Teaching research writing at exit-level undergraduate programmes in South Africa

E.E. Esambe

Abstract


Not enough writing support is being provided to Baccalaureus Technologiae (BTech) students in vocational-intensive universities in South Africa. Even worse, not enough research is being done to investigate the writing attitudes of BTech students or how their lecturers support them in writing-intensive subjects. This view represents an unfair and a discriminatory approach to providing learning support to BTech students. This paper explores the use of dialogical formative feedback in the teaching of research writing to BTech students in a health sciences department at a university of technology in South Africa. The paper uses Engeström’s (1987) concept of an activity system in cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) and Boud and Molloy’s (2013a, 2013b) dialogical feedback approach to examine how formative feedback is being negotiated in a class of 14 Dental Technology students at a university of technology. Qualitative data was collected through focus group interviews, and from the written feedback in the students’ assignment drafts. This data is read diffractively using Activity theory, and dialogical feedback approach. This diffractive approach enables one to use theories to challenge hegemonic, discriminatory, and often unproductive models of feedback support in the teaching of research writing to students in difficult and uneven conditions. By diffractively reading practitioners’ thoughts and actions iteratively over time through the relational ontological frameworks of activity theory and dialogical feedback, this paper proposes a breakaway from the formal, prosaic, linear, and bureaucratic approach of giving feedback to students’ writing which often does not impact student learning.


Keywords


formative feedback, research writing, diffractive methodology, activity theory, dialogical feedback

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.20853/32-6-2988

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