115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Transforming the Labor of Feedback

Cynthia Headley, California State University, San Marcos
Lauren Springer, Mt. San Jacinto Community College
Shannon Baker, California State University, San Marcos

We created a pilot program for composition classes that focuses both on question-based lessons and on exploring student engagement in the feedback process. Students are required to engage in the grading process in order to engender instructor feedback.


How can inquiry-based learning be applied to the writing classroom? Most inquiry-based research is in scientific disciplines (Edelson, 1999), yet inquiry-based learning proves to “engage students with uncertainty” and is “seen as offering rich opportunities to improve student engagement and learning in all disciplines” (Levy, 2011). Alternatively, existing writing research on feedback focuses on the instructor to writer exchange. Almost no research provides pedagogical help aiding student-initiated feedback. What does exist only encourages students to get feedback but does not say how (Formo and Stallings, 2014). Thus, to fill these gaps, we began an innovative project that helps students find a new way of seeing their essays.   

We asked a question: How can we transform and re-see the labor in a classroom while focusing on teaching students to ask questions about their writing? We created a pilot program that designated one college-level writing class focused on question-based lessons while concurrently exploring student engagement in the feedback process. In our question-based courses, students must ask 1-3 questions for feedback about their early and final drafts and reflect on the feedback received. Students who fail to ask questions do not receive feedback. Our findings suggest question-based students’ final grades and individual essay grades are overall higher compared to non-question classes. Even more, students are noticeably more engaged and exhibit greater critical thinking skills.

Speaker 1 will outline the pilot program, providing attendees with the necessary context to implement the pedagogy.  Speaker 2 will comment on student questions and reflections, sharing specifics from students as well as providing insight on trends. For example, many students comment on the changes in their questions, and one common trend is that student questions get more specific because they are better able to identify strengths and weaknesses. This trend demonstrates growth in critical thinking skills.  Speaker 3 will discuss innovative question-based strategies to use in the classroom, such as providing a student-generated class question bank where students submit a question they asked about their essays. These strategies transform the labor in writing classrooms, making it student-centered. Attendees will leave with tangible activities, handouts, and workshops they can implement in their own classrooms.

This collaborative presentation requires one 20-minute speaking role.