Error correction in ESL writing class at secondary school level

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (M. Ed.)


Institute for Educational Development, Karachi


In our English language writing classes errors are regarded as undesirable, a sign of failure either on the part of the students partly due to carelessness, lack of motivation and intelligence or on the part of teachers due to their inability to teach or explain sufficiently. Our examination system, which is accuracy based, seems to be influential in developing this attitude among teachers, consequently resulting in severe reaction against the errors made by their students. Students are also embarrassed when their copies are returned by their teachers with a lot of red marks. In this situation the question as to how to use errors and error correction for the improvement of ESL (English as second language) students convinced me to conduct a study in this area. The study focuses on trying out ways of error correction without impeding learning to write The sample of the study consisted of a group of six girls chosen from class V111 of a government school. My place in this study was of an inside researcher as I have already been associated with this school as English language teacher. I acted as teacher and researcher during this study. Fieldwork was spread over seven weeks for which data were collected using semi-structured interviews of teachers and students, analysis of students' homework and class work copies, observation and reflective journals of teachers and students. A process- oriented pedagogy was adopted to conduct the study because it has possibilities for error correction. Students were required to write multiple drafts of the writing papers. Techniques used to correct these drafts have included self, peer and teacher correction. The effects of teacher's and peer feedback and correction were analysed to draw some conclusions about not only the extent to which the revision has responded to the feedback in next draft but also to examine its effect in subsequent drafts. Major findings of the study reveal that teachers' negative views and beliefs about errors (whatever may be the causes) influence their practice of correcting students' errors. They prefer to correct each and every deviation, do not allow students to experiment with the language and consider themselves the only source of error correction. Generally, feedback is confined to some vague words (Good, Poor, Learn spelling etc.). Furthermore, findings of this study throw light on the possible sources of errors made by the students, the significance of teachers' feedback on students writing and possibilities of reducing number of error through process approach. This study has provided me with an opportunity to reconceptualise my role in English writing classes. Hopefully, findings of this study will bring some changes in teachers' practice of error correction by rewarding learners' successes rather than disheartening them by repeatedly pointing to their failures. This change in teacher practice and positive student outcomes may also influence their views about the place of error in learning to write.

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