Imagine your student(s) is/are doing a speaking task, a dialogue with peers or an individual presentation, and you spotted a mistake in her/his utterance. What would you do?
- Interrupt and correct the mistake immediately
- Take notes of the mistake, tell and correct it later or
- Take notes, ask students about what they think of their performance and if they realize they have made a mistake.
We believe teachers have their own approach in terms of giving oral feedback to students. As EFL teachers, we realize that making mistakes especially in speaking a foreign language is completely normal. Nobody’s perfect, so neither are our students. We believe that it is our aim to help students speak English fluently and accurately. To achieve this aim, we have dedicated a significant amount of time giving feedback to our students. Whether we realize it or not, our tendency is to correct the mistakes or errors that occur in our students’ speech. This is what we know as corrective feedback and we believe that doing it can help students increase their confidence and improve their English speaking skills. Therefore, the most likely answers to the previous question are options a and b.
Giving feedback to students
EFL literature somehow has some role in guiding our conceptions of feedback and there is absolutely nothing wrong with upholding such conceptions. The majority of studies have found corrective feedback facilitative to language learning. For years, researchers have used this framework to try to understand their classroom feedback trends, trying to figure out which type(s) of corrective feedback is the most effective to facilitate student language development. However, the results are not conclusive which is unsurprising because the effectiveness of feedback is very much contextual which means that it depends on various aspects to be effective such as the classroom culture, learners’ preferences and school curriculum.
But have you ever wondered if your correction is really effective in terms of supporting your students’ English language learning? The thing with our current practice of oral feedback is we are trapped inside a practice where correcting students’ errors is seen as our responsibility as teachers. This results in our students relying on us to feed them with information, correct their mistakes/errors and judge their performance. Students do not have an understanding and awareness of the importance of taking responsibility over their own learning. If this practice keeps going on, we are not helping them to be independent and self-regulated learners. Hattie and Timperley (2007) have stated feedback is one of the most powerful tools to improve student learning. However, not all feedback can result in improvement. If feedback is to be helpful in supporting learning, it needs to trigger student thinking so they can generate feedback from within themselves.
Strategies for teachers on giving feedback
So how can we as EFL teachers help our students become self-regulating through feedback? We need to reconsider our role and the students’ role in the feedback process. If we still dominate and control the feedback process, then students are far away from being involved. Involving students means giving them as many opportunities as possible to evaluate their own performance or work. Here are some strategies that potentially provide more opportunities for students to exercise their skills of self-regulation:
Ask what the students feel or think about their work or their performance. Whatever their answer might be, the teacher should respond with interest in what the students are saying and keep the conversation or dialogue running.
Invite students to evaluate their performance by asking them to highlight their strengths and areas that need further improvements.
Guide students to determine the most suitable strategy(ies) they can use to improve their performance. An important thing to note is that we need to remember there is no ‘one strategy fits all’, so it is better if we do not dictate students into doing what we think is best for them.
After sometime, review the strategy(ies) together with the students and have a conversation about it. At this point students should be able to understand if and why their strategies work or not.
Bear in mind that implementing changes to our current practice can take time. However, it is worth trying if it can result in improving our students’ long term learning.
Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. 77(1), 81–112. https://doi.org/10.3102/003465430298487
About Junita Duwi Purwandari
Junita Duwi Purwandari is an experienced EFL teacher. She earned her Master's degree in Applied Linguistics and TESOL from Newcastle University, UK and is currently pursuing her PhD in Education at The University of Auckland, New Zealand. Her research focuses on feedback and learning in the EFL context.
About Arum Perwitasari, PhD
Arum Perwitasari, PhD is an educator, linguist, and researcher. She is a member of Executive Committee on Publication at IATEFL and currently works as an EMEA Institutional Relations Specialist at ETS Global Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Together with Junita, she cofounded and started off as a content creator @Teaching Online with AJ, a YouTube channel to teach and learn English.
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