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[Xmca-l] Re: studies of feedback on student writing?
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- Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2017 17:51:14 +0000
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Michael and all
I 'teach' that the formative assessment process needs to be separated from
the summative - e.g. That formative feedback accompanied by grades leads
to students ignoring the formative (I forget the research reference I
usually cite but I guess it is Dylan Wiliam Š then yes there is the whole
literature on intrinsic/extrinsic that supports this).
So OK, lets reflect - what about our own learning? The 'authoritative'
source of feedback on our teaching now in our (UK) university system is
the 'National Student Survey' which grades the students' satisfaction
with x, y and z. This is mirrored internally with every course unit
questionnaire-evaluation, tied to particular teachers and their
performance. It's an interesting reflection of what we academics have
been doing to the students as a matter of 'course'Š And of course we
academics are pretty ambivalent about it ('I see your student satisfaction
score is below the average for the programme, Professor Hardman').
At what was claimed to be the insistence of the feedback from students,
our T&L committees decided it would be 'good practice' to provide
'formative assessment' mid-course to students - this was understood to be
in the form of a 'graded' activity (!) - the students wanted to know 'how
they were doing' mid-term, and 'whether they really needed to work harder
at this course unit' to achieve their grade needs/requirememts (obviously
compared to their other assessed units).
It can be a hard lesson to receive such feedback from one's students: one
realises there may be a few contradictions between motives in what we
might think is a joint educational activity.
But still, the main conflict is not between students/learners, and
academics/teachers Š I think there is more to this problem than that.
On 31/07/2017 18:08, "email@example.com on behalf of
Glassman, Michael" <firstname.lastname@example.org on behalf of
>So here is an interesting story about the concept of feedback (not
>apocryphal from what I have been able to figure out, but probably also
>limited in scope). The concept of feedback was discussed a great deal at
>the Macy's conferences on cybernetics. In particular second order
>cybernetics with Bateson and Mead and Lewin (and a host of others). The
>concept of continuous feedback loops that led to evolution of thought and
>action became a really important topic. If you read the works of these
>thinkers it is really apparent. It is the central topic of Bateson's Mind
>and Nature I think (I wonder why his metaphor of bumps in the road
>creating feedback loops never gained more traction). Anyway as the story
>goes the members of this particular conference were really interested in
>pushing feedback forward as a concept. Lewin, who is one of my favorites
>characters from academic history, it sounded like he was a total trip to
>be around, was so excited with the concept he immediately went out and
>started telling people about it. Only the way he explained it it sounded
>more like something you give somebody (a product) than a process, a
>continuous loop in which all involved are constantly changing and
>So Lewin comes back to the next meeting of the conference and they tell
>him, "No, no you're explaining it wrong. People are thinking that
>feedback is something one organism gives another organism. Lewin
>realizes his mistake and tells everybody not to worry, he's going to fix
>everything. A few days later he drops dead of a heart attack. And we have
>bee struggling with the concept of feedback ever since.
>Andrew I admire your note giving grades. It is something I have stopped
>doing a while ago. But there is definitely push back from students, who
>have been taught to expect this, and from faculty no matter what they say.
>For those who are interested Alison Koenka who is a post doc in my
>department has done some really interesting work on this. She basically
>found that giving grades is detrimental to motivation (this is crossing
>theoretical boundaries I know) on a whole host of issues. Basically it
>seems nothing good comes from giving grades. If you give the type of
>process oriented feedback it really improves motivation. I know she had
>presented this a bunch of places, not sure if she has it published yet.
>But really interesting.
>But we are going to continue feedback as product, in the form of
>[mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Coppens, Andrew
>Sent: Monday, July 31, 2017 11:50 AM
>To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: studies of feedback on student writing?
>Hi Shirin, Greg, others,
>Thanks, this is a topic very near to my own interests as well. I¹m not
>aware of much research on ³writing as dialogue² that encourages expansive
>learning, unfortunately. Related, there is a good deal of supporting
>evidence against the capitalization of academic work (e.g., Alexander
>Sidorkin¹s excellent work) and grades as extrinsic rewards (e.g., Alfie
>Kohn¹s dogged fight). Maja Wilson¹s book Rethinking Rubrics has also been
>helpful. Both instructors and students collude in the capitalization of
>academic work, though we tend to blame each other.
>I don¹t use grades in my classes, which are writing intensive (a practice
>I learned from Barbara Rogoff and UC Santa Cruz, which for many years did
>not use letter grades opting for narrative performance evaluations; there
>are other institutions still doing so). The pushback I get from students
>on this puts sweat on my pre-tenure brow each semester, but I strongly
>feel that it is worth it. For nearly all of my students, this is the only
>time in their 15+ year schooling career that they¹ve participated in a
>non-letter-grade assessment system, and most are studying to become
>teachers. Many students eventually come to agree with a narrative,
>ideas-focused approach, but some don¹t. Many of those that don¹t are with
>me when we¹re working closely together on their ideas in a paper, but are
>unwilling to ³experiment² with their GPA in a broader sense. And, I
>understand that concern.
>Greg ‹ It has also been my experience that when grades and written
>feedback exist side-by-side, written feedback gets reduced to or
>interpreted as explaining the grade. The way in which the form of
>assessment drives what¹s possible is very powerful here. It conveys ‹
>again, to both students and instructors ‹ a strong sense of what the
>³conversation" is supposed to be about, as well as what our relationship
>is to each other.
>For me, one of the most promising transformations in expansive approaches
>to writing as a collaboration/conversation, supported by certain kinds of
>written comments and less so by others I would imagine, is that it has a
>meaningful purpose other than its evaluation. I¹ve often overlooked the
>proximal, more intimate purpose of writing for communication, looking for
>a way to make student writing ³count² in a conventional sense (e.g.,
>getting it published in one or another venue ‹ I¹ve been using Wikipedia
>for this for a few years). But, I think there¹s a great deal of meaning
>to be accessed in evolving a relationship and conversation, in writing,
>that is basically about developing and sharing an idea.
>I continue to try new things. Very interested to hear what others are
>thinking/doing. Happy also to share how I ³sell² this to both students
>and my Department.
>Andrew D. Coppens
>Education Dept., University of New Hampshire
>302 Morrill Hall, 603-862-3736
>On Jul 31, 2017, at 11:08 AM, Greg Thompson
>I find your suggestions for writing feedback as dialogue (and as "writing
>itself") to be a really fantastic idea.
>My question is: How to accomplish your task in a world in which education
>and indeed knowledge have been thoroughly capital-ized?
>How to fit this into the educational system of today in which not only do
>universities treat students as so many widgets to put out, but students
>see often see themselves (or, at least, their "skills" and "knowledge")
>in precisely this same way?
>My anthropology students regularly tell me of the interrogations that
>they endure with friends and family who ask them "But how can you make
>money with an anthropology degree?" I'm unsure whether to tell my
>students that there are a million ways to make money with an anthropology
>degree or whether I should tell them to respond with "That's a stupid
>question" and to go on to interrogate the grounds of the question. The
>former is more practical, the latter is more revealing.
>Shirin, I'm wondering if you are encountering this sort of thing? And if
>so, how might you "sell" such an alternative pedagogy to a capital-ized
>university and its students?
>Just for a little more context, I regularly have conversations with a
>colleague in my department who was, for the past two years, tasked with
>leading our students in the final write-up stage of their theses. He
>found that they were often uninterested in feedback-as-dialogue. Rather,
>the vast majority were interested in feedback as a way of telling them
>how to get the grade that they wanted. He was incredibly thoughtful and
>thorough in his comments and feedback but the students tended to ignore
>this feedback unless it had teeth (i.e. was directly connected with
>I am in a culturally peculiar context, but I'm not sure exactly how
>peculiar. Shirin, do you encounter this same kind of thing at
>(or other places you have taught?).
>Perhaps you have some writing on this somewhere?
>On Mon, Jul 31, 2017 at 8:32 AM, Shirin Vossoughi
>Thank you for these David, very interesting. I sympathize with many of
>your comments and am drawn to the moments when the more complex and
>dialectical understandings of the ZPD become a meaningful tool for
>mediation and practice.
>Your thoughts on the term "feedback" also got me thinking about the
>ideological baggage that term may carry so thank you for that. What I'm
>after these days is a way to understand the specific qualities of
>educators' written commentary on student writing that support shifts
>towards more expansive relationships with writing, ideas, self and world.
>feedback as dialogue, in a sense. but also as writing in itself.
>On Fri, Jul 28, 2017 at 5:44 PM, David Kellogg
>I'm currently writing a rather tiresome article on the distortions of
>Vygotsky's ideas we find in Lantolf, Thorne, and "sociocultural theory"
>generally. I won't bore you with the details: the gist is that the "zone
>of proximal development" was never designed to be tautological: Vygotsky
>did not think that the "next zone" was defined by being able to do tasks,
>and being able to do tasks was how you knew that the child was ready for
>the next zone of development (i.e. "the child is ready to learn whatever
>the child is ready to learn"). It was based on a serious study of child
>development and an attempt to establish age periods that were immanent to
>the process of development itself (i.e. defined by the pace of
>development--crises and stable periods--but relatable to the fruits of
>development--as observable in language and verbal thinking).
>But inevitably part of what I have to do is to take out the garbage that
>has accrued around Vygotsky's name, to show how sociocultural theory
>popularized Vygotsky by reducing all his ideas into extant "best
>practices". At the time (the early nineties in second language writing
>instruction) best practices were starting to move away from whole
>language ideas based on providing the young writer with a "print rich
>and plentiful "input" towards more social-behaviorist notions of "focus
>on form" and "corrective feedback". The theoretical rationale was that
>the former approach had been "cognitivist" whle the latter was
>"sociocultural", because it involved interaction between minds which was
>within the learner's mind.
>Here are some key articles from Lantolfian "sociocultural theory" which do
>Aljaafreh, A. & Lantolf, J.P. (1994). Negative feedback as regulation and
>second language learning in the zone of proximal development. Modern
>Language Journal, 78, 465-483.
>De Guerrero, M.C.M. & Villamil, O.S. (2000). Activating the ZPD: Mutual
>scaffolding in L2 peer revision. Modern Language Journal, 84, 51-68.
>Poehner, M.E. (2012). The zone of proximal development and the genesis of
>self-assessment. Modern Language Journal, 96 (4) 610-622.
>Poehner, M.E. & Lantolf, J.P. (2010). Vygotsky¹s teaching-assessment
>dialectic and L2 education: The case for Dynamic Assessment. Mind,
>Culture, and Activity, 17 (4) 312-330.
>Poehner, M.E. and Lantolf, J.P. (2013). Bringing the ZPD into the
>Capturing L2 development during Computerized Dynamic Assessment (C-DA).
>Language Teaching Research, 17 (3) 323-342.
>Needless to say, I don't recommend any of these. Don't get me wrong: I
>too am an agitator and not a propagandist; I want a few simple ideas I
>can give to lots of teachers rather than a whole complex system that can
>only be mastered by a few. Like you, I firmly I believe that it is
>possible to popularize without vulgarizing, and I even think the demotic
>forms of theory are the most democratic and ultimately the most profound.
>I too have a strong sympathy for the teacher training approach that
>analyzes best practices and tries to abstract best principles, and then
>shows how these are perfectly compatible with high theory. I even think
>that at some point it is useful to try to show teachers that they were
>"unconscious" Vygotskyans all the long.
>But this stuff isn't that. It's just bait and switch: The zone of
>proximal development was not and never will be a form of corrective
>feedback, and the very word "feedback" suggests the behaviorist theory
>that it really belongs to.
>On Fri, Jul 28, 2017 at 3:46 AM, Shirley Franklin <
>I know people in this project have done research on feedback on academic
>Also, we discussed people's work on this in the Academic Literacies
>Forum in the Institute of Education in London. Brian Street, who sadly
>died recently, had a lot to say about it.
>Sent from my iPad
>On 27 Jul 2017, at 19:00, Shirin Vossoughi
>I am writing to ask if anyone might have suggestions for CHAT or
>socio-cultural studies of written feedback on student writing?
>Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
>Department of Anthropology
>880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
>Brigham Young University
>Provo, UT 84602