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The problem with: Error correction

The problem

Error correction usually refers to a process in which a teacher writes notes on a board about student language output and “goes through” the errors with learners.

Why is this a problem?

It shouldn’t take too long too figure out what’s wrong with this idea. Error correction only describes the actions of a teacher and says nothing about what learners might be doing. Think about that for a second. It describes a situation in which learners are just observing a teacher doing something. As Dylan William puts it, schools are places where students go to “watch teachers teach.” And indeed, that’s more or less what error correction sounds like. Someone has corrected my errors but so what? How is that for me as a learner? What’s my role in the error correction process? Do I even have a role?

The solution

Firstly, we need to understand that it isn’t enough for a teacher to correct something. Students must be more actively engaged in the process of language review. My current approach is to note student language in the form of two options presented in an AB form. One of the options contains the correct language and the other not. I note these points down in a table that I can show on the screen to learners. Once a critical mass of points is reached, I get learners for firstly work individually on choosing the correct option and then I get them to do it together. I get students to write their answers on mini-whiteboards and I ask one learner to explain the result to me as a I stand at the board looking away from the class.

I always get learners to negotiate the correct answers amongst themselves as far as possible before getting involved myself. But then the time is right, I’ll interject with my own explanations and help. This process is not something I would call error correction but is instead an example of what we should really be doing as teachers and that is giving feedback in a formative way.

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