Some researchers believe that error correction is useless. Ferris, however, argues that well-constructed error feedback and grammar mini lessons can actually be quite valuable to learners' development and second language acquisition. The chapter explores various issues related to such feedback.
Teachers should consider a variety of issues and questions raised, such as:
- Which errors to correct
- When to provide feedback
- How to give feedback
- How to help students process and utilize feedback effectively
- How to avoid the burnout which can occur on the part of teachers who provide feedback
When choosing which errors to mark, it is useful and most effective to focus on patterns of errors. Don't focus on writing style (except when teaching very advanced students) for style is more likely acquired from exposure to the target language.
When deciding which errors to mark, the answer comes in three stages of understanding:
- Understanding the types of errors that are most common. Such errors spread across morphological, lexical, syntactic and mechanical categories, and different errors need different types of treatment.
- Understanding that different students make different types of errors. There are differences between international students and permanent residents. Contrastive analysis must also be taken into consideration when considering students' L1s. There are differences in L2 proficiency as well, and the random/ emergent and systematic/stabilization error recognition phases should be understood as they relate to different levels.
- Understanding the need to prioritize error feedback for individual students. Decide which errors to mark based on global versus local versus frequent errors and structures elicited by the assignment.
Not marking errors on a draft might be a missed teaching opportunity. L2 student writers often benefit from simultaneous feedback on both content and form (on the same draft). At the same time, students aren't likely to go back and correct marked errors on a completed project.
Consider when to give direct versus indirect feedback. Also consider error location versus error identification, larger versus smaller error categories, codes versus symbols versus verbal comments and textual correction versus end notes. Be sure not to put words into students' mouths or assume that you know what they mean (if it is unclear).
It is important to help students understand and utilize error correction.
It is also important to carefully consider how to conserve energy and avoid burnout
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