Treatment of Written Error Correction Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

21-32; Lyster et al., 1999, pg. 457-467). Chaudron (1986, pg. 64-84) explained that the error correction exercise might not have statistical backup on its constrictive impact but nonetheless has proven to have a beneficial impact on the overall communicational skills of the students. Many researchers (Birdsong, 1989 as cited in Wen, 1999, pg. 1-22) agree that the benefits for adult ESL students are extensive as they learn the practical use of both the standards of English grammar and the vocabulary. Hammerly however feels that the L2 students should not be taught ESL in a strict and rigid environment and not have all their mistakes corrected so that they can teach themselves the standards of English and is mostly the case with the first language of the students (Hammerly, 1991, pg. 120-208). This way their approach towards English would not only be taught but self-guided too.

Categories of Learner Errors

Like every other format of teaching, correction as a tool of teaching must also follow a systematic pattern so as to avoid confusion and ensure accurate understanding and high efficiency (Hammerly, 1991, pg. 120-208). A systematic patter of error correction mainly entails the precedence of certain correction of errors over others (Burt, 1975, pg. 53-63; Walz, 1982, pg. 853-894). Bartram and Walton (1991, pg. 87-91) explain that it is extremely important for the teachers to know the hierarchy of errors and give the more important errors precedence over other errors that might not be as important. The standardized categorization of errors accepted by teachers is (1) errors that are academically important, (2) repetitive errors, and (3) errors that present obstacles in practical interaction (Cohen, 1975, pg. 414-422; Hendrickson, 1980, pg. 153-173; and Walz, 1982, pg. 853-894).

Errors that are academically important to correct are usually errors made in understanding the objectivity and subjectivity of an academic topic (Wen, 1999, pg. 1-22). Cohen also explains that the students' understanding of the subject and all its angles is far more important then any other aspect of learning (cited in Hendrickson, 1980, pg. 153-173). Hammerly (1991, pg. 120-208) further explains that teachers should be able to spot and correct all mistakes and errors made by student pertaining to what was they had learned in the class. He explains that the errors made in what the students have been taught, which he calls 'distortion', take priority over the mistakes that they make unknowingly, which he calls 'fault', and both formats of mistakes require different input from the teachers. He explains that distortion errors are more important to correct then fault errors because the fault errors are usually a case of over-zealous attitude from the students and taking on something that was beyond their course and capacity.

The second most important error to correct is the repetitive error (Allwright, 1975, pg. 96-106; Mings, 1993, pg. 171-179). Walz (1982, pg. 853-894) explains that the repetitive errors are those that are made commonly by a major number of students in a class. This is more common in the grammar sphere of the language. Hence, it is important that teachers pay attention to the correct use of basic grammar of students instead of focusing on minor and less important grammatical errors. Hendrickson (1980, pg. 153-173) suggests that one way to identify the repetitive errors is though the use of grammar tests given at regular intervals. This will also help identify if the correction technique has worked and the extent at which further correction is needed. Burt, et al. (1982, pg. 245-277) explained that some of the common errors made by ESL students included the standardization of new rules, wrong use of tenses, excessive use of one format in numerous places, misusing or not using the grammatical morphemes, using words in the wrong order and utilizing two or more formats in haphazard patterns.

There are many ESL teachers and practitioners who agree that the errors that place obstacles in the communication process are also very important to correct. Even in correcting errors that impact the communication processes, many researchers, including Hammerly (1991, pg. 120-208), agree that those errors that impact the clarity of the communication need to be corrected foremost. Burt and Kiparsky categorized the communication errors as global and local i.e. global errors in communicating are those that make the communication difficult or a failure while the local errors are minor misuses of nouns or verbs that can make the communication clumsy or inept but still comprehensible (cited in Raimes, 1991, pg. 55-64).

The techniques of Error Treatment

Along with the identification and categorization of errors, the processes involved in the correction of the errors are critically important in attaining the aims of teaching ESL. One of the most effective techniques has been to give the corrected use with varying examples (Hendrickson, 1980, pg. 153-173). However, teachers and practitioners realize the importance of having more then one successful strategy that can be employed in different circumstances (Lynch, 1996, cited in Muncie, 2000, pg. 47-53). Holley and King (1971, cited in Hendrickson, 1980, pg. 153-173) explain that the use of techniques which cause embarrassment or shame to students should be used as it would discourage them and negatively impact their self-esteem.

From here on out, the literature review will highlight some of the more effective error correction techniques that have been approved by teachers and researcher alike. One of these techniques is the use of explicit and implicit format of correction. We will also discuss how the extent of explicitness used is dependent upon the kind of errors made, the language skills established and the goal of learning the language. Furthermore, we will also analyze the application of the correction codes regulations.

Explicit Correction and Implicit Correction general categorization of the teachers' approach towards correcting errors is usually done into explicit and implicit approaches (Ayoun, 2001, pg. 226-243). The explicit approach can simply explained a direct correction from the teacher when he/she identifies and explains the mistakes made by each student. The implicit approach is a direct approach adopted by the teacher where he/she indicates the mistakes through giving hints and discussing the mistakes generally in class. The implicit approach mainly incorporates personal reflection for correction and peer input (see Ferris, 1995b, pg. 18-22). The explicit approach is very helpful in tackling certain formats of errors like the correct use of words or the correct expression of a thought (Kubota, 2001, pg. 467-480). Even though explicit teaching a direct highlighting of the errors, it is not exactly embarrassing or shameful for the student if the teacher is very clear in where the problem (Zamel, 1985, pg. 103-110; Cohen, 1987, pg. 57-69). Implicit approach is more useful when tackling the grammatical errors or when pointing out the differences between similar words. Both of these approaches are very successful for adult ESL students however they need to be effectively mixed and matched in accordance to the circumstance to attain a consistent level of efficiency (Carroll & Swain, 1993, pg. 357-386).

Extent of Explicitness

The extent to which explicitness can be used as a mode of correction is dependent upon four factors, as recognized by Hendrickson (1984, pg. 145-159), which are the student's set of skills in the language or command over the language, the aim of the student for learning the language, the kind of errors that the student makes as well as the student's reaction to being corrected under explicit instructions (Hendrickson, 1984, pg. 145-159). All these factors will allow the teacher to adapt towards an explicit or a more moderate approach; however, in our study we will not incorporate the fourth factor.

The set of language skills is a very clear indicator of the level of explicit input that the student needs. The more skilled the student will get with the dynamics of the language the less explicit help they'll need; in fact, a mere indication would be enough for them to correct themselves. This simply means that the students will eventually be capable enough to spot and correct their own mistakes (Hendrickson, 1984, pg. 145-159). For beginners obviously, the extent of explicit correctness will be high because of their unfamiliarity with the language that they are learning (Mantello, 1997, pg. 127-131). Hence, for beginners, the extent of explicitness is high while for adult learners the extent of explicit correction is low.

Furthermore, the aim of the students to learn the language or take up ESL lessons is very important in order to isolate or prioritize the errors that the teachers would want to correct. Eskey (1983pg. 312-323) explains that if the aim is to improve the overall academic communicational purposes then the simple and basic language skills will not be enough. Ferris (1999, pg.. 1-11) explains that understanding the dynamics of language within the aim of learning it is really important in order to improve the overall performance of the ESL student. Ferris also confirms that the understanding…

Sources Used in Document:


Allwright, R.L. (1975). Problems in the study of the language teachers' treatment of learner error. In M.K. Burt & H. Dulay (Eds.), New directions in second language learning, teaching and bilingual education: 9th TESOL convention (pp. 96-106). Washington, DC: TESOL.

Ayoun, D. (2001). The role of negative and positive feedback in the second language acquisition of the passe compose and imparfait. The Modern Language Journal, 85(2), 226-243.

Bartram, M., & Walton, R. (1991). Correction. Hove, England: Language Teaching Publications. Pg. 87-91.

Bell, N. (1992). The role of spoken error correction in second language acquisition: Issues in corrective technique. ORTESOL Journal, 13, 21-32.

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