Preference consequentialism: An ethical proposal to resolve the writing error correction debate in EFL classroom

International Journal of Language Studies 4 (4):69-88 (2010)
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Abstract

Inspired by the recent trends in education towards learner autonomy with their emphasis on the interests and desires of the students, and borrowing ideas from philosophy (particularly ethics), the present study is an attempt to investigate the discrepancy in the findings of the studies addressing error correction in L2 writing instruction, and suggest the (oft-neglected) students’ beliefs, interests and wants as what can point the way out of confusion. To this end, a questionnaire was developed and 56 advanced adult EFL learners were asked to complete the questionnaire. The opinions of 20 EFL teachers were also collected using another questionnaire. Twenty-three of the students and 13 of the teachers were then interviewed in an attempt to collect explanations for their answers in the questionnaires. The results indicated that all the learners wanted the errors in their writings to be corrected. About 90 percent of them believed that all the errors in their writings should be corrected and only less than 10 percent of them agreed that there is no need to correct all the errors and that only “important” errors should be rectified. On the contrary, of the teachers who participated in the study, only 20 percent believed that all the errors in the students’ writings should be corrected. While most of the interviewed students attributed their preference of choice to feeling more confident and efficient in learning when they can recognize all the errors in their written assignments, most of the teachers believed that by correcting important errors (and not all errors), learners can get the most of their writings. Given the incongruity between teachers’ and (advanced) students’ beliefs over writing error correction, and considering advanced students as legitimate decision makers for their own learning, some suggestions are offered for EFL writing teachers.

Author's Profile

Enayat A. Shabani
Tehran University of Medical Sciences

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