Person-based response: A postmodern alternative to text-based teacher comments

Date

1998-05

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Publisher

Texas Tech University

Abstract

This dissertation offers a theory of teacher response that privileges persons over text. It is based on the finding that there are two major trends in current teacher response: one text-based, a legacy of modernism and founded on the principles of New Criticism, which locates meaning in the text, and the other, person-based, founded on postmodem thought, which locates meaning in the writer and the reader. During the last 25 years, composition scholars have unearthed a number of problems with text-based response, including the following: an overemphasis on formal error, the teacher's inability to function as a real reader, a corresponding lack of "humanness" in teacher voice, a lack of clarity, including illegible handwriting and undefined proofreading marks, a failure to gear comments to specific audiences including basic writers and ESL students, a lack of positive reinforcement with some teachers displaying overt hostility toward their student writers, a tendency for teachers to appropriate student writing so that the student's own voice is lost, and comments showing a product-centered rather than process-centered approach to writing, which discounts the role of rhetorical invention. After documenting these deficiencies in teacher response strategies, this study presents a solution in the form of four tenets of person-based response. Phrased in the imperative, they are (1) respond first as a genuine (human) reader; (2) emphasize student successes not errors; (3) empower student writers; don't silence their voices or appropriate their work; and (4) emphasize student process (successful writers in-the-making) not product ("finished" and flawed papers). In a descriptive quantitative analysis involving 303 beginning college composition students, this study goes on to show how all four tenets of person-based response correlate with positive student motivation, a condition which writing apprehension theory says is cmcial for effective writing. In addition, this study analyzes some confounds to person-based response, presents the stories of eight students who react to the methodology, and suggests further study of the theory, especially a project linking the tenets of person-based response empirically to the Daly and Miller Writing Apprehension Scale. Finally, the dissertation emphasizes the need for what Burke calls consubstanciality, the act of really connecting with one's audience, including teachers with students and students with each other.

Description

Keywords

Interaction analysis in education, Teacher-student relationships, Grading and marking (Students), Motivation in education, Communication in education

Citation