Six ‘useless’ things foreign language teachers do

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  1. Recasts

Recasts are the most frequent form of feedback that teachers give students in the course of oral interactions. They consists of utterances by the teacher that repeat the student’s erroneous utterance but ‘fix’ the mistake(s) without changing the meaning in any way. Example:

Student: hier j’ai allé au cinéma

Teacher: je suis allé au cinéma

Recasts, according to research (e.g. Doughty, 1994) are extensively used in the classroom representing up to 60 or even 70 % of all teacher feedback on oral performance. An interesting finding by Doughty is that recasts tend to concern themselves with minor errors rather than big problems.

As several studies have clearly shown, recasts do not really ‘work’ as they are not noticed most of the time. Havranek (1999) investigated to what extent learners recall corrective feedback from the teacher or their own or their peers’ mistakes. She found that less than one third of the learners who were corrected remembered having been corrected; peers did not pay attention to the correction of others and, most importantly, whether the corrections were recalled or not made little difference to whether the errors were or were not committed later.

The main reason why recasts do not work is that when the learners’ Working Memory is interrupted in the middle of speech production by the correction, it will not rehearse that correction for the time necessary to commit it to long-term memory -because it will be concentrating on resuming the interrupted conversation flow. Hence, the content of the correction will often be lost – which explains why Havranek’ subjects did not recall more than two thirds of the correction.

In view of the little surrender value of recasts in terms of acquisition, interrupting the students to correct them whilst they are talking may do more harm than good. Not only it may have a negative cognitive impact by disrupting their prospective memory; but it may also affect their self-esteem, especially if the correction relates to minor errors – as Doughty’s study found.

The above are valid reasons not to engage in recasts. It may be more productive and less threatening for the learners if teachers made a mental note of the mistakes noticed and treat them later on in contexts in which the learner’s attentional resources can be more productively channelled.

  1. Direct and Indirect error correction of written errors

Direct correction, whereby the teacher corrects an erroneous grammatical form and provides the correct version of that structure with an explanation on margin is pretty much a waste of valuable teacher time. Why? Tons of research (e.g. Cohen and Cavalcanti, 1990; Truscott,1996; Conti, 2001 and 2004) have demonstrated that most students do not process the correction in a way that is conducive to learning; most of them simply look at the mark, quickly read the comment and put the essay away, never to look at it again. Unless, as I argued in my post “Why teacher should not bother correcting errors in their students’ writing”, teachers engage students in more productive ways of processing teacher feedback, Direct correction is not going to enhance L2 acquisition. Error correction can be valuable when it places the errors into the students’ focal awareness, engages them in deep processing of teacher corrections, generates their intentionality to eradicate error and keeps it up for a sufficiently long period of time for any remedial learning to occur.

Indirect correction, on the other hand, is not likely to contribute much to acquisition as the learner will not be able to correct what s/he does not know (e.g. I cannot self-correct an omission of the subjunctive if I have not learnt it) and if s/he is indeed able to correct, s/he will not really learn much from it. To learn more about my views on this issue read my blog “Why asking students to self-correct their errors is a waste of time”.

  1. One-off learning-to-learn sessions

Not long ago I came across a beautiful Power Point on a teaching-resources website which purported to train students in effective approaches to the memorisation of vocabulary. It contained numerous slides packed with interesting suggestions on how to best commit vocabulary to memory and lasted long enough to cover a whole lesson. In the past, I myself produced similar Power Points and delivered one-off sessions on learning strategies which the students usually found quite interesting and engaging. But did they actually learn from them?

The problem is that, unless there are several follow-up sessions and some form of scaffolding reminding the students to use the strategies that the Power Point presented, thirty years of research (see Macaro, 2007) clearly show that this approach does little more than raising learner awareness of the existence of these strategies, but will not result in learner uptake, i.e. very few if any learner will incorporate these strategies in their active repertoire of learning strategies.

For any learner training to be successful it must involve learners in extensive practice of the target strategies.

  1. Identifying students’ learning styles and planning lessons accordingly

Research has clearly shown that learning styles and multiple intelligences are invalid constructs totally unsupported by theory and research. Moreover, there is not a single shred of evidence to show that teaching students based on their alleged learning style actually enhances their learning. Teachers should not waste valuable teaching time administering questionnaires or other ‘tests’ in an attempt to identify students’ learning style or ‘dominant intelligence(s)’. Most importantly, they should not bother planning lessons or remedial learning programs based on the findings obtained.

In view of the invalidity of these constructs, labelling students as visual, kinesthetic or other may lead them, especially the younger ones, to form a self-fulfilling prophecy that may ultimately be detrimental to their learning.

  1. Asking pre-intermediate/lower intermediate learners to peer assess oral performance

Although it has some (modest) surrender value in terms of metacognitive enhancement, the practice of involving fairly inexperienced learners in peer assessment is not justified by the learning gains it produces, especially in terms of language acquisition. Firstly, as these learners do not usually possess enough declarative knowledge of the language to be able to assess and feedback on language use in a way that can significantly benefit the recipient of the feedback; secondly, and more importantly, they do not possess sufficient levels of procedural knowledge to be able to apply any declarative knowledge they have whilst processing what they hear their classmates say – which means they cannot effectively evaluate their oral output.

In fact, even with more proficient learners peer assessment practice may not always be beneficial. In a little experiment I made last year, I got 16 students that I had practised peer assessment with almost on a daily basis to assess their classmates after a typical IGCSE conversation, using the CIE evaluation rubrics. When I compared their assessment scores to mine the discrepancies were huge, most of them having been on average 25 % more generous than me in allocating marks.

  1. Asking students to create digital artefacts in class

As I wrote in my blogs ‘Five central psychological challenges of foreign language learning’ and ‘Of SAMR and Samritans”, creating a digital artefact in class is not likely to be conducive to language acquisition enhancement at pre-intermediate to intermediate levels of L2 proficiency. The main reason is that human cognitive resources being finite, the working memory of an intermediate/lower intermediate MFL learner will not usually be able to process language effectively and efficiently whilst concurrently focusing on the operations he/she will be performing, e.g. cutting, pasting, ‘googling’ pictures, videoing, recording, ‘smashing’ Apps, etc.

Hence, forgetting by divided attention often occurs with not much learning at all taking place. I will never forget a group of Year 6 students telling me, after being involved for 5 weeks in making an iMovie about the topic ‘Ma maison’ in class, that all they remembered was the French for the rooms in the house.

Students, when involved in such activities should not do any ‘digital manipulation’ in lessons, unless we believe that this is very likely to enhance their target language proficiency. Classroom time should be devoted to learning the target language.

You can find out more about my approach to language teaching and learning in the book I co-authored with Steve Smith: “The Language Teacher Toolkit” available for purchase at http://www.amazon.com / http://www.amazon.co.uk

78 thoughts on “Six ‘useless’ things foreign language teachers do

    • I don’t agree about recasts. It depends on the student. I do regular speaking practices in which part of it is trying a target structure and paying attention when I “recast”. You can tell when they’re not paying any attention to the correct version, but likewise I frequently have students who ask for clarification or jot notes from what I said. I’d hate to deny those students that language advantage.

      • I involuntarily ran a five years’ experience on recasting. Our two sons speak four languages, one of them being German, which is my native language. There is one grammar mistake they repeatedly do: while Germans use “wenn” for present and future tense, the same clause requires the use of “als” in the past (“wenn ich dich sehe” (when I see you) but “als ich dich sah” (when I saw you). As this difference is not made in any other language they speak, they continuously use “wenn” also for the past tense – which is a striking mistake in the ears of a native speaker. I have corrected them permanently for years and even jokingly threatened them to impose a fine of “10 Rupees”. While they well remember my recast phrase “(you have to say)…als… (you owe me) 10 rupees”, they never managed to correct the mistake itself.

      • I would like to qualify your view on “recasting”: of course one shouldn’t recast systematically, but you cannot let the student make a big mistake. To my mind the most important point is not to stop the student while he is expressing himself, but afterward. And maybe ask the other students to correct his mistake would be better (you ‘ll always find at least one student who knows where the mistake lies).

  1. I agree, and if we’re honest, most language teachers – myself included – have committed some, if not all of the aforementioned.

  2. With all due respect, I’m not in full agreement. I think you are absolutely right about recasting (how many times when learning a language if you were interrupted while speaking did it make you want to say less?). Jotting down errors to be discussed later on is the better tactic.

    I feel direct corrective feedback is invaluable, as the students who actually care will learn from it. I can’t tell you how many times I had students show me their essays from L1 English class with a B and a paragraph circled with a “no” comment and zero corrective feedback. I’d sit with the student and help them determine what the teacher meant and perhaps what the evaluation was for. How can we expect kids to write well in the target language if there is no direct correction or comments made in the L1 classroom to help them write more effectively?

    I feel teaching using a variety of techniques in the classroom that touch upon different learning styles allows for a more interesting lesson in the first place. All students can benefit when material is presented and practiced in numerous ways.

    I fully agree with number 5. In addition to the linguistic concerns, I don’t feel peers can accurately correct peers on several levels including social (not wanting to seem critical of a friend).

    Number 6 for me is only partially valid. My students always had to flesh out their dialogue/skit/scenario on paper by hand, have it be corrected with my help and then they were allowed to touch the technology. Their ability to recall later for tests is pretty high.

    Just my thoughts and I hope you can see some validity in mine.

    • Dear Stephanie,
      Thanks for your interesting reply. As for the error correction point, I do not say one should ditch direct correction; I said we should implement it whilst ensuring that students process it meaningfully; you are lucky to have so many students eager to learn from their correction. In my experience and according to many studies, most students do not spend much time on them. In my article I wrote: “Error correction can be valuable when it places the errors into the students’ focal awareness, engages them in deep processing of teacher corrections, generates their intentionality to eradicate error and keeps it up for a sufficiently long period of time for any remedial learning to occur.”My issues with your observation on number 6 are dealt in greater depth on the 8 steps to take in PBL implementation. I am glad your students recalled most of the target vocabulary and grammar. My question is: did recall happen across all four skills? If so, great! Has recall been sustained over time; in other words: do students still recall those language items? An in the next project, will you recycle it?
      As for your learning-style-related reflections, I agree with it, as you are referring to variety of output and activities which is good practice; I was talking about using it to put students in a ‘box’. Teachers were appealing to different learning preferences even before Gardner came out with his learning style/multiple intelligence theory. My issue is with adopting the construct as a fact of psychology which prescribes a specific way to impart instruction; not with using a variety a stimuli which involves a wide range of processing response.

    • Stephanie, I completely agree with your reply, especially regarding corrective feedback. A teacher does not necessarily need to find all the errors in a student’s work and then supply the correct answer. If a written text is meant to practice a particular skill, for example the passé composé, then the teacher can correct the task with that focus in mind. In other words, only look for usages of the passé composé in the text, circle the errors, and then have students correct the errors based on the knowledge they already have of the concept. In that case, students can “self-correct their errors,” but the mistakes must first be brought to their attention.

  3. You seem to dislike the recasts, but I do not quite understand what you advise to use *instead*.
    Moreover, maybe different students have different réactions to “recasts”. I mean, my students are all adults, and seem to thrive on ” recasts”!

  4. I don’t exclude that some learners might benefit from them, especially if the recasts refers to some issue they have been reflecting on for a while or is in their focal awareness. My point is more not to overuse them rather than no to use them at all. One more thing: does ‘thriving on them’ mean that they are actually learning from them? If so, how do you actually know that? Thanks for your comments.

    • You are right, “thriving” may not be the right word. I mean : they *ask* for them, they thank me for them, repeatedly. How can I be sure they help them learn ? But I am not sure ! All I know is that they tend to take hold of their own learning once they realise they make the same mistakes over and over: they try and find strategies to avoid making the same mistakes. And it seems to me that realisation is the first step towards auto correction, another level into the language.
      As for the alternative you offer : written feedback may sometimes come too late. Students *ask* me to stop and correct them. And when they do, I do stop them, and in that case, this does not make them refrain from speaking : on the contrary, they know they are attentively listened to, they know I am there to help them improve. This reinforces the teacher-student relationship, which in itself, is good for learning, I think.

      • Great points you make here. I didn’t mean to suggest ‘written feedback’ as an offer🙂. I meant treating the main errors later, through individual or whole class sessions where you can raise the issues and through a series of activities you would bring the issue/mistake/structure into their focal awareness, provide practise in it and scaffold independent work with it. If you read my articles on correction you will understand that I am not a fan of written feedback at all, unless it is implemented in the context of a long-term self-monitoring program.

  5. Thank you for this article! Your points are well taken and I would agree with most, if not all of them. In reference to recasts, I would give an example which seems to work in my elementary Spanish classes, most notably in my 2nd-4th grade classes. When grammatical errors occur (and I would clarify that at my level, the grammar points my kiddos are learning are quite basic), it is a continual decision making process on my part to either correct or not. What I have found is that when I follow up on the utterance, therefore not interrupting, or when reading something a child has written, with an error correction that gives the student the opportunity to reflect on why it is an error, I see better results. So, for example, my students in Third Grade learn how to pluralize nouns. If a student provides me with a written sentence which requires the plural form, I ask him something along the lines of ‘Is there only one cupcake? No? Then, what should you do to the end of the word?’. This reflection on the part of the student gets to that deeper learning of the rule and I believe is what you are referencing. Rather than correcting the error myself, I am assisting my students in making the correction themselves based on the knowledge they have so far learnt. Dependent on the level and ability of the student, I may need to guide and/or remind them of what we have been learning in order for them to recall the correct form, but this, too, is a valuable moment in the teaching process.

    Julie Hoffman
    Mundo de Pepita, Resources for Teaching Spanish to Children

  6. Many of the above points I agree with but as a teacher in a 1:1 iPad school I can see and have seen great results from creating “digital artefacts” but they must be clearly guided especially when of a pre to intermediate level. I often provide them a concrete example and they create a similar one changing the language used focussing on what you want them to learn.

    Recasting I agree in most cases makes kids not want to speak when doing a 1 on 1 oral I give feedback afterwards by writing notes during the conversation. In writing tasks I do not individually error correct but in my comment tell them which area they are making regular mistakes in such as noun- adjective agreement and to get them to focus on this next time they produce a piece of writing.

    • I am in a 1:1 iPad school, too and I agree that if it is done properly with effective prep and follow up teaching and constant recycling it may work. However, I still believe that where there activities involve a lot of manipulation of digital media the interference from that work will lessen retention. Our Working Memory after all is much more limited than we think. Thanks for the insightful remarks. Much appreciated.:-)

      • I work in a non written language, also known as Sign Language and in my case it is Auslan. iPads have been a life saver. We don’t waste time on cutting, pasting pretty pictures etc but use the iPads for 360 degree learning and for recording and reflection on our private web group at Charles La Trobe College (Melbourne). There has been a proven improvement in long term memory for all our students, let alone working memory.

  7. Definitely some things to reflect on here.

    I typically save recasts for a part of our class when we’re trying out something new. I’ll write every students’ response to a question up on the board and FIRST point out one or two things that they did RIGHT (because I think it’s important to celebrate successes too!) and then ask the class if they notice anything that could be corrected. If no one gets it, I know I need to go back and try a different approach.

    However, I wonder — is there any concern that not correcting an error will confuse other students? I limit my use of recasts, but I do occasionally get the student who will raise their hand and say “Isn’t it supposed to be…xyz???” As far as teaching methods go, I understand that it might be useless to make the correction if they’re not going to permanently store the information. But relationship-wise, do I risk losing their trust if I don’t recast? Will they feel that I either didn’t say anything because I didn’t hear it, or because I didn’t want to make them feel bad? I know that at home, my husbands L2 is English, and my kids get upset with me if I don’t correct him because I’m letting him say it wrong and “that’s not nice, you should help him, you’re a teacher”. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing and I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts and experiences!

    • Yes, teacher credibility is definitely an issue here especially with adult learners. They can feel resentment and frustration if their mistakes are NOT corrected. I agree that it is not necessary to interrupt but if I feel the student could self-correct then I would like to give them that opportunity (sometimes a raised eyebrow or other simple gesture is enough) and, as you point out, it can reassure the rest of the class (who may have spotted the mistake).

  8. Hi Gianfranco,

    Interesting post for sure! I’m working on a curriculum project for Spanish 1 that takes a project based inquiry approach. All of the other curricular resources we create encourage meaningful tech use for several purposes, including the creation of student learning products. We have encouraged tech use in the Spanish 1 curriculum — infographics, blog posts, posters — as a way for students to synthesize what they have learned and share with their classmates. Do you have any tech use success stories with novice-intermediate learners?

  9. This is a proper recast:

    S: I saw six animal_ in the zoo
    T: Cool. Which animals were they?
    S: …

    It doesn’t interrupt the student, it shows you’re interested, it helps the interaction go forward. I disagree with your definition.

    I enjoyed reading the article though, a lot of things made sense.

    • Yes I am aware and I admire your intellectual courage and stamina, my friend. I tried to register but they would not activate my forum membership, so I cannot join in. To be honest, you are dealing with a lot of intellectual stubborness and stiffness in there not really supported by much knowledge or understanding of language acquisition or research. I hope you do not mind if I keep a distance to what looks more like a ‘brawl’ than a productive, objective and well-informed discussion about research . Thanks again for pleading my case. Much appreciated.

  10. Hi, I’m one of the kooks at http://how-to-learn-any-language.com, long time language learner and a TEFL/TESL/ELEr myself.

    While I will likely not be an active part of the discussion there, I consider it could be beneficial to have you join our little community, as someone who writes very interesting stuff and is in more direct touch with ‘modern’ research, and perhaps for you to be in touch with different perspectives on language learning, if you can cope with a little nonsense here and there — we all would probably benefit from exchanging ideas anyway. The forum has been suffering some technical glitches, so you may have not even been noticed by the moderators. Please insist to join in, or do come back to me if necessary.

    That said, I concur with points #4, #5, and #6, and I’m glad such nonsense wasn’t fashionable when I was a student, so I only had to cope with it as an adult, which made it easier to just shrug it off.

    #3 is different in that I consider it is beneficial [em]nowadays[/em]. But to me this smells alarmingly like a general decline in early teaching, not something specific, or even particularly related, to language learning. From when I was at primary school on, there were always loads of stuff you had to memorize (and summarize, and whatnot), and that was it. If somebody told me how to do all of that, I forgot about it and only the proper skills remain. Most of the students I meet nowadays, however, seem to struggle with the simplest tasks and thus benefit from some late learning-to-learn, which incidentally is mostly language independent, but which absence makes learning all the more difficult in all fronts.
    Or maybe we are talking about different things regarding #3. What ‘learning-to-learn’ do students often consider interesting, but just not enough to incorporate to their repertoire?

    But wrt #1 and #2 — I have some basic issues with this stuff, like we are forgetting what teaching and studying is really about.

    ‘Recasts’ are not all the same. A good teacher will make sure they are noticed and understood, while they do not break any other ‘flows’, create ‘noxious power dynamics’ (I heard this exact nonsense elsewhere, but I see the word “threatening” up there — the moment such a thing rears its head, we’re not talking about a ‘class’ any more), etc. When recasts are properly done, and thus noticed, good students will try to make the most out of them, understand and remember them, and not make the same mistakes again.

    Same with comments and corrections. Had I put my teachers’ corrections away, never to look at them again, I would certainly have learned way less than I have, but let’s be clear about this — it would be me who’d waste their honest efforts to facilitate my learning.

    • I love to stir a bit of controversy of the kind that I sparked off in your forum. After all, regardless who is wrong or right, the whole point of my blog is to get people to talk about and reflect on language learning. Hence, it really does not bother me who wins or loses the argument🙂. I have actually enjoyed reading the forum posts and found some of the interventions quite astute – if very subjective and discounted by scores of research studies. I would be grateful if you could relay the following points to the forum:

      (1) firstly, to that gentleman who keeps saying that I am a romance-language-only specialist and I would consequently be some sort of ‘second league linguist’, please tell him that I speak German fluently, Swedish fairly well and have solid foundations in ancient Greek. Throw in there Malay, too, the official language of Malaysia.
      (2) Some of the people in that forum are not familiar with literature and research constructs; hence they misinterpret some of the terms I used and notions I referred to. My reference to learning styles and multiple intelligences applies specifically to Gardner’s theory and constructs not to their idea of what constitute a learning style.
      (3) Interrupting a student in the conversation flow to fix an issue (which a ‘proper’ ‘actual’ recast according to its academic definition actually does) is less useful than dealing with that same issue later on after the conversational exchange is over. This way, the learner can devote more attentional resources to it and won’t have to be interrupted. It’s about the effects of this practice on prospective memory. In settings with very high exposure to the language, like a full immersion program -not the typical classroom with 2 hours of language learning a week – recasts can be more useful as the same correction may occur much more frequently.
      (4) We all have hunches and beliefs about language learning but a researcher needs to verify that what worked for us – or what we THINK worked for us – is true of the wider population. There was a lot of me-me (self-centred) talk in that forum. That doesn’t help other people and one need to understand that one’ beliefs and one’s own behaviour like many other things we believe about ourselves may be skewed and erroneous as our perceptions are bound to be subjective. Labelling oneself as a ‘visual learner’ is a self-perception, not necessarily the truth.
      (5) Correction can be effective; but not the one usually carried out b teachers. Please ask your forum mates to read my relevant blogs. Correction works when it involves deep processing and intentionality + extensive remedial practice;
      (6) Finally, just because someone is an excellent driver, it doesn’t follow that he/she knows how to design, build or repair an engine. Similarly, a great linguist may not necessarily know as much about the cognitive mechanisms involved in language processing and acquisition; not as much as a researcher, psycholinguist or applied linguitics scholar does.

      Thanks for the invite to join in your forum. I have tried to join it on a dozen of occasions. I have finally given up. I invite you and your fellow forumsters to comment on my blogs; that would be more efficient for me. Thanks for your insightul remarks about language learning. If you read my blogs, not just the one you guys discussed, you will find that we are in sync with regards to most of your points.

    • I forgot to reply to your query about learning-to-learn. My point is that learning-to-learn is a great thing – I implemented a nine-month program of learning-to-learn myself! – but not when it consists of a one-off lesson only. It requires much more than that – as specified in that blog and several subsequent ones.🙂

      Cheers nd thanks again for your intervention.

  11. The forum is down right now, and we’ll be working on that — nice to read you, though, so I’m sure I will eventually come back to read some more.
    Cheers,

  12. While these are not actually that controversial (or new)–and I mostly agree in general–we should be careful about making broad, sweeping, and categorical generalizations on those points above which are based on limited research. A lot of language acquisition research is not yet really comprehensive enough for such conclusions.

  13. I totally agree with you Mr Conti. All replies on this post seem to be more subjective that objective and we are not discussing what works and doesn’t in our classrooms in order to apply new strategies to make learning more effective.
    All ‘useless’ things teachers do I did following an ‘outstanding’ departmental school policy. Therefore I keep reading your posts as I rather prefer to learn from you. You make me re-think my approach and reflect on what doesn’t work and why.
    Many thanks!!😉

  14. Thank you. Good points that need to be addressed.

    As you said, “Classroom time should be devoted to learning the target language.”

    As teachers we need to have a critical eye on how we spend the precious few hours we have with our students. We have the responsibility to continue to educate ourselves on second language acquisition and best practices and make the necessary adjustments to our teaching to provide the most beneficial setting and exposure to a new language for our students.

  15. Recasts have another, often ignored, function: keeping the teacher (not the learners!) right. 😁 Just ask any teacher of infants about the effect of seeing or hearing the same errors repeatedly.

    Some errors eventually aren’t filtered out or corrected, and become accepted parts of the language, at least locally, e.g. “..aren’t I?”, “the team are winners” and “Long time no see!” or, in German “in den USA” (which used to be “in der USA”). Could recasting have changed this outcome?

    Ultimately, the teacher-class interaction is not solely a pedagogical one but takes place in a wider social context, and corrections (as opposed to teaching strategies) are part of what may be expected, even if they are apparently ineffective.

    • I agree with yoy when it comes to full immersion language programs or any other learning contexts where there is a of exposure to the target language. I was specifically talking about classroom teaching and learning. One recast, in isolation, is not likely to be conducive to uptake. But the same recast performed several times is more likely to impact acquisition. It is the equivalent of showing a flashcard to teach a word once in a blue moon or showing the same flashcard many times over. Which one will result in uptake? Most recasts are not learnt unless they are carried out many times over. Thanks for your very interesting comment!🙂

  16. “Research has clearly shown that learning styles and multiple intelligences are invalid constructs totally unsupported by theory and research.”

    Thank you! Have you written anything on the topic in more depth? I know studies exists, but apart from one meta study, I’ve been too busy/lazy to research it myself.

  17. Dr. Conti,

    I enjoy reading your posts. I was wondering if you could address the following, which I am trying to make sense of and you are of the few people who agrees that MI and LS fall under the bandwagon fallacy.

    I feel that Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences are pushed on students like me who are seeking to certify for teaching. I have been exposed to UDL as well, but ultimately I feel it is underplayed. I am wondering what your thoughts are on UDL and if you would be kind enough to share some references of the most compelling research that refutes MI and LS. Thank you.

    Regards,

    FM

  18. My daughter, an ESL teacher, posted a link to this article on Facebook. She then asked for evaluation.

    Neither I nor my wife are ESL teachers, she was a music teacher and I did industrial automation, now retired. However, in reading this, obviously written by a PHD, I find it makes sense without being in the field. We both took French in high school, before many of your readers were born, and have a limited intro to other languages, but the thinking behind it is clear enough even we can see it.

    I will evaluate it as such on Facebook.

  19. The point about recasts is very interesting. The majority of the research supports this, though features such as the type of error being corrected (grammar, lexis or pron) and whether the recast is full or partial does affect their effectiveness.

    A few years ago I did my dissertation on learning noticing of recasts in a text chat environment. In my study I combined recasts with explicit correction in a form of feedback I termed hybrid recasts. Although only a small study, I found that learners generally noticed the feedback. However, I did not measure any L2 gains so cannot comment on whether this feedback provided language acquisition,

    If you’re interested, I rewrote the dissertation as a short paper and published it on my blog:

    https://textchatteacher.wordpress.com/2016/03/28/noticing-hybrid-recasts-in-text-chat/

  20. Hello I have just discovered this blog and I think it’s incredibly interesting and useful… however, I teach engliish.. I love the boxing etc games… can I find them in english somewhere? thanks

  21. I did a bit of research into use of error correction techniques at our school last year. I found recasts weren’t used as frequently as I thought they would be, but on the whole were ineffective, leading to under 30% uptake. Having said that, a lot of research into error correction, including Lyster and Ranta’s work, concedes that learner uptake is not a clear indicator of ‘learning’. Also, types of learner uptake vary considerably, and a lot of studies seem to focus on verbal responses to indicate that the students have noticed the error (things like self-repair, peer-repair, etc), so are limited in some ways. Anyway, you’re the language guru so you know all this. I try not to recast based on what I’ve observed, but couldn’t confidently say that it’s a useless technique.
    Nice article as always, seem to get me thinking a lot!

  22. I don’t agree about the uselessness of recasts. There are some students, especially adult professionals, who actually expect and want me to correct their grammar even during fluent speaking and conversation – especially in one-to-one lessons. My impression is that It means a kind of reassurance for them – when they are not sure of something- they wait for my incoming correction and for them if it doesn’t come it means the structure they used was correct. Of course, it doesn’t mean they won’t make the very same mistake again. However, if this is what they expect the teacher to do, I believe we should do so.

  23. Dear Conti,

    As soon as I saw your post I wanted to read it all since I’m studying an MA in TEFL. I think everybody has concerned about recast, but how about the other things? I deeply agree with your position. I was recently discussing in class about the learning styles and I found quite difficult to plan activities for every student, that means to me that one or two students will benefit from that idea while the others will be out. A class that involves a variety of activities may work much better.
    I would like to know who has researched about the usefulness of designing activities and categorizing learners based on their learning styles.

    Congratulations for opening a forum that can make us reflect on our teaching.

  24. Recasts happen in the following situations:

    1. When the student is trying to make a point, and it is that point specifically that really matters to him, not the grammar accuracy of the message.
    2. When the student is asked to perform an accuracy task, such as using a grammar structure presented in class.

    In the first, there is no way recasting will help student even care about the mistakes he made. It is actually irritating and downright offensive to interrupt someone in the middle of a sentence to correct his grammar, even in a language class! Language teachers need to understand that the EFL classroom is a real-life lab.

    In the latter, there is nothing in the world that can assure the teacher whether or not this student will use this particular grammar structure successfully in a non-controlled environment. It will, however, appease the teacher’s mind.

    So, yeah. I agree. Recasting is a waste of students’ time and a self-pat on the back for teachers who still think a student’s learning is their decision.

  25. Great list and food for thought. What would you think about instead of a peer review or edit of other students’ oral presentations, the students had a list or bingo type activity of identifying the target structures used in the presentation. This would hold their attention and focus their ear to another presentation of the targeted structure.

  26. Obviously you have not heard of differentiated learning/instruction, in regards to point 4. It works and has been proven, so many times, to be a great way to structure a classroom.

  27. Thank you for a very interesting article and thanks for all the responses. I have written a lot of thoughts down the last hour.

    I come from Denmark and have taught German the last 7 years. Today I am starting as an English teacher in Germany, so I did some didactic research and found this.

    #1 Recast only work for those of my students, who has a lot of confident and are very bright. All the others hate it. I think it gives them another reason for not liking to speak up in class. And of course there is a difference between a wrong answer and a badly pronounced one.

    As one said: You can always ask a question of deeper understanding (we call it the midwife-way). But not as soon as you hear the fault. Let the student speak first. Just write a note on it and get back to it afterwards.

    #2 I always tell my students which grammatical rules I will pay attention with and which verbs should be correct. In my follow up I always give feedback on their ability to come across with their text. And where they could write more. At last I give a grammatical assignment that practice the things they do wrong in the text. Fx using the verb that was special attention on correctly. Not only as a “fill in the blanks” but especially in translating that verb in context, present and past tense. And I always tell them which note they could get, if they get it fixed. But in my experience – they don’t!

    #3 Been there done that! It is simply to big of a deal with too little success, before just a few of them start using it themselves.

    #4 In my experience it takes the energy from the real goal because they have to many things to keep track of at one time. I boiled it down in math to: Do you understand me better, when I draw it on the blackboard or just show you how to do it with numbers? And I got more aware of drawing stuff in science (and used https://phet.colorado.edu/da/ a lot!🙂

    #5 No that makes no sense! But I do make them speak the dialogues into their smartphones (every child has one with 14 and more than 50% has one with 11 in Denmark). That gives them the advantages that they can rehearse it over and over and only play it to me, when they are satisfied.

    #6 I use the computer and a lot of Web 2.0-stuff. But I have to say, that it takes time and that very few things are so simple to use, that it does not take up all the learning space. I can recommend storybird.com (writing stories) and kahoot.it (making quizzes) – but the rest is simply to advanced with the amount of time I have with my classes (1-3 hours a week). But we do use the smartphones to record videos of different roleplays they make (with the young ones 11-13) or when we have a project with handpuppies or when they sing a song that requires certain movements.

  28. Thank you for a very interesting article and thanks for all the responses. I have written a lot of thoughts down the last hour.

    I come from Denmark and have taught German the last 7 years. Today I am starting as an English teacher in Germany, so I did some didactic research and found this.

    #1 Recast only work for those of my students, who has a lot of confident and are very bright. All the others hate it. I think it gives them another reason for not liking to speak up in class. And of course there is a difference between a wrong answer and a badly pronounced one.

    As one said: You can always ask a question of deeper understanding (we call it the midwife-way). But not as soon as you hear the fault. Let the student speak first. Just write a note on it and get back to it afterwards.

    #2 I always tell my students which grammatical rules I will pay attention with and which verbs should be correct. In my follow up I always give feedback on their ability to come across with their text. And where they could write more. At last I give a grammatical assignment that practice the things they do wrong in the text. Fx using the verb that was special attention on correctly. Not only as a “fill in the blanks” but especially in translating that verb in context, present and past tense. And I always tell them which note they could get, if they get it fixed. But in my experience – they don’t!

    #3 Been there done that! It is simply to big of a deal with too little success, before just a few of them start using it themselves.

    #4 In my experience it takes the energy from the real goal because they have to many things to keep track of at one time. I boiled it down in math to: Do you understand me better, when I draw it on the blackboard or just show you how to do it with numbers? And I got more aware of drawing stuff in science (and used https://phet.colorado.edu/da/ a lot!🙂

    #5 No that makes no sense! But I do make them speak the dialogues into their smartphones (every child has one with 14 and more than 50% has one with 11 in Denmark). That gives them the advantages that they can rehearse it over and over and only play it to me, when they are satisfied.

    #6 I use the computer and a lot of Web 2.0-stuff. But I have to say, that it takes time and that very few things are so simple to use, that it does not take up all the learning space. I can recommend storybird.com and kahoot.it – but the rest is simply to advanced with the amount of time I have with my classes (1-3 hours a week). But we do use the smartphones to record videos of different roleplays they make (with the young ones 11-13) or when we have a project with handpuppies or when they sing a song that requires certain movements.

  29. Dr. Conti, have you written anything about synchronous corrective feedback? I would like to know your opinion of it. I like to use it as it encourages self-correction during the writing process, while the correction is still meaningful. I don’t know of many studies on the topic and am curious what you think.

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