An Explanation of the Effectiveness of Written Corrective Feedback in Second-Language Grammar Acquisition

Jason Wagner

Advisor: Douglas J Wulf, PhD, Department of English

Committee Members: Steven Weinberger, Charlie Jones

April 19, 2016, 10:00 AM to 07:00 AM


The purpose of this dissertation is to provide a theoretical explanation for the effectiveness of Written Corrective Feedback (WCF) at increasing second-language (L2) students’ grammatical accuracy.  WCF is examined via Skill Acquisition Theory (SAT) in order to account for uneven patterns of its effectiveness.  As the findings demonstrate, WCF is effective at increasing accuracy for some grammatical categories, but not for others.  WCF’s variable effectiveness appears to depend on the underlying complexities of the grammatical patterns under analysis.  An SAT analysis clarifies the seemingly contradictory findings in the literature regarding WCF’s overall effectiveness.  Under SAT, for an instructional strategy for grammar to be effective, it must:  (1) impart adequate and clear declarative knowledge of grammatical constructions and (2) provide a practice procedure whereby L2 students can eventually proceduralize and automatize grammatical knowledge.  WCF that can accomplish these two goals is effective at increasing L2 students’ grammatical accuracy over time, whereas WCF that cannot is ineffective even when used over a substantial span of time.  Findings demonstrate that WCF is only effective at imparting sufficient declarative knowledge and at providing an adequate practice procedure (i.e., correcting errors) for constructions that include a non-idiosyncratic, binary choice for correct usage.  When constructions are inherently more complex (i.e., include a non-binary choice or a binary choice that is applied idiosyncratically), WCF is ineffective.