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Top Tips for Giving Feedback and Correction

Top Tips for Giving Feedback and Correction | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Student feedback and correction are an integral part of our teaching methodology. In this blog post, we introduce some general concepts.

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Many teachers either neglect giving appropriate feedback or they are not sure how to do so. In this blog I'm going to share some opinions and some data so that you can think about it and maybe implement some strategies of giving effective feedback. Our students actually need it and the whole learning process is aimed at getting some feedback.

When you start thinking about your feedback and thinking about the whole concept of giving feedback you have to consider what effective feedback actually is. In general, is it correcting all students’ mistakes, or is it just discussing some target language? For example if you did a session devoted to the present simple and you noticed that your students made a lot of mistakes, outside of this topic, should you give feedback related only to the target language, which was present simple or should you respond to the mistakes in general?

This point needs to considered before choosing your feedback strategy, in some cases you might think about drawing attention to something in particular, to some specific details and in other cases not.

Some teachers think that feedback only needs to be given when you praise students for their work and basically they don't give any specific feedback related to mistakes or correction.

Choosing your strategy will depend on your teaching goals, so before you start giving your feedback or before you start teaching your lesson you will have your teaching goals. Every time you plan your lessons you should write down what you want the students to achieve and this point helps you choose your feedback strategy.

The two main groups of goals are, from your perspective as a teacher and from your student’s perspective. So for example, if the goal is to achieve some language clarity you would probably correct as much as it is needed. Whenever students make mistakes then you correct it and then hopefully students stop making those mistakes. Students are then able to reflect on the feedback themselves and think about why something they did was wrong.

Considering the teacher-student relationship

This approach is considered a traditional approach, this teacher-student relationship is one most teachers know and they were taught this way. It can be challenging to give feedback to adults because if they feel they may be corrected, they are afraid to make mistakes and don’t take risks with answers. If students are corrected for every single mistake, this is going to be de-motivating for them. We have already discussed the situation when your goal is to achieve some specific target language and the desired result will be obvious, if your students don't make any mistakes with their language.

What is the goal here?

On the other hand there is another goal which is slightly different in terms of perspective. There are times in the classroom where the learning process becomes the goal itself. Here we have some activity where the students hopefully will enjoy it. You as a teacher have to assist them to feel comfortable during the learning process and not be afraid to make mistakes and of course, in this case the language itself isn't the goal you want to achieve. In this case the whole study goal is devoted to the process itself. So students can make mistakes and mistakes are the results of students experiments with the language and these experiments are signs of progress. So when your students play with the language and because of that, make mistakes, it means that they grow and making progress in their language skills.

Allowing mistakes helps the students to become more fluent. Even people who are fluent in any language can make mistakes, but they are not afraid of that. This idea can be pretty challenging for those teachers are only used to the traditional approach.

If you teach grammar you can still be traditional in the way that you explain everything, in specific details, giving structure and drills, but it might be helpful if you give the students the chance to practice their usage in a more relaxed type of activity.

The next idea is closely connected to the teaching goals. Once you have chosen your teaching goal which will be either the actual result or the process followed, you can choose your feedback technique. These feedback techniques are generally related to those cases when your goal is the process and when you don't want to correct every single mistake.

Peer evaluation and correction

It's a useful approach when it comes to teaching groups, even with small groups. It is possible even if you teach one-on-one, because there are some course books which contain specific tasks where students have to correct something written. So there are activity tasks where students can check someone else's work, even if it was created by the teacher. You as a teacher can also pre-make some activities where you make mistakes and you ask your students to correct them. Those mistakes so those mistakes can be related to the teaching point or process.

One type of Mistake

Another way you may wish to correct mistakes is actually just to choose one type of mistake and correct it. For example it can be done with pronunciation. You just give some examples before doing some activity and if you see that students don't follow the model correctly, you can give them some feedback and ask them to repeat the correct form.

The third technique is related to focusing on content instead of the form and it is usually implemented when teaching writing. For example you teach students about how to write emails or short essays and the point is to include all the necessary details which are required by the task. If students neglect answering some of the questions of the task, you would draw attention to this, the content but not to the form. When it comes to grammar and language, the first thing you have to mention is the content because it is more important.

When it comes to writing or answering some specific tasks, involving content and linguistic devices especially if you teach people who prepare for exams, they usually believe (and teachers believe) as well that language structure is more important than content. In fact if you read some exam handbooks you would find that language isn't as important as the content.

The next technique is usually used for correcting speech and it is used to correct structures. Whenever students make mistakes you note it down and at the end of the activity write out all the mistakes on the board. You can then ask the class a whole, would you change anything? You do not show the mistakes during the activity as this would disrupt fluency. You also write all mistakes at one time so they don’t belong to anyone which may cause embarrassment.

Conclusion:

Giving feedback and using correction techniques are essential for helping students learn. If done in a sensitive and controlled manner students learn to expect and appreciate feedback. If you are able to create a classroom environment where the ability to try out language and freely make mistakes is the norm, then your students will gain immensely from the experience.

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