The effects of direct and indirect written corrective feedback (CF) on English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students’ revision accuracy and writing skills




Karim, Khaled Mahmud Rezaul

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Since the publication of Truscott’s paper in 1996 arguing against the effectiveness of grammar correction in second language (L2) writing, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the effectiveness of written corrective feedback (WCF) in the field of second language acquisition (SLA). This debate has continued due to conflicting research results from research examining short-term effects of WCF and scarcity of research investigating its long-term effects (Ferris, 2004, 2006). Using a mixed-method research design, this study investigated the effects of direct and indirect WCF on students’ revision accuracy of the same piece of writing as well as its transfer effects on new pieces of writing over time. The present study also investigated the differential effects of direct and indirect CF on grammatical and non-grammatical errors. Using a stimulated recall strategy, the study further explored students’ perception and attitude regarding the types of feedback they received. Fifty-three intermediate level English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students were divided randomly into four groups: direct, underlining only, Underlining+meta- linguistic, and a control group. Students produced three pieces of writings from three different picture prompts and revised those over a three-week period. To examine the delayed effects of feedback on students’ writing skills, each group was also asked to produce a new piece of writing two weeks later. The results demonstrated that all three feedback groups significantly outperformed the control group with respect to revision accuracy in all three writing tasks. WCF did not have any significant delayed transfer effects on improving students’ writing skills. Short-term transfer effects on overall accuracy, however, were found for Underlining+metalinguistic CF, but not for other feedback types. In terms of grammatical and non-grammatical accuracy, only Direct CF displayed significant short-term transfer effects on improving grammatical accuracy. These findings suggest that while Direct CF was successful in improving short-term grammatical accuracy, both direct and indirect CF has the potential to improve accuracy in writing. The findings also clarify that no single form of CF can be effective in addressing all types of linguistic errors. Findings from the qualitative study demonstrated that different aspects of direct and indirect CF helped learners in different ways to successfully attend to different types of CF. In the case of Direct CF, learners who successfully corrected errors believed that the explicit information or correction was useful for them. They believed that it helped them understand what errors they made and helped them remember the corrections. Learners who were successful in correcting errors from indirect CF in the form of underlining and in the form of underline in combination with metalinguistic CF indicated that these two types of indirect CF helped them notice the errors, think about the errors, guess the correct form(s) or feature(s) and also remember the correction. The findings also indicated that both grammatical and non-grammatical errors could be difficult for learners to correct from indirect CF if they do not have sufficient L2 proficiency. Findings from the qualitative study also indicated that while learners considered both direct and the two indirect CF as useful, indirect CF in the form of underlining together with metalinguistic CF was preferred by a majority of learners as it provided valuable information about the errors made as well as promoting thinking and better understanding.



Written corrective feedback, ESL writing, error correction, direct and indirect feedback, applied linguistics