A Description of Student Response Groups in the Writing Process of Remedial Middle School Students

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The purpose of this study was to describe what transpires when remedial middle school student writers engage in student response groups. The goals of the study were to describe the patterns of revision and the patterns of group interaction. A field study approach was used to gather data during a six week summer school session by examining students' writings, observing student response group sessions, and interviewing students. The data gathered from various sources, allowing for triangulation, were analyzed to determine patterns of revision and patterns of group interaction. Data were examined from two student response groups through nine writing episodes. Writing episodes were analyzed according to three time frames: 1) Responding to the First Draft of the Writing; 2 ) Writing the Second Draft; and 3) Editing the Second Draft. Student interviews were analyzed to gain further insight into the process. Finding are presented in the areas of revision and group interaction. Revision patterns that emerged are: a) students consider the flow of language as they compose; b) students view revision as including new information; c) writing is seen as a means of communication; d) students move from a focus on content to a consideration of mechanics; and e) students view their writing as malleable. Group interaction data revealed the following patterns: a) students' behavior is self-governing; b) group members process fairly equal status; c) trusting relationships develop; and d) established guidelines for responding are followed. This study suggests that student response groups can be beneficial in guiding students through the writing process. The process appears especially appropriate for adolescent students, as it allows teachers to capitalize on the natural development of peer group relationships. Teachers should model the response group process and carefully monitor the groups. Student response groups may be used to promote student involvement with the writing process and to make revision meaningful. Student questions worthy of further investigation are raised through this study. Other researchers might study students of different ages, investigate the implementation of the process in content subjects, complete a qualitative analysis of writings, or examine the decision making process employed by students to gain a better understanding of the benefits of the response group process.