effective than their exposure to mere communicative activities. This is along the lines of empirical findings of White (1991), Carroll and Swain (1993), Doughty and Varela (1998), Lightbown and Spada (1999), Muranoi (2000), and Leeman (2003) comparing feedback and no feedback group. Consequently, the findings of these studies lend support to the significance of teachers’ error correction of the learners to produce target like structures.
Negative Perspectives on Corrective Feedback
By and large, research in the 1980s and early 1990s began to question the effectiveness of teacher feedback as a way of improving students’ writing. Early research on native English speakers suggested that much written feedback has a poor quality and is misunderstood by students. Corder (1967) believed that forcing learners to rely on their own resources is more beneficial than simply giving them correct forms of their wrong structures.
According to Nativism, advocated by Chomsky (1975), negative evidence does not play a dominant role in acquiring a new language. Proponents of this theory justify their belief by stating that it is ‘Universal Grammar’ (UG) that makes language acquisition possible. Nativists define UG as the system of principles, conditions, and rules that are elements or properties of all human languages. They argue that instruction, including negative evidence, has no fixed effect on language forms, and if negative evidence causes any change in the learners’ accuracy in grammar of target language, it is just a temporary change, then a permanent one and cannot be called true grammar of the target language.
The findings of Semke’s study (1984) suggested that learners whose errors were not corrected outperformed their counterparts who received corrective feedback. He concluded that corrections do not increase writing accuracy, writing fluency or grammatical language proficiency, and they may have a negative effect on learners, and those who do not receive correction improve their grammatical accuracy more than those who receive corrective feedback.
Similarly, Krashen (1985) believed that second language acquisition is the result of implicit process together with the reception of comprehensible input. He continued that explicit data, in the form of negative evidence or explicit instruction, can only affect the learning rather than the acquisition of the target language. According to his input hypothesis, subconscious acquisition is dominant over conscious learning and learning cannot be converted into acquisition. In short, negative evidence does not play an important role in second language acquisition.
In agreement, Edge (1989) stated that if learners could learn a great deal from the process of corrective feedback, there would not be so many difficulties in the process of language teaching and learning. Likewise, Leki (1990) and Kepner (1991) believed that the useful influence of error correction on the accuracy improvement of the learners’ written performances has not been confirmed by the previous studies, and it is better for both language learners and teachers to spend their valuable time on other useful classroom practices than to waste their time correcting learners’ errors. Hamerly (1991, p.75) stated, “many linguists assert that second language learners should be encouraged to use the target language freely without having their errors corrected, so that they can test linguistic hypothesis the way very young children are suggested to acquire their native language”.
Truscott (1996) claimed that grammar correction has no place in writing courses and should be omitted. He believed that there is no convincing research evidence that error correction helps learners improve their accuracy in writing. He justified his finding in two ways. On the one hand, he argued that error correction neglects second language acquisition insights about the complex process of acquiring the forms and structures of a new language. On the other hand, he believed that error correction is not useful because it leads to nothing but waste of time and energy of our classrooms. He meant it is not beneficial for both teachers and learners to correct grammatical errors, and grammar correction activities should be omitted from English classes. According to him, although the process of acquiring a new language is very complex and gradual, many people regard it as an ordinary activity; that is, they think that providing the learners with the correct forms of wrong structures certainly leads to using the structures properly in future by the learners.
According to Truscott (1996), to be useful, the process of error treatment and gradual stages of a foreign language should be taken into account and digested clearly. To be more flexible in his ideas, he mentioned that even if future research verifies the use of error treatment, there is no error correction method as a panacea, that is, we have no error treatment method as the best one for all types of errors and situations.
A series of arguments, influenced by process theories, claimed that corrective feedback on learners’ errors is discouraging and does not cause any improvement in their subsequent writing, and if there is any improvement, it should be contributed to the factor of practice effect (practice with writing) not corrective feedback (Robb, Ross, & Shortreed, 1986; Kepner, 1991; Sheppard, 1992; Fazio, 2001).
Rahimi (2009) in his study found no significant effect for the teachers’ feedback, but as a result of practice and the interaction of practice and feedback, both feedback groups improved in their performance. This study also showed that the amount of error reduction is largely influenced by the learners’ mother tongue.
Types of Corrective Feedback
It has been suggested that certain types of feedback may help grammar development, thanks to the type of information corrective feedback provides learners and the depth of processing this information may promote (Panova & Lyster, 2002). Lyster and Ranta (1997) categorized six corrective feedback types. They include: explicit correction, recasts, elicitation, metalinguistic clues, clarification requests, and repetition. Subsequently, they classified them into two broad corrective feedback categories: reformulations and prompts (Ranta & Lyster, 2007). Reformulations include recasts and explicit correction. Prompts include elicitation, metalinguistic clues, clarification requests, and repetition. The six types of corrective feedback, which were first reported by Lyster and Ranta (1997), are listed below together with their definitions and examples:
a. Explicit (overt) correction overtly indicates the learners’ errors, e.g., it’s wrong. You cannot say that. You have to say….
S: She goed to the store.
T: No, not goed—went (Ellis, Loewen, & Erlam, 2006)
b. Recasts are relatively implicit because they indirectly inform learners of errors they made. Sheen (2006) defines Recasts as “the teacher’s reformulation of all or part of a student’s utterance that contains at least one error within the context of a communicative activity in the classroom” (p. 365).
S: to her is good thing.
T: yeah for her it’s a good thing S: because she got a lot of money there.
(Loewen & Philp, 2006)
c. Clarification requests are in the form of phrases such as “Pardon me?”, “I don’t understand”, and “What do you mean by X?”. They mention that the learner’s utterance is ill-formed and a repetition or reformulation is required (Yang & Lyster, 2010).
S: Why does he fly to Korea last year?
S: Why did he fly to Korea last year?
Metalinguistic feedback contains either comments, information, or questions related to how well-formed the student’s utterance is, w
ithout explicitly providing the correct form.
S: I went to the train station and pick up my aunt.
T: Use past tense consistently.
S: I went to the train station and picked up my aunt. (Yang & Lyster, 2010)
d. Elicitation refers to techniques that teachers use to overtly elicit the correct form from the learners. They involve asking questions such as “How do we say that in French?” or by pausing to allow students to complete teacher’s utterance, or by asking students to reformulate their utterance.
S: Once upon a time, there lives a poor girl named Cinderella.
T: Once upon a time, there…
S: there lived a girl. (Yang & Lyster, 2010)
e. Repetition refers to a teacher’s repetition of a student’s error. In most cases, the teacher adjusts intonation to call the student’s attention to it.
S: Mrs. Jones travel a lot last year.
T: Mrs. Jones travel a lot last year?
S: Mrs. Jones traveled a lot last year. (Yang & Lyster, 2010)
A large body of research compared the effect of different types of corrective feedback. Carroll and Swain (1993) conducted a study to explore the effectiveness of various types of feedback on the acquisition of English dative alternation by ESL (English as a Second Language) learners. They reported that the provision of negative feedback facilitated learning the selected features. In other words, all types of feedback led to learning, but the participants receiving the most explicit (overt) type of feedback outperformed the other three groups.
In addition, Lyster and Ranta (1997) carried out a study to illustrate the types and distribution of corrective feedback moves and their relationship to learner uptake. They aimed to find out, initially, whether error treatment is indeed negotiable and if so, to what extent such pedagogically motivated negotiation (i.e., of form) occurs in communicative classrooms and, secondly, what moves constitute such an exchange. The database analyzed for the study was composed of 27 lessons totaling 18.3 hours. The teachers knew that the researchers had an interest in recording classroom interaction. On the other hand, they did not know that the research focused mainly on corrective feedback. The data analysis indicated that seven different types of feedback were used by the four teachers in the study: explicit correction, recasts, clarification requests, metalinguistic feedback, elicitation, repetition, and multiple feedback (which referred to combinations of more than one type of feedback). Interestingly, recasts were the most commonly used type of feedback by all teachers. The analysis of students’ uptake indicated that 69% of recasts were followed by topic continuation; 18% of recasts were immediately repeated or incorporated into student utterances and were coded as needs repair. Recasts did not lead to any student-generated forms of repair. The reason was that recasts already provided correct forms to learners. The results of the study suggested that teachers must make use of various types of feedback, especially those that lead to student-generated repair, namely elicitation, metalinguisitic clues, clarification requests, and repetition of error. These four types of corrective feedback get learners