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Oct 2018 - Year 20 - Issue 5

ISSN 1755-9715

Giving Explicit Feedback on Spoken Errors - the More the Better

Gabrielle Luoni is an academic English teacher at UTS Insearch which is the pathway provider to the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Australia. She has a bachelor’s degree from Massey University plus a Diploma of Education from Christchurch College of Education, New Zealand. She also has a master’s degree in Applied Linguistics from Kangwon National University in South Korea. Her special area of interest is in developing students’ awareness of their speaking skills.



This paper is the result of an action research project undertaken over the last year and is an extension of a Master’s thesis I completed in 2002 while teaching in South Korea. My thesis confirmed findings showing that teachers ignore a certain percentage of students’ spoken errors. Of the ones not ignored, both implicit and explicit corrections are used, with the former being used at a far higher rate than the latter. The interesting point for teachers is that uptake by students when explicitly corrected is far higher. Knowing this prompted me to use explicit correction more in my own classroom but I wanted to know how students felt about this which led me to the following research questions:

  1. How do students feel about being corrected?
  2. When students correct their peers, do they use metalanguage?
  3. What is the effect of this kind of feedback?


Overview of the previous research

The students (Korean university students studying English, intermediate level) were given a series of photographs and asked to describe them.  The teachers (all native speakers) were asked to negotiate and help the students.  These conversations were recorded and then later transcribed. It should be noted that the negotiation was carried out in a one-on-one situation so data might show some differences in a classroom situation.


From Hamayan and Tucker (1980), teachers’ responses were categorized into:

  • ignoring
  • implicitly correcting
  • explicitly correcting

Implicit correction occurs after the student has made an error and the teacher simply repeats the word, phrase or sentence correctly whereas explicit correction is when the teacher specifically points out the error made, as well as saying it correctly. Uptake by students was also noted i.e. how did they respond to teachers’ corrections?

Some examples of negotiations can be seen in the following box:

Student / teacher interaction:

S: He’s looking for some file.

T: He’s looking in a file.


S: He’s plugging into the car.

T: We say pumping the gas.

S: Pumping…the gas.

Type of correction and uptake;


implicit correction (and no uptake)



explicit correction



The following box gives an overview of results:



students’ uptake (ratio)

students’ uptake (%)


44 %




45 %




11 %




In the thesis the kind of errors that were ignored, implicitly corrected and explicitly corrected were categorized too but for the purposes of this paper the point to be noted is that of the errors we do correct, implicit correction is used at a higher rate than explicit correction. Yet when explicit correction is used, uptake is much higher.


Background reading

As this project focused on explicit correction I researched definitions and found that Ranta and Lyster (2007, cited in Lyster et al 2013) state it as a reformulation of a student utterance plus a clear indication of an error. Sheen and Ellis (2011, cited in Lyster et al 2013) take this a step further by including an emphasis on metalinguistic explanation. For me, the latter was a real discovery as this is how I had been correcting my own ESL students.


Some examples of how I use metalanguage with students:


You made a:

  • verb agreement error when you said nuclear energy have, it should be nuclear energy has
  • singular / plural error: Wind powers should be wind power
  • word form error: The economic of the country. Economic is an adjective and in this situation you need a noun, so it should be….?

This method can also be used to indicate to students when they are doing well:

  • You used reporting verbs well when you said that Wenna suggests…



The three stages of the research

The first two stages involved recording individual students when they spoke to the whole class, whether it was for preparing for speaking assessments or giving feedback after group discussions. I noted any errors they made and after they had finished speaking, I explicitly corrected them using metalanguage. On the last teaching day, the students were put into their groups to practice for their speaking assessment; one student spoke while the other two listened and then gave feedback. These interactions were recorded so I could listen back and note if students used the lexis I had used when correcting them.

Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding of instructions many students actually turned their recording devices off at the feedback stage but of the ones that succeeded, data revealed students did use metalanguage.

This can be seen in the following comments:

  • How about word form?
  • You need to improve your eye contact.
  • You don’t need to talk too fast.

The third stage was to ask students how they felt about the process of being explicitly corrected, and for this they completed a questionnaire plus had the option of adding comments.

Question 1: Was the teacher’s feedback helpful?

Scale of ① to ⑤














Question 2: When the teacher gave feedback how did you feel?




Nervous & uncomfortable






Eager to hear



Gained a lot




Question 3: When the teacher gave feedback to classmates what did you do?




Didn’t listen



Could apply it to myself



Found it interesting



Gained a lot




Question 4: How did you feel giving feedback to classmates?




Strange & uncomfortable



Helped me think about own errors



From these responses it seems that it was a positive experience for the students and the following comments support the data (taken exactly as students had written):

  • Pronunciation was most beneficial for me because I get chance to

improve on it and it increase to know voccabulary.

  • I feel good when I give feedback to my classmates because it helps them to improve in thier task during speaking.
  • I got opportunity to learn about pronunciation as well as vocabulary. It was really beneficial to me.
  • I think my grammar is good than befor.



Conclusions and implications

Overall, results were very promising. Students did use metalanguage to correct their peers which could indicate that if they can recognise errors of others, it might be effective in improving their own speaking. The research also reinforced the importance of giving explicit feedback to students when speaking. This indicates that students not only appreciate being explicitly corrected but actually want more.



Dulay, H., M. Burt & S. Krashen, (1982) Language Two. New York: Oxford University Press

Hamayan, Else V & G. Richard Tucker. (1980) Language Input in the Bilingual Classroom and its Relationship to Second Language Achievements. TESOL Quarterly Vol. 1 No. 3 pp 262-270

Luoni, Gabrielle M. (2002) A Study of Negotiation between Native English Teachers and Korean Students When Errors are made.  Thesis for the Degree of Master of Arts, Graduate School, Kangwon National University.

Lyster, R. (1998) Negotiation of Form, Recasts, and Explicit Correction in Relation to Error Types and Learner Repair in Immersion Classrooms. Language Learning, vol.48 No.2 pp 183-218

Lyster, R., Saito, K., & Sato, M. (2013). Oral corrective feedback in second language classrooms. Language Teaching, 46.1, 1–40 viewed 1 November 2017,



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  • Giving Explicit Feedback on Spoken Errors - the More the Better
    Gabrielle Luoni, Australia