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Peer Correction‏‎ in English Language Teaching

Students looking at each others work.Peer Correction is a method of correcting work where other students in the class correct mistakes rather than having the teacher correct everything.

It is useful in that it means involving the whole class in the moment and it also allows the teacher to check what the rest of the class knows. If, for example, it becomes evident that no one in the class really knows where the problem lies then the teacher can take appropriate steps to explain it to everyone. 

Peer Correction with the Class as a Whole

If you are working with the class as a whole – perhaps explaining a new concept or introducing new material – you may well ask one or two students concept checking questions to see if they have understood.

If you ask a question and the student answers wrongly you should firstly always give the student the opportunity to self-correct. If this fails then rather than give the correct answer yourself you can simply ask another student instead.

This is useful in that if the whole class give a wrong answer you know that your explanation isn’t there and you will need to go back and re-teach the language item. If, on the other hand, some of the class know and some don’t, you can tailor your explanations for certain students. 

Group Peer Correction

Although getting the students into groups and having them correct each others work is possible, there are certain problems with this method and you need to be sure of the class and monitor them closely while this is happening.

Group peer correction can happen in different ways, for example:

  • the students are in pairs and read then correct each other’s work
  • the students are in small groups putting together a role play; one student sits outside the group and makes notes, monitoring mistakes for later feedback

But there are problems with both these scenarios.

  • Problems can arise due to the personal relationships between the students. Friends will correct friend’s work more leniently, they may well ignore their best friend’s mistakes and become picky over the mistakes made by a student they dislike.
  • You cannot guarantee that the corrections are themselves correct. A dominant student can say with such assertion that X is wrong and everyone will believe that student whereas, in fact, X may be correct.
  • The mistakes spotted by the students may not necessarily be language errors you want to deal with yet. As a language teacher you do not want to cover every single mistake made by every single student in every single lesson, you need instead to deal with the most important mistakes first and cover perhaps less common mistakes further down the line.
  • Some students are resentful of other students correcting them and will only want the teacher to do this.

So it is perhaps not a good idea to have the students correct each others work in this more formal manner.

Sensitivity

We should make an importnat note there: peer correction needs to be handled sensitively. You do not want to highlight the fact that certain people in the class know less than everyone else. Be subtle when you use this technique.

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