Writing Improvement Of University Efl Learners Education Essay

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Language learners have always been subject to committing errors in the course of learning to write in the second language. However, correcting these errors has been the topic of some controversies and debates among researchers and educators. The present study tries to investigate the role of two types of error correction strategies and their impacts on the writing improvement of two groups of university EFL learners in Kerman Islamic Azad University. After selecting and homogenizing the sample groups, a pretest was administered to determine the primary level of the subjects in both groups. Then the experiment was undertaken for 15 sessions for both groups. The only techniques that differentiated the two groups lied in the error correction strategies. When the control group (CG) received only direct feedback from the teacher by having their errors corrected directly by the teacher, the experimental group (EG) was responsible not only to discover the error types underlined by the teacher but also indentify and produce the correct form.A final post test was taken to measure the writing improvement of one group over the other. A t-student test was used to evaluate any difference between the mean scores of the two groups.

Introduction

Language learners have always been subject to committing errors in the course of learning to write in the second language. However, correcting these errors has been the topic of some controversies and debates among researchers and educators. The present study tries to investigate the role of two types of error correction strategies and their impacts on the writing improvement of two groups of university EFL learners in Kerman Islamic Azad University. After selecting and homogenizing the sample groups, a pretest was administered to determine the primary level of the subjects in both groups. Then the experiment was undertaken for 15 sessions for both groups. The only techniques that differentiated the two groups lied in the error correction strategies. When the control group (CG) received only direct feedback from the teacher by having their errors corrected directly by the teacher, the experimental group (EG) was responsible not only to discover the error types underlined by the teacher but also identify and produce the correct form. A final posttest was taken to measure the writing improvement of one group over the other. A t-student test was used to evaluate any difference between the mean scores of the two groups.

language as well. Without the ability to use the language for these purposes, the learners will be considered as imperfect language learners who have been trained to fulfill certain objectives other than the proficiency goals of language teaching and learning. Meanwhile, the acquisition of writing has always been a major ambition of Iranian university students majoring English; meanwhile, it has been regarded as the most ignored skill to develop.

To investigate the problem more deeply, a few obstacles has been identified, the most important of which are the error correction strategies that may leave their negative impacts on the performance of EFL learners.

As it is clear, all learners have their own desires, shortcomings, limitations and abilities, any of which may differ from those of others and this is why to handle all these factors in a given and controlled situation does not seem to be easily possible. When language learners are considered as "whole persons", they are viewed as human beings who emotionally and psychologically are influenced by many involved factors, the most important of which are the teaching and learning strategies employed by the language teacher.

One of the determining factors in the area of teaching writing is error correction strategies. The system selected by the teacher to correct learners' errors can highly assist the learners, motivate them, instruct them, or on the other hand, rehearse them, inhibit them, and de-courage them. To select an appropriate error correction strategy that can consider all these conditions and assist the learners is of great importance. It has to regard the level, age, needs, skill, time, material and all other factors that may some role in the teaching-learning processes.

Statement of the Problem

When learners commit any error type in the course of language learning, it is imperative to have them corrected since if they remain untouched, it is possible for the errors to have been fossilized. However to get learners correct their errors bears some psychological limitations for the learners. If the errors are treated inappropriately, it may damage the learners' improvement as well as their view toward learning the language. Therefore, it is of great importance for a language teacher to correct the learners' errors properly and in due time.

Chastain (1988) has discussed the importance of error correction strategies and their impact on the learners' performance and motivation:

Teachers might well anticipate that students will write less if they have to make corrections in what they write and that having to do so is likely to lead to negative attitude. The major surprise to many teachers is that these same students do not incorporate those corrections into future writing, a phenomenon that is not easy to explain … Three possible explanations of the incongruity between expectations and results come to mind. The first is that seeing the errors and correcting them still does not provide sufficient cognitive information to write the forms correctly in the future. The second is that the negative feelings associated with this approach are so high that the negative affective reaction override the positive cognitive benefits. The third is that having a cognitive understanding of the grammatical structure is not sufficient to eliminate grammatical errors while the writer's attention is focused on the message being communicated. (P, 258)

On the other hand, Rivers (1981) proposes a more radical point of view towards error correction strategies by discussing that "short writing assignments, given at different intervals and then carefully corrected and discussed, provide the most effective form of practice" (P, 307). In other words, learners struggle with some errors when they are exposed to any production activity, here writing. Correcting errors in some situations may be de-motivating and threatening; in other cases, it may direct the learners to avoidance, where the learners prefer to escape their errors.

The Rational of the Study

The study aims at answering the question that what strategy can best assist learners and teachers first to remove the most repeated errors the learners normally struggle with and second what procedures are the most suitable to overcome the negative effects of error correction. In the same way, another question to pose is how correcting errors can be used both as a correcting strategy and teaching aid? The study aims at finding suitable answers for these questions. In the other hand, because error correction strategies imprint their fundamental effects on the learners' performance and their tendency to express themselves reluctantly, there are many aspects that have to be considered in this regard. The idea that it has not yet been proved what a good writing is can make the task of error correction more complicated. Should all writing and errors be corrected? Who is responsible for error identification and correction? What is the role of the teacher and the learner? These are the questions that can be asked and we try to find suitable answers for them.

Meanwhile, the present study tries to prove that by taking suitable measures, error correction strategy can become an assisting factor not as a rehearsing and inhibiting one. To catch this objective, two methods of error correction strategy is used with two groups of learners so as to know which one can best assist them to write correctly.

LITERAURE REVIEW

Chastain (1988) has reported a study in which four different methods of evaluating students' free writing assignments have been suggested: (1) writing responses to the content, (2) marking all grammatical errors and writing in the correct forms, (3) making positive comments and marking errors, and (4) requiring students to correct all errors marked according to a system that indicates the type of error. Chastain suggests that those students who received comments based on the content spent more time preparing the writing assignment, made greater progress than the other three groups, and became more fluent.

Xiaochun (1990) has introduced a few learner-centered strategies for correcting compositions ranging from model correction, pair correction, group correction to circle correction strategies, any of which bear some advantages and pitfalls that are discussed in details.

Broughton et al (1994) postulate that the ultimate goal of writing communicatively does not have to center around correcting errors and spelling mistakes. When evaluating a writing task, there is one essential aspect to consider by observing the nature of the assessment of a writing task which has to be linked to the purpose of writing. Cox (1994) in the same way discusses that it is perfectly appropriate to demand neatness, correct spelling, and features of Standard English in work which has a public purpose. But this may be less appropriate for work with essentially private purposes.

Lewitt (1990) believes that "while teacher-oriented, correctness-centered writing activities destroy student interest; learner-oriented idea-centered writing engages student interest powerfully" (P, 3). He introduces a spiral approach in which the compositions will lead to a "finished" form.

Ghani (1986) in his study introduced a corrective approach to writing. He divided her writing classes into five stages beginning with preparing the information, and then the brainstorming session begins.

Ancker (2000) has reflected his observations regarding error correction strategies by stating that teachers generally encourage self correction and peer correction. He continues that they are less concerned with preventing errors and more focused on developing learners' communicative skills although the learners insist on being corrected persistently.

Broughton et al (1994) introduce three schools of error correction. The quality school which believes that all writing should be corrected for all errors. The quantity school which claims that because committing errors is a sign of the student's progress and they are valuable indication of the learners improvement, they can be ignored. And the third or middle group who state that certain compositions for certain purposes have to be corrected; in other words, there is no one strategy in this respect.

On the other hand, Witbeck (1976) believing that correcting an error in a particular context does not often lead to the elimination of the same kind of error in subsequent contexts, points to the importance of error correction strategies in various situations and introduces "peer correction as one reliable strategy.

Witbeck (1976), Xiaochun (1990), and Doff (1990) have discussed some learner-centered strategies for correcting compositions ranging from model correction, pair correction, group correction to circle correction strategies.

Regarding the other disadvantages of error correction, Dulay (1982) claims that correcting students' grammar can be frustrating. By referring to a number of studies performed on error correction strategies, Dulay adds that correction is not a very reliable tool in helping students overcome errors.

Wood (1993) presents "self-correction strategy". In this procedure, the learners are provided with an opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

Dixon (1986) concerning the pitfalls of red-penciling the students' writings has discussed that by picking out surface errors and circling them in red in order to justify the mark we assign to them, we de-motivate the learners. This type of marking, as he discusses, is time-consuming and discouraging and the language teacher also sees the same errors which are repeated again and again in the compositions. He as a remedy and in order to reduce the marking load believes that we should assign writing projects that require little marking.

Long (1990) states that feedback is a facilitator device in learning a second language. A. Rahimi, et al. (2012) have discussed that over correction or poor correction techniques may de-motivate learners and damage their confidence. Therefore, knowing when and how to correct learner's errors is of great importance to the language teachers.

Based on what Ellis et al. (2006) have discussed, corrective feedback is a kind of response that the learner receives when his/her utterance contains an error. They have claimed the responses contain "(a) an indication that an error has been committed, (b) provision of the correct target language form, or (c) metalinguistic information about the nature of the error, or any combination of these."

According to Rod et al (2006), the type of feedback is based on whether it is implicit or explicit. He stated when the error is implicit, it will be recast. Dabbaghi (2006) investigated the effects of immediate and delayed error correction on students' oral production. He focused his study on learners' pronunciation and chose 70 learners, then divided them into two groups, the immediate correction group and the delayed correction group. The treatment was continued for some sessions and after that a posttest was taken. Besides, students' discussions were recorded and transcribed. He finally concluded if teachers selected one of the two options, i.e. immediate or delayed correction, it would be preferable to them to choose delayed correction. In other words, he considered delayed correction more effective. However, a few studies have proved the effectiveness of direct error feedback. For example, see Komura, 1999; Roberts, 1999; Ferris et all, 2000; and Rennie, 2000.

Research questions and hypothesis

Question 1: Is there any relationship between the delayed-discovery error correction strategy and writing improvement?

Question 2: Is there any relationship between the immediate error correction strategy and their writing improvement?

Research Hypothesis: Based on the given questions, we can formulate two hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: There is relationship between delayed-discovery error correction and writing improvement.

Hypothesis 2: There is relationship between immediate error correction strategy and the writing improvement.

Limitation of the study

One of the limitations of the study is the fact that subjects resort to avoidance.

The other limitation is that writing is an integrative activity but the focus given to the study is working on grammar and structures and other aspects are ignored. In other words, we cannot evaluate the learners' writing improvement as a whole since the goal of the study is focusing on the writing improvement.

The study

The goal of the study is investigating the effect of two error correction strategy on the writing improvement of EFL learners.

Methodology

This is an experimental study in which two groups of EFL learners participate and are taught using an almost two different error correction strategies. They are taught by the same teacher, teaching hours, and materials.

Participants

The subjects of study are made up of groups of university EFL high intermediate learners who are currently studying English in Kerman Azad University. They have to select the advanced writing course, who have to attend their writing classes as a part of their curriculum. The group will be divided into two groups comprise of at least 20 learners, aged between 19 to 28. To select the subjects, we have to use the non-random sampling method since the participants enter the study as a part of their curriculum.

Instruments

The study uses two writing tests as pre and post tests to tap the writing level of the subjects when they enter the program and after they are exposed to the experiment.

The reason for selecting these learners is the fact that:

Writing is a part of their curriculum

They have already mastered basic writing skills of improving simple paragraphs

They have passed their grammar courses.

Since scoring writing tasks are threatened by scorers' subjectivity, each writing will have to be scored by three independent and experienced scorers. The mean score of the three scores will comprise the final score for each learner. This scoring procedure has been advised in order to increase scores reliability.

Procedures

Each group attends their writing classes one session a week, and will continue for 15 weeks. Since the participants are already familiar with the physical form of the paragraph, they are required to write on the given topics suggested by the teacher. As the next step, both groups are required to write on the given topics as a part of their class activity. However, for the CG, their first drafts are normally checked for corrections by the teacher. In other words, the teacher corrects any error and asks the learners to re-write the corrected drafts and submit the final form.

But on the other hand, for EG, the teacher only underlines the errors without making know what the main problem with the underlined item is. In other words, the learners have to do two things before submitting the next draft: first identifying what the underlined error is and second write the correct form. When they submit the final form, the teacher will check the tasks to know if they have identified and corrected the errors properly.The procedures will be the same for both groups except the error identification and correction that will differentiate them.

Data analysis

To analyze the research data, SPSS software will be used. T-student parameter will be used to analyze the pre and post mean scores of the subjects of the two groups to know if there is any improvement of one group over the other.

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