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Corrective Feedback for Young Learners: A Study of Corrective Feedback Preferences and Practices of Pakistani Teachers at Primary Level.

Byline: Mamuna Ghani and Saeed Ahmad

Abstract

In Pakistan, language teachers usually provide feedback on errors in L2 writings of students. Although, it is a time consuming process but they take it as important task of their duty. The present study focuses to find the preferences and practices of the teachers to provide written corrective feedback (WCF) for young learners' texts i.e. the students' writing at primary level. These practices and preferences are divided into: attitude of teachers towards WCF, grammatical categories mostly focused for correction, WCF methods used by the teachers and professional knowledge of teachers about WCF. The current study is descriptive in nature and survey design was adopted to precede the research. To find the preferences and practices of the teachers for WCF, questionnaire as a research tool was devised on five points Likert Scale. A sample of 107 teachers was selected through random sampling.

Through questionnaire data it was explored that most of the teachers believe that providing feedback for learners' errors at primary school level is of great importance and teachers usually use explicit method of WCF or mixture of both implicit and explicit CF methods to respond learners' errors. Mostly the spelling errors, grammatical errors and orthographical errors are focused by the L2 teachers at this level. Further, it was explored that topics on written corrective feedback are not included in teachers' professional development courses or trainings and teachers do not have any model to follow for corrective feedback on L2 writings.

Keywords: Written Corrective Feedback, Error Treatment, WCF Perceptions, Attitude towards WCF

Introduction

In second language teaching the terms error correction, error treatment and corrective feedback refer to teachers' responses to learners' errors. Whereas, written corrective feedback (WCF) means to provide the feedback on errors in students' writings.

Regarding error and error corrective feedback in second language learning, there have always been contrastive views. As defined by Lennon (1991), an error is "a linguistic form or combination of forms which in the same context and under similar conditions of production would, in all likelihood, not be produced by the speakers' native speakers' counterparts" (p. 182). Further, regarding error there are views that it is a sign that language learning process is being taking place. It is like a window through which a teacher can peep into the mind of a learner. Contrary to that there are views about error that it should be avoided at every cost. Same is the case with corrective feedback (CF). There are contrastive views about effectiveness of corrective feedback in L2 learning. Some researchers believe corrective feedback as important variable for second language learning whereas some researchers are on the opposite end.

In Pakistani context, there are studies to find the effects of corrective feedback (Gul and Sherwin, 2012; Noureen, Akhtar and Nisa, 2013; Ahmad, Slam, and Saeed, 2013) but this study focuses on perception and attitude of teachers towards CF at primary school level where learners are at beginning level of L2 learning.

Review of Related Literature

Feedback on learners' errors has got attention of researchers in the previous three or four decades. The subject matter of corrective feedback (CF) in the second language acquisition always tends to create disagreement among both language teachers and second language acquisition researchers on many issue related to it. It is a fact that literature of corrective feedback studies provides a continuum that ranges from advantageous (Russell and Spada, 2006) to ineffective and possibly harmfulness of corrective feedback nature (e.g., Polio et al., 1998; Truscott, 1999).

There are many linguists that lay emphasis on absence of corrective feedback so that learners may be able to test their linguistic hypothesis about the target language. Truscott (1996) doesn't believe about the effectiveness of corrective feedback (CF) and argues that feedback is not only unnecessary and ineffective but harmful to students' out products. He is of the view that teachers should adopt an approach for students that is correction free. He argues that "acquisition of a grammatical structure is a gradual process, not a sudden discovery as the intuitive view of correction would imply" (Truscott, 1996, p. 342). Further, he asserts that it causes frustration among learners who are receiving feedback. Similarly studies like Polio et al., 1998; Truscott and Hsu (2008) also prove that corrective feedback is not effective for learners.

Contrary to that there are researchers that consider corrective feedback as an important variable for second language learning. Also, teachers may have strong views in favor of corrective feedback based on their classroom experiences. If we review the literature about corrective feedback, majority of studies demonstrate that it is helpful for creating accuracy in learners' oral and written out products e.g. Lalande, 1982; Ferris, 1995b, 1997; Chandler, 2000; Ferris and Roberts, 2001.

Ferris (1999) in her dialogue with Truscott provided strong arguments about the effectiveness of error corrections. Ashwell (2000) asserts that teacher believe that providing feedback to students writings helps them to create accuracy in their writings. Leki (1990) is of that view that students' good writing means the writing without any errors and students want every single error in their writings to be corrected. Studies (like Ferris, 1997; Ashwell, 2000; Ferris and Robert 2001; Sheen 2007; Bitchener and Knoch, 2009) also support the view that error correction or corrective feedback (CF) is necessary for growing knowledge of the learners.

Other issue related to corrections of errors is what to correct in students' writings. Different teachers adopt different error categories to correct the learners' error but it is a fact that corrective feedback if provided systematically and selectively can be more effective for the learners (Hammerly, 1991). Frequency of errors is another criterion to select the strategy for learners' errors. Examination of errors by the teachers is necessary at every stage of students learning so that they may be able to make a hierarchy for the correction of errors (Hendrickson, 1980). Ferris and Roberts's (2001) and Ferris and Hedgcock (2005) have given categories of errors that frequently occur in students' writings. These are: verb errors, noun ending errors, article errors, wrong word errors, sentence structure errors, spelling errors and other errors. Also Ferris (1999) error hierarchy can also be used to respond learners' errors on the basis of "treatable errors and untreatable error".

Another controversy for responding to learners' error is the use of corrective feedback strategy. Feedback on L2 learners' errors is mainly divided into two categories that are direct feedback or explicit feedback and indirect feedback also named implicit feedback (Lee, 2004). Direct feedback or explicit method of error correction is a technique of correcting students' error by giving an explicit written correction where as in indirect feedback or implicit feedback correction is provided by indicating an error by underline, circle or code etc. (Lee, 2004). There is also disagreement over the effectiveness of corrective feedback strategies. Both methods of corrective feedback are helpful and to create accuracy in L2 writings. Some studies prove that indirect method of CF is more effective for creating accuracy in L2 writings (Lalande, 1982; Ferris, 2002; Ferris, 2006; Miceli, 2006). Similarly, study results of Sheen (2007) confirm that direct method of CF is more effective compare to indirect method of CF.

For proving feedback to students' writings, teachers should develop various theory-laden methods because feedback with a rationale behind it can be more beneficial for students than others. There are certain factors that teachers should take into consideration to adopt either direct feedback or indirect feedback method of CF. The factors as suggested by different researchers are as under.

For designing an effective instruction types, linguistic categories should be taken into consideration. As error corrective methods have dissimilar effectiveness for different types of grammatical items therefore feedback method adopted for corrective feedback should be as per type of error category. Efficacy of CF strategy depends on what is being analyzed by the teacher (Ferris and Helt, 2000). Study results of Carroll et al. (1992) in which they analyzed the consequential effects of explicit feedback on students' errors found that explicit feedback group surpassed the other group in accuracy. Likewise, there are studies with results that implicit strategy of CF is more effective for grammatical errors and orthographic errors as this method of CF enhances the learners' ability of self correction and self editing. Also, a study by Ferris and Roberts (2001) confirmed the results that learners were with ability to correct 80% of their errors if they were responded by implicit feedback method by their teachers.

Depending on the type of structures, some forms are learnt by inductive instruction and others by deductive instruction. As argued by Ferris and Helt (2000), effectiveness of feedback strategy depends on what is being analyzed. Different corrective feedback methods have different types of effectiveness for different error categories. Mostly, a language teacher corrects treatable error by direct feedback methods and indirect feedback method is used for untreatable errors. These patterns of corrective feedback also affect students in their short-term and long-term progress (Ferris 1999, p. 06).

Similarly, comparative effectiveness of feedback methods also differs when they are used for items and rules learning. There are studies to prove that direct or implicit method of instruction is helpful more for rules learning where as other is helpful for items learning. The study results of Michas and Berry's (1994) prove that for L2 learners, explicit rules presented with examples are more helpful than the implicit presentation of word/pronunciation pairings. Similarly, In Ellis's (1991) study, explicit instruction of rules, brought about with solid knowledge of the rules, was not very successful. However explicit instruction plus exemplification of rule was the most fruitful. Factors pertaining to context (i.e. use of language in a contextual setting) and isolation also play an important role to use either direct feedback or indirect feedback for manner of correction.

For providing feedback to students' writings, student's preferences about feedback method are most important. There are research evidences that students like one method of feedback most or the other in different circumstances. For example study results of Ferris and Roberts (2001) and Rennie (2000) prove that learners prefer direct feedback to indirect feedback. Whereas there are some researchers (like Lalande, 1982; Lee, 2004) to claim that indirect feedback is more effective to make learners to lead towards accuracy than direct feedback.

Purpose of L2 Learning is another factor to make teachers to decide that which method of error correction will be effective for learners. In short-term courses direct feedback method is more effective whereas in long courses, especially learning for academic purposes, indirect feedback is more effective (Ferris, 2002).

Use of WCF method is also determined by the level of learning. Students at the early learning stage do not have either the formal linguistic knowledge or the acquired competence to correct errors by themselves. At this stage direct feedback method of corrective feedback is more helpful for them as compared to indirect feedback. When students are at mature level then teacher should try to make feedback indirect. At this stage focus on error location must be preferred to error identification. Ferris (2002, p. 57) emphasizes that while using different corrective feedback methods, students' level of learning should be taken into consideration. She argues that for students at initial level it will be the best strategy to provide feedback through indirect feedback method but direct feedback should be there to correct the learners' errors because at this level a student is benefited more through direct feedback method.

The present study is specific for the preferences and practices of teachers for providing CF on writings of young learners in Pakistan i.e. at primary school level.

English Language Status in Pakistan

Punjab, consisting almost half population of Pakistan, has made great strides in educational system since last two decades. This development of educational system includes advancement in students' enrolment, retention of students in schools, staff attendance, functioning of facilities, infrastructure, teachers' professional development and quality education. At present this province is with over 52,000 public schools, 321,064 teachers for about 11 million students from early grade Katchi to 12th grade in primary, elementary, high and higher secondary schools.

Review report (2015) published by Ministry of Education describes that in Pakistan under the 18th Constitutional Amendment, education is now a provincial subject. Under provincial management, public sector formal school system is the largest service provider in Pakistan and it consists of 12 academic years. It starts from Primary level and ends at Intermediate level or Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSSC).

Under the Chief Minister of Punjab Province, Schools Reform Roadmap Program since its inception i.e. December 2010, student teacher attendance, school infrastructure with effective governance have developed a lot to promote the quality education in the province. Further it was evoked to make the "quality education for all" the top most priority of government in Punjab. Students' enrollment is being focused especially for the early grades. Indicators of student presence for "Katchi" and Grade 1 to 5 are devised to focus more the attendance of students at primary level.

To promote the quality education in the public schools, Directorate of Staff Development Punjab is with basic responsibility of professional development of the teachers. The professional development of teachers is carried out through in-house trainings and mentoring of teachers. For mentoring of teachers department is with four thousand key players i.e. District Teacher Educators (DTEs). These DTEs are professionally trained to monitor and mentor the teachers about teaching methodology, students' assessment and other classroom activities. After observing teacher lesson, DTEs provide coaching on structured form namely Mentoring Visit Form (MVF). Teachers present status and development plan is created as per devised nine indicators mentioned in MVF.

In this mentoring visit form, indicator about the provision of corrective feedback is with following ranking: (i) Student notebooks show evidence of regular written work assigned and checked but no proper written feedback provided. (ii) Student notebooks show evidence of regular written work assigned along with proper written feedback provided by teacher. After that DTE provides coaching about the feedback patterns and correction methodologies along with other indicators. Thus every teacher at primary level is professionally gauged and trained about CF along with other indicators. English is taught as compulsory subject at primary level. Providing feedback to students' writings is considered as compulsory part of teachers practices at this level. The current study is designed to find the preferences and practices of English teachers at primary school level to provide the error corrective feedback on L2 writings.

Objectives of the Study

For the current study, following objectives were set:

1. To find out preferences of teachers for providing feedback on young learners' writings.

2. To explore the professional knowledge of teachers for providing written corrective feedback on young learners writings.

3. To know the young learners' types of error frequently corrected by the teachers in L2 writings.

4. To know kinds of strategies teachers believe are most effective to create accuracy in young learners L2 writings.

Method of the Study

The current study is descriptive in nature and survey design was adopted to precede the research. All English language teachers at primary schools of Punjab constitute the population of the study. Out of total population, a sample of 120 teachers was selected through random sampling to collect the data. Questionnaire was used to collect the data. Questionnaire consisted of 18 items developed on five point Likert scale (Strongly Agree, Agree, Uncertain, Disagree and Strongly Disagree) as per objectives of the study. The questionnaire was refined for validity of content and reliability test by obtaining experts judgments and changes were made as per suggestions of experts.

To find out the preferences and practices of the teachers for written corrective feedback, these 120 English language teachers of primary schools level were given the questionnaire to respond as per their choice. Questionnaire response rate was 89% as 107 English teachers out of 120 responded for the questionnaire.

Data Analysis and Interpretation

Questionnaire data were analyzed to obtain mean, standard deviation. The results of the data were discussed qualitatively on the basis of opinions and findings made by the earlier researchers. Objective wise interpretation of data is given below.

Teachers' Attitude towards Corrective Feedback

The questionnaire data about teachers' attitude towards CF is presented here with statistical values of means and standard deviation in table 1.

Table 1 Teachers' attitude towards corrective feedback

S.###Mean###Std.###Std.

###Questionnaire Statements

No.###(N=107)###Error###Deviation

###Providing feedback on students writings is

1###4.14###0.084###0.874

###considered important by the teachers.

###Feedback by teachers on students writings helps

2###4.66###0.062###0.643

###them to improve accuracy in writing.

###20 to 30 minutes in average are spent by the teacher

3###2.54###0.134###1.382

###to correct the students errors.

###For a teacher responding to errors for all the

4###4.02###0.125###1.288

###students is difficult.

###For teachers, giving response to all the errors is

5###4.03###0.143###1.476

###difficult.

###Appreciative remarks are given by the teachers

6###3.16###0.134###1.388

###while providing feedback to students writings.

###Feedback on homework assignment is given daily

7###2.75###0.13###1.347

###by the teachers.

###Comments given by the teachers are always

8###3.24###0.133###1.373

###understandable by the students.

###Teachers make their students to redrafts their

9###4.14###0.108###1.12

###writings after providing feedback.

###Students want their teachers to give response to

10###4.23###0.12###1.241

###their errors.

The above table shows that for statement no. 1, mean is 4.14, standard error is 0.084 and standard deviation is 0.874. This statistical data depicts that providing feedback to student's writings is considered important by teachers. For statement no. 2, mean is 4.66, standard error is 0.062 and standard deviation is 0.643. This statistical data reveals that all the teachers believe that providing feedback to students' writings is helpful for the students.

Similarly, for statement no. 3, a mean of 2.54, standard error of 0.134 and standard deviation of 1.382 depicts that in average about 20 to 30 minutes daily are spent by the teachers for providing feedback to students' writings. Whereas, for statement no. 4, mean is 4.02, standard error is 0.125 and standard deviation is 1.288. This statistical data represents that majority of teachers agree that for a teacher responding to errors for all the students is difficult process.

For statement no. 5, mean is 4.03, standard error is 0.143 and standard deviation is 1.476. Statistical data reveals that most of teachers believe that providing feedback to students writing is difficult process. Whereas, for statement no. 6, mean is 3.16, standard error is 0.134 and standard deviation is 1.38. This statistical data represents that about half of the teachers are of the view that appreciative remarks are given by the teachers while providing feedback to students' writings.

Also, statement no. 7 statistical results are with a mean of 2.75, standard error 0.13 and standard deviation 1.347. This statistical data show that majority of teachers do not provide feedback on homework assignment of the students. Also, for statement no. 8, mean is 3.24, standard error is 0.133 and standard deviation is 1.373 which represents that more than half respondents are of the view that comments given by the teachers are always understandable by the students.

For statement no. 9, mean of the data is 4.14, standard error is 0.108 and standard deviation is 1.12. This data reveals that vast majority of teachers make their students to redrafts their writings after providing feedback. Similarly, for statement no. 10, mean is 4.23, standard error is 0.12 and standard deviation is 1.24. This data clearly depicts that majority of teachers are of the view that students want their teachers to give response to their errors.

Teachers Professional Knowledge about Feedback

The data about the professional knowledge of teachers about feedback is presented in table 2.

In the above table, the mean for statement no.11 is 2.64 while standard error is 0.14 and standard deviation is 1.443. This data shows that teacher has no model or guiding principles to follow for providing feedback to students' writings. For statement no, 12, statistical results with a mean of 4.31, standard error of 0.139 and standard deviation of 1.442 depicts that most of the teacher agree that they do not have proper knowledge for providing feedback to students writings.

Table 2 Teachers' professional knowledge about feedback

###Mean###Std.###Std.

S. No.###Questionnaire Statements

###(N=107)###Error###Deviation

###Teachers has model (guiding principles) to follow

11###2.64###0.14###1.443

###for providing feedback to students writings.

###Teachers have proper knowledge to provide

12###4.31###0.117###1.209

###feedback for students writings.

###Topics on errors feedback are included in teachers

13###2.07###0.139###1.442

###professional courses.

###Teachers need some training on feedback to

14###3.49###0.143###1.482

###provide proper feedback.

For statement no.13, a mean of 2.07, standard error of 0.143 and standard deviation of 1.482, shows that topics on feedback and error correction are not included in teachers professional courses. Whereas statement no. 14 is with a mean of 3.49, standard error of 0.143 and standard deviation of 1.48 represents that teachers need training on feedback.

Teachers' response for CF to correct error categories

Teachers' response for CF to correct error categories is presented in table 3 in the form of mean and standard deviation.

Table 3 Teachers' response for error categories

S.###Mean###Std.###Std.

###Questionnaire Statement

No.###(N=107)###Error###Deviation

###Feedback is provided for all types of

15###3.58###0.14###1.447

###grammatical categories.

In the above table statement no. 15 shows results about the feedback provided for error categories. The mean score for this statement is 3.58, standard error 0.14 and standard deviation is 1.447. The statistical description for above statement shows that teachers provide feedback to all kind of errors in students' writings.

Teachers' preferences for feedback strategies

Preference of teachers for feedback strategies are presented in the table 4.

For statement no.16, the standard deviation 1.262, standard error 0.12 and mean 4.03 depicts that explicit feedback method of error correction is mostly used by the teacher. Whereas for statement no.17 statistical description with a mean of 4.1, standard error of 0.137 and standard deviation of 1.42 represents that implicit method of error correction is a less adopted practice for error correction.

Table 4 Teachers' preferences for feedback strategies

###Mean###Std.###Std.

S. No.###Questionnaire Statements

###(N=107)###Error###Deviation

###Direct (explicit) feedback is provided by

16###4.03###0.122###1.262

###the teachers to correct the errors.

###Indirect feedback is provided by the

17###4.1###0.137###1.42

###teachers to correct the learners errors.

###Mixture of both direct and indirect

###1.004

18###feedback is adopted for correcting the###2.14###0.097

###learners errors.

Similarly, for statement no.18, mean of 2.14, standard error of.097 and standard deviation of 1.004 depicts that a combination of both explicit and implicit method of error correction is used by teachers.

Findings

The present study was with objectives to find the attitude of teachers towards WCF, grammatical categories mostly focused for correction, WCF methods used by the teachers and professional knowledge of teachers about WCF. Following are given the objective wise findings of the study.

1. Regarding first objective of the study that is attitude of teachers towards feedback, the data results revealed that mostly providing feedback on students' writing is considered important by the teachers and teachers believe that it helps them to improve accuracy in writings. Further, teachers take it a complex process to respond towards the learners errors because it is a difficult to correct all the errors of the learners by spending about 20 to 30 minutes daily. Most of the teachers were of the view that they provide appreciative remarks as well while providing feedback to students' writings. Also, data findings made it clear that CF on students' homework assignments is not provided by all the teachers. Furthers, it was revealed that comments given by the teachers are always understandable by the students and majority of teachers make their students to redrafts their writings after providing feedback.

2. The second objective of the study was to analyze the primary schools teachers' professional knowledge about the written corrective feedback. It was found that teachers do not have any model (guiding principles) to follow for providing feedback to students' writings. It was responded by most of the teachers that topics on errors feedback are not included in teachers' professional courses. Further, teachers were of the view that teachers need some trainings courses on for providing proper feedback.

3. For third objective of the study, it was found that most of the teachers provide feedback on all kind of error categories.

4. For fourth objective of the study it was found that teachers at primary level use direct (explicit) feedback to correct the learners error and indirect corrective feedback is not in optimum use. Further it was analyzed that mixture of both direct and indirect feedback is also adopted for correcting the learners' errors by majority of the teachers. Researchers (like Hendrickson, 1984; Ferris and Roberts, 2001; Ferris, 2002) too suggest that for learners at early age it is more useful to apply the direct method as compared to indirect method of CF. For learners at primary level guidance is needed to discover the nature of errors that is possible by direct CF method.

Recommendations

For providing corrective feedback on students' text at primary level, teachers make efforts and consume their time in this practice so findings of present study may add valuable understanding of written corrective feedback in Pakistani context especially at primary level. Current study reveals the practices, preferences and attitude of teachers for corrective feedback, selection of CF method, selection of error categories for correction and their present knowledge about the CF in L2 pedagogy. The recommendations on the basis of findings of this study are as under.

On the basis of findings of the study it is recommended that as teachers give importance for providing feedback to students' writings, they should provide feedback on daily basis on learner errors in L2 out products.

As per study results teachers usually provide feedback for all kind of errors. It is contrary to Ellis et al. (2008, p. 356) recommendations. Teachers should focus few error categories at specific time for effective learning.

At primary level students are with less knowledge and exposure of L2 so as suggested by Ferris (2002), teachers should use explicit or direct correction so that learners may benefit more from corrective feedback.

Further, there is no awareness for primary level teachers in professional courses and trainings to provide CF for young learners so topics on corrective feedback should be included in teachers' professional degree courses and trainings. Further, trainings for in-service teachers should be organized to enhance their professional knowledge about providing feedback. Also, teachers should have knowledge about methods and patterns of error correction strategies at different levels of learning.

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Author:Ghani, Mamuna; Ahmad, Saeed
Publication:Journal of Educational Research
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Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Dec 31, 2016
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