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Oral Corrective Feedback in Language Pedagogy and SLA Rod Ellis University of Auckland.

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1 Oral Corrective Feedback in Language Pedagogy and SLA Rod Ellis University of Auckland

2 What is corrective feedback? Corrective feedback (CF) takes the form of responses to learner utterances that contain (or are perceived as containing) an error. It occurs in reactive form-focused episodes consisting of a trigger, the feedback move and (optionally) uptake.


4 Why has corrective feedback attracted so much interest? 1.In language pedagogy – the importance of grammatical correctness 2.In SLA – the role of negative evidence and pushed output

5 An interface issue The study of corrective feedback in SLA allows for an evaluation of common pedagogical claims about whether, when and how to correct learners errors.

6 Pedagogical positions


8 The importance of positive feedback Teacher guides often emphasise the need to provide positive feedback. Positive feedback serves two functions (Nunan, 1991:195) to let students know they have performed correctly to increase motivation through praise Correcting students is seen as potentially dangerous because it can damage learners receptivity to learning. It needs to be given in an atmosphere of support and warm solidarity (Ur, 1996; 255).

9 Five central questions 1.Should learners errors be corrected? 2.When should learners errors be corrected? 3.Which errors should be corrected? 4.How should errors be corrected? 5.Who should do the correcting? (Hendrickson, 1978).

10 Should learner errors be corrected? The importance attached to correcting error varies in different methods: audiolingualism negative assessment is to be avoided as far as possible since it functions as punishment and may inhibit or discourage learning humanistic methods assessment should be positive or non-judgemental in order to promote a positive self-image of the learner as a person and language learner skill-learning approaches the learner needs feedback on how well he or she is doing (Ur 1996; 243).

11 Not in fluency work Harmer (1983) argued that when students are engaged in a communicative activity, the teacher should not intervene by telling students that they are making mistakes, insisting on accuracy and asking for repetition etc. (p. 44). Correcting errors should be largely restricted to accuracy work.

12 When should learner errors be corrected? Teachers have the option of either correcting immediately an error occurs or making a note of the errors and delaying correction until later. Immediately in accuracy activities Delayed in fluency activities Teacher notes accompanying course books frequently instruct teachers to leave correction until the end of fluency activities (Hedge, 2000).

13 Which errors should be corrected? Learners can only use just so much feedback information: to give too much may simply distract, discourage and actually detract from the value of learning (Ur, 1996; 255). Selective correction is both more practical and more supportive of students feelings (Katayama, 2007)

14 Deciding which errors to correct Teacher guides discuss this question in terms of: Errors versus mistakes (Corder, 1967) Global versus local errors (Burt, 1975) Errors involving simple versus complex features (Krashen, 1982). Persistent vs. occasional errors But none of their proposals are easy to implement.

15 How should errors be corrected? Teacher guides suggest a variety of strategies for correcting errors. Questioning the learner (e.g. the teacher may say Is that correct?–Harmer, 1982:63). Direct indication (e.g. Tell the students that there is an error–Scrivener, 2005:300). Requesting clarification (e.g. the teacher looks puzzled and requests clarification–Hedge, 2000:291). Requesting repetition (e.g. the teacher simply asks the student to repeat what he has just said–Harmer, 1982:62). Echoing (e.g. the teacher may echo what the student has just said with a questioning intonation–Harmer, 1982:62).

16 Corrective feedback strategies in the teacher guides The guides: simply provide lists (i.e. they do attempt to classify the strategies into general types) do not provide examples of these strategies taken from actual classroom interaction (i.e. they just provide simple descriptions of them).

17 What the guides advise Use a variety of corrective strategies (Hedge, 2000) Use strategies that require learners to correct their own errors. The object of using correction techniques is to give the students a chance to get the new language right (Harmer, 1983:63). People learn more by doing things themselves rather than being told about them (Scrivener, 2005:3). the importance of encouraging, tactful correction (Ur, 1998:249).

18 Who should do the correcting? Three possibilities: the teacher, the student who made the error another student.

19 What the guides recommend Hedge (2000) and Scrivener (2005) advised giving students the opportunity to self-correct and, if that fails, inviting another student to perform the correction. The least favoured option in the guides is teacher correction

20 A general picture 1.Teachers need to carry out correction sensitively to avoid a negative emotional response in learners. 2.They should delay correction in oral fluency work.. 3.They need to be selective in the errors they correct. Various proposals for deciding which errors to correct have been put forward but none are easy to implement in practice. 4.Teacher educators are reluctant to recommend which strategies teachers should use but favour those that induce learners to correct their own errors. 5.As far as possible, it is the students who should do the correction not the teacher.

21 A final comment The pedagogical advice found in the teacher guides is based on the authors own experience of teaching and received opinion about corrective feedback. There is no reference to any research on corrective feedback.

22 Corrective Feedback in SLA


24 Theoretical positions 1.UG-based accounts of corrective feedback 2.Cognitive-interactionist accounts 3.Sociocultural theory and corrective feedback

25 UG-based accounts Universal Grammar - a highly abstract set of linguistic principles that act as constraints on the form that the specific rules of a language can take. The poverty of stimulus argument - the input that learners are exposed to is insufficient to ensure full acquisition of a target language grammar and thus UG is required to provide an explanation of how it is that learners come to know properties of grammar that go far beyond the input (White 2003:20).

26 The role of negative evidence Different positions: UG can only operate on positive evidence (Schwartz, 1993) so corrective feedback (= negative evidence) plays no role in language learning Negative evidence can trigger UG principles and may be needed to help learners overcome persistent errors. Negative evidence only plays a role in the intermediate stages of L2 acquisition (Carroll, 2001)

27 Cognitive-interactionist accounts Cognitive-interactionist theories emphasise that CF is most likely to assist acquisition when learners are focused primarily on meaning in the context of producing and understanding messages in communication, commit errors and then receive feedback that they recognize as corrective.

28 Two functions of CF CF facilitates the processes responsible for acquisition in two ways: providing learners with positive evidence of target language forms pushing learners to self-correct their errors (i.e. though output).

29 Recasts provide positive evidence T: When were you in school? L: Yes. I stand in the first row? (trigger) T: Oh, you stood in the first row. (corrective move) L: Yes, in the first row.

30 Prompts push learners to self- correction S: Why does he fly to Korea last year? (trigger) T: Pardon? (corrective move) S: Why did he fly to Korea last year? (uptake) (Yang & Lyster, 2010:234-4).

31 A controversy Long (2006) – recasts are the more effective because they provide learners with both negative and positive evidence. They point out that unless learners receive positive evidence it will be impossible for them to acquire new linguistic forms. Lyster (2004) – according to skill-learning theory prompting learners to self-correct is more effective because it helps learners to gain greater control over partially acquired linguistic features.

32 Combining prompts and recasts L: I think that the worm will go under the soil. T: I think that the worm will go under the soil? L: (no response) T: I thought that the worm would go under the soil. L: I thought that the worm would go under the soil. (Doughty & Varela, 1998)

33 Explicit versus implicit feedback Implicit corrective feedback the corrective force of the feedback is not overt (e.g. recasts; clarification requests) Explicit corrective feedback the corrective force is signalled linguistically (e.g. metalinguistic explanation or elicitation)

34 Explicit feedback – an example L: He kiss her T: No, kissed - past tense. L: He kissed her

35 Another controversy The case for implicit types of CF is based on the claim that they do not interrupt the communicative flow of an interaction to the same degree as explicit types. Explicit CF, however, has the advantage of being more likely to be attended to by the learner.

36 Sociocultural theory and corrective feedback Correction is not something done to learners but rather something carried out with learners. It enables the joint construction of a Zone of Proximal Development – a sociocognitive state where learners are assisted to use linguistic features that they cannot employ independently. Corrective feedback needs to be graduated – that is, it must provide the learner with the minimal level of assistance needed to construct a ZPD.

37 A regulatory scale Aljaafreh and Lantolf (1994) developed a regulatory scale to reflect the nature of the graduated assistance that occurred when a tutor helped learners to identify and correct errors in an oral conference. This scale was based on a continuum of corrective strategies employed by a tutor, reflecting how explicit or implicit the strategies were.

38 Types of corrective feedback (adapted from Lyster, Saito & Sato, 2013:3)

39 Corrective feedback research 1.Does CF assist L2 acquisition? 2.Which type of CF is most effective in assisting L2 acquisition? 3.Does learner self-correction following CF (i.e. uptake) contribute to L2 acquisition? 4. How do linguistic, contextual and learner variables influence the effectiveness of CF?

40 Does CF assist L2 acquisition? Lis (2010) meta-analysis (33 studies involving 1,773 learners): corrective feedback had a medium effect on acquisition. this effect was evident in tests immediately following the treatment involving CF and over time. the effect was much greater in studies carried out in a laboratory than in a classroom. the effect of CF was greater in foreign language than in second language settings CF proved more effective in treatments that involved discrete- item practice of grammatical structures (e.g. in drills) than in communicative activities. the effects of CF were evident in both tests that measured controlled language use and free production.

41 Aljaafreh and Lantolfs study The degree of scaffolding provided by the tutor for a particular learner diminished over time (i.e. whereas at one time the instructor needed to correct quite explicitly to enable a learner to self- correct, at a later time more implicit correction sufficed). In accordance with how learning is conceptualized in sociocultural theory, they argued that this demonstrated that learning was taking place.

42 Which type of CF is most effective in assisting L2 acquisition? Research conducted within a cognitive-interactionist framework has investigated input-providing vs. output- prompting and implicit vs. explicit CF. It assumes that not all types of CF are equally effective and therefore, the primary goal of CF research is to establish which type works best. Research conducted within a sociocultural framework is based on the assumption that for CF to be effective it needs to be systematically tailored to the learners developmental level. From this perspective there is no one type of CF that will work best

43 Cognitive-interactionist research Some key studies: Ellis, Loewen & Erlam (2006) Lyster (2004) Lyster & Mori (2006) Mifka-Profozic (2012) These studies suggest that the context of the instruction influences which type of CF is most effective. In general, though, explicit CF is more effective than implicit CF.

44 Sociocultural research Key studies: Aljaafreh & Lantolf (1994) Nassaji & Swain (2000) Erlam, Ellis & Batstone (2013) General conclusion – graduated feedback is effective but possibly not more so than simple explicit feedback.

45 Does learner self-correction following CF (i.e. uptake) contribute to L2 acquisition? Lyster & Ranta (1997) – learners more likely to repair their errors following prompts than recasts. But little research on whether this facilitates acquisition. Loewen (2005) – uptake predicted adult ESL learners test scores. A possible conclusion – learners benefit from CF even if they do not repair their errors but when they do deeper processing may occur which may assist learning.

46 Mediating variables 1.Linguistic targets CF more likely to be attended to if it targets vocabulary or pronunciation than morphosyntactical features Regular versus irregular forms (Yang & Lyster, 2010) 2.Instructional context Recasts more salient in a form-focused instruction context 3.Learner variables: Age Proficiency (prompts more effective for less proficient learners but prompts and recasts equally effective for more proficient learners – Ammar & Spada (2006) Anxiety (Sheen, 2008)

47 Re-examining the role of corrective feedback in language pedagogy

48 Should learners errors be corrected? The reservations that some teacher educators have expressed about CF is not supported – CF works The claim that CF is best kept for accuracy-based activities is not supported – CF is needed in fluency- based activities as well

49 When should learner errors be corrected? There is no support for the proposal that correction should be delayed until after a fluency-activity has been completed. The research supports providing CF in communicative interactions. But no research to date has investigated whether immediate or delayed CF is more effective.

50 Which errors should be corrected? There is no basis in the research for focusing only on global errors – CF directed at local errors has been shown to be effective. The research indicates the effectiveness of a focused approach to CF

51 How should errors be corrected? The SLA research is of greatest value in helping to address this question: The treatment of CF in the teacher guides provides no theoretical justification for the choice of strategy. In SLA, the classification of strategies into two key dimensions (i.e. input-providing vs. output- prompting and implicit vs. explicit) is theoretically driven.

52 Some general guidelines for conducting CF Aim to provide intensive CF. Explicitness is important. Do not rely predominantly on recasts. Teachers should vary how they correct according to instructional context. In a communicative activity, brief explicit forms of correction may be needed. In a grammar exercise, recasts can be effective. Combine input-providing and output-prompting CF strategies in a systematic way - e.g. corrective recasts. Encourage uptake with repair. (In this respect, the SLA research lends support to the recommendation of the guides which emphasize the need to ensure learners successfully uptake the correction).

53 Who should do the correcting? Teachers need not be wary of other-initiated/ other repair (i.e. CF initiated and completed by the teacher). However, leaving time for learner uptake of the correction can assist learning. Descriptive studies of CF in classrooms show that despite the recommendation that teachers should make use of peer-correction, this rarely occurs.

54 Final Comment

55 CF is an aspect of instruction where the concerns of teachers and interests of SLA researchers coincide and, as such, constitutes an ideal construct for examining the contribution that SLA can make to language pedagogy. The approach I have followed is not to apply SLA research to language pedagogy but rather to draw on it to evaluate common pedagogic claims and thereby to encourage a reconsideration of these.

56 References Ellis, R. (2012). Language Teaching Research and Language Pedagogy. Malden, MA.: Wiley Blackwell. Ellis, R. (2013). Exploring Language Pedagogy through Second Language Acquisition Research. London: Routledge. Lyster, R., Saito, K. & Sato, M. (2013). State of the art article: Oral corrective feedback in second language classrooms. Language Teaching 46, 1-40.

57 Thank you!

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