Taken Out of Context?: Examining the Influence of Context on Teachers' Written Responses to Student Writing
Bowles, Bruce L. (author)
Neal, Michael R. (professor directing dissertation)
Gross, Melissa (university representative)
Fleckenstein, Kristie S. (committee member)
Coxwell-Teague, Deborah (committee member)
Yancey, Kathleen Blake (committee member)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
College of Arts and Sciences (degree granting college)
Department of English (degree granting department)
Although response scholarship has continually called for a greater emphasis on context when analyzing instructors' written commentary on student writing, textual analysis of written comments remains a primary direction for response research. Additionally, when context is accounted for, it is oftentimes done so in a rather reductive fashion, with a single contextual factor examined in relation to response or context approached in a solely theoretical fashion. As a result, discussions of the influence of context in response scholarship remain limited in scope and/or mostly theoretical. However, an increased attentiveness to context is not as easy as it appears. Since context is a rather opaque concept, and setting parameters for context is a difficult endeavor, this dissertation sought to provide a model for examining the context that surrounds response that focused on three primarily textual contextual factors—what I call (con)texts. Chapter 1 examines the dilemma of context in response scholarship and reviews the literature on the influence of context on written commentary. Afterwards, a new model for contextual response scholarship is proposed, one that accounts for multiple contextual factors that share unifying characteristics. For this study, the three contextual factors under examination—assignment description/texts, student/teacher interactions, and grading materials—were primarily textual in nature, creating the (con)texts for the study. This study sought to examine the manner in which students articulated their interpretations and uses of their instructors' written commentary in relation to the three (con)textual factors under examination. After introducing the new model for response scholarship, Chapter 2 delves into the details of the study and the methodology employed. The study focused on two composition classrooms, with three students participating from each classroom. The details of the participating instructors, participating students, and the classroom contexts—as well as the (con)texts within each classroom—are depicted. Furthermore, the methodological approaches, which primarily consisted of student interviews and discourse analysis, are discussed. In particular, the second half of the chapter focuses on the structure of the student interviews and the coding schemes employed to analyze the student interviews. The student interviews consisted of both unprompted—not directly addressing the (con)texts—questions and prompted—directly addressing the (con)texts—questions and were coded in two distinct fashions. The empirical results of the study are presented in Chapter 3 with each of the student interview results being presented separately to begin the chapter. Following the results of each individual student's interview, the results of the students in Jill's (Instructor #1) class are compared along with the results of the students in Jack's (Instructor #2) class. Finally, the results for all students in the study are presented. Chapter 4 discusses the results of the study in a more nuanced, intricate fashion. This discussion is arranged by seven key findings that emerged from the study: 1) Each of the students in the study drew upon the (con)texts in order to help them interpret and use their instructor's written feedback in a unique fashion; 2) Students' answers to the unprompted questions demonstrated that they were less inclined to put the (con)texts directly in conversation with the teachers' written responses until prompted to later in the interview; 3) During the unprompted portion of the interviews, the instructors' written commentary frequently promoted student engagement with particular (con)texts; 4) Students used the assignment description/texts to understand how well they understood and executed the teachers' expectations of the assignments as well as to gain a firmer understanding of what the expectations for the assignments were; 5) Student/teacher interactions—primarily face-to-face in conferences—played a pivotal role in how students articulated their interpretations and uses of instructors' written feedback; 6) While the rubric or grading criteria had a more subtle influence, the actual paper grade had a substantial impact on students' interpretations and uses of their instructors' written commentary; and 7) The (con)texts frequently worked together as students articulated their interpretations and uses of their instructors' written commentary. This dissertation concludes in Chapter 5 by revisiting the exigence for the study while also discussing delimitations and limitations for the study. Afterwards, implications for the study—both pedagogical and scholarly—are discussed in-depth and the necessity for greater attention to context in response scholarship is emphasized.
Assessment, Assignments, Conferences, Context, Grades, Response
March 31, 2016.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of English in partial fulfillment of the Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Michael R. Neal, Professor Directing Dissertation; Melissa R. Gross, University Representative; Kristie S. Fleckenstein, Committee Member; Deborah C. Teague, Committee Member; Kathleen B. Yancey, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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