How do teachers and learners perceive corrective feedback in the Japanese language classroom?

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How do teachers and learners perceive corrective feedback in the Japanese language classroom?

Mark Shrosbree

 From: The Modern Language Journal, 2010

In the literature of error correction, there are two main types of corrective feedback (CF): implicit and explicit. The former includes no overt indication that an error has occurred, whereas the latter involves teacher’s explicit demonstration and treatment of the students’ errors. For instance, recast, which refers to teachers’ immediate repetition of students’ erroneous utterances using the correct form (see the first Newsletters), is an example of implicit CF. On the contrary, providing extensive (grammatical) explanation on the correct form of a mistake committed by students demonstrates an example ofexplicit CF.

A large bulk of studies has been conducted on the effectiveness of these two types of feedback, leading to an almost overwhelming agreement on the usefulness of the explicit CF over the implicit one. The key to the superiority of explicit CF lies in the notion of noticing proposed by Schmidt, according to which no learning can happen without the engagement of learners’ conscious attention. Following this hypothesis if, for example, students are supposed to learn to use third person singular —s in their own production, they need to be consciously informed of (that is, they should notice) the existence of this grammatical form in English.

However, the existing published studies have paid little, if any, attention to the role of teachers’ and students’ perceptions of the provided CF. In other words; there is controversy over the way CF is actually understood by students. Moreover, it is not clear whether teachers think that CF has fulfilled its real function in making students aware of (notice) their mistakes. This was the concern of the present paper in which the researcher addressed students’ and teachers’ perception of instances of CF. To this end, two teachers and seven students who were engaged in teaching and learning Japanese at the university of New South Wales in Australia were studied over a semester of three months. Three different methods were utilized for data collection: classroom observation, audio-recording of the classroom, and stimulated recall technique. The first two techniques were mostly used for pinpointing and listing various types of CF used, while the last one (i.e., stimulated recall technique) was used for finding out teachers’ and students’ perception of instances of CF. To this end, in separate interview sessions after the classes, teachers and students were invited to listen to the audio-recording of their classroom performance and comment on the occasions of CF. They needed to say what they had been thinking about while CF was provided by the teacher.

Some striking findings were revealed: first, it was found that 76% of all the instances of CF were implicit. The second finding, which was of more significance to the main concern of the study, was that during the stimulated recall interviews some discrepancies were observed between teachers’ and students’ perception of CF. More precisely, sometimes teachers thought that the CF had been noticed by students while they had been ignored and at times teachers believed that CF had not been noticed by students while in fact they had been. Several reasons could be listed for such a difference of perception. First of all, teachers’ ideas of students’ abilities was one of the crucial factors; sometimes it happened that teachers thought that a smart student had grasped the significance of the CF whereas s/he had not. The second reason is that at times students felt embarrassed to talk about their lack of understanding with respect to instances of CF. More clearly, students pretended that they had got the point behind the provided CF to save their face and sometimes not to disrupt the flow of communication in the classroom. Moreover, the implicit nature of a large proportion of CFs was another main reason for the discrepancy between teachers’ and students’ perception. That is, while teachers provided implicit feedback and perceived it as effective, students did not notice it because they were not actually conscious of the significance of teachers’ utterance.

All in all, it can be said that a large portion of classroom CF is in the form of implicit feedback. While this form of feedback might save some time due to its implicit nature, it may not be noticed by students in many occasions, and as a result, teachers need to start thinking about finding suitable ways of presenting explicit error feedback.

Suggestions for further reading:

  1. Ellis, R. (2007). The differential effects of corrective feedback on L2 knowledge. In A. Mackey (Ed.), Conversational interaction in second language acquisition (pp. 339-360). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  2. Han, Z. (2001). Fine-tuning corrective feedback. Foreign Language Annals 34, 582-599.
  3. Long, M. H. (2007). Problems in SLA. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  4. Mackey, A. (2006). Feedback, noticing and instructed second language learning. Applied Linguistics 27, 405-430.
  5. Swain, M., & Lapkin, S. (2002). Talking it through: Two French immersion learners’ response to reformulation. International Journal of Educational Research 37, 285-304.

Except from SELA newsletter (Safir English Language Academy) by Dr. Ramin Akbari

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