The student—an invaluable source

of information in the writing process


Chris Alexander (Bristol)


The aim of this paper is to present the findings of an analysis into the kind of things students are concerned about when writing, and then to compare these concerns with what a teacher-assessor feels is wrong. I, for many years as an EAP teacher, believed the best way to help a student was to underline mistakes and to write in a corrected version, laborious as it was. In this paper I would like to question the effectiveness and usefulness of this technique without resorting to the student as a source of information i.e. we can learn a lot about student concerns by getting students to underline areas of concern while they are writing, and then by getting them, if necessary, to clarify these sections at a later stage. I would also like to show that students are not only concerned about things that are incorrect, they seem to be concerned about things that are ‘correct’.


The research I undertook used two frameworks to analyse a sample of language data i.e. a qualitative and quantitative framework. The data sample was elicited from students of English during one of their timed writing classes. Students highlighted or underlined anything they were not sure about. Two students were chosen at random immediately after completing the task to give retrospective accounts of these highlighted areas. An inter-play of competing qualitative (i.e. the retrospective accounts) and quantitative data (the teacher and student underlined sections) was created by comparing student data with post-hoc teacher error assessment. I chose to analyse the above, because the timed writing of expository paragraphs is an integral part of the EAP course in my professional context, and improving methods of error correction by collaborating with the student is an area of personal and professional interest.


This paper comprises a rationale, a description of the paradigms underpinning my research, a classification of my findings, and a discussion about the implications of my findings.





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