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62 4 2007

Building Metalinguistic Awareness Through Peer Feedback in


the Beginner EFL Class
Boram Kim
(Seoul Womens University)
Kim, Boram. (2007). Building metalinguisitc awareness through peer feedback in
the beginner EFL class. English Teaching, 62(4), 169-193.
The present research investigates effects of peer review feedback on beginner-level
learners. It focuses on two questions: (1) whether the metalinguistic peer feedback
practice is viable among the beginner-level students and (2) whether the practice helps
promote the students metalinguistic awareness. Metalinguisitc awareness is defined here
as conscious knowledge of the formal aspects of the target language (e.g., grammar).
Two groups (experimental and control) of participants at a beginner-level are examined
by using two instruments: Error correction and justification test and sentence translation
test. In order to examine any difference in metalinguistic awareness over fourteen weeks,
the scores of pre- and post-tests are analyzed using paired samples t-test. For the purpose
of investigating the treatment effect, comparisons are made between experimental and
control groups through independent samples t-test. The results indicate that experimental
group outperforms control group, suggesting that peer review feedback helps promote
the students metalinguistic awareness. It is suggested that through the process of
providing feedback substantial learning may happen to the reviewer students themselves
by enhancing metacognition on their own learning. Concerning viability of the activity,
an affirmative answer is suggested; the beginner-level students as a whole give valid
feedback.

I. INTRODUCTION
Since the distinction between meaning-focused and form-focused instruction was drawn
(e.g., Doughty & Williams, 1998; Harmer, 1982), there has been the observation that
meaning-focused communicative language teaching alone does not lead to the desired level
of language proficiency (Harley & Swain, 1984; Lightbown & Spada, 1990; L. White, 1991).
Although the emphasis on expressing and exchanging message content in communicative
classes promotes the development of fluency, it has been claimed that such instruction is not

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successful in enabling learners to achieve high levels of grammatical and sociolinguistic


accuracy (Swain, 1985). To compensate for this, researchers suggested that some attention
paid to forms through grammar instruction is necessary and that grammar instruction should
be integrated in communicative teaching by presenting grammatical features in context to
learners (Celce-Murcia, 1991; Long, 1988, 1991). Other researchers also pointed out that
some amount of attention to forms is necessary for acquisition to occur (Ellis & Laporte,
1997; Gass, 1997; Schmidt, 1990, 2001; VanPatten, 1990, 1994, 1996).
VanPatten (1990) claimed that learners, especially those with a low level of proficiency
in the L2, have limited processing capacities and thus cannot easily attend to both meaning
and form at the same time. Hence, focus on form1 may not be as effective in a beginners
class as in a high-intermediate or advanced class given that the instructor and students both
primarily focus on using language communicatively in focus on form; beginner level
students opt for whichever pays them greater attention, which is obviously meaning in case
of the instruction with a focus on form approach. It is expected in focus on form that
occasions arise when students choose to focus on form despite the focus on meaning, but
this may not work for the learners with a low level of proficiency according to VanPatten
(1990). In an attempt to help learners take in linguistic information, researchers developed
and examined various teaching techniques (Lightbown, 1998; Lightbown & Spada, 1990;
Sheen, 1996; Simard, 2001; VanPatten & Cadierno, 1993; J. White, 1998; Wong, 2000).
Leow (2001), based on a meta-analysis of the techniques (Norris & Ortega, 2001), claimed
that only studies examining more explicit techniques revealed an overall positive effect on
L2 acquisition, while others examining more implicit techniques provided conflicting
results. One of the more explicit techniques to draw learners attention to form is involving
metalanguage, which has been neglected in language classrooms (Basturkmen, Loewen &
Ellis, 2002). To help raise learners metalinguisitc awareness, metalanguage is often
integrated in teaching techniques and classroom activities. For example, teachers give
metalinguistic feedback in responding to student errors; students engage in metalinguistic
reflection through the use of diary.
It is assumed that beginner students will find a rather explicit technique helpful for them
to pay attention to forms. In this regard, the present study is intended to examine the effect
of the metalinguisitc peer feedback activity on the beginner EFL learners language
awareness. The use of peer feedback in ESL writing classrooms has been generally
supported in the literature as a potentially valuable aid for its social, cognitive, affective,
and methodological benefits (see, for example, Mendona & Johnson, 1994; Villamil & de
Guerrero, 1996), and yet little has been known about the effect of peer feedback using
1

According to Long (1991), focus on form overtly draws students attention to linguistic elements
as they arise incidentally in lessons whose overriding focus is on meaning or communication (pp.
45-46).

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metalanguage although there have been a few studies investigating the effect of corrective
teacher feedback (Brumfit, Mitchell, & Hooper, 1996; Lyster & Ranta, 1997). In this
context, the present study will serve its purpose by examining the viability of the
metalinguisitc peer feedback practice among beginner students and its effect on raising
their awareness in grammar in particular.

II. LITERATURE REVIEW


1. Peer Review Feedback
Although peer review has now become commonplace as one part of the feedback and
revision process of ESL writing classes, doubts on the part of many ESL students are not
uncommon. They feel their peers whose proficiency level is more or less the same as theirs
are not qualified to judge or comment on their written work (Allei & Connor, 1990; George,
1984; Mangelsdorf, 1992; Nelson & Murphy, 1993). It is not surprising that the students,
especially when they are in a lower level writing class, prefer to receive feedback from a
native speaker or a teacher. Such negative attitudes seem to hinder the students from
having productive experience from the peer feedback practice. Zhang (1995) reports that
less than profitable interactions have been found within peer groups because of the
students lack of trust in the accuracy, sincerity, and specificity of the comments by their
peers. The peer feedback practice appears extremely complex to implement requiring
careful training and structuring in order for it to be successful in L2 contexts (Kim, 2001;
Stanley, 1992; Villamil & de Guerrero, 1996). Failure to establish proper procedures or to
engage in pre-training is quite likely to result in less than profitable peer review activities.
Against these negative findings, however, there is more positive evidence from studies
of the effect of peer feedback and student attitudes toward the activity suggesting that peer
review feedback advantages in ESL classes. For example, Rollinson (1998) found that over
80% of his college-level students comments were highly valid. Caulks (1994) study
showed similar results: 89% of the intermediate and advanced level EFL students provided
useful feedback. The study by Kim (2001) also provides positive findings concerning
corrective feedback by peers. Five first-grade high school students in Korea participated in
the case study. Kim claims that peer feedback has much stronger effect on the revision
process than the teachers. Besides, corrective feedback on grammatical errors by the
teacher had little effect; the students repeated the same grammatical errors even after
having corrected them following the teachers feedback. Han (2002) and Park (2007)
parallel Kim (2001) in suggesting that peer corrective feedback has more impact on
students than teacher feedback.

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The genuine sense of audience in the writing classroom will encourage student writers
to formulate their writing in line with the demands of their readers (Keh, 1990; Mittan,
1989); in that way the students are expected to become more serious about what they are
doing and thus feel more responsible for both the process and product of their writing.
Concerning students as reviewers, peer review helps develop their critical reading and
analysis skills so that they will be able to become more critical readers and revisers of their
own writing (Chaudron, 1984; Keh, 1990).

2. Metalinguistic Awareness
1) Relationship Between Metalinguistic Awareness and L2 Proficiency
Considerable interest in metalinguisitc awareness was raised by an increasing consensus
among educators and researchers that a number of L2 learners lack linguistic accuracy in
performance (Alderson & Steel, 1994; Germain & Seguin, 1995; Hammerly, 1991;
Larsen-Freeman, 1995). Not a few studies have investigated the relationship between
metalinguisitc awareness and L2 proficiency and provided conflicting results.
According to van Lier (1998), metalinguistic knowledge and L2 proficiency are
relatively unrelated under the assumption that they are two different constructs. Some
studies provide support for the view that metalinguistic awareness has little to do with L2
proficiency. In research at Lancaster University, Alderson, Clapham, and Steel (1998)
found little relationship between metalinguistic knowledge (as measured by identifying and
correcting ungrammatical sentences and various other tests) and proficiency in French.
Similarly, studies carried out by Liceras (1983) and Ellis and Rathbone (1987) revealed
inconsistencies in the relationship between grammaticality judgment tasks and learners
production.
There is, however, evidence indicating that metalinguistic awareness is a reflection of
developing second language competence (Arthur, 1980; Bialystok & Frhlich, 1978;
Bialystok, 1982; Gass, 1983, 1994; Masny, 1987, 1991; Thomas, 1988). Metalinguistic
awareness is often measured through learners grammaticality judgments and particularly
those which require error correction and justification. Soraces (1985) study showed that
development of learner judgment ability was proportional to improvement in L2
proficiency. Leow (1996), in a similar vein, concluded that learners ability to judge
grammaticality reflected their L2 development based on the quantitative data. The study by
Renou (2001) draws our attention in that not only a written judgment test but an oral
judgment test was used to measure metalinguistic awareness of sixty-four university
advanced learners of French. The results corroborated findings from the previous studies;
the higher a learners metalinguistic awareness, as defined by the score on the two

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judgment tests, the higher the score is likely to be on the French proficiency test. Bialystok
(1982) maintains that even future studies will continue to provide conflicting results as far
as descriptions of metalinguistic awareness and L2 proficiency are made in the light of
underlying task demands; that is, what learners are being asked to do.
2) Pedagogical Activities to Promote Metalinguistic Awareness
The focus of the present study is on developing an activity to promote learners
metalinguistic awareness and examining its effectiveness rather than investigating the
relationship between metalinguistic awareness and L2 proficiency. In this regard, two
noticeable classroom activities to raise metalinguisitc awareness in the literature are
discussed here: Metalinguistic teacher feedback and learner metalinguisitc reflection.
Basturkmen, Loewen, and Ellis (2002) conducted the study to describe the use of
metalanguage by teachers in responding to student errors in the communicative class and
to identify the relationship between the use of metalinguistic feedback and the occurrence
of student uptake movesthat is, the student correctly reformulates the error and produces
the targeted linguistic item. The data were the collection of twelve hours of audio-recorded
teaching involving whole-class interaction as well as interaction between the teacher and
the students, either individually or in small groups. However, interaction between learners
without the teacher was not included in data analyses. The results showed that there was no
significant relationship between metalinguistic feedback by the teacher and the subsequent
use of the target form in student production. Before simply accepting the results, one may
raise a question as to the amount of teacher feedback given to each student. Given that the
single teacher had to deal with more than one students errors in the communicative
classroom, the teachers metalinguistic feedback may have not been sufficient to take effect
on the students. Such an activity appears very demanding to teachers and not very efficient
to students who need to benefit from the teachers ample feedback.
The other way to draw learners attention to form and promote their metalinguisitc awareness
is to have learners verbalize their reflection about language use. In order to elicit metalinguisitc
reflection some researchers used the kind of activities that probe learners intuition with
questions about a specific grammatical point and have them verbalize the strategies they use to
arrive at their understanding of the target grammar point (e..g, Bourguignon & Candelier, 1984;
Bourguignon & Poucho, 1979). Swain (1995, 1998) supports such pedagogical activities
claiming that students in L2 classrooms may make use of SLA processes by using meta-talk,
which refers to the use of language to reflect on language.
Diaries are also used to promote metalinguisitc reflection through written communication.
Some researchers studied the use of a diary as a way of reporting on language itself (Schmidt
& Frota, 1986; Warden, Lapkin, Swain, & Hart, 1995) even though most learner diary studies

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in SLA research have been employed to gather information on affective factors and learner
perception of language learning and learning strategies (Bailey, 1991; Bailey & Ochsner,
1983). For instance, Allison (1998) explored the possibility of enhancing language awareness
of university-level ESL students using the diary. The students enrolled in the course, Meaning
System of English were asked to report their ideas about the meaning and use of English in
their diary entries. The diaries were collected twice by tutors for feedback during the term.
Allison (1998) presented multiple examples of students reflections about language and
concluded that more research was needed to investigate the diary as a tool for promoting
metalinguisitc reflection among L2 learners.
Compared with the use of a diary, the peer feedback practice has one thing in common
with it in that both activities encourage students to use meta-talk themselves rather than to
depend on teachers corrective feedback only. However, the peer review feedback practice
seems more likely to have students engaged in the activity asking for more responsibility,
assuming that interaction between a writer and a reviewer will encourage a collaborative
dialogue in which two-way feedback is established. The present study aims to examine the
viability of metalinguisitc peer feedback in the beginner-level EFL class and its effect on
the students metalinguisitc awareness. The subsequent research questions of the study are
as follows:
1. Is the metalinguisitc peer feedback practice viable among the beginner-level EFL
students?
2. Does peer corrective feedback help promote the students metalinguisitc awareness?

III. METHOD
1. Participants
Fifty-three freshmen at a university in Korea participated in the study. They were
enrolled in a required course entitled, Freshman English II, which has three classified
levels (advanced, intermediate and beginner). Freshman English II is designed to develop
both spoken and written communication skills in English. It deals with various aspects of
language such as conversation strategies, structural knowledge and grammar, vocabulary,
and knowledge of different cultures and customs. The students were placed into two
beginner-level classes based on their TOEIC scores, which ranged from 35 to 350. Each
beginner-level class was assigned a different purpose, that is either experimental or control.

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2. Experimental Conditions
The two beginner-level classes were taught by the same instructor. For both experimental
(n = 26) and control (n = 27) groups, a sentence building assignment was given every week.
The students were asked to compose five sentences about the topic of the week, which was
drawn from the textbook unit covered during the weekthe directions for each assignment
were uploaded onto the online forum of the class (see Figure 1)and upload their work onto
the class web-board. In case of experimental group, the students were to give their classmates
feedback about the use of vocabulary, expressions, and grammar after reviewing the
sentences. They were required to give corrective feedback to more than one peer every week.
The instructor reviewed the students sentences in the following week and presented
suggested sentences in both classes. Therefore, the difference between experimental and
control groups consists in the peer review feedback practice.
FIGURE 1
Example of Sentence Building Assignment

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3. Materials and Procedures


In order to measure the participants metalinguisitc awareness, two testsan error correction
and justification (ECJ) test and a sentence translation (ST) testwere used. The ECJ test
purports to measure knowledge of grammar and structure, whereas the ST test intends to
examine if the participants incorporate their metalinguisitc knowledge into production.
Two equivalent sets of the ECJ test (for pre- and post-test) contained 20 items each,
selected from Barrons 600 TOEIC by Lin Lougheed (2003) (see Appendix A). In the test,
the participants were to identify an error of each sentence, provide grammatical
explanation about the error, and rewrite it. Two sets of the ST test consisted of 10 items
each. The items were developed based on the vocabulary, expressions, and grammar points
from the class materials. The participants were asked to translate each Korean sentence into
English using appropriate vocabulary, expressions, and structure.
Both tests were administered by the instructor in the second class session of the first
week as a pre-test. It was made sure that the participants read the instructions, written in
Korean, about how to respond to each test. They were given maximum of thirty minutes to
finish the ECJ test and 20 minutes to complete the ST test. Two kinds of post-tests were
also administered in the 15th week.
In case of experimental group, they participated in two peer review sessions in class
during the second week as pre-training for giving corrective feedback. Appropriate
language and techniques for providing feedback on peers work were modeled and
discussed during the pre-training sessions. The importance of providing useful feedback
was also discussed in order to make the students fulfill their responsibility. The first
sentence building assignment was given from the second week, and they started giving
feedback from the third week.

4. Analyses
Data from two different types of tests were separately analyzed due to their distinctiveness
in test method facets. For the ECJ test, two sets of 20 items were all included in data analysis.
In case right answer choice is marked and correctly rewritten, the item is scored 2 as in (1a).
When right answer choice is marked but not correctly rewritten, the item is scored 1 as in
(1b). Incorrect answers are scored zero. The maximum score of ERC test is forty.
(1) The restaurant used an age-old marketing strategy of continually attractive new
(A)
(B)
customers and satisfying current customers with good food at good prices.
(C)
(D)

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a. (B) attractive attracting (2 points)


b. (B) attractive attracted (1 point)
Each 10 items from the two sets of the ST test were also included in data analysis. As for
scoring, when the Korean version of a sentence is properly translated into English, it is
scored 2 as shown in (2a). In case there is a single grammatical mistake in number,
agreement, or tense while sentence structure of the translated sentence is correct, it is given
1 point as in (2b) and (2c). Otherwise the item is scored zero. The maximum score of ST
test is twenty.
(2) Na-neun
ujae TV-rul
bomyu maneun sigan-ul bonae-utta.
I-SUBJ yesterday TV-OBJ watching much time-OBJ spend-PAST
a. I spent a lot of / much time watching TV yesterday. (2 points)
b. I spent many time watching TV yesterday. (1 point)
c. I spend a lot of time watching TV yesterday. (1 point)
In order to see whether there is any difference in metalinguisitc awareness among
within-group subjects over fourteen weeks, the scores of two different types of pre- and
post-tests were analyzed using paired (samples) t-test, which is used when you have two
related observations (i.e., two observations per subject) and you want to see if the means
on these two normally distributed interval variables differ from one another.
For the purpose of examining the treatment effect (i.e., effect of metalinguisitc peer
feedback practice), comparisons were made between the data from experimental and
control groups. The data were analyzed using independent samples t-test, which compares
the mean scores of two groups on a given variable. To examine the assumption of the test
that the two groups have approximately equal variance on the dependent variable, Levenes
test for equality of variances was taken. The significance level was set at < .05 for
statistical decisions.

IV. RESULTS
1. Error Correction and Justification Test
It was assumed that initial compositions of the two groups, control and experimental,
were equivalent since they were all placed into a beginner-level class based on their
TOEIC scores. Yet it is necessary to check whether metalinguisitc knowledge (knowledge

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of grammar) of the groups matches each other at the outset, so pre-test scores of the groups
were compared. The result of independent samples t-test on the ECJ pre-test scores is
shown in Table 1. As assumed, it was shown that there was no statistical difference in the
performance of the groups on the ECJ pre-test although there is .10 difference in mean.
TABLE 1
Independent T-test on ECJ Pre-test Scores
Group
Control
Experimental
p < .05

Mean

SD

df

Sig.
(2-tailed)

27
26

9.67
9.77

5.12
5.19

-.07

50.86

.943

In order to see if there is any change in metalinguisitc awareness of each group over fourteen
weeks, mean comparisons between pre- and post-test were made within each group. According
to descriptive statistics (see Table 2), control group did better on post-test. Paired samples t-test
was calculated to examine whether the apparent gain in post-test scores is statistically significant.
TABLE 2
Descriptive Statistics for Control Group
Mean
N
SD
9.67
27
5.12
10.59
27
5.03

Pre-test
Post-test

SD Error Mean
.98
.97

The result (see Table 3) indicates that mean score on post-test significantly differs from
that on pre-test. It appears that metalinguistic knowledge of the students in control group
improved due to the class materials covered in the course; for example, they received
mini-lesson type of grammar instruction and completed sentence-building assignment
using the structure and expressions of the given unit every week.
TABLE 3

Mean
Pair 1
PrePost
p < .05

-.93

Paired T-test within Control Group


Paired Differences
95% Confidence
Interval of the
SD
SD
t
Difference
EM
Lower
Upper
1.49

.29

-1.52

-.36

-3.22

df

Sig
(2-tailed)

26

.003

As for experimental group, the result of paired t-test suggests there is noticeable gain in
post-test. The significance level is less than .05 as reported in Table 4. In addition to being
significant, the difference (5.31) is meaningful because it is relatively large.

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TABLE 4
Paired T-test within Experimental Group
Paired Differences
95% Confidence
SD
Interval of the
SD
t
EM
Difference
Lower
Upper

Mean
Pair 1
PrePost
p < .05

-5.31

5.98

1.17

-7.72

-2.89

-4.52

df

Sig
(2-tailed)

25

.000

Given that both the groups improved in post-test, it is necessary to check if the increase
in the mean for experimental group is due to the treatment (i.e., peer review feedback) or
other possible variables. Therefore, independent samples t-test was conducted. The result is
reported in Table 5. Even though both the groups did better on post-test, the mean score of
experimental group is found to be significantly higher than that of control group. It seems
actual gain of the group can be accounted for by the treatment since the only difference
between experimental and control group lay in the peer review feedback practice. The
students were to recognize errors when reviewing their peer sentences and then give
metalinguistic (grammar) feedback to help their peers improve the sentences. Such a
procedure seems to have promoted their metalinguistic awareness.
TABLE 5
Independent T-test on ECJ Post-test Scores
Group
Control
Experimental
p < .05

Mean

SD

df

Sig.
(2-tailed)

27
26

10.59
15.08

5.03
6.66

-2.77

51

.008

2. Sentence Translation Test


The participants were given ten sentences in their native language and were asked to translate
each into English. According to Larsen-Freeman and Long (1991), such a procedure requires
both the decoding of the stimulus sentence and the encoding of the translation, so that the
participants performance approximates natural speech production. In this sense, this instrument
was used to estimate their capability to bring metalinguistic knowledge into production under
the assumption that metalinguistic awareness did help produce desired output.
Independent samples t-test was calculated with the groups in order to assure equivalence
of the groups in terms of their ability to make use of metalinguistic knowledge for
production. It is revealed in Table 6 that their mean scores on pre-test were not
significantly different, which suggests both experimental and control group matched in
their ability to make use of metalinguistic knowledge at the beginning.

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TABLE 6
Independent T-test on ST Pre-test Scores
Group
Control
Experimental
p < .05

N
27
26

Mean
5.26
5.04

SD
3.00
2.83

df

Sig.
(2-tailed)

.275

51

.785

In order to see if there is any gain over fourteen weeks in their ability to incorporate
metalinguisitc awareness into production, mean comparisons between pre- and post-test
were made within each group.
TABLE 7

Mean
Pair 1
PrePost
p < .05

-7.52

Paired T-test within Control Group


Paired Differences
95% Confidence
SD
Interval of the
SD
t
EM
Difference
Lower
Upper
3.39

.65

-8.86

-6.18

-11.53

df

Sig
(2-tailed)

26

.000

In case of control group, the students scored 7.52 points higher on post-test on the
average. The result of paired t-test indicates the gain is statistically significant (see Table 7).
Considering the .93 mean difference observed in the ECJ post-test, the mean increase in
the ST post-test appears quite large. A possible conjecture is that the students are supposed
to be more familiar with decoding of stimulus sentences and encoding of translation by the
time they take post-test (in the 15th week) because the stimulus sentences were developed
based on the grammar and structure, vocabulary and expressions covered in the course.
TABLE 8

Mean
Pair 1
PrePost
p < .05

-10.0

Paired T-test within Experimental Group


Paired Differences
95% Confidence
SD
Interval of the
SD
t
EM
Difference
Lower
Upper
2.86

.56

-11.15

-8.85

-17.85

df

Sig
(2-tailed)

25

.000

Concerning experimental group, the students scored 10 points higher in the post-test on
the average, and this was found to be significantly higher than the mean of pre-test scores
(see Table 8). Compared with control group, experimental group surpassed them in

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post-test; there is a mean difference of 2.26 between the groups. In order to check whether
superiority of the performance of experimental group to that of control can be accounted
for by the treatment, mean comparison between the groups is required.
TABLE 9
Independent T-test on ST Post-test Scores
Group
Control
Experimental
p < .05

Mean

SD

df

Sig.
(2-tailed)

27
26

12.78
15.04

4.34
2.94

-2.2

45.88

.031

It is shown that the difference is significant at below the .05 probability level set for this
study (see Table 9). It seems actual gain of experimental group, surpassing control group
can be interpreted due to the treatment since the only difference between experimental and
control group consisted in the peer corrective feedback practice. The findings suggest the
peer feedback activity helped promote the students metalinguistic awareness thus being
reflected in their capability to produce desired output.

V. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION


1. Viability of Peer Corrective Feedback among Beginner-Level Learners
The first research question addressed the issue of viability of the metalinguistic peer feedback
practice in the EFL beginner class. Considering the results of the study, the answer is positive. It
is no surprise that there is more doubt about feasibility of the practice since beginner-level
learners are supposed to lack in knowledge of grammar and thus cannot succeed in giving
passable metalinguistic feedback. However, the beginner-level students in the study as a whole
tended to give meaningful feedback. They did not depend only on their own interlanguage
grammar. They knew where to refer to for information which they lack in. Actually, Figure 2
presents how they managed to give metalinguistic feedback in order to help their peers improve
the sentences. The following data is drawn from an informal survey of the students in
experimental group. Only 10% of the students tried to give metalinguistic feedback without any
reference. The rest turned to other sources and received assistance to give their peers better
feedback comments than they themselves can provide.

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FIGURE 2
Ways to Deal with Giving Metalinguistic Feedback

FIGURE 3
Samples of Student Sentences and Related Peer Feedback

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Figure 3 presents samples of grammar feedback given by the students. Even though the
feedback comments do not appear perfect, they are thought of relatively substantial and
detailed considering the fact that those are given by beginner-level students. The beginner
students pointed out mistakes of the sentences exactly explaining the problems with
grammar terms and suggested a remedy. Even though where to present feedback, online or
offline (on paper), was not considered as a variable in the present study, presenting their
feedback on the web board appears to have played a certain role to stimulate more serious
participation of the students. The students may have been more engaged in the activity and
provided responsible comments since presenting their feedback online brings more
responsibility accompanied by an enhanced sense of audience than giving paper-based
feedback (Tsui & Ng, 2000, p. 147). Some researchers suggest that online communication
promotes better participation from students and stimulate interest among them (Chun,
1994; Kern, 1995; Salaberry, 1996). More specifically, it is expected that online peer
feedback will encourage students more to negotiate each other and enhance more practice
of language skills among them thanks to two aspects of online communication. First, such
environment provides chances of immediate interaction through instant feedback (Kern,
1995; Liu & Sadler, 2003). Second, it creates similar learning environment to that of giving

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face-to-face feedback, while it reduces students anxiety better than face-to-face interaction
(Reid, 1994). These aspects were observed among the participant students.
FIGURE 4
Samples of Interaction Between Reviewer and Writer

In case of the first example presented in Figure 4, when the writer, Eun-young finds her

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185

peer Sang-mees feedback inappropriate due to her misinterpreting Eun-youngs sentence,


Eun-young clarifies and justifies the meaning and expression she tried to deliver. In the
second example, the writer, Ji-Hye also tries to clarify intended meaning of her sentences
by explaining her use of the most and but for instance. Besides, when she considers
Eun-youngs metalinguistic feedback about present perfect tense incorrect, Ji-Hye justifies
her use of present perfect tense by arguing. Here we see two-way feedback is established
and that meaning is negotiated, whereas students are likely to end up making revisions
without necessarily agreeing with or even understanding the comments when receiving
feedback on paper.
Taking what is discussed above into account along with the results of experimental study,
such a conclusion can be drawn that peer feedback involving metalanguage is a viable
activity even among beginner-level learners. The students were aware of how to give
metalinguistic feedback and where to get assistance in order to provide useful feedback.
Through the process of managing to give feedback, they seem to have become more
responsible and autonomous learners, which is an unlikely aspect to be observed among
beginners. It appears the use of online community board gave an impetus to the
implementation of peer feedback. The sense of real audience laid more responsibility on
the students, and interactions between the student writer and the student reviewer led them
to take what they are doing more seriously.

2. Effect of Peer Feedback on Metalinguistic Awareness


Results from both tests (error correction and justification test and sentence translation test)
indicate that experimental group outperformed control group, suggesting that peer review
feedback helped promote the students metalinguistic awareness. With regard to the findings
from ST test, they should be interpreted with caution. The test was developed to measure how
much metalinguistic knowledge the students incorporate into production for the purpose of
examining whether their metalinguistic knowledge is activated when they produce translated
sentences rather than investigating any relationship between metalinguistic awareness and
general proficiency. Therefore, the findings do not suggest that growth in the ST post-test is
associated with any growth in proficiency. They simply reveal the students metalinguistic
awareness was operative in production.
Both experimental and control groups carried out sentence-building assignments and
uploaded their sentences onto class web-board every week, but only experimental group
had to review their peer sentences and upload their feedback comments onto the web-board
as well. They detected errors in peer sentences, explained the problems they found often
using grammar terms, and provided improved version of each sentence. Such a procedure
seems to have fostered the students grammatical analysis and the strategy of monitoring. It

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seems through the process of providing feedback substantial learning happened to the
reviewer students themselves, which resulted in increased metalinguistic awareness.
Implications of the study are twofold considering the findings. First, apparently
demanding and complicated activities may work for even beginner-level students as
viability of metalinguistic peer feedback among beginners has been proved in the study. As
far as the beginner group consists of adults, they can manage such activities with proper
pre-training. Their proficiency in English is beginner-level, not their intelligence or
cognition. It is not rare to observe university students complaining about demotivating
in-class activities. They feel frustrated because they think they are treated like children
with having to waste their time with too plain and dull activities. More research is needed
in this area to develop pedagogical activities having beginner-level students engage in and
leading them become autonomous. Second, the findings suggest that conscious knowledge
is required for accurate production since it helps learners notice the gap between their own
output and the target form. Emphasizing metalinguistic knowledge only is dangerous, but
certain degree of metalinguistic awareness is necessary in order to advance toward a higher
level of proficiency as suggested in the literature.

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APPENDIX A
Error Correction and Justification Test
Choose the underlined word or phrase that should be corrected and rewrite it providing appropriate
grammatical explanation.
1. George found it was more productive and less expensive to inspiration loyalty in his
A
B
current customers compared to the cost of advertising to attract new customers.
C
D
2. Joelle cannot compete with the prices of jewelry found in stores, but she is able to
A
persuasion consumers that her handmade products are unique works of art.
B
C
D
3. Adils plan to market his soccer lessons meant persuading boys and girls that soccer
A
was not a short-lived fad and convincing parents that he offered a better service
B
C
comparison to local soccer camps.
D
4. The restaurant used an age-old marketing strategy of continually attractive new
A
B
customers and satisfying current customers with good food at good prices.
C
D

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5. Claude read the required warranty only to find that, while the manufacturer promised
A
B
to repair or replace the CD player, the coverage had expiration.
C
D
6. Before buying a new appliance, compare the characteristics of similar products and
A
their warranties, which protect your purchase and frequently various from product to product.
B
C
D
7. Bassem discovered the consequent of not following instructions: Because he had not
A
had the required service performed on his car, his warranty coverage no longer protected
B
C
D
him from mechanical failure.
8. It is especially important to consideration the reputation of a manufacturer when
A
B
buying a product protected by an implied warranty.
C
D
9. The board warned us that they planned to shut our department down, but we figured in
A
B
C
a way to convince them that we were vital to the organization.
D
10. If the software is not compatible with the operating system, the computer may fail to
A
B
function and shut down without warn.
C
D
11. The new account manager took the initiative of promising to stay on top of orders by
A
B
physical inspecting the warehouse stock.
C
D
12. Ordering as need was discouraged by the provider who was in charge of maintaining
A
B
C
a high capacity turnover.
D
13. A plan to reduce the physical space allotted to each employee is a recurs idea that is
A
B
C
usually initiated by a new manager.
D
14. The company initiating an affordable new program for the division that reduced
A
B
C
wastes and increased capacity.
D
15. The popular new software, which facilitated the process of learning new functions on
A
B
C
an as-needed basis, had been sharp reduced in price.
D
16. Having computer networks has revolutionary not only how information is stored, but
A
B
C
also how it can be processed.
D
17. The manager sent the letter by express mail, but he neglected to have it proof beforehand.
A
B
C
D
18. The letter was revision, then folded with the petition, and sent by express mail.
A
B
C
D
19. You mentioned that the word processing program was revised, but it is still
A
B

Building Metalinguistic Awareness Through Peer Feedback in the Beginner EFL Class

193

extremely complication and I couldnt run the program without reading the manual beforehand.
C
D
20. The layout of the petition must be revised, because it may need to be fold many
B
B
C
D
times if we get a lot of signatures.

Applicable levels: secondary, college education


Key words: metalinguistic awareness, peer feedback, beginner-level students

Boram Kim
Dept. of General Education, General English Program
Seoul Womens University
126, Gongneung 2-dong, Nowon-gu
Seoul 139-774, Korea
E-mail: boramj8@swu.ac.kr
Received in August, 2007
Reviewed in September, 2007
Revised version received in November, 2007