Peer Response Groups Using Electronic and Traditional Communications: A Portraiture of a Class

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Title: Peer Response Groups Using Electronic and Traditional Communications: A Portraiture of a Class
Author: Jackson, Alecia Youngblood
Advisors: Dr. Carol Pope, Chair
Dr. Hiller Spires, Member
Dr. Peter Hessling, Member
Abstract: This participatory action research project was a qualitative inquiry into the contextual variables that influence peer response groups using electronic and traditional communications. The research participants, students of the teacher/researcher, were twenty-two university freshmen enrolled in two sections of a reading and writing course required for students with low verbal SAT scores. Students wrote five autobiographical stories in the narrative genre. For the first two writings, students paired with the same peer from their class for the face-to-face conferences. For the third writing assignment, students had both in-class conferences with the same peer in addition to an e-mail conference with a peer from the other class. Students used e-mail only to communicate with both partners about writing assignments four and five. Data collection took place throughout the fifteen weeks of the semester and consisted of participant observations, document analysis of students' reaction journals, document analysis of students? first and second drafts of writing (with peer comments), and individual interviews. Findings are presented as a portraiture of the collective classes and a portraiture of a peer response triad. The main theme that emerged from the findings is 'acts of negotiation and balance.' In general, students depended on the established social relationships with their in-class partners when making revision decisions. Students acknowledged that e-mail exchanges about writing were convenient and widened their audience, but they did not work to establish a relationship with their e-mail partners. Most students valued the complementary aspects of using the two different modes of communication for feedback about their writing. However, preference for mode of communication was secondary to their peers' possessing qualities of honesty, trustworthiness, and sensitivity. How peers achieved this rapport within their relationships was idiosynchratic to each response group. This study concluded that individual student attitudes, values, and expectations influence and are influenced by multiple contextual variables in the writing classroom (i.e., physical context, social context, mode of communication, the peer response group, and time). A model of reciprocity is proposed to illuminate the complex dynamics within peer response groups. Future research on peer response groups should include more systematic inquiry into contextual forces that contribute to the success or collapse of peer response groups. Teachers should work to understand the inevitable interchanges between individual students and class context in order to assist their students as they grow and develop as readers and writers in peer response groups.
Date: 1999-04-05
Degree: MS
Discipline: Curriculum and Instruction

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