Peer response in college ESL writing classroom
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Using Conversation Analysis (CA), this study examined how ESL students interacted with one another when engaged in peer response activity in a writing classroom, particularly how they managed assessments of peers’ writings. During a 16-week long period of data collection, participants’ interactions in peer response activity were recorded using a digital video camera. Participants were also interviewed and archival data were collected which included participants’ writing assignments, the course syllabus, and other course materials. Participants’ interactions were then transcribed and analyzed using CA methods. Three major findings included: a) the use of laughter in peer response activity, b) the various roles taken by the participants when providing or receiving writing feedback, and c) the conversational strategies used in handling negative feedback on one another’s writing. The analyses showed that laughter was influenced by the participants’ language proficiency or ability to help their peers solve writing problems. The analyses of peer response groups revealed that the participants negotiated roles at the beginning of a session and took turns assuming roles of a primary reviewer, a secondary reviewer, and an author. The ways in which each participant played these roles was one of the indicators of a degree of group collaboration. Finally, participants employed various interactional strategies in dealing with criticisms of peers’ writings. It was found that participants oriented towards a preference for agreement. Negative criticisms of peers’ writings were generally delivered in indirect manners using hedges or other linguistic devices in order to minimize threats to participants’ face. However, one of the participants did not immediately address threats to the addressee’s face but did so toward the end of their peer feedback session. This unique feature of peer interactions was discussed in relation to the nature of lingua franca communication. Finally, the findings of this study had significant implications on the issues of assigning students to peer response groups and of training students for peer response activity, which incorporate discussions of how they might handle face threats. Key Words: Peer response, ESL writing, Conversation Analysis, classroom interaction, writing feedback, laughter in peer interaction, politeness.