teacher has in helping students develop their writing. Traditional methods of grading and scoring children's writing are being replaced in the modern educational system with feedback and constructive criticism of the work, rather than a trophy grade or labeling score. This study reviews literature previously compiled on the subject of feedback in the development of children's writing, as well as conducting original research with a small group of students and teachers that helps evaluate the role of feedback in writing, as well as determining what types of feedback are the most effective.
Overview & Evaluation of the Project
According to a seasoned author of the British Educational Research Journal, "Education without educational research can be governed by dogma, superstition, tradition and other forms of prejudice about what will work well and be 'good for' those involved in the educational process." (Murphy 1996) Education is an ongoing process, and even the most experienced teacher remains a student as well. It has always been the goal of parents, teachers, and mentors to provide the best start to life as possible for young children. Education is the foundation for a productive, successful life, and the ability to craft and comprehend language is one of the greatest skills learned during the school years. It can be a challenge to motivate students to write, as well as a challenge to help them develop their abilities in this area through any means. It has been discovered through years of trial and error, as well as carefully formulated research, that feedback is essential to the learning process of students. In the area of creative writing in particular, students may find it difficult to develop skills when presented with a letter grade or numerical score as their only source of feedback. Students must receive feedback that can actually answer their questions and keep them on a path to literary success. It is the major goal of this study to examine the effect of a teacher's written feedback on creative writing and how this aids children's progression in creative writing. This project aims to investigate the effect of a variety of written forms of feedback used to mark children's work, and how these effect the quality of subsequent pieces of creative writing.
4. LITERATURE REVIEW
A great deal of research has been done regarding the effects of teacher feedback on the development of creative writing in children. In reviewing the literature on this subject, a common thread can be found declaring that traditional methods of feedback may not be the most effective methods available for encouraging and developing children's writing, and that a more inclusive approach must be taken to best serve the needs of children. The following review of literature will give an overview of current theories relating to how teacher feedback affects children's progression in writing.
The author of the book Children's Minds (Donaldson 1989) warns teachers and other mentors involved in the education of children to avoid labeling students as a failure, which is a common occurrence in many traditional methods of "grading" children's work. "If the child is defined as a failure he will almost certainly fail, at any rate in the things which the definers value; and perhaps later he will hit out very hard against those who so defined him." (Donaldson 1989) Marking a child's writing assignment with a grade that represents failure may be a way of defining that child himself as a failure. Children must be respected in their creativity and achievements. However, it is also harmful to children to provide them with false or meaningless praise in the name of avoiding negative definitions. A child will often be the most accurate judge of his or her achievements and progress, and therefore it is very important that the feedback given to children be a way to help that child genuinely achieve more and strive for higher standards for his or her own sake. Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between early reading skills and self-image (Donaldson 1989), meaning that it is not only the feedback received which influences the child's self-esteem and motivation, but also actual achievement. The ability and skill level of the child must be assessed with both sensitivity and objective accuracy; mistakes, errors, and shortcomings of the written work should not be ignored for the sake of the child's feelings, but rather used as an opportunity to guide progress and constructively critique the work. Unfortunately, there is no specific formula for teaching and feedback that ensure this ideal is reached in the classroom. Teachers must accept that errors will occur and respond to them in a constructive way; one author refers to this as the true art of teaching, for there is no set of rules to follow. "Obviously much depends on the child's personality. Ways that work with a passive withdrawn child will not work with a hyperactive impulsive one. And if the child is functioning very poorly it is necessary to concentrate on helping him over his difficulties without too much delay." (Donaldson 1989) This point is further emphasized that it remains vital to avoid the traditional methods of rewarding "good work" regardless of how this art is crafted. Giving rewards, such as gold stars or special privileges, for achievements in writing work will not only define those who do not receive them as failures, but it will also discourage children from engaging in writing voluntarily when no rewards are present. These prizes are removed from the act of writing itself, and teachers must find ways to use feedback in order to help children excel in and enjoy writing for the sake of writing.
The compilation of research presented in "Grading Student's Classroom Writing: Issues and Strategies" (ERIC 2001) deals further with the issues and questions that must be dealt with in approaching grading students' writing. Concerns include how to create effective writing assignments, how to maintain a fair and professional sense of judgment, including students in the assessment process, and how to formulate the most helpful feedback. It is important for every teacher to communicate with students about every aspect of assignments, and take many things into consideration. The writing process includes several stages, and the grading process should consist of more than the final grade or score which results from that process. "When the grade is abstracted from the grading process, students may be left wondering how a grade was derived... evaluation may be severed from the process of writing." (ERIC 2001) Students should be able to learn how to approach writing, as well as how to evaluate their own writing and the writing of their peers, from the evaluation and feedback process. "A powerful way to promote students' learning is to involve them in the grading process.... Students' involvement also includes self-assessments. Providing effective feedback to students will help them learn to revise their writing." (ERIC 2001) Ineffective forms of feedback which are identified here include cryptic responses, negative responses, and too much response, all of which are primarily focused on the negative and errors. A positive approach is more constructive, including creating a dialogue when writing responses, refraining from unnecessary criticisms, providing good writing models, and summarizing all marginal comments at the end. "Positive, well written responses perfect the art of providing effective feedback to students and serve as models of desirable writing." (ERIC 2001)
Sean Hawthorne (2004) of Auckland University addresses the concerns of apathy and disinterest among students, and the importance of finding ways to motivate students to write. "Language development is essential to intellectual growth....Given this understanding of the importance of English it is disconcerting that many students remain disengaged." (Hawthorne 2004) Hawthorne mentions the "process writing" and "whole-language" approaches to writing in the classroom, as well as noting the lack of information available regarding motivating children to write. There are four conditions that enhance the motivation to write: "(1) Nurturing functional beliefs about writing. (2) Fostering student engagement through authentic writing goals and contexts. (3) Providing a supportive context for writing. (4) Creating a positive emotional environment in which to write." (Bruning & Horn 2000 in Hawthorne 2004) Without motivation, students will not apply themselves to writing. Feedback is a fundamental part of motivating students to write. Studies have found that low achievers will attribute success or failure to external factors beyond their control, such as luck. This can be related back to the concerns raised by Donaldson (1989) that traditional reward methods for encouraging writing are not effective, for they cause students to remove writing from internal and related factors. "Good writers tended to believe that writing aided memory, learning, organization and thinking...[and] a means of personal expression and exploration and a way of communicating thoughts and feelings. Poor writers...believed that writing was done primarily as school 'work'....engaging in writing for the purposes of doing their work, getting it right and making a finished product which could be assessed by the teacher." (Hawthorne 2004) Feedback methods should strive to erase this gap…