Building students’ evaluative and productive expertise in the writing classroom

Posted by Eleanor M. Hawe and Helen R. Dixon on 3 May 2020

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Contemporary notions of feedback involve students working alongside teachers and peers with a view to enhancing students’ learning. It is no longer sufficient or fitting for teachers to be the primary source of feedback as this runs the danger of developing dependence on external sources for information about progress and learning. If students are to move from being recipients of feedback to intelligent self-monitoring, they need to take responsibility for their learning. With this end in mind, instructional programmes should provide students with authentic opportunities to monitor and improve the quality of work during production. Three elementary teachers who articulated similar beliefs about the importance of feedback and student involvement in their learning, and who described teaching practices congruent with the development of student autonomy, were observed during the teaching of a genre based writing unit. Observations revealed qualitative differences in the opportunities created for students to gain understanding of expectations, engage in evaluative and productive activities, and make decisions about their writing. These three cases show that developing students’ evaluative knowledge and productive skills in writing involves adoption of AfL as a unitary notion and a radical transformation of the traditional taken-for-granted roles and responsibilities of teachers and students.