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What Are Some Alternative Feedback Models

What Are Some Alternative Feedback Models?

In her essay, “Building Bridges to Academic Discourse: The Peer Group Leader in Basic

Writing Peer Response Groups,” Laurie Grobman acknowledges many of the problems that basic writers face while giving each other feedback in peer response groups. Among the reasons she cites include a lack of confidence in their roles as experts and a lack of experience giving feedback which make them reluctant, ineffective peer responders (Grobman 47–49). To provide her students with the support they needed to become better peer responders, she created the Peer Group Model.

Penn State’s Peer Group Leader Model

Grobman selected one of her former basic writing students who had been successful in first year composition to join her classroom peer response groups and provide a model for giving feedback while also playing the role of the facilitator. She writes in her article that the peer group leader serves as a bridge between basic writers and the academy, a person whose presence can be an affirmation for basic writers as academics.

Benefits of this model:

  • The group leader is only one year ahead of the basic writing students, making he/she closer to a true “peer” (50).
  • The group leader can work closely with the instructor to help them provide really specific feedback tailored to each writing project.
  • The group leader can provide a model for responding to student writing, and subsequently teach them to give group feedback themselves (52).
  • Less teacher intervention is necessary (53).
  • This model can create a sense of community and be less intrusive to the peer response process.

Detractors:

  • The group leader can become more of an authority figure or a facilitator whose main concern is keeping other students on task during peer response (56).
  • The group leader has experience, but no specific training in giving feedback to writers.
  • Peer response is often limited to the reader’s reaction to and suggestions about a piece.
  • As Thomas Newkirk found in his study, students are often unable to identify what their instructor values in student writing, and their own reactions to writing are often vastly different to their instructor’s (Newkirk 306).
Muriel Harris’s article, “Collaboration Is Not Collaboration Is Not Collaboration: Writing Center Tutorials vs. Peer-Response Groups” addresses many of the necessary and intrinsic differences between peer response and writing center tutorials. Peer response, she argues, is limited because while responders often identify problems within a text, they do not often ask questions or explain to the writer the various problems that they find (Harris 373). The
writing center tutor, she argues, is neither teacher nor peer, and out of the peer response context, is able to respond to a writer, rather than to the writing (374). Unlike the peer responder, the writing center tutor is free to focus upon whatever individualized need the writer seems to have, and can tailor their session (or a sequence of sessions) to help the writer become more effective (North 439). The Boise State University Writing Center created a model that utilized the writing center tutor in the basic writing classroom while maintaining the benefits of peer response in the classroom.

Boise State’s Writing Mentor Program

Originally named the Writing Fellyns Program, the Boise State Writing Center’s Writing Mentor program began in fall of 2008 as an answer to Muriel Harris’s concerns about the limits of peer response in the writing classroom. The Mentor program was designed to bring the trained consultants (the preferred term for Harris’s ‘tutors’) of the writing center into the basic writing classroom, pairing one consultant with a basic writing class for an entire semester. That consultant would attend roughly ten to fifteen classes, creating both a sense of rapport with the students and familiarizing themselves with the course material and instructor expectations. In addition, Mentors meet with each basic writing student twice over the course of the semester, often conducting one brainstorming session, and one session later in the writing process.

Benefits of this model:

  • Students receive individualized feedback and suggestions from trained consultants. Consultations are as much guided by the writer as by the consultant.
  • Writing center consultants are more likely than instructors to receive honest questions and responses from students (Harris 376).
  • Students receive more one-on-one time with less burden on the instructor.
  • Consultants are able to work with the same students over an entire semester, allowing them to build upon their previous meetings with students.
  • Consultants are familiar with the course content and the instructor’s expectations.

Detractors:

  • While undergraduates themselves, Writing Mentors are not legitimate peers to the basic writing students, and often have not taken basic writing themselves.
  • This model might not enhance the students’ ability to provide feedback themselves, unless part of the Mentor’s time in the classroom is spent modeling this.
  • This model is only sustainable so long as writing center mentors are available to work with a class for an entire semester, a problem that Boise State faced in fall 2012.

Feedback and Basic Writing: Annotated Bibliography

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Page last modified on December 15, 2012, at 02:58 PM