Rachel Ruegg is an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teacher in Japan. Her recent study published in 2015 explores whether peer or teacher feedback is more effective in helping students become better writers.
Over a one year period all of Ruegg’s EFL students received teacher or peer feedback on every preliminary draft they wrote. The students were split into two groups, one received only teacher feedback and the other only peer feedback. A pre-and post-test was used to measure the students progress over the year. This test was the writing section of the institutions proficiency.
Ruegg found that the group who received teacher-only feedback improved significantly more in their grammar than the group who received peer feedback. She suggests this could be due to the fact that the teacher provided more feedback focused on meaning-level issues and content than the peers did. She concludes however, that perhaps the best method is to use both teacher and peer feedback to help students improve.
How can this help us?
Obviously, in our writing centre we are all native speakers of English or Welsh so when giving feedback we might not have the same issues that some of the peers in this research had (they were native Japanese speakers, learning English and giving feedback on written English work). Additionally, not all of the students who come to see us will be EFL learners but this paper still offers a useful insight into feedback in general and the benefits to the student of receiving both peer and lecture/teacher feedback. An interesting aspect of this study was how the feedback was given. Each student was given a feedback form where they were allowed to detail four questions which they wanted the peer or teacher to give them feedback on. The final fifth question was for the person giving feedback to give the writer something constructive to work on. This way of structuring the feedback is very similar to how we work. Writers come to us and they tell us what they want to work on or what they feel their issues are and then we work with them on that.
In summary then Ruegg’s research provides a useful insight into how we can individualize feedback for writers and the benefits of having feedback on writing from both teachers and peers. Although, her study is focused on the benefits to EFL students her findings about feedback in general can be applied to native-speakers and their writing.
Reference: Ruegg, R. (2015). The relative effects of peer and teacher feedback on improvement in EFL students’ writing ability. Linguistics and Education, 29, pp. 73 – 82