The use by students of formative feedback for improving their writing : a study of student self-observation reports in an academic writing module at the University of Zululand.
MetadataShow full item record
This study analyses students' use of formative feedback through a case study of a foundation-type academic literacy module at the University of Zululand. The research paradigm incorporates both a critical and a constructivist perspective, and a qualitative approach. The data collected were transcripts of interviews conducted with students towards the end of the third term, 2004, for the module. During the interviews the students described how they used respondent feedback on short, draft pieces of writing. They referred to their portfolio of writing which was with them. Students write short pieces, or end notes, after each lecture in order to show their understanding of academic concepts based on the content of Political Philosophy; they must rewrite after carefully noting respondents' comments on their work; and they, with tutor supervision, write group end notes for responders. The meta-level understanding underpinning the modules is an academic literacies approach. The transcripts were analysed using discourse analysis. Findings are that the students interviewed tend to use the feedback as if they are corrections, rather than what the feedback ideally aims at, which is by a writing dialogue, to help students to develop students' awareness of the discipline's conventions for academic writing, together and through construction of coherent meaning in their writing. The students' interpretive framing of their use of the respondent ii feedback are perhaps aligned with dominant institutional practices which tend to understand apparent student problems in learning in the university in terms of problems with student language, where language merely carries meaning, rather than being integral to the construction of meaning. The variable quality of the respondent feedback for the students interviewed also suggests some responders might also understand student writing in terms of problems in language as separate from construction of meaning. The implications of this study are to encourage an institutional understanding of the importance of using formative feedback to assist student access to the university and to success. Further, it challenges the dominant institutional and wider understanding of student difficulty as primarily stemming from lack of language proficiency. Finally, it recognizes the complexities of student selfreflexive understanding of the role of using formative feedback in their writing.