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Interview with Valeria Zunino Edelsberg on Responsive Feedback

"Responsive Feedback on Writing for Emergent Bilingual Students"


Valeria Zunino Edelsberg is a Ph.D. student in the School of Education at UC Davis. Her research is focused on formative assessment, with a particular interest in studying the characteristics of effective and appropriate feedback for English learners and teachers’ preparation for implementing formative assessment.

Valeria’s work experience has been mainly in public institutions in Chile, such as the Ministry of Education and the Education Quality Assurance Agency. In the US, she has worked as a teacher assistant for the School of Education and the Chicano Studies Department, as a researcher for Global Affairs and the School of Education, as an independent contractor at the Northwestern Evaluation Association (NWEA), and as a consultor for UNESCO. Valeria is also vice-president of FEVED, a group of Chilean researchers with a common interest in educational assessment issues in Chile, and vice-president of the Chilean Association at Davis.

Valeria gave a talk for the Cluster on Language Research entitled “Responsive feedback on writing for emergent bilingual students” on Monday, October 23, 2023! We interviewed Valeria by asking her to discuss some of the topics of her talk, including her current research project and her work experience.


1. What inspired you to pursue a Ph.D. in Education at UC Davis?

In my country, Chile, the quality of education children receive depends on family income. This issue has always been a great concern to me. I was probably influenced by my father, who worked all his life at Universidad de Chile and fought to make higher education accessible for everyone. Thanks to an agreement between Chile and California, he came to study for a Ph.D. at UC Riverside. I grew up hearing how much he learned at UCR and turned it into my goal.

I was working at the Chilean Department of Education when I decided to apply for a Master's in Education at UC Davis. Although I felt passionate about my job, I thought I was taking on responsibilities that required more robust preparation. Hence, I applied for a Fellowship from the Chilean National Agency for Research and Development (ANID) that allowed me to pursue my Master's in Education at UC Davis and then continue the Ph.D.

2. Your current research focuses on formative assessment in writing. How would you describe formative assessment, and why is formative assessment important in writing contexts?

The formative assessment approach involves changes to how the classroom is typically managed. It is essential to stop thinking that the teacher is the one who delivers knowledge and the student is the one who receives it. Formative assessment sees assessment as a learning process that allows teachers to reflect on their teaching and students to reflect on their learning. Feedback is the key element of formative assessment and the focus of our research. 

Formative assessment can be essential in supporting students in developing their writing skills. From this perspective, students are encouraged to revise, receive feedback, and rewrite their work. At the same time, students continuously self-assess their work and recognize what they need to do to get closer to the learning goal.

Our research is informed by the formative assessment approach and culturally responsive pedagogy. It seeks to uncover some factors that influence how feedback in writing from the teacher is perceived and used by students.

3. Your study analyzes responses to feedback from adolescent students between the ages of 12 and 15. Are there aspects that make this age group unique in how they engage with teacher feedback?

Students between the ages of 12 and 15 become more independent with their own personalities and interests and create a critical view of right or wrong. Also, this period is crucial for their identity formation. In this sense, I think it is crucial to understand how the uptake of feedback can be affected by how culturally and linguistically responsive the feedback is.      

4. You have worked in both Chile and the US. What are one or two differences in approaches to bilingual education that stand out most to you?

While working in Chile, I was not directly involved in bilingual education. However, I worked for several years in the Department of Education and could witness the increasing importance that English as a Second Language has acquired. From 5th grade, all schools have mandatory English classes. I believe the U.S. gives less importance to acquiring a second language, probably because English is the most widely spoken language worldwide.

My main concern regarding how my country approaches bilingualism is related to the increasing number of immigrants that have arrived in Chile whose second language is not Spanish, most of them come from Haiti. I believe Chile hasn´t developed enough knowledge about how to support Spanish learners. In California, there is much more experience and knowledge in how to support emergent bilingual students. For example, translanguaging, the use of all the language resources students bring, regardless if it is English or any other language, is part of the discussion about effective teaching practices in California districts. Unfortunately, in Chile, we are far from that.