Philp (2006) found that stress, declarative intonation, one change, and multiple feedback moves were predictive of successful uptake. They also found out that “interrogative intonation, shortened length, and one change were predictive of the accuracy of the test scores” (p. 540). Results of their study revealed that interrogative recasts have the effect of developing learners’ accuracy. Additionally, they mentioned that “an interrogative recast is ambiguous as corrective feedback because the learner may interpret it either as corrective or as a request to confirm the intended meaning” (p. 540). However, a small body of research generally suggested that declarative recasts are more salient (Kim & Han, 2007). On the contrary, in Mackey and Goo’s (2007) study, eleven L2 learners of Arabic and their two teachers watched videotaped CF episodes from their own classroom interactions. Results indicated that only 36% of the CF was perceived in the way that teachers had intended. Regarding recasts, interrogative recasts were more accurately perceived than declarative recasts.
More recently, Erlam and Loewen (2010) distinguished between implicit and explicit recasts depending on the number of moves and the intonation of the CF. The operationalization of a recast may verify the degree of its implicitness or explicitness. For example, in Erlam and Loewen’s (2010) study, implicit or interrogative recasts — including correction of errors made with rising intonation — were in contrast with explicit or declarative ones. In the former, the students’ error was repeated with rising intonation. In the latter, a correction was provided in declarative form.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Recasts
Recasts are the most commonly used form of corrective feedback applied by language teachers (Lyster & Ranta, 1997; Oliver & Mackey, 2003; Sheen, 2004; Nassaji, 2007). They sustain a primary focus on meaning while making it possible for learners to perceive errors in their interlanguage production (Doughty, 2001; Long, 1996, 2006). In this regard, a number of researchers suggested using recasts since students are able to notice them as CF rather than as a communicative response to what was said. Besides, they agreed that it increases the usefulness of recasts (Nicholas et al., 2001).
Han (2002) pointed out that, intensive recasting increases learners’ noticing and development of morphosyntactic features. Lochtman (2002) believed that recasts permit learners to detect the error and amend it with the assistance of the teacher. Furthermore, several research studies supported the efficacy of recasts for short-term language learning (Doughty & Varela, 1998; Mackey & Philp, 1998; Ayoun, 2001; Braidi, 2002; Han, 2002; Havranek, 2002; Iwashita, 2003; Leeman, 2003; Oliver & Mackey, 2003).
In support of these arguments, numerous research studies revealed that recasts are language learning facilitators (Doughty & Varela, 1998; Mackey & Philp, 1998; Ayoun, 2001; Braidi, 2002; Han, 2002; Havranek, 2002; Iwashita, 2003; Leeman, 2003; Oliver & Mackey, 2003). As they are time saving, they cannot be intimidating to the students’ confidence, and they generally keep a flow of interaction repair. Recasts also allow the teacher to maintain control (Loewen & Philip, 2006). It assists learners in focusing explicitly but briefly on form by forming a brief time-out from communicating (Ellis et al., 2006). Recasts do not damage the learners’ self-confidence (Loewen & Philp, 2006).
Equally important, recasts are learner-centered, i.e. they are contingent on what the learner is trying to communicate, and are Unobtrusive, i.e. they highlight the error without breaking the flow of communication, and implicit (Trofimovich, Ammar, & Gatbonton, 2007). Thus far, recasts have been found to be effective for L2 learning (Carroll & Swain, 1993; Doughty & Varela, 1998; Long, Inagaki, & Ortega, 1998; Mackey & Philp, 1998; Mackey, 1999; Ayoun, 2001; Han, 2002; Iwashita, 2003; Ishida, 2004; Ellis, 2007; Loewen & Nabei, 2007; for a meta-analysis, Mackey & Goo, 2007).
More recently, Baleghizadeh and Abdi (2010) drew a distinction between recasts and other types of feedback regarding the fact that they are implicit and do not cause a breakdown in communication. Goo and Mackey (2013) claimed that recasts are effective because they target forms as yet unknown to learners. Recasts perfectly match communicative classroom discourse, for they do not lead to a breakdown in communication, hold the attention of students focused on meaning and provide scaffolds which make it possible for learners to take part in interaction that requires linguistic abilities exceeding their current developmental level. Additionally, they encourage students to perceive the gap between their non-target output and target forms in the input; they draw wide theoretical support from the interaction hypothesis (Lyster et al., 2013).
Despite the obvious merits of recasts, there are some drawbacks. Chaudron (1977) concluded that recasting — what he called “repetition with change” (but without emphasis or reduction) — was “especially weak in helping to locate the error” (p. 41). Lyster and Ranta (1997) carried out a study on corrective feedback and learner uptake and the effectiveness of such feedback types as explicit feedback, recasts, elicitation, metalinguistic feedback, clarification requests, and repetition. The outcome of their study indicated that recasts were the least effective in terms of uptake and acquisition, it was the most commonly used type, nevertheless. In fact, some argued that “recasts of grammatical errors probably do not provide young classroom learners with negative evidence, in that they fail to convey what is unacceptable in the L2” (Lyster, 1998a, p. 207). In addition, the efficacy of corrective feedback eliciting self-repair or pushed output has not won general approval (Mackey & Philp, 1998). Nicholas et al. (2001) indicated how recasts perform two functions concurrently and thus cause ambiguity to learners:
S: The boy have many flowers in the basket.
T: Yes, the boy has many flowers in the basket.
(Nicholas et al., p. 721)
In the above-mentioned example, the recast has two functions at the same time. Conversationally, it provides a confirmation to the student utterance, and it does not interrupt the flow of communication, and as a corrective feedback, it indicates to the student that an erroneous utterance has been made. Consequently, some researchers are against the efficacy of recasts partly due to ambiguity.
A great number of researchers are in agreement that recasts are complex discourse structures that can sometimes be difficult for learners to notice. A body of research led support to the claim that recasts are ambiguous to L2 learners (Lyster & Ranta, 1997; Lyster, 1998b; Panova & Lyster, 2002; Lyster, 2004). A compelling reason for ambiguity is that teachers’ responses can serve several functions, and learners have difficulty perceiving their teachers’ intent (Chaudron, 1988).
Ammar and Spada (2006) made a direct comparison between recasts and prompts suggesting that proficiency might be a key factor underlying the relative efficacy of feedback that elicits repair. In their study, low proficiency learners who received prompts significantly outperformed those who received recasts, whereas a crucial difference could not be noticed for either type of feedback among high proficiency learners. Accordingly, recasts which produce pushed output at every opportunity might be valuable for only certain types of learners. Similarly, it remains unanswered how recasts can be applied on form to learners who have zero knowledge. Research indicates that high proficiency students in reality gain advantage more from receiving recasts compared with learners who are at lower stages. Since students repeat the teacher’s reformulation of all or part of their utterance, recasts are
not necessarily followed by self- or peer-repair (Baleghizadeh & Abdi, 2010).
Slimani (1992) defined uptake as the learners’ report on what they have learned from a particular lesson. Lyster and Ranta (1997) defined uptake as “a student’s utterance that immediately follows the teacher’s feedback and that constitutes a reaction in some way to the teacher’s intention to draw attention to some aspect of the student’s initial utterance” (p. 49). In this framework, uptake comprises “a reaction in some way to the teacher’s intention to draw the learner’s attention to some aspect of the student’s initial utterance” (p .49). According to Mackey, Gass, and McDonough (2000, p. 492), “uptake may be related to learners’ perceptions about feedback at the time of feedback”. Irrespective of the type of corrective feedback, learners will respond in distinct ways; their reaction to the received feedback from teachers is called ‘uptake’ (Richards & Schmidt, 2002). In other words, it is simply “learner responses to corrective feedback in which, in case of an error, students attempt to correct their mistake(s)” (Heift, 2004, p. 416).
In the realm of language acquisition, when the focus is on the cognitive process of learning a language, the relationship between uptake and acquisition were widely explored by language researchers. Some researchers argued that uptake may contribute to second language acquisition by providing students with the opportunity to practice what they have learned and helping them fill in the gaps in their interlanguage (Carroll & Swain, 1993). Loewen (2005) found that learners’ successful uptake in classroom-based communicative lessons was a strong predictor of their ability to subsequently correct their errors in tailor-made tests administered to individual students. Loewen and Philp (2006) investigated the effect of different characteristics of recasts (e.g., linguistic focus, length, number of changes, segmentation) on individual learners’ uptake and acquisition, as measured by tailor-made tests. They found that recasts with explicit linguistic characteristics were more likely to result in both uptake and learning. Uptake is seen as an indicator of students’ noticing (Sheen, 2004; Ellis & Sheen, 2006) and is considered to be a facilitator of acquisition.
It could be argued that uptake is a sign of noticing. Nonetheless, if one uses uptake to measure learners’ noticing of recasts, he must take into account several issues. Initially, recasts generally do not require responses from learners. Secondly, the occurrence of uptake is subject to several discourse constraints; for instance, uptake may not occur simply because there is no opportunity or because responding to the feedback is contextually awkward (Oliver, 1995, 1998; Mackey et al., 2000). Similarly, noticing a recast by learners may not be the sole factor motivating them to respond to the recast. Learners can possibly produce uptake owing to the awareness of their errors in the process of initial output production. It is also possible that they repeat the NS’s feedback in a parrot like fashion without true understanding of its corrective message (Gass, 2003; Egi, 2010). McDonough and Mackey (2006) found no