The effects of a feedback-based instruction programme on developing EFL writing and revision skills of first year Moroccan university students
The stimulus for this study was problems I encountered in my teaching of academic writing to first year undergraduates majoring in English at a Moroccan university. Their problems ranged from sentence, to paragraph to essay levels. Added to that was my realization that the teaching of writing is mainly product-oriented and that practice is far from theory. Students are expected to produce good writing, but the means for helping them attain the required writing standards are not clearly identified or provided. A focus on narrative writing seems not to serve the purpose of training students to make their voices heard in argumentative writing. Reliance on lecturing as a means of teaching writing robs the writing class of an appealing social environment. These problems combined with a personal desire to improve my teaching by researching my professional practice against the insights of theory; all these factors gathered to stimulate me to undertake the present research. This project is based on the teaching of a writing programme I developed based on my previous experience as a writing teacher and on student need. In its progressive teaching of writing the programme follows a process approach; however, the product perspective is also important. Students are exposed to three types of feedback on multiple-draft writing: self-monitored feedback using annotations; peer feedback; and teacher written feedback and taped commentary. The aim is to encourage them to experience writing as an interactive process, from the pre-writing activities through the actual writing and revising to the writing of a final draft, rather than as a monotonous solitary activity performed under exam pressure. Using a case study approach this qualitative inquiry looks into the extent to which students make use of the different types of feedback in their revisions, their attitudes to the feedback procedures, and whether text quality improves over the drafts during the course period. For this purpose various data collection tools have been used. These include questionnaires, in-depth interviews, students' writings, audio-taped recordings of student peer feedback sessions, teacher written and taped comments, and student diaries. In line with previous research, the present study has shown that self-monitored feedback using annotations can help identify problematic areas in writing, but it has also added that annotations can unveil students' perceptions of what constitutes good writing. Moreover, the study has demonstrated that peer feedback activities are not only helpful in terms of encouraging revision but that they have other cognitive, linguistic and affective benefits. Finally, there is strong evidence that teacher written feedback is still considered by students to be a major source of help and that they do take it into consideration in their revisions. In addition, teacher taped commentary, a type of feedback which has received little attention in the literature, is an effective means of commenting on content and organisation and focusing student revision on these areas. Students have also appreciated it and acknowledged its cognitive, linguistic, affective, and practical benefits. Furthermore, the study has shown that although students' writings have not systematically, and regularly, improved from first to second drafts, i. e. after revision following peer feedback, there is a tendency for improvement from second to third drafts. i. e. after revision following teacher feedback. On the whole, improvement in text quality varied from one student to another and also from one draft to another for the same student. The main implications are that the one-draft writing tendency in the context of the study should give way to multiple-draft writing. The motivating force of revision can be promoted and enhanced through the use of different types of feedback on separate drafts. More importantly; however, the writing class should cater for student need by making use of motivational instructional and feedback activities.