Developing an Editing Marking Scheme: An Evolving Process

Introduction

The use of editing schemes has stimulated debate for many years in the field of ESL/EFL. Writing feedback ranges from none to overt direct correction, with the use of editing schemes somewhere in the middle (Lee, 2006). That is, advanced students may require less in the way of feedback, whereas lower level students may simply lack the understanding to benefit from anything other than direct corrections with explanations. Most students are, however, somewhere in the middle and can variously benefit from hints or clues about error correction, and this is the basic idea behind using editing marks. While there is disagreement as to the effectiveness of error correction marks, it is the contention of this paper that such marks are useful both in theory and in practice, but should be looked at as a recursive and evolving process that significantly benefits from instructor and peer feedback, rather than being a static ‘silver bullet’ that helps all students all the time. What’s more, there is evidence that students seem to prefer it as well, and for a number of reasons: students want to participate in their learning of writing and have chances for re-writes (Fregeau, 1999); students find conferencing to be more effective than written comments (Williams, 2003); students like making corrections on their own by using error correction marks (Leki, 1990); and students prefer feedback about their writing to simple direct correction (Cohen & Cavalcanti, 1990). It is because such interactive feedback is thought central to using writing correction symbols that the editing approach used may be designated as EF, or error correction feedback.

In this small study, using qualitative action research methods, three intact classes were provided with EF over an 18 week semester and most students saw discernible improvements in both error recognition and error correction.

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