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close this bookEnglish for Specific Purposes (ESP): Teaching English for Specific Purposes (Peace Corps, 1986, 110 p.)
close this folderChapter Five: Materials selection and development
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAssessing Reading Difficulty
View the documentSelecting Materials
View the documentDeveloping Your own Materials
View the documentUsing Commercial Materials
View the documentGroup work
View the documentError Correction
View the documentTesting
View the documentHelping students learn outside the classroom
View the documentFor Teachers whose Students are U.S.-Bound

Error Correction

Errors are a natural part of second language learning. It is impossible to learn without making errors. Because of this, students' production of spoken and written language is full of errors. The teacher cannot correct every error, and even if it were possible to do so, excessive error correction intimidates the students, decreases their self-confidence and makes them hesitate to use the language. Therefore the teacher must decide how and when errors will be corrected and communicate this policy to the students.

Errors should be corrected only when it can be done without interfering with communication. If you are speaking with a student individually, you should be focusing on the content of what the student is saying, and not on the structure of the language. Error correction in conversation will certainly cause the student to "clam up. " In class recitations, questions which are comprehensible as stated should not be corrected, since this destroys the flow of the interaction and often the real question is lost as the student struggles for grammatical accuracy. Evaluate student responses to your questions according to the results of the response, that is, if the response answers a question on content in a way that is comprehensible, do not make grammatical corrections. When you or other students do not understand a student's question or answer, correction is desirable to get at the intended meaning. And of course, if the purpose of the question is to verify a point of grammar, correction is necessary. This policy can be discussed with the students so that they understand how and when you will make corrections, and soon they will find it natural that not all spoken errors are corrected when they occur.

Writing is the ideal medium for error correction, and most students expect that errors will be corrected in their written work. If on particular assignments you do not plan to correct all errors because you want to encourage students to write extensively without worrying about mistakes, explain this to them so that they realize that what they have written is not necessarily error-free, even if you have not corrected it.

The most noticeable errors a student makes may not be the most important. Errors in article usage, for example, while quite noticeable to the native speaker, do not often interfere with understanding. Focus on those errors which disrupt communication, rather than those which are surface mistakes.