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Old 05-12-2008, 03:24 PM
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Default Oral Correction

I was at the Sunshine State TESOL conference this weekend and as usual, came away with lots to think about. One session I attended was about correction of oral grammar. A survey asked 80 community college students in Florida which type of correction they preferred to receive from an instructor.

Student says "I go to the store yesterday."

The choices:
1. Rising intonation question (What was that?)
2. Recast (So, you WENT to the store yesterday.)
3. Explicit (Don't say "go" for the past- say "went")
4. Meta-language (Are you talking about the past or present? What has to change in your sentence if you are talking about the past? And, so, what is the past tense of the verb you want?)

I'm curious about the oral error correction techniques instructors on this forum use- and why.
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Old 05-13-2008, 02:04 AM
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Default

I use the recasting, or modeling, with my students (adults). I suppose it gives me the satisfaction of feeling that I have done my part as a teacher to correct, while still encouraging the student to keep talking. I think that the other choices for correction might inhibit future attempts to speak, which is the last thing I want to do. But if the student comes back with the same mistake again I do step in with the correct word(s).

HOWEVER, I'm not at all sure how effective recasting is for the students. Do they realize that they're being corrected? Do they internalize it and take a step towards adjusting their internal grammars? I'm very curious to know the results of the survey, which method did the community college students prefer? and did they say why?
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:39 AM
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Default A Paper That Might Be Relevant

Dear Maria and Robin,

As to Robin’s question on the effectiveness of recasting, Roy Lyster and Leila Ranta published a paper in 1997 that might be relevant: “Corrective Feedback and Learner Uptake : Negotiation of Form in Communicative Classrooms.” This is the abstract to the paper:

"This article presents a study of corrective feedback and learner uptake (i.e., responses to feedback) in four immersion classrooms at the primary level. Transcripts totaling 18.3 hours of classroom interaction taken from 14 subject-matter lessons and 13 French language arts lessons were analyzed using a model developed for the study and comprising the various moves in an error treatment sequence. Results include the frequency and distribution of the six different feedback types used by the four teachers, in addition to the frequency and distribution of different types of learner uptake following each feedback type. The findings indicate an overwhelming tendency for teachers to use recasts in spite of the latter’s ineffectiveness at eliciting student-generated repair. Four other feedback types—elicitation, metalinguistic feedback, clarification requests, and repetition—lead to student-generated repair more successfully and are thus able to initiate what the authors characterize as the negotiation of form."

I tend to use metalanguage for the type of problem that Maria mentioned, and I often write things on the white board to elicit help from students (typically explicit or metalanguage). My goal is usually to help students understand why X is right, wrong, possible, or impossible. I usually don’t use recasts because, again, I’m less interested in their English being correct than I am in having the students understand the reasoning, so to speak, behind the form. I do occasionally make clarification requests when I just don’t understand what a student said, and, when I need to move on because there isn’t any more time, or when I can sense that I might die before the student understands, I sometimes make explicit corrections.

I do have a question on a slightly similar note: as opposed to what type of corrections you make, do you correct your students’ mistakes? This might sound ridiculous, but if I had a nickel for every time a student said something like, “That’s wrong? I’ve been saying that for years, and nobody’s ever told me that before!” I’d have somewhere between $30 and $40.

Sincerely,
Sam

Last edited by Sam Simian; 05-13-2008 at 09:02 PM.
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Old 05-14-2008, 01:40 AM
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Default favorite correction technique

The preferred correction method by a wide margin was method 4: meta-language explanation. It seems that walking the student from the error through the correct answer is seen by students as being the most effective and the most "enjoyable", if correction can be enjoyable.

Personally, I use all 4 in my classes depending on the situation although I would never say "DON'T DO THAT-DO THIS", but rather "Try this instead". The metalanguage method logically seems that it would have the most permanent effect on learning, since, as Sam brought up, students would know the why behind constructs and thus be able to correct themselves better in the future.

The only problem I have with the meta-language correction method is that it tends to single out a single erring student for what could be a long and tortuous questioning. I have gotten into downward spirals where I ask the student a leading question and he can't answer. So I ask a more basic question which he can't answer either. Then I try a question from a different approach. By this time, the student just wants the ground to open up and swallow him, so I probably have now opened up the question to the entire class, trying to make it a class lesson instead of the single person correction it started out as. I wonder if this has ever happened to anyone else?
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Old 05-14-2008, 01:51 AM
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Default Do you correct?

Sam asks an interesting question: "Do you correct your students' mistakes?"

My answer would be "That depends!" My philosophy is to correct, but that doesn't mean every error all the time. However, I do focus on accuracy in my grammar class, as opposed to more of a balance between accuracy and fluency in speech class, and more focus on fluency in reading class.

What is interesting is how different cultures respond to correction. I currently teach 75% Eastern Europeans. Most of them want every little thing critiqued and corrected. They can't see how they can learn without that. I have to give my "accuracy activities and fluency activities and the purpose for each" speech every semester to win over my very serious Eastern European adults- and to get them to read for pleasure or write in a journal. They are also very easy to recast with as they pay close attention to what the instructor says and try to model.

Other general observations about the preferences of the culture groups you work with? (No big sighs, please- I know it is generalization, but these generalizations have a root in truth.)
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Old 05-14-2008, 11:20 PM
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Default Cultural responses to correction methods

This is a fascinating discussion!

The survey you spoke of, Maria, included only 80 students. If there are, in fact, large variations in responses to correction among different cultural groups, it seems like the results of this survey aren't very meaningful without knowing the cultural make-up of the group. If a group of students prefer a certain method of correction, does it follow that it's more effective? If another group expresses a preference for a different method, is that method more effective for them?

This quote from the article that Sam cites (“Corrective Feedback and Learner Uptake : Negotiation of Form in Communicative Classrooms”) makes me wonder if culture also comes into play in teachers' strong preference of a correction method (recasts) that may be the least effective method:

Quote:
The findings indicate an overwhelming tendency for teachers to use recasts in spite of the latter’s ineffectiveness at eliciting student-generated repair. Four other feedback types—elicitation, metalinguistic feedback, clarification requests, and repetition—lead to student-generated repair more successfully and are thus able to initiate what the authors characterize as the negotiation of form.
Do most teachers prefer to use recasts because the other methods are more confrontational/less polite in most cultures?

Would anyone be interested in taking a survey of their students on this topic?

Sue
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Old 05-15-2008, 03:13 PM
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Default purpose of survey

Actually the purpose of the survey was to find out about community college students, not culture groups. The 80 students represented all continents as the presenter had shown us the chart indicating how many were European, African, South/Latin American, Asian, etc. But finding out which kind of correction various cultures prefer is a whole other study!

I also think age comes into play. The study Sam quotes, for instance, is primary students. Do children and adults take correction the same way?

I have seen studies conducted in single culture classes, e.g. in Russian or Japanese student classes, as to what kind of correction they prefer, but I don't recall seeing one done in a multinational program. Good idea.
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Old 05-25-2008, 03:54 PM
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Default Russian and Ukrainian Students

I polled 20 current and former Ukrainian and Russian adult students who are preparing to go to college. They told me they want "all correction, all the time." Some related comments:

- "I don't study for fun; I study to get better."
- "I don't want to make mistakes. Tell me when I make mistakes."
- "My teacher must correct me or I will sound stupid with no education."
- "Please tell me when I say a mistake so I can say it correctly. This is good for me."
- "I want to learn quickly. I wish my teacher will stay with me all day to tell me when I make mistake."
- "I like to see the correct grammar on my essay because you help me write a paper better when I write it for another time."


I often get a sense of urgency from these students in class. They have definite education and career goals and work hard to reach them as quickly as possible. My guess is they are self-modifying from corrections and feel that helps them learn. Adults who are in tune with their learning often have definite ideas of what works for them.

This brings up the question: I wonder if it is better to give students what they think works for them, even if we completely disagree with it?
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Old 05-26-2008, 12:20 AM
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Default This is a tough question.

[Is it] better to give students what they think works for them, even if we completely disagree with it?
— Maria Spelleri

Dear Maria,

Like all good questions, this is a tough question. I’ll start by giving my answer: no. However, I do think that students’ opinions are very important. Students’ opinions should make any good teacher reexamine their beliefs and methodologies. Students’ opinions are definitely more important than whatever norms are currently guiding the ESL orthodoxies at any given time, so if — and only if — the teacher agrees with the students, it’s better to give students what they think works for them, even if it completely goes against the prevailing “fashions” in ESL.

It’s a tough question because it’s very difficult to “objectively” examine your own beliefs and methodologies in the first place. Nevertheless, I think that any good teacher should. And when students directly or indirectly question your beliefs and methodologies, it’s easier to, just, assume that you know what’s best than it is to honestly re-examine your beliefs and methodologies. But finally, getting a little silly with the metaphors, I do not believe the classroom is a direct democracy in which the teacher’s vote carries no more weight than each student’s. Conversely, the teacher shouldn’t be a despot who ignores what the students want. Ideally, the teacher should be somewhere between the president and a “benign dictator.” The students shouldn’t feel ignored, but, conversely, they shouldn’t feel that the teacher will do anything to appease them. It’s important to have principles.

When I studied applied linguistics in school, Krashen’s theories still held sway. (Even though most linguists at that time seemed to find fault with most of his “beliefs.”) I had already had some teaching experience, so I took most of the stuff with a grain of salt. When they said that corrections weren’t necessary and grammar instruction is, essentially, pointless, I thought, “This is ridiculous!” However, I did (and still do) like “i + 1,” so I’ve spent my teaching career trying to resolve that apparent contradiction. I believe that Krashen’s influence still holds sway in the so-called “communicative method” that is one of the present orthodoxies in American ESL. Who could be opposed to — and, more importantly, who is opposed to — emphasizing English that students can use in communication? Nobody. However, who is opposed to the notion that emphasizing communication does away with — or is actually in opposition to — the need to teach grammar or correct students? I am, and many other people are, too. Like you, over my teaching career, I’ve conducted a very unscientific poll, and every student that I have ever asked has wanted to be corrected, so, even though it goes against what ESL teachers “should” do, in this respect, I give the students what they want. However, I do not think it is better to give students what they think works for them, if I completely disagree with it.

On average, usually about half of my students are Asian (usually from China and Taiwan). Painting in broad brushes, they all have electronic dictionaries, and they use them constantly. When confronted with any text, they immediately scan it for any words that they don’t know, and then they write the translations (usually Chinese) next to the words. It’s only then, if ever, that they begin to try to make sense of the text. Continuing with my broad-brushed, politically incorrect description, they usually prefer to spend the entire class time that’s set aside for practice or production working alone with their books, dictionaries, notebooks, and a pen. I do not think that this is a good way to acquire English, so I constantly struggle against what I see as their over emphasis on what they don’t know and written English — written English that’s often heavily annotated in their native language. I’m too much of a knee-jerk liberal to just order my students to stop, so I try to coax them to do what I think is best: “It’s OK to use dictionaries and your native language, but ask me or a classmate in English first, and then, if you don't understand, you can use your dictionary or your native language.” “See if you can guess what any of the words mean before you use your dictionaries.” “Speak first, and write second.” And whenever possible, I team up people who don’t use the same native language because that often gets them to speak English while they work on, when they finish working on, and even if they don’t work on whatever practice or production activity I’ve assigned.

On the other hand, I have a certain unreasonable prejudice against choral repetition and CD use in the ESL classroom. (I think that I have focused on what I consider the over use of these methodologies by some of my colleagues.) Nevertheless, some students have, on occasion, asked me to use these methodologies, and, upon reexamining my beliefs and methodologies, I realized that I had totally ignored the potential benefits: improvements in listening comprehension, pronunciation, and intonation. I still under-utilize these methodologies, but being open to giving students what they think works for them, even though I disagree with it, allowed me to become a better teacher.

So I think that it’s OK to give students what works for them if you can see some value in it, and it might be worth using methodologies that you disagree with in the short term as a sort of experiment, but I think that it is not better to give students what they think works for them, if you, ultimately, completely disagree with it.

What do the rest of you think?

Sincerely,
Sam

Last edited by Sam Simian; 05-27-2008 at 02:37 PM.
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