Writing Circles: developing learner self-efficacy and agency through peer review activities


  • David Busby Bath University
  • Cathy Malone c.malone@leeds.ac.uk




student anxiety, academic self-efficacy, peer review, writing circles


This paper outlines evaluation of practitioner research into a writing development intervention used with a group of international students studying at Masters level in a UK university. The research was motivated by our understanding that academic writing provokes significant anxiety for students. Our methodology was informed by evidence in the literature pointing to the utility of group learning and giving and receiving peer feedback. We aimed to explore the extent to which structured writing analysis and facilitated group feedback activities (conducted through writing circles) influenced student perceptions of confidence in academic writing. Our thesis was that instruction in identifying and noticing elements of effective disciplinary writing combined with writing circles cycles of review and redrafting would lead to an improvement in measures of confidence in academic writing. We examined the impact on students through interviews in addition to pre- and post-intervention questionnaires which assessed self-confidence, anxiety and self-efficacy. This paper presents a clear, practical solution to the difficult problem of increasing students’ confidence in undertaking academic writing. Our results indicate a positive impact on overall confidence in academic writing, increased perception of agency and a decrease in anxiety. The findings align with a large body of research which indicate the positive impact on students on being given opportunity to give and receive feedback on their work. This case study demonstrates the value of writing circles as a  practical activity that acts as a generative frame for student activity. It affirms value of interdisciplinary practice sharing.

Author Biographies

David Busby, Bath University

David Busby is Head of Digital and Academic Skills, at the University of Bath. Interests include teaching academic study skills/EAP, Developing writing skills for HE, Second Language Teacher Education and Learner Agency and Self-Efficacy.

Cathy Malone, c.malone@leeds.ac.uk

I work in Organisational Development team at Leeds University. With a background in TESOL, I have published on academic literacy development in HE and associated embedded learning development initiatives. I have a particular interest in working collaboratively with students and uses of feedback to drive learning.


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How to Cite

Busby, D. and Malone, C. (2023) “Writing Circles: developing learner self-efficacy and agency through peer review activities ”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (27). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi27.872.