The Effects of Teacher Background on How Teachers Assess Native-Like and Nonnative-Like Grammar Errors: An Eye-Tracking Study

Wesley Makoto Schramm, Brigham Young University


Studies have shown that composition and L2 writing teachers give different scores (Golombek, Weigle, Boldt, & Valsecchi, 2003) and focus on different features (Brown, 1991) when assessing student writing, which is assumed to be due to the differences in their background and training (Santos, 1992; Atkinson & Ramanathan, 1995). Error gravity is thought to be one reason why composition and L2 writing teachers give different scores (Rifkin & Roberts, 1995). Common methods for examining error gravity were to analyze scores and responses given by the raters and to have raters reflect on the rating process and analyze their responses. Only one study had used eye-tracking methodology to explore the raters’ reading behaviors (Eckstein, Briney, Chan & Blackwell, 2018). The current study built on Eckstein et al.’s study to examine how composition and L2 writing teachers rate grammar errors differently. The researchers identified three native-like errors and three nonnative-like errors and introduced them into eight paragraphs written by students in a first-year composition class. The researchers asked composition and L2 writing teachers to read and assess the eight paragraphs while an eye-tracker measured their eye-movements. We assume that what raters look at while assessing the paragraphs reflects what they are cognitively processing (Rayner, 1998). The results indicate that composition and L2 writing teachers assign significantly different scores to grammar (L2 writing teachers assign higher scores), yet their reading behaviors are similar. This indicates that teachers with different backgrounds do not process grammar errors differently, but rather reach different scores based on other differences.