Originally from Scotland, I have lived and worked in Turkey for sixteen years. I began teaching English to adults, then to university students, and now for the past eleven years, to high school students. It was during my own MSc TESOL studies in 2010 that I began to realise the enormous opportunities for ESL-students working alongside emerging technologies. This meant a considerable turn away from normal teaching practices, both in and out of the classroom. In essence, it has led me to believe that we are at a pivotal moment in ELT pedagogies in Turkey with teachers looking for more interesting teaching practices that will lead to students becoming more engaged, and ultimately more aware of the need for self-learning and autonomy.
The practice of giving feedback within the writing process has been the subject of many studies since the mid-1980s. The call for teachers to develop better feedback practices became apparent after studies showed that students have been generally less than satisfied with how teacher-student written feedback has been given. This chapter aims to identify how teachers may be able to offer feedback in a way that engages students, and presents them with clear messages that they will understand and appreciate. In order for this to be tangible in this context, the consideration and integration of alternative modes of learning through Information Communication Technologies (ICT) need to be realised. In particular, the use of Web 2.0 technology to assist in the writing process by giving students video feedback, instead of written feedback, on their draft papers. The primary epistemology of the proposed approach is consistent with students looking for improved methods of feedback they receive from teachers.
This paper describes ongoing ICT-pedagogical practices for improving feedback given by teachers to students at high school level. The students aged fourteen-sixteen are members of a small Turkish high school population of around three hundred pupils. Based on my own classroom research, this paper focuses on feedback given on academic essays completed within the writing process, in order to discover how students respond to a different type of feedback than that to which they have been accustomed. I will also suggest that we, as ELT practioners, find ways to move for a change to our feedback practices, and provide students with an alternative methodology that could lead to better student-engagement and focused writing practices within this context.
Bitchener (2005) states that feedback is regarded by L2-students as integral to their development and better understanding of linguistic features, whether it is by face-to-face interaction from teachers, or in written form as corrective feedback. Unfortunately, however, on reflection of my own feedback practices, students appeared to be less interested in the written feedback I was giving, and more focused on the grade they had received. This led me to believe that I was failing in my efforts to properly engage the students in the writing process, where feedback is essential for it to succeed. On further investigation, students complained of illegible handwriting, complex word structures and a general feeling towards me, their teacher, of being disconnected from their papers. As a second- language teacher and someone who likes to feel connected to his students, this revelation forced me to sit up and further reflect on the feedback practices I was currently employing. I knew that if I wanted to reconnect my students to the writing process, I had to find another method of giving feedback. The answer was to come in the form of video- feedback.
Video-feedback has recently become possible through the research and development of ICT software and applications. By utilizing existing desktop recording software to enhance the feedback used for the writing process, I have been able to engage students enough for them to respond positively to the technology and methodology, thus creating better final drafts. It is therefore suggested that video-feedback could become a useful tool for teachers to help engage their students in completion of assignments that employ the writing process.
Teacher Feedback within Process Writing
Process writing has helped instigate deeper research and academic enquiry into ESL & L2 writing practices (see, for example, Hyland and Hyland, 2006; Leki, 1990; Lynch, 1996; Kroll, 2001). However, though there have been many theoretical advances and suggestions for improvement, it still remains that teachers have been less than willing to change. Brown and Glover (2006: 81-91) found from their study on feedback that, from students‘ perspectives, it is still being provided in a manner, which is either too late in being returned, thus rendering it useless, or that the comments are unhelpful and inconsistent (Ferris & Roberts, 2001; Lee, 2003). In addition, Truscott (1996:151) observes that teachers have been consistently giving mixed messages to their students in surface error, organisation and content. Whether teachers focus on one particular area or not, the decoding and decontextualizing of messages from the teachers is too complex for most L2 learners (Sundem, 2007:57). This results in comments and recommended changes being mostly ignored, and students being deprived of appropriate teacher-feedback. This means that this type of prescriptive instruction restricts the students greatly and causes harm to their own writing ability. Therefore, if we consider the use of objective and thought provoking feedback as an incentive for making students respond, instead of negative or incoherent comments that serve no real purpose, more teachers would be returning more relevant and useful feedback that can help to engage and give students more incentive to work on their drafts (Ferris, 2004; Truscott, 1996, 2004).
Indirect Feedback is less stifling
Giving indirect feedback, where the teacher highlights that there is an error, and the students themselves identify what the error is, could prove to be the most profitable way for students to learn better writing skills. By doing so, teachers will engage their students in guided learning and problem solving‘(Ferris and Roberts, 2001:19), which will lead to reflection about linguistic forms that may foster long-term acquisition (Bell, 2002; Lalande, 1982; Reid, 1998b cited in Ferris, 2002:19). Hence, by video-feedback relaying suggestions for change through visual media, students are encouraged to engage, interact, and to formulate more ideas and better understand how to properly organize their second drafts (see for example Fairbairn & Fairbairn, 2001; Fairbairn & Winch, 1996; Johns, 1993). The results of the study conducted in the research referred to in this chapter, strongly support this claim with many novice academic writers using the video to stimulate thought and implement action for their second drafts through the indirect video-feedback I had sent them. As Bruton (2005) notes, novice writers develop partly from individual initiative, experimentation and feedback. It was thus my aim to act as teacher-interventionist and facilitator in the students‘ initial attempts at meaning, by offering balanced suggestions and pointers towards better expression, content and organization.
Written Feedback: a time for change?
From my own experience, and from the research conducted, I have also observed that young teenagers are generally unwilling to fully embrace the traditional methods of receiving written feedback. Although they do appreciate receiving comments of encouragement on their papers (Ferris, 1995), these comments appear to be secondary to what it is they really look for; that is, their grade. In reality, few students act on the feedback, and would seem to consider it as a waste of time (Truscott 1996). The reasons for doing so are difficult to identify, but may be partly due to teachers from their past who have written comments that were overly negative, or difficult to interpret properly (Zamel, 1985). It may also be as Lizzio and Wilson (2008) note, ‘...students only value feedback if they get the feeling that the teacher has considered the essay in a personal sense...; otherwise they will ignore the advice’. Earlier research from Cohen, (1987) and Ferris, (1997), found that students make little use, if any at all, of teachers‘ written feedback, and that the reason is down to the comments being vague, poorly hand written and overly complex in their phraseology (Fregaue, 1999); for example, idiomatic and colloquial language items. The result of this has the effect of reducing, or in many cases removing, the willingness to complete homework and assignments (Nesbit and Burton, 2006). Therefore, the need for greater collaboration within the writing process has revealed that improvements in giving feedback to students on their written assignments is necessary (for example, see Nicol, 2008; Biggs, 2003a; Gibbs & Simpson, 2004; Juwah et al, 2004). Moreover, the need for quality feedback which enthuses and encourages students is also necessary, so that students see it as useful, helpful and consistent (Glover and Brown, 2006).
In consideration of this, I would like to propose that teachers look to present feedback differently to what they have been used to. Agreeing with Muncie (2000), who notes that feedback is seen as essential to the draft process, I wanted to find answers to the following questions:
- Can video-feedback help students to improve their writing?
- How does video-feedback promote interaction between teacher & students?
- Is the Web 2.0 software-methodology easy to use and implement?
- What do students think about video-feedback?
- Is video-feedback time consuming?
The Emergence of E-Learning
We are now beginning to see a shift away from the computer being thought of solely as a delivery system of documents for instruction, to viewing the user/learner as a more active and engaged participant (Hawisher and Self, 2007). E-Learning (or electronic learning) is fast becoming a consideration for on-line learning and distance learning opportunities around the world.
What are the strengths of e-Learning? Waterhouse (2005:10) believes that e-Learning facilitates:
- Student-centred learning
- Anytime anyplace learning
- Student interaction with course content
- Promotes communication and collaboration and helps track students‘ time on task
Waterhouse (2005) underscores the importance of applying appropriate e-Learning pedagogy. She emphasizes that e-Learning improves learning when instructors focus first on the fundamentals of teaching and learning― which is on pedagogical principles―rather than on e- Learning technology. The educational aspects of e-Learning discussed by Garrison and Anderson (2003) fit well with the communicative potential of new technologies and constructivist and social practice theories of learning. By carefully designing the use of interactive e-Learning platforms, students and teachers are likely to tap into higher-order learning (Kekkonen-Moneta and Moneta, 2002: 423). By integrating, for instance, the writing process with ICT and modern technologies we can see pedagogical cross-overs that will benefit everyone, in particular the students. Now that the internet availability for information and networking in easy-to-use platforms is fast becoming ubiquitous, it is the opportunity for teachers to tap into this technological goldmine and build engaging educational partnerships with their students.
Web 2.0: In support of the Pedagogy
Although we are at a time when technology should be considered as support for language learning, we must be aware of what Griffler (2006) warns, ‘The underlying principle in e-Learning pedagogy is that technology is a means to an end, not an end in itself’ (3). Therefore, it is important for educators to integrate the available technology into their lessons, not to fully replace them. It is with this balanced understanding that we can consider the use of Web 2.0 technology, within e-Learning, as support to our syllabi, and use it to promote fuller interaction with the computer, the internet and its users. Even with favoured-by-students attitudes and practices of ICT and Web 2.0 applications, there have still been calls from students for more classic approaches to their education. There were students admitting that if not well-structured, lessons can deteriorate into ‘games’ and ‘too much fun’. This directly supports Griffler (ibid) and powerful lessons were learned in the context of my own situation with Hazırlık students. This response from students cannot be underestimated as important lessons to be learned by educators considering a move toward technology-in-the-classroom.