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Using feedback

Effective feedback influences student learning outcomes.

Teachers can deliberately use a range of types of implicit feedback (feedback that is not clearly expressed) and explicit feedback on language usage. They can also use a recast.

Find out if students respond to your feedback and correct their language-related errors.

Oliver (2000) found that younger learners preferred recasts, while older learners preferred clarification requests and explicit feedback.

Feedback helps students notice grammatical features

When it is used in the context of language learning, the term "feedback" has certain meanings.

To achieve the best outcomes for bilingual Pasifika students who are learning English as an additional language, teachers need to respond to the language these students use and give specific language-learning. Doing so encourages the students to notice the language form they are using.

Ways to give feedback

There are a number of ways teachers can provide such feedback on language use.

Explicit feedback

Teachers can give students explicit feedback through instructional strategies like telling, directing, and explaining. They can also by provide a correction (telling them what the right language is and directing them to use it) or explaining the error (what is wrong).

Implicit feedback

Teachers can give implicit feedback through instructional strategies like modelling, questioning, and prompting. Other methods include or asking for clarification (by questioning or prompting) or providing a recast (modelling correct language).


A "recast" is a reformulation (rewording) of either what the learner said or of the part that contained an error. Through the reformulation, teachers give a model of a way to use language more accurately.

Teachers (and others) frequently use recasts to give feedback. Teachers (and others) often use recasts to provide feedback

Examples of recasts that focus on grammar might be as follows.


Student: *I very like nature. 

Teacher: Yes, I like nature very much, too.

Teacher: Did you see the pōhutukawa flowers today?

Student: *I no see flowers.

Teacher: You didn’t see the flowers?

Student: *Didn't see the flowers.

Teacher: They’re on the tree in the playground. You can see them out of the window.

Student: *Where School Journal, please?

Teacher: Where is the School Journal, Tina? It’s in the box on my table.

Student: *On table.


Hohepa, Hingaroa Smith, Tuhiwai Smith, and McNaughton give an example of recast the teacher used during a Māori-medium lesson.

This recast focuses on vocabulary. The teacher gives two possible correct answers, using two different Māori words for church. 

Whaea (teacher): He aha teenei? [What is this?]

Child: Um, um, he church. [Um, um, a church.]

Whaea: He haahi teenei. He whare karakia. [ This is a church. A house of prayer.]

Child: Ae. He whare karakia … [Yes. A house of prayer.]

Uptake – taking up and acting on feedback

For learning to occur, the student has to notice and use the correct form.

The use of the interactional techniques described above does not necessarily mean that a student will learn. A problem with recasts is that students may not always notice them.

For learning to occur, the student has to notice and use the correct form. This is called uptake.

You can see that uptake appears to have occurred in the second example of recast use above, because the student repeated the teacher’s recast correctly.

If the teacher stops speaking immediately after the recast, there is a greater likelihood that the student will repeat the last few words and correct their errors. However, even if they do correct the error at this time, they may make the same mistake again at another time.

Learners need many experiences with new language before it becomes an easily accessible part of their language repertoire (collections).

Use your judgement

Use your judgment in deciding how direct to make your feedback on language usage. If a student already knows what the correct form is, then implicit feedback may be enough. If a student does not know the correct form, you may need to give more explicit feedback.

A note about recast "EXAMPLE 2"

Most likely, the child in the second example of recast use already knew the correct form because they began speaking with ”Ae” (Yes) rather than the questioning tone that would be likely if the form was entirely new to them.


  1. An asterisk (*) indicates that the form is incorrect.
  2. Quoted in Ministry of Education, 2003b, page 76.
  3. Note that the conventions used for spelling te reo Māori in the quoted source differ from those used in most Ministry of Education texts.

Exploring your practice

Feedback can help students notice grammar

Try this investigation with a colleague.

Ask your colleague to observe your class during a lesson. Have them take notes about feedback related to EAL students’ language usage and uptake, as suggested in Observations below.

Make a voice or video recording of the lesson. For a video recording, you might want to use a fixed position, that is, place the video on a desk or a tripod.

With your colleague, listen to or watch the lesson. Pay attention to the interactions between you and individual EAL students. This will add to your understanding of colleague’s notes and allow you to hear exactly what took place.

Discuss and evaluate
Together discuss and evaluate the different types of interactions that occurred.

  • Do you have a preference for a particular type of feedback related to EAL students’ language usage?
  • Did you hear any examples of uptake from the students?
  • Could you try using some new kinds of language-related feedback?

Seek input from students
With the students involved, talk about the interactions. Ask them whether the kind of feedback you gave was helpful to them.

Discuss with them the kinds of feedback described above and ask which they think would be most helpful to them.

Talk about ways they could learn to ask you and their peers for the most useful kinds of feedback when they need it.


Note how many times the teacher interacted with individual students.

Note each interaction.

For each interaction, escribe what type of feedback on language usage the teacher gave. For example:

  • They corrected the student’s error.
  • They explained the error.
  • They recast the student’s response.
  • They indicated that they had not understood what the student said because they asked the student to clarify or to repeat what they said.