Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom

Feedback is information that teachers provide to students regarding where they are, how they are performing, and what they need to work on to progress in their language proficiency.  We tend to think about feedback as only corrective in nature, but we also provide supportive and encouraging feedback.

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

If video if better for you, take a look at the livestream videos that I did on the topic of effective feedback on Periscope and Facebook Live.

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Feedback in the foreign language classroom can be looked at in three ways.  These three types of feedback are not given in isolation, but should be used together to provide information for language students who are working toward increased proficiency.

Appreciation

  • This involves encouragement and indication that the efforts on the part of the learner are paying off and helping them progress in language proficiency.  Motivation is an important part of language learning.  We as teachers need to find the progress (big and small) and point this out to our students.  If they see no progress in language learning they are likely to lose motivation.

Coaching

  • Along with the appreciation and building motivation and confidence in our students, we also need to coach them in the process.  Just like an athletic coach who suggests different approaches and shows the path to the objective, we as language teachers should approach our language coaching in the same way.  This is not so much about correcting the language, but more a question of creating learner experiences in which learns can use the language they have and grow in proficiency.  We should guide their path to the goal, but they are responsible for making the goal on their own, just as a soccer player would do.

Evaluation

  • Our evaluation of language learners is feedback on where they are regarding their present proficiency level.  This is not about pointing out what is incorrect or inaccurate, but more a matter of concretely showing students where they are on their language learning journey.  This will also provide information about where to go and what to work on so that students can continue to grow in proficiency.

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Teachers are often wondering what to do when they encounter learner language that is inaccurate.  Is this an opportunity for correction?  Is it useful?  Will it stick?  The answers to these questions depend on whether or not the learner has had sufficient input with the inaccurate structure or if it is an attempt at language creation. It is important to distinguish between and error and a mistake in learner language.

  • Mistakes are performance errors, where the learner has acquired the accurate form, but in a particular moment produces inaccurate languages.
  • Errors occur in the learner’s interlanguage because a learner does not yet acquired the accurate form, and they are making a guess, often based on their native language and their current knowledge of the target language.

When students create with language and hypothesize a form or word in the moment and make an error we should use this information as an indication that students are “ready” for (i.e.need ) this structure in their language learning journey and we should then begin using the structure more often and providing comprehensible input.  In this situation we as teachers are getting the feedback that we need to adjust our instruction.

As teachers, we should focus language feedback on mistakes because this is what our students should be able to do in the target language.  If a student has had sufficient input and exposure to the structure and there is inaccuracy in the student language we then take on the role of coach.  This means that we create situations in which we guide the student toward the accurate structure.  Here are some suggestions for how to coach students in this situation.

  • Clarification requests : If there is a mistake in the vocabulary or verb form a question about the inaccurate wording brings attention to the error.
    • “I go to the store yesterday.”
    • Yesterday?
  • Elicitation: If you hear a mistake in the student language, repeat the sentence and pause at the place where the mistake was made.  This provides the learner with an opportunity to correct his own mistake by concentrating only on that word or structure.
    • “I go to the store yesterday.”
    • Yesterday, I….
  • Repetition: When there is a mistake repeat exactly what the learner said. Emphasize the mistake. This will indicate where the mistake is located, and gives the learner an opportunity to focus on that particular part of the output and, upon reflection, produce accurate language.
    • “I go to the store yesterday.”
    • I GO to the store yesterday?”

Providing effective feedback is one of the ACTFL Core Practices for effective language learning and instruction.  Use this post and the information to provide feedback to your students that will guide them toward a higher lever of language proficiency.

Be sure to check out the  livestream videos on the topic of effective feedback on Periscope and Facebook Live.

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

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