Correcting Errors in EFL

Error Correction in the EFL Classroom

We have created a podcast to complement this lesson.


Error Correction in EFL Podcast – eight minutes

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Basic Concepts

Correcting students’ errors in the EFL classroom is an issue of concern for every EFL teacher. What should we correct, when should we correct it, and how should it be corrected?

How do we give students the feedback they need and want to improve, without damaging fluency and motivation?

Research tends to indicate that three types of errors should be addressed: high frequency errors, stigmatizing errors and errors that block meaning or the understanding by the listener. We might add another, errors in using the target language of the lesson.

When and how should these errors be corrected?

Unfortunately, there is no conclusive evidence/research about these issues.

Research seems to indicate that the most effective ways to deal with errors
and offer corrections include:

when hearing an error, speak the corrected statement

listen for errors and make a general review of them at the end of the activity

encourage peer correction
(be cautious here as some peer correction,
given by students with stronger personalities, might also be incorrect!)

correct the student personally (use this less than the other methods)

EFL teachers always need to be careful of the balance between fluency (ability to speak quickly and smoothly without much thought) and accuracy (ability to speak in a grammatically correct manner). There is a tension between fluency and accuracy where too much desire or struggle for accuracy denies a student fluency. Too much emphasis on fluency can result in spoken gibberish that follows no rules at all.

Teachers need to stay tuned in to how their students are doing and attempt to keep a good balance of fluency vs. accuracy in the classroom. This is not an easy task but generally, it is better to err on the side of fluency in a speaking or conversation class .

Expanded Concepts

Error Correction and Language Improvement
Read all three pages for a good explanation of methods for correction.