Scholarly article on topic 'Exploring the Teachers’ Use of Spoken Corrective Feedback in Teaching Iranian EFL Learners at Different Levels of Proficiency'

Exploring the Teachers’ Use of Spoken Corrective Feedback in Teaching Iranian EFL Learners at Different Levels of Proficiency Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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{"Clarification Request" / "Corrective Feedback" / Elicitation / Error / "Explicit Correction" / "Focus -on-Form" / Feedback / "Metalinguistic Feedback" / "Proficiency level" / Recast}

Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Saeideh Ahangari, Somayeh Amirzadeh

Abstract In learning a foreign language, making error is an indispensible part of learning process. Finely tuned and pertinent corrective feedback is an important tool for teachers to prevent their learners’ errors from getting fossilized and help them progress along their interlanguage continuum. There are different factors contributing to efficacy of corrective feedback among which is taking into consideration proficiency level of learners in choosing corrective feedback techniques. In this study the researcher used a database of 360 corrective feedback moves which two EFL teachers provided to their learners at three levels of proficiency. Eight types of corrective feedback were identified and their distribution in relation to proficiency levels of learners was determined. The results revealed that recast was the most frequently used type of corrective feedback by the teachers at all three levels of proficiency. However, as the learners became more proficient the teachers reduced recasts and incorporated other self correction techniques.

Academic research paper on topic "Exploring the Teachers’ Use of Spoken Corrective Feedback in Teaching Iranian EFL Learners at Different Levels of Proficiency"

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Social and Behavioral Sciences

Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 29 (2011) 1859 - 1868

International Conference on Education and Educational Psychology (ICEEPSY 2011)

Exploring the Teachers' Use of Spoken Corrective Feedback in Teaching Iranian EFL Learners at Different Levels of Proficiency

Saeideh Ahangari, Somayeh Amirzadeh

Department of English Language, Tabriz Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tabriz, Iran Department of English Language, Tabriz Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tabriz, Iran

Abstract

In learning a foreign language, making error is an indispensible part of learning process. Finely tuned and pertinent corrective feedback is an important tool for teachers to prevent their learners' errors from getting fossilized and help them progress along their interlanguage continuum. There are different factors contributing to efficacy of corrective feedback among which is taking into consideration proficiency level of learners in choosing corrective feedback techniques. In this study the researcher used a database of 360 corrective feedback moves which two EFL teachers provided to their learners at three levels of proficiency. Eight types of corrective feedback were identified and their distribution in relation to proficiency levels of learners was determined. The results revealed that recast was the most frequently used type of corrective feedback by the teachers at all three levels of proficiency. However, as the learners became more proficient the teachers reduced recasts and incorporated other self correction techniques.

©2011Published byElsevierLtd.Selectionand/orpeer-review underresponsibilityofDr ZaferBekirogullari.

Keywords: Clarification Request, Corrective Feedback, Elicitation, Error, Explicit Correction, Focus -on-Form, Feedback, Metalinguistic Feedback, Proficiency level, Recast

1-Introduction

Second language instruction can be conceptualized as falling into two broad categories: meaning-focused instruction and form-focused instruction. A form-focused teaching approach focuses more on correctness and exactness regarding pronunciation and grammar, while a meaning-focused approach focuses more on vocabulary and meaning and permits more mistakes and errors. Both approaches are important and useful therefore a balance is needed. Teacher's awareness of when form-focused instruction is appropriate and in what situations meaning-focused instruction would have a better effect is a vital factor in teaching process.

The investigation of the role of corrective feedback is part of the discussion on the role of focusing on form in foreign language teaching. Farrokhi (2003) argues that in EFL context a meaning-focused instruction is insufficient, though necessary, and it should be integrated with form-focused instruction. In EFL situation, responding to learners' speech production is very important. For this purpose corrective feedback is an important apparatus for teachers to deal with learners' oral errors.

1877-0428 © 2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Dr Zafer Bekirogullari. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2011.11.435

When learning to speak a second or foreign language, any learner makes errors and they are a natural part of mastering a new language. The errors can be of various kinds, for example pronunciation, syntax, or word choice errors. Feedback is needed to avoid fossilization. As errors cannot be self-corrected, teachers' reaction toward error in the form of corrective feedback is essential: if errors are not corrected, various aspects of a learner's interlanguage may get fossilized and he/she will not be able to "progress to fully mature linguistic competence" (Tomasello & Herron, 1988, p. 237).

According to Lyster and Ranta (1997) teachers react to learners' errors in one or more of six different ways; i.e. explicit correction, recast, clarification request, metalinguistic feedback, elicitation, and repetition. Translation and multiple feedback are two other spoken feedback types which are added to Lyster and Ranta's list by other researchers.

Almost all EFL teachers agree with the importance of provision of corrective feedback, but there might be disagreements on whether or what type of corrective feedback should be provided at different levels of proficiency. Hence inspired by this challenge, and realizing that no such researches have been undertaken thus far to address this problem in Iranian contenxt, the researcher intended to explore and observe oral corrective feedback types that teachers provide for learners at different levels of proficiency. The researcher was interested in using classroom observation to find out the above mentioned relationship. The results of this study may be helpful in EFL domain. Since sometimes provision of corrective feedback which is not proportionate with learners' proficiency level may have a hindering effect on their language learning development.

For decades, there have been hot debates about corrective feedback and its effectiveness in second language acquisition, rendering a great deal of theoretical and empirical researches. In this part of the study, the researcher aspires to call upon the theoretical and empirical researches throwing light on issues relevant to this study. First, theoretical issues related to the study and then some empirical studies, carried out focusing on corrective feedback will be discussed.

Schmidt's Noticing Hypothesis

Schmidt (1990, 1994) argued that although explicit metalinguistic knowledge of language is not always essential for acquisition, the learner must be aware of L2 input in order to gain from it. He posited that learners must notice the way in which their interlanguage structures differ from target norms. This noticing of the gap allows the learners internal representation of the rules of L2, in order to bring the learners' production closer to the target language. Noticing hypothesis underlines that awareness of discrepancies between the learners' output and L2 is necessary for the acquisition of a specific linguistic item. Since exposure to L2 will not automatically guarantee this kind of awareness, corrective feedback must come into play to bring learners to focus on language-specific and individual problems and (indirectly) stimulate them to attempt self-improvement.

Swain's Output Hypothesis

One of the most important theoretical assumptions on which the notions of corrective feedback and uptake have been developed is the Output Hypothesis suggested by Swain (1985). Swain's output hypothesis claims that simply producing language is not enough for enhancing linguistic abilities of learners; they must be pushed to modify their problematic utterances. When feedback signals to learners that their utterances have been incomprehensible or non-target-like, learners may ponder on their language use and modify it in a more comprehensible or target like way. From the pedagogical standpoint, corrective feedback has been the focus of a number of inquiries into classroom teaching and learning. Debate about the importance of provision of corrective feedback on L2 errors has recently been prominent and different researchers have attempted to view its effectiveness from different angles.

Originally the term "feedback" stemmed from Weiner's (1948) cybernetic notion and described processes by which a control unit gets information about the effects and consequences of its actions. Later on the term came to be used in different fields and particularly in educational settings. Different types of feedback came to be known among them spoken corrective feedback is the focus of attention in this study.

Of the most important empirical studies in the realm of spoken corrective feedback is the study of Lyster and Ranta (1997), which has greatly been inspiring for other researchers. Their study involved investigating the relationships between error types and kinds of feedback and uptake. The findings showed that while recasts were the most widely used spoken corrective feedback, they were the least likely to lead to successful uptake. It was also found that the most successful type of spoken corrective feedback leading to student's repair was elicitation. Lyster and Ranta (1997) suggested that there are other important factors influencing the type of corrective feedback among them is learners' proficiency levels. They were of the first to suggest that how teachers choose to provide corrective feedback may be linked to learners' proficiency level.

Rydahl (2005) conducted a study to investigate if and how teachers in upper secondary school use oral feedback when they correct their students' oral mistakes. She found that the majority of the teachers find oral feedback as an important tool to help students achieve a higher proficiency in a second and foreign language. The results also showed that feedback is most often used when the student makes errors regarding content and pronunciation. Most of the respondents were aware of the necessity of applying different feedback approaches to different errors made by the students. Her investigation showed that teachers chose to give feedback on different occasions, directly, but more commonly, indirectly, to a single student or later on to a full class. Most teachers also prefer a mix of feedback approaches depending on the specific student and situation.

Kennedy (2010) investigated how one English as second language (ESL) teacher provided corrective feedback to 15 child ESL learners that the teacher had divided into two groups based on proficiency level. Classroom data in transcripts from the database were analyzed for type of learner errors, type of teacher feedback, and rate of learner uptake and repair (correction). Results showed differences in the types of errors produced by each proficiency group and in the type of feedback the teacher provided to each proficiency group, demonstrating provision of finely adjusted corrective feedback based on learners' individual differences.

In the present study the insights from above mentioned studies will be used to view corrective feedback from a new perspective,i.e. the relationship between learners' proficiency levels and teachers' choice of spoken corrective feedback.

Research Questions

This study intended to address the following research questions:

1. What are the spoken corrective feedback types that teachers use for dealing with the learners' errors at elementary level?

2. What are the spoken corrective feedback types that teachers use for dealing with the learners' errors at intermediate level?

3. What are the spoken corrective feedback types that teachers use for dealing with the learners' errors at advanced level?

4. Do teachers use different types of oral corrective feedback for different levels of proficiency?

2.Method

2.1-Participants

In this study, 20 elementary, 20 intermediate, and 20 advanced students as well as two EFL teachers participated. The participants were EFL learners at Zabankadeye Melli-e Iran (Ahar Branch).The learners' ages ranged from 15 to 30 involving both male and female learners. One of the two EFL teachers who took part in this study was an M.A. student majoring in English Teaching at Azad University -Ahar Branch and the other teacher was a B.A. graduate of English Teaching. Those teachers were chosen because they met the criterion of teaching in all three levels of proficiency simultaneously. Both teachers showed their agreement to take part in this study by endorsing consent forms.

2.2. Instrumentation

For the purpose of determining the proficiency levels of learners a TOEFL Proficiency test (Appendix 1) was administered by the researcher. The test involved multiple choice items for evaluating reading, listening, and writing skills. In this test students whose scores were 45 and under 45out of 140 were considered as elementary level learners, those whose scores ranged from 46to 90 were intermediate learners, and 90and more than 90 were considered as advanced learners.

For classroom instruction Top Notch series involving a student book, a workbook, a movie CD, and an MP3 CD were used. An MP3 player was used to capture the voices of teachers and learners. SPSS program was used for analyzing the results.

2.3.Procedure

In order to carry out this study, first the learners took a TOEFL Proficiency test, and based on the results they were assigned to three levels of elementary, intermediate, and advanced levels. The learners and teachers started their natural classroom routines. An MP3 player was given to teachers to turn it on during classroom interactions and these interactions were recorded in six classes of three levels for five sessions. In the next step these recorded interactions involving 30 sessions were investigated closely and those parts related to oral corrective feedback of teachers in reaction to learners' errors were transcribed. The researcher selected 60 moves for each class overall 360 moves, for investigation .Type of the teachers' oral corrective feedback was examined. Using statistical procedures the frequency and percentile of provided feedback for each level were recognized.

2.4.Design

The present study required a descriptive design. Most of the studies carried out in the realm of corrective feedback entail descriptive design. The researcher used classrooms in their natural context for a sustained time to collect data. The researcher was typically an observer but did not attend in the classes and all the recording process was carried out by the teachers.

3.Data Analysis

Corrective Feedback at Elementary Level

The first research question of this study was "What are the spoken corrective feedback types that teachers use for dealing with the learners' errors at elementary level?" In order to answer this question the researcher analyzed the collected data as presented in table 1.

Table 1.Frequency of the Teacher's Corrective Feedback at Elementary Level

Frequency percent observed N expected N residual

1.recast 88 73.3 88 20.0 68.0

2. classification 2 1.7 2 20.0 -18.0

3. metalinguistic 4 3.3 4 20.0 -16.0

5.repetition 8 6.7 8 20.0 -12.0

6. explicit correction 17 14.2 17 20.0 -3.0

7. translation 1 .8 1 20.0 -19.0

Total 120 100 120

According to Table 1, 73.3% of spoken corrective feedback used by the teachers to correct learners' errors at elementary level was recast, 1.7% clarification request,3.3% metalinguistic feedback,6.7%repetition, 14.2%explicit correction, and 0.8% translation. It is evident that the most frequently used type of corrective feedback used by the teachers at elementary level was recast.

As this Table indicates at elementary level teachers used recasts 88 times, clarification requests twice, metalinguistic feedback 4 times, repetition 8 times, explicit correction 17 times, and translation just once. In order to examine whether the variation in spoken corrective feedback of teachers in elementary level was significant or not, the researcher used a chi-square test and the result indicated that there is a significant difference in the type of spoken corrective feedback types at this level; X2(5, 120) = 285.90, P=0.000. It means that the most frequently used type of corrective feedback at this level was recast and the least frequently used one was translation.

Corrective Feedback at Intermediate Level

In order to address the second research question in this study i.e., "What are the spoken corrective feedback types that teachers use for dealing with the learners' errors at intermediate level?"Percentages as well as frequencies of spoken corrective feedback used by the teachers at this level were identified which are provided below (Table.2).

Table 2. Frequency of Teachers' Corrective Feedback at Intermediate Level

Frequency percent observed N expected N residual

1.recast 78 65.0 78 24.0 54

3. metalinguistic 5 4.2 5 24.0 -19.0

4. elicitation 6 5.0 6 24.0 -18.0

5. repetition 12 10.0 12 24.0 -12.0

6. explicit correction 19 15.8 19 24.0 -5.0

Total 120 100 120

As it is shown in Table 2, at intermediate level teachers used 65%recast, 4.2% metalinguistic feedback, 5%elicitation, 10%repetition, and and15.8% explicit correction. The maximum frequency is related to recast.

This table indicates that in order to correct learners' spoken errors at intermediate level, teachers used recast 78 times, metalinguistic feedback 5 times, elicitation 6 times, repetition 12 times, and explicit correction 19 times. The chi-square analysis revealed a statistically significant difference in the types of spoken corrective feedback types provided by the teachers in this level i.e. X2(4, 120)=157.083 ,P=0.000,which suggests that the most frequently used corrective feedback type used in intermediate level was recast and translation was the least frequently used one.

Corrective Feedback at Advanced Level

The third research question of this study asked:" What are the spoken corrective feedback types that teachers use for dealing with the learners' errors at advanced level?" As table 5 indicates at this level teachers used 59.2% recast, 3.3% clarification request, 12.5% metalinguistic feedback, 8.3%elicitation, 8.3%repetition, 6.7%explicit correction, 0.8%translation, and 0.8% multiple feedback. As it is evident the highest frequency belongs to recast.

Table 3.Frequency of Teacher's Corrective Feedback at Advanced Level

Frequency percent observed N

1.recast 71 59.2 71

2. classification 4 3.3 4

3. metalinguistic 15 12.5 15

4. elicitation 10 8.3 10

5. repetition 10 8.3 10

6. explicit correction 8 6.7 8

7. translation 1 .8 1

8. multiple feedbacks 1 .8 1

Total 120 100 120

Statistical analysis of these results, as shown in Table 3, indicates that at advanced level teachers used recast 71 times, clarification requests 4 times, metalinguistic feedback 15 times, elicitation 10 times, repetition 10 times, explicit correction 8 times, translation and multiple feedback just once for correcting learners' spoken errors. Again in order to examine whether there is a significant difference in spoken corrective feedback techniques used in

this level, the researcher used a chi square test, the results of which showed significant difference, X2(7,120)=249.867, P= 0.000.Teachers used recast more than other corrective techniques and translation and multiple feedback less than other techniques.

The Relationship between Teachers' Spoken Corrective Feedback and Proficiency Levels of Learners

For addressing the last research question i.e." Do teachers use different types of oral corrective feedback for different levels of proficiency?", the researcher calculated the frequency and percentage of the different feedback types used for different proficiency levels . The percentage of each spoken corrective feedback technique provided by the teachers at all three levels of proficiency is as follows; recast at elementary level 37.1%, at intermediate level 32.9%, and at advanced level 30%.clarification request at elementary level 33.3%, at intermediate level 0%, at advanced level 66.7%.metalinguistic feedback at elementary level 16.7%,at intermediate level 20.8%, and at advanced level 62.5%.elicitation at elementary level 0%, at intermediate level 37.5%,and at advanced level 62.5%.repetition at elementary level 26.7%, at intermediate level 40%,and at advanced level 33.3%.explicit correction at elementary level 38.6%,at intermediate level 43.2%,and at advanced level 18.2%.translation at elementary level 50%,at intermediate level 0%,and at advanced level 50%. Multiple feedback at elementary and intermediate levels 0%, and at advanced level 100%.

Table 4.Percentages of Spoken Corrective Feedback at all three Levels of Proficiency

CORRECT corrective feedbacks * LEVEL Crosstabulation

1.00 Elementan/

2.00 Interm ediate

3.00 Adv anced

CORRECT corrective feedbacks

1.00 recast

Count % within correctiv

CORRECT e feedbacks

2.00 Clasification request

Count % within correctiv

CORRECT e feedbacks

3.00 metalinguistic

Count % within correctiv

CORRECT e feedbacks

4.00 elicitation

Count % within correctiv

CORRECT e feedbacks

5.00 repitition

Count % within correctiv

CORRECT e feedbacks

6.00 Explicit correction

Count % within correctiv

CORRECT e feedbacks

17 38.6%

7.00 translation

Count % within correctiv

CORRECT e feedbacks

8.00 Multiple feedbacks

Count % within correctiv

CORRECT e feedbacks

78 32.9%

12 40.0%

19 43.2%

71 30.0%

15 62.5%

10 62.5%

10 33.3%

237 100.0%

100.0%

24 100.0%

16 100.0%

30 100.0%

44 100.0%

100.0%

Count % within correctiv

CORRECT e feedbacks

120 33.3%

120 33.3%

120 33.3%

360 100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

For a more detailed analysis of the data and in order to find out whether there is a significant difference in number of different corrective feedback techniques in different proficiency levels or not the researcher investigated and analyzed each corrective feedback at three proficiency levels by running eight chi-square tests.

The results of the chi-square tests revealed that except for the metalinguistic feedback which showed a significant difference among levels .i.e. X2(2, 24) = 9.260 , p=0.010<0.05 all of the other types of feedback did not show any significant difference among levels.

4. Discussion

The present study aimed to examine various spoken corrective feedback types provided by EFL teachers for their learners at various levels of proficiency. For this purpose a database of 360 spoken corrective feedback moves

were collected and in subsequent analysis of the results eight different types of spoken corrective feedback were identified.

Lyster and Ranta (1997) who were among the first to link corrective feedback to proficiency levels of learners believe that it is important for teachers to acknowledge the need to carefully take into account their learners' level of L2 proficiency while making decisions about feedback.

In this study among eight different types of corrective feedback the most frequently used one was the implicit provision of target language form (i.e., recast), as a result opportunities for self correction techniques (i.e., clarification request, metalinguistic feedback, elicitation, and repetition) and explicit correction technique (i.e., explicit error correction) were minimal. The fact that the teachers used recast more than any other type of corrective feedback type was predictable, since in other similar studies carried out by Lyster and Ranta 1997; Panova and Lyster 2002; Sheen 2004; Kennedy 2010 etc., recast was the predominant technique of error correction used by various teachers. But the question is that being the most frequent type of corrective feedback, is recast a suitable error correction technique for all learners? Panova and Lyster (2002) believe that recasts may be noticed as negative evidence by more proficient learners; however, less proficient learners take it as positive evidence and may pass it unnoticed. This is in line with Ammar and Spada (2006) study which revealed that low proficiency learners could not use recasts to further their L2 development on particular linguistic features, but the case was reverse in this study; as the learners became more proficient, teachers used less and less recasts (i.e., elementary 37.1%;88 times, intermediate 32.9%; 78 times, and advanced 30%; 71 times).The reason might be the teachers' belief that higher proficiency learners had more linguistic resources to draw on if they received feedback simply that the form of their utterance was inaccurate. As Kennedy (2010) found, because more proficient learners were better able to repair their errors, they were given more opportunities to do so. For a low proficiency learner a repaired error without metalinguistic explanation i.e., recast would be a heavy task since sometimes learners do not notice that something was wrong. In their 1997 study Lyster and Ranta found that one of the teachers whose learners had a higher degree of proficiency used recasts considerably less than other teachers. This allowed her to draw more on other feedback types in particular on those that were likely to lead to uptake (i.e., attempt on the part of learner to repair an error in response to feedback), thus this teacher was better able to push students on their output and less rely on the modeling techniques (i.e., recast). Regarding this study although the dominant type of corrective feedback was recast at all three levels of proficiency, but as learners became more proficient teachers reduced recasts and incorporated more self correction techniques.

Clarification request which according to Lyster and Ranta (1997) was more successful than recast technique was minimally used (33.3%; 2 times) for elementary level, was not used at all for intermediate level, and was used 4 times at advanced level (66.7%). This was similar to findings of Ferreira et al. (2007) study in which teachers did not use clarification requests for elementary level. Its few cases of use at elementary and intermediate level might be because teachers perceived that their learners do not own a fully developed linguistic repertoire to help them correct themselves.

Metalinguistic feedback according to Ferreira et al. (2007) is extremely useful for beginning and advanced levels but less so for intermediate level, but in this study teachers used more metalinguistic feedback for more proficient learners (i.e., at elementary level 16.7%;4 times, at intermediate level 20.8%;5 times, and at advanced level 162.5%;15 times). As it was mentioned the reason might be beliefs of teachers that more advanced learners have more linguistic knowledge to utilize than less advanced learners.

Lyster and Ranta (1997) found elicitation to be the most effective error correction technique regardless of learners' level of proficiency. In this corpus elicitation was not used for elementary level (i.e., 0%), but was increasingly used for intermediate (i.e., 37.5%;6 times) and advanced level (i.e., 62.5%; 10 times). It seems to the researcher that teachers believed that at these levels learners are linguistically proficient enough to be pushed to self repair, but at elementary level elicitation might be confusing for the learner.

Alwright and Baily's (1991) study showed that simple repetitions are useless for learners who can not perceive their utterances as erroneous (i.e., elementary level learners).This is in congruence with the database in this study. Here teachers used less repetition for elementary (i.e. 26.7%;8 times) and advanced (i.e.33.3%;10 times)levels, but at intermediate level it was used more than elementary and advanced levels(i.e.40%;12 times).

Explicit correction was not used much in elementary level (38.6%;17 times),and used comparably more in intermediate level (43.2%;19 times), and was used less at advanced level(i.e.18.2%;8 times), since teachers believe that learners in advanced level are linguistically ready to benefit more from self correction techniques and infer their erroneous utterances. This is in line with findings of Lyster and Ranta (1997) who found that explicit correction is more useful for beginner and intermediate level.

5.Conclusion

Due to the dynamic nature of language classrooms, drawing any clear-cut conclusion about the results of observational studies might not be logical. But the results of such studies may provide important insights for all those who are involved in pedagogical circumstances. The present study used classroom observation to find out different error correction techniques that teachers provide tailoring their learners' proficiency levels. The analysis of collected data revealed that;

1. Recast was the most frequently used type of corrective feedback that teachers provided to their learners at various levels of proficiency. However, as proficiency level of learners increased the rate of recasts reduced and other error correction techniques were incorporated.

2. Overall, self correction techniques were not considerable, but they seemed to be used more for more proficient learners.

The reason for high frequency of use of recast compared to other error correction techniques, in this study as well as majority of other studies carried out in the realm of corrective feedback might be teachers' conception that recasts, unlike other corrective feedback, do not interrupt the flow of communication in classroom, yet they should be aware that recasts are not usually noticed by learners, particularly by low proficient ones. If more explicit error correction techniques such as metalinguistic feedback, elicitation, and clarification request ... be used for learners specifically for low proficiency learners who can not benefit from implicit techniques, they will notice that there is a problem with their utterance and try to correct it and consequently this may have encouraging effect on their interlanguage development. While more proficient learners, due to their cognitive development can benefit from recasts—because of its nature of not disturbing the flow of communication—as well as other corrective feedback techniques.

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