Last week we published Written Corrective Feedback for L2 Development by John Bitchener and Neomy Storch. Here, the authors introduce their book and examine the importance of corrective feedback in L2 learning.
Judging by the large and growing number of research articles, theses and conference presentations, the feedback that second language (L2) teachers provide L2 learners on their writing is clearly a topic of great interest. This interest can be partly explained by the amount of time that writing teachers spend on providing feedback, particularly feedback on language use, termed corrective feedback (CF). The underlying assumption of CF, held by many teachers and indeed L2 learners, is the belief that the feedback will lead to improved accuracy. While research findings on the potential of written CF to facilitate improved accuracy and L2 development has been consistently positive, there is more uncertainty about the conditions and circumstances under which the type and delivery of written CF may aid such development.
Our goal in this book is to consider the body of research on written CF, but to do so from a theoretical perspective. This is because we believe that theories can provide us with insights about why written CF may or may not be effective for some students or in some L2 learning environments.
We focus in this book on two major theoretical paradigms in the field of second language learning: cognitive and sociocultural. The two paradigms present different perspectives on the process and the factors that lead to L2 development and thus provide different explanations about the potential role that written CF may play in L2 development. Two chapters are devoted to each of the paradigms: Chapters 2 and 3 discuss cognitive perspectives and Chapters 4 and 5 sociocultural perspectives.
Chapter 2 discusses the nature and conditions of cognitively processing L2 information, including the information provided by written CF. Chapter 3 follows with a critical review of research on written CF informed by cognitive perspectives. Chapter 4 discusses the social nature of all cognitive development, including L2 learning, as explained by sociocultural theorists. It discusses key constructs such as scaffolding, mediation and the notion of activity and how these constructs apply to written CF. Chapter 5 provides a critical review of the relatively modest body of research that has been informed by this perspective.
By using theories of second language development to frame the discussion of written CF and of research on CF, the book provides the reader with insights about both leading theories of second language development and empirical issues in research on CF. We conclude in Chapter 6 with a discussion of future theoretical and research directions as well as a consideration of how the two major theoretical perspectives can complement each other in pedagogical practice. In this sense, the book can serve as a valuable reference for theorists, researchers and L2 instructors.