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«Item type text; Dissertation-Reproduction (electronic) Authors Ibrahim, Nizar Publisher The University of Arizona. Rights Copyright © is held by the ...»

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Feedback on ESL writing: Can we integrate form

Item type text; Dissertation-Reproduction (electronic)

Authors Ibrahim, Nizar

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By Mizar Ibrahim Copyright © Nizar Ibrahim 2002 A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the



In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of


In the Graduate College


UMI Number: 3053859 Copyright 2002 by Ibrahim, Nizar All rights reserved.

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Final approval and acceptance of this dissertation is contingent upon the candidate's submission of the final copy of the dissertation to the Graduate College.

I hereby certify that I have read this dissertation prepared under my direction and recommend that it be accepted as fulfilling the dissertation requirement.

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This dissertation has been submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for an advanced degree at The University of Arizona and is deposited in the University Library to be made available to borrowers under rules of the Library.

Brief quotations from this dissertation are allowable without special permission, provided that accurate acknowledgement of source is made. Requests for permission for extended quotation fi-om or reproduction of this manuscript in whole or part may be granted by the copyright holder.

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I would like to thank many people for their help and support to get this dissertation done.

My great heart-felt thanks go out to Professor Jun Liu, the chairperson of the dissertation committee, who hasn't spared any effort to help me in both the research and the writing process. His wonderful, invaluable comments helped me tremendously to materialize this dissertation. I highly appreciate his cooperation and his efficiency in responding to every piece I wrote.

I would also like to full-heartedly thank Professor Teresa McCarty and Professor Robert Anew, the committee members, for their excellent insights on this study. 1 greatly appreciate their feedback, which contributed to shape this work. They were very cooperative, encouraging and supportive.

My great thanks go to the staff in Disability Resource Center, especially Jeanne Nichols, Jane Hudgson and Cheryl Muller. whose assistance and support was essential in finishing the dissertation. They were ready at anytime to do what was needed.

My great thanks go to Tony Amaud for his big effort and hard work in the tedious process of editing this work. I would also like to fuII-heartedly thank Roberta Miller for her patience and effort in helping me search for books and articles and read them.

Roberta has also spent her precious time in editing and fixing the format of the dissertation.

Last and not least, I would like to thank Professor Susan Penfield for her cooperation, encouragement and support during the data collection and the writing stages.

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To my father and mother, Kammal Forahim and [Iham Ibrahim, whose love and support inspired me to persist in achieving my goal, and to my nieces, Diala, Basema and Dalia, whom I adore.

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Giving grammar feedback to ESL writers is still debatable among researchers. While researchers like Truscott (1996) argue that grammar feedback does not help ESL students, others like Ferris (2001) argue that it does. Moreover, scholars debate whether the modes of feedback (written and oral versus computer) might affect student revisions.

Research has been conducted on the effectiveness of different types and modes of feedback, but it is inconclusive and decontextualized. The present study addresses the effectiveness of different types and modes of feedback in the ESL writing classroom.

Thirteen ESL students at a southwestern university participated, where they were required to write three papers. They were divided into two groups. Group 1 received rhetorical and grammatical feedback combined on the first paper, while Group 2 received only rhetorical feedback on that paper. On Paper 2, the order was reversed. For Paper 3, the students were re-grouped into two groups. Group 1 received rhetorical and grammar feedback combined through computer and Group 2 received it in the written mode..A.

mixed approach, quantitative and qualitative, was used. The frequencies of the errors and the corrections that the students made on each paper were calculated and tabulated. The students wrote journals and were interviewed regarding their reaction to the different types and modes of feedback. The study revealed rather a complex picture of how and why students use different types and modes of feedback. The students' backgrounds, their perception of writing, their writing and revision processes and their motivation affected their use of grammar feedback as well as computer feedback. Although the students did not make a lot of changes, error feedback drew their attention to their errors and made them more aware of these errors. Students did not use computer feedback successfully and they attributed that to their cultural background, attitudes, writing styles and the dynamics of computer feedback. This study suggests that training students on self-editing might help them in detecting and correcting their errors. It also suggests that we need to integrate computer feedback with other formats of feedback and to assess the students' reactions to using computer as well as the ways in which they use it. This assessment can be employed to adjust our pedagogical approaches.

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Sitting at a desk, facing piles of papers waiting to be corrected, one asks one's self.

"How do we deal with the ESL writing issues: their grammatical problems, their rhetorical problems, their attitudes towards computers in their composition classes and their varied computer skills?" The discussion that this question initiated led to the concept underlying this study. E.xisting research on the types and the modes of feedback is inconclusive. Some researchers have found that a combination of grammatical and rhetorical feedback helps students pay attention to rhetorical issues and fix their linguistic problems, while others have found that it does not. Some researchers have found that computer feedback initiates discussion in the ESL composition classes and helps them experiment with the language, which leads to the development of their linguistic abilities.

Other researchers have found that grammar suffers in computer-mediated interaction and that face-to-face interaction leads to more fhiitful discussions. The contradictory research findings in both the type and the mode of feedback have resulted in different theoretical stances on the types and modes of feedback to ESL writers. In some cases, these stances are extreme and dichotomous, in the sense that they posit that a certain type or mode of feedback either leads to changes in student writing or does not. The assumption in this study is that the process of giving grammatical and rhetorical feedback through any mode is a complex process and cannot be measured only through the changes the students make in their subsequent drafts. A lot of factors influence the effectiveness of different types and modes of feedback and we need to take these factors into consideration when commenting on student papers. Factors like motivation, attitude, writing styles, writing and revision processes, ways of providing feedback and ways of using the different modes of feedback, might all play a role in feedback use. Thus, this study has utilized a mi.xed research approach (quantitative and qualitative) to investigate the role that these factors play in the effectiveness of different types of feedback given through different modes. This chapter provides a general description of the methodology, as well as a theoretical background. Chapter 2 provides a review of the literature. Chapter 3 details the methodology and the data collection methods and analysis. Chapter 4 gives a detailed account of the results. Chapter 5 establishes the relationship between the results of the study and previous studies, and gives some recommendations.

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Giving ESL writers both grammatical and rhetorical feedback is problematic. Some teachers and researchers believe that including grammar correction in the feedback does not help ESL students improve their linguistic accuracy and might even distract them from dealing with rhetorical issues. Also, researchers do not agree on whether or not using the computer to give feedback in the writing classroom helps ESL students. The problem is that there is little research on both the types and the modes of feedback to ESL writers, and this research is contradictory.

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This study has the following objectives:

1. To investigate the effect that a combination of rhetorical and grammatical feedback has on ESL student writing, as well as the factors that might play a role in the students' use of this feedback.

2. To investigate the effect that different modes of feedback (computer feedback versus written and oral feedback) have on student revisions, as well as the factors that might play a role in the use of these modes.

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Whether or not to give grammar feedback along with rhetorical feedback to ESL writers is important to research. Grammar feedback might help students make their writing clearer. For instance, eliminating wordiness can help ESL students avoid being misunderstood. However, some teachers complain that students do not correct their errors in accordance with the feedback provided to them. Researchers have found contradictorv' results concerning the effectiveness of grammar feedback in leading to revision. Some researchers found that it does help, while others found that it does not. Most of the studies conducted on this issue do not address the effect of the context and of learner differences on using grammar feedback to revise. Moreover, computers are being used increasingly in the writing classroom to give feedback to students. Research in this domain is also contradictory. Computers can play an important role in giving and receiving feedback.

but this role depends on a number of factors. The ways in which the computer might be used, the students' attitudes towards it, and the students' computer skills all are important factors in using computer feedback. They have not been studied and they need more investigation. Hence, this study is important because it addresses grammar feedback and computer feedback in a naturalistic setting and in context.

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