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Teacher written feedback plays an essential role in a student's writing process. It helps students "identify their own strengths and weaknesses, which, in case of the latter, will make students know how to go about improving themselves and become effective writers" (Penaflorida, 2002, p. 364). According to Ferris (2002), teacher feedback, if addressed effectively, can also contribute to students' overall second language acquisition.
Important as teacher written feedback is, there have been several studies comprehensively dealing with the issue. Even with those that do, there exists a lack of consensus over such matters as what aspects teacher feedback should focus on, which forms of feedback are preferable to students, etc.
In the context of teaching writing in Vietnam, few studies have been conducted on feedback in general and teacher written feedback in particular. The same situation could be seen at the College of Social Sciences and Humanities-Vietnam National University, Hanoi. In reality, neither an investigation into the current feedback giving practice nor students' preferences for teacher written feedback has been carried out at the college. It is, therefore, an open question whether or not current teacher written feedback is beneficial to students at the college.
All the aforementioned reasons urge the author to carry out the research entitled "A study on teacher written feedback on 1st-year students' writings at the College of Social Sciences and Humanities-Vietnam National University, Hanoi". This study is an attempt to examine the real situation of teacher written feedback at the CSSH and to propose some suggestions for the betterment of the current practice. The yielded results is hoped to serve as a useful source of reference for those who concern about the subject matter.
I.2. Aims of the study
This study is carried out with the aims to:
investigate the current practice of teacher written feedback on 1st year students' writings at the CSSH-VNU
propose some recommendations for the betterment of teacher written feedback at the CSSH.
I.3. Research questions
In order to achieve the abovementioned aims, the study will be conducted to answer two research questions:
In what ways is teacher written feedback given to the 1st-year-students' writings at the CSSH - VNU?
What do 1st-year students at CSSH expect from teacher written feedback to make it more effective?
I.4. Scope of the study
The research will work on the current situation of teacher written feedback on the 1st-year student writings at CSSH-VNU. The subjects selected for this study are the 1st-year students who are studying English at college. Moreover, the research examines only teacher written feedback but not other types of feedback such as teacher-student conference or teacher taped comments, since teacher written feedback is the main type of feedback at the college.
Chapter II: Literature Review
This chapter, which reviews the overall background concerning teacher written feedback, will serve as the foundations based on which the study is carried out.
II.1. Concept of teacher feedback in writing
Concerning the matter of teacher feedback (or respond/commentary), there exist a vast number of definitions given by researchers. Keh (1990) considers feedback as "any input from a reader to a writer with the effect of providing information to the writer for revision" (p. 294). In other words, it is the comments, questions, and suggestions a reader gives a writer with the view to enhancing his/her writing.
The concept of feedback given by Joe (2006) is probably one of the most comprehensive one:
"Feedback is an inseparable and recursive component of both the teacher's instruction and the writing process. It represents a sense of audience and purpose in forming the on-going writing process, while establishing a concept of collaborative reader-editor relationship between teacher and student. The feedback from the reader-editor appears as input for further reexamination and revision of the prior written work by providing optimum opportunities to develop and refine ideas, and may take various forms such as conference and interview." (p. 53)
This concept is considered the most thorough one that covers almost aspects of teacher feedback, namely, the positions of feedback in writing instruction and writing process, the relation of student-teacher in process writing, the forms of feedback, and the role of feedback in a writing process. Its thought will, therefore, be used thorough this study.
II. 2. Role of teacher written feedback
As mentioned above, teacher feedback plays an essential role in a writing process. The importance of teacher feedback can be aptly summed by Straub (1996) "It is how we receive and respond to student writing that speaks loudest in our teaching" (p.246).
In the absence of a face to face verbal writing conference, written response is the only way in which teacher can respond to the individual needs of students. It is via the comments on their writing that students can "identify their own strengths and weaknesses, which, in the case of the latter, will make the students know how to go about improving themselves and become effective writers" (Penaflorida, 2002, p. 346). Therefore, feedback is considered, first of all, a pedagogical tool that helps enhance students' writing competence.
Moreover, according to Ressor, teacher feedback is believed to provide students with not only the incentive to improve but also the guidance about how to improve (as cited in Vengadasamy, 2002). Feedback, in this sense, adopts another function; that is, stimulating and motivating student to write.
II.3. Features of good teacher written feedback
What constitutes good teacher written feedback is a complicated issue. There is little consensus among researchers over the matter as in reality, different individuals may prefer different types of feedback. While some people enjoy negative and direct feedback, other may feel discouraged by the same feedback. Therefore, it is normal to see different sets of criteria for good teacher written feedback.
According to Coffin et al. (2003, p. 101), three vital elements of a good feedback are 'positive comment', 'criticism' and 'suggestion for improvements'. The coexistence of 'positive comment' and 'criticism', according to Ferris & Hedgcock (1998), will bring about "the best effects" (p. 128). While positive comments can motivate writers, negative ones can constructively show them where they have gone wrong and what action they should take in order to improve their paper. 'A suggestion' is also needed as a guideline for students to make revision.
Notably, the aforementioned set of criteria only mentions the elements constituting good teacher feedback. Researchers on teacher feedback also list a large number of other criteria, among which is the one given by Leki (1992). According to this researcher, feedback is only good when teachers concentrate on the content along with a limited amount of feedback on grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
According to Baechle & Lian (1990) and Mastropiery & Scruggs (1994) (as cited in Konold & Miller, 2004), high-quality feedback should be timely, accurate, constructive, outcome-focused, encouraging and positive. What is more, good feedback must necessarily avoid unknown abbreviations, codes, ambiguous and unobtainable suggestions for improvement. This set of criteria, in comparison with the two sets mentioned above, is more sufficient since it covers nearly all aspects of good feedback, that is, the elements of good teacher written feedback, the tone of teacher feedback (encouraging and positive) as well as the practicality of the feedback (obtainable suggestions).
The existence of different ways to define the criteria of good teacher written feedback indicates that there is no standard type of teacher feedback. It is, therefore, necessary that each teaching and learning environment carry out research to find out the types of feedback that suit their students most.
II.4. Major issues of teacher feedback on student writing
Providing effective feedback to students has been a matter of concern among writing teachers as well as researchers. A great number of questions have been asked: "What should teacher comment on?", "To which extent should feedback be?", "Which types of comment are most effective?" and so on. However, it is the fact that researchers have not reached a consensus over the answers to such questions. Within a small scale study, an overview of the literature of the two main issues, namely content and types of teacher written feedback will be discussed in the following part.
II.4.1. Content of teacher written feedback
Teachers have been faced with a constant question of what to focus on when giving feedback to student writing. Fathman and Whalley (1990, p.178) notes: "much of the conflict over teacher response to written work has been whether teacher feedback should focus on form or content" of the writing. Content, in their opinion, refers to comments on organization, ideas and amount of detail, while form involves comments on grammar and mechanical errors.
Traditionally, teachers were inclined to identifying and correcting all the surface-level errors; i.e., errors on form (Sommers, 1982). Kepner (1991) explains that teacher corrects errors out of the fear that the erroneous structures would become fossilized in the students. However, the mere focus on form correction would have detrimental impact on student writing. That students receive a corrected draft from a teacher with red-ink correction all over the page would only add to their anxiety when dealing with another writing task. Moreover, a large amount of error correction may draw the students' attention to form only but not to the important matter of developing the content (Sommers, 1982). This is because when teacher feedback focuses on form (grammar, spelling, etc.), many students will revise their writing by correcting the surface mistakes and will make few or no other changes. The result is that the students' rewriting becomes grammar exercises rather than challenges to clarify meaning.
In some other research, there seems an agreement that attention must paid to both content and form for the fact "grammatical inaccuracies can have negative effect on the overall quality of the student writing" (Raimes, 1992, p. 308).
In short, what to feedback on remains a complex issue. Though many studies have been carried out on the issue, a consensus over the matter has not been reached. This indicates that further studies are needed in order to find out the answer to the problem.
II.4.2. Types of teacher written feedback
This part will present some major types of feedback: positive feedback & negative feedback, direct feedback & indirect feedback, marginal feedback & end feedback. These types of feedback are discussed and compared in pair in a way that the differences between them, i.e., the advantages and disadvantages of one type over the other, are highlighted.
II.4.2.1. Positive feedback versus a negative feedback
In their studies, Fathman & Whalley (1990) suggests that positive comments give students motivation to improve their writings. When students are told they are doing right, they feel motivated to write more and to write better.
However, only positive comment is not sufficient enough to motivate students to improve their writing. According to Hyland and Hyland (2001), negative comments are more useful for many students who want their problems to be highlighted.
Too much negative feedback, however, may adversely affect students' writing. As they re-read the writing with red marks all over the page, students may feel discouraged and stop trying to correct the mistakes. All things considered, it is advisable that teachers get a balance between praise and criticism, since the combination of both kinds will bring about "the best effects" (Ferris & Hedgcock, 1998, p. 128).
II.4.2.2. Direct versus indirect feedback
Direct feedback is teacher's explicit written corrections in response to students' errors. With direct feedback, students are expected merely to transcribe the teachers' suggested corrections into their texts. Indirect feedback, on the other hand, is when the teacher alerts students to error using general comments, but gives students the opportunity to fix errors themselves (Ferris, 2002).
In his study, Ferris (2002) shows that indirect feedback is more helpful to student writers in most cases because it leads to greater cognitive engagement, reflection, and guided learning and problem-solving. Since teachers only point out the mistakes (or suggest the way to correct them), students have to figure out the way to correct the mistakes on their own. This, in the long run, helps promote students' thinking as well as the ability to self-edit their own writings. Moreover, when having to correct the mistakes by themselves, students normally remember the mistakes better; therefore, they are more likely to be able to avoid them in the future.
Beneficial as indirect feedback to students, for mistakes that are too complicated, direct feedback proves better than indirect one because it saves students from discouragement when they could not solve the problems on their own.
All things considered, it would be the best way that teachers combine both direct and indirect feedback when they respond to student writings.
II.4.2.3. Marginal versus end feedback
Marginal feedback is a kind of feedback that is written in the margin or between sentence lines of the students' paper. By contrast, end feedback refers to the summary feedback at the end of the paper.
According to Ferris and Hedgecock (1998), there is no conclusive evidence that either marginal or end comments are preferable or more effective. In reality, each type of feedback is used with a certain aim. While marginal comments are more suitable to respond to specific sections of the text, end comments are usually saved for more global concerns affecting the entire composition.
To sum up, as the above literature indicates, there is no consensus over what constitutes effective feedback. As a result, in order for teachers to make full use of feedback, they need to adjust the types of comments to the certain kinds of students.
Chapter III: Methodology
This chapter, which introduces the methodology of the study, covers the research approach, the methods of data collection, and the methods of data analysis.
III.1. Research approach
A combination of both quantitative and qualitative method was utilized in this study so as to achieve the desired aim.
Quantitative method realized by means of a questionnaire to students, proved to be appropriate because it was adequate to find 'objective' answers to such questions as "How is feedback given to the 1st-year student writings" and "What do students expect from their teacher written feedback?". Moreover, thanks to the large number of participants in the study, that is, 80 1st-year students, the information acquired is "reliable and generalisable" (Nunan, 1989, p.4).
In this study, qualitative was also needed since one end of the research was to find out how teachers respond to their student writings and why they respond in such ways. Qualitative study is based mainly on three basic data gathering techniques, that is, participant observation, interview and document or artifact analysis.
III.2. Methods of data collection
The first method aims at collecting statistical data from students to answers two research questions: (1) In what ways is teacher written feedback given to the 1st-year-students' writings at the CSSH - VNU? and (2) What do 1st-year students at CSSH expect from teachers' written feedback to make it more effective? The data gained not only provided the researcher with an overall understanding about the students' opinion about current situation of teacher written feedback given but also some pedagogical implications for the practice of giving feedback at CSSH.
The questionnaire included two main parts, namely, the current situation of teacher written feedback and student's expectations of teacher written feedback. The subjects selected for the study include 80 freshmen who are in the second semester of the academic year 2009-2010 at CSSH-VNU. The questionnaires were distributed to respondents with the researcher's presence so that clarification and disambiguation could be made timely. (A copy of the questionnaire can be seen in the Appendix A).
The steps of conducting and distributing questionnaire can be illustrated as follows:
Studied available documents and chose the most appropriate data
Revised questionnaires in terms of language as well as instructions so as to make it clear and reader-friendly
Distributed questionnaires to 1st-year students at CSSH
Gathered findings from respondents, analyzed and interpreted the data.
III.2.2. Student writing analysis
Analyzing student writings already responded by teachers served two main functions. First, it gave the researcher an in-depth look at how teacher written feedback is given to the 1st-year student writings. In addition, it provided materials for the interviews with the teachers. Three groups of students were randomly selected. From the four groups, 15 newly-commented writing papers were borrowed and analyzed.
The steps of analyzing students' writings can be illustrated as follows:
Borrowed the writing papers from students
Read students' writing papers with the teachers' written feedback
Analyzed the teachers' comments in terms of feedback content and types. By this way, the distinctive features of a certain teacher's style of giving written feedback could be discovered.
III.2.3. Semi-structure interviews
In this study, semi-structure interviews with the teachers were used with the views to double-checking the information gained in the questionnaire. The situation of teacher written feedback was, therefore, looked into from two different angles, both from teachers and students' perspectives.
Three teachers working at CSSH were invited to take part in the interviews. This number was reasonable because if it was greater, the qualitative data would be too enormous to manage. The interviews were carried out informally in the teachers' native language so as to elicit the most information from the teachers involved. During the interview, audio recorder was utilized. All the data were then transcribed and translated into English for data analysis. (The content of interview questions and Transcription of the interviews can be seen in Appendix B)
In short, the combination of qualitative and quantitative method was utilized so as to yield the most information needed. At the same time, the shortcomings that persisted in individual method would be overcome.
III.3. Method of data analysis
Since collected in both quantitative and qualitative method in this research, the data, therefore, needed to be processed in different ways so as to yield the most accurate results.
As for the quantitative approach, the researcher followed the statistical procedure from coding questionnaire data to summarizing and reporting data in a reader-friendly way. As for the qualitative approach, the method of data analysis was to transcribe the recorded interviews and synthesize them. The recorded interviews were first transcribed in their original language and then translated into English. Only English would be used in the discussion of findings for convenience.
CHAPTER 4: Discussion of results
IV.1. Current situation of teacher written feedback from students' perspective
How teacher written feedback in writing skill is delivered at CSSH is reflected in the first part of the questionnaire to students.
IV.1.1. Frequency of teacher written feedback
The first question asked students how many times their teacher responded to each of their writing assignment in written form. As can be seen from Figure 1, nearly one forth of the respondents stated that their teachers gave feedback to their writing twice per one assignment. This means after getting teacher written comments, students were required to revise and hand in the next versions for further feedback and evaluation. This level of frequency was believed to be appropriate, since it could encourage students to revise and to enhance their writing performance.
The majority of students (77%), however, received teacher written feedback only once per assignment. Since the teachers did not require students to revise and hand in the writing after they received teacher written feedback, it is likely that few students had enough motivation to revise their paper. This, in turn, might reduce the usefulness of teacher written feedback.
IV.1.2. General evaluation of teacher written feedback
It is clear from Figure 2 that the majority of students (75%) got fairly detailed feedback, that is, comments and suggestions/corrections to major mistakes. This way of giving feedback is supported by many researchers who claim that teachers should focus on some typical problems at a time (Ur, 1996; Sommer, 1982). The number of students stating that their teacher feedback was very general, e.g., feedback with only some words like "excellent", "good" or "bad" was 8, accounting for 10% of all students. There was no student receiving NO written comments from their teachers at all, which means no teacher felt into the trap of being non-corrector. These numbers indicate that the practice of giving feedback at CSSH was fairly adequate.
IV.1.3. Content of teacher written feedback
Figure 3 shows different categories of teacher written feedback from the view of students. Strikingly, there were very few students who NEVER received teacher written feedback on these categories (except for that on format). The levels often accounted for the highest numbers of students, from the lowest 25 students to the highest of 45. These figures indicate that teachers at CSSH have paid attention to both form and content, though the levels of attention may vary from one teacher to another.
Noticeably, the percentage of students who RARELY received feedback on ideas, organization of ideas and format was higher than that on grammar, vocabulary and mechanics. For the level ALWAYS, the highest number of students chose grammar, that is, 42 over 80 students and next-coming was expression, 31 over 80 students. This is predictable since mistakes of surface level (grammar, vocabulary and mechanics) are more identifiable than those of organization and ideas (Ur, 1996; Fathman & Whalley, 1990). However, that teachers rarely gave feedback on content may, in the long run, have negative impacts on the students because writing is, in the final analysis, about communicating and presenting thoughts.
In summary, two major features of teacher written feedback interpreted from this bar chart are: (1) teachers did pay attention to both the form and the content of students' writings and (2) teachers were more likely to respond to surface-level mistakes.
IV.1.4. Types of teacher written feedback
Concerning types of teacher written feedback (Figure 4), the majority of teachers at CSSH used both positive feedback (i.e., praise) and negative one (i.e., criticism) when responding to students' writings. The overall number of students who always, or often received teacher's positive feedback far outnumbered that of negative one, that is, 91% to 59%. This reality was an indication that teachers at CSSH preferred giving feedback in an encouraging tone to negative one.
Regarding marginal and end feedback, there still existed 16% of students who rarely received end feedback and the other 20% who rarely received marginal feedback. Though the numbers were not high, it was still an indication that some teachers still did not pay enough attention to these two must-have feedback.
As can be seen from Figure 4, both direct and indirect feedback was used and the levels of frequency were nearly the same. It is inferable that teachers paid equal attention to both types.
It can be concluded that teachers at CSSH employed a wide variety of types of feedback to respond to students' writings. However, in order to have accurate judgment of the effectiveness of the types used, in-depth interviews with the teachers are needed. This will be discussed in later part of this study.
IV.1.1.5. Comprehensibility of teacher written feedback
The last question in the first part of the questionnaire asked about the comprehensibility of students of teacher written feedback. The majority of respondents, 90%, answered that generally, they did. However, there were still 10% (8 students) stating that they were not able to understand teacher feedback. The most common reasons for this were teachers' too general feedback (6 respondents) and new words/structures in their feedback (6 respondents). Correction codes, which are initially aimed at systematizing and simplifying teacher written feedback, turned out to make it incomprehensible to understand to a number of students (4 respondents).
IV.2. Current situation of teacher written feedback from teachers' perspective
Emphatically, this study aims at finding out how written feedback is delivered from different perspectives, both of teachers and students. This part will present information on firstly, the way teachers give feedback to students (via analyzing student writings with teacher feedback on them) and secondly, teachers' reasoning for the way they give feedback to students (via interviews with the teachers). However, in order to make it easy to follow, the information will be discussed according to the frame of the interviews with the presentation of student writings analysis integrated in it.
The following section will be discussed in two different categories, namely, aspects of teacher written feedback and types of teacher written feedback.
21The following table compares the two major aspects - form & content - that have been responded by teachers. The dark columns present the number of mistakes identified by the researcher and then double-checked by a native speaker, and the other columns the numbers of mistakes pointed out, suggested or corrected by the teachers. The ratios of mistakes pointed out by teachers to those by the native speaker gives the researcher an overall assessment of the frequency level of teacher written feedback at CSSH.
As can be seen from the table, all the teachers at CSSH paid attention to both content and form of student writing papers, though the level of attention may differ. In order to make the information easy to follow, it was then re-illustrated in the form of bar-chart as follows:
While Teacher 1 (T1) seemingly put more focus on feedback on form, Teacher 2 (T2) and Teacher 3 (T3) paid fairly equal attention to both the content and form of the writings. The reason for their emphasis on both form and content was "they are equally important" (T3). In greater details, "If I don't correct mistakes on form (like grammar, word choice, etc), students will be likely to repeat the mistakes, even the simple ones, in the future" and "they are used to the teaching and learning method at High school where a lot of emphasis is put on grammar" that "If I don't orient them towards the content of a writing paper, they will perhaps stop at language accuracy only" (T3).
Explaining her way of giving feedback, T1 responded that the possibility of students making mistakes on content was quite small since "students normally get suggestions on idea organization either from the teacher or from the course-book within prewriting stage" (T1). Noticeably, though T1 acknowledged the importance of content, she did not manage to treat it equal to "form".
Concerning the treatments of mistakes, it was notable while mistakes on form were usually corrected by teachers right away; those on content just received suggestions for revision from teachers. Reasoning this, T2 answered "it's difficult to correct the content directly on their papers" and "I don't want them to think that's the only way (when I give correction) to go about that". In the same line with this were "feedbacks on content, as I said earlier, are suggestive only, there's no one correct way of organizing ideas" (T3).
In short, all the teachers participating in this study were well aware of the importance of content over form, which helped them avoid being "mistake-hunters". However, how much teachers focus on either form or content vary.
IV.2.2. Types of teacher written feedback
Type of teacher written feedback was also a field marking the differences between the teachers participating in the study.
In terms of marginal and end feedback, it was notable that while T1 preferred using marginal to end feedback, T2 tended to enjoy the other way round. T1 stated that her in-text comments were enough for students to revise their papers. Furthermore, the teacher normally did not feel content with her student writings: "if I gave an overall comment to my students, that comment would be very negative and it may make them feel discouraged". T2, in contrast, used more end feedback as she wanted to comment on students' overall performance. According to T2, the focus of the 2nd semester was free writing, which meant more personal feelings and less teacher intervention.
Adopting both marginal and end feedback when responding to student writings, T3 explained "they serve different purposes. Marginal feedbacks were handy and suitable with minor mistakes; while end feedbacks were given for general comments". As a consequence, the lack of either marginal or end feedback led to incomprehensive feedback.
Relating to the use of negative and positive feedback, it was notable that except from T1, the other two teachers frequently resorted to both types of feedback when responding to student writings. According to these teachers, feedback should, apart from helping students aware of the mistakes they make, be able to motivate students. This idea agreed with what Coffin et al. (2003) listed as the features of good teacher written feedback, that is, 'positive comment', 'criticism' and 'suggestion for improvement'. T1, who seemed not in favor of the ideas, stated "it very much depends on the quality of the writing to decide what to include in the feedback". According to T1, teachers should not just praise students so that they feel at ease when receiving feedback because that may do more harm than good: "students may feel that 'Oh, the teacher says that my writing is good, so why should I revise it' or they may feel hurt when the feedback is positive while the mark is actually low" (T1). This idea, which had some merits in itself, should be taken into consideration.
The types of feedback used have, to a certain extent, reflected the tone to teacher written feedback. While T2 and T3 preferred giving feedback in a friendly, encouraging tone, T1 turned to more serious feedback which was, according to the teacher, more beneficial to students.
In short, the data achieved from the interviews, which do conform to those from student questionnaire, have once again affirmed the reliability of the information attained. In a word, the practice of teacher written feedback at the CSSH-VNU is fairly good, despite the existence of some problems, especially with contents of teacher feedback and types of teacher written feedback.
IV.3. Students' expectations of teacher written feedback to make it more effective
IV.3.1. Preferred content of teacher written feedback
Concerning the aspect of teacher written feedback, an outstanding number of students (72 out of 80) would like the feedback to focus on ways of expressing ideas. What came as a nice surprise was the fact that students at CSSH were well aware of the importance of content over form. The number of students expecting teacher feedback to focus on ideas and organization of ideas were by far higher than that on mechanics or format mistakes. However, the percentage of students expecting teacher written feedback to focus on grammar was still high, 43% (34 out of 80 respondents). This is understandable since for the 1st year students of intermediate level, grammar may be of more attention and at this stage, students tend to make quite a lot of grammar mistakes.
IV.3.2. Preferred location of teacher written feedback
Figure 7 illustrates the preferred place to put teacher feedback. Distinctively, neither margin nor end feedback alone was in great support by students since it could not cover all the aspects of teacher feedback. Marginal comments were more suitable for feedback on specific sections of the text, while end comments were to deal with more global concerns affecting the entire composition. It is, therefore, most comprehensive to combine both types of feedback. This was also the choice of 90% of students at CSSH.
IV.1.3.5. Preferred elements of teacher written feedback
Related to the elements of teacher written feedback, 36 out of 80 students were in favor of teacher pointing out only their weaknesses, but not the strengths reasoning that teacher positive feedback may make them feel over-confident about themselves. In contrast, only 3 out of 80 respondents would prefer teachers to point out their strengths, but not weaknesses. The majority of students, 60 out of 80 asked, expected teacher written feedback to show them both the strengths and weaknesses of their writings. This is considered the most appropriate choice, since "a combination of praise and criticism" would produce "best effects" (Ferris and Hedgecock, 1998, p. 128). Students hoped that teacher feedback could cover explanations for the feedback (35 students) and suggestions to improve their writings (41 students).
In conclusion, the above part has reviewed the current situation of teacher written feedback including the point of view from both students and teachers. The part has also explored students' expectations of the criteria that teacher written feedback should meet, which will somehow serve as the basis for the suggestion part of the study.
Chapter IV: Conclusion
IV.I. Conclusion of the study
This study is an attempt to investigate the current situation of teacher written feedback on the writings by the 1st-year students at the CSSH-VNU. A combination of both quantitative and qualitative method, realized by means of survey questionnaires and interviews, was utilized in this study so as to achieve the desired aim.
Two research questions, which were thoroughly answered in the discussion part, could be summarized as follows:
(1) How is teacher written feedback given to 1st-year-students' writings at the ED - CFL - VNU?
The majority of teachers only give written feedback to students once per assignment, which is believed not adequate to motivate students to do revision. It is a good sign that teacher feedback is fairly detailed, though a small number of teachers still overcorrect students' papers. Concerning aspects of teacher written feedback, teachers have paid attention to both form and content of the writings; yet, surface-level mistakes are more likely to be responded. Relating to the understandability of teacher feedback, it is a good sign that only a minority of students does not understand teacher feedback, which is mainly because the feedback is too general.
(2) What do the 1st-year students expect from teacher written feedback?
Relating aspects of teacher feedback, the majority of students would expect to receive feedback on expression, organization of ideas and grammar. The most preferred location to put feedback is both in the margin and at the end of the writings. A large number of students want teacher feedback to point out all the mistakes but correct the major ones only. Moreover, most students want their teacher to point out both the strengths and weaknesses of their writings.
In short, thorough investigation into the matter studied helps discover many remarkable results. Overall, the teachers at CSSH hold fairly judicious views about teacher written feedback, though factual implementation still reveals a number of problems. Most noticeable arethe unbalanced focus on form/content of the writings and the improper tone of teachers when responding to student writings. That the majority of teachers give written feedback to students only once per assignment is also said to reduce the effectiveness of teacher written feedback.
Since there are some problems relating teacher written feedback at CSSH-VNU, a number of suggestions are proposed with the aims to enhance the current practices, making teacher commentary one of the most valuable pedagogical tools to improve students' writing skills.
The existing mismatch between what teachers give and what students expect to receive from teachers indicates the need for some adjustments in the way teachers respond to student writings at CSSH. Basing on the situation of teacher written feedback as well as the expectation of students, it is recommended that teachers at CSSH should:
Respond to student writings several times per assignment
Notably, when giving feedback, teachers should treat "the first version as provisional, and to regard the rewritten, final version as the assignment, the one that is submitted for formal assessment" in order to "motivate learners to rewrite and to appreciate the value of doing so" (Ur, 1996, p. 171).
Enhance the effectiveness of teacher written feedback
- Specific teacher written feedback
Specific comments are associated with major changes more than general ones. Specific feedback is the one clarifying clearly what types of mistakes students make/ the reasons why they make such mistakes as well as some suggestions for improvements.
- Balanced focus on content and form of the papers
As mentioned above, teacher feedback should focus on both form and content of the writing. One way of responding to student writings would be to respond to both content and form on all drafts, but vary the emphasis of the response. Teachers should, on the first draft, respond primarily to the content but make general comment about the writers' grammar problem and on later drafts, provide specific surface-level feedback while still making general comments on students' ideas.
- Appropriate tone of teacher written feedback
An appropriate tone of teacher written feedback means balancing positive and negative responses. Teacher written feedback should tell students both the strengths and weaknesses of their writings since the combination of both praise and criticism will bring about "the best effects" (Ferris & Hedgcock, 1998, p. 128).
- Balanced use of marginal and end feedback
It is recommended that teachers utilize both types for better efficiency of teacher written feedback since each type of feedback serves a different function. While marginal comments are more suited to feedback on specific sections of the text, end comments are usually saved for more global concerns affecting the entire composition.
In short, teacher written feedback is a complicated issue that needs great attention from teachers. In order to make feedback beneficial to students, teachers need to take a wide variety of matters into consideration. The abovementioned strategies are hoped to be of help to those who are making endeavors to better teacher written feedback at CSSH.
IV.3. Limitations of the study
Though the best efforts have been made, there still persist some limitations in this study which could not be overcome due to time limitation. First is the small scale of the study with the involvement of only 3 writing teachers and the analysis of 15 writing pieces already responded by teachers. However, since various methods which address the same issue were adopted and the findings from the methods well supplemented each other, it is believed that this small scale does not seriously affect the reliability of the study. Secondly, all the recommendations proposed were based on students' expectations but not the actual experiments on their effectiveness. This may, more or less, influence the validity of the recommendations proposed.