Providing corrective feedback on students writing is one of the writing teachers most difficult tasks. An important area that has attracted much attention recently is how students and teachers perceive the usefulness of written corrective feedback (Diab, 2005; Leiki, 1991; Hyland, 2003). Hendricson (1978) asserts: making errors is a necessary and natural process of language learning. Inevitably, learner errors and feedback towards errors have been of great interest to language teachers and researchers. The way teachers correct L2 learners writing is a topic that has attracted enormous interest from researchers and teachers alike. Several studies have investigated the effect of various types of teacher feedback on students writing skills.
Two of the basic strategies for providing written corrective feedback are “direct” and “indirect”. The former refers to supplying learners with the correct target language form when they make an error and the teacher provides the student with the correct form. The later refers to various strategies to encourage learners to self correct their errors and the teacher indicates that an error exists but does not provide the correction.
The point is that for a lot of teachers their most immediate concern in the classroom is not so much to correct or not to correct, but what to correct and how to correct. Based on the currently available evidence over the issue of WCF (See e.g. Ferris, 1995, 1997, 2006; Ferris & Helt, 2000; Lalande, 1982), concluding that feedback is effective in helping EFL students improve the accuracy of their writing. The purpose of this study is that whether written direct or indirect corrective feedback affect the comprehension and perception of grammatical knowledge of students within the context of WCF
‰‰. Review of the Literature
Chaudron (1988) has mentioned that corrective feedback includes different types of meaning. In Chaudrons attitude (opinion), treatment of error may simply refer to any teacher behavior following an error that minimally attempts to inform the learner of the fact of error. The treatment may not be evident that student in terms of the response it elicits, or it may make a significant effort to elicit a revised student response. According to Russel & Spada (2006), in language learning the term corrective feedback refers to any feedback provided to a learner, from any source that contains evidence of learner error of language form.
How teacher correct second language writing is a topic that has attracted enormous interest form researchers and teachers alike. Several studies have investigated the effects of various types of teacher feedback on students writing skills. Two of the basic strategies for providing written corrective feedback are direct and indirect corrective feedback. The former refers to CF which supplies learners with the correct target language form when they make an error and the teacher provides the student with the correct form. The later refers to various strategies to encourage learners to self-correct their errors and the teacher indicates that an error exists but does not provide
the correction. Indirect CF has two parts; a) indicating and locating the error that takes the form of underlining and use of signs to show the students’ error in the text. B) Indication only that takes the form of an indication in the margin that errors have taken place in the text.
The history of error correction in L2 to writing proves that it has undergone several shifts over the past 3 decades, from mid 1970s to the mid 1980s, there was a great deal of research on L2 writing classrooms. The call for longitudinal research into the efficacy of WCF can be traced back to the debate between Truscott and Ferris in the mid to late 1990s. Truscott (1996; 2007) held a strong view against error correction arguing that call form of error correction of L2 student writing are not only ineffective but also harmful and should be abandoned.
In a 1999 study, Truscott further emphasized that although most L2 students clearly desire grammar correction, teachers should not give it to them. On the contrary, Ferris (1999) denied this claim by arguing that Truscott had overlooked some positive research evidence on the effects of Grammar Correction. The distinction between direct and indirect written corrective feedback make sense in terms of language pedagogy but it is somewhat problematic when viewed from the perspective of second language acquisition theory. It is important to distinguish between two senses of acquisition (Eliss, 1994): 1) the internalization that has already been partially internalized. As Lalande (1982) and Lightbown & Spada (1999) pointed out, such opportunities engage students at a teachable moment, that is, when they are working on their writing and are interested in the feedback they have received. Written corrective feedback focuses on two issues concurrently namely form and content.
There are a number of research studies indicating that providing students with indirect error feedback ( i.e., highlighting errors without presenting the correct form) is more beneficial to learners’ improvement than direct forms of it (Lalande, 1982; Frantzen, 1995; Ferris, 2003). However, there is also unfailing support for the use of direct error feedback in certain cases such as for Beginning-level students- when errors are ” untreatable” -when teachers try to draw students’ attention to some error forms that need learners’ correction (Ferris, 2003)
Lee (2003) focused on L2 writing teachers’ perspectives, practices and challenges regarding error feedback ignoring the other side of the aisle meaning learners. Secondly, it did not provide information as to what and how teachers in reality adopt such error correction. Lee (2004) gave learners a voice taking their perception into consideration. But she didnt use the same writing sample of the under-study participants in the study of teachers’ actual practices; that is, she made use of artificial pieces of writing, which is a major problem with her study as it couldn’t viably be indicative of teachers’ measure of actual practices. In fact, albeit some studies called for new research on teachers’ perceptions (e.g. Montgomery & Baker 2007), others stuck to teachers’ perspectives ignoring students’ perceptions (Lee, 2003, 2008).
To sum up, a much of the past studies on error feedback perception (Leki, 1991; Komura, 1999; Rennie, 2000 and Ferris & Roberts, 2001) in 1990s and early 2000s emphasized:
â€¢ The importance of linguistic accuracy in writing to the overall efficacy of being second language writer
â€¢ Validity of teacher feedback on errors as an ingredient for students to improve the accuracy of their writing
â€¢ Superiority of comprehensive error marking over selective error making
â€¢ Higher value of indirect correction (errors marked and labeled by error types) to that of direct correction (teachers making the corrections for students)
III. Correction and Corrective Feedback in Teaching Language Skills
In nativist paradigm, the application of corrective feedback has little impact on language learning since it merely affects performance and leaves the underlying competence untouched (Schwartz, 1993; as cited in Kim, 2004). This idea is rooted in the tenets of nativism. That is the formation and restructuring of grammars is attributed to innate human linguistic mechanism (Cook, 1991; Schwartz, 1993; as cited in Kim, 2004). Moreover, Krashen (1982, 1985; as cited in Kim, 2004), a nativist, also repudiates any discernable effects of corrective feedback in SLA. He affirms that any knowledge consciously learned through explicit instruction cannot have a significant impact on L2 acquisition.
Swains (1985, 1995) Output Hypothesis, shedding light on the significance of output opportunities in L2 development, argues that this can help learners to make and test hypotheses about linguistic correctness and to develop metalinguistic knowledge of how the L2 works (Kowail & Swain, 1994; as cited in Kim, 2004).
Schmidt (1990, 1995, 2001), in his Noticing Hypothesis, opines that noticing is a prerequisite of learning, continuing that conscious attention must be paid to input in order for L2 learning to proceed. The proponents of the Noticing Hypothesis (Schmidt, 1990, 1995, 2001) also ascertain the benefits of corrective feedback regarding the facilitative role it has in drawing learners attention to form. From this theoretical front, corrective feedback acts as stimulus, triggering learners to identify the gap between their erroneous utterance and the target form. Thus in perceiving different types of feedback and enhancing their benefits for language learners, noticing and awareness is vital.
The updated interaction hypothesis proposed by Long (1996) also lend support to explicit error correction. According to Long (1996), corrective feedback provides direct and indirect information about the grammaticality of the utterances as well as additional positive evidence which may otherwise be absent in the input. He argues that negotiation for meaning, and especially negotiation work that triggers interactional adjustments by the NS or more competent interlocutor ease the process of language learning since it connects input, internal learner capacities, particularly selective attention, and output in productive ways (Long, 1996, pp. 451-452).
IV. Immediate Vs. Indirect Corrective Feedback in Teaching Writing
Those who are involved in the field of second language writing assume feedback as a crucial factor for encouraging and consolidating learning (Hyland and Hyland, 2006, p.92). Some scholars in writing (Leki, 1991; Raimes, 1983) believe that giving feedback is one of the important methods in assisting the student writers improving their writing. Corrective feedback (CF) takes the form of responses to learner sentences containing an error. The responses can consist of (1) an indication that an error has been committed, (2) provision of the correct target language form, (3) metalinguistic information about the nature of the error or (4) any combination of these.
In fact, CF occurs frequently in instructional settings, but much less frequently in naturalistic settings. Moreover, CF is an area that bridges the concerns of teachers and second language acquisition (SLA) researchers. SLA researchers are concerned with whether corrective feedback has any effect on learners interlanguage development and what type of CF is most effective.
Among the different types of corrective feedback, two types have received attention from researchers to date are ‘direct and ‘indirect corrective feedback (CF). While indirect strategies refer to situations when the teacher indicates that an error has been made but does not provide a correction, thereby leaving the student to diagnose and correct it, direct or explicit feedback occurs when the teacher identifies an error and provides the correct form. It may include the crossing out of an unnecessary word, the insertion of a missing word, or the provision of the correct linguistic form above or near the linguistic error (Bitchener, Young, and Cameron, 2005; Ferris 2003) that seems more preferred by both students and teachers (Ferris and Roberts, 2001; Ferris, Chaney, Komura, Roberts, and McKee, 2000; Komura, 1999; Rennie, 2000; Roberts, 1999). On this matter, Hadley (2001) has the opinion that in direct feedback errors should not be tolerated and should be removed directly.
V. Corrective Feedback in Teaching Writing: Evidence from Iranian EFL Learners
English articles are generally problematic issues for non-native speakers of English to master, and Iranians are no exception. Among definite and indefinite articles, Iranians seem to have more frequent definite article errors that is speculated that the acquisition of definite article will constitute a problem for the Iranian students. Regarding this issue, Adams (1962) had succinctly acknowledged Iranian students’ difficulties in learning the: “Persians tend to omit the, although they do use it unexpectedly” (p.57). Works on the Modern Standard Written Persian language have generally defined “marefe” (definite) as a noun that is known both to the speaker and the addressee, definitely and specifically.
The category of “definite” and the contrastive analysis reveals that the Standard Written Persian does not have a single word corresponding to the English definite article the, which would solely be used to denote a particular member of a homogenous class (Faghih, 1997).
As the brief in the accounts of almost all works on the Persian language, there is no article system in Persian similar to the English article system. Consequently, a noun like /ketaab/ (book), according to circumstances, which the context will generally indicate, can mean either (book) or (the book).
Finally, because Modern Standard Written Persian does not have a formal definite article, it is speculated that the acquisition of the English definite article ‘the will constitute a problem. That such a problem is faced by Iranian students can also be perceived in view of the fact that the English definite article the not only has a low perceptual salience, but also it has a high degree of frequency and avariety of distribution (Fagih, 1997). However, the Iranian problems in using these two functions of English articles are not limited just to the omission of the definite article the or indefinite articles a or an. Article insertion or redundant use of articles, and wrong use of articles are the other main reasons for students in using definite and indefinite articles.
VI. Implications of Corrective Feedback Task (CFT) in Teaching Paragraph Writing
Obviously, the comparative analysis of 14 EFL instructor’s belief about error correction and paper-marking techniques with those of students at the same institution can not be generalized to all EFL instructors and students across different learning and teaching contexts and the shortcomings of the self-report measures used in this study, such as the ability and willingness of the participants to respond accurately and conscientiously to the survey questions, are important to mention; nevertheless, two main implications for the EFL classroom can be made based on observations made based on observations made in this study.
This study reveals various discrepancies between instructor’s and students’ views regarding their beliefs about various aspects of feed back to writing , such as what writing features a teacher should respond to a first draft how many errors a teacher should respond to and finally how a teacher should correct or mark errors. Therefore, in addition to holding informal.
Therefore, in addition to holding informal discussions with students on error correction, feedback, and writing, language instructors should hold informal conversations on error correction and feedback with other instructors preferably early in the semester. A formal questioner such as the one employed in this study, followed by a group discussions, may provide a valuable opportunity for instructors to become aware of different opinions and realize that some beliefs they have taken for granted may not be held by other teachers education programs and language teacher-training workshops include a session addressing teacher’s beliefs about error correction and feedback to student writing.
Indeed, such sessions are essential to inform prospective language teachers about learner preferences , equip them with strategies to modify any unrealistic opinions that may be a hindrance to successful learning, and ,just, as importantly, make them aware of the possible consequences and implications their own beliefs might have on the language learning and teaching situations.
In order to contribute to the need for further research on the value of providing corrective feedback to L2 writers (Ferris, 1999; Truscott, 1996), the present study investigated the extent to which different types of feedback on three targeted error categories helped L2 writers improve the accuracy of their use in new pieces of writing. It found that the combination of full, explicit written feedback and one-to-one conference feedback enabled them to use the past simple tense and the definite article with significantly greater accuracy in new pieces of writing than was the case with their use of prepositions.
This finding adds to a growing body of research that has investigated the effect of different feedback strategies on accuracy performance. For instance, it has already been noted that indirect feedback is more effective than direct feedback in helping learners improve the accuracy of their writing. Because little to no research has specifically investigated the effect of different direct feedback options on improved accuracy, the findings of the present study are noteworthy.
Not only did the study find that direct oral feedback in combination with direct written feedback had a greater effect than direct written feedback alone on improved accuracy over time, but it also found that the combined feedback option facilitated improvement in the more ”treatable, rule-governed features (the past simple tense and the definite article) than in the less ”treatable feature (prepositions). Consequently, we would suggest that classroom L2 writing teachers provide their learners with both oral feedback as well as written feedback on the more ”treatable types of linguistic error on a regular basis. So that learners buy into this learning process, we would suggest that teachers discuss with their learners which linguistic errors should be focused on. Because current research indicates that indirect feedback options have a greater effect than direct feedback on accuracy performance, future research would do well to compare the effects of both direct oral and written feedback with various indirect options to see if the same differential effects are observed between ”treatable error categories (the past simple tense and the definite article) and the less ”treatable error category (prepositions). 202 J. Bitchener et al. / Journal of Second Language Writing 14 (2005) 191-205
The present study also found that accuracy performance was inconsistent across the four writing occasions. Although time comparisons have not been directly investigated in earlier error correction research, SLA research has consistently found that learners, in the process of acquiring mastery over the use of linguistic features, will accurately use a given feature on one occasion but fail to do so on other occasions even when the linguistic environment is the same.
Consequently, in order to be able to observe patterns of consistent improvement, we would suggest that there is a need for research to examine the effects of corrective feedback more longitudinally. Investigations over several semesters would be ideal.
Finally, we believe that the findings of this study have demonstrated that upper intermediate L2 writers can improve the accuracy of their use of rule-governed linguistic features if they are regularly exposed to oral and written corrective feedback. Further research would need to be undertaken to see if this finding also applies to L2 writers at other proficiency levels and whether it is also true for other linguistic forms where rules of usage are more complex and more idiosyncratic than they are for the use of the past simple tense and the definite article.
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