English as a Second Language college writers' revision responses to teacher-written comments

Linda Eckhardt Dessner, University of Pennsylvania


This teacher-as-researcher study focused on the types of comments a teacher made on ten ESL college students' drafts and on the writers' revising responses to these comments. Of particular focus was the role of written comments in the second language acquisition of the student writers. Writing comments on student papers has been a common practice for many teachers across all grade levels and content areas. Little is known, however, about what students actually do with these comments. Studies that have examined commenting on high school and college compositions have generally concluded that written comments have not been linked to improvement in writing or linguistic proficiency. This study did not attempt to determine the effectiveness of commenting on writing improvement; rather, it focused on examining, through analysis of the written products and through protocol analysis, the types of comments the teacher made and the revising moves the students made in response to the comments. The comment types identified were: (1) those that provided a correction or model for the student, (2) those that provided a direction, a usage rule, and/or advice, and (3) those that gave the student hints and suggestions through symbols and questions. The comments were directed to grammar usage and content in almost equal numbers, as well as to mechanics, lexicon and organization. Three types of student moves in response to these comments were identified: (1) those that had complete correspondence to the purpose of the comment, (2) those that had partial correspondence to the purpose, and (3) those that had no correspondence to the purpose. In this study, more than two-thirds of the teacher's comments were those that provided advice and suggestions. During their revising, the students were able to respond to these comments by using their own language resources rather than copy a teacher model. It was also found that the teacher's written comments provided three features considered theoretically important to second language development: feedback on both the form and the content of the students' written language, input made comprehensible through modifications, interaction and negotiation of meaning, and opportunities for modifying output.

Subject Area

Language arts|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Dessner, Linda Eckhardt, "English as a Second Language college writers' revision responses to teacher-written comments" (1991). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9125629.