ESL Blogging - to correct or not correct?

An issue language educators should consider when using blogs with their students is whether or not to make corrections in the comment spaces of their learners’ blogs.  I am of the opinion that if a student wants corrections from the teacher, that should take place in a private space, via email, on a discussion forum, on paper, or in the face-to-face classroom.  I often identify common errors amongst my students, and make games out of correcting them in class, that way everyone learns from them.

A rich discussion on this topic has arisen out of the EVO 2007 Blogging for Beginners workshop.  Check it out.

Trackbacks & Pings

  1. Around The Web On TEFL: February 19 - Resources - Blogging, Chicago, Correction - TEFL Logue on 20 Feb 2007 at 3:41 am

    [...] Some thoughts on blogging and correcting in class - check out the links for a variety of different opinions and insights on this. Tags: Blogging, Chicago, Correction, France, French, India, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, NOVA, Resources, Sign Language, US [...]

Comments

  1. Marco Polo wrote:

    Coupla three things, but before those, there’s one aspect that I did not see mentioned in the discussion Aaron linked to - the impression left on readers or visitors to the blog site. This may be a collectivist-culture thing, but this is a big concern for many Japanese teachers and students considering using blogs or other public fora for publishing student work. Some potential impressions they might anticipate (and want to avoid) are
    a) “the spelling and grammar are terrible, an embarrassment. Why do these students parade their ignorance like this? It’s shameful!”
    b) “the spelling and grammar are terrible, an embarrassment to their teacher, their class, and their institution, as well as the students themselves and their parents and families. What kind of teacher would deliberately expose his/her students to this kind of public shame? It shows very poor judgement on the part of the teacher and the school.”

    Here are my other points:
    1) does correcting have a practical effect on students’ writing? I’ve heard there is strong evidence that it does not, but I’m not convinced either way.

    2) Students may expect to be corrected: that’s what teachers (are expected to) do. Be prepared to drop in students’ esteem if you don’t correct.

    3) The instructor may actually correct all the errors, or only some; or may correct some and merely identify others and leave it to the student to correct it her/himself. Using their judgment, the instructor could provide some clues, such as “problem with tense”, “missing word”, etc. Personally, I prefer this method: it’s surprising how much students can self-correct; in addition, the instructor will get a better sense of the student’s strengths and weaknesses.

    Finally, only slightly off-topic, here’s an interesting blog entry caught in my aggregator-net today that asks “What are we writing for?” It calls to mind Aaron’s earlier post about writing for an audience or community.

  2. Marco Polo wrote:

    Couple of additions: a) correction should not be done in public, unless it is done in a way which does not identify individual students;
    b) I ask students if they would like me to correct their work or not. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.
    c) for online marking I often use a shareware called Markin.

  3. Aaron wrote:

    Marco,

    You point out some significant cultural factors involved with using blogs with Japanese students. Indeed, these feelings of shame can arise in anyone, but particular a “shame” culture like Japan, where form is generally deemed more important than content in daily life - all for the sake of harmony. I need to think more about this….

    As for corrections, I, too, always ask my students if they want corrections. Occasionally I will offer them unasked as well, usually when the vibe is right.

    When commenting, we can also try repeating portions of what the student said in our own words. In this way we correct in a subtle manner.

    For example, a student might write: “Yesterday I go to bank at morning time.”

    I comment: “So, you went to the bank in the morning? Cool. What did you do there?”

    In sum, I see blogging as being about conversational flow and fluency; putting the language to use with the emphasis being on communication and sharing. So, corrections hold a place, but they shouldn’t be over-emphasized at the expense of flow.

  4. Sue Swift wrote:

    I offer my students 8after consultation as to what they consider to be the purpose of blogging) the chance to e-mail me what they’ve written before they publish it. That way the corrections are between them and me. They also get explanations of their mistakes and, sometimes, supplementary exercises on the problems.
    My reasons are :
    - my students’ motivation for blogging is only to improve their English - therefore it’s unlikely that they don’t want to know about and learn from their mistakes (but note that the option is there)
    - most of them will also have the same feeling as other commenters have noted about not wanting their mistakes to be obvious to others. Knowing that I’ll “polish” what they write is therefore an encouragement to writte.
    - The main audience for these blogs is the other students in the group, and their main motivation for reading the other posts is to learn from them. They therefore want to be sure that what they’re reading is accurate.

  5. Aaron wrote:

    Thanks for sharing your blogging practice, Sue. It is helpful to reflect on what other teachers, like yourself, are doing with their students.

    You say:

    The main audience for these blogs is the other students in the group, and their main motivation for reading the other posts is to learn from them. They therefore want to be sure that what they’re reading is accurate.

    One of the things I try to encourage my Japanese EFL learners to do with their use of blogs and social networks is to connect with people outside the class and engage in conversation with them. Somehow communicating with other Japanese classmates in a foriegn language, especially with those that they could turn to face-to-face and speak their native language at any time, seems odd and contrived.

    I wonder how your students repsond to this?

    Another issue this raises is one of privacy and the publishing medium. I wonder if these internal discussions amongst peers from the same class is going to be of any interest to those outside the class; the discussions may be too high context. In such a case, it would seem to me that a closed discussion forum or blogs with privacy features - like Elgg, Livejournal, or even Moodle - would be more appropriate. Why expose a process that isn’t intended for the eyes of those peering in?

  6. Sue Swift wrote:

    Hi Aaron,
    I suspect there may be a difference in teaching situation here. My learners are using English outside the classroom all the time - they work in a EU context and are often at meetings in Brussels or other parts of Europe working on joint venture projects. This also means they’re used to speaking to other Italians in English - for them it’s the lingua franca of their working situation, regardless of whether there are any native speakers around - and nine times out of ten there aren’t. This means they’re getting a lot of communication practice but that a lot of the language they hear and use is not correct. Usually this doesn’t matter, but in the past it has led to a few very important (and expensive) misunderstandings.

    For this reason, I tend to emphasise accuracy more than I probably would in the Japanese situation. I’ve taught in Japan too, and know that there my first priority would be establishing fluency and giving them the courage to actually communicate. Which is a whole different situation …

  7. Aaron wrote:

    Sue…now I get it. Your students are lucky to have those opportunities for authentic linguisitic interaction.

    I just had a browse through your website - lots of useful and practical articles you have posted there. Subscribed!

  8. carla arena wrote:

    Dear Aaron,

    A little late, but the direct link to the thread correction is this one.

    Carla

  9. Aaron wrote:

    Thanks Carla…I’ll change it.

  10. Aaron wrote:

    Hang on Carla…the link you gave me is precisely the same one I used in the post. I don’t understand…

  11. Smart English wrote:

    I believe that if student’s want to be corrected, they would let you know.

  12. Smart English wrote:

    self correction: students, not student’s

    Sometimes students are intimidated by making mistakes, and may not express themselves completely because they are frightened of making a mistake.

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