June 17: Peer feedback on EAP writing

Photo by Adam Simpson, eltpics.com

Photo by Adam Simpson, eltpics.com

Morra & Romano (2008) report on findings regarding student attitudes towards peer feedback on ESL & EAP writing and discuss the implications of these and similar results on the pedagogy of peer feedback. A few lines I thought were poignant, the first of which is regarding training to give feedback:

An interesting tendency observed in many studies of peer feedback in ESL and EFL settings is that students’ attitudes toward their peers’ reviews and comments seem to be conditioned by the amount and quality of training and preparation they receive in class previous to their actual participation in peer-response groups; that is, the more planned instruction the students receive, the better they seem to respond to the activity (Berg, 1999; Ferris & Hedgcock, 1998; Hansen & Liu, 2005; Hu, 2005; Mittan, 1989; Rollinson, 2005; Stanley, 1992). [20-21] 

Giving students appropriate training and guidance on how to go about reviewing their classmates’ texts stands out as a crucial point when trying to generate a positive attitude toward peer feedback. [26]

And this regarding fear of giving/receiving feedback from peers:

Students also revealed that they avoided making critical comments in order to prevent conflict with their classmates. Some of them feared their writing being mocked publicly in the classroom. Teachers reported that, at the end of a peer-feedback session, most

students put away their compositions in their folders and never revised them. [21]

Together with appropriate and gradual training, the organization of small groups appears to be an effective technique to put peer feedback into practice since it might help to lower apprehension and fear and eventually lead to establishing a relaxed and stress-free atmosphere. [26]

And lastly this on combining feedbacks:

…there appears to be much to be gained from combining oral and written feedback in peer-response groups and from complementing peer feedback with final teacher feedback. [26]

Source: Morra and Romano (2008).  University Students’ Reactions to Guided Peer Feedback of EAP Compositions. Journal of College Literacy and Learning 35:19-30.

To follow along with our Twitter discussion, please read through the transcript: http://chirpstory.com/li/90144

Maybe you have thoughts and experiences with feedback on writing?



6 thoughts on “June 17: Peer feedback on EAP writing

    1. Tyson Seburn Post author

      Yes, I saw that. Do we all have this impression from our students about peer feedback? Mine typically revolves around them not trusting each other, and for good reason. This is why strong training and modelling of how to give meaningful feedback is useful. The issue on assignments is time management. Everyone’s so busy writing their own that they don’t want to ‘waste time’ reading others. Hey, I suffer from that problem on my own assignments. 😉

      Thanks, btw, for going on with the chat yourselves without Adam or me. I’ve been hoping this might happen eventually. 🙂

  1. Julie Moore (@lexicojules)

    Another thought on peer feedback activities that just cropped up in something I was working on is the value of students just being exposed to their peers’ writing, especially in very mixed groups with students of different nationalities and backgrounds, with different approaches, strengths and weaknesses. What students notice in their peers’ writing may go unsaid (for all kinds of reasons) but can still be a valuable part of the learning process. That may be things that their partner has done well/better that a student tries to copy/improve in their own writing – “hey, that’s a good idea, I could do that too”. Or it may be weaknesses in their partner’s writing that they recognize as a fault in their own work, but possibly hadn’t really picked out before (because we naturally tend to skim over our own writing without really noticing things) – “oh no, I do that too, I need to avoid that next time.”.

    So a slightly awkward, apparently unproductive peer feedback task may have actually been more useful than we think.

    1. Tyson Seburn Post author

      My wonderment always comes from what value the students really do see in their peers’ writing i.e. do they? is it valuable? can they differentiate useful from harmful characteristics?

      1. Tyson Seburn Post author

        I’m not sure, especially with regards to differentiation. I worry that they may pick up worse habits from others, assuming that what they read is better than what they’ve written.

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