There are many problems associated with error correction in the EFL classroom. For example, every student wants to improve their accuracy but not every student likes being corrected. Another common problem is that students and teachers often disagree on the amount of error correction that there should be in class. As should be clear from these two examples, for most teachers today it is not a case of deciding whether there should be error correction or not, but the much more difficult task of getting the amount of error correction just right for each individual level, age group, nationality, personality type, learning style etc. To help with this, below is a list of signs that you might not have the right balance of error correction in your classes yet and some hints on how to adjust your lesson planning accordingly.
Possible signs that you are correcting too many student errors
1. Students are losing their fluency when they speak because they are scared of making mistakes
2. Students keep stopping and correcting themselves
3. The accuracy of their speaking is improving much more quickly than their fluency, use of complex forms, speaking strategies etc.
4. Many of the errors you correct are things that won't come up in their classes for a long time or even until the next level
5. Many of the errors you correct are things they knew but were just slips of the tongue
6. Most of the errors you correct are things they would have stopped making errors with anyway eventually once their subconscious had fully dealt with the language
7. The amount of time you spend on student errors is cutting into the time you can spend on new language
8. Students who think they have done well at a speaking or writing task get depressed when you do error correction and they realise how many errors they have made
9. Feedback after a speaking or writing task means mainly error correction, with a lack of suggesting more complex language, making encouraging comments etc.
10. Written work is a mess of red ink when it comes back to students
11. You give them more corrections in one class than they can possibly learn before the next class
12. You correct the same language over and over, even though students' accuracy hasn't improved at all since the first time you corrected them
13. Students show with their facial expressions or body language that they are not open to correction
14. You are correcting because you feel you must, even though you have no confidence that it will have an effect on accuracy with that group of students
15. Students don't note down most of the errors you correct
3. You don't consider which errors could lead to miscommunication before correcting them
4. You never experiment with different amounts of correction
Ways of making sure you use the right amount of error correction
1. Think about all your classes and put them in order of how much error correction you think they need, from the class most in need of error correction (e.g. students stuck on the Intermediate plateau or ones who will be writing dissertations in English) at the top of the list to the class that least needs it (students who pause for a long time before they speak or students who had lots of grammar but little speaking practice in their previous English lessons) at the bottom of the list.