Feedback has typically been studied as a means of improving academic performance. Few studies inquire into the processes by which feedback shapes student identity. The authors carry out a discourse analysis of written comments to explore how feedback is discursively constructed by both teachers and students. Analysis of written feedback, think-aloud protocols, and semi-structured interviews work to arrive at an understanding of how feedback is interpreted by both teachers and students, paying special attention to how such interpretations contribute to a student’s identity. The following themes emerged as likely interpretations: feedback as a discourse of correction, feedback as a set of ontological metaphors, and feedback as a process of rhetorical listening. The discourse analysis reveals that while teachers tend to interpret feedback as a means of correcting a student’s text, students’ interpretations of feedback contribute to the construction of their selves. Reflecting on these results, the authors suggest teachers construct feedback as a personal conversation that remains sensitive to the immediate personal effects on students.
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