Edited by Virginia Samuda, Kris Van den Branden and Martin Bygate
[Task-Based Language Teaching 12] 2018
► pp. 236–263
Chapter 9. Tasks in the pedagogic space
Using online discussion forum tasks and formative feedback to develop academic discourse skills at Master’s level
This chapter discusses two related studies, both carried out at our own institution with participant students enrolled on an MA in Applied Linguistics, and both aimed at exploring the development of academic discourse at Master’s level. Both studies draw on ‘task’ as a unifying point of reference. The first study examines student and tutor posts written in an online discussion forum for a first semester module on the MA programme. The forum, which comprises a series of reading, writing, and discussion tasks, was intended as an opportunity for students to relate concepts covered in the MA to existing beliefs and practices and to discuss the pedagogic implications of theory and research in applied linguistics. Our objective was to better understand how students perceive the purpose and value of online tasks. Student participation in the online tasks raised wider issues of engagement with pedagogic activities. This prompted us to carry out a second study concerning student engagement with feedback on assessed work throughout the academic year. For this, we carried out student interviews, inviting participants to bring with them one assessed assignment from the previous term and discuss their responses to the written comments they had received from tutors. We were especially interested in understanding students’ prior assumptions and expectations regarding feedback, to explore students’ readiness to make use of feedback and examine to what extent feedback can have an impact on academic writing.
In both studies we found a number of telling differences between student and staff perceptions of and orientation to the various tasks and activities being investigated. In our framing of the relevant pedagogic issues we consider the factors to emerge from the studies as components of a wider “pedagogic space”, a framing which has enabled us to make sense of the data by posing some very constructive questions and by reflecting on broader pedagogic, curriculum, and organisational matters.