31 SES 06 A, Developing Skills and Strategies for Writing at School
Fossilized mistakes in students’ writing is the main underlying reason for starting this study. Such mistakes are partly attributed to the first language interference, when learners naturally face cross-linguistic development. Regarding our students, English is their third language, after Kazakh and Russian. Some mistakes do not impede the meaning of the overall idea. However, another common mistake in almost all second language learners is the wrong word order, because, unlike English, their L1 and L2 have an inverted sentence. For example, “My sister today annoys me because she less slept” complicates the comprehension of the sentence.
A bunch of literature on error correction has been concentrated on various techniques and their both effectiveness and ineffectiveness in promoting students’ writing accuracy (Truscott, 1996; Cohen & Robbins, 1976; Ferris, 2001; Lee, 2003). The research on error feedback is split into camps, where Truscott (1996) claimed that giving feedback to students is totally redundant. This view was not shared by Ferris (1999; 2001), Lalande (1982) and other researchers who consider feedback as a vital instrument in helping students develop their writing accuracy.
While direct error feedback teachers correct students’ mistakes. However, this method hinders students’ analysis of their mistakes and learning from them. In this case, students keep relying on teachers’ corrections of their writing. Indirect error feedback, on the contrary, involves only underlining students’ errors without specifying the type of mistake. Ferris (2003) provides evidence that indirect error feedback has more advantages over direct one as there is “an increased student engagement and attention to forms and problems” (Ferris, 2003. p. 52).
Lalande (1982) in his experiment, conducted in second language acquisition class, found out that a group of American students, whose mistakes were pinpointed using error codes, improved their writing in German, compared to the group, whose errors were checked by the teacher. Recent research by Balderas (2018) also highlights the effectiveness of using error codes describing it as a practical tool to help both teachers and students “approach text revision as a problem-solving task, which provides learners with clear parameters about what to revise” (2018, p. 184) as long as these symbols and codes are clear to all students.
Literature also covers studies on teachers’ and students’ perceptions of giving feedback. Cohen, A. D. et al (1999), who studied error correction from students’ perspectives, identified that students expect written feedback from teachers and find them important for improvement. Sharing a case in Hong-Kong, professor Lee (2003) surveyed more than 200 teachers with follow-up interviews and identified that teachers’ main concern is to make students aware of their mistakes “with the immediate goal of helping students avoid the same mistakes” (p. 220).
Another area of error correction research strives to identify what kind of mistakes should be corrected and whether it is sensible to correct all mistakes. Hendrickson (1980) suggests that not all errors must be highlighted. The claim echoes findings of Bates, Lane and Lange (1993), who believe that error correction must be selective and focused on those mistakes that somehow impede understanding of the text. In the same vein, Lee as cited in Ferris, (2002) showed that error correction advocates confront against comprehensive feedback because of the risk of ‘‘exhausting teachers and overwhelming students’’ (2004, p.301).
Therefore, this study attempts to analyze the effect of applying error codes while checking and correcting students’ most frequent mistakes and aims to answer the following research questions:
1) What was the contribution of editing work in reducing overall number of their mistakes in five categories?
2) What skills, if any, did students obtain as a result of self-correction of their writing work?
The given study is a part of collaborative Action Research conducted in Nazarbayev Intellectual School in Pavlodar and in Nur-Sultan (IB World School). Based on students preliminary MOCK writing results 112 eleven grade students were purposefully selected as part of the research. Their results revealed that they had some fossilized errors that are consistent from writing to writing. They are mature enough for self-checking. To address research questions, a mixed research design was employed. As Creswell puts it “combining both quantitative and qualitative data together provides a better understanding of your research problem than either type by itself” (p.534). Qualitative data, students’ written assignments, was analyzed, checked and coded according to predefined symbols. Besides, open-ended interviews offered different perspectives on the research topic, providing “a complex structure of the situation” (p. 537). Quantitative data, such as students’ number and types of mistakes allowed to yield specific error types that were analyzed. In order to analyze data, examination of students’ essays was conducted. The first piece of writing done by students at the beginning of the academic year was selected as a diagnostic instrument to measure the number and types of mistakes. To make this work smoother, the codes were assembled by teachers and then discussed with students. The research was focused only on first 5 categories: grammar, word order, missing verb, tense and word choice, which were identified as the most common and fossilized mistakes. The study was carried out in three phases and spanned two academic years (2018-19, 2019-20). The first session was when teachers checked work, underlined the mistake and wrote the type of error on margins on the same line where mistake was located, thereby indicating the place and the type of mistake that needed to be corrected. It turned out to be straightforward for students, as they directly turned to underlined words and corrected them. Therefore, teachers decided to adopt more complicated error coding approach in the following way: The second session included writing the type of mistake, i.e. its code on the margin, but without underlying it. Thus, students are shown a type of mistake, its line, but not the exact place where it is located. The last, most time-consuming way was when teachers merely wrote the number and type of mistakes in the end of writing. For example, 5 grammar mistakes (articles, prepositions), 2 WO, 7 spelling mistakes and 2 parts of speech.
The data analysis, namely qualitative and quantitative examination of students’ written assignments – practicing different text types revealed that this method fosters students’ self-correction, which develops their independent learning and brings benefits in the long run. When they are given cues, instead of providing with correct answers, students develop their linguistic competence and have to activate prior knowledge in order to correct the mistake. Analysis of students’ initial and the last work (totally, 12 papers) showed a significant decrease in the number of mistakes. Their number reduced from an average of 13 to a maximum of 4. High achievers reduced their fossilized mistakes to 0, occasionally making 1-2 slips. Drawing conclusions from findings and interviews proved that coded feedback has advantage over non-coded direct feedback. Students noted that with codes they have much more opportunity “to put their thinking caps on” and know their mistakes. 86% of students admitted that earlier they were more interested in the grade and assessment in the end rather than looking at and analyzing mistakes corrected by the teacher. There has also been a consensus among students that self-correction required regular revision and practice of topics needed to be reviewed again. Another interesting factor revealed was the fact that students increased their motivation to eliminate fossilized errors, or at least to reduce them. Some students noted that they “saw error codes as a challenge and call for improvement”. One student shared that “there has been a hidden competition among them to reduce the number of mistakes”. Obviously, error coding has its side-effects in terms of time. It is quite time-consuming and continuous process of correcting, coding, re-checking, re-writing and double-checking. As a result, students developed their independence in identifying and correcting their mistakes, that improved their overall comprehension and cohesion of written text.
1.Balderas, I. R. (2018). Self and peer correction to improve college students’ writing skills. Teacher Professional Development, 20 (2), 179-194. 2.Bates, L., Lane, J., & Lange, E. (1993). Writing clearly: Responding to ESL compositions. 3.Cohen, A. D., & Robbins, M. (1976). Toward Assessing Interlanguage Performance: The Relationship Between Selected Errors, Learners Characteristics, And Learners Explanations. Language Learning, 26(1), 45-66. 4.Cohen, A. D., & Cavalcanti, M. C. (). Feedback on compositions: Teacher and student verbal reports. Second Language Writing, 155-177. 5.Creswell, J. (2013). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. 6.Ferris, D. (1999). The case for grammar correction in L2 writing classes: A response to Truscott (1996). Journal of Second Language Writing, 8(1), 1-11. 7.Ferris, D., & Roberts, B. (2001). Error feedback in L2 writing classes. Journal of Second Language Writing, 10(3), 161-184. 8.Ferris, D. (2011). Treatment of Error in Second Language Student Writing, Second Edition. 9.Hendrickson, J. (1980). Error correction in foreign language teaching: Recent theory, research, and practice. Reading on English as a second language, 153-173. 10.Lalande, J. F., II. (1982). Reducing composition errors: An experiment, Modern Language Journal, 140-149. 11.Lee, I. (2003). L2 Writing teachers’ perspectives, practices and problems regarding error feedback. Assessing Writing, 8(3), 216-237. 12.Lee, I. (2004). Error correction in L2 secondary writing classrooms: The case of Hong Kong. Journal of Second Language Writing, 13(4), 285-312. 13.Truscott, J. (1996). The Case Against Grammar Correction in L2 Writing Classes. Language Learning, 46(2), 327-369.
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