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Exploratory Practice of Supportive Error Correctionin Interactive EFL Classroom

更新时间:2008-11-15:  来源:毕业论文

Exploratory Practice of Supportive Error Correctionin Interactive EFL Classroom
【Abstract】Error correction not only involves learners’ linguistic competence, but also their affect, which plays a crucial part in language acquisition. Based on psycholinguistic interactionist theory and social interactionist theory, the present research aims to explore the strategies for supportive error correction in college EFL classroom, which help the students’ language learning by correcting their errors and providing positive support to students’ affect as well.

【Key Words】classroom interaction;error correction;affect

1. Introduction

Research on classroom SLA shows that teacher-student interaction creates optimum environments to act on learners’ internal mechanisms and therefore facilitates L2 learning (Long, 1996;Swain, 1995). Feedback, as an important part of classroom interaction, is provided by the teacher to make evaluations of and give comments on students’ performance. The present paper focuses on error correction, which specifically refers to teachers’ feedback to students’ errors.

Research has demonstrated that error correction is a quite complicated issue. On the one hand, it works for language learning by the assumption of calling learners’ attention to the differences between their interlanguage and target language, but on the other hand, the frequent error correction by the teacher may create a sense of failure and frustration among students. To break through this dilemma, the present research attempts to explore the strategies for supportive error correction, which help the students’ learning by correcting their errors and providing positive support to students’affect as well. The research is based on two related but different types of interactionist theories: Psycholinguistic interactionist theory, which explains the relationship between error correction and language acquisition; and social interactionist theory, which focuses on error correction and the learners’affect.

2. Theories

2.1 Psycholinguistic interactionist theories

One of the most influential hypotheses concerned with the relationship between interaction and learners’ linguistic needs is Long’s Interaction Hypothesis (IH). The early version of IH (1985) is closely associated with Krashen’s (1985) Input Hypothesis which claims that comprehensible input is one of the key elements in second or foreign language development. In 1996, Long offers his revised version of IH, which highlights the contribution of the learners’ internal mechanisms, negotiation and negative evidence to L2 learning.

According to IH, Interaction can contribute to acquisition through the provision of negative evidence and through opportunities for modified output. As error correction “constitutes attempt to supply ‘negative evidence’ in the form of feedback that draws learners’ attention to the error they have made” (Ellis, 1994: 584), it can thereby trigger learners’ internal mechanisms, which may further result in modified output. Swain’s (1985, 1995) Output Hypothesis identifies the functions of output where accuracy is concerned. It helps learners to notice the gap between what they want to say and what they can say and enables learners to test out hypotheses about the target language. One way in which this occurs is through the modified output that learners produce following error correction.

2.2 Social Interactionist theories

Social interactionist theories advance the role of interaction on L2 acquisition with respect to affective and cognitive environments which are helpful to learners’ second language development. The key construct in interactionist theories is mediation, which refers to “the part played by other significant people in the learners’ lives, who enhance their learning by selecting and shaping the learning experiences presented to them”. (Williams & Burden, 2000: 40). For Vygotsky and his followers, the means of mediation can be a system of symbols, notably language, so in language classrooms, the mediation can take the form of conversational interaction which includes teacher error correction or various other kinds of teacher assistance.

Through mediation, learners are able to transform skills that lie in the zone of proximal development (ZPD, a terminology developed by Vygotsky (1978) to refer to the area of learners’ potential development). According to social interactionist theories, the functions of mediation are initially performed in collaborating with others, typically through interacting with some other person, and then are subsequently performed independently. One way in which it occurs in L2 acquisition is through instructional interaction which provides scaffolding. At one level, scaffolding serves as the means by which teacher assists learners to produce linguistic forms that lie outside their existing competence. Furthermore, it refers more broadly to the social, cognitive and affective support that interactants afford each other.

Wood, Bruner and Ross (1976) identify the following features of scaffolding:

1.Recruiting interest in the task

2.Simplifying the task

3.Maintaining pursuit of the goal

4.Marking critical features and discrepancies between what has been produced and the ideal solution

5.Controlling frustration during problem solving

6.Demonstrating an idealized version of the act to be performed.

3. Method

As exploratory practice, which language teachers conduct in their own classrooms to understand the areas of language teaching and learning that they wish to explore(Allwright,1997), the present study on supportive error-correction is conducted by the author as an English teacher in her own classroom. To provide error correction in an effective and non-threatening way, a number of theoretically grounded error-correction strategies were adopted in practice to examine whether and how the strategies used give supportive effect both in students’ affect and their language learning.

The participants for this study included the author and the students in a college EFL classroom. The students were second-year non-English majors. Most of them have learned English for seven to nine years, so they were regarded as intermediate English learners.

The present study mainly used audio-recording to collect the data. The College English Lesson in the author’s own class was audio-recorded for one term and the error-correction part was transcribed and analyzed. Although the students were aware of recording, I told them it was only for the purpose of my research and would not be used for judging or grading their performance in classroom, so there was no stressful influence on the classroom atmosphere or students’ performance.

4. Results and Discussion

The strategies I adopted mainly serve two purposes: First, to help the students notice and correct their errors; Second, to encourage and support the students in affect. Four basic strategies were proved to be beneficial for L2 learning in my classroom:

A. The “sandwich” method can create a positively affective environment for error correction

“Sandwich” is a metaphor for the “positive – negative –positive” method. Positive feedbacks are provided before and after negative feedback to create a warm climate for error correction in classroom and encourage students to produce more output without fear of making errors.

Excerpt 1

1.T: …and wasn’t the slightest bit shy, not the slightest, what does it mean here? Can you guess? F2, please.

2.F2: [Silence]

3.T: It means I was shy or not shy?

4.F2: I don’t know.

5.T: Ok, I think the phrase is a little bit complicated for you, but can you guess its meaning from the context? “I was bragging and I wasn’t the slightest bit shy or self-restrained”, do you remember the meaning of “brag”?

6.F2: Talk something big .

7.T: Good, the meaning is right, but please don’t add “something”, it is a fixed phrase here, talk big.

8.F2: Talk big.

9.T: Good, Exactly, so if someone likes to talk big, is he a shy person or not?

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