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Cheung, Yin Ling
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Despite at least three decades of research on feedback on writing, both in first and second language writing instruction, the specific impact of feedback on student learning is far from clear, even as its role and significance are widely acknowledged. Feedback, which now encompasses more than the traditional mode of teacher feedback to include peer feedback in its various forms (oral, written, computer-mediated, single peer, multiple peers), remains an area of active research as scholars and practitioners alike seek definitive answers to the question of the roles of both teacher and peer feedback in relation to each other in the writing classroom. Specifically, the use of both types of feedback used in tandem is an area with scant research. Further, there is a need for research with second language writers as peer feedback, which originated in a first language context, is increasingly used in the L2 writing classroom. Specifically, Chinese learners who form the majority of L2 learners of English globally, deserve attention.

The present study seeks to address the gaps mentioned above by investigating twelve Chinese writers responding to and using teacher and peer feedback made available concurrently through a web-based feedback platform - SWoRD (now called Peerceptiv). By focusing on the writers’ perception of, response to and use of both types of feedback in the process of revising their writing, it was hoped that much-needed insights could be gained on the influence of a web-based peer review platform on the process of responding to and using feedback on writing of L2 writers. By setting up three cases of four writers each bounded by proficiency level, it was also hoped that answers could be yielded to the question of whether there are differences between writers of different proficiencies in the way they respond to and use both teacher and peer feedback. The concurrent use of both teacher and peer feedback in the study would also allow some conclusions to be made as to the issue of preference for teacher feedback over peer feedback among L2 writers reported in the literature and whether this preference translates to a greater use and effectiveness of teacher feedback.

The research design of a multiple instrumental case study, drawing on multiple sources of data (stimulated recall interviews, semi-structured interviews, focused diary entries, semi-structured questionnaire, first and second drafts of writing, records of web-based feedback on writing), allows for rich data from which robust conclusions could be derived. Adopting the theoretical lens of Activity Theory and specifically focusing on the concepts of mediation, agency and contradiction, both within-case and across-case analyses were carried out.

There were three major findings. First, the web-based feedback platform was found to have mediated the Subject-Rules, Subject-Community and Subject-Division of labour relations in the activity system of responding to and using feedback on writing of L2 writers. Second, writers of different proficiencies differed in terms of level of independence in revising, comparative influence of teacher and peer feedback on revisions, and improvement in quality of writing. Implications in terms of an optimal configuration for peer review based on proficiency were discussed. Third, two key contradictions in the activity system were surfaced: that between “Teacher Expert” (Division of Labour) and time constraint (Rules); and that between “Writer as Author” (Division of Labour) and preference for teacher feedback (Rules). The first contradiction illustrates how time constraint is an important factor in explaining why teacher feedback is not as effective as anticipated. The second contradiction delineates three important reasons why learners might reject teacher feedback: sense of text ownership, lack of understanding of and lack of proficiency to deal with teacher feedback. In the final chapter, the theoretical, research, methodological contributions of the study and the pedagogical implications of the findings are discussed and limitations of the study and recommendations for future research enumerated.
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Appears in Collections:Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

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