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The following is the resume of Students reactions to teacher feedback in two Hong Kong

secondary classrooms . This article is written by Icy Lee, Department of Currciculum

and Instruction, Faculty of Education, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin,

Hong Kong China. It is written in Journal of Second Language Writing 17 (2008) 144-


I. Introduction

It is important for teachers to give feedback to their students. This paper talks

about teachers feedback in second language writing. Teacher feedback offers

more efective strategy of providing suggestions or useful information to pupils. It

could help students to engage more with the subject the teacher teaches. Research

has suggested that L2 students believe that teacher feedback is useful and can

help them improve their writing (Ferris, 1995 ; Hyland, 1998). Not all students

understand the teacher feedback, it depends on the students proficiency level. The

students of lower proficiency were less interested in error feedback than those of

higher proficiency, though both groups preferred more explicit error feedback

from teachers. They wanted more written comments from teachers. Indeed,

feedback occurs between teachers and students in particular culture, institutional,

and inter-personal contexts, and student responses are affected by different aspects

of the context. In feedback process teachers must remember that students must be

active. Engage the students in conversation around the purpose of feedback.

Involve students in the context of assessment for learning not only as recipients.

Students tend to be viewed as mere recipients-when in fact they can be and should

be active and proactive agents in the feedback process (Hyland & Hyland, 2006a).
An awareness of secondary L2 learners reactions to teacher feedback could

help researchers better understand how school teachers may adjust their feedback,

taking into account relevant contextual factors to engender positive student

responses, to cater to student needs, and to bring about long- term beneficial

effects on student writing. This study contributes to existing feedback research by

relating student reactions to actual teacher feedback in two Hong Kong secondary

classrooms, focusing particularly on how the contextual factors might have

influenced student responses to teacher feedback.

Student perspectives on teacher feedback
The classroom context can also have a direct impact on the way students

perceive teacher feedback. It will be more meaningful when teachers and students

are all engaged in the feedback process. Hyland and Hyland stated that students

are historically and sociologically situated active agents who respond to what they

see as valuable and useful and to people they regard as engaging credible

(2006b:220). How students respond to feedback may also be inluenced by the

teacher who delivers the feedback.

II. Participants and method of study
Data in the study were collected from two Secondary (grade 7) classrooms in a

Band 1 and Band 3 schools, respectively. In Hng Kong secondary schools,

students are put into three different bands according to their academic abilities.

Band 1 being the highest and Band 3 the lowest. Band 1 students are generally

proficient in English and motivated in learning, compared to their Band 3

counterparts, though diverse abilities may exist in each banding. In this article,

students in the Band 1 and Band 3 classrooms are referred to as high proficient

(HP) and low proficient (LP), respectively. The participants are 58 students (36

HP and 22 LP), all Cantonese speakers aged between 12 and 13, and their two

teachers (teacher A and teacher B). They are Cantonese speakers with teaching

experience of 5 and 12 years, respectively.

Student data from questionnaires, checklists and protocols were triangulated

with teacher data from interviews, classroom observations and feedback analysis

to situate student reactions in their specific contexts. Data collection spanned one

school year over 9 months. A bilingual version of the students questionnaire was

administered to all 58 students(SPSS analysis). Students cheklists and protocols

were completed by nine students in respons to the teachers feedback on the four

compositions-six HP and three LP students randomly selected rom different ability

levels within each of the two classrooms. The protocol required students to talk

aloud their feelings, in Cantonese, after completing the checklist. The checklist

data were collated, and the protocol data were translated and transcribed, yielding

both quantitative and qualitative data. The teacher data, feedback was gathered

from a random selection of student texts based on the four compositios from

which student protocols and checklists were collected. Teacher A and B were both

told to randomly select 10 student texts (40 from HP, 36 from LP students) were

collected. Teacher feedback was analyzed in terms of the focus of feedback, error

feedback strategies, the focus on written commentary. The interviews, conducted

in Cantonese with the teachers, were audiotaped, translated, and transcribed,

providing information about the teachers beliefs and rationales of their feedback

III. Results
A. Teachers feedback practices and instructional contexts
A total of 962 feedback points were collected from the 40 student texts marked

by teacher A. Her feedback was ruther detailed. Her feedback focused on

language form, errors, comments to content and language use. A mark was given

to each composition. And teacher B, 469 feedback points were collected from the

36 texts he marked. His feedback was even more form-focused and he also gave a

mark but without reference to any assesment criteria. The interview data show that

teacher A was a conscientious teacher who delivered feedback according to the

school policy, which required teachers to mark student writing in detail and

respond to every single error made. Teacher B was also guided by a school policy

that required comprehensive marking o written errors. He believed that grammar

should be given the top priority in feedback. Based on the questionnaire, the

students react to their teachers feedback show the HP students (72.2%) wanted

the teacher to continue with the practice. The LP students reaction to their

teachers feedback were found to be more mixed, with the largest group (40.9%)

expressing a wish for not only a mark/grade and error feedback, but also

comments from the teacher. Only 18.% of the LP students preferred the teachers

existing practice. And 72.2% and 45.4% of the HP and LP students, respectively,

hoped the teacher would give more written comments in future. In general, there

seemed a tendency for students to wish for more from the teacher. What were

the students most preferred activities after receiving the teachers feedback ?

Overall, the questionnaire data suggest that the HP students reacted to the teacher

feedback more favorable than LP students. The HP students wanted more input

from the teacher in terms of written comments, particularly those on the content of

their writing, the provision of both correct answers and codes (indicating error

types) or their errors. However they did not particularly welcome reading aloud

their writing to their parents. The LP students, the finding illustrate more

mismatches, with students asking for more written comments, a lesser focus on

errors, and opportunities to ask their teacher for help and advice.
B. Students reactions from checklists and protocols
Data gathered from the students checklists indicating that the HP students

were more positive than the LP students in terms of their understanding of the

teacher feedback, their ability to correct their errors, and their view of the

usefulness of teacher feedback. As for the student protocol data, students

responses were categorized as either positive or negative. Positive responses

include comments on the overll quality of writing, usefulness of feedback, the

teacher, understanding of the feedback, and positive feelings about the feedback.

Negative responses include comments on the overall quality of writing, self-

kreprimand, negative feelings about the feedback, lack of understanding of the

feedback, and uselessness of the feedback. Overall, the student protocol data

suggest the teacher feedback caused greater frustration among the LP and HP

IV. Factors affecting student reactions to teacher feedback
A. Preference for teacher written comments
Regardless of proficiency level, students in the study asked for more

written comments,and reading the comments was the most preferred activity

for both groups of students. Written commentary can help students see how

their teachers are reading their writing and what strengths and weaknesses

they have (Goldstein,2005)

B. Differential preference for error feedback
Overall, students differencial preference for error feedback could be

caused by individual differences such as proficiency level and motivation.

Specifically, student incentive in study was found to be inextricably linked

with the teaachers personality and pedagogy, which can directly influence

student reactions to teacher feedback.

C. Demand for more teacher effort and students as passive recipients
Both HP and LP students showed a tendency to demand greater effort

on the part of the teacher. Students wanted teachers not only to indicate errors

but also to provide corrections and indicate error types.

D. Student uptake of teacher feedback
To conclude the factors that appear to have influenced student

reactions to teacher feedback include the instructional context, teacher factor,

such as personality, pedagogical approach, and activities, and student factors,

such as student expectations, proficiency, amd motivation. These factors are

the main source of influence.

V. Implications
The implications considered in this section may be applicable to similar

EFL/ESL contexts.
A. Written comments
Students request for more written comments, irrespective of student

proficiency level and teachers current feedback practices, sends a clear

message to teachers that students want more information about their written

performance, aside from feedback on errors. It is important to consider what

kind of commentary would help students most and how students can be helped

to utilize teacher comments.

B. Error feedback
The study has demonstrated that an error-focused approach to feedback

can cause resistance in some students, particularly the weaker ones. Whether

students are considered HP or LP, student language abilities still varied within

each classroom. Feeddback informed by a flexible policy that takes into

account student abilities is more likely to help students develop interest,

confidence, and self-esteem in writing.

C. Empowering students
The study has shown that teacher-dominated eedback practices are

likely to produce passive and reliant learners. In particular, it is important to

examine the issue of student empowerment in feedback with reference to the

specific contexts in which teaching and learning take place.

VI. Conclusion
This study reveals that students reactions and attitudes to teacher feedback are

an intricate matter, intertwined not only with student characteristics like

proficiency level, but also with teacher factors, such as teachers beliefs and

practices and their interactions with students, as well as the instructional context

in which feedback is situated.


It is widely known that feedback is an important part of learning cycle, but both

students and teachers often express disappointment in relation to conduct the feedback

process. Students reactions to teachers feedback could be positive or negative. Students may

complain that feedback on assesment is unclear or unhelpful, they do not understand all the

teachers feedback, they get negative feeling about the feedback. It is in line with

Zamel , ...confirms previous research which shows that teacher feedback is not always

understood (1985). Even worse, students sometimes blame the teacher, they say they are not

given guidance as how to use feedback to improve subsequent performance. Overall, the

teachers feedback causes greater frustration among students. Positive reactions include

students view of the usefulness of feedback, students know their mistakes , they want to get

more comments from their teachers. From the teachers side, they usually comment that

students are not interested in the feedback comments and are only concerned with the mark.

Furthermore, students do not incorporate feedback advice into subsequent tasks as they do

not read the teachers comment. Indeed, feedback occurs between techers and students in

particular culture, institutional , and inter-personal contexts, and student responses are

affected by different aspects of the context. In the above study, feedback has been conducted

in two Hong Kong secondary classrooms. Data gathered from questionnaires, interviews, the

student checklists and protocols there seemed a tendency for students to wish more from the

teacher. It could be shown from some tables that HP and LP students have different reaction,

for example; students preference for more written comments. Some students preferred the

teachers existing practice (i.e., mark/grade + error feedback), the others (about half of HP

students) wanted the teacher to give more feedback on content. On the other hand, LP

students were more divided in their preferences ,some of them wanted more feedback on

content, on organization and on language. The expert stated, ...what is said in the research

literature about students wishing to get feedback on not only language but also other issues

like content and organization (Hedgcock & Lefkowitz, 1994; Leki,1991). And students

atitudes toward error feedback shows different result as well. LP students seemed less

interested in error feedback, they said they wanted the teacher to respond to none of their

errors, whereas most of the HP students wanted the teacher to respond to all of their errors.

High Proficient (HP) students usually have high motivation and interest in learning a subject.

In this study is English as a second language, as their mother tongue is Cantonese. It is in line

with the experts that stated, as L2 students place a high premium on accuracy in writing,

they are eager to have all their errors pointed out by the teacher (Komura,

1999;Lee,2005;Leki,1991;Rennie,2000). Hence, those who have low motivation could not

see the usefulness of teachers feedback. Low proficiency (LP) students are most vulnerable,

can be easily hurt, thus it is necessary to enhance their motivation through encouraging

feedback. If not, the result is likely to be lower self-esteem and diminish interest in the

subject they learn, in the above study is wrting. Guenette says, With low motivation ,

students are less likely to take teacher feedback seriously and find it useful (2007). However,

a teacher can not obey to what students want, but s/he should understand how the students

feel about and respond to teacher feedback. How students respond/reaction to feedback may

also be infulenced by the teacher who delivers the feedback. Thus, students reaction could be

influenced by who the teacher is and how s/he interacts with students during the feedback

process. In the study above, teacher A and teacher B have different way how to conduct

feedback. Teacher A normally brainstormed ideas with students after assigning the

composition topic.Then she drew students attention to the relevan language structure and

vocabulary related to the topic. Self/peer evaluation was not used. She asked students to read

aloud some beautiful sentences written by some students and she tended to dominate by

giving correct answer. Teacher B spent the major part of the lessons explaining grammar

points and students were required to copy sentences from the sample. In his feedback lessons,

tended to reprimand the students for their bad perormance. He believed that students have

nothing in their minds. From the above example teacher A and B), it could be seen one of

the factors that influence students reactions to teacher feedback is how the teacher interacts

with the students and deliver the feedback. Thus the teachers personality attitude to students

error in writing can directly influence students reaction to feedback. The teachers feedback

could cause greater frustration among the HP and LP students. Moreover the LP students who

need more opportunity to ask their teacher for help and advice. Teachers may adjust their

feedback in order to engender positive students reaction or response, try to cater to students

need, pay attention not only on quality of feedback but also students ability and could bring

about long-term beneficial effects on student writing.

There are a number of strategies that can be used to maximize students engagement with

the process. One strategy is to encourage students reflection on feedback comments. Invite

students to evaluate not only their composition but also their friends composition. Self/peer

evaluation should be used. Thus , teacher does not dominitate the feedback. Make students

more active participants in feedback process. Most students keep thinking about the

grade/mark, hence, another strategy to encourage students to give comment and ask them to

try to correct the beautiful sentences. And teachers should announce the commentators will

get additional grade. Students need to be actively involve in learning process and they should

understand the goals and benefit of feedback. Using these strategies, hopefully could

encourage and helpful for both teachers and students to be involved in feedback process.

Generally, feedback has to be given as soon as possible after the completion of the task.

The teachers written comment has to be understood by the students. In the two Hong Kong

secondary classrooms, some students said they needed more written comments and on the

other table they said that they did not understand the teachers comments.The students can

not read the teachers handwriting. It did not explain whether the teacher comments were

written in their mother tongue or L2. Research suggests that comments on students tasks

should be written in language that is accessible to the students. Thus, it is possible if the

teachers gave comments in Cantonese, then explained it to the students in L2. It would be

better if the teacher put the students in small groups and invite them to discuss feedback

comments.It would have additional advantage of the students understanding of feedback

goals and make the students enjoy the feedback process. This could have encouraged the

students from learning about their written errors.It could not be denied how the teacher

delivers error feedback and the way pedagogical activities are used in conjuction with the

error feedback could influence students reactions to the teachers feedback. Teachers should

explain to the students what the goals of feedback are and what they should do next. Like the

above discussion, teachers should tell the students that one of the goals of feedback is that the

students are expected to write correctly in L2, not only correct in content but also in

organization ( e.g.,paragraphing,links between ideas) and in language (e.g., grammar,

vocabulary, sentence pattern). And what to do next, teachers should explain that the students

are expected not to make the same mistakes. Thus, the students understand clearly the

usefulness of feedback.

Teachers could not be blamed 100% of the students reaction of teacher feedback. The

fact that teachers are obligated to give comprehensive feedback in student writing, plus the

fact that English teachers generally have a very heavy workload (e.g.,in Hong Kong , each

secondary English teacher normally teaches three large English classes and has to mark a

large number of compositions every 2 or 3 weeks), results of course is far from the

expectation. Teachers probably have to write fast to cope with their heavy marking load. It

could be understood that students can not read the teachers handwriting. Sometimes teachers

gave written comments sometimes not. When students ask for more such as underline/

circle the students errors and categorize them, teacher could not make it. This phenomenon

happened because of the teacher overload job. This is one possible factor that explains why

not all the feedback was understood by the students.

Both students factors , such as student expectations, proviciency, motivation , and

teacher factors, such as personality,pedagogical approach, teacher belief, and activities play

important role in feedback process. The literature suggests that feedback process most

effective when all students and teacher are actively involved in the process. The study has

shown that teacher dominated feedback practices are going to produce passive learners. The

students do not understand the subject and accept their mistakes without having eagerness to

learn. There are a lot teachers that can alter this condition by requiring the students to play a

much more active role in the writing learning process, like the explanation above.

In particular, it could be concluded that teachers have to indicate what students need in

order to bring their task performance closer to the goals. Especially, the goals of the

assessment task and the use of feedback. Engage the students in conversation around the

purpose of feedback and invite them to be more active in the feedback process. It is important

for teachers to provide opportunities for students to give comments or ask for advice. For

weaker students particularly, when their papers receive poor grades, their overall reaction is

usually frustration and disappointment. In this case, teachers have to encourage the students

because students incentive in study was found to be linked with the teachers personality and


Future research can specifically provide feedback strategies of low proficiency students,

for example by praising their effort, responding to selected error patterns. Teachers do not

always accomodate the students needs, but it is important that teachers can vary their

feedback according to the students need to maximize the benefits of feedback. In particular, it

is important to examine the students exxpectations and perceptions in feedback with

reference to the spesific contexts in which teaching and learning take place.


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