“I hate when she says word choice”: Critical discourse analysis of feedback on English as an Additional Language academic writing using a cognitive (in)justices lens

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Struch, Joanne
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In this study, I conceptualize feedback as a complex discourse that is rooted in an imbalance of power. The primary objective of this research was to investigate assumptions about academic writing in English that are present in feedback on the writing of English as an additional language (EAL) students in a Canadian university. A second objective was to investigate how accessible the academic construct of feedback on written assignments is to students whose first language is not English. To carry out this investigation, I used a critical discourse analysis method, which engaged both the students and their instructors, to characterize and analyze the feedback on the disciplinary academic writing of five self-identified EAL students in a university setting. The theoretical lens for this study is cognitive (in)justices. This lens draws together concepts of epistemic injustice (Fricker 2007) and epistemology of blindness (Santos, 2007) to question how knowledge practices, particularly in North America, reflect a mono-epistemicism that excludes non-dominant knowledges or ways of knowing. The analysis uses Fairclough’s (1995) three-dimensions of discourse analysis to characterize the types, language, and focus of the feedback, analyze the reception and production of the feedback, and discuss the sociocultural practice in which the feedback is set. As a whole, this three-part analysis problematizes feedback on the disciplinary academic writing of EAL students. There are dissonances between the feedback text, student interpretations of the text, and reported instructor purposes for the text that raise further questions about the role of feedback in perpetuating power structures in educational settings and about the perceived and actual purposes of feedback in university practice. The examination suggests that certain types of feedback could privilege some students over others based on their knowledge of language structures, academic discourse, and educational practices in North American postsecondary settings.
Feedback, Academic writing, English as an additional language, Critical discourse analysis, Cognitive justice, Epistemic injustice