A Master of Arts Thesis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) by Banan QAssim Al Kafri Entitled, "Teacher Written Feedback and Students' Writing: Focus and Nature," December 2010. Available are both Hard and Soft Copies of the Thesis.
Over the last twenty years, the focus on the teaching of writing has shifted from product to process. Students' writings today undergo a series of drafting stages which teachers correct and comment on, and students need to revise these corrections and respond to them accordingly. Teacher written feedback, as a result, has emerged as a major component of the process approach and has received a great deal of attention recently (Morra & Asis, 2009). Casual observation of English teachers' practices in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) suggests that most teachers' written feedback tends to focus more on form (i.e. correctness of grammatical structures and mechanics) rather than on content (i.e. ideas, coherence, and organization). Consequently, students start to produce writings that are formally correct but have poor content. In addition, sometimes teachers' written comments seem to be vague or holistic in nature, which mostly results in unsuccessful revisions on the part of students. The purpose of this study was to investigate the nature and the focus of English teachers' written feedback on their students' papers. A second purpose was to examine the nature of students' responses to their teachers' written feedback. A third purpose was to examine the extent to which the participating teachers were satisfied with their students' responses to their comments. Thus, this study sought to answer the following three questions: (1) What is the nature and focus of teacher written feedback on students' writings? (2) What is it that students pay attention to while revising their drafts in light of their teachers' written feedback? (3) To what extent are teachers satisfied with their students' responses to their comments? In order to answer the above questions, students' writing samples of first and second drafts were collected and analyzed. Students' first drafts were collected to analyze teachers' comments on them in light of Ferris' (1997) model. Then, students' second drafts were collected with the purpose of understanding the nature of students' revisions based on their teachers' comments on their first drafts. Faigley and Witte's (1981) model was used to analyze students' revision changes. Finally, the assigned grades on both drafts were compared in order to measure the degree of teachers' satisfaction with their students' revisions. Following the analysis of teachers' comments on students' writing, follow-up interviews with the participating teachers and a sample of participating students (total of twenty) were conducted. Teachers' interviews were used to gain more insight about teachers' comments on students' papers as well as their degree of satisfaction of their students' writing. Results showed that both teachers focused while correcting their students on formal aspects of writing at the expense of content issues. As for the data collected from analyzing students' revisions, the findings revealed that the most frequent types of revision changes were formal changes. Whether teachers were satisfied with their students' revisions or not, the results showed that teachers were a little bit frustrated because they expected the second drafts to be much better and to contain more ideas and examples related to the chosen topic.