Importance of feedback in formative assessment in the english language classroom at the university level (Algeria) : the case of first-year students' writing at the university of M'ohamed Bouguerra Boumerdes
The present study examines the effectiveness of an alternative feedback (rubric) use in improving the first year students writing performance in the department of foreign languages at Boumerdes University. The study hypothesises that the students’ incapacity to exploit their teachers’ comment, to enhance their writing productions, is mainly due to the current inappropriate type of feedback used by their teachers. This issue is investigated through a pre-experimental two phase study. The first phase consists in exploring the obstacles faced by both teachers and students when delivering and using the current traditional feedback. This phase uses two questionnaires destined to nineteen teachers and ninety one students. However, the core of the present research aims at comparing the writing performance of sixty five first year students under two different feedback conditions. To achieve these research goals, the pre-treatment stage consists of using a traditional feedback such as circling, highlighting errors and putting comments on the bottom of the students’ papers. During this phase, the criteria of a good production are kept hidden i.e. not shared with the learners. The post-treatment phase, in turn, consists in introducing a rubric of fifteen criteria against which students’ performance is assessed. During this phase, the criteria of a good production are publically shared with the participants. The 65 students’ performances are, then, analysed under the two conditions and the comparison of the students’ progression is established. The results of the present study reveal a moderate but steady improvement of the students writing production when alternative feedback is adopted. This positive impact affects writing accuracy more than the other aspects of the writing performances such as content. Moreover, the exploratory phase of the study reveals a set of factors which prevent both teachers and students from delivering and using feedback appropriately such as large classes, time management, and the teachers’ need of professional training in the field of assessment. The students’ lack of autonomy, also, exercises a heavy workload on their students’ performances.