Reading L1 and L2 Writing: An Eye-tracking Study of TESOL Rater Behavior


Eye Movements, Native Language, English (Second Language), Second Language Learning, Second Language Instruction, Writing (Composition), Essays, Writing Evaluation, Evaluators, Scoring, Reading Processes, College Students, Grammar, Teacher Attitudes, Language Usage, Comparative Analysis, Language Teachers, Attention Control, Scoring Rubrics, Connected Discourse


Researchers have found numerous differences in the approaches raters take to the complex task of essay rating including differences when rating native (L1) and non-native (L2) English writing. Yet less is known about raters' reading practices while scoring those essays. This small-scale study uses eye-tracking technology and reflective protocols to examine the reading behavior of TESOL teachers who evaluated university-level L1 and L2 writing. Results from the eye-tracking component indicate that the teachers read the rhetorical, organizational, and grammatical features of an L1 text more deliberately while skimming through and then returning to rhetorical features of an L2 text and initially skipping over many L2 grammatical structures. In reflective interviews, the teachers also reported more consensus on their approach to evaluating grammar and organization than word choice and rhetoric. While these findings corroborate prior research comparing the rating of L1 and L2 writing, they promise to expand our understanding of rating processes by reflecting the teachers' reading practices and attentional focus while rating. Moreover, the study demonstrates the potential for using eye-tracking research to unobtrusively investigate the reading behaviors involved in assessing L1 and L2 writing.

Original Publication Citation

*Eckstein, G., Schramm, W., Noxon, M., & Snyder, J.(2019). Reading L1 and L2 writing: An eye-tracking study of TESOL rater behavior. TESL-EJ,23(1), 1-24.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



The Electronic Journal for English as a Second Language







University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor