Academic journal article English Language Teaching

The Effects of the Peer Feedback Process on Reviewers' Own Writing

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

The Effects of the Peer Feedback Process on Reviewers' Own Writing

Article excerpt


The purpose of this study is to determine which is more beneficial to improving learner writing: reviewing peer texts or one's own text. The study took place over one semester at a Japanese university with 51 students enrolled in two writing classes at two proficiency levels. The students at the lower proficiency level reviewed peer texts, while those at the higher proficiency level reviewed their own texts. Multiple task sheets were used in both classes for students to give detailed feedback on texts. To examine gains in writing quality, a comparative analysis was conducted on writing samples collected at the beginning and the end of the semester. A questionnaire survey was also conducted to investigate the students' perceptions towards the tasks. The results of the analysis indicated that the students who focused on reviewing their own texts made more total gains in score than did the students who focused on reviewing peer texts. On the other hand, a significant correlation was observed between score gains and perceived effectiveness of the task with the students who focused on reviewing peer texts. The pedagogical implications of the results are discussed.

Keywords: peer feedback, reviewer, writing quality, learner perception

1. Introduction

As the process approach (Mittan, 1989; Zamel, 1985) has become a major orientation of pedagogy in both first and second language writing classrooms, peer feedback has come to take an important part in writing instruction. Given the definition of feedback as "input from a reader to a writer with the effect of providing information to the writer for revision (Keh, 1990, p. 294)," peer feedback is primarily a variety of input that is given from one learner to another. In a writing classroom, however, peer feedback is more than merely a type of feedback but the dynamic process of reviewing peer texts and negotiating as both reviewer and writer. Through peer feedback, learners engage in critical evaluation of peer texts for the purpose of exchanging help for revision. The rationale of this process is explained by the framework of sociocultural theory. Vygotsky's (1978, 1986, 1987) notion of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is a theoretical concept based on sociocultural theory. This theory, which originally dealt with child cognitive development, explains that cognitive development occurs as a result of social interaction in which an individual learns through the guidance of more experienced others. The ZPD refers to the distance between one's actual developmental level and the potential developmental level. The supportive interaction was also termed as scaffolding (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976) and occurs between novice learners as collective scaffolding (Anton & DiCamilla, 1998; DiCamilla & Anton, 1997; De Guerrero & Villamil, 2000; Donato, 1994). By applying sociocultural theory as a basis, interaction is by definition a crucial component of peer feedback.

In the interactive process of peer feedback, learners play a dual role of writer and reviewer, and thus learners should expect benefits associated with both roles. Nevertheless, research to date has focused primarily on the benefits for writers, including the positive effects of peer feedback on writing quality (Berg, 1999; Hedgcock & Lefkowitz, 1992; Paulus, 1999; Villamil & De Guerrero, 1998), the behavior of incorporating peer comments in revision (Connor & Asenavage, 1994; Mendonça & Johnson, 1994; Nelson & Murphy, 1993), and the enhanced sense of audience and ownership of text (Carson & Nelson, 1994; Mangelsdorf, 1992; Tsui & Ng, 2000). The major advantage of taking a reviewer's role appears to be the development of critical evaluation skills and the subsequent development of self-revision skills (Rollinson, 2005), but empirical research remains scant in this area.

Among studies that have focused on the reviewer's stance in peer feedback (Lundstorm & Baker, 2009; Min, 2005; 2008; Tsui & Ng, 2000), Tsui and Ng (2000) discovered that learners learned more about writing by reviewing peer texts than by receiving peer comments. …

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