Facts About Error Correction Every EFL Teacher Should Know
A lot of novice EFL teachers think that error correction is a piece of cake and there is no need to pay much attention to it. They think that all they need to do is correct everything and that’s it. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
When a teacher corrects every single error made by a student without making any comments about the work in general, there is a danger that the student can get hugely disappointed and start feeling like giving up. That’s why it’s so important to always try to give positive feedback. This is true for both spoken and written tasks, such as essays, narratives, letters, reports and so on.
Generally speaking, it’s a lot easier to correct written work than spoken English in classroom. However, the teacher should never simply correct every single error, so that the work has more red ink than anything else. It is vital to comment on the work itself in addition to explaining the errors made.
A lot of novice teachers neglect commenting on whether the work has succeeded in its purpose or not. But in fact, this is the first thing the teacher should comment on, and things like grammar, spelling and punctuation should come next. Ideally, the student’s work should always be clear and well-structured. So, if a student submits a narrative when the task was to write a letter of complaint, the teacher should let the student know that the work didn’t relate to the task and explain why in a supportive and friendly way.
When students see their work corrected in a detached manner and there is no valuable input from the teacher, they can easily start feeling dejected and lose motivation to continue studying English.
There are two ways to maintain the student’s motivation without jeopardizing the accuracy. The first technique is to avoid correcting every single errors, especially in tasks completed by the lower-level students. Naturally, there are errors that can’t go uncorrected, but at the same time there are errors that can wait. Research suggests that three types of errors should always be addressed: semantic errors that make the meaning unclear and confuse the reader or the listener, high frequency errors, and errors in using the target language from the lesson. Semantic errors have the highest severity level of them all and should always be corrected no matter how many there are.
The second way to correct errors without damaging the student’s motivation is to always provide positive feedback. This is especially true for correcting assignments like essays, narratives, letters, stories, and so on where the feedback about the task itself is often more important than the feedback about the correct use of the language.
No matter the level of the students, the teacher should always provide valuable feedback about the errors and how to avoid them in the future, as well as about other aspects of the task to encourage the students to learn from their own mistakes.