students attribution to their own success stems from their personal motivation to
learn and make improvements, and by teachers providing students with elaborate
feedback, they are allowing students the opportunity to know exactly what their skills
levels are in writing and what further steps need to be taken in order to progress.
Student motivation is an important feature of effective teaching of writing, and will
be discussed in detail further below'.
Often times, when students are asked to figure out the correct answers on their
own, they learn critical thinking skills and gain confidence in their ability to solve

problems independently. Yet, if the problems in students writing are difficult to
detect and resolve, students who are left on their own to choose the right answer can
feel lost and hopeless. They may think, if they didn t get it right the first time, what
makes their teacher think they can get it right in the revision. The students may know
that a weakness is present in their writing, and where that weakness is pinpointed
because of their teachers marks; however, they may not be able to figure out how to
improve it. This kind of feedback is counterproductive as it not only discourages the
students from learning the correct answer, but it also discourages them from
attempting to ask for help from the teacher, thinking that if the teacher would help
them find an answer, he would have already done so in the feedback given the first
time the weakness was marked. Elaborate feedback is most beneficial to students as it
enables them to see the weakness, know why it is incorrect in their writing, and know
how to fix it (or improve); thus learning and preventing the same weakness from
occurring on future writing.
In the book Inside Out: Strategies for Teaching Writing (2004), authors Kirby.
Kirby, & Liner offer several different classroom activities for helping students
develop their writing skills. The authors of this book argue that tailored feedback that
strictly pertains to the individual student and the student's needs is essential for
successful academic communication. The opportunity for students to read or hear
comments from the teacher that are text-specific to them sets the foundation for
successful student learning and growth. They write: "We are unique, and our writing
rings with authority when we delve into what we know and what we care about for

our writing (Kirby, Kirby, & Liner 78). There is a sense of originality in feedback
that is meant solely for the student, and perhaps this is why students will develop a
stronger attachment to the assignment. Through tailored comments, the teacher
acknowledges the individual students work and ultimately enables the student to
pride himself in his work. The experience of authoring a work is powerful, as
Kirby, Kirby, and Liner state, and it builds self-esteem and self-efficacy for the
student (46). While this book encourages teachers to tailor their feedback for each
student, it fails to mention, however, the time constraints/limits some teachers may
have when responding to student writing, which will be discussed further in this
thesis. Certainly, it is time consuming for teachers to personalize their comments for
each of their students; but if done, the teachers words will be taken more personally
and meaning will be transferred.
Positive and/or Negative Teacher Response
In the article, Effects of Evaluative Feedback on Rate of Learning and Task
Motivation: An Analogue Experiment (2010), authors Wilbert, Grosche, & Gerdes
write that [t]he law of effect [...] from behavioral psychology suggests that
knowledge of a successful result acts as a positive reinforcer and should increase the
probability of task persistence, while negative feedback reduces the probability (i.e.,
acts as a punisher) (44). When teachers point out the students strengths in writing,
they are positively reinforcing the good qualities the writing possesses; therefore, the
student learns to continue using those qualities in future writing. Correspondingly, by
pinpointing the students weaknesses and wrongdoings in writing, teachers are

attempting to teach the student to eliminate or avoid making similar mistakes on
future writing. Both positive and negative teacher response is essential in the effective
learning and understanding of writing. The authors continue to write that individual
learning focuses on the individual progress of the studenthow much the student has
advanced/progressed in later works compared to the students earlier works (44). And
progress can be attained if feedbackboth positive and negativefocuses on the
individual students learning goals in order for the student to gain the most
Positive Effects of Teacher Feedback
Customized comments help the students to pin-point and recognize their
weaknesses and learn to improve their writing. According to Ferris and Hedgcock
(2005), Teacher feedback [...] provides the opportunity for instruction to be tailored
to the needs of individual students through face-to-face dialogue in teacher-student
writing conference and through the draft-response-revision cycle, during which
teachers assist students through their written commentary at various points (185).
The benefits of teacher-student conferences will be discussed further below, but
through a thorough, customized teacher response, teachers can express what each
students strengths and weaknesses are in writing and better assist the student to
improve her specific weaknesses. This way, teachers would be guiding the
development of students ideas by successively building on their contributions in a
reciprocal manner (Chin 1316). In addition, students can see which areas they need
improvement on and further inquire assistance, if needed, on those areas in order to

effectively learn and progress. It is important to note, though, that teacher feedback
should be a continuous process and never be limited; each time a student asks for
feedback or receives commentary regarding her writing, the student is given the
opportunity to advance; without it, improvement will not occur and knowledge will
not be gained.
Regarding the notion that teacher feedback should not be limited, according
to Ferris and Hedgcock, "Teachers should treat their students as individuals,
considering their written feedback as part of an ongoing conversation between
themselves and each student writer" (192). By determining each student's
weaknesses, both the teacher and the student can work together throughout the course
of the semester to make certain that the student acknowledges her weaknesses and
understands how to improve on them. This way, the student is at comfort knowing
that assistance from the teacher is always there if needed, and can focus on her
problems, which creates a conducive and supportive environment for students to
attain their writing goals.
It seems as though more often, teachers adopt routines in their classrooms,
which, albeit time-efficient, do not recognize the diversification of the students in
their classes. Routines such as lectures and individual writing exercises (mini-lessons)
might help inform and/or educate the student learner on general areas of writing;
however, it can be counterproductive considering that each student may be struggling
on different areas of writing and also have different learning styles, as well. Specific
feedback from the teacher enables students to discover things about themselves and

their writing, including their strengths, which then fosters motivation and the
temperament to learn. Perhaps, this is due to the acknowledgement of their strengths,
which allows students to regard themselves as capable of writing well with certain
areas that need improvement. Students of writing who feel that their teacher
recognizes their potential may become encouraged to improve their capabilities for
subsequent success.
Students revising and editing their writing based on their teacher's comments
prior to submission learn from their previous mistakes and avoid such weaknesses in
their own writing. It is truism that as with every skill, improvement comes with
practice, and the more students revise and edit, the more able and willing they
become to assess their own writing prior to submission. If smaller (mechanical)
mistakes, such as grammar and spelling, are noticed and corrected beforehand and/or
avoided altogether, then the teacher would have more time to focus on the student's
larger issues in writing, such as content, flow, organization, etc... According to Alan
Hirvela (2007), "writing serve[s] as a means of creating better readingand better
reading hopefully has led to better writing (Hirvela 77). With this regard, each time a
student is asked to evaluate his own writing, then he is gaining more practice at
reading and editing text, which will thus, aid in his correction and/or prevention of
mistakes and weaknesses in his own future writing. This, therefore, allows these
students the opportunity to critically think and solve problems on their own, without
becoming too dependent on the teacher to solve their weaknesses for them; revision
opportunities are a more effective approach to foster independence in students as

opposed to the basic feedback notion mentioned earlier, where teachers marking
only the students areas of weaknesses without explanation purportedly helps with
independence and critical thinking skills. This is because students will follow their
teachers responses to their writing and edit and revise accordingly based on the
feedback provided; the teachers response serves as a guide/map for the students.
Zemelman and Daniels (1988) explain that teachers who provide students with
feedback and revision opportunities are encouraging students to worry "less about
surface appearances and concentrate on the ideas in their writing (p. 179). They
argue that this promotes fluency that comes with writing without concerns or
hesitations; writing with the preconceived notion that tailored comments and
feedback will be provided before the final submission and ultimate grade enables
students to write more fluently as they begin writing, viewing their writing as a first
draft with chances to revise and edit later. Their book suggests that when reading
student writing, teachers should consider what areas to provide teacher feedback and
how much information to provide; however, these considerations are contingent upon
each student and vary depending on the students writing level, learning method, and
the class. Weak and/or vague teacher feedback is unsupportive and discourages
students from taking action to learn from or correct their weaknesses and improve on
future writing assignments. According to the authors, students problems are likely
to vary tremendously and therefore, thoroughly reading student work and providing
specific feedback allows the teacher to monitor, listen, encourage, suggest thinking
processes or writing techniques as needed to each individual student (p. 166). This

enables feedback to be tailored, which helps the students pin-point and recognize
their weaknesses and learn to improve their writing. Teachers can see what each
students strengths and weaknesses and better assist the student to improve his/her
specific weaknesses, and likewise, students can see which areas they need
improvement on and further inquire assistance, if needed, on those areas in order to
effectively learn and progress.
Negative Effects of Teacher Feedback
While teacher feedback is essential to the students for direction and guidance,
most students will form a pattern of dependency on the teacher, and thus, rely heavily
on the teacher for correction of their weaknesses in writing. This, in turn, can be
counterproductive considering that the students are merely correcting what their
teacher suggests, rather than understanding what constitutes weaknesses in writing
and why. In an article by Yang et. al. (2006), the authors argue that "exposure to
teacher feedback seemed to reduce self-correction, perhaps because students believed
that the teacher had pointed out all their mistakes and there was no need for further
correction (192). If practice in writing really does make perfect, then it would be
beneficial to expose students to self-revision and/or editing to encourage self-
correction. This practice may help the students achieve more confidence regarding
their writing and therefore, trust their own judgments and opinions. This allows
students the opportunity to express and explore ideas, discover meanings, and
develop their own, authentic voice" (Hinkel 47-8). Once the students have trust in

their writing abilities, the more expressive they become without worrying that their
language and/or writing may be incorrect.
If teacher feedback is provided too much and/or too often, it can be
intimidating for some learners who feel that teachers' comments or corrections are to
be incorporated verbatim into their texts because of the instructors' presumed
superior knowledge and authority" (Ferris & Hedgcock 205). This can be viewed
negatively in the sense that the teacher's opinions are more important than those of
the students, which again, hinders the students' own confidence and self-trust in their
writing. Nugrahenny T. Zacharias writes in Teacher and Student Attitudes toward
Teacher Feedback (2007) that Students are more concerned with becoming
correctors of mistakes pointed out by the teacher rather than writers trying to
communicate with their readers (44). If the goal of a writing course is to teach the
students self-expression, then students must feel free to write how they want without
being concerned with what or how the teacher wants their writing to be. In the early
stages of writing, students should view writing as an act of discovery, where they are
learning more about their writing processes and techniques. According to a study
examining students of writing, conducted by Zamel (1983), students who were more
concerned with the use of language in their writing than the expression of ideas were
simply less skilled than those to whom the exploration of meaning was accessible
(Hinkel 49). If students are released from language-related mistakes, they can
concentrate more on the act of composing and expressing their ideas, and the more
they write freely, the better practice they gain at writing.

At times, negative teacher feedback may seem dictatorial and dogmatic to the
students, and to others, it may seem insulting. Depending on many factors, such as the
students' academic background and learning style, students can misinterpret their
teachers comments, which will be more ineffective to the student than effective.
According to Barbara Kroll (2003), "Teachers [...] may forget that "one size does not
fit all and that different students may require different types of feedback (25).
Perhaps, minimizing negative teacher feedback can motivate students to use their
prior personal and academic experiences to produce writing that has meaning to them
and not just simply formulaic (i.e. following language rules) in writing their first
draft. This will allow students the opportunity to practice self-expression without
boundaries (i.e. inhibiting factors such as grammar rules, spelling, etc...) while
improving their techniques/process of writing.
Too Much Teacher Response
In the following excerpt, Richard Straub cautions of the dangers of providing
too much teacher feedback to students of writing:
[TJhe more comments a teacher makes on a piece of writing, the more
controlling he or she will likely be. The more a teacher attends to the
text, especially local matters, and tries to lead the student to produce a
more complete written product, the more likely he is to point to
specific changes and thus to exert more control over the student's
writing. (233).
Controlling commentary is problematic because the teacher is narrowing the student's
writing to fit the teachers own way of writing. It is a clear instance of a teacher's
imposing an idealized text on the student, her own model of what counts in a piece of
writing and how that writing ought to appear [...] without any real concern for the

writers purposes and meanings (Straub 226). Nugrahenny T. Zacharias defines too
much teacher feedback as providing response that exceeds the students writing (46).
Zacharias continues to write, If students received too much feedback, then, they
would feel annoyed and discouraged to continue writing (45).
Additionally, too much teacher response can alter the student's original ideas
and take the shape of the teachers in revision. Zacharias conducts a study (2007) of
students who received extensive, controlling feedback from their teachers, and based
on the results, argues that this control is troublesome as students did not know how
to continue the writing and became confused since they needed to change their ideas
to comply with the teacher comments (50). This is an important aspect to consider
when providing teacher extensive response, as it will cause the writing to change
from what the student wants to what the teachers wants. The following is an excerpt
from Thomas A. Batts article The Rhetoric of the End Comment (2005) detailing
the damaging effects of too much teacher response:
The result was an appropriation of the student text by the teacher and a
shift of the students focus from her ideas and intentions to the
teachers purpose. Student writers went from asking, What do I want
to say? to Is this what you want?. Even when they did not
understand the teachers directives, or believed that the teacher had
misunderstood their writing, the researchers noted, students
nevertheless attempted to comply with the teachers wishes,
effectively losing control over their text. (209).
When too little teacher response is provided, the student may feel lost and unsure of
how to progress without the proper guidance from her teacher. And when too much is
provided, the student may feel overwhelmed and lose control over her own writing.
This will also cause her to lose interest in writing, or improving her writing, as she

will feel that her teacher has more voice in what her writing should look like than she
does, herself. Because of this predicament, a balanced, well-rounded approach to
effectively providing teacher response to encourage the learning of writing among
students is essential in the teaching of writing.
Timely Teacher Response
In the article. "Formative feedback to students: the mismatch between faculty
perceptions and student expectations," authors Perera. Lee, Win. Perera. &
Wijesuriya (2008) conduct a study of the effects of teacher response on students in a
medical school. Among their many findings, the authors report that an important
response came from one of the students in the study: "Give the feedback when the
activity is still fresh in our memory, if given later we are not bothered. We just cannot
remember (397). When considering when to provide teacher feedback so that it can
be most beneficial to students, it is best to provide the response when it is still
important to the student. After composing a draft, students are anxious to know what
their teacher thought of their writing and want feedback almost immediately. If
teachers wait too long, students may lose interest or their care to complete the writing,
and their attention may fall on another aspect of the class (i.e. another assignment);
hence, moving on too quickly and not learning. An appropriate length of time for
teacher response depends on the writing assignment, the student, and the course
objective; however, when feedback is provided to students in a timely manner,
students will gain the most insight as they are still interested in the assignment at
hand. This way, students are able to focus on the content to be learned and not just the

grade they receive, which will enable them to use the knowledge gained on making
improvements and on future writing assignments.
Teachers Views on Response to Student Writing
In Revealing the Teacher-as-Reader in Response to Students' Writing
(1996), author Melanie Sperling studies teacher feedback comments on students
writing and observes five different forms of teacher response to student writing:
interpretive, social, cognitive/emotive. evaluative, and pedagogical (23). With
interpretive response, the teacher was "constantly interpreting students* texts by
relating elements in them to her own prior knowledge and experiences [...with]
language and text, with personal feelings, or with life and literature (23). Socially,
the teacher would adopt different roles in connection with her students as she read
their paper (23). With cognitive/emotive orientation, Sperling notes that the teacher
would reflect her analytical reasoning as well as her feelings in her comments (24).
Evaluative response involves extensive criticism, and pedagogical entails what the
student has learned and what she still needs to learn about writing (24). Sperling
concludes that these five modes of teacher response work together simultaneously,
merging to form her perspective on the students' writing (24). While Sperlings
article offers a new insight on the teachers thought process as she is responding to
student writing, the study she conducts comprises of only one teacher in one
classroom, whereas observing different teachers responses may be less biased and
offer a more comprehensive study. To this criticism. Sperling replies in her article
that at the most, the observations she has made can help teachers generate

hypotheses about why and how, as readers of students' writing, they construct
different social experiences as they address different students and as they engage with
different writing types (26).
In Interpreting Student Writing (1989), author Janice Lauer writes a detailed
narrative about her own thought process and experiences as a responder of student
When students are shaping their texts for readers, I echo their texts as
intended reader, assisting them in judging the sufficiency and
appropriateness of the clues and evidence they have given to guide
their readers interpretations. I tell them how their texts deconstruct for
me, showing them what formal expectations they have arouse in me as
a reader and where their texts' structures violate those expectations. I
point out the interference caused by vague or inappropriate language
or conventional mistakes. My final stance as a reader is that of
evaluator, not only of the revised text, but of the entire process of
inquiry. I make assessments in light of the writers evolving insight,
purpose, and readers. (127).
Albeit some may argue that teachers acts of interpretation of student writing, and
their subsequent response to the writing is contingent upon their own previous
experiences with writing (whether academic or professional), the above excerpt
suggests that through interaction with their students, teachers learn new judgments
and ideas about writing, and therefore, do not place limits on the learning of their
students. Students are able to reach new levels of writing as they explore and share in
the process with their teachers.
In Reading Student Texts: Proteus Grabbing Proteus (1989), author Charles
Bazerman discusses the mental process behind teacher response:
When we [teachers] measure the student papers against whatever we
believe writing is, we recognize our pedagogical priorities. The course

we set for them is the projection of what we think writing ought to be.
For these students are the one group of writers we have some putative
influence over, the ones who we can make into the people who might
write the things we would like to read. (139).
While students may feel that their teachers are their only audience for their writing
(albeit in some cases, they write for other specific audiences), teachers acknowledge
this feeling and respond to their students writing accordingly. Bazerman continues to
write that Our demand to the student has created a demand on ourselves to respond
to this material (140). Teachers expectations of their students become their own
expectations as they read, and thus, they provide response that will help improve their
students writing as though it were their own writing.
Students Views on Teacher Response to Student Writing
In the article Teacher and Student Attitudes toward Teacher Feedback
(2007), author Nugrahenny T. Zacharias explores students opinions regarding
teacher feedback. In a personal experiment conducted by the author using students
from the authors own class, when students were not given feedback on drafts, they
would request feedback from the teacher either through email or in personbefore or
after class hours. In addition, when students were asked to provide feedback to their
peers, they would still communicate with the teacher about whether their peers
feedback was correct. According to Zacharias, This indicates that the students
themselves think teacher feedback is more authoritative (p. 39). The article reports a
study on the opinions of teacher feedback; 100 students and 30 teachers were
interviewed and were asked about their attitude toward the practice of teacher
feedback. The results yielded four reasons why teacher feedback is essential for the

development and progress of students: 1) "teachers have higher linguistic competence
in English; 2) 'teacher feedback provides security for the [poor] students; 3) the
cultural belief that teachers are the source of knowledge; and 4) teachers control
grades (p. 42-43). It is understandable that students view teachers as more 'qualified*
and experienced and, therefore, accept that they can develop further from their
teacher's feedback; thus, students welcome teacher response as a way to improve (or
grade) their skills and consequently initiate and/or willingly pursue communication
with their teacher.

Considering how teacher response may sometimes fail to effectively scaffold
students understandings of their strengths and weaknesses in their writing (e.g.
misunderstandings in language between teacher and student, time constraints for
classroom instruction and curriculum delivery, etc...), it is imperative for teachers to
utilize efficient and effective classroom methods that will maximize each student's
learning experience as well as help promote successful learning of writing. This
section will explore different ways that teachers can help students understandings of
their teacher response by utilizing classroom time efficiently, tailoring to each
students individual learning style and needs.
Comprehensive Approach to Teaching of Writing
Effective teaching of writing seeks a balance between teacher instruction
and/or response and student learning. Guidance and response from the teacher is
necessary in a classroom for student progress and growth, but encouraging
independent thoughts among students creates an environment in which students take
accountability and more interest for their own experience and learning. When
students are given the opportunity to determine and develop their own purpose in a
writing assignment, they take more responsibility over their work, which then, leads
to more authorship. This opportunity is a necessary component of autonomy, which
not only motivates students to attempt writing, but also to continue writing. There are
seven teaching of writing methods that, when combined with teacher response,

encourage independence in student writing: conferencing, modeling samples,
relevance, motivation, specific writing goals, collaboration, and pre-writing activities.
Using these methods in addition to providing students with the appropriate teacher
response will ensure that students are receiving a complete, effective teaching of
Given that every student in a writing course is different: he is beginning at
different levels, utilizing different learning methods, progressing at different speeds,
having different prior academic experiences, etc.... allotting time to meet with each
student one-on-one to read through and review his paper together is an important part
of learning about writing for both the teacher and student, and therefore, it should be
prioritized above other classroom activities. In order for the teacher to educate as
effectively as possible, it is essential that he provides the student with direct
communication that is tailored and relevant to each students writing needs; this can
be achieved through conferencing. According to Peter Smagorinsky. author of Is it
Time to Abandon the Idea of Best Practices in the Teaching of English? (2009):
People dont learn to write just by writing: rather, they learn to write
by talking throughout the process of writing so that their thinking
about what they write is continually critiqued and reinforced as it
develops. (16).
Again, considering that each student may be struggling on different areas of writing,
conferences enables both teachers and students to discover things about the student
and his/her writing, including his/her strengths and weaknesses, which then fosters
motivation and the temperament to learn. Conferences allow teachers to observe,

listen, and encourage independent thought from the student writer; however, it is
important to note, though, that student-teacher conferences should be primarily
student-led, where the student is encouraged to be as expressive as she can be
regarding her writing (concerns, questions, etc...). This independence places more
responsibility on the students not just over their writing, but their learning, as well. As
the authors of the book Implementing Student-Led Conferences (2001) state: "In order
to help students become more responsible, [teachers need] to give up some of [their]
control [and] shift the focus to students taking more responsibility for their own
learning (Bailey & Guskey 7). Successful conferences occur when the teacher
simply listens and holds in abeyance all preconceptions: "She grants her students the
authority of their experience as learnersthey are the experts of this domainas she
herself assumes the stance of learner (Rodgers 214). Through student-led
conferences, the student is at comfort knowing that assistance from the teacher is
always there if needed, but can productively focus on his/her writing, and
improvement thereof, which creates a conducive and supportive environment for
students to attain their writing goals.
Conferences should be considered as part of an ongoing dialogue between the
teacher and each student so that both are working together throughout the course of
the semester to make certain that the student learns appropriately and improves on
his/her writing; both teacher and student are co-dependent, and effective conferencing
could not occur without the other. According to Maja Wilson in "The View (2008):
Proximity matters; the teacher gains a better view of what the student needs and can

bring individual experienceand an individual perspectiveto bear on the
interaction (p.79). Student-teacher dialogue should be a continuous process built
within the course duration and never be limited.
In Attending to Student Voice: The Impact of Descriptive Feedback on
Learning and Teaching (2006). author Carol R. Rodgers encourages student-teacher
conferences as a way of positively effecting student writing through what she refers
to as descriptive feedback (209). Descriptive feedback is a reflective conversation
between teacher and students wherein students describe their experiences as learners,
with the goals of improving learning, deepening trust between teacher and student,
and establishing a vibrant, creative community on a daily basis (209). The key to
descriptive feedback is that it is descriptive rather than evaluative (209). Students
are not worried about a receiving a final grade (considered as judgment), but rather,
are, without penalty, openly discussing their writing with their teacher and learning
how to improve their writing by the descriptive feedback they receive from their
teachers in return. Rodgers writes that the power of students description of their
own learning as revealed to teachers in dialogue is essential in building trust
between teacher and student and also serves as a way for the teacher to teach
reflectively based on the student's needs (210). Once again, students are actively
engaging in their own process of learning, which enables them to delve deeper into
their understanding of the subject matter as well as their weaknesses in their writing
abilities. As Rodgers states, Once [students] perceive that their views are desired,
respected, accepted, and acted upon, once they see what the teacher is asking for and

why, and that the teacher is ready to learn, their doubts and reserve tend to fade
(211). As students confidence about their writing progresses, so do their learning and
writing skills.
Some research refers to this student-teacher verbal interaction as triadic
dialogue, which consists of three movesinitiation (often via a teacher question),
student response, and teacher evaluationand has been commonly referred to as
IRE or other times IRFinitiation, response, and follow-up or feedback
(Chin 1316). This works by [t]he teacher ask[ing] a closed question that is basically
information-seeking, that requires a predetermined short answer [...] He/she then
praises correct answers and corrects those that are wrong (Chin 1316). Triadic
dialogue enables teachers to guide their students using student/text-specific questions
that encourage thinking and development of ideas. Students are able to either defend
or justify their ideas and/or reasoning or claim new ones, and together with their
teacher, co-construction of meaning forms. This kind of classroom discourse is a
successful way of teaching writing as teachers can scaffold students' extension of
knowledge through further supportive dialogue" {Chin 1316). While students are able
to think independently and verbalize their thoughts and concerns to their teacher
regarding their writing, teachers would [still] be guiding the development of
students ideas by successively building on their contributions in a reciprocal
manner" (Chin 1316). Through this learning, students are able to use their knowledge
and skills gained, to develop further productive writing.

Some concerns with student-teacher dialogue/conferencing include but are not
limited to: large class sizes (student to teacher ratio) and not enough class lime to
incorporate conferencing and lesson plans in one class period. To remedy these
problems, Perera, Lee, Win, Perera. & Wijesuriya offer the following action in their
article Formative feedback to students: the mismatch between faculty perceptions
and student expectations (2008):
[Pjrepare a list of written comments provided to different students on
their individual work during assessment of their performance, and
collectively discuss these issues in small groups. Further, this would
provide a peer learning opportunity in addition to providing a relative
self assessment and motivation and would guide towards self
regulation. [...] This type of activity will be less costly in terms of
teacher time and resources. (398).
In classrooms where individual student attention cannot be given, a successful
alternative is to utilize group activities, where the teacher organizes students with
similar areas of weaknesses into respective small groups. This way, teachers will be
able to provide their students with the help they need, collectively, and students are
able to work with their peers to improve their weaknesses.
Modeling Samples
In her book, Study Driven a Framework for Planning Units of Study in the
Writing Workshop (2006), Katie Wood Ray defends the idea of modeling texts for
students, or in other words, providing students with examples of writing that portray
the same attributes of writing they are supposed to emulate (p. 64). This is beneficial
to the students as it illustrates well-written writing and allows them the opportunity to
see the different forms of writing. It helps clarify what teachers mean by good

writing, since the definition may be broad and diverse to some, and give students a
sample of a finished product that teachers approve. When students have models of
writing to imitate from, they have a better direction to follow in their own writing.
Students can independently or collectively consider many different aspects of the
writings effectiveness, such as purpose, flow, style, rhetoric, purpose, and of course,
mechanics (i.e. grammar, spelling, etc...). Likewise, teachers can demonstrate how'
they read writing (what they look for when grading/evaluating) by verbally describing
their thoughts and reactions to the class as they read the model writing aloud; students
will learn what is important in writing based on what their teacher finds important,
and can monitor those aspects in their own writing.
Samples of writing provided can vary depending on the writing assigned in
the course. For example, teachers may choose to provide their students models of
their own writing (whether academic or personal), writing from previous students in
past semester courses, and/or writing from other professional writers published in
professional publications. Samples of writing can be integrated into teaching by either
providing each student with a photo-copy of the sample to keep for his own record, or
reviewing and discussing the sample with the class as a whole through PowerPoint
and/or overhead projector. Teachers may ask students to independently highlight or
underline strong sentences they find while reading the sample writing, and share their
reasons for choosing that sentence with the class. This can also be done through
whole-class participation, as the sample writing is portrayed in front of the entire
class. By working collaboratively, students will hear how their classmates can read

different areas of the sample contrarily, but have different yet similar reactions and
reasons to the writing; this is a good time to work interactively with their peers and
learn from and with each other.
The benefits of modeling well-written samples of writing for students are
numerous; yet, just as essential as it is to model good writing, it may be as important
to model samples of weak and/or poor writing, as well. This way, students are shown
what to avoid in their own writing. Even if teachers use samples of their own writing
to model weak writing, this shows that even more advanced writers can make
mistakes, giving students the ease and comfort of knowing that writing can always be
improved upon, stressing the importance of revision and rewriting.
In addition to modeling samples of strong and weak writing to students,
providing students with examples of varied texts or even specific texts that closely
resemble their writing assignment, helps show the importance of writing in the real
worldoutside of the classroom. When students see how different kinds of texts are
composed outside of schoolin the "real worldit may help them to establish a
purpose/reason for writing and/or make a connection between what they are learning
in class to real-world writing for audiences other than the teacher. The following is an
excerpt from Katie Wood Ray (2006) discussing this philosophy:
The teacher gathers the texts knowing that whatever ends up in the
stack will help students know where their writing fits in the larger
world of writing. The word world is important in gathering. If you
have a kind of writing in mind that you want your students to do and
you can't find any examples of it in the world of writing outside

school, then you probably need to rethink whether this kind of writing
is worth doing. (65).
Sample texts are also beneficial to the students not only by illustrating well-written
writing, but also demonstrating how the authors' individual voices vary depending on
the purpose and audiences of the sample texts. Each authors voice in a piece of
writing is necessary in effectively communicating meaning to the reader(s) and
therefore, should be encouraged among students, as well.
The more students have opportunities to connect what they read to their
academics, the more comfortable they feel with deriving meaning from the course
material; they are able to acknowledge the relevance of their writing assignment and
what they are learning. This stresses the importance of integrating and demonstrating
outside-of-school texts into the classroom, assigning purpose to the material being
taught, which is fundamental for successful student learning and development.
Presenting students with challenging, yet attainable writing goals helps
increase student motivation to learn and complete their task. Students who feel they
have difficult writing goals also feel that the goal may be impossible to reach;
therefore, losing motivation to attempt reaching it. Writing goals that are too difficult
for the students will not be attempted by the students (the students will give up if they
do not understand the end product), and goals that are too simple for the student will
not be attempted with seriousness (Falchikov & Blythman, 2001, 88). Teachers can
assist students motivation by breaking down the students attempts to reach her
challenging goals into different, easier-to-accomplish steps; students will have

smaller daily goals to attain that will help them reach that ultimate goal in the end.
For example, offering students the opportunity of merely jotting down (outlining)
ideas for their writing assignment the first day, writing their introductory paragraph
the next day, editing and revising that introductory paragraph the following day, and
further continuing student work and progress in such small steps, enables students to
stay on focus, see the end-goal, and feel confident after completing each milestone.
This way, students who fear they have to go from beginning product to end product in
one step will be more at ease knowing that there are many more steps in between that
will help them reach that end product (i.e. feedback, revision, etc...). When students
finally reach that challenging end product after completing each of the less-
complicated steps, they will see how important each step of learning is. as it guides
the students to reach their ultimate writing goals. "If students believe learning is
important [and relevant], they will exert greater effort. Students who believe learning
is not worth the effort tend to give up* (Cauley & McMillan 2). Student motivation is
essential to successful learning and consequent improvement on their writing skills.
Cauley &McMillan (2010) caution, Teachers can unknowingly reduce
student motivation by communicating a lack of belief in their abilities (4). This can
be done through three different kinds of feedback: "expressing pity after a student
failure; offering praise for a success (particularly in an easy task); and offering
unsolicited help, which high-achieving students do not require (Cauley & McMillan
4). Albeit these kinds of feedback may be difficult to avoid or omit from classroom
practices, as teachers want to be sincere and express empathy with their students,

excessive forms of this feedback can be damaging to the student's overall motivation.
As stated in a previous section, students will recognize their teacher's lack of belief in
them, and think, if the teacher doesn 7 believe I can do this, neither do I. For this
reason, teachers should offer encouraging feedback that helps the students
confidence in learning. The authors offer examples of the 'Tight kind of feedback
that teachers may use instead: ""Look how you've improved since you tried a
different strategy (4). They conclude, Students who believe that their successes are
due primarily to their effort and ability will have stronger motivation and staying
power to complete challenging work (4).
Specific Writing Goals
This method contains two parts: one writing goal refers to the writing
assignment and the other goal refers to areas of writing the student needs to improve
(his weaknesses). By specifying the writing goals, teachers are clarify[ing] the
purpose of the assignments [...] and identifying] those features that ought to appear
in the final product (VanDeWeghe. 2008, p. 90). Likewise, by specifying what the
students weaknesses are and why they are weaknesses, students will have a better
understanding of how to move forward with their writing and they will know what to
reach for to attain that goal. When students understand precisely what is asked of
them for the end product, they have clarity and they attempt to reach that goal through
their own personal writing process. Zacharias (2007) argues:
[T]eachers should be careful not to concentrate too heavily on errors in
form beyond student present acquisition level. If teachers responded to
errors at a level beyond a learners level of acquisition, they may risk
not only wasting much of their own time, but also confusing students.

Consequently, the feedback is not effective since students cannot make
optimal use of it. (50).
This notion closely relates to Lev Vygotskys zone of proximal development
theory, where students learning is markedly enhanced under teacher guidance
compared to learning that is attained alone (Falchikov & Blythman, 2001, 88). By
providing students with specific guidelines, teachers are guiding students toward
completion of a writing assignment; however, students are still practicing
independence in their writing through the process they take and the decisions they
make to reach that end product.
The following is an excerpt from Cauley & McMillans article (2009),
detailing the importance of attending to student's specific areas of needs to help them
reach their writing goals:
Teachers can improve the clarity of student learning targets by
providing examples of both weak and stellar work. Examples are
powerful because they enable students to more fully understand where
they are going and why the teacher provides feedback. Furthermore,
providing clear expectations enables students to set realistic, attainable
goals [...] these targets allow them to set task goals, which focus on
learning and meeting standards, as opposed to goals that focus on how
they compare to other students. (3).
Specific writing goals also remind students of a purpose in writing; they see that their
writing leads to a finished pieceit gives students meaning and motivates them to
complete the writing. This enables students to stay focused on their writing by
knowing the direction it needs to go.

Arranging collaboration among students is also a two-part method. The first
involves the assignment of group projects. It may not be simple for students to
immediately claim autonomy in a writing assignment; they may need a well-rounded,
step-by-step foundation to follow as example and to build upon. For this reason,
teachers should assign collaborative writing assignments, which can help students
learn the processes and components of writing in a group setting, in order to transition
successfully into autonomy. Group writing assignments allow students to generate
ideas and opinions together and make meaning of information with fellow peers who
are on the same level. This, in turn, permits students to feel more comfortable with
their peers and the class, considering that they are all learning new skills and
processes together. As Rick VanDeWeghe (2008) points out in his article,
collaborative writing in which students help each other with one or more aspects of
their writing have a strong impact on [the] quality" of student writing (p. 89-90).
Through the support and influences of their peers and the teachers guidance
particularly, when articulating the purpose of the collaborative assignmentstudents
can use the knowledge gained from this experience as a foundation for the processes
and components of future independent writing.
The second part of working collaboratively with peers is the act of giving and
receiving peer feedback on writing assignments. Aside from gaining reading and
editing skills, peer feedback activities for students help improve student rhetoric and
communication with the teacher. An article written by Li, Liu, & Steckelberg, titled
Assessor or assessee: How student learning improves by giving and receiving peer

feedback (2010) includes a study conducted by Orsmond and Merry (1996), which
found that students were doubtful about the value of their peers marks (527);
therefore, students would communicate with the teacher about the validity of those
marks. This conversation would ultimately lead to a better understanding of the
subject matter. The authors claim that this discussion leads to active engagement of
students in learning, which leads to an overall improvement in their own work (533).
As mentioned earlier, when students are actively engaging in conversations about
their writing with their teachers, they are actively learning.
In addition, the authors write about the benefits of peer feedback in their
article, but raise an interesting question regarding its use: Would students benefit
more from performing as assessors (reviewing peers work and providing feedback)
or assessees (receiving feedback from peers)? Or would both roles contribute to
students learning? (526). The authors attempt an answer to this question by
including a study that found that as assessors, students claimed that the higher the
quality of the feedback [they] gave their peers, the better they themselves performed
(526). This is because students acknowledged that it was helpful to 'look at what
others are doing, and some of them felt inspired by peers work (527).
Conversely, as assessees, the same study found that students complained about the
poor quality of peer feedback that they received asking for more constructive and
more detailed feedback (527) from the teacher. Working collaboratively and
engaging in peer feedback proves to be beneficial to the students own writing skills.

as she learns from her peers writing and seeks further informative and explanatory
communication from the teacher.
Pre-Writing Activities
It is important to note, though, that even with the support of their peers in
collaborative writing assignments, students may still be concerned with the accuracy
of their writing and therefore, be discouraged from attempting to writeparticularly,
when composing a draft. In order to promote fluency, teachers should implement pre
writing activities, where students are encouraged to just write all of their initial
thoughts, ideas, and arguments down on paper first, either in their own private
journals or loose-leaf papers, and then worry about accuracy, mechanics, and style
latersometimes referred to as 'free-writes. Engaging students in activities that
help them gather, develop, or organize ideas before they write a first draft improves
the quality of their writing (VanDeWeghe, 2008, p. 90). This can also promote
confidence as the students are able to identify themselves as capable writers (able to
produce some text) with certain areas that may need improvement laterthrough
editing and revision.
Vicki Urquhart, author of Examining 4 Myths about Learning to Teach
Writing (2006) places emphasis on the importance of finding class time to write,
and instruction on practical strategies that use class time well (p. 34). Learners who
feel that their teacher recognizes their potential and allows them to freely explore that
potential will become encouraged to improve their capabilities for subsequent
success. Also, students will learn to trust their own judgments and opinions, and once

they have trust in their writing abilities, they will feel comfortable being expressive
without worrying that their language and/or writing may be incorrect. This form of
writing allows 'students to use writing to interact personally with ideas and
information without the pressure of producing polished, finished products (Vacca,
2002, 199). Pre-writing allows students to write how they choose, which provides
them with more stress-free practice in writing.

The seven teaching of writing methods discussed in the previous chapter are
not intended for use as a curriculum replacement, but to show how classroom time
can be used appropriately to balance effective teaching and learning of writing. When
teacher response is specific and tailored to the individual students writing, and
classroom activities are designed specifically for the promotion of the students
learning, little processing effort is required from the student, and thus, learning
becomes more relevant for the student. According to Wilson and Sperber in
Relevance Theory (2004):
[T]he greater the effort of perception, memory and inference required,
the less rewarding the input will be to process, and hence the less
deserving of our attention. In relevance-theoretic terms, other things
being equal, the greater the processing effort required, the less relevant
the input will be. (609).
The cognitive effort mentioned above differs from physical effort, where cognitive
effort requires further elaborate thinking and physical effort requires energy from the
body. If teachers do not tailor their responses to meet the specific learning needs of
the student, then the student must exert further cognitive effort to seek
understandingan exertion he does not want to do according to Relevance Theory;
however, by specifying the responses and relating the learning of writing to the
individual students learning needs, little cognitive effort is needed to process the

information, and hence, information is learned and the student exerts more physical
energy to make the improvements in his writing. The learning of writing becomes
relevant to a student when his cognitive effort is minimized or simplified by his
teachers guidance.
Considering the limitations of providing effective teacher response (time
constraints, high student-to-teacher ratio, etc...), the seven teaching of writing
methods discussed in this thesis provide classroom opportunities for teachers to tailor
their teaching accordingly, and ensure the students learning needs are being met. By
conferencing with the students first, teachers are able to familiarize themselves with
each of their students and know what each needs in the classroom to progress. This
way, teachers can prioritize among the remainder of the strategies by determining
how best the student learns, and relay information that is specific and pertinent to the
students learning of writing. The activities can be performed in individual, small-
group, or whole-class settings, where teachers can attend to their students learning
needs without taking time away from curriculum delivery or instruction; arranging
students with similar learning needs into small groups will enable teachers to make
the learning of writing individually relevant, yet targeted to multiple students at a
When teachers relate new information to what students already know or find
important to their learning, that is when the students process the information and thus
learn and improve, according to Relevance Theory (Wilson and Sperber 608). This
thesis stresses the importance of providing tailored, specific teacher response during

the students writing processes that encourages student learning and development.
The key to the seven teaching of writing methods is to allow students opportunities to
practice or preform their writing processes in class (e.g. through collaboration, pre-
writing, etc...), as they will benefit the most from this extra support, rather than
hastily moving on to new material; this way, students are truly understanding and
learning their skills before being introduced to other writing assignments. Albeit this
may reduce the total number of assignments (new material) presented in the course,
because of the extra time it requires to focus on writing processes in class, it will
ensure the students overall learning of writing.

It is clear that teacher feedback is crucial in a students learning; however,
encouraging the student to be self-sufficient in creating text is just as essential in his
learning, as well. Considering that teacher feedback isat timesnot synchronized
with the way it is revealed by the student demonstrates that effective teacher feedback
and autonomy increases students knowledge and/or understanding of the choices
they make in their writing; this enables students not only to reevaluate their own
writing, but also to discuss their choices with another individual. Of course,
producing adequately accurate text is important in order to communicate the message
effectively to the readers, yet for learners of writing, particularly in the early stages of
the leaming/writing process, the emphasis should primarily be on the act of
composing and writing as often as the student can. Rewrites, free-writes, and other
writing activities mentioned in this thesis encourage the students to practice writing
continuously, which helps them learn to write more smoothly without teacher
intervention and/or student uncertainties that result in writing interruptions. Once the
students can feel confident that they can produce text, teacher response becomes
necessary for their progress and learning.
Effective teaching of writing and successful teacher response depends on both
the teachers and students abilities to be teachers and students simultaneously. While
teachers may have superior knowledge compared to their students, through each class
they teach and each student they encounter, they gain new experiences and learn to

continuously adapt their teaching to meet the needs of their students. Likewise,
students are learning from their teachers, yet with the autonomy in writing bestowed
upon them from the their teachers, they are also teaching themselves what works for
them in not only the writing process, but the writing itself.
This thesis contributes to the study and field of teacher response on student
writing by offering seven classroom activities or methods that help teachers provide
effective responses to their students and help students learn and improve from the
responses given, and become active learners of writing. Student-teacher conferencing
enables teachers to better learn about their students learning styles and, therefore,
tailor their teacher responses to meet the students level of understanding, while pre-
writing activities promote stake-free writing, where students are encouraged to
practice writing and, thus, become fluent and comfortable with their writing choices.
Modeling writing samples to students and demonstrating the relevance of students
writing (how their writing can affect the world outside of class) will provide students
with illustrate samples of well and poor written writing and provide student with a
greater sense of purpose in learning writing. Providing students with specific writing
goals that help clarify each writing assignment and specify the students weaknesses
enables students a better understanding of how to move forward with their writing
and they will know what to reach for to attain that goal. Increasing student motivation
by simplifying and condensing complex tasks into smaller, easier-to-attain daily goals
greatly encourages students' independence in writing as well as their confidence in
their writing skills. The two-part method of arranging collaboration among students

allows students to, first, learn collaboratively with their peers who are on similar
writing levels, and second, initiate explanatory and informative communication with
their teacher. These classroom activities and methods will provide an efficient and
successful learning environment for students of writing, where teachers provide
effective teacher response, give control and authorship back to the student, and
improve student learning altogether.
It is widely believed that writing creates meaning, but the same holds true in
reverse: meaning creates writing. Purpose, relevance, and focus in writing aid in the
students interest in the learning of writing, and collaboration, guidance, and feedback
from the teacher is crucial in the teaching of writing. By encouraging students to
become independent writers, teachers are promoting life-long learners; students
interest in writing will rise, as will their confidence in their ability to produce text.
Teachers allowing time to familiarize themselves with each student, in order to tailor
their comments to successfully meet the students needs, demonstrates that effective
teacher feedback and autonomy increases students knowledge and/or understanding
of the choices they make in their writing. Every student enters a composition course
with different goals and by accommodating to the differences in each student
through feedback, conferencing, etc...teachers can help each student achieve
his/her goal by learning from the experiences gained in class, developing confidence
as a result, and placing further writing goals.
Because of large class room sizes and time constraints, teachers are hesitant to
provide a thorough, well-rounded, individualized response to their students regarding

their writing, as teachers feel it will take time away from teacher instruction and
curriculum delivery. Through conferencing and/or small-group discussions, teachers
are better able to familiarize themselves with each student and know each students
skill level in writing; therefore, teachers can directly guide students through their
learning process and assure their improvement when providing teacher response that
is relevant to the students.
Actively involving and engaging students in their learning is an important part
of teacher response that is often overlooked by teachers. The success of teacher
response on student learning is not just dependent on how well the teacher provides
the response, but also how well the student understands the response given. Because
of this, students and teachers are learning together and from one another, growing as
educators and student learners, and reaching new limits of knowledge, understanding,
and success.

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