>Become a researcher and turn your classroom into a lab

>I think some teachers, when exposed to new teaching ideas or theories, like John Truscott’s research on the ineffectiveness of error correction, have been wondering if it is all true or how does it apply to them. We can’t simply accept all research at face value. Indeed, sometimes research is contradictory. Frankly, none of this really matters to us as individual teachers if there is no practical application in our classrooms.

The big question is, Does it work in YOUR classroom?

Let’s find out. Here is an experiment for you to do.

EXPERIMENT #1 – Error correction experiment

Next time you ask your students to write something relatively short (perhaps 150-200 words), a letter, report, memo, as one of their exercises, correct the students’ writing. Return their papers with corrections. As a class, discuss with them the most common errors and associated grammar rules. Collect the corrected papers back from the students. Assign the exact same task to them again. Collect the second attempt at the task. Hold those papers. A month or two later, ask the students to write the task one more time. Perhaps to give the project a little more meaning to the students tell them you will score their best effort of the three.

Match up all the students papers so that for Student “A” put together his first, second and third attempts and compare them. What would you expect the outcome to be? How would the three papers compare? How would the first attempt compare with the third?

EXPERIMENT #2 – Comprehensible input experiment

Again, give the students a relatively short writing assignment of the same type in experiment #1 above. Give the students a score on their writing but make no corrections. Collect the papers back from the students. Over the next month or two, give the students well written (perhaps by yourself) samples of writing assignment that you had given them. Perhaps they could take 5 minutes in class to read over these. Simplify the language to the students’ level of English with perhaps just a few words that they may not be familiar with. Perhaps perk up the students’ interest in what otherwise could be some boring reading by replacing the names of the people in the letter with student names and perhaps involve a funny situation. Over a period of two months and letting the students read, without offering any “instruction” or drawing special attention to how the writing was done, about ten different samples during this period of time, ask the students to do the task a second time. A month or two later, ask the students to write the task one more time.

Match up all the students papers so that for Student “A” put together his first, second and third attempts and compare them. What would you expect the outcome to be? How would the three papers compare? How would the first attempt compare with the third?

You could run Experiment #1 on one class and Experiment #2 on another class if you are teaching more than one class. You could even have a third class where you will ask them to do the writing assignments but offer neither the correction nor the good writing samples. This could be a “control group”.

The results should be interesting. You will have to take into account a few things that may affect your outcome. For example, has English instruction in other classes affected the students’ performance and in what way?

This will not be an experiment up to high academic scientific standards. But it should be a way for you to get some idea in real life with your own students in your situation what MIGHT work or not work.

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