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ARTICLE RESPONSES

TEACHER RESPONSE TO STUDENT WRITING:


FOCUS ON FORM VERSUS CONTENT
By: Ann K. Fathman and Elizabeth Whalley
1. Research problem

The research problem of this paper is very clearly stated. The authors address the
controversial issue of how teachers should respond to students writing since there is
very little agreement among teachers about whether teachers feedback should focus
on form or on content.

2. Purpose of the study

Despite the good research problem, the authors of this paper did not well-justify the
purpose of the study. However, after reading the work we can understand that its implied
purpose is to help teachers decide whether to focus on form, content or both in giving
feedback for writing.

Fathman and Whalley also took account of many other older researches to give the
background knowledge for their study. These include ones by many big names such as
Krashen, S. D. (1984), Sommers, N. (1980), Freedman, S. W. (1987), Coleman, V.
B. (1972), and Griffin, C.W. (1982).

3. Research Questions and/or Hypotheses

There is no hypothesis raised at the beginning of the research. However, the three
research questions are stated very clearly. In an attempt to address these issues, the
following research questions were asked in this study:

1. How effective is teacher feedback that focuses on form (grammatical errors)


in improving student writing?
2. How effective is teacher feedback that focuses on content in im-proving
student writing?
3. When should teachers provide feedback that focuses on form versus
content?

There are four variables, which are teacher feedback that focuses on form, teacher
feedback that focuses on content, teacher feedback that focuses both on form and
content and no feedback. Nevertheless, the definition of the variables is not clear enough.
The authors did give some definition for the first two variables, but it is just two or three
words in the parentheses, which I find very general. And they even do not have any
explanation for the other two.

4. Method

The design of the study is appropriate for the particular research questions when they
compare the mean scores of students originals and rewrites for each variable. The
information about participants is also adequate and relevant. The materials and
instruments are well described in the Appendix of Content Feedback Scoring Guide and
they are quite appropriate for this particular study, too.

The data-gathering procedures are fully described. The authors spend most of the
Research Design part to explain the process (paragraph 3 to 8). As a result, a collection of
originals and rewrites from 72 participants can be considered as a sufficient good-quality
data resource in order to answer the research questions.

5. Analysis and Presentation of Results

Since there is not much data to work on, the analysis procedures, the result report and
result interpretation have been done very well and clearly presented.

6. Discussion and Conclusions

While the discussion correctly interprets the results of the research, the researchers seem
to neglect the limitations of the study. Its implications are very useful for teachers in
deciding how, when, and to what extent they will respond to student errors given the
constraints of their curriculum, the objectives of their program, and the needs of
their students. However, it could be better if there are some recommendations for future
research.