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Written Corrective Feedback in Second Language Acquisition and Writing

reviewed by Kris Knisely - March 01, 2013

coverTitle: Written Corrective Feedback in Second Language Acquisition and Writing
Author(s): John Bitchener & Dana R. Ferris
Publisher: Routledge, New York
ISBN: 0415872448, Pages: 232, Year: 2011
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In Written Corrective Feedback in Second Language Acquisition and Writing, Bitchener and Ferris adopt an interdisciplinary approach to understand written corrective feedback (WCF). The authors seamlessly juxtapose research and theory from the distinct fields of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) and Composition Studies. These two fields are very similar in terms of the phenomena they explore, though they do not always overlap in terms of the questions being considered. Bitchener and Ferris outline their commonalities without ignoring their differences, highlighting the complementary nature of SLA and Composition Studies in an unprecedented fashion. The authors also weave in work from other related bodies of literature, such as discussions of WCF in first-language composition studies. While first and second language composition studies have influenced one another in complex ways, Bitchener and Ferris uniquely place these fields as wholes into conversation with one another. The authors push the discussion further, engaging these areas of research in conversation with work in SLA, and critically consider the applicability of theories from these fields to one another.

Written Corrective Feedback in Second Language Acquisition and Writing is divided into eight complementary and closely-related chapters, which explore the book’s three broader themes, theory, research, and practice, in a clear, concise, and systematic way. The discussion is primarily guided by a cognitive perspective, though there is a treatment of some topics from a sociocultural perspective as well.

The first section of the book, Chapters One and Two, traces the history of theories of error and its treatment in WCF in the field of SLA, which is followed by an exploration of the topic’s trajectory in composition studies including a consideration of WCF’s treatment in first-language studies. Their chronologically-organized literature reviews are clear and concise. Bitchener and Ferris lay out the transitions between perspectives through time and the relationships among the presented perspectives. The authors regularly return to earlier perspectives, noting how they relate to and inform the perspectives that followed, giving the reader a clear picture of the connections between theories. They transparently present how elements of theories are recycled and expanded, re-analyzed, and adapted.

After laying this groundwork, the authors provide an up-to-date analysis of the empirical research on WCF in both fields before considering its role in language classes in Chapters Three, Four, and Five. These chapters connect theory and empirical evidence. The authors address critical design flaws and shortcomings in the research presented as appropriate. This allows the authors to re-interpret previous findings in light of the entire body of research. This critical discussion leads the authors to draw more reliable conclusions in assessing the state of the fields considered. Researchers across a variety of fields who work on WCF will be particularly interested in this second section, which summarizes the existing research from a variety of fields. This section thus provides a solid foundation for future research and, with Chapter Five, outlines suggestions for such work.

The authors then move from a consideration of the efficacy of WCF in research, in which they find generally positive effects of WCF, to a discussion of best practices in Chapters Six, Seven, and Eight. The book concludes with an in-depth discussion of the practical applications of WCF theory and research to second language and second language composition classrooms. In this final section, Bitchener and Ferris move beyond the question of whether instructors should provide WCF, to a theoretically and empirically guided discussion of how, what, where, and why WCF should be provided. This third section, with its highly detailed examples, will be especially useful for teachers and teacher educators in language and writing. As a language scholar and educator, I have found their suggestions to be easily intelligible and highly applicable to classroom practice.

Within the interdisciplinary framework that Bitchener and Ferris use, the authors do not reduce the complexities of the issues addressed while simultaneously presenting the material in an accessible way. Throughout the book, the authors include a range of perspectives including those of teachers, students, and researchers. Adding to the book’s richness is the authors’ consideration of the present and historical contexts in which shifts in practice and theory have occurred. As an interdisciplinary scholar working in the fields of foreign language methodology and pedagogy, linguistics, and education, I found that Bitchener and Ferris provide an excellent model for connecting parallel strands of literature in productive and accessible ways.

Though the reviews of research and theory are thorough, this book would be well complimented by a more in-depth discussion of the methods presented within. Many approaches and theories were comprehensively discussed, however, those new to the fields of SLA and Composition Studies may benefit from an extended discussion of the positive and negative aspects of the large number of methods presented. This book would also be well complimented by a more extended consideration of WCF from a sociocultural perspective.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: March 01, 2013
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17039, Date Accessed: 12/8/2021 8:11:06 AM

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About the Author
  • Kris Knisely
    Emory University
    E-mail Author
    KRIS KNISELY is currently a Ph.D. student in the joint French and Educational Studies program at Emory University. He studies the intersections between Second Language Acquisition, with a focus on French, and learner identity, including the learners' self-concept, self-efficacy, gender identity, and sexual orientation. His dissertation research specifically addresses the relationship between gendered language attitudes, learner identity, and motivation. His work posits that the perceived femininity of the French language in conjunction with American society’s heteronormative definitions of masculinity negatively impact males’ sense of belongingness and in turn motivation to learn the language. Kris also works on the role of technology in foreign language methodology and pedagogy.
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