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  • Writer's pictureRon Budd

Error Correction IS ESSENTIAL

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

Sometimes the teacher has to tell a student when they are doing it wrong.

In my experience as an educator, I've had the opportunity to employ a variety of error correction techniques, and I firmly believe that error correction is an indispensable aspect of effective language instruction. Despite a noticeable trend in pedagogy to reduce excessive error correction, I contend that it remains essential for language learning. Correcting students can be a nuanced endeavor, especially when addressing their spoken language proficiency. However, I find three particular techniques to be the most practical and indispensable:

  1. Subtle Teacher Correction: In this approach, the teacher subtly corrects the student's response by repeating it with the correction integrated, without explicitly pointing out the mistake.

  2. Not-So-Subtle Teacher Correction: This method involves repeating the student's answer while overtly highlighting and addressing the correction, making it clear to the student.

  3. Questioning: When a student uses an unfamiliar word or expression, the teacher employs questioning to extract meaning from the contextual clues and elicit a more accurate response.

While the first two techniques may appear strict or outdated to some, I find them to be valuable tools in language instruction. It is crucial for teachers to address their students' errors; after all, how can one effectively teach a language without error correction? Error correction is integrated into our teaching methods both actively and passively. For instance, modeling, a common teaching practice, is a form of error correction. It's essential to strike a balance between teacher talk time and student talk time, but there are instances when error correction becomes necessary.

In various situations, I opt for either subtle or not-so-subtle teacher correction. However, I acknowledge that an excessive focus on error correction can potentially impede comprehension. Consequently, I prioritize both fluency and accuracy and exercise discretion in my interventions. This selectiveness becomes particularly pertinent during evaluations and interactions with students, where the aim is to facilitate effective learning without overwhelming them.

I also frequently employ the technique of questioning. I prefer this method as it actively engages students in the learning process, fostering what I like to term "mutual student-teacher cognition." It is apparent that the first two techniques mentioned have roots in traditional teaching methods like memorization and rote learning. Unfortunately, these methods do not always yield the desired results, nor do other approaches that rely solely on mutual student-teacher cognition.

In conclusion, while there is an ongoing debate about the extent and nature of error correction in language teaching, I firmly believe that a balanced and thoughtful approach, incorporating techniques such as subtle correction, not-so-subtle correction, and questioning, can contribute to effective language acquisition and development in students.

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