Error Correction and Feedback – #eltchinwag summary – 20/10/14

An #eltchinwag summary written by Lou McLaughlin (DELTA, MA(ELT), PhD 

LMcL

Lou McLaughlin

Lou has been working in the ELT sector as a teacher trainer, DOS and Director for nearly twenty years. She has worked abroad in Turkey, Spain, Italy, Russia, Kazakhstan and China in the ELT sector. Her main interest areas are teacher cognition, young learner teaching/ training and management as well as online training. Lou is a frequent speaker at international conferences e.g. TESOL, IATEFL. She is the network coordinator for the IATEFL YLTSIG and is also the president of ELT Ireland.

Lots of chat and “feedback” during this #eltchinwag, despite twitter playing up a little! We looked at quite a few aspects of correction and how this could be done to best motivate students. We kicked off the evening by defining what an error was:

What is an error?

This got us off to a good start, with discussion looking at slips and mistakes and also questioning whether understanding and intelligibility were part of the same thing as regards error. @KateLloyd_05 also got us thinking about the native speaker angle and whether something was regarded as incorrect if said by a native speaker. In relation to student error, the general consensus was that:

@Jane_Seely: An incorrect utterance borne from incomplete or improper acquisition of the TL

What should be corrected, how and by who(m)?

Context featured a lot when we talked about the answer to these questions. When context was considered it accounted for speaking/writing and fluency/accuracy divide. @Hoprea pointed out that it was important to consider all aspects of the language as well and not just focus on grammar, and talking about the focus being the goal of the learner. As @Jane_Seely mentioned, students have different priorities e.g. FCE student / general English student.

Both @KateLloyd05 and @LahiffP agreed that in addition to teacher correction, both self-correction and peer correction should also be encouraged in the classroom. This helps to share the responsibility amongst the students as classmates.

Student Motivation: Is it worse for student motivation to correct too much or too little?

This question generated quite a bit of discussion because there were so many aspects to consider:

@HadaLitim: students want fluency but only want us to focus on accuracy

@KateLlyod05: have a new teacher now who hot correct everything

@Jane_Seely: students often ask for more but I haven’t yet been asked to correct them less

@Noreen_Lam: students ask for lots of correc’n & feel like they aren’t getting enuf esp higher levels

One way of getting round the difficulties and challenges mentioned above was that of talking to the students and giving them input on the type of correction that they wanted @McLaughlinLou @LahiffP. This gives ownership to the students and also helps the teacher cater for individual student needs while managing a large class. @HadaLitim described getting students involved in error correction by putting the errors on the IWB and letting them work in groups to correct them. There are a number of ways to do this so as students don’t feel singled out e.g. give plenty of examples, mix samples up etc.

How can we make feedback both efficient and effective?

Ensuring that feedback is both efficient and effective is a challenge as we don’t want student errors to become fossilised @HadaLitim There was lots of ideas about how to ensure that feedback was regularly taking place in the classroom but the most important of all related to the rapport that the teacher had with the students. This helps the teacher to understand when and how to correct the students. @LahiffP believed that personalised feedback is most beneficial for students but this can be challenging for teachers due to time constraints. It is not always feasible to keep track, make note and provide individual attention to students. @cellointensive pointed out that getting students to notice the errors was the first step in all areas of feedback.

Is there any use in feedback if students don’t get a chance to do the task again?

@hoprea pointed out that “feedback is only useful if we get students to think about it”. This doesn’t necessarily mean getting the students to repeat the task again but does get them to engage with it in some way. If they are engaged or paying attention to it then chances are the feedback itself becomes irrelevant @Jane_Seely @KateLloyd05 Although, if we are going to “demand high” @hoprea then perhaps this is one of the easiest ways to check for improvement or development.

On wrapping up, #eltchinwag agreed that whatever method is employed, whether repeating tasks or not, giving feedback is an area that teachers can continue to experiment and explore with their students.

Links:

Thanks to everyone who took part in this #eltchinwag. Looking forward to seeing you all at the next one.

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