Corrective Feedback for Language Learning in Conversation Flow

I was a bit surprised the other day to read (in this article) that strategies for deliberate corrective feedback within conversation for language learning purposes are not well documented. The article focuses on Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) contexts, which would explain part of the reason for a lack of practical advice in the area. However, I would guess that a lot of the strategies from f2f contexts would transfer over into CMC contexts, adjusted for presence and synchronicity.

The development of this skill is fairly important, as I see it. From a Connectivism perspective, this is about trying to accommodate a second connection without dissolving a first connection, where both connections are generally mutually exclusive (a major concern for Connectivism). Conversation exercises tend to focus on fluency skills, while contributing to things like confidence, motivation, lowered anxiety and eventually learner autonomy. Breaking the conversation flow with error correction has a tendency to disrupt all of these targets, which is where the mutually exclusiveness comes from. As a teacher in one of these conversations or discussions, it’s very difficult to let certain mistakes slide in favor of flow.

From an Ecological perspective I think of efficient use of class time and a satisfaction of progression within the learner prevail, although I am still considering this perspective. The bridge between the two perspectives (Connectivism and Ecological Language Learning) is that they both promote learner autonomy. Disruptions in authentic language use happen all the time; and if we treat them as regular, learners can get used to them, improving their ability to weave in and out of target language mindsets easily.

Below is a list of error correction strategies for language learning within a base-connection of conversation. These are gathered from readings and also include my own points. I’ll keep the list open to include all Strategies for Feedback Embedded in Conversation Flow, but try to comment on CMC context where I can. I’ll also update the list via the comments section as I come across or think of additional points.

  • Assessment of Output – This is kind of like to agree or disagree with the truth of what someone says. It seems very easy to do in a conversation, to suggest “truth” with slightness. Example: “That Tome Cruise, She is a great actor.” “Tom Cruise isn’t a woman, he’s a man. Which movies have you seen with him?”
  • Conversation Questions – simple questions that can advance the conversation. Timeliness can be an important factor here, see below.
  • Validation – Just like agreeing. This happens very often in regular native conversation. Unnn-huh….letting people talk, but letting them know you are there.
  • Personal Judgments – affirmative encouragement. Used too much, isn’t very useful, I think. I think they mean of the more agreeing kind, but even disagreeing when it comes to personal opinion can simply state a preference, provide and exchange, without any sort of problems.
  • Non-Target Affectiveness – The use of non-target language to build report and trust.
  • Correction Followed by Simple Question – Whenever I disrupt a conversation flow to explain a reoccurring mistake, to dive back into conversation flow I try to ask an easy and, if I can, lighthearted question.
  • Repetition – Repeating a statement back to the learner, corrected, without pausing very much…but without talking for too much along, is the best way to embed error correction within a group discussion.
  • Take Notes – I often take notes during conversation. It is strange for learners at first, but after a while they get used to it. I comment of the notes at opportune times, or at the end. Ideally, I’ll comment about such observation well after via email, but students aren’t always open to this method so much yet.
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