The effectiveness of comprehensive corrective feedback in second language writing
Corrective feedback (CF) or error correction is a widely used method of targeting linguistic problems in L2 learners’ writing. The role of CF in the process of acquiring an L2, however, is an issue of considerable controversy in the SLA field. Questions such as if, how, and when CF works, what type of CF is most effective, and which errors are (most) correctable, are still to be answered by empirical research. With her thesis, Catherine van Beuningen intended to contribute to the settlement of these issues.
In two quantitative quasi-experiments and one qualitative study, she investigated the effects of direct and indirect comprehensive CF on L2 learners’ writing. The studies set out to explore both the value of CF as an editing tool, as well as its ability to constitute long-term accuracy improvement. In addition, they tested if CF comes with any negative side-effects that harm accuracy development, and looked into the influence of factors that potentially mediate CF efficacy, such as the nature of the targeted error and learners’ educational level.
In providing robust evidence on the effectiveness of comprehensive written error correction, the results presented in Catherine van Beuningen’s thesis suggest that comprehensive CF is a valuable pedagogical tool. The findings also advance the theoretical understanding of the language learning potential of written CF.
This is an excellent thesis and it represents an original, important and substantive contribution to research on the effects of comprehensive corrective feedback in L2 writing. What makes this thesis particularly impressive is that it consists of a series of separate studies, each one building on the other empirically and theoretically in a logical systematic manner. The first is a small-scale study to investigate the effects of direct and indirect comprehensive CF on revision and L2 accuracy development. This serves as a useful pilot study for the instructional treatments and task development. This is followed by the main study, a large-scale empirical investigation of the same central question as well as other related and relevant questions that emerge from the initial study and the existing research literature on CF in L2 writing.
Friday 10th August – 2011 Runner up Dr Rebecca Sachs discusses her thesis ‘Individual differences and the effectiveness of visual feedback on reflexive binding in L2 Japanese’