The Effect of Error Correction on Grammatical Structures

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The Proceedings of the ninth International
Symposium on English Teaching, 2000

The Effect of Error Correction on
Grammatical Structures[1]

Chia-chen Chang

This study aimed to discover the insight of error correction by implementing two correction systems on three Chinese university students in the local context of Taiwan. The three students were asked to write four in-class essays throughout the term, in which their verb errors and individual-selected errors were corrected with the Code Correction System and the Individual Correction System respectively. At the end of the study, the students’ change of verb errors and individual errors from the first to the last in-class essays was calculated to examine the effectiveness of the two correction systems in this study. Moreover, to uncover the students’ perceptions and opinions toward the two correction systems, three researcher-student conferences were conducted each time after the correction. The findings of this study suggested that (1) Conferences are important for students to clarify confusing ideas and enhance their interaction with the teacher and their errors. It is recommended to be used in error correction to make the correction procedure a two-direction communication; (2) Learner-centered correction in which the control rests on learners may contribute to learners’ autonomy of learning and intrinsic motivation, and may further result in the effectiveness of error correction; (3) While correcting students’ errors, teachers may need to pay more attention to less-advanced students, as they may need more help and may benefit much from the correction; (4) The better way to solve Chinese university students’ problem in using English tenses may be to expose them to more authentic English, but not in over-simplified rules; and (5) Teachers should avoid putting answers directly on students’ written errors, but adopt more implicit error identification techniques for students to reflect on their own errors.


The effect of error correction on students’ writing has always been a popular yet controversial issue discussed by numerous second and foreign language researchers and teachers. For many writing teachers, correcting students’ composition errors is something very important yet difficult to do well. Very often, no matter how much time and energy they have spent checking students’ papers, they may be frustrated to find the same kinds of errors keep appearing again and again in students’ writing. Research in the past two decades seemed to suggest that error correction on writing might be of little value (Hendrickson, 1981; Semke, 1984; Robb et al., 1986; Kepner, 1991; Sheppard, 1992; Truscott, 1996). Nonetheless, most of the studies are experimental designs based on large groups of subjects. Seldom could they pay attention to students’ individual differences and include their opinions into the correction procedures. Therefore, a case study involving two correction systems and three Chinese university students was conducted here, trying to examine the process of error correction in depth. The main purpose was not to measure the effectiveness of the two correction systems in general, but to uncover the potential significant factors which might be involved in and influence the results of the two correction systems in this study. Five research questions were set in the beginning to guide the study: (1)Can the three students in this study reduce their verb errors in their compositions after receiving the Code Correction System? (2)Can the students reduce their individual errors in their compositions after receiving the Individual Correction System? (3)Are the effects of error correction different on the three students of different language proficiency levels? Students of which kind of language proficiency might benefit most from each of the two error correction systems? (4)While using verbs in English...
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