Errors, corrective feedback and repair

Variations and learning outcomes

Authored by: Alison Mackey , Hae In Park , Kaitlyn M. Tagarelli

The Routledge Handbook of English Language Teaching

Print publication date:  May  2016
Online publication date:  May  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415747394
eBook ISBN: 9781315676203
Adobe ISBN: 9781317384472


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Though it is obvious that most second language (L2) learners make errors in classroom settings, it is not always clear, from the teacher’s perspective, how to deal with these errors. In a very early review of error correction in foreign language classrooms, Hendrickson (1978) posed five questions regarding error correction and ultimately called for more research to systematically answer these questions. They are:

Should learner errors be corrected?

If so, when should learner errors be corrected?

Which learner errors should be corrected?

How should learner errors be corrected?

Who should correct learner errors?

These questions, according to Lyster and Ranta (1997), turned out to be “deceptively simple”, because answers are only now becoming clear after nearly four decades of research. There has been “a considerable amount of research on CF [corrective feedback]” (Lyster et al., 2013: 3), and in this chapter we try to examine how close the field of second language acquisition (SLA) has come to answering Hendrickson’s fundamental questions as well as what else we have learned about error correction in foreign language settings (see Ellis and Shintani, 2014, for a recent review of how ELT manuals and guides have dealt with these issues over the years with respect to spoken and written corrective feedback).

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