Academic journal article English Language Teaching

On Written Corrective Feedback in L2 Writing

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

On Written Corrective Feedback in L2 Writing

Article excerpt

Abstract

Truscott (1996) questions the practicability of grammar correction, and he believes that written corrective feedback (WCF) is not only a waste of time, but even harmful to the students as well. This has led to a great deal of discussion and research on WCF in second-language (L2) writing. Ferris (1999) is the representative opponent of Truscott's point of view, who argues that WCF should not be abandoned in that it can improve the accuracy of L2 learners' writing. Many empirical studies have been conducted and the results support Ferris' view that WCF is useful in promoting the development of L2 writing. This paper gives a literature review from a dichotomy perspective of WCF.

Keywords: written corrective feedback, L2 writing, accuracy, second language acquisition

1. Introduction

Written corrective feedback (WCF) in L2 writing, otherwise known as grammar correction (e.g., Truscott, 1996, 1999) or written error correction, has been much studied and hotly debated in applied linguistics over the past 18 years. Truscott (1996) questions the practicability of grammar correction, and he believes that Grammar Correction (GC) is not only a waste of time, but even harmful to the students as well. This has led to a great deal of discussion and research on GC in second-language (L2) writing. Ferris (1999) is the representative opponent of Truscott's point of view, who argues that GC should not be abandoned in that it can improve the accuracy of L2 learners' writing. Many empirical studies have been conducted and the results support Ferris' view that GC is useful in promoting the development of L2 writing, and the field seems to take Ferris' (1999) generalization that students believe in GC and want to receive it for granted. Although researchers have extensively studied the effectiveness of different types of GC usually in terms of L2 development as gagued by pretests and postests in both laboratory and classroom settings, little is known about students' perceptions of GC in their English writing. Despite from the rare existing studies, most of them take Ferris' (1999) stance for granted by testing which type of GC is more effective than others based on students' perceptions, it would certainly be premature to formulate any conclusions about this topic, more researches are needed on investigating students real perceptions over the effectiveness of GC.

The essence for Truscott (1996) stance is that most L2 writing teachers accept GC as a necessary activity without any critical thinking of whether this approach is effective or not. Grammar Correction has no place in writing courses and should be abandoned. The reasons are: (a) Research evidence shows that Grammar Correction is ineffective; (b) this lack of effectiveness is exactly what should be expected, given the nature of the correction process and the nature of language learning; (c) grammar correction has significant harmful effects; and (d) the various arguments offered for continuing it all lack of merit (1996, pp. 328-329).

In response to Truscott (1996), Ferris (1999) pointed out Truscott (1996)'s stance "grammar correction has no place in writing courses and should be abandoned" (p. 328) is quite premature and overly strong. Ferris ideas can be summarized in the following aspects: surveys of student opinion showed their consistent affirmation on the importance of GC; professors feel that students' linguistic errors are bothersome and affect their overall evaluation of students papers, writing instructors should not ignore their students' linguistic difficulties; the absence of any feedback or strategy training will ensure that many students never take seriously the need to improve their editing skills and they will not have the knowledge to edit even when they do perceive its importance.

As a response to Truscott's work, a substantial amount of research over the two decades or so has focused specifically on the effectiveness of written feedback (e. …

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