Error Correction is (Still) a Waste of Time

To make them easier to find, several items originally included in the now-defunct ‘This Week in Language Education’ series are being reposted over the next few weeks.

Dlaska and Krekeler (2017) looked at a group of students preparing to enter a German university (N=225) who were taking a German as a Second Language course. The study examined (1) whether giving students a grade on a writing assignment would make a difference in the way they responded to “corrective feedback” (CF) (error correction) and (2) whether CF made any difference on the grammatical accuracy of student writing. Not surprisingly, the answers were “no” and “no.”

Three groups wrote a series of three in-class essays, one per week. Two of the groups got CF on certain target structures appearing in their first essay; one group did not. In addition, one of the CF groups was also graded on the assignment. The following week, students revised their essays. Those who got CF did show significant improvements in accuracy, but getting a grade made no difference. Those who did not get CF made no gains in accuracy. This is not too surprising, given the CF groups were revising essays with the errors already pointed out to them, and the students were clearly focused on form.

The important results came in the third week, when all three groups were asked to write a new essay on a new topic. The researchers found no difference in accuracy among the three groups, regardless of grading or CF. This is consistent with what Truscott and others have found: written error correction is mostly a waste of time for both teachers and students.

Dlaska, A., & Krekeler, C. (2017). Does grading undermine feedback? The influence of grades on the effectiveness of corrective feedback on L2 writing. The Language Learning Journal, 45(2), 185-201.

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