Core Practice #6 of World Language Teaching

Lucas Hoffman, Sylvania Southview HS, OFLA President-elect

In October, 2015, I wrote an article as a follow-up from the LILL 2015 summer institute (organized by ACTFL, NCSSFL, and CSCTFL among other national and regional bodies).  I included information on the six core practices of world language teaching; you might think of these practices as those critical to really teaching languages for communication.

If you are looking for a strategy to help your students speak better, core practice #6 might be for you!

Core Practice #6: Provide appropriate feedback in speech and writing on various learning tasks.  (In this article, we will focus on oral interaction only.)

What does this mean for you?

Since, as teachers, we already have limited time with students, it is important that we maximize this time by giving meaningful feedback.  Teachers should note that we are not referring to “fixing errors” in the traditional grammar and translation sense.  Instead, we focus on making a speaker’s meaning clearer.

What does this mean for your students?

Students need to be attentive to what they say (meaning) and how they say it.  When language instructors offer meaningful feedback, students will have an opportunity to extend their speech and hopefully learn from their errors.

Can we see this in action?

When we talk about corrective feedback, there are various approaches teachers may use.   We will focus on a few of the more commonly used ones here.  To be clear, we are not talking about evaluation in a more traditional sense:

Teacher says: What did you do yesterday?

Student says:  Yesterday, I went to the store.

Teacher says: Very good!

In the example above, the teacher simply evaluates the student’s response.  While the teacher does communicate that the response may be grammatically correct, the teacher is not encouraging more communication.

When we talk about feedback as a strategy to encourage interpersonal communication, see the same discussion conversation:

Teacher says: What did you do yesterday?

Student says:  Yesterday, I went to the store.

Teacher say:  Oh really?  What did you buy at the store?

Student says: I bought jeans and a hoodie.

Teacher says:  That’s neat!

In this second scenario, the teacher allows the learner to interact with language in a more natural way.  The teacher communicates that he or she clearly understands the student by asking a topical follow-up question, which encourages longer and more natural discourse.

Again, there are multiple approaches to giving feedback.  According to research, some are more effective than others in leading students to uptake (where a student fixes their error).

Using recasts as corrective feedback

According to Lyster and Ranta, recasts are the most popular yet least effective approach in helping students fix their errors.  See example:

Teacher says: What did you do yesterday?

Student says:  Yesterday, I goed to the store.

Teacher say:  Yesterday, I went to the store.

In this exact scenario, even though the meaning may be somewhat clear, the student is not successful when attending to the form.  The teacher does correct the form of the verb but the student may or may not be aware that there was even an error.  In fact, recasts only led to uptake 31% according to Lyster and Ranta.  Recasts requires the least attention or work on the part of the student and yet is used by teachers  55% of the time, because it is easy for a teacher to communicate  (Lyster and Ranta).

Using elicitation as corrective feedback

If recasts are not especially effective in helpful students with uptake (fixing their own error), what’s a better approach? Teachers should consider elicitation. The  teacher repeats the student’s utterance up until the error, at which point the teacher pauses to allow the student to make his or her own correction.  See example:

Teacher says: What did you do yesterday?

Student says:  Yesterday, I goed to the store.

Teacher say:  Yesterday, I …

Student say: Oh… went… Yesterday, I went to the store.

What is the take-away?

Teachers should be mindful to encourage the student to help fix his or her own error.  In doing so, it is much more likely to lead to uptake.

Please remember that that corrective feedback happens at your discretion.  You should decide which errors need correction (not all!) to make the speech clearer.  Also note that these strategies depend on the age and language background of your students.  Elicitation will not be very successful in an FLES classroom where students do not have the linguistic or cognitive background to fix their own mistakes.  You still know your students better than anyone else.  You can make the best judgement as to what they need in terms of feedback and correction.

Want more information about LILL or the core practices?

If you are interested in learning more about these core practices,  check out the ongoing conversation on Twitter.  Other fellow LILL participants have started the work of sharing out about the six core practices.  For example, see Wisconsin LILL participant Andrea Behn’s thoughts here.

More information on the LILL Institute can be found here.

Are you interested in collaborating with others on a national video project to encourage these core practices?  Check out the new LangTalks project.

References:

Lyster, R., & Ranta, L.  (1997).  Corrective feedback and learner uptake.  Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 19, 37-61.

Glissan, Eileen.  “Leadership Initiative for Language Learning.”  The Ohio State University.  Ramseyer Hall, Columbus, OH.  21 July 2015. Presentation.

This entry was posted in General, Vol. 54, No. 2 - Winter 2016. Bookmark the permalink.

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