Using Moodle for written corrective feedback

Using Moodle for written corrective feedbackLearning management systems such as Moodle have many advantages over classroom and email based writing programmes. One such area is in corrective feedback and in this article I’m going to explore some of the possibilities for providing written corrective feedback for EFL and ESL learners.

What are the advantages?

  • Firstly, learners can do their writing assignments and submit them online and, in the case of blended learning, before their next English class, thereby speeding up the submission -> feedback process.
  • Unlike email, Moodle stores a single copy of the submitted work online. Only one copy in one place to keep track of. Simple. Easy.
  • Moodle also controls who can view and who can edit learners’ work and when. So learners can submit work, teachers get email notifications and go to Moodle to view the work and can make comments, recommendations and corrections on copies of the work that are stored alongside the original. Learners may be able to resubmit depending on how the writing assignment is set up.
  • Moodle’s Assignment module also facilitates peer assessed writing activities and automatically manages delegating learners’ work to their peers. Teachers and/or learners can define custom assessment rubrics and teachers can assess learners’ peer assessments. How cool is that?
  • Moodle has a central consolidated grade book for each course where teachers and, if permitted, learners can grade work and write comments.

Written corrective feedback options

There are a few options available to Moodle users:

  • Direct written corrective feedback
  • Indirect written corrective feedback
  • Metalinguistic written corrective feedback
  • Reformulation written corrective feedback

For a more in depth examination of these written corrective feedback types, Professor Rod Ellis gave a presentation which is available on I’ve posted a video of the presentation and some accompanying notes in this article: Dr. Rod Ellis: TESOL Written Corrective Feedback. Right now, I’m going to focus on metalinguistic written corrective feedback because this offers the strongest advantages when implemented with Moodle. In the following section I’ve quoted from a paraphrased Dr. Ellis’ presentation:

Metalinguistic written corrective feedback

Metalinguistic written corrective feedback provides learners with some form of explicit comment about the nature of the errors they have made. This can be done in two ways:

Use of error codes

e.g. Abbreviated labels for different kinds of errors placed over the location of the error in the text or in the margin: art = article, prep = preposition, sp = spelling, ww = wrong word, t = tense, etc. Overall, there is very limited evidence to show that using error codes helps learners to achieve greater accuracy over time and it would also seem that they are no more effective than other types of written corrective feedback in assisting self-editing.

Metalinguistic explanations of errors

e.g. Numbering errors and providing metalinguistic comments at the end of the text. This is less common than error codes since it’s time-consuming and calls for the teacher to be able to write clear and accurate explanations for a variety of errors. Sheen (2007)* compared direct and indirect metalinguistic written corrective feedback. Both were effective in increasing accuracy in the learners’ use of articles in subsequent writing completed immediately after the written corrective feedback treatment but the metalinguistic written corrective feedback proved more effective that the direct written corrective feedback in the long term, i.e. in a new piece of writing completed two weeks after the treatment.

* The effect of focused written corrective feedback and language aptitude on ESL learners.

So, metalinguistic explanations of errors appear to be the most effective strategy but it’s time consuming and difficult to implement. This is where Moodle comes to the fore. We can make providing metalinguistic corrective feedback easier and less time-consuming by consolidating resources and making the metalinguistic explanations of errors freely available to learners and teachers. It’s a clever combination of error codes that link to the explanations.

A strategy using the Moodle Glossary module

The Moodle Glossary module allows teachers and learners to collaboratively create glossaries of terms which can include definitions and examples in text, images, audio and/or video. It also has a feature whereby Moodle will automatically insert links to glossary entries on any page in a Moodle course. For example, if we create a glossary entry with the term “lion” with photos and text, anywhere the word “lion” appears on that Moodle course will be automatically linked to the glossary term. When learners click on the link, the glossary term, definition and/or examples appear in a popup window.

For our purposes, we can create a glossary of errors commonly found in learners’ writing. We also use unique error codes as the glossary terms, i.e. cf-article = definite indefinite article error, cf-count = countable/uncountable error, etc. Here’s the metalinguistic corrective feedback glossary summary:

The metalinguistic corrective feedback glossary is a list of common errors found in learners’ written work that is created and maintained by teachers. It works like this:

  1. Learners submit written work, e.g. a writing assignment.
  2. Teachers identify errors in learners’ submissions, e.g. “a” and “the” as definite and indefinite articles.
  3. Teachers find the corrective feedback entries in this glossary that best match learners’ errors. If there isn’t a best match glossary entry, the teacher creates one.
  4. Teachers copy the corrective feedback glossary entry term short-code, e.g. cf-article, and paste it into learners writing.
  5. The glossary module automatically creates a link from the short-code to the corrective feedback glossary entry.
  6. Teachers submit learners’ writing assignment feedback.
  7. Learners review their assignments and when they click on the corrective feedback short-codes, the respective corrective feedback glossary entry is displayed in a popup window.
  8. Learners can then correct their writing and resubmit.

When learners are accustomed to this approach to receiving corrective feedback, the same process can be performed by learners themselves in peer review writing assignments, i.e. learners identify errors in each others’ writing to submit as peer review feedback.

Learners with higher levels of language proficiency can collaboratively create their own glossaries of common errors and find examples, correct them and write summaries of the rules.