Saturday, March 9, 2013

Week 8: Asynchronous CMC

This week we read and heard presentations on asynchronous CMC studies where native speakers of different languages communicated and collaborated via discussion forums, wikis, or blogs.  Several questions about written corrective feedback arose in our discussions, including what makes someone "qualified" to provide linguistic feedback and how to communicate expectations regarding type and quantity of feedback.  Technology aside, these are important questions for any writing teacher or tutor (of both L1 and L2 writers).  For example- some university writing centers hire peer writing tutors (e.g., undergraduates who have taken x amount of English classes or who have been recommended by their professors), and some university writing centers (like NAU's) hire graduate students who are also teaching a composition course.  Additionally, some students (especially L2 writers) do not see the need to go to the writing center if they have a friend who is a native English speaker and can therefore help them with their English writing.  So- are all of these people equally qualified to give writing feedback?  Were the students in Diez-Bedmar & Perez-Parades' (2012) study qualified to give feedback simply because they were native speakers?  I think in order to answer this question we must consider whether or not the people giving feedback have a clear understanding of writers' needs and expectations.  And the writers themselves must have a clear understanding of what their readers expect from them so they can communicate these needs and expectations to those providing feedback.  I once thought I was a good writer because I had a knack for condensing long, awkward sentences into concise, readable ones.  When I provided written feedback to my peers and classmates early on in college, it was almost always at the sentence level.  As I began writing for more and more purposes throughout college, and then began teaching and tutoring students in a variety of settings who were writing for a variety of purposes, I saw the need to first help writers understand the type of feedback they need before diving in and providing feedback.  In my very first blog post here I commented on Ebgert and Yang's (2004) call to return to the "basics" of language teaching when incorporating technology in the L2 classroom.  While I find it interesting and important to compare how students interact and provide feedback with different web tools, I think these comparisons should only be made after the purposes for writing have been communicated and feedback needs have been articulated-- as they should be in non-CMC environments as well.

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