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Rebecca Derry, Robert W. Simmons III, Ed.D.

Peer Feedback and Its Effects on Students' Self-Efficacy and Attitudes in Writing

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 Writing instruction has oscillated between skills-based and process-based instruction for the last half-century, reflecting both the changing educational climate and shifting conceptions of the purpose of writing. Currently, with the rise of high-stakes testing, writing instruction is often more focused on conventions and predetermined standards than written expression. Students rarely read each other’s work or write for an audience beyond their teacher. Across the curriculum, peer collaboration and peer feedback are limited. However, prior research suggests that increasing peer feedback can increase students’ self-efficacy and attitudes about writing. In turn, increases in self-efficacy predict higher academic achievement (Jinks & Morgan, 1999).

This action research study explored the effect of peer feedback on third grade students’ self-efficacy and attitudes about writing. Six students participated in the study over a five-week period. To determine the participants for this group, the whole class responded to a Likert-type survey about writing attitudes and self-efficacy, and the six students with the lowest scores formed the intervention group. The group was comprised of 100% students of color and 100% boys. One participant was an English Language Learner. The participants collaboratively created a web outlining what they considered to be the characteristics of a good story. The students used this tool as a guideline to provide praise and constructive feedback on each others’ stories, which they also wrote for this project. Students were explicitly taught how to give helpful constructive feedback and given a chance to practice in a structured group environment before they worked independently in pairs.

Data collection and analysis included a comparison of pre-intervention and post-intervention scores on the survey about writing attitudes and self-efficacy (using a Likert-type scale), selected adjectives used to describe students’ feelings about writing, unstructured behavioral observations (as recorded in a journal), and classroom artifacts.

All of these collection methods suggest that the students’ self-efficacy and attitudes about writing did increase over the course of the study. Five out of the six participants had increased post-intervention survey scores, and five out of six participants listed more positive adjectives associated with writing. Additionally, students exhibited positive behaviors during the intervention such as participating more than in whole-class discussions, refraining from disruptive behaviors, and requesting to do more work between meetings. Further studies would be needed to determine specifically what accounted for these increases in positive attitudes and self-efficacy; possible variables include increased peer feedback, the opportunity to write creatively, and the camaraderie of the group.

This study supports the findings of prior research that a more collaborative environment incorporating more opportunities for genuine student feedback can result in increased positive attitudes about writing within a relatively brief timeframe. As such, incorporating more student feedback (in the form of PQPs and verbal feedback in partners or small groups) in the writing classroom is recommended. Additionally, opportunities for creative writing and collaborative brainstorming may engage students and improve attitudes and self-efficacy about writing.

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