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First-year students' perception and interpretation of teacher response to their writing: Ten students speak

Missy-Marie Montgomery, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The primary goal of my study is to explore students’ subjective experience of teacher response to their writing. This study is intended to deepen our understanding of students’ experience of feedback, and provide an opportunity to hear student voices adding to the conversation about what they have found to be most useful in terms of improving their writing. This is a qualitative study, relying primarily on individual interviews and questionnaires to elicit participants’ understanding of teacher feedback and response to student writing. An initial questionnaire about student response to teacher feedback was distributed to 73 students. The results of the questionnaire yielded significant information in terms of how students read teacher feedback, and how they interpret this feedback. I analyzed these 73 initial questionnaires for themes, and then chose 10 students for further in-depth interviews, looking at their writing and their response to/and interpretation of teacher comments. In these interviews the students brought in mid-process and final papers with written teacher comments, and then interpreted these comments. I analyzed themes in these interviews, and looked at whether and how teacher comments affected students’ final drafts. The in-depth interview findings indicated that a surprising number of students do not read the feedback thoroughly or seriously, and of those who do, many misinterpret that feedback, and very few students think of feedback as an exchange or dialogue between a teacher and student. At the end of the study all of the students met together in a focus group to reflect on their experience, to ask questions, and to add their voices to the conversation. Some of the implications of this study suggest that we need to spend more time in class educating students about feedback and response, and that we need to rethink, modify, and experiment with the ways we respond, especially in terms of creating dialogic response. I also suggest areas for further research.

Subject Area

Rhetoric|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Montgomery, Missy-Marie, "First-year students' perception and interpretation of teacher response to their writing: Ten students speak" (2009). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3379995.