talk about evaluation is to talk about
learning. Evaluation is part of the living process.
Evaluation should not be seen as a necessary
positive means to check teaching and learning
to students’ errors is not easy, on the contrary,
it is a complex task that has attracted linguists and
teachers all over the world. Unfortunately, little
research seems to have been done on the effectiveness
or otherwise of the ways teachers correct students’ compositions.
The aim of this paper is to present practical suggestions
for foreign language teachers as to how to improve
their own awareness in the field of error-correction
so that they can be better equipped to offer more consistent
and effective feedback to students’ written work.
The practical suggestions presented below are based
on the master dissertation: “O feedback avaliativo
e corretivo em composições de língua
inglesa analisadas por professores não-nativos” (Gus,
2001), specialized readings and classroom experience.
errors as normal and unavoidable part of the learning
process. They are signals that actual
learning is taking place. They can indicate students’ progress
and success in the language learning (Corder, 1967).
b) Have a global reading of your students’ compositions
before marking them. Comments: Most foreign language
teachers tend to mark students’ compositions
even before reading the whole text. Teachers should
not focus only on grammar errors. Let the students
express themselves and allow yourself as a teacher
to see other aspects of written work such as content
c) Decide how much correction to provide and select
some errors to be corrected according to the level
you are teaching. Comments: Most foreign language
teachers feel guilty if they do not correct every
Correcting “everything” is not a synonym
of being a competent professional. Teachers may consider
which student errors should be corrected first and
which ones should be allowed to remain uncorrected.
Some errors have higher priorities for correction
than others. It depends not only on the level of
but also the objective of the lesson itself.
d) Teachers must discuss criteria of correction with
their students. This attitude will certainly create
trust and develop a friendly atmosphere leading to
positive interaction. Comments: According to Lima (1999),
it is very useful to discuss with learners about interlanguage
and error treatment. Students will probably accept
errors as normal part of the learning process if they
know in advance how they will be evaluated.
e) Do not give back your students’ compositions
with all errors already corrected. Try to use some
correcting code symbols so that learners can think
of their problems, identify and correct them. They
can become more actively engaged in correcting their
own work and will be able to avoid future mistakes.
The active correction by the student is more effective
than the mere passive reading of teacher corrections.
Comments: As Hyland (1990) says students should not
be discouraged by overmarking. Error correction only
improves the proficiency of learners if they are corrected
selectively. Besides, teachers ought to give more time
for student´s self correction so that they
can develop a sense of independency and responsibility
for their learning.
f) Feedback must be interactive to be effective.
Make clear and objective comments about your students’ compositions.
Balance positive and negative comments. Do not only
look at problems. Comments: A great number of teachers
provide abstract and vague comments on students’ compositions.
Sometimes teachers write “very good” or “fair”.
But what does “fair” mean? Is it related
to content, use of grammar or vocabulary? Feedback
is an essential tool for language learning, so teachers
must “talk” to their students when writing
comments. Being able to use feedback in a positive
way is crucial to the process of developing writing
skills (Muncie, 2000).
g) Before asking your students to write a composition
allow some time for the topic to be discussed in class.
h) Writing is a wonderful tool for language learning
(Raimes, 1999) and it is as important as any other
skill. Comments: Writing is often relegated to the
end of teaching unit. And used mainly for homework.
Try to integrate with other skills, so learners can
see writing as a real activity. Writing in a foreign
language constitutes an important part of the language
proficiency. Like speaking, writing shows that people
use language to communicate.
i) Use writing in a different way. Promote group work
activities. It can be fun and less solitary than writing
a composition at home. Comments: Collaboration on a
task will help students to reduce the feeling of isolation.
They also tend to get more involved in an activity
if they are allowed to talk about it rather than sit
down in silence (Byrne, 1988).
j) Give opportunity to the students to read their
compositions to their classmates (peer feedback).
It is important
to change the audience and listen to different comments
and suggestions. Comments: Peer feedback is useful
because it seems to reduce students’ dependency
on the teacher and encourage them to accept someone
other than the teacher as their reader (Dheram, 1995).
In order to do so, students need to be trained, as
a result, they may be able to learn to accept their
classmates’ suggestions as something positive.
k) Try to use an evaluative model when correcting
Learners will know how their compositions will be
corrected independent of the teacher and semester.
They can feel
less stressed and anxious. Choose a model that take
into consideration content and organization. According
to our findings, these characteristics were almost
forgotten by our teachers.
l) It is interesting to have alternative ways of providing
feedback to your students. Some suggestions: send e-mails
to your students making comments about their compositions
or record comments on tapes, so that students can listen
to them at home.
Byrne, D. (1988). Teaching writing skills. New York:
Corder, S. P. (1967). The significance of learner errors.
International Applied Linguistics, 5, 161-169.
Dheram, P. K. (1995). Feedback as a two-bullock cart:
a case studying of teaching writing. ELT Journal, 49
Fobé, N. L. (1977). Evaluation: a challenge
and an accomplishment or a “torture”?
Letras, 16 (1-2), 5-12.
GUS, Claudine. (2001). O feedback avaliativo e corretivo
em composições de língua inglesa
analisadas por professores não-nativos. 2001.
123 f. Dissertação (Mestrado) – Programa
de Pós-Graduação em Letras,
Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto
Hague, A. (1999). Ann Raimes - Interview. New Routes
in ELT, São Paulo, 6, 8-11.
Hyland, K. (1990). Providing productive feedback. ELT
Journal, 44 (4), 279-285.
Lima, M. dos S. (1997). Error treatment: how learners
see it. In: Encontro Nacional de Professores Universitários
de Língua Inglesa, 14., 1997, Belo Horizonte.
Anais... Belo Horizonte: [s.n.], p. 225-232.
Muncie, J. (2000). Using written teacher feedback in
EFL composition classes to promote learner autonomy
and long-term improvement. ELT Journal, 54 (1), 47-53.