Image: “Red Pen on English Grammar Text” by 3844328 from Pixabay

Lunsford and Straub set out to collect data about professors’ feedback on assignments in college English classrooms, particularly the amount and quality of comments given on drafts that will later be revised by students. To do this, they recruit twelve “readers” to read the same sampling of papers and respond as if the students were their own. The project aims to evaluate the focus of the commentary (what is the comment about?) as well as the mode of the comment (how is the comment given?) The focus is split between global and local concerns; the mode spans several different classifications, as outlined below. 

Table 10-1 in Lunsford, R. F., & Straub, R. (2006). “Twelve Readers Reading.” In Richard Straub (Ed.), Key Works on Teacher Response. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.

Trends that Lunsford and Straub identify amongst the case studies are that their readers respond in complete sentences rather than shorthand and that their commentary focuses less on the mechanics of writing than the actual content, structure, or development of ideas. Most readers also focused on no more than three, usually global, issues when commenting. In the analytic breakdown, the most commonly recurring modes of commentary were explanatory comments (13%) and praise (12%). The average number for paper commentary was 22 comments per paper, though readers who used a full-sheet response gave more than marginal comments. . Alongside evaluative comments, the twelve readers also give reader responses that do not serve as “advice,” which Lunsford and Straub pose allows readers to temper the inherently controlling nature of typical feedback modes and positions the revision process as more of a two-way street. Overall, their findings show that readers understand that the mode of the comment affects the meaning conveyed to the student and that commentary tries to negotiate authority, control, and a degree of student empowerment. The study results indicate that the majority of commentary aims to echo James Moffett’s philosophy that writing is “someone saying something to someone else.”



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