Giving Feedback on Student Writing

Report
CORRECTING ERRORS IN
STUDENT WRITING
Lecture 3
Teaching Writing in EFL/ESL
Joy Robbins
A QUICK REVIEW…

GENRE
‘Genres are ways in which people “get things
done” through their use of language in particular
contexts. An academic essay is an example of a
genre. It is a socially-approved way in which
students show what they know, what they can
do, and what they have learned in a course of
study. In drafting their essays, writers use
language in particular ways according to the aim
and purpose of the genre and the relationship
between the writer and the audience.’ (Johns et
al 2006: 235)
2
A QUICK REVIEW…
GENRE BASED TEACHING
Explicit rather than inductive
 Empowers students – gives them the ‘keys’ to
particular discourse communities
 Develops critical understanding
 Assists teacher development



(Hyland, 2004) Chapter 1
‘We are developing researchers, not dogmatists,
students who explore ideas and literacies rather
than seek simple answers’

(Myskow G & Gordon K, 2010 citing Johns A, 1997)
….
3
TODAY’S SESSION
We’re going to have a look at the following
questions today:
 Why try to correct students’ writing errors?
 Does correcting errors work?
 When should we correct errors (i.e. early in the
writing process, for instance during a first draft vs.
later in the process, for instance during a final
draft)?
 Which errors should we correct? (Some? None? All?)
 How should we correct errors? (By using red pen? By
using correction symbols? etc.)
4
WHY TRY TO CORRECT STUDENTS’
ERRORS?
Make a list of arguments for and against
correcting students’ writing errors
5
ARGUMENTS FOR
Students expect it and want their writing
corrected
 Error correction works (i.e. students become
better writers as a result of having their errors
corrected)
 Parents/sponsors/stakeholders expect it (if
teachers don’t correct errors, they might think
‘the teacher isn’t doing their job’)
 It can motivate students to try harder and make
fewer mistakes next time
 It gives students a record of what they do wrong,
so that they can work on specific grammar points
they need to put right

6
ARGUMENTS AGAINST
Students ignore the teacher’s corrections, file
their writing away (or throw it away!), and learn
nothing from their mistakes
 It doesn’t work
 It can demotivate students: when they see all the
teacher’s red ink, they feel they’re no good at
writing and never will be
 There is research evidence that shows that
students sometimes can’t understand teachers’
corrections (‘What have I got wrong?’ ‘Why?’
‘What should I do to correct my mistake?’)

7
THE CASE IN FAVOUR OF CORRECTING
WRITING
According to Ferris & Hedgcock (1998), there are 3
main reasons why teachers should correct students’
written errors:
1.
Students expect to have their writing corrected and
think this is very important. A failure to correct may
result in frustrated/ demotivated students
2.
There is evidence that university lecturers find nonnative speakers’ written errors annoying and penalize
students for their errors (Janopoulos 1992; Santos
1988; Vann et al 1991, 1984)
3.
Students need to be able to correct their errors on their
own, and teachers must show them how to do this. If
teachers don’t correct errors, they’re sending out the
message that error correction isn’t important, and
students won’t learn how to edit their own texts
8
DOES ERROR CORRECTION WORK?


There are a number of studies (Kepner 1991; Leki 1990; Polio
et al 1998) and scholars (Truscott 1996; Zamel 1985) that
suggest error correction doesn’t work, that students don’t
necessarily become better writers when teachers correct their
mistakes
The most influential recent anti-correction researcher is
Truscott. Here’s a summary of Truscott’s views:
‘Veteran teachers know that there is little direct connection
between correction and learning. Often a student will repeat
the same mistake over and over again, even after being
corrected many times. When this occurs, it is tempting for the
teacher to say the student is not attentive or lazy; however,
the pervasiveness of the phenomenon, even with successful
students, argues against any such explanation. Rather the
teacher should conclude that correction simply is not effective.’
(p.341)
Would you agree or disagree with Truscott? Why? 9
Because he has claimed error correction is a
waste of time, Truscott has made a lot of
researchers very upset, and caused lots of
controversy!!
So let’s have a look at his arguments in more
detail…
10
WHAT TRUSCOTT IS AGAINST:
CORRECTION, NOT FEEDBACK

Truscott doesn’t object to teachers providing
feedback on content, organization, or clarity of
student writing. His problem is with feedback on
grammatical errors—because he claims this
correction doesn’t work.
11
DOES ERROR CORRECTION WORK OVER
THE LONG TERM?


Truscott makes the point that studies of written
error correction aren’t longitudinal, i.e. they
don’t measure students’ abilities over a long
period of time.
So even if error correction appears to work over
the short term, as in studies like Fathman &
Whalley (1990), we don’t know whether the
students’ writing really improves as the result of
error correction over the longer term
12
CORRECTION & SLA (1)
Truscott argues that second language
acquisition (SLA) research shows that written
error correction cannot work


SLA research shows that the way learners
develop their interlanguage is complex. However,
the way we correct is (overly) simple. We notice
the learner has made an error, we correct the
error, and we expect the learner to acquire the
correction
The problem, then, is that we expect the learner
to acquire the correction immediately, although
SLA research suggests this acquisition can take a
long time
13
CORRECTION & SLA (2)

Truscott points out how SLA research suggests learners
learn things in a certain order, which means:
‘When students are corrected on a point for which they
are not yet ready, the correction is not likely to have
much value.’ (1996: 344)
‘This is not how grammar correction is normally done in L2
writing classes.’ (1996: 344) Teachers correct without
knowing whether students are ready to acquire the
correction
 We don’t yet know enough about the order of acquisition to
teach according to it:
‘Research on English learning is sufficient to tell us that
such sequences exist, but as a general guide for teachers it is
hopelessly inadequate.’ (1996: 345)
 Truscott says that if teachers try to avoid this issue by
correcting everything, this won’t help, because learners will14
get distracted by the corrections on language they’re not
ready to acquire

THE COMPLEXITY OF THE ERROR
CORRECTION PROCESS
Truscott also points out that the process by which
errors are corrected is complex…


First, the teacher must realize a mistake has been
made. This sounds a trivial argument, but a study by
Cohen and Cavalcanti (1990) found many cases in which
teachers failed to notice errors. And arguably some less
proficient non-native teachers may have particular
problems noticing errors
Truscott also claims that ‘busy teachers grading large
numbers of written assignments have serious problems
with time and patience, problems that can easily affect
the quality of their comments’ (p.350). Cohen and
Robbins (1976) and Zamel (1985), in fact, found serious
problems regarding the quality of teachers’ written
responses to L2 compositions. Often students can’t
understand the teachers’ corrections
15
THE COMPLEXITY OF THE ERROR
CORRECTION PROCESS (2)


And even if students do understand, SLA
research suggests they’ll forget the correction
unless they’re ready to acquire it anyway…
Truscott also claims learners are likely to become
bored and demotivated in trying to correct
errors, and may not even try to learn from the
teacher’s feedback. Cohen’s (1987) survey
revealed that learners only made a mental note
of the corrections; and Radecki and Swales (1988)
found that ESL students didn’t really take
advantage of their teachers’ feedback, because
they were reluctant to do any rewriting.
16
CORRECTION IS HARMFUL
Truscott not only claims correcting students’
grammar is a waste of time, but also that it is
harmful…


Truscott says learners learn best when they don’t feel
stressed and under pressure:
‘People do not like to be told that they are wrong,
especially to be told repeatedly that they are constantly
making mistakes. Even students who believe that
correction is a necessary part of learning do not enjoy
the sight of red ink all over their writing and probably
find the experience extremely discouraging.’ (1996: 354)
He claims students simply become less ambitious if
they know they’re going to be corrected every time they
make a mistake, and write simpler sentences which
are grammatically correct
17
CORRECTION IS HARMFUL (2)

The correction process is very time-consuming,
both for teachers (who have to spend hours
correcting writing) and for students (who have to
think about and correct their mistakes). Truscott
says this is harmful because teachers and
students could spend their time on something
else that isn’t a waste of time, like focusing on
the organization or content of the students’
writing
18
TRUSCOTT’S CONCLUSION (1):
LEARNING AND SUCCESSFUL
CORRECTION AREN’T THE SAME THING
Truscott & Hsu (2008) conducted an experimental study
with two groups of non-native writers:
Group A had errors in their writing underlined
 Group B received no feedback




Both groups tried to correct their writing, and group
A was more successful
However, a week later, both groups wrote another
composition, and writing from students in group A
contained as many errors as writing from group B
Truscott & Hsu therefore conclude: ‘Improvements
made during revision are not evidence on the
effectiveness of correction for improving learners’
writing ability’ (p.292)
19
PROBLEMS WITH TRUSCOTT’S
RESEARCH

However, Bruton (2009) has identified flaws in
Truscott & Hsu’s research: although the learners
made roughly the same number of errors, they
were often different errors to those which had
been corrected!
20
TRUSCOTT’S CONCLUSION (2):
STOP CORRECTING
If correcting students’ writing errors doesn’t
work, let’s stop—even though we know most
students want to be corrected

Truscott’s conclusion is extremely provocative:
‘This leaves the question of what teachers should
do in writing classes. The answer…is
straightforward: anything except grammar
correction’ (1996: 360)
21
FERRIS & HEDGCOCK’S REPLY TO TRUSCOTT
Ferris & Hedgcock (1998) claim that Truscott goes
too far in claiming that correcting written errors
doesn’t work. They say 3 questions must be
answered before we can be sure if error correction
works or not:
1. Is grammar feedback and correction carried
out selectively, systematically, and accurately?
2.
Are individual student differences (including
language proficiency, literacy skills, learning
styles, motivation and attitude, first language,
etc.) adequately addressed?
3.
Are studies that assess the effectiveness of
error correction designed and executed
appropriately?
22
FERRIS’ REPLY


In a number of recent books and articles (including a
2004 article in Journal of Second Language Writing),
Ferris persuasively shows how Truscott’s radical
conclusions must be treated with caution, because we
still have very little evidence to say whether
correction works or not
The problem is that, although there have been a
number of studies, they looked at different things,
and the teachers corrected errors in different ways—
so we cannot confidently say ‘correction does not
work’, because we simply don’t have enough evidence
yet…
23
FERRIS’ REPLY (2): PREVIOUS STUDIES

Ferris and other scholars (e.g. Bitchener & Knoch
2010) have pointed out that some of the error
correction studies were badly designed, and so we
can’t say with confidence whether their results
are sound or not.
For instance, Bitchener & Knoch (2010) point out
that seven well-known error correction studies
didn’t include a control group (i.e. a group that
received no corrections). So it may have been
that the error correction didn’t improve
accuracy of the writing, but the fact the students
had to re-draft and try to notice the errors
themselves…
24
FERRIS’ REPLY (3): CORRECTION & SLA
Truscott used the SLA literature to talk about
correction, but so does Ferris
 She claims that the SLA literature ‘predicts
positive effects for written error correction’
(Ferris 2004: 54)
 She claims that focus on form and getting
students to notice their errors should help them
acquire the language

25
MORE ON THE DEBATE ABOUT ERROR
CORRECTION: RECENT PUBLICATIONS
Anthony Bruton, Dana Ferris, John Truscott, Rod
Ellis, and others are still writing (and arguing!)
about this: see their articles in Journal of Second
Language Writing and System
26
RECENT RESEARCH: BITCHENER &
KNOCH (2010)
A
longitudinal study, conducted over 10
months, to see if low-intermediate
learners’ writing improved as a result of
error correction
 The study only focused on learners’ use of
articles (‘a’ and ‘the’)
 Different types of error correction led to
more accurate writing. The writing of the
control group who received no feedback
improved a little, but to a much lesser
extent
27
RECENT RESEARCH: VAN BEUNINGEN, DE
JONG, & KUIKEN (2012)

a study on comprehensive correction with 268
secondary school L2 learners
Experimental group 1 – direct corrective feedback
 Experimental group 2 – indirect corrective feedback
 Control group 1 – self-correction
 Control group 2 – additional writing practice

All groups had four sessions:

Initial writing, writing revision (except for control 2),
writing test 1 week after, writing test 4 weeks after
28
VAN BEUNINGEN, DE JONG, & KUIKEN’S
(2012) RESULTS




Students who received corrective feedback made
fewer errors in new pieces of writing than learners
who did not receive CF (those who did selfcorrection or additional writing)
Students who received CF did not produce simpler
sentences, as Truscott claimed they would
Direct correction promoted durable improvement
in grammatical accuracy, indirect correction
promoted non-grammatical accuracy
Overall, they find Truscott is wrong: ‘even a single
CF treatment proved to have long-lasting positive
effects 4weeks later’ (2012: 34)
29
SO WHAT SHOULD TEACHERS DO?


Probably keep correcting, because most teachers
and most students believe it works, at least some
of the time…
Consider Ferris & Hedgcock’s (1998: 202)
summary of what research tells us about how
written errors should be corrected.
There are 3 points. They focus on
(1) When to correct errors
(2) Which errors to correct
(3) How to correct errors
Let’s look at each in turn…
30
CLAIM 1: WHEN TO CORRECT ERRORS


‘Most sentence-level mechanical corrections are best
left to the latter stages of the editing process.
However, generalized feedback about students’ major
error patterns in early drafts may be helpful to them.’
(Ferris & Hedgcock 1998: 202)
Similarly, Ferris (2003) claimed recently: ‘Feedback is
most effective when it is delivered at intermediate
stages of the writing process’ (p.122)
In other words, what Ferris and Ferris &
Hedgcock are claiming is that it’s best to correct
grammar only after students have done 1 or 2
drafts of their writing…
31
WHEN DO YOU GIVE STUDENTS
FEEDBACK?



What are the pros and cons of giving students
feedback on their writing:
(1) After they’ve produced a first draft, but before
they’ve produced a final draft?
(2) After they’ve produced a final draft?
When do you normally give students feedback?
Why?
If you were the student learning the language,
when do you think you’d prefer to be given feedback
on your writing? Why?
32
REFUSING TO CORRECT ERRORS EARLY


Some teachers refuse to correct students’ writing
early in the writing process because they fear
students will become obsessed by avoiding bad
grammar (e.g. 3rd person ‘s’, etc). Instead, the
teacher is far more concerned with students
producing good ideas, arguments, and
organization…
Some teachers also point out that students’
writing may change substantially during the
writing process. What’s the point of correcting
mistakes early on when students’ final drafts will
look nothing like their 1st drafts?
33
WHEN TO CORRECT: STUDENT
EXPECTATIONS


The problem with refusing to correct errors early
in the writing process is that students might not
accept this: they might want their grammar
corrected
So Ferris & Hedgcock suggest a compromise: the
teacher should focus mostly on students’ ideas
and organization early in 1st drafts, with a few,
general comments on grammar…
In later drafts, the teacher can focus more
heavily on grammar
34
CLAIM 2: WHICH ERRORS TO CORRECT

‘It is important for teachers to be selective in addressing
students’ written errors. Errors that should receive the
greatest attention should include serious (“global”)
errors that interfere with the comprehensibility of the
text, stigmatizing errors that most disturb [native
speaker] audiences, and the student’s most frequent
errors.’ (Ferris & Hedgcock 1998: 202)
In other words, teachers shouldn’t try to correct
every error…
Do you agree with Ferris & Hedgcock? Why
(not)?
35
PRIORITIZING ERROR CORRECTION

Ferris & Hedgcock claim it is important to correct
only the most important errors, because teachers
have neither the time nor the patience to correct
everything:
‘Dealing with student errors in written work can
be tedious, tiring, and frustrating. This is no
doubt why researchers have found that teachers
are often erratic and even inaccurate in providing
grammar feedback on student writing.’ (p.209)
36
CLAIM 3: HOW TO CORRECT ERRORS
As we have seen, there are 2 different methods of
correcting writing:
 direct correction, where the teacher writes what
the student should have written
 indirect correction, where the teacher gives the
student a clue where/what the error is, but doesn’t
provide the correction

‘Except for students at very beginning levels of
language proficiency, direct correction techniques …
are not effective or appropriate. Indirect techniques,
such as noting the location and/or type of error and
asking students to find and correct their own errors,
are most effective for intermediate to advanced
students.’ (Ferris & Hedgcock 1998: 202)
Do you agree? Why (not)?
How do you correct errors?
37
HOW TO CORRECT ERRORS: RESEARCH
EVIDENCE
As Bitchener & Knoch (2010) point out, however,
research comparing the efficacy of direct and
indirect correction has produced contradictory
results: some work suggests indirect error
correction may work better, while other studies
report both direct and indirect correction works
equally well
 Perhaps as Van Beuningen, De Jong, & Kuiken
(2012) suggest, different kinds of correction work
best for different errors (direct for grammatical,
indirect for non-grammatical)

38
We don’t know yet…
HOW TO CORRECT ERRORS: AN
EXCEPTION

Although Ferris & Hedgcock prefer indirect
correction, they admit that direct correction may
be better with lower level students, ‘those
whose grammatical competence in the L2 is not
sufficiently developed for them to self-correct
even when an error is pointed out to them.’
(p.206)
Let’s now go on to have a look at some indirect
correction techniques…
39
INDIRECT CORRECTION: TECHNIQUES



Using correction symbols (e.g. sp. for spelling;
wo for word order, etc.)
Marking a line which contains an error with a
cross (x); marking a line which contains 2 errors
with 2 crosses (xx), etc.
Writing at the end of the text that there are 5
word order mistakes that you want the student to
find and correct
40
CORRECTION SYMBOLS


Did any of your teachers use correction symbols
with you when you were learning a language?
How (un)successful was it?
If you’re a teacher, have you ever used correction
symbols? How (un)successful was it? In your
opinion was this better than direct correction?
Why (not)?
41
VARYING CORRECTION TECHNIQUES
There’s a case to be made for varying how we
correct students’ writing. Different
techniques make students more or less
dependent upon teachers…
42
VARYING ERROR CORRECTION TO
EMPOWER STUDENTS
Ferris & Hedgcock suggest that students will become better
editors of their own work if they learn to take responsibility
for correcting their own errors. They show how they reduce
teacher intervention over the course of a term:



Early in the course: The teacher marks all examples of a
particular error type in an essay draft (e.g., by underlining), also
pointing out in an end comment or on an essay feedback form
that the writer has a particular problem to work on (e.g., “Please
go through your draft and try to correct all of the noun errors I
have underlined”).
Mid-course: The teacher underlines a few examples of the error
(perhaps only on the first page), again commenting on the error
type, and asking the peer editor to underline the rest of the errors
of this type in the essay.
Late in the course: The teacher makes a verbal comment (e.g.,
“You still have too many noun errors—keep working on this!”) but
doesn’t mark any of them, instead asking the writer to find them 43
him or herself. (p.218)
WHAT ARE ERROR CORRECTION
PRACTICES LIKE AT THE CHALKFACE?
We’ve talked about what (predominantly North
American) researchers say about error correction,
and how error correction should be done…
 However, North American researchers teach
writing in very different conditions to many other
teachers around the world…
This is why Icy Lee’s (2004) recent study is
interesting, because it shows how teachers
in Hong Kong correct written errors and
what kind of correction students want…

44
TEACHING WRITING IN HONG KONG

Lee (2004) talks about how writing is typically taught
and how error are corrected in Hong Kong classrooms:
‘The typical writing classroom in Hong Kong is
dominated by the teaching of grammar and the
teaching of language, with less attention paid to the
discourse features of writing…. A primarily productoriented approach is adopted, and writing is treated
as a “one-off” activity—i.e., students write a
composition and submit it immediately afterwards….
Writing is tested rather than taught. […] Teachers
generally respond to student writing using a productoriented approach—i.e., treating each piece of writing
as a final draft. When students receive the marked
compositions, they correct the errors by re-writing
either the whole composition or those sentences which
contain errors. Rewriting of content is not normally
required.’ (Lee 2004: 288)
45
HONG KONG TEACHERS’ PRACTICES
Lee (2004) used questionnaires, interviews,
and error correction tasks to find out how
Hong Kong teachers corrected writing

The questionnaire data revealed that 72% of the
teachers said they corrected every error
46
HONG KONG STUDENTS’ WISHES
Lee (2004) used questionnaires to find out how
Hong Kong students wanted teachers to
correct their writing

Lee’s (2004) study also shows that 83% of the
students studied wanted teachers to correct all
their errors
47
WHAT LEE’S (2004) STUDY TELLS US
Teaching writing in general, and correcting
errors in particular, in some parts of the world is
not done in the way (North American)
researchers say it should be
 There may be some contextual factors which
explain some of these differences: for instance,
the fact that Hong Kong teachers have far fewer
classroom hours to devote to writing than their
North American counterparts helps explain why
there seems to be less drafting and redrafting of
writing in Hong Kong…

48
WHAT LEE’S (2004) STUDY TELLS US (2)


However, just because there’s less time available
for teachers, this shouldn’t mean these teachers
don’t try to take research evidence into account.
With regard to drafting and redrafting, they
could ask the students to do this at home
And with regard to error correction, they could
try to correct selectively, in line with the
research evidence…BUT
49
INSTITUTIONAL REQUIREMENTS

In a later study, Lee (2008) found that Hong
Kong teachers may be forbidden to correct
selectively… (‘If marking was not detailed
enough, according to the teachers, they were
considered “lazy and irresponsible”.’) (p.79)
50
DO TEACHERS PRACTISE WHAT
THEY PREACH?
 Lee
(2009) has also published a
fascinating study which identifies how
what Hong Kong teachers do when they
correct writing clashes with what they
believe about correcting writing
 Her
study involved examining teachers’
feedback, to see what teachers do, and
questionnaires and interviews, to see
what teachers believe they should do
51
MISMATCHES BETWEEN WHAT
TEACHERS BELIEVE AND DO
Here are some of Lee’s (2009) findings:





Teachers pay most attention to language form but
they believe there’s more to good writing than
accuracy
Teachers mark errors comprehensively although
selective marking is preferred
Teachers tend to correct and locate errors for students
but believe that through teacher feedback students
should learn to correct and locate their own errors
Teachers use error codes although they think
students have a limited ability to decipher the codes
Teachers award scores/grades to student writing
although they are almost certain that marks/grades
draw student attention away from teacher feedback
52
ERROR CORRECTION AT THE
CHALKFACE

Teachers may feel constrained to adopt correction
practices they don’t believe in because of their
context…
There’s a message here about learners’
(mistaken?) beliefs, but also about the
(mistaken?) beliefs and practices about
error correction imposed on teachers by
schools, directors, etc…
53
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THIS WEEK’S READING
Process writing:
Read the introductions, and have a look at some of the
teaching activities in:
Hedge T (1988) Writing
Nation ISP (2009) Teaching ESL/EFL Reading and
Writing.
White RV & Arndt V (1991) Process Writing
White RV (1995) New Ways in Teaching Writing.
Error correction:
Ferris D (2004) The “grammar correction” debate in L2
writing: where are we, and where do we go from here? (and
what do we do in the meantime…?). Journal of Second
Language Writing 13: 49-62.
Van Beuningen, C. G., De Jong, N. H., & Kuiken, F.
(2012). Evidence on the Effectiveness of Comprehensive
Error Correction in Second Language Writing. Language
57
Learning, 62(1), 1–41.

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