Every day students are able to discuss complex ideas relatively easily in spontaneous conversation, yet when they attempt to express complex ideas in a written paper, students often experience great difficulty. The features of face-to-face conversation and of written communication differ in a number of respects. This study examines student's perceptions of peer evaluation through interactive conversation as compared to non-interactive written peer feedback. This study provides evidence that students perceive value in actively talking with others about their paper. In particular, students often prefer to talk to someone who has investment in their success and who can give them constructive, honest advice. This study provides some initial evidence that students prefer face-to-face conversing with a classmate as compared to non-interactive written peer feedback. We discuss reasons why conversing about a paper in face-to-face conversation has advantages that may benefit students in academic writing.
One of the goals of education today is to ensure that students are able to write effectively. Some educators characterize writing as "the most important academic skill students develop in their secondary and postsecondary education." (Nagin and National Writing Project, 2006, p. 10). One of the chief problems of academic writing is that it can be hard to assess what is easy for others to understand. This ability to anticipate one's audience is important for all types of communication. In face-to face conversation, Clark and Krych (2004) demonstrate that speakers are affected by their conversational partners--not only in what they plan to say, but how and when they plan to say it. Writing, by contrast, typically has a future reader but the writer cannot interact with the reader. Based on previous research on face-to-face communication, we suggest that students will find it useful to talk interactively with another person about what they are in the process of writing.
Years ago, communication in general was theorized to be a "Message Model" or "Transmission model" (e.g., Shannon & Weaver, 1949) in which speakers take their ideas and put them into words so that the recipient will decode those words and understand the speaker's message. Various forms of written communication, such as writing papers, are effectively similar to this message model since there is little opportunity for interaction between the encoder (the writer) and the decoder (the reader.)
Grounding--Incremental, Interactive Nature of Conversation
In successful face-to-face conversation, by contrast, people need to do much more than simply utter words for others to decode. Conversation is interactive, requiring people to coordinate with one another in order for communication to proceed properly. People not only establish the content of their conversation (the who, what, when, where) but they also provide evidence of their understanding by nodding, asking questions, gesturing, among other techniques. This social coordination is important, because it impacts the ways speakers and listeners plan what they say and do next (Refer to Krych & Clark, 1997; Clark & Krych, 2004; Bavelas & Chovil, 2000; Clark, 1996). According to grounding theory, people are mutually assessing what each other knows throughout a conversation and they use this knowledge when planning what they will do or say next. Without the ability to interact, misunderstanding is much more likely to occur. For example, in psychology of language research, when participant pairs engaged in a Lego model duplication task in which they could not interact with one another, the resulting replicas not only took longer times to complete, but also resulted in over eight times as many errors than in a separate condition when participants could interact (Clark & Krych, 2004).
Differences between face-to-face and written communication
Face-to-face conversation and writing are similar in that both are used as a means of communicating ideas to another person. …