From autopsy to autonomy in writing centres: Postgraduate students' response to two forms of feedback in a health professions education module

  • Sharifa Daniels Stellenbosch University
  • Rose Richards Stellenbosch University
Keywords: Writing centres, writing consultations, peer feedback, postgraduate students, medical education


In post-apartheid South Africa, writing centres exist in almost every university to address the academic writing needs of students. At Stellenbosch University Writing Lab, writing consultants use collaborative learning and peer feedback in their work with writers in one-to-one consultations. As part of a larger research project about how students in a Health Professions Education Master’s degree responded to different types of feedback, our study focuses on whether the feedback received in a writing consultation compares to, or differs from, the feedback from the class group members. Our findings suggest that in general the students were open to interventions such as writing consultations. Furthermore, peer feedback from both a class group member as well as a writing consultant was experienced as useful. The study further shows that the consultants’ approach to giving feedback was in line with the pedagogy practised in writing centres. The article concludes with measures that were implemented to address uncertainties identified in the study. We recommend that the purpose of consultations be clarified to lecturers, that consultations be integrated in the writing process before the assignment is marked and, to minimise role confusion, that consultants describe to students the way consultations work at the beginning of the consultation. 

Author Biographies

Sharifa Daniels, Stellenbosch University
Language CentreHead: Postgraduate Development and Writng Lab (Afrikaans)
Rose Richards, Stellenbosch University
Language CentreHead: Research and Writing Lab (English)