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  • Rebecca Sachs (a1) and Charlene Polio (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 January 2007

This study examines the effectiveness of written error corrections versus reformulations of second language learners' writing as two means of improving learners' grammatical accuracy on a three-stage composition-comparison-revision task. Concurrent verbal protocols were employed during the comparison stage in order to study the learners' reported awareness of the more targetlike reformulations. The reactivity of think-alouds as a research tool was also assessed. First, 15 adult learners of English participated in a repeated-measures study with three experimental conditions: error correction, reformulation, and reformulation + think-aloud. Participant reports of awareness in the reformulation + think-aloud condition suggested that noticing of feedback was related to the accuracy of subsequent revisions. A second nonrepeated-measures study was then carried out with 54 participants; a control group was added and the design was modified in an attempt to eliminate the reported tendency of learners to develop and use memorization strategies while processing the written feedback. In both experiments, participants performed significantly better in the error correction condition than in the reformulation condition. The think-alouds, used to examine learners' attentional processes, were found to be reactive in the first study; learners in the reformulation condition produced significantly more accurate revisions than those who were asked to think aloud while processing the reformulations they received. The results suggest that whereas verbal protocols might be able to shed some light on learner-internal processes in relation to written feedback, they should be employed and interpreted with care.We would like to thank Alison Mackey and the anonymous SSLA reviewers for their helpful suggestions on this article.

Corresponding author
Rebecca Sachs, Georgetown University, Department of Linguistics, Intercultural Center, 4th floor, Washington, DC 20057; e-mail:
Charlene Polio, Michigan State University, Department of Linguistics, Wells Hall, A714, East Lansing, MI 48824; e-mail:
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Studies in Second Language Acquisition
  • ISSN: 0272-2631
  • EISSN: 1470-1545
  • URL: /core/journals/studies-in-second-language-acquisition
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