Saturday, October 8, 2011

Correcting or nagging?

Studies have actually failed to show that explicit error correction causes a permanent improvement in production for learners of a second language.  Lightbown (1985) and others have then come to the conclusion that isolated error correction is usually ineffective in changing behaviour.

If you think about it, direct error correction usually relies on the student having an understanding of the correct form, they just mispoke because they are in the habit of mispeaking having never been successfully corrected before. 

If they do not have this underlying understanding of the correct form, they must be exposed to it in order for the language to make sense to them before they will reliably produce it correctly.  Surely, this will take multiple exposures and in the few hours that most ESL students spend in the classroom with many other students, a reoccurrance of the same error will take some time.

Point of this being that if you really want to correct behaviour, the best way to do this is to correct the belief that underlies the behaviour.

Lightbown, P. (1985).  Great expectations: Second language acquisition research and classroom teaching.  Applied Linguistics, 6, 173-189.

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