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A cross-disciplinary investigation of subject tutor feedback: lessons for the EAP practitioner

Grannell, L. (2023) A cross-disciplinary investigation of subject tutor feedback: lessons for the EAP practitioner. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00110968


Studies have demonstrated that academic disciplines can show considerable variation not just in terms of the language forms and structures used, but also in relation to other disciplinary practices, such as the way in which knowledge claims are made and arguments developed (e.g. Lea & Street 1998; Hyland 2013a). Adopting a critical pragmatic approach (Harwood & Hadley 2004), this study first explores variation in what subject tutors from four different disciplines focus on in their written feedback. The data comprises feedback provided on 54 postgraduate assignments drawn from modules in Creative Industries, Biological Sciences, Child Studies, and Applied Linguistics, as well as interviews with each module convener. MaxQDA qualitative software is used to conduct a content analysis of the data. The software not only assists with the coding and categorization of the data leading to the development of a categorization framework, but also enables a search of specific overlapping codes and a corpus search of lexical items to explore the findings still further. The second research question sets out to explore feedback from an alternative perspective, that of the learner. Studies investigating students’ satisfaction with feedback continue to paint a pessimistic picture (e.g., O’Donovan 2020; Clegg & Bryan 2019), reflecting the relatively low satisfaction rates with feedback and assessment in national student surveys (NSS 2021; PTES 2020). The chosen research design to address this second question draws on the method adopted by Winstone et al., (2016) whereby prior research surveying students’ perceptions of feedback is used to generate a list of valued feedback qualities as a methodological point of reference with which to explore the alignment between actual tutor practice and students’ views of effective feedback. The investigation of feedback from these four modules does not represent a sample from which generalisations can be drawn, since commentary provided on students’ work comprises just a small part of a complex intervention (Boud & Molloy 2013). However, examining findings through contrast of disciplines can shed additional light on what subject tutors from different faculties value in a text, and therein assist the writing practitioner when identifying priorities of EAP provision across different disciplines. This investigation, for example, reports on differences in the extent and nature of criticality and contestation across disciplines and genres, how the rhetorical value placed on ‘clarity’ is consistent across all faculties, and how commentary addressing other aspects of student writing, such as register and language, is absent. With respect to the alignment between actual tutor practice and students’ views of effective feedback, this study finds that, by and large, tutor commentary does match students’ expections in regard to the qualities desired in feedback.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Capstick, T. and Furneaux, C.
Thesis/Report Department:Department of English Language and Linguistics
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Language and Applied Linguistics
ID Code:110968
Date on Title Page:December 2022


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