Research Bites: Rethinking Implicit-Explicit Feedback

Sarandi, H. (2016), Oral Corrective Feedback: A Question of Classification and Application. TESOL Quarterly, 50: 235–246.

Sarandhi argues that oral corrective feedback (CF) research in both classroom and laboratory settings presents CF in binary terms along an explicit-implicit (and input-output) continuum even though their classifications can actually change based on numerous factors. For example, recasts, which are typically considered implicit CF, can actually be explicit when the correction is salient to the learners. This would be in situations where the recast is short and involves a single change, where recasts use word stress to highlight the error, if learners have prior knowledge of the structure, and if they are generally capable to notice and correct the error. Sarandi’s point is that researchers need to understand that the nature of CF changes based on classroom application. Furthermore, while most CF research points to explicit CF being more effective, this does not account for implicit CF transformed into explicit CF through classroom application and the interaction of multiple variables.

Related Post: Research Bites: The Mother of All Corrective Feedback Studies

7 thoughts on “Research Bites: Rethinking Implicit-Explicit Feedback

  1. If explicit corrective feedback were so great, why do students keep making the same mistakes ad infinitum? I am intrigued by this idea that the borders between implicit and explicit might be so indistinct.

    • Anthony Schmidt says:

      I have some theories about why they make these mistakes. They are likely fossilized errors, which takes more effort than corrective feedback. It could be a lack of uptake of the feedback. It could be that they are not cognitively prepared to acquire the linguistic element being corrected, or that they cannot automatize it because they are missing some crucial language skill required by the correction. There are probably lots of variables, but my wager is on fossilization.

      The research shows that explicit corrective feedback typically has large effect sizes, but these are often not long term without repetition.

  2. A recent example (last month) from a lesson I gave when covering a B1TP slot for a CELTA trainee who had withdrawn. In response to “Has anyone ever been to or visited a jungle?”

    S- Yes, I have worked in the Panama channel.
    Me- [Aha, chance for some implicit CF/reformulation/recast whatever you wish and impress the trainees] – So you were actually working in the canal?
    S- Yes the building was by the channel.
    Me- [not going to let this opportunity go] OK You were working near the canal, not in the canal itself like an engineer?
    S- Yes, near the channel.
    Me – […!] OK, thanks! …. and what about you Xandra, you say you’ve been to the jungle…. where was that?

    • Anthony Schmidt says:

      Thanks for commenting!

      This is one of the problems with implicit feedback, and one that this article pointed out. There are a number of factors which may keep it ineffective. Was the correction salient (did you put special emphasis on “canal”)? Was the learner at a level where they could notice such a correction? This could account for why implicit feedback is often not as effective as explicit feedback.

      This type of scenario plays out often, which is why I prefer explicit corrections, though even these are not 100% effective.

      • To me this is a great opportunity for alerting students that we have multiple forms of the same word in English, coming through different constituent languages or even coming from the same word with different forms in a constituent language. “Channel” comes from Old French “chanel,” and “canal” comes more directly from Latin “canalis,” but they mean pretty much the same thing though they are used in different contexts.

        Also, “channel” can be a verb, while “canal” can’t.

        God I love English.

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