To date, much of the research on written feedback has been on corrective feedback (feedback on language errors in students’ texts) and informed largely by cognitive perspectives of SLA.  The focus of most of this research has been on which form of feedback is most effective (e.g. explicit vs. implicit; targeted vs. comprehensive, and findings are often discussed by reference to key cognitive constructs such as attention, noticing, and memory capacity (see Bitchener & Storch, 2016).  Yet despite the rapidly growing number of carefully designed studies, this body of research has yielded no conclusive findings about the most effective form of feedback. Explanations for mixed findings are often attributed to differences in research design.

In this paper I propose an alternative theoretical perspective on feedback, one that views feedback as a social activity that takes place within a broader context, and where participants (providers and recipients of feedback) are intentional agents.  This perspective draws on key constructs in sociocultural theory and activity theory.  I begin by outlining how research from this perspective differs from research on feedback informed by cognitive perspectives.  I then focus on three broad areas of research on feedback. The first area uses the construct of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and scaffolding to consider the nature and appropriateness of feedback.  The second area uses the construct of tools to consider how the medium used to provide feedback may impact the provision and uptake of feedback.  The third, and perhaps the most important area, views feedback as an activity, and examines context-related and affective individual factors that may better explain differences in teachers’ feedback practices and learners’ response to feedback.  When discussing each of these broad areas of research on feedback, I describe some studies that I’m currently supervising as well as outlining the design of potential future projects that may be of interest to L2 researchers and teachers.


Neomy Storch is an Associate Professor in ESL and Applied Linguistics and the coordinator of the ESL Program at the School of Languages & Linguistics, the University of Melbourne. Her research has focused on issues related to second language writing, including collaborative writing, feedback on writing, assessing writing development, and most recently authorial voice in the writing of multilingual doctoral students. Neomy has published and presented extensively on these topic includng a book on collaborative writing (2013), a co-authored book (with Prof. Bitchener) on theories informing corrective feedback (2016), and co-edited books on teaching writing for academic purposes (2017) and on languaging (in preparation).



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