Language Register in Written Feedback to Graduate Students

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Title: Language Register in Written Feedback to Graduate Students
Authors: Qwai, Nidhal
Date: 2016
Abstract: Abstract Effective feedback, as an integral part of formative assessment, has been identified as a powerful tool that enhances learning. However, “Effectiveness” has been perceived differently by students due to at least four factors: 1. Quantity, 2. Quality, 3. Timing, and 4. Language used in feedback provided. Much research has been conducted on the first three factors, but language needs to be thoroughly investigated. This research in the sector of Education attempts to rectify certain important omissions in the literature of formative assessment in the area of language by using “register theory” in Systemic Functional Linguistics. With ‘register’ simply defined as field, tenor, and mode of discourse (e.g. Halliday, McIntosh, & Strevens, 1964), the not adequately captured relationship between language structure and language function, is to be re-visited (Halliday, 1985) in connection with educative feedback. In this study, field expressed through ideational meanings, tenor expressed through interpersonal meanings, and mode expressed through textual meanings are investigated in connection to how linguistic style affects the perceived effectiveness of written feedback provided to students. A small sample of graduate students from a Faculty of Education is examined. The systemic coder (O’Donnell, 2002) is employed on collected assignments from participants. Results show that the linguistic style of a professor is found to affect the perceived effectiveness of written feedback provided to students on their assignments. The use of the ideational meanings of material process, non-human participants, passive voice, and nominalization; the interpersonal meanings of declarative statements, interrogative statements, and modality; in addition to the textual meanings of lexical density, cohesion, textual adjuncts, and emphasis are all found to help students perceive feedback as effective. Therefore; professors are requested to increase the use of these language aspects when providing feedback because of the hidden positive meanings these aspects can add to the feedback provided. However, the use of the ideational meanings of behavioral process, relational process, and active voice; the interpersonal meanings of imperative statements, personal pronouns, and evaluative words; and the textual meanings of grammatical intricacy are found to result in students perceiving feedback as ineffective. As a result, professors are requested to decrease the use of these language aspects when providing feedback because of the hidden negative and unwanted meanings these aspects can add to the feedback provided. Results also illustrate that students perceive feedback as effective when this feedback leads to at least one of the following scenarios: improving student grades, protecting student self-esteem, having a good relation with feedback provider, and/or enhancing student learning. Ineffective feedback is found to have negative consequences on students. Decision-makers are requested to reduce the number of students as well as the tasks required in each class. They are also advised to professionally develop professors with training workshops on how to provide feedback.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/35565
http://dx.doi.org/10.20381/ruor-523
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -
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