APA format, in-text citation, references include
1- to 2-paragraph response that addresses the following:
- Using the evidence you identified and paraphrased in (attachment 1) and post if needed, analyze that evidence in the context of the argument you are making.
- Additionally, reflect on the process of analyzing the evidence. Pose any questions and/or explain challenges that came up during the process.
Part 2: ( 2 pages)
– See attachment 2 for instructions.
Misalignment between instructor practices and student preferences on writing feedback has a significant impact on student learning (Schulz, 2001), students prefer rubric feedback, track changes, and proximal comments for corrections. According to Gredler’s (2018) research, the participants preferred the rubric because it gave them techniques for approaching future assignments. The preference for detailed feedback aligns with social constructivist theory, which suggests supportive feedback enhances students’ writing skills. Most students, 61, desired to improve their writing skills, while 53 and 37 favored proximal feedback and clear, detailed feedback, respectively (Gredler, 2018). These results aligned with previous studies, such as Mulliner and Tucker’s (2015) research, which shows that feedback must be delivered supportive and constructive through critical and positive feedback balanced and aligned with assignment learning objectives and criteria. Through this research, instructors and students must find a way to accommodate their teaching and learning preferences to balance feedback and workload.
The process of paraphrasing did not pose a significant challenge, however, it was difficult to paraphrase some sentences without losing the originality of the sentence.
Gredler, J. J. (2018). Postsecondary Online Students’ Preferences for Text-Based Instructor Feedback. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30(2), 195-206. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1184996
Mulliner, E., & Tucker, M. (2015). Feedback on feedback practice: Perceptions of students and academics. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 1-23. doi:10.1080/02602938.2015.1103365
The MEAL plan* of paragraph development and organization is a popular acronym at Walden. Whenever I ask students if they’ve heard of it, at least half already have and the other half immediately start taking notes as I explain it. The reason it’s popular is clear. It’s easy to remember and helps to demystify a topic that can seem quite murky: paragraphs.
However, to use the MEAL plan effectively to develop and revise paragraphs, it needs a little bit of explanation. In this first of a series of blog posts about the MEAL plan, I’m going to tackle the first letter: M, standing for “main idea.”
The main idea of a paragraph is often called a topic sentence.
There are a few requirements of a topic sentence that you should always check off:
√ You should always have one! Each paragraph should start with a topic sentence—that’s right, each and every paragraph. This type of sentence is that important.
√ The topic sentence needs to introduce the main idea you’ll be exploring or explaining in the rest of the paragraph. It’s sort of like the thesis statement of the paragraph in this way: it helps tell the reader what topic all the sentences in the paragraph will have in common.
√ It probably shouldn’t have a citation. While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, it’s a good guideline. A topic sentence may include research (with a citation), but it usually doesn’t because it should be an overall statement of the paragraph’s focus (rather than a specific idea or fact that needs a citation).
Here’s a sample paragraph with a topic sentence:
Many infant and mother deaths can be prevented, especially in the third world. Worldwide, around 11,000,000 children under 5 years old die primarily from preventable diseases, and over 500,000 mothers die from pregnancy- or delivery-related complications annually; almost 99% of these occur in developing countries (Hill et al., 2007). This high number is devastating because while infants in these countries have a high risk of dying, their risk does not stop once they are adults. For women, the lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes is about 100 times higher in Bangladesh than in developed countries (WHO, 2004). The continued failures in implementing straightforward interventions targeting the root causes of mortalities have been responsible for these deaths (McCoy, 2006). The medical community has not been able to come up with simple, cost-effective, and life-saving methods that would help save lives in developing countries. This lack of innovation in the medical field has resulted in the continued unnecessary deaths of thousands of mothers and children.
In analyzing this paragraph, we can check off all of our requirements for a topic sentence:
√ First, it exists ! I know this sounds simple, but students often forget to include topic sentences in their hurry to include evidence from sources.
√ Second, it tells us what this paragraph’s focus will be about . After reading the rest of the paragraph, we can see that all the other sentences reflect this focus—they develop and support this idea that (a) infants and mothers are dying, (b) these deaths are preventable, and (c) this is happening in the third world.
√ Third, the statement is general enough that it doesn’t need a citation . Instead, it’s an overall statement that summarizes the focus of the entire paragraph, not just one idea or fact that would need a citation.
√ Lastly, take another look at the paragraph and imagine if that topic sentence wasn’t there. While each sentence on its own would make sense, we wouldn’t know the main point or idea of the paragraph until the very last sentence. Waiting until the end of the paragraph to understand the paragraph’s main idea impedes the reader’s ability to understand how these sentences fit together.
I hope you’re getting a sense of what a topic sentence looks like and why it is important. However, most writers don’t naturally include topic sentences in their paragraphs, and that’s okay! What’s important is that you are able to revise for topic sentences. To do so, I always suggest that students review each paragraph of a first draft: look for paragraphs that don’t have a topic sentence that fulfills the requirements I outlined above, and add or adjust as needed.
International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 2018, Volume 30, Number 2, 195-206 http://www.isetl.org/ijtlhe/ ISSN 1812-9129
Postsecondary Online Students’ Preferences for Text-Based Instructor Feedback
Joseph J. Gredler Walden University
Misalignment between student preferences and instructor practices regarding writing feedback may impede student learning. This sequential explanatory mixed-methods study addressed postsecondary online students’ preferences and the reasons for their preferences. A survey was used to collect 93 responses from postsecondary students attending a large private online university; data collection included interviews with a subsample of 4 participants. Findings indicated students preferred proximal, detailed, supportive feedback to enhance their writing skills and to understand deductions assessed by instructors. Findings may increase instructor awareness of students’ preferences and enhance collaboration in the feedback process to promote writing skill development and improve academic outcomes.
Researchers have explored postsecondary students’
preferences for various types of instructor feedback including written, audio recorded, and video recorded (Bilbro, Iluzada, & Clark, 2013; Crews & Wilkinson, 2010; Ice, Swan, Diaz, Kupczynski, & Swan-Dagen, 2010). However, most of the research has been done with students attending brick-and-mortar institutions. Several researchers affirmed the importance of instructor feedback to student learning in the postsecondary setting (Johnson & Cooke, 2015; Mirzaee & Hasrati, 2014; Van der Kleij, Feskens, & Eggen, 2015). Instructor feedback could undermine learning if the tone and content are not perceived by students to be supportive (Carless, 2006). Also, discrepancies in belief systems between teachers and students could disrupt the learning process (Schulz, 2001). Ferguson (2011) acknowledged the occasional dissatisfaction reported by students regarding feedback and asserted that instructors’ understanding of students’ preferences is essential to the learning process. Schulz (2001) agreed that instructors should explore students’ feedback preferences and should address conflicts that could impede learning. Instructors need not strive to please their students (Smith, 2008); however, instructors may increase the likelihood of student learning by using strategies that enhance student engagement such as demonstrating awareness of students’ feedback preferences. Given the increasing number of students matriculated in online programs (Cavanaugh & Song, 2014), describing online students’ preferences for electronic feedback delivered via software applications such as Microsoft Word may help instructors serve students’ learning needs more effectively (Nicole & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006).
Numerous studies have addressed postsecondary
students’ perceptions and preferences regarding instructor feedback. Several researchers reported that postsecondary students’ preferred clear, detailed
comments (Ferguson, 2011; Glover & Brown, 2006; Mulliner & Tucker, 2015;), suggestive rather than directive comments (Can, 2009; Rae & Cochrane, 2008; Treglia, 2008), electronic feedback (Can, 2009; Rae & Cochrane, 2008), prompt feedback (Mulliner & Tucker, 2015; Poulos & Mahony, 2008), and a balance between positive and negative comments (Duncan, 2007; Smith, 2008; Weaver, 2006). Studies also indicated that active students were more inclined to review and apply instructor feedback than passive students (Wingate, 2010; Zacharias, 2007). Students preferred feedback that aligned with assignment criteria (Ferguson, 2011; Weaver, 2006; Wolsey, 2008) and enhanced their performance on upcoming assignments (Orsmond & Merry, 2011). Studies done with English as a foreign language (EFL) students indicated that students’ preferences appeared to be associated with their literacy levels (Boram, 2009; Tabatabaei & Ahranjani, 2012). However, most of the studies done on postsecondary students’ feedback preferences addressed students attending brick-and-mortar institutions. Few studies addressed online students’ preferences (Cavanaugh & Song, 2014; Gallien & Oomen-Early, 2008).
Detailed, meaningful instructor feedback adds value to the learning process, and instructors working in an online environment should consider how their feedback may enhance their students’ writing skills (Crews & Wilkinson, 2010). Wolsey (2008) and Nordrum, Evans, and Gustafsson (2013) agreed that instructor feedback plays an important role in the formative learning process that occurs within individual writing projects and also in the development of skills that students will employ in future assignments. Feedback is the most personal, specific, and direct way in which students are given writing instruction (Szymanski, 2014). Weaver (2006) agreed that feedback stimulates student reflection and development and is an essential part of the learning process. Weaver also noted that identifying students’ strengths and weaknesses may facilitate their self-assessment and application of feedback to future writing assignments.
Gredler Text-Based Instructor Feedback 196
Purpose, Framework, and Research Questions
The purpose of this study was to describe undergraduate- and graduate-level online students’ preferences for instructor feedback delivered electronically via software applications such as Microsoft Word. The purpose also included describing reasons why students prefer certain types of feedback rather than others. An additional purpose had been to test for variation among online students’ preferences based on age, grade level, online experience, and English-language status; however, due to the lower than expected sample size and the disproportionate representation of graduate students, native English speakers, and experienced online learners in the self-selected sample, this third purpose could not be satisfied.
Vygotsky’s (1978) social-constructivist theory provided a suitable framework for the study. Vygotsky argued that learning promotes internal developmental processes that occur only when the student is collaborating with individuals in his or her environment. The current study applied social- constructivist principles by encouraging instructor recognition of the significance of students’ preferences in the instructor-student relationship (Benko, 2012) and by exhorting instructors to engage with students in the recursive writing process by embracing their preferences as essential to their writing skill development (Budge, 2011; Ferguson, 2011). Instructor feedback was situated as a scaffolding tool used to move students through their zone of proximal development as emerging academic writers (Benko, 2012; McCarthy, 2015). Instructor feedback increases students’ self- regulation as writers and thinkers (Treglia, 2008) and promotes learning by enhancing students’ self- regulation, improving their motivation, and reducing their anxiety (McVey, 2008). Szymanski (2014) supported the use of professional-genre assignments that promote undergraduate students as apprentice writers and encourage their self- regulation as emerging scholars. When viewed through a social-constructivist lens, the purpose of the current study was to describe online students’ preferences for different levels of scaffolding and to explore their reasons for preferring certain types of feedback rather than others. The study addressed the following research questions:
1. What types of electronic feedback in word- processing software do postsecondary online students prefer?
2. What reasons do postsecondary online students give for preferring certain types of electronic feedback but not others?
The study included a sequential explanatory mixed-methods design with a survey questionnaire containing closed and open-ended questions followed by interviews with participants to probe their preferences more deeply (Patton, 2002). Survey questions were adapted from those used by Budge (2011) and Wolsey (2008); permission was obtained prior to the study. Survey data came from 93 undergraduate and graduate students attending a large private online university in the Midwestern United States. Four participants who completed the survey also participated in semi structured interviews. Interview participants came from different programs (psychology, education, nursing, and public policy) to enhance disciplinary representation in interview data.
The survey instrument contained 17 quantitative questions and two qualitative questions (Appendix A). The first 12 quantitative questions addressed students’ preferences for online feedback delivered via software applications such as Microsoft Word. Silva (2012) noted that “electronic feedback via Microsoft Word comments…affords the reader nearly an infinite amount of space to provide commentary” (p. 3). Silva conceded that video technology provides similar advantages but expressed concern about instructors’ willingness to spend extra time on video feedback and cautioned that the size of video files may limit delivery options. Silva acknowledged that audio comments may be used to personalize the feedback process; however, technology issues may impede students’ reception of audio feedback. In addition, the lack of proximity of audio comments to essay text may reduce the impact of audio feedback on student revisions and learning. Given the predominant use of text-based feedback in online programs, quantitative survey questions addressed students’ preferences for text-based feedback. However, two open- ended questions were included to allow students to report their preferences for other types of feedback, including video and audio. The survey also included five questions addressing participants’ age, grade level, online experience, English-language status, and area of study. Interview questions (Appendix B) were aligned with survey questions to explore participants’ feedback preferences and the reasons for their preferences.
Descriptive frequencies were used to report
quantitative survey data findings. Analysis of open-ended survey questions involved a structured yet flexible approach consistent with Miles, Huberman, and Saldana’s (2014) recommendation to use both deductive coding based on the conceptual framework and inductive coding to identify unanticipated themes that emerged from the
Gredler Text-Based Instructor Feedback 197
data analysis. Preliminary analysis included provisional codes borrowed from Aliakbari and Toni’s (2009) study comparing the influence of different types of error- correction techniques on postsecondary EFL students’ grammatical accuracy: (a) direct coded, (b) indirect coded, (c) direct uncoded, and (d) indirect uncoded.
Demographic data indicated most participants
(95.6%) identified as graduate students. When asked whether English was their first language, most participants (89.0%) answered yes. Regarding area of study, most participants selected social sciences (36.3%), health sciences (24.2%), or other (33.0%). In this third category, most participants (23) identified education as their area of study. Additional categories included business (3.3%), humanities (2.2%), and information technology (1.1%). When asked how many online courses they had taken, most participants (84.6%) answered four or more. Most participants (76%) were between the ages of 30 and 54.
Participants strongly agreed (63.4%) or slightly agreed (20.4%) with having instructors correct errors using track changes. Participants also agreed (95.7%) with having online instructors include comments to explain their corrections. Most participants (77.4%) preferred balloon comments in the margins of the paper, with less than a quarter (20.4%) preferring comments typed within the essay text. Most participants were neutral (34.4%) or strongly disagreed (19.4%) with the use of grammar codes. Participants (92.4%) preferred that instructors include both comments and corrections in their feedback. Most participants (58.1%) preferred comments inserted throughout the paper, and over a third (37.6%) preferred comments inserted throughout the paper and at the end.
Participants (91.4%) reported that they always review their online assignments for feedback from their instructor. In addition, participants strongly agreed (67.7%) or slightly agreed (15.1%) that electronic feedback provided by online instructors had been helpful in developing their writing skills. Results were mixed in response to Survey Question 9, “Considering the types of instructor comments listed below, which ones do you prefer?” Participants were allowed to choose more than one response. The most popular choices were explorations (85.0%), corrections to content (81.7%), and complex affirmations (73.1%). The least popular choices were personal reflections (24.7%), simple affirmations (32.3%), and observations (43%). Table 1 shows a breakdown of participants’ responses to this question.
Most participants (82.8%) preferred online instructors to include grading rubrics with their feedback. In addition, most participants strongly agreed
(51.6%) or slightly agreed (24.7%) that their instructors’ electronic feedback had been consistent with the grading rubric. Most participants strongly agreed (64.1%) or slightly agreed (25.0%) that their English writing skills were very good.
Qualitative Survey Results
Nearly all of the 93 survey participants responded
to the two open-ended survey questions. Major themes contained 20 or more participant comments, and minor themes contained at least two but not more than 19 participant comments. Major themes included the desire to improve writing skills and the preference for proximal, detailed, supportive feedback. Theme 1: Desire to Improve Skills
The dominant theme from the qualitative data was desire to improve as academic writers. Participants expressed an interest in using instructor feedback to develop their writing skills. Data showed 61 responses included a comment reflecting a desire to improve. One participant reported, “Feedback is how students learn and grow in their writing and understanding of information. I cannot become a better writer and learn if I do not receive feedback that helps me do both of these things.” A second participant commented, “I like to know what I am doing wrong with recommendations to improve,” and indicated, “I appreciate feedback that is meaningful. For example, if I make a mistake or do something wrong, I need to know about it so that I can improve.” Theme 2: Proximal Comments
Many participant responses (53) indicated that instructor comments should be located near related essay text. Approximately one fourth (14) of these responses indicated that proximity was important but did not specify the desired location (e.g., marginal balloons or within paragraph text). One participant reported, “I prefer to receive electronic feedback from my online instructor within the body of my essay.” Another observed, “With comments not associated with a specific part of my paper, I am not sure what the instructor is talking about. It helps to have the comment be located in the location being referenced.” According to a third participant, “It is important for me to have feedback posted throughout the paper rather than a long comment at the end. This makes the comments and corrections more concise and clear and easier to follow.” A fourth participant commented, “I prefer the feedback directly adjacent to the error or the section being referred to in order to avoid confusion.”
Nearly half (26) of the responses in Theme 2 indicated a clear preference for marginal balloon comments. Only one of the 93 participants indicated a
Gredler Text-Based Instructor Feedback 198
Table 1 Preferences for Types of Instructor Comments
Response Number Percent Simple affirmations 30 32.3 Complex affirmations 68 73.1 Explorations 79 85.0 Personal Reflections 23 24.7 Clarifications 58 62.4 Observations 40 43.0 Questions 59 63.4 Corrections to content 76 81.7 Corrections to mechanics 57 61.3
preference for in-paragraph comments rather than balloons. Ten responses in this theme indicated a preference for both in-text comments and a long comment at the end. Two responses indicated preference for comments only at the end.
Theme 3: Clear, Detailed Feedback
Many participant responses (37) indicated a preference for instructor feedback that is easily comprehended and substantive. One participant reported, “I dislike simple feedback that does not provide a substantive critique of my work. A ‘good job’ or ‘it needs work’ does nothing to improve my comprehension or writing skills.” Another participant commented, “I would like that my online instructor’s feedback was substantial, productive, encouraging, clear, concise, and precise.” A third participant added, “It is essential to have detailed feedback when working at the doctoral level. This feedback should include specific detail to errors, content that needs additions and/or omissions, and simply learning from the instructor’s expertise.” Theme 4: Constructive, Supportive Feedback
The fourth major theme (28 comments) was that instructor feedback should be delivered with a supportive tone. One participant insisted that instructors should “eliminate value loaded bias comments. Give me direction, not insult. Let me use my own mind—nudge me the right way so I learn.” Another participant reported, “I believe various instructors take liberties to insult and complain. I do not want to be the recipient of someone’s bad day.” A third participant commented, “It is important for me to know that my instructors care about my learning and growing rather than how many errors they can find.” Minor Themes
Several responses (18) indicated support for electronic feedback delivered as attachments or links
within courses or via e-mail. Participants described the convenience and efficiency of electronic feedback. Eleven responses indicated a preference for rubrics to clarify how the grade was determined, and seven comments reflected a preference for track changes delivered via Microsoft Word to promote error correction and skill development. Seven responses indicated that feedback should be delivered in a timely manner, and five comments indicated that instructor feedback should include information explaining why points were deducted. Four responses indicated that instructors should include examples with their feedback, and three comments indicated that substantive feedback is needed even though a good grade was given. Three responses indicated that instructors should avoid personal reflections in their feedback. No qualitative survey comments indicated a preference for video or audio feedback. Table 2 shows the number of comments associated with major and minor themes.
Consistent with a sequential explanatory mixed- methods design (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011; Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009), interview transcripts were analyzed using survey data codes as provisional codes. Provisional codes preselected from Aliakbari and Toni’s (2009) study were abandoned in the analysis of survey data. However, provisional codes that emerged from the survey data analysis were useful in the examination of interview data.
Interview data supported all four major themes from the qualitative survey data. Interview responses also supported four of the minor themes, including rubric feedback, timely feedback, feedback needed to justify deductions, and feedback needed despite a good grade. In addition, two new themes emerged from the interview data: (a) include references to external resources, and (b) provide evidence that the instructor read the paper. One participant commented, “What has
Gredler Text-Based Instructor Feedback 199
Table 2 Themes From Qualitative Survey Data
Theme Number of responses Desire to improve skills 61 Proximal feedback 53 Clear, detailed feedback 37 Constructive, supportive feedback 28 Electronic feedback 18 Rubrics included 11 Track changes used 7 Timely feedback 7 Feedback to justify deductions 5 Examples included 4 Feedback needed despite good grade 3 No instructor personal reflections 3 No grammar codes 2
helped is when they refer me in their comments to other research or back to the literature of the course.” A second participant noted, “What I found most helpful were very specific references. A couple of professors were very good with specific reference citations especially when it has to do with APA.” Another participant mentioned, “It’s helpful when you see the comments that they actually looked at the paper.”
Misalignment between instructor practices and
student preferences in the writing feedback process may impede student learning (Schulz, 2001). Minimal research on postsecondary online students’ preferences for text-based feedback prompted the current study. Findings showed that qualitative survey results were consistent with quantitative survey results. Qualitative responses indicated that participants preferred proximal, detailed, supportive feedback including rubrics, track changes, and examples to help them improve their writing skills, but participants did not want grammar codes or instructors’ personal reflections. Qualitative survey results also indicated that feedback is needed even when the grade is good and to justify deductions. Quantitative findings showed that participants preferred proximal comments, rubric feedback, and the use of track changes for corrections. Quantitative results reinforced the preference for detailed feedback provided via complex rather than simple affirmations. Interview findings supported survey findings. Interview participants commented that detailed feedback is needed to provide
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