Friday, December 28, 2012

Pronunciation feedback: the quicker, the better?

Clip art: Clker
The research on corrective feedback in language learning is extensive. The conclusions are a mixed bag, at best. I do not recall seeing a study that measured the effect of anticipated feedback, whether immediate or postponed in the literature. I had missed this 2010 study by Kettle and Haubi of the University of Alberta (summarized by Science Daily) where they looked at the impact on test scores when subjects thought that they'd be given immediate, rather than delayed feedback. Those in the first group estimated their performance to be somewhat lower but did better than the latter group, which tended to overestimate their final score.

Pronunciation feedback in general tends to be more postponed, often in the form of notes to the student or critique of audio recordings. In class, real time responses to mispronunciations are less in fashion than during earlier periods when oral accuracy was strongly promoted and learners were often pressed to speak more in class and be immediately corrected than today. In survey after survey, learners desire more spontaneous correction and instructors appear less and less likely to comply.

Clip art: Clker
A solution to that, one that we (and many others) have developed in haptic-integrated work, is to use a set of gesture-based signals (perhaps including a vowel number) to alert the learner effectively to problematic pronunciation without requiring excessive public performance. That way the learner can immediately note the problem and either deal with it "internally" or go back and work on it later, perhaps talking with the instructor or another source privately, if necessary. Just the impact of that anticipatory attitude on motivation, according to the research, is worth the cost of tuition. Can hardly wait, eh?

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