Grading, no longer an obstacle to learners’ attendance to teacher feedback


University of Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran


Learners are often reported not to be motivated enough to attend to teacher feedback. Teachers
also  tend  to  grade  learners’  writing  samples  when  providing  them  with  corrective  feedback
though  they  know  it  may  divert  their  attention  away  from  teacher  feedback.  However,  not
grading learner writings does not seem to be an option due to both learners’ demands for it and
institutional  regulations  that  require  teachers  to  have  summative  evaluation.  In  order  to
overcome  such  contradictions,  a  new  technique  called  Draft-Specific  Scoring  (DSS)  was
devised  in  order  to  use  grading  as  a  motivating,  rather  than  demotivating,  device  in  order  to
encourage learners to attend to teacher feedback and apply it to their first drafts to improve the
quality  of  their  writing  accordingly.  DSS  is  a  grading  system  in  which  learners  can  improve
their received grade by applying teacher feedback to their writing samples in order to improve
its quality. The score they receive will improve as a result of the improvement in the quality of
the revisions they make. They have two opportunities to go through this procedure. Their final
score  will  be  the  mean  score  of  all  the  grades  they  receive  in  their  last  drafts  submitted.  This
experimental  study  was  an  attempt  to  check  the  effect  of  the  use  of  this  technique  in  error
feedback  provision  on  three  measures  of  fluency,  grammatical  complexity,  and  accuracy.  The
results  showed  that  DSS  could  help  learners  improve  in  all  three  measures  while  the  control
group receiving only error feedback without DSS could only improve in fluency.


Main Subjects

The  effectiveness  of  teacher  feedback  has
been so controversial that the majority of the
publications  in  L2  writing  have  been
devoted  to  this  subject  for  the  past  two
decades.  While  some  scholars,  the  most
prominent  of  whom  Truscott  (1996),  argue
against  grammar  correction and believe that
it  does  not  help  learners  improve,  others
such  as  Ferris  (1999)  and  Chandler  (2003)
argue  for  the  practice  The  literature  on  the
subject  is  full  of  studies  in  support  of  both
parties  making  it  impossible  to  come  up
with a definite answer.  
However,  no  matter  what  literature  says
about  its  effectiveness  or  ineffectiveness,
students  demand  teacher  feedback  because
they  believe  it  is  necessary  and  helps  them
improve  (Lee,  2008).  Surface-level  errors
are  so  important  to  learners  that  ESL
teachers  may  lose  their  credibility  among
learners if they do not correct all such errors
in  their  students’  writings  (Radacki  &
Swales,  1998).  ESL  students  were  reported
to believe that a good writing is one which is
error-free  (Leki,  1990).  Also,  surveys
regarding  students’  attitudes  toward
feedback in  ESL context (e.g., Ferris, 1995;
Satio,  1994)  and  EFL  context  (e.g.,  Diab,
2005; Enginalar, 1993) indicate that learners
are  concerned  about  accuracy,  and  to  them,
an  effective  feedback  is  the  one  in  which
teachers  pay  attention  to  linguistic  errors.
The  present  study  was  developed  as  a
response to such demands while minimizing
the obstacles in the way.
The grammar correction debate so far  
After  Truscott  questioned  the  effectiveness
of  grammar  feedback  in  1996,  there  has
been  a  very  hot  debate  among  scholars  and
researchers  regarding  the  effectiveness  or
ineffectiveness  of  providing  students  with
error  correction.  This  debate  has  been
mainly  between  Truscott  (1996)  on  the  one
hand,  and  Ferris  (1999),  Chandler  (2003),
and Bruton (2009) on the other hand.
Truscott  (1996)  argues  that  most  writing
regarding  corrective  feedback  has  simply
taken  the  value  of  grammar  correction  for
granted. All practitioners practice it because
they  assume  it  is  effective.  Moreover,  the
side effects of such a practice, like its effect
on learners’ attitude and the energy and time
it  consumes  in  writing  classes,  are  often
neglected. He cites Cohen’s review in which
he had concluded that L1 students often pay
no  attention  to  corrections.  Even  if
motivated enough to look at and understand
the  corrections,  students  may  still  not  be
motivated  enough  to  incorporate  them  in
their future writing. Truscott also argues that
the  students  who  do  try  to  write  in
accordance  with  the  feedback  they  receive
may not do so for long, and as soon as they
leave  that  particular  class  or  write  in  a
different context for a different teacher with
different  concerns,  they  may  ignore  the
original advice.
Truscott believes that grammar correction is
harmful.  Relying  on  research  carried  out  in
L1,  he  argues  that  students  who  do  not
receive  corrections  have  a  more  positive
attitude  toward  writing.  They  may  not  be
better  writers  in  comparison  with  those
receiving  corrections,  but  they  have  been
observed  writing  more.  He  claims  that  even
in  L2,  grammar  correction  has  harmful
effects.  He  believes  that  it  is  so  because  of
the “inherent unpleasantness of correction.”
They  do  not  learn  as  well  as  uncorrected
students  do  because  they  shorten  and
simplify  their  writing  in  order  not  to  be
corrected (Truscott, 1996, p. 355).
Ferris  (1999),  responding  to  Truscott’s
(1996)  review  of  the  research  on  grammar
correction,  regards  Truscott’s  conclusion
that  grammar  correction  has  no  place  in
writing  instruction  and  it  should  be
abandoned as “premature and overly strong”
(p. 2).Unlike Truscott, Ferris believes that, if
not  all,  many  students  can  improve  their
writing  as  a  result  of  appropriate  teacher
feedback,  so  instead  of  abandoning  such  a
practice,  she  believes  that  we  should  make
our  corrections  more  effective.  In  her
opinion,  the  individual  student  variables
affecting  their  willingness  and  ability  to
benefit  from  teacher  feedback  need  to  be
explored.  Also,  one  needs  to  investigate
which  methods  or  techniques  in  corrective
feedback  provision  can  lead  to  short  term
and  long  term  student  improvement.  Only
when  these  variables  are  explored  enough,
one  can  decide  on  the  effectiveness  or
ineffectiveness of grammar correction.
Chandler (2003) did a thorough study on the
efficacy  of  various  types  of  error  feedback
and their influence on students’ fluency and
accuracy  in  writing.  The  two  groups  were
found  similar  in  error  rates  prior  to  the
study.  On  the  other  hand,  the  experimental
group’s  change  was  statistically  significant
at  the  end  of  the  instruction.  Regarding
fluency,  both  groups  significantly  improved
over the 10 weeks between the first and fifth
assignments,  and  they  did  not  differ  from
each  other  over  the  semester.  Chandler
(2004)  believes  that  although  she  did  not
calculate  any  measure  of  syntactic
complexity,  the  results  of  her  holistic  rating
are an indication, not proof, that the writings
did not become simpler. The study by Robb
Ross, and Shortreed (1986), who did have a
measure  of  syntactic  complexity,  also
showed  that  all  of  their  groups  receiving
corrective  feedback  improved  in  syntactic
Truscott  (2007)  did  a  meta-analysis  on
corrective  feedback.  He  found  a  positive
effect  for  corrective  feedback  in
uncontrolled  studies,  which  he  attributed  to
either bias in the setting of testing or the use
of  avoidance  strategy  by  learners.  He
believes that corrected students write shorter
and  simpler  texts  in  order  to  avoid  making
mistakes.  As  such,  even  the  observed
improvement  in  accuracy  may  be  due  to
learning  how  to  avoid  structures  about
which they are not sure.
Bruton  (2009),  looking  at  the  research  and
argument  in  error  correction,  questions
Truscott’s  anti-correction  position  by
drawing  three  basic  conclusions:  first,  he
believes  that  research  into  this  topic  should
recognize that “language focus in L2 writing
should  be  seen  within  a  framework  of
pedagogical  options,  including  minimally
differing  pedagogical  purposes,  writer  goals
and  writing  tasks,  in  relation  to  writer
characteristics and context” (p.600). Second,
the  effect  of  language  focus  in  L2  writing
should  not  be  limited  to  the  issue  of
grammatical accuracy. Third, even in such a
limited  view,  common  sense  and  intuition
defies  that  correction  is  harmful  to
developing  accuracy  and  lack  of  correction
or simply more writing practice can result in
Bruton  (2009)  views  the  ongoing  debate
about correction as a “rather tedious sterile
academic  debate”  which  has  damaged  the
field  by  giving  researchers  a  narrow
perspective  and  line  of  attention.  Truscott
(2010)  objected  to  and  rejected  this  view;
however,  Bruton  (2010,  p.  491)  insists  on
his  position  and  explains  that  he  does  not
mean that the issue of grammar correction in
L2  writing  is  not  important  or  is  less
important  than  it  was  in  the  past;  however,
“the  debate  is  tedious  because  the  same
points  are  reiterated;  it  is  sterile  because
most  of  the  research  central  to  the
argumentation  against  correction  remains
the  same,  with  the  numerous  recognized
flaws…; it is academic in the sense that it
does  not  really  have  much  relevance  for
most  mainstream  L2  writing  contexts  or
practices.” Bruton (2010) also expresses his
concern  about  the  fact  that  “sometimes
academic  debate  uses  research  results  and
instruments  to  convince  non-academics  of
their  arguments,  when  the  design  of  the
research cited are far from sound” (p.  491).
He  also  emphasizes  the  role  of  factors  such
as instruction, tasks,  and grades in affecting
learners’ success:
If  corrective  feedback  recognizes  interest  in
the  content  of  tasks,  which  are  within  the
students’  capabilities,  is  supportive  and
constructive,  while  rewarding  improvement,
reflected  in  the  grading  system,  the
conditions  might  be  propitious  for
improvement…  If  teacher  response
emphasizes the defects (in red), shows a lack
of  interest  for  the  content  and  offers
criticism,  reinforced  by  negative  grades
based  on  errors,  the  circumstances  are
hardly  beneficial  for  improvement…Any
grading  system  for  L2  writing,  probably
needs to reward improvement, both in terms
of  content  and  new  language  use,  together
with  complexity/accuracy,  and  in  terms  of
reducing recurrent errors. (pp. 496-497)
Teachers  are  also  known  to  have  their  own
beliefs about what constitutes good feedback
and  how  it  must  be  provided,  which
sometimes  contradict  those  of  students.  For
example,  teachers  tend  to  perceive  their
feedback  more  positively  than  students  do.
Tutors  believe  that  they  provide  more
detailed  feedback  than  their  students  think
they do. They also perceive their feedback to
be  more  useful  than  students  do.  Finally,
teachers  tend  to  find  their  assessment  to  be
fair  while  students  are  not  sure  about  that
(Carless,  2006).Lee  (2009)  also  reports
some discrepancies between teachers' beliefs
and  what  they  practice.  For  instance,  they
tend  to  focus  more  on  language  form  while
they  believe  they  should  not.  They  practice
comprehensive  error  marking  though  they
believe  it  should  be  selective.  They  also
grade students' writings though they believe
that  grades  draw  learners'  attention  away
from  the  intended  feedback  provided  with
the teacher.
No  matter  what  conclusion  research  studies
come  up  with,  language  teachers  seem  to
continue  providing  their  learners  with
corrective  feedback  mostly  because  they
think  they  should.  Leki  (1990)  asserts  that
although  written  comments  to  students’
writings  are  time  consuming,  teachers  still
continue  to  provide  them  with  these
comments because they believe that that will
help  the  writers  improve.  He  also  believes
that teachers do so because their job not only
requires them to evaluate students’ writings
but  also  needs  them  to  justify  their
Grading dilemma  
Providing corrective feedback can result in a
clash of roles on the part of the teacher. Leki
(1990) holds three roles for a writing teacher
in  responding  to  her  students’  writings:
teachers  as  real  readers  (audience);  teachers
as  coaches;  and  teachers  as  evaluators.
Given the unequal power relation between a
teacher and a student, Leki sees it unrealistic
to  accept  that  teachers  can  read  learners’
writings  in  the  same  way  as  they  read  texts
they read on their daily life.  A teacher may
also  act  as  a  coach  as  well  as  an  evaluator.
This  way  she  needs  to  cooperate  with
learners in that process. As such, she will be
responsible  if  students  fail  to  meet  the
criteria  because  it  means  she  had  not
intervened  enough  when  necessary.
However,  this  being  a  collaborator  and  a
judge  at  the  same  time  is  a  contradiction
which  sounds  difficult  to  resolve.  Being  an
evaluator  (the  third  role)  also  contradicts
with  another  notion  taught  to  students.
Usually,  students  are  encouraged  to  have  in
mind  an  audience  for  their  writings,  but
simply knowing that the reader is not  going
to  be  a  simple  audience  and  is  an  evaluator
distorts such a notion (Leki, 1990).
While  being  an  evaluator  can  be  in  clash
with other roles a writing teacher may have,
performing  such  a  role  seems  inevitable.
However,  being  an  evaluator  is  not  as
problematic  as  being  an  assessor.  While  an
evaluator may evaluate a piece of writing by
commenting  on  the  weak  points  or
specifying the parts or elements which need
to  be  amended,  she  does  not  need  to  assign
any score or grade to that piece of work. On
the other hand, when acting as an assessor, a
teacher is required to provide learners with a
grade  or  score  which  can  sum  up  her
evaluation  in  the  form  of  a  single  easily
interpretable  grade  or  score.  However,  such
a  practice  may  divert  learners’  attention
away  from  teacher  feedback  and  as  a  result
do more harm than good (Lee, 2009).
Lee  (2009),  having  administered  a
questionnaire to 206 secondary teachers and
having conducted an interview with a few of
them,  explored  their  beliefs  and  their
reported  practices  to  examine  the  extent  to
which  they  correspond  each  other.  She
identified ten mismatches between teachers’
beliefs  and  their  written  feedback  practice.
She  found  out  that  “teachers  award
scores/grades  to  student  writing  although
they  are  almost  certain  that  marks/grades
draw  student  attention  away  from  teacher
feedback”  (p.  16).    She  states  that  the
feedback analysis shows that all the teachers
give  their  students’  writings  a  score.
However,  they  do  not  believe  that  much  in
their  usefulness  because  they  think  scores
and  grades  divert  learners’  attention  away
from  teacher  feedback  to  the  extent  that
some  students  may  even  ignore  them
particularly  when  they  are  not  required  to
revise  and  resubmit  their  drafts  for  better
grades.  “One  teacher  remarked,  ‘The
majority  of  students  do  not  pay  attention  to
the comments’.  Another teacher even said,
‘For students, they only look at the scores’.”
(p. 17).
This way, as Hamp-Lyons (2007) points out,
in  many  contexts  writing  assessment  is
taking  over  writing  instruction,  that  is,
increasing attention is being paid to the issue
of  grading  or  scoring  student  writing.
Connors  and  Lunford  (1993),  having
conducted a discourse analysis of comments
on 3,000 marked papers, observed that more
than 80% of the comments had a judgmental
tone. Such studies show that instructors read
assignments  for  the  purpose  of  grading  and
their  feedback  is  mainly  concerned  with
justifying  the  grades  given  (Li  &  Barnard,
One  may  wonder  why  teachers  do  not  stop
grading or scoring student writing if they are
aware  of  the  harm  it  does.  Lee  (2009),
quoting  the  same  teachers,  argues  that
grading  is  necessary  for  summative
purposes.  One  teacher  in  the  follow-up
interviews  emphasized  the  importance  of
grading  by  saying  that  he  believes  that
compositions,  except  identifying  students’
difficulties  in  writing,  serves  another
function,  i.e.,  it  serves  for  teachers  to  hand
over score sheet. As such it seems that “the
summative  function  of  feedback  has  made
teachers use scores/grades although they are
fully  aware  of  the  harm  that  can  be  done  to
students” (p. 17).
However,  that  is  not  the  only  reason  why
teachers  continue  grading  learner  writing  in
conjunction  with  the  corrective  feedback
they  provide  them  with.  Learners  demand
such  a  practice.  Lee  (2008)  studying  both
high proficient (HP) and low proficient (LP)
students of English during an academic year,
examined  their  preference  for  the  type  of
feedback  they  received.  72.2  percent  of  HP
students  and  40.9  percent  of  LP  students
chose  the  option  ‘mark/grade  +  error
feedback + written comments.’ In response
to the question ‘In the future compositions,
which  of  the  following  would  you  be  most
interested  in  finding  out?’,  ‘teacher’s
comments  on  my  writing’  ranked  first  by
47.2 percent in HP students and 36.4 percent
in  the  LP  students.  ‘mark/grade’  stood
second  by  38.9  percent  in  HP  students  and
36.4 percent in LP students.
The present study
Having  been  confronted  with  all  such
contradictions,  we  tried  to  find  a  middle
ground  compromising  all  such  problems.  In
fact,  it  was  tried  to  find  a  solution  for
motivating  learners’  to  attend  to  teacher
feedback  while  providing  them  with  grades
that can satisfy teachers’ sense of obligation
in  having  summative  evaluation  and
learners’  sense  of  need  for  such  an
evaluative  feedback  without  jeopardizing
learners’ attendance to teacher feedback. It
not only does not divert learners’ attention
from  teacher  feedback,  but  it  also  gives
them,  at  least  for  the  majority  of  learners,  a
reason  and  the  needed  motives  to  attend  to
The solution we came up with was a simple
technique  called  Draft-Specific  Scoring,
based  on  which  learners  are  provided  with
corrective feedback as well as a grade which
represents  the  teacher’s  general  evaluation
of that piece of work. The final score would
be  the  mean  of  all  the  grades  learners  have
received  for  their  assignments  during  the
course. However, the grades learners receive
are  not  fixed.  Students  can  improve  their
grades by applying teacher feedback to their
writings  and  revising  their  first  and  mid
drafts.  Usually,  students  are  given  two
opportunities to go through this procedure of
drafting  and  revising.  The  final  score  each
student  receives  on  any  assignment  is  used
to come up with the mean score. The present
study  was  an  attempt  to  check  the  effect  of
this  newly-developed  technique  on  the
fluency,  grammatical  complexity,  and
accuracy of the texts learners write over the
course of instruction. As such the following
research questions were formulated:
1.  Does  the  fluency  of  texts  written  by
learners  change  over  the  course  of
instruction  as  a  result  of  using  DSS
when  providing  teacher  corrective
2.  Does  the  grammatical  complexity  of
texts written by learners change over
the  course  of  instruction  as  a  result
of  using  DSS  when  providing
teacher corrective feedback?
3.  Does the accuracy of texts written by
learners  change  over  the  course  of
instruction  as  a  result  of  using  DSS
when  providing  teacher  corrective
There  were  85  participants  present  in  two
groups  from  two  different  universities,
namely  University  of  Tehran  and  Azad
University.  There  were  26  (10  male  and  16
female)  participants  in  the  treatment  group
at  the  University  of  Tehran.  Their  age
roughly ranged from 22 to 25. They were all
high  intermediate  EFL  learners  studying
English Literature. They were all Iranian but
for  one  Chinese  female  student.  For  the
control  group,  57  participants  were  present,
all  studying  English  Literature  and
Translation  at  Azad  University.  After  these
participants  were  filtered,  31  (12  male  and
19 female) participants with an age range of
21  to  27  remained.  Since  the  participants  at
Azad  University  were  more  heterogeneous
in language proficiency level in  comparison
with  those  studying  at  the  University  of
Tehran,  they  were  matched  based  on  the
Oxford  Quick  Proficiency  Test  they  had
taken  as  a  requirement  of  their  department
and the results of the pretest in writing. As a
result,  out  of  the  57  participants  for  the
control  group,  there  remained  only  31  for
data analysis.
During the first 3 sessions, the preliminaries
of  writing  were  taught  to  both  groups,  and
using  model  essays,  different  parts  and
components of  an  essay  were discussed  and
instructed.  The  base  of  the  instruction  was
TOEFL  iBT  independent  Task  in  writing
which  is  very  similar  to  IELTS  task  2  in
writing. In these tasks, test takers are given a
prompt  and  are  asked  to  write  an  essay  on
that  in  a  limited  time.  The  given  time  is  30
minutes  in  TOEFL  iBT  and  40  minutes  in
IELTS test. As such, learners were informed
of  the  criteria  based  on  which  their  writing
samples  were  supposed  to  be  evaluated  and
scored.  In  the  fourth  session,  samples  of
students’  writing  were  collected  as  the
pretest.  Participants  in  both  groups  were
given  80  minutes  to  plan  and  write  about  a
given  topic.  The  samples  were  scored  and
returned  to  the  participants  with  teacher
comments  on  them.  They  received  scores
given  by  their  instructor  based  on  the
general  impression  and  the  quality  of  their
writing.  The  two  sets  of  scores  given  by
expert  raters  were  later  contrasted  for
making  sure  that  the  participants  in  both
groups  were  comparable  in  their  writing
proficiency.  No  significant  difference  was
found between the two groups at the pretest:
t (55) = .11, p = 0.91.
To  prevent  Halo  and  Hawthorne  effects,
both  groups  were  kept  blind  to  the  fact  that
they  were  being  studied.  During  class  time,
some of the learners’ writing samples were
chosen  and  discussed  with  the  whole  class,
and  their  weaknesses  and  strengths  were
pointed  out.  Each  session,  learners’  essays
were  collected,  scored,  and  commented  on
by the teacher researcher. At the end of each
session,  the  participants  were  assigned  a
new  topic  to  write  about  for  the  following
session.  Their  essays  had  to  be  at  least  150
words  long,  typed  and  printed  in  an  A4
paper.  Learners’  essays  were  read  by  the
researcher,  and  for  the  grammatical
mistakes,  learners  were  provided  with
indirect  corrective  feedback,  i.e.,  the  errors
were  underlined  but  not  corrected.  To  keep
the  conditions  the  same  for  all,  no  explicit
feedback  were  given  in  the  samples  for  the
problems  they  had  with  the  style  of  writing
and  issues  such  as  topic  development,  topic
relevance, coherence, and cohesion. Instead,
some  of  those  samples  with  such  problems
were identified and discussed with the whole
class during the class time. However, for all
essays,  if  necessary,  it  was  commented  that
they  need  to  be  improved  stylistically  in
terms  of  topic  development,  for  instance.
The  participants  were  required  to  revise  the
drafts  they  had  submitted  based  on  the
feedback they had received and return them
to the teacher the following session. The two
groups were told that their final score would
be  the  average  score  for  all  the  scores  they
had  received  for  their  assignments  during
the course. Both groups wrote 9 assignments
during  the  course  including  the  pretest,  and
the posttest. However, they did not have the
opportunity  to  revise  their  drafts  for  the
posttest.  As  such,  they  received  comments
on  only  8  assignments  during  the  whole
course.  Their  final  exam  was  regarded  as
their posttest.  
Up to this point, the procedure followed was
the  same  for  both  the  control  and  treatment
groups.  However,  the  two  differed  in  one
major aspect. The scores given to the essays
written by learners in the control group were
fixed,  that  is,  they  did  not  change  after  the
revisions  made  by  learners,  but  in  the  case
of  the  treatment  group,  learners  could
improve  their  scores  by  the  revisions  they
made.  For  example,  a  learner  who  had
received  14  out  of  20  for  the  draft  she  had
submitted  could  revise  her  sample  based  on
the  feedback  she  had  received  and  improve
her score. She could receive 16, or 18 or any
other  score  based  on  the  quality  of  her
revised  sample.  She  could  even  receive  the
same  score  in  case  the  revisions  were  not
satisfactory. The revised samples were again
commented  on  and  returned.  The  learners
had  one  more  opportunity  to  revise  their
returned  samples  and  undergo  the  same
procedure.  This  is  what  we  call  Draft
Specific Scoring.
Both  groups  received  a  sample  of  the  score
profile in which the instructor would  record
their  scores  in  order  to  come  up  with  their
final  score  at  the  end  of  the  semester.  Their
final  score  would  be  the  mean  of  all  the

scores  they  received  on  their  assignments
during  the  semester.  For  the  treatment
group,  the  final  score  they  received  on  the
last  revision  they  submitted  was  taken  into
account  while  for  the  control  group  the
single  score  they  received  for  each  score
were used to calculate their final score. They
were  also  recommended  to  keep  a  similar
profile  for  themselves.  Here  are  the  sample
score profiles for both treatment and control

Performance  measures:  Fluency,
grammatical complexity, and accuracy
Regarding  the  fluency  measures,  a  number
of  measures  were  present  to  choose  from.
Chandler  (2003)  used  the  amount  of  time  it
took her participants to write an assignment.
She  did  so  because  the  length  of  each
assignment  was  fixed.  However,  Truscott
(2004)  objected  to  that.  Truscott  believes
that  the  number  of  words  must  be  the
measure  used  to  assess  fluency.  The  studies
done  before  Chandler  (2003)  had  also  used
the number written words as the measure of
fluency.  The  same  measure  is  also  used  in
the present study as the measure of fluency.  
In order to check for the complexity of texts
written by students in both groups over time,
two  measures  were  examined  as  introduced
by  Wolfe-Quintero,  Inagaki,  and  Kim
(1998) as some of the best measures used in
the  literature:  the  ratio  of  the  number  of
clauses  to  the  number  of  T-units,  and  the
number  of  dependent  clauses  used.  The
second measure was also used by Robb et al.
(1986)  to  check  learners’  change  in
grammatical  complexity.  Maybe  this
measure  can  be  regarded  as  a  more
straightforward  measure  because  it  is  in  the
form  of  frequency  rather  than  ratio  and  can
be  more  easily  interpreted  as  it  is  affected
only by one index not two as in a ratio.
In  the  case  of  checking  the  change  in
learners’ accuracy level, the ratio  of  error-free  T-units  to  the  number  of  T-units  was
used  as  introduced  as  the  best  measure  of
accuracy  by  Wolfe-Quintero,  Inagaki,  and
Kim (1998).   
In  order  to  be  consistent  and  accurate  in
counting  the  number  of  different  elements
such  as  T-units,  error-free  T-units,
dependent  clauses,  and  the  number  of
clauses in participants’ samples, there had to
be  an  operational  definition  for  each.  A
dependent  clause  could  be  any  type  of
adverb  clauses,  adjective  clauses,  or  noun
clauses.  All  reduced  clauses  were  also
counted.  An  independent  clause  was  one
which was complete in meaning and did not
need  any  other  clause  to  complete  it.  A  T-unit  was  an  independent  clause  with  all  the
dependent  clauses  attached  to  it.  As  such,
every  sentence  including  only  one
independent  clause  was  also  a  T-unit
(Wolfe-Quintero,  Inagaki,  and  Kim,  1998).
An error-free T-unit was a T-unit which did
not include any kind of error but for spelling
and  punctuation.  All  the  writing  samples
were  rated  with  only  one  rater  for  the
measures  in  fluency,  grammatical
complexity,  and  accuracy.  As  Chandler
(2003) states, in such studies, the intra-rater
reliability  is  more  important  than  the  inter-rater reliability. The intra rater reliability for
all  the  measures  was  above  .94.  In  order  to
check  the  change  in  learners’  fluency,
grammatical  complexity,  and  accuracy,
either  the  gain  scores  were  checked  or  the
SPANOVA was used.  
Due  to  the  design  of  the  study,  SPANOVA
could  be  the  best  statistical  test  for  data
analysis.  However,  this  test  has  some
underlying  assumption  which  must  be  met.
In  this  section  for  research  questions  in
which  such  assumptions  were  met,  the
results  of  SPANOVA  were  reported.  In
other cases, the gain score analysis was used
as  a  good  substitute  to  the  use  of
The  first  research  question  addressed  the
existence  of  any  significant  change  in
learners’  fluency  of  writing  and  the
difference  between  the  two  groups  as  a
result  of  the  intervention  received  by  the
treatment  group.  A  SPANOVA  was
performed for the two groups across the two
time  periods  (pretest,  and  the  posttest).
There  was  a  significant  interaction  between
time and group, Wilks’ Lambda = .74, F (1,
55) = 18.96, p < .0005, partial eta squared =
.26.  There  was  a  substantial  main  effect  for
time,  Wilks’  Lambda  =  .57,  F  (1,  55)  =
41.04,  p  <  .0005,  partial  eta  squared  =
.43.However,  the  main  effect  for  Group,
comparing  the  effect  of  the  intervention  on
the  two  groups,  was  not  found  statistically
significant,  F  (1,  55)  =  1.02,  p  =  .32,
suggesting  a  lack  of  benefit  for  any  group
over  the  other  one  and  an  improvement  for
both groups in the number of words written.
It  is  worth  mentioning  that  according  to
Cohen  (1988,  pp.  284-7),  .01  eta  squared
shows  small  effect,  .06  shows  moderate
effect, and .13 represents a large effect size.
Table 1 summarizes the descriptive statistics
for the two groups across time.

The  second  research  question  addressed  the
change in learners’ grammatical complexity
of texts written across time from the pretest
to  the  posttest.  Since  the  picture  looks
somewhat blurred after using SPANOVA, it
seems  reasonable  to  analyze  the  data  using
another  procedure.  The  comparison  of  the
gain scores of the two groups from pretest to
posttest  is  a  good  substitute  to  the  use  of
SPANOVA  and  is  mathematically  the  same
as  that  (Anderson,  Auquier,  Hauck,  Oakes,
Vandaele, & Weisberg, 1980).
Regarding  the  first  measure  of  grammatical
complexity, that is, the ratio of the clauses to
T-units,  there  was  no  significant  difference
between the gain scores of the two groups at
the end of the instruction,  t (55) = -.25, p =
.79.  The  paired  samples  t  tests  run  between
each  group’s pretest to posttest showed no
significant  difference  for  the  treatment
group  [t  (25)  =  1.33,  p  =  .20],  but  for  the
control  group,  it  was  found  statistically
significant,  t  (30)  =  3.86,  p  =  .00,  eta squared = .33.

Regarding  the  second  measure  of
grammatical complexity, that is, the number
of  dependent  clauses  used,  a  SPANOVA
was performed for the two groups across the
two  time  periods  (pretest,  and  posttest).
There  was  a  significant  interaction  between
time and group, Wilks’ Lambda = .91, F (1,
55) = 5.24, p = .03, partial eta squared = .09.
There was a substantial main effect for time,
Wilks’ Lambda = .79, F (1, 55) = 14.80, p <
.0005,  partial  eta  squared  =  .21.  However,
the  main  effect  for  Group,  comparing  the
effect of the intervention on the two groups,
was  not  found  statistically  significant,  F  (1,
55)  =.90,  p  =  .35,  suggesting  a  lack  of
benefit  for  any  group  over  the  other  one
though they both had significantly improved
over  time.  Table  3  summarizes  the
descriptive  statistics  for  the  two  groups
across time.

The analysis of the gain score also shows the
same pattern. The Mann-Whitney U test run
between  the  gain  scores  of  the  two  groups
was  not  found  statistically  significant,  U  =
288,  z  =  -1.85,  p  =  .06.  The  Wilcoxon
Signed Rank tests between the two groups’
change  from  pretest  to  posttest  showed
significant differences for both the treatment
group,  z  =  -  2.63,  p  =  .01,  and  the  control
group, z = -2.41, p = .02.
All the above statistics indicate that as in the
case  of  previous  measure  of  grammatical
complexity,  no  significant  difference  was
observed  between  the  two  groups  in  the
complexity  of  texts  they  wrote.  However,
unlike  the  previous  measure,  this  measure
showed  a  significant  improvement  in  both
groups’ complexity of texts they wrote.
The  last  question  checked  whether  the  two
groups did not differ from each other in the
accuracy  of  texts  they  wrote  across  time
from  pretest  to  posttest.  The  data  were
analyzed  using  gain  score  procedure.  The
independent  samples  t  test  run  to  compare
the two groups’ gain scores in accuracy was
found significant, t (55) = 2.48, p = .02, Eta
squared  =  .10  which  is  a  large  effect  size.
Tables  4  and  5  summarize  the  descriptive
statistics  for  the  two  groups’  gain  scores.
Moreover,  the  difference  between  the
treatment group’s mean of accuracy measure
from  pretest  to  posttest  was  statistically
significant,  t  (25)  =  -2.82,  p  =  .01  with  a
quite  large  effect  size  (Eta  squared  =  .24).
However,  this  change  was  not  found
statistically significant for the control group,
t  (30)  =  1.14,  p  =  .26,  suggesting  an
advantage  for  the  treatment  group  over  the
control  group.  This  shows  that  while  DSS
was successful in improving the accuracy of
texts written by learners across the course of
instruction,  the  control  group  did  not
succeed in improving in accuracy.

In  the  present  study,  as  an  attempt  to  find  a
solution  to  the  long-lasting  problems
grading  and  even  corrective  feedback  were
said  to  cause,  it  was  tried  to  examine  the
effect  of  Draft-Specific  Scoring  on  the
fluency,  grammatical  complexity,  and
accuracy  of  the  texts  learners  write.  This
was  mainly  a  response  to  the  previous
research  in  the  field  which  indicates  that
learners  receiving  corrective  feedback  write
shorter  and  simpler  texts  due  to  the  use  of
avoidance strategy while their accuracy does
not improve.
While both groups significantly improved in
fluency  from  pretest  to  posttest,  the
difference  between  the  two  groups  was  not
found  statistically  significant  even  though
the  treatment  group  had  outperformed  the
control  group  by  55  words  in  the  posttest.
This  pattern  of  results  suggests  that  what
Truscott  states  about  the  disadvantage  for
the  correction  group  in  fluency  is  not  true
because even the control group improved in
In  the  case  of  change  in  learners’
grammatical  complexity  of  the  written  texts
over  time,  the  measure  involving  ratio
showed  no  difference  between  the  gain
scores of the two groups. However, based on
the  descriptive  statistics,  both  groups  had  a
decrease  in  the  complexity  of  their  written
texts.  Although  this  decrease  was
statistically significant for the control group,
it was not for the treatment group.
Since this first measure was in the form of a
ratio,  it  was  affected  by  two  variables,  the
numerator and the denominator. The change
in  any  one  of  these  can  have  its  own
interpretation  while  the  combination  of  the
two  makes  it  very  difficult  to  interpret.
Therefore,  the  second  measure,  the  number
of  dependent  clauses,  can  be  a  better  index.
Maybe that was why Robb et al. (1986) also
used this measure for checking grammatical
complexity.  The  results  of  checking  this
measure  indicate  that  not  only  did  the
complexity  of  learners’  texts  not  decrease,
but  it  actually  increased  over  time.  This
increase  was  significantly  different  for  both
groups  but  not  from  each  other.  The
observed  pattern  of  results  regarding
grammatical  complexity  is  in  line  with  that
in  Robb  et  al.  (1986).  All  in  all,  these
findings  indicate  that  at  least  even  if  the
provision  of  corrective  feedback  plus  DSS
does  not  increase  the  grammatical
complexity of the learners’ texts, it does not
let it decrease.
Regarding  the  final  research  question,
examining  the  change  in  learners’  level  of
accuracy, the  results point to the superiority
of  DSS  approach  over  the  more  traditional
methods  of  feedback  provision.  While
learners  receiving  corrective  feedback  alone
did  not  improve  in  accuracy,  the  ones
receiving  corrective  feedback  plus  DSS  did
improve in accuracy over time.  
It  seems  that  Truscott  (1996,  2004,  2007)
has  been  right  to  some  extent  regarding  the
behavior  of  learners  receiving  corrective
feedback  alone.  The  control  group  was
observed  not  improving  in  accuracy.
Regarding  grammatical  complexity,  it
showed  a  significant  decline  according  to
one  of  the  measures  and  showed  a
significant  improvement  according  to
another measure more commonly used in the
literature.  The  control  group,  however,
improved  in  fluency,  which  contradicts
Truscott’s prediction. On the other hand, the
treatment  group  receiving  corrective
feedback  plus  DSS  proved  to  be  more
successful  in  improving  in  fluency,
grammatical  complexity,  and  accuracy.
Even  when  learners  receiving  corrective
feedback  alone  improved  in  a  measure,
those  receiving  corrective  feedback  plus
DSS  could  outperform  them.  This  shows
that  DSS  has  the  potential  to  overcome  the
weaknesses  traditional  methods  of  feedback
provision have.
DSS  also  seems  to  be  more  consistent  with
the process approach to writing in which the
emphasis  is  on  mid  drafts  rather  than  final
drafts.  Feedback  on  mid  drafts  assume  a
much  higher  importance  to  the  extent  that
Muncie  (2000)  states  that  if  feedback  is
going  to  work,  it  does  so  on  mid  drafts.
Moreover,  many  studies  (Ellis  &  He,  1999;
Ellis,  Tanaka,  &  Yamazaki,  1994;  Long,
Inagaki,  &  Ortega,  1998;  Mackey,  1999;
Mackey  &  Oliver,  2002;  Mackey  &  Philip,
1998;  McDonough,  2005)  have  connected
interactional  feedback  with  L2  learning
since  it  causes  learners  to  notice  L2  forms.
They  are  all  based  on  Long’s interactional
hypothesis (Long, 1996, 2006). He proposes
that  due  to  the  role  of  interaction  in
connecting  “input,  internal  learner
capacities,  particularly  selective  attention,
and  output  in  productive  ways,”
interactional  processes  can  facilitate
language  learning  (Long,  1996,  pp.  451-452). Such helpful processes can include the
negotiation of meaning and the provision of
recasts,  both  of  which  regarded  as  kinds  of
corrective  feedback  to  help  learners  detect
their  problematic  utterances.  One  process
that  can  arise  from  such  feedback  is
modified  output  (Swain,  2005),  which  can
be  helpful  in  language  learning  (Mackey,
2006).  In  addition,  no  matter  in
conversational  interactions  or  in  written
interactions,  learning  will  not  occur  if  there
is  not  a  form  of  noticing  on  the  part  of
learners.  In  case  learners  do  not  pay
attention  or  attend  to  the  feedback  the
teacher provides them with, there will be no
L2 development. In case they notice it, but it
does not result in any modified output, again
whether  learning  has  occurred  or  whether
the  potential  for  learning  has  been  fully
fulfilled is questionable.
On  the  one  hand,  by  motivating  learners  to
attend  to  teacher  feedback,  DSS  is  a  device
to  ensure  learners’  paying  attention  to
teacher  feedback  and  their  noticing  of  that.
On  the  other  hand,  by  requiring  them  to
revise  their  drafts,  it  helps  them  have
modified  output.  Since  understanding
teacher  feedback  and  teacher  intention  has
not always been easy for learners, when they
attempt  to  incorporate  teacher  feedback  in
such  a  system,  there  are  times  when
questions  are  raised  for  them  about  teacher
intention  by,  for  example,  underlining  a
sentence. It is also possible that they revise a
sentence  underlined  by  the  teacher,  but  in
the  returned  draft,  they  observe  that  the
same  sentence  is  underlined  again.  In  usual
systems of evaluation, this usually results in
frustration  on  the  part  of  the  learners
resulting in the abandonment of the draft by
him.  However,  in  DSS  learners,  having  a
good  reason  for  it,  consult  with  the  teacher
about  his  or  her  intention.  This  is  what  can
be  called  the  negotiation  of  meaning.  As
such,  it  can  be  observed  that  DSS  has  the
potential  to  incorporate  all  the  necessary
processes  for  helping  learners  develop  their
Using DSS, teachers will not have to change
the  principles  underlying  their  practice.
Teachers  are  repeatedly  reported  to  express
their  belief  in  grading.  Grading  also  helps
teachers  have  a  better  overall  assessment  of
their  students  at  the  end  of  the  semester
(Lee,  2009).  Teachers,  however,  are  aware
of  the  harm  grading  may  do  to  learners.
They  know  when  learners  see  grades  on
their  paper,  they  will  most  probably  ignore
teacher comments and feedback (Lee, 2009),
but  still  they  continue  to  grading  not  only
because  of  their  belief  in  grading  and
actually  their  kind  of  obligation  for  it,  but
also because of their students’ demands for
that.  Students  strongly  demand  for  grades
because  grades  help  them  evaluate
themselves  easier.  Grades  are  also  more
easily  interpreted  than  sometimes  elaborate
comments  all  over  their  paper  (Lee,  2008).
If  teachers  continue  grading,  learners  will
pay  less  attention  to  their  feedback.  If  they
stop grading, they will face new problems.  
DSS  lets  teachers  continue  their  preferred
practices  while  minimizing  the  negative
effect  of  grading  and  changing  its  weak
point  to  strength.  It  uses  grading  as  a
motivating  factor  which  not  only  does  not
divert  learners’  attention  from  teacher
feedback, but it also ensures their attendance
to it.
DSS  also  addresses  Hamp-Lyons’  (2007)
concern. She believes that in most contexts,
writing  assessment  is  taking  over  writing
instruction. As a  result,  grading and scoring
student  writing  is  increasingly  receiving
more  attention.  DSS  changes  the  old
practice in which grading was ‘the end’ in
the  story  of  writing  instruction.  It  makes
grading a new ‘once upon a time’ in each
draft.  It  combines  assessment  with
instruction  without  omitting  any.  It  keeps
both  assessment  and  instruction  in  one  go.
Learners  do  not  only  become  aware  of  the
teacher’s evaluation of their work, but they
also  know  that  this  is  the  beginning  of  the
revision process. They know that when they
receive  a  grade  on  their  writing  sample,  it
works  like  a  compass  to  be  used  with
teacher  feedback  in  order  to  improve  their
writing  skill  and  find  their  way  to  a  better
All  in  all, it  seems  that what  is  important  is
not  whether  teachers  provide  their  students
with corrective feedback. What is of utmost
importance is whether learners’ attend to the
feedback they are provided with. Even mere
attendance  cannot  be  the  end  of  the  story.
Learners  need  to  attend  and  apply  the
corrective  feedback  they  receive.  In  other
words, learners need to  notice the input and
try  to  have  an  output  based  on  the  intake
they  had.  This  way,  teachers’  efforts  are
more likely to result in the desired outcome.
Draft-Specific  Scoring,  as  a  technique
ensuring such a process, can be quite helpful
in pursuing such instructional objectives.

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