Writing Feedback and the Success of English as an Additional Language (EAL) Doctoral Students: The Role of Dialogue

Tracy Griffin Spies, Gloria Carcoba-Falomir, Suheyla Sarisahin, Fatmana Kara Deniz, Yunying Xu
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 18  •  2023  •  pp. 229-250

Scholars and practitioners agree that feedback is critical to doctoral students’ academic writing development, yet effective feedback processes are complex. The purpose of this case study was to examine the role of dialogue in a Writing Feedback Group (WFG) in facilitating the development of the scholarly writing of English as an Additional Language (EAL) doctoral students. The research question that guided this study was: How does dialogue within a writing feedback group create opportunities for EAL doctoral students to advance their knowledge and skills pertaining to scholarly writing?

Traditional doctoral student writing feedback, characterized as monologic and unidirectional, positions students as passive learners and is difficult for students to use to improve their writing. Dialogic and bi-directional feedback positions students as active learners as they engage in ongoing verbal and/or written exchanges about their writing. Examinations of verbal feedback on doctoral writing show face-to-face exchanges are a source of motivation and necessary for in-depth exchanges about ideas. There is limited understanding, however, as to how dialogue facilitates doctoral students’ development as scholarly writers. This case study examines the dialogue of EAL doctoral students as they read and respond to one another’s scholarly writing.

This was a qualitative case study of an established writing group. Four EAL doctoral students and one faculty member participated in this study during a 16-week semester. Conversational turns during 12 feedback sessions were analyzed using inductive coding with an interpretive approach to allow research findings to emerge from the data. A constant comparative method was used to classify and compare codes and categories and identify themes related to the study’s research question.

The findings from this study contribute to the body of knowledge on the role of dialogic feedback in doctoral writing development. The findings show how doctoral students’ dialogue about one another’s writing created critical learning experiences for their writing development. This study provides an explicit and systematic approach to dialogue in writing feedback groups.

Dialogue scaffolded EAL doctoral students’ translation of their complex knowledge to accessible text and helped them respond to the rhetorical context. Dialogue also facilitated doctoral writers’ awareness of the importance of precise language and structural organization for readers of their academic writing.

The WFG established a platform for doctoral students to try out their writing and to actively engage with others in receiving and providing ongoing feedback. It is suggested that institutions of higher education create ongoing opportunities for doctoral students to discuss scholarly writing. Writing feedback groups can take many forms, including established groups embedded into coursework or between advisor and advisees.

This study examined the dialogue of a writing feedback group whose process was highly structured. To develop a deeper understanding of the influence of dialogue on writing, it should be studied in various types of writing groups.

Research and scholarship are critical to advancing our society. Doctoral students who speak English as an additional language bring distinctive cultural perspectives to research. Their voices and research are critical to future academic literature.

The findings from this study highlight how dialogue in a writing feedback group afforded doctoral students ongoing opportunities to give and receive feedback on critical academic writing skills on their individual current writing projects. Further research is needed to understand the role of dialogue in the WFG on doctoral students’ enduring understanding and the application of academic writing skills on future writing projects.

doctoral writing, writing groups, feedback
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