The objectives of this study were: “(1) to investigate whether targeted corrective feedback on ESL student writing results in improved accuracy in new pieces of writing over a 2-month period and (2) to investigate whether there is a differential effect on accuracy for different corrective feedback options.” (p.103)
Methods and results
This study aimed to answer the following questions:
1. Does accuracy in the use of two functions of the English article system vary over time?
2. Does accuracy in the use of these features vary according to the type of corrective feedback provided?
3. Does accuracy in the use of these features vary as a result of the interaction of feedback type and time?
Seventy five low intermediate level ESL students studying at two language schools in Auckland, New Zealand participated in this study as the subjects. The students had different L1 backgrounds, had studied English for 8 years, and had the average age of 22.7 years. They were randomly assigned into four different groups: group 1 received direct corrective feedback plus written and oral metalinguistic explanation (Direct CF + W&O), group 2 received direct corrective feedback and written metalinguistic explanation (Direct CF + W), group 3 received direct corrective feedback without additional metalinguistic explanation (Direct CF only), and group 4 did not receive at all (No CF).
Written metalinguistic given in this study was in the form of short explanation of the use of articles supplemented with some examples. Oral metalinguistic explanation was a 30-minutes lesson in which the researcher explained the rules and example about the use of articles that the students had on their returned writings, including also a short exercise in which students were asked to fill in the gap with a or the.
The data in this study was collected using writing prompts with picture. In this test, the students were given a picture and then asked to describe what was happening in it. All three pictures for the pretest, posttest, and delayed posttest were similar in nature, depicting a beach scene, a camping site, and a park picnic respectively. Some key words were provided next to the picture to help minimize students’ anxiety level. They were then asked to complete the writing task in 30 minutes.
The findings showed that, compared to the control group, the accuracy of the three experimental groups improved significantly right after the first treatment until the delayed posttest. This indicated that direct, focused CF was effective in improving the students’ accuracy in using articles. However, pairwise comparison further showed that the significant differences were only between group 1, group 3, and group 4, meaning that the result obtained by group 2 (Direct CF + W) was not significantly different from the control group.
Critique of the method
There are several points worth discussing in this article. The first and the most important one is the integration of the ‘mini lesson’ in...