Papers are never finished, just abandoned: The role of written teacher comments in the revision process

M. Sidury Christiansen, The University of Texas at San Antonio
Joel Bloch, The Ohio State University

Published Apr 1, 2016



The debate over the efficacy of written teacher comments has raised a variety of questions for consideration by both researchers and practitioners. Teachers can use written comments, in Vygotsky’s (1978) framework, to scaffold the development of student writing. By reflecting on their own commenting process, a teacher can assess and modify their comments as well as the method by which the comments are delivered. This study examines how four second language (L2) students responded to a series of comments to three papers. The results show that students overwhelmingly followed the strategy training on how to respond to teacher’s comments given during class; however, these changes did not always result in a positive revision. While students believed to have followed the teacher’s suggestions, they did not always pay attention to the paper as a whole, which resulted in problems with coherence or grammar, and even instances of plagiarism. Results indicate that strategy training does not guarantee an outcome of successful revision. This suggests that revision will be more effective for paper development if understood as part of the creative process of writing than mere correction of errors. Based on these results, several proposals are made for modifying the comment process.