Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology and Research

Major Professor

Katherine H. Greenberg

Committee Members

Ralph G. Brockett, Sandra P. Thomas, Schuyler W. Huck


Academic writing in higher education remains a chief means of assessing student understanding, making instructor response to student writing an important way of providing summative and formative feedback for students. Writing and response offer insights into the ways in which students construct understanding within disciplinary contexts and the ways in which instructors facilitate those efforts. The present study explores two aspects of writing in higher education:1) the experience of faculty members who require and respond to writing from students, and 2) the experience of students as recipients of instructor responses to their academic writing. To explore the experience of response, this study employs existential phenomenology as a method of investigation. Data for this study were obtained by open-ended interviews. Following procedures suggested by Thomas and Pollio (2002), the transcripts of the interviews were analyzed until a thematic structure formed. Four figural themes and one ground theme formed the structure of the experience for each group. The instructor-participants’ experience was structured against the ground: Providing feedback is a responsibility that I take feedback seriously. Emerging from this ground, were two themes specific to the instructors’ experience: I want to join in a dialogue with the student; and I get caught up in the papers. The students’ ground theme was: You discard the things that don't work and hold on to the things that do work, representing the students’ need for useful feedback, and their resolve to maintain control of their thoughts and the writing process. Against this ground theme, stood two student themes: It's nice to have another opportunity to do the best that you can…. and I know what it must be like to be an instructor. Two additional themes were shared by both the instructors and students and constituted figural themes three and four for both groups of participants: I remember feedback from the past….and I don’t think they read what I wrote!


Response to student writing in higher education

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