I asked a relatively new Upper-int conversation class of 8 students yesterday what their preference was in terms of error correction. All but 1 of the students were adamant that the best method is immediate correction by the teacher. The solitary student who didn’t insist on immediate T correction was indifferent and merely stated, ‘As you wish’. In percentage terms, my class gives even more profound results than when Philip Harmer found that 62% of students liked immediate teacher correction (2005:74), against 38% who preferred delayed, teacher led correction post-task.
If you asked your classes today for their thoughts on error correction, don’t you think that you would get a set of similar responses?
Obviously the majority of students have not undergone teacher training and are not concerned or aware of the differences between accuracy vs fluency or communicative vs non-communicative tasks and most learners demand feedback on oral performance. Consequently, if error correction is absent or lacking, for students, ‘this comes…as a big disappointment’ (Lavezzo and Dunford 1993:62). Of course, there are different methods with which to correct or offer alternatives, with some being more of an interruption than others. However, I imagine that a fair amount of teachers stick to a tried and trusted method for the majority of their teaching time. Is this the case? Maybe I’m completely wrong and teachers switch methods according to learner styles, rapport, motivation etc. Personally, I try to adopt different methods as much as possible (between repeating, hinting, echoing, reformulation, facial/physical expression or statement and question) but if I had been filmed in yesterday’s lesson, I imagine that I would be shocked at the frequency of my reformulation.
If we think about Chaudron’s framework (1987) for decision making re student oral work error, what are your thoughts on students’ preferences and best practice for teachers?
- Should learner errors be corrected?
- If so, when should learner errors be corrected?
- Which learner errors should be corrected?
- How should learner errors be corrected?
- Who should correct learner errors?
Please feel free to leave a comment on any aspect of error correction!