Scholarly article on topic 'The Effects of Direct and Indirect Corrective Feedback Techniques on EFL Students’ Writing'

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Abstract of research paper on Clinical medicine, author of scientific article — Elham Eslami

Abstract This article presents the results of the comparison between two different Written Corrective feedback (WCF) techniques to 60 low-intermediate EFL students in Karaj, Iran. Assigned to 2 groups, the participants on one group received the direct red pen technique, whereas the participants on the other group received an indirect technique. The participants produced three pieces of writing (pre-test, immediate post-test, and delayed post-test). Simple past tense errors were targeted in the feedback. The study found that the indirect feedback group outperformed the direct feedback group on both immediate post-test and delayed post-test.

Academic research paper on topic "The Effects of Direct and Indirect Corrective Feedback Techniques on EFL Students’ Writing"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 98 (2014) 445 - 452

International Conference on Current Trends in ELT

The Effects of Direct and Indirect Corrective Feedback Techniques on EFL Students' Writing

Elham Eslami*

Tehran Institute of Technology, Karaj, 3153785476, Iran

Abstract

This article presents the results of the comparison between two different Written Corrective feedback (WCF) techniques to 60 low-intermediate EFL students in Karaj, Iran. Assigned to 2 groups, the participants on one group received the direct red pen technique, whereas the participants on the other group received an indirect technique. The participants produced three pieces of writing (pre-test, immediate post-test, and delayed post-test). Simple past tense errors were targeted in the feedback. The study found that the indirect feedback group outperformed the direct feedback group on both immediate post-test and delayed post-test.

©2014TheAuthors.Publishedby Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Urmia University, Iran.

Keywords: Written Corrective Feedback; Direct Feedback; Indirect Feedback; Writing Accuracy

1. Introduction

A debate was sparked ever since Truscott published his famous article in 1996, claiming written corrective feedback (WCF) is ineffective or harmful. The debate lies in whether it is indeed harmful or helpful. If there was one thing Truscott could profoundly affect, it was to alert the experts in the field to the lack of satisfactory research to support the efficacy or inefficacy of CF techniques in improving students' writing accuracy. No firm conclusion could be reached upon the studies with low-quality designs which had also used poor-quality feedback techniques, and teaching methods and strategies.

Regardless of existing uncertainty about the efficacy of WCF, using them still maintains popularity in the field of

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +98-936-799-1638. E-mail address: elham_eslami222@yahoo.com

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Urmia University, Iran.

doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.03.438

teaching English language. Therefore, it finds great importance to discriminate between the effects of all of the available techniques on different grammatical constructions and to select those that are at an acceptance level of quality, usefulness, and effectiveness for the context and people with whom they are being used.

Most of the studies on WCF (Bates, Lane, & Lange, 1993; Ferris, 1995; Ferris & Hedgcock, 1998; Hendrickson, 1978, 1980; Lalande, 1982; Walz, 1982) make a distinction direct CF and indirect CF which are two common types of written corrective feedback. In the case of direct CF the teacher gives the correct form to the students, and it is desirable for low-level-of-proficiency students who are unable to self-correct and do not know what the correct form might be. However, it requires minimal processing on the part of the learners and thus, it may not contribute to long-term learning (Ellis, 2009). A recent study by Sheen (2007) suggests that direct CF can be effective in promoting acquisition of only specific grammatical features.

Indirect feedback occurs when the teacher indicates in some way that an error exists but does not provide the correction, thus leaving it to the student to find it. language acquisition theorists and ESL writing specialists alike argue that indirect feedback is preferable for most student writers, because it engages them in ''guided learning and problem solving'' (Lalande, 1982), leading to reflection about linguistic forms that may foster long-term acquisition (Ferris and Roberts, 2001; James, 1998; Reid, 1998). However, the results of studies that have investigated the difference between direct and indirect CF are very mixed. Some studies (Ferris & Helt, 2000; Lalande op. cit.) suggest that indirect feedback is indeed more effective in enabling students to correct their errors, some suggest the opposite (Chandler, 2003), and others (Robb et al., 1986;Frantzen, 1995) found no difference between direct and indirect CF.

A further distinction that needs to be examined is the one between 'unfocused' and 'focused' CF. The former corresponds to what might be considered normal practice in writing instruction (although not necessarily what L2 writing researchers advocate); teachers correct all (or at least a range of) the errors in learners' written work. This type of CF can be viewed as 'extensive' because it treats multiple errors. In contrast, focused CF selects specific errors to be corrected and ignores other errors. Investigations into the most effective ways to provide ESL learners with WCF have often been overly comprehensive in the range of error categories examined. As a result, clear conclusions about the efficacy of such feedback have not been possible.

Although it is possible that different CF strategies have different effects on students' writing accuracy, in Iran the most frequent CF technique, among all the other options (see Ellis, 2009), is the red pen. The researcher asked 85 teachers and 82% stated that they use the red pen technique. Teachers customarily use this technique to give feedback to the students' writings by means of writing the correct form of the error using a red pen; in some cases they also use a meta-linguistic explanation for the most frequent errors. However, there exist many research findings which indicate that indirect CF techniques are more efficient than direct techniques (Ferris & Helt, 2000; Frantzen, 1995; Lalande, 1982; Lee, 1997; Robb et al., 1986).

The aim of this study is to evaluate the effect of direct and indirect CF techniques on intermediate EFL learners' writing accuracy. It is of great importance to know whether despite all the efforts teachers put into using direct techniques and the fact that the red pen technique is extensively used in Iran, it is effective or not. More specifically, the study aims to answer the following research questions:

1. Is there any significant difference between the impact of indirect and direct CF techniques on low-intermediate EFL learners' writing accuracy comparing their immediate post-tests? If yes which technique has greater impact?

2. Is there any significant difference between the impact of indirect and direct CF techniques on low-intermediate EFL learners' writing accuracy comparing their delayed post-test? If yes which technique has greater impact?

3. Is there any significant difference in the immediate post-test and delayed post-test performance of red pen group?

4. Is there any significant difference in the immediate post-test and delayed post-test performance of indirect group?

In addition, the following null hypotheses are formulated:

H1: There is no significant difference between the impact of indirect and direct CF techniques on low-intermediate EFL learners' writing accuracy comparing their immediate post-test.

H2: There is no significant difference between the impact of indirect and direct CF techniques on low-intermediate EFL learners' writing accuracy comparing their delayed post-test.

H3: There is no significant difference between the immediate post-test and delayed post-test performance of red pen group.

H4: There is no significant difference between the immediate post-test and delayed post-test performance of indirect group.

2. Method

2.1. Participants

60 EFL learners participated in the study. They were randomly selected from among 93 students taking part in low-intermediate courses at an institute in Karaj, Iran. The ratio of male to female participants was equal to avoid bias caused by sex difference. The sample consisted of a homogeneous group in terms of age, first language, and the English language background. The average age of the participants was 24.8 . Their first language was Persian, and their English language proficiency was nearly equal.

2.2. Instruments

Two tests were employed in the present study. The first test was the Cambridge's Preliminary English Test (PET) used to ascertain the homogeneity of the participants with regard to their English proficiency. The second was a writing test package which included a pre-test, an immediate post-test, and a delayed post-test in order to measure the participants' achievement.

2.3. Reliability of the instruments

The participants' pieces of writing were evaluated and scored by two raters for assessing inter-rater reliability. To estimate the inter-rater reliability of the test, we calculated the correlation coefficient between the two raters. Table 1 depicts the resulting inter-rater reliability indices.

Table 1. Inter-rater reliability indices.

CM test R2 CM test R1 .937** Note. R1= first rater; R2= second rater. ** p < 0.1.

The test is shown to have very high reliability, 0.937, which is statistically significant at p < 0.1 level of significance. The content validity of the instruments was also assured by a panel of experts.

3. Procedure

Class sessions were held three times a week for 12 weeks in winter 2012, with each session taking 105 minutes. The course was incorporated into a competency-based syllabus, the objective of which was to promote the learner's communicative skills. 93 students form 11 intact classes of "Low-intermediate-Level" were given a PET (Preliminary English Test) in order to select a homogenized sample in terms of language proficiency. PET consisted of 69 English language proficiency questions on the four skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Out of the participants who took the test, the eligible ones (those whose scores ranged from one standard deviation above

and below the mean on the test) were selected to take part in the study. They were then randomly separated into two 30-member homogeneous groups. The conditions for both groups were exactly the same, except for the method used for the provision of written feedback.

The experimental group named A received direct WCF in red pen, and those who received indirect CF technique were considered as the experimental group B. A pre-test, an immediate post-test, and a delayed post-test were run as part of the writing assessment staged at weeks 1, 12 and 20. The participants were given equal amount of time (15 minutes) for these writing activities.

4. Data Analysis

In order to examine the performance of the two groups in the immediate post-test of writing accuracy and also to compare the performance of the two groups in the delayed post-test, the researcher ran two independent t-tests. Furthermore, to examine the performance of the two groups on three different tests (pre-test, immediate post-test, and delayed post-test), the researcher made repeated comparisons using the matched t-test for each group and then corrected the significance level through the Bonferroni test.

5. Results

5.1. Performance of the two groups in the immediate post-test

In order to examine the performance of the two groups in the immediate post-test of writing accuracy an independent t-test was conducted. The results are presented in the table 2.

Table 2. Immediate post-test independent sample t-test.

Levene's Test for Equality of Variances t-test for Equality of Means

F Sig. t df Sig. (2-tailed)

DV Scores Equal variances assumed 4.084 .048 -7.982 58 .000

Equal variances not assumed -7.982 49.709 .000

As the table shows, There was a significant difference in the scores for direct (M=12.8, SD=2.8) and indirect (M=17.8, SD=1.8) groups; t (49.7)= -7.98, p = .000. These results suggest that using an indirect technique really does have an effect on writing accuracy. Therefore, the participants in the two groups differed in their performance in the immediate post-test.

5.2. Performance of the two groups in the delayed post-test

A second independent t-test was run to compare the performance of the two groups in the delayed post-test. The results are presented in table 3.

Table 3. Immediate post-test independent sample t-test.

Levene's Test t-test for Equality of Means

for Equality of Variances

F Sig. t df Sig. (2-tailed)

DV Scores Equal variances assumed 1.181 .282 -10.706 58 .000

Elham Eslami / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 98 (2014) 445 - 452 Equal variances not assumed -10.706 55.744 .000

As the table shows, there was a significant difference in the mean scores of direct (M=10.9, SD=2.07) and indirect (M=17.3, SD=2.5) groups; t (58)= -10.71, p = 0.000. These results suggest that using an indirect technique really does have an effect on writing accuracy over time. Therefore, the participants in the two groups differed in their performance in the delayed post-test.

5.3. Red pen corrective feedback and writing accuracy

In order to examine the performance of the two groups on three different tests (pre-test, immediate post-test, and delayed post-test) given to them during the study, repeated comparisons were made using the matched t-test for each group and then corrected the significance level through the Bonferroni test. Based on the Bonferroni test, the level of significance is first decided at 0.05 and then, since there was going to be three comparisons made in this part, the level of significance was set at 0.05 / 3 = 0.017 (Pallant, 2005). The matched t-tests that were run were interpreted according to the new level of significance (p < 0.017). The descriptive statistics information for the performance of group A is provided in table 4.

Table 4. Paired samples statistics of group A.

M N Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean

Pair 1 pre 7.67 30 2.919 .532

immediate 12.82 30 2.866 .523

Pair 2 pre 7.67 30 2.919 .532

delayed 10.89 30 2.073 .378

Pair 3 immediate 12.82 30 2.866 .523

delayed 10.89 30 2.073 .378

As the table shows, this group has the highest performance in the immediate post-test (M=12.82) followed by delayed post-test (M=10.89) and the lowest performance in the pre-test (M=7.67).

A matched t-test was conducted to see whether or not there was any significant difference in the performance of the first group in the pre-test and the two post-tests of writing accuracy. The results are presented in the table 5.

Table 5. Paired samples test of group A.

Paired Differences

95% Confidence Interval of the Difference Sig. (2- tailed)

Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean Lower Upper t df

Pair 1 Pre-immediate -5.151 3.706 .676 -6.535 -3.766 -7.611 29 .000

Pair 2 Pre-delayed -3.227 2.829 .516 -4.283 -2.170 -6.246 29 .000

Pair 3 Immediate- delayed 1.924 1.952 .356 1.194 2.653 5.397 29 .000

As the table shows, the observed mean differences are significant. This means that participants in the first group had significantly different performances on the pre-test and the two post-tests. Comparing the mean of the pre-test

and post-tests makes it clear that the participants performed significantly better in the immediate post-test than the delayed post-test and obviously the pre-test.

5.4. Indirect corrective feedback and writing accuracy

The results of the descriptive statistics of the participants in the second group revealed that the mean scores of the participants in the second group on the pre-test and two post-tests of writing accuracy were 8.06 and 15.96 and 15.60 respectively. These are presented below in table 6.

Table 6, Paired samples statistics of group B.

M N SD Std. Error Mean

Pair 1 Pre 8.0667 30 .69149 .12625

Immediate 15.9667 30 .80872 .14765

Pair 2 Pre 8.0667 30 .69149 .12625

Delayed 15.6000 30 .77013 .14061

Pair 3 Immediate 15.9667 30 .80872 .14765

Delayed 15.6000 30 .77013 .14061

In order to determine the difference of the performance of the participants in the second group (group B) on the pre-test and the two post-tests, we ran another matched t-test to compare the mean scores of the participants in the three tests. The results of the t-test are shown in table 7.

Table 7. Paired samples test of group B.

Paired Differences

95% Confidence Interval of the Difference

__Sig. (2-

M Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean Lower Upper t df tailed)

Pair 1 pre-immediate -7.90000 1.02889 .18785 -8.28419 -7.51581 -42.055 29 .000

Pair 2 pre-delayed -7.53333 1.13664 .20752 -7.95776 -7.10890 -36.301 29 .000

Pair 3 Immediate-delayed .36667 1.15917 .21163 -.06618 .79951 1.733 29 .094

The results of the matched t-test, as shown in Table 7, revealed that the t-observed values is higher than the critical value in two pairs (pre-test vs. immediate post-test and pre-test vs. delayed post-test) indicating that the difference between the performance of the participants in the pre-test and the two post-tests was statistically significant. This suggests that the participants in the second group benefited from WCF provided. However no significant difference was found between the performance of the participants of group B on the immediate and delayed post-tests. This amounts to saying that participants in the second group were able to do equally well in the delayed post-test.

6. Discussion

As the results of the study show, there exists a strong connection between written corrective feedback and writing accuracy. Existing theories can support the findings from different aspects. noticing hypothesis proposed by Schmidt (1990) declares that only the items which are noticed by the learners are probable to be learnt. As a result, since error feedback attracts learners' attention towards the erroneous linguistic form, it will assist them in taking the prerequisite step to develop their interlanguage system. Assimilation theory suggested by Ausubel (1986) states that it is more effective to relate new concepts and propositions to existing concepts and propositional framework existed in learners' interlanguage. in this regard, providing CF can be considered as an effective technique in accelerating the process of assimilation. Sweller (1988) in his cognitive load theory mentions that the ideal learning situation is to minimize the load of the working memory as much as possible in order to maximize the alternation in long-term memory. he also believes that it is important to establish a bond between schematic structures of long term memory and new data, otherwise the learning won't be lasting and learners will most likely forget the material. Since CF draws learners' attention to their areas of difficulty and releases their minds to process language content, it can be advantageous. Finally, CF organizes, structures and modifies the knowledge as a kind of scaffold and prompts the learners to stick the learnt stuff in their long term memory.

This study was conducted to compare the efficacy of the two types of WCF namely direct red pen and indirect feedback. as the results show, the indirect feedback group proved to be significantly better than the red pen feedback group on the delayed post-test. This suggests the lasting effectiveness of the indirect WCF over direct red pen feedback. this is in contrast with Truscott's claim (1999, 2007) that giving feedback has predictable negative effects on learners' writing and if advantageous, it is negligible. On the other hand, the outcome of the current research is in line with the findings of Sheppard (1992), Frantzen (1995), Fazio (2001), and Chandler (2003) who proved CF to be a way of improving the accuracy of L2 students' writing.

Furthermore, in harmony with several other studies (Ferris & Helt, 2000; Frantzen, 1995; Lalande, 1982; Lee, 1997; Robb et al., 1986), the results show that indirect written corrective feedback leads to either more or equal levels of accuracy in the long run, which may imply the superiority of the indirect techniques of error correction over the course of time. Whether indirect feedback is more beneficial than direct feedback is an important issue to be considered from the pedagogical point of view. Although most teachers regard coding error types to be slower than just underlining and correcting, once they get familiar to the process it will become much more easier than doing both spotting and correcting the errors. In addition, applying indirect methods of error correction will necessarily call for sufficient linguistic knowledge possessed by students to self-correct errors and also getting used to self edit their own texts. Therefore, using indirect feedback strategies may strongly demand somewhat focused error correction especially with low-level-of-proficiency learners.

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