Standardising written feedback on L2 student writing
The primary aim of this study is to determine whether it is possible to standardize written feedback on L2 student writing for use in a computerised marking environment. It forms part of a bigger project aimed at enhancing the feedback process as a whole The study attempts to establish "best practice" with regards to feedback on writing, by establishing from the literature what works and what should be avoided. Also, an empirical study was launched to establish what lecturers focus on and what marking techniques they use. A set of randomly selected essays from the Tswana Learner English Corpus and the Afrikaans Learner English Corpus were sent to the English departments of different tertiary institutions across the country. The essays were marked by the English lecturers at the relevant institutions. The conclusion was that lecturers typically focus on surface structures, and use ineffective marking techniques. The best practice (and data from the empirical study) was then used to create a set of standardised feedback comments (tag set) that can be used in a specially programmed software package in which students submit their texts electronically. Lecturers can then mark the student essays on the computer, hopefully speeding up the process, while at the same time giving much more detailed feedback. In later stages of the bigger project, students will get individualized exercises based on the feedback, and there are experiments currently being run to try and automate certain pans of the marking process in order to take some strain off the lecturers when marking. The immense archiving abilities of the computer will also be utilized in order to create opportunities for longitudinal studies. The effectiveness of the feedback tag set was tested in comparison to the marking techniques used by the lecturers in the empirical study and a self-correcting exercise. The conclusion was that the feedback tag set is more effective than the other two techniques. but students seem to perform weak overall when it gets to the revision of cohesive devices and supporting arguments. I argue that students are not used to revising these features, since lecturers seldom (if ever) comment on the structural elements of texts. However, the experiment proves that standardization of written feedback is possible to an extent. The implications of the findings are discussed, and recommendations for further research are made.
- ETD@PUK