|Do I need to automate corrective feedback?|
IntroductionHere is a 10-minute video about how automating aspects of corrective feedback using CorrectiveFeedback.com can help teachers correct more, better, and faster. I offer four reasons why automatic correction is, at minimum, worth considering. You can watch the 10 minute video or read the article below.
Modified TranscriptI teach ESL at Ahuntsic College in Montreal, but in my spare time I develop websites for ESL learners and teachers. CorrectiveFeedback.com, my latest web development project, is designed to help ESL teachers correct more, better, and faster than ever before. It can check for errors, check vocabulary, search for target structures, correct pronunciation errors, leave detailed written comments, send MP3 audio comments, and deploy rubrics—the list goes on and there are more features on the way. It is awesome, and I believe that CorrectiveFeedback.com is the ultimate power tool for teachers.
Skeptics will say that only an experienced teacher can give the kind of quality feedback that students need, and I agree that there are times when a teacher’s quick eye will catch something that a machine cannot, just as there are times when you want to pull your child’s t-shirt out of the laundry pile and rub some detergent directly onto the stain before putting it with the rest of the family’s laundry into the machine on the heavy-duty cycle to finish the job while you cook dinner. Teachers can resist the use of power tools, but like every other profession we will eventually integrate power tools into every aspect of our jobs.
So there are times when teachers definitely should use power tools.
- If your 150 students have to wait two weeks for feedback on their errors because you refuse to use power tools on principle, that’s a problem.
- If you are not checking your students’ use of the target structures taught in your course because it takes too long count the number and range of adverbs of frequency from week 3, irregular past tense verbs from week 5, synonyms of the word “said” in week 7, and the number of cohesion building transition phrases from week 8, and the use of field-related vocabulary they have been learning all semester because it takes too long, that’s a problem.
- If after correcting half the pile of writing assignments, your comments are starting to sound like tersely worded voice-of-authority autopsy reports, that’s a problem.
- If you just don’t have time to catch and correct pronunciation errors on speaking tasks because there just isn’t enough time in class, that’s a problem.
After a little set up, you can correct 28 errors, provide links to 18 remedial practice activities, leave a 70 word comment and return your feedback to the student by email in less than a minute and a half. 90 seconds per student times 150 students is 3 hours and 45 minutes. Less than four hours of corrective feedback work on top of 15 hours of classroom teaching and 10 hours of preparation is doable, especially in light of the 150 personalized instant curricula the system generates.
It is important that students integrate the grammar and vocabulary they study in class into their writing. You wouldn't expect them to integrate every structure and every vocabulary item in their texts, but it is reasonable to expect some of the language you present and they practice to appear in the texts they produce. If over the course of a semester you study 15 Adverbs of frequency, a list of 300 past tense verbs, a thesaurus entry with 257 alternatives to the word "said" and online exercises with 222 transition words. That’s already 779 items teachers would have to remember to search for while reading a student’s text. That’s if we were to use a positive corrective feedback method where we celebrate students’ successes instead of only noting their failures. Add to that number the tens of thousands of vocabulary items in 40 or more fields of study for students in a b-block CEGEP ESL class, the task is not just difficult—it is probably impossible. However,CorrectiveFeedback.com makes it not only possible but practical to notice and reward achievement.
In the past, I have noticed that my comments in the margins of students’ writing assignments have been somewhat judgmental and unkind in their phrasing. I pride myself on being a compassionate person with a somewhat sunny disposition. I wish to firm but fair, and yet when I read over the tersely worded comments scrawled in the margins of my students’ papers I see things like, “awkward,” “unclear,” “rewrite,” and “needs development.” It sounds like I am describing my own commenting style.
The issue here is that no matter how good our intentions, we adopt the voice-of-authority that sounds like we are giving an autopsy on a student’s assignment. “Your writing died on the page and here’s why.” This sends the wrong message. We should instead be dramatizing the presence of the reader to the student, showing him or her what we experience when we read the text and signalling that—as imperfect as it may be—it is worthy of revision and taking into the next draft. To do that, we must maintain the voice-of-the-reader, showing students where we stumble, where we get lost, and how our experience of the text is not what was intended. To do that, we have to compose our comments when we are rested and happy. CorrectiveFeedback.com lets you do just that. By composing our comments when we are rested, storing them in graded categories, and selecting one during the feedback process, we can always say what we actually mean instead of being just being mean when we say what say.
Automating corrective feedback also offers the opportunity to score and correct pronunciation errors more effectively than we could otherwise. Native and non-native speakers alike might find it difficult to draw attention to pronunciation errors and provide standard models to imitate. CorrectiveFeedback.com makes it easy, as you can see and here with this example.
Imagine that you asked your students tell a story about a trip to Miami employing certain target verbs. Look how easy it is CorrectiveFeedback.com to identify correct and incorrect pronunciation and supply models even if you have a cold or if you have an accent yourself.
In conclusion, there are a number of advantages to using CorrectiveFeedback.com. Whether you use the system to save time while checking for common errors, to search for target structures in obligatory contexts, to dramatize the presence of the reader through voice-of-the-reader commenting, or to check, score and model pronunciation, CorrectiveFeedback.com offers a range of useful tools that ESL teachers should find quick, easy and pedagogically sound. Now that you have seen some of what the system can do, I have a question for you. What is the most attractive feature you have seen so far? Please leave a comment below.