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System 55 (2015) 111e122

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System
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/system

Exploring non-native English-speaking teachers' cognitions


about corrective feedback in teaching English oral
communication
Muhammad Rahimi, Lawrence Jun Zhang*
Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Auckland, New Zealand

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Exploring teachers' cognitions is a significant endeavour, as teachers' cognitions inform
Received 4 November 2014 their classroom practice, and, in turn, their cognitions are influenced by their teaching
Received in revised form 3 September 2015 experiences. This study explored the differences between novice and experienced non-
Accepted 24 September 2015
native English-speaking teachers' cognitions about corrective feedback (CF) in teaching
Available online xxx
English oral communication. Data were collected from 20 novice and 20 experienced
teachers through a questionnaire and follow-up interviews. Results show statistically
Keywords:
significant differences between the two groups. Teachers' personal experiences influenced
Teacher cognition
Corrective feedback
their cognitions about the necessity of CF and the effectiveness of different CF types and
Oral communication timing. Interview data show teachers' teaching experiences raise their awareness of the
Non-native English-speaking teachers role of mediating factors, namely learner factors, error frequency, types, and severity,
Iran target from difficulty, instructional focus, and task types in their cognitions about the
necessity, timing, and types of CF. In contrast, novice teachers, partially due to their
insufficient teaching experiences, had rigid cognitions about CF. Novice teachers attributed
their cognitions to their personal language learning experiences. As a pedagogical impli-
cation, we recommend that student teachers be provided with opportunities for acquiring
theoretical understanding about CF and translating it into classroom practice.
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

Teaching is a dynamic, complex, and situated activity which requires teachers' online decision-making (Kumaravadivelu,
2014). One such online decision making is providing corrective feedback (CF), which is an incidental rather than designed
aspect of language teaching in most cases. When learners make errors, teachers usually decide spontaneously about whether
to provide or withhold CF, about CF strategies, and also about the timing of providing CF. Evidently, these decisions are
influenced by teachers' cognitions, an amalgam of “what they know, believe, and think” about teaching (Borg, 2003, p. 81; see
also Borg, 2011).
However, research on teacher cognition about CF and specifically how teachers CF cognition is (trans)formed is scant. In
her recent review, Basturkmen (2012) has proposed that research on teacher cognition should move beyond designed aspects
of teaching to incidental aspects (e.g., CF) and from case studies to comparative studies (e.g., novice and experienced
teachers). She has argued that most research has employed case studies, which have yielded contradictory findings, and that

* Corresponding author. Faculty of Education and Social Work, School of Curriculum and Pedagogy, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92601, Symonds
Street, Auckland 1150, New Zealand. Tel.: þ64 9 6238899x48750 (office), þ64 221633268 (mobile).
E-mail address: lj.zhang@auckland.ac.nz (L.J. Zhang).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2015.09.006
0346-251X/© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
112 M. Rahimi, L.J. Zhang / System 55 (2015) 111e122

there is not enough research on teachers' cognitions about the incidental aspects of teaching (e.g., CF). More importantly, in
the general teacher education and language teacher education literature, it has been documented that experienced and
novice teachers are different in classroom decision-making (see e.g., Akbari & Tajik, 2010; Pajares, 1992). Nevertheless, it is
unclear whether such a pattern would be typically embodied in teachers' cognition about CF. This disciplinary knowledge gap
and also the need for a new methodological approach motivated this research project. This study endeavours to fill this lacuna
by exploring the differences between experienced and novice teachers' cognitions about three fundamental aspects of CF,
namely necessity, types, and timing of CF (Ellis, 2009) to contribute to our understanding of subtleties of teacher cognition
trans(formation) about CF in order to provide potential insights into language teacher education.

2. Literature review

2.1. Research findings on the effectiveness of CF and teachers' CF beliefs

Studies have been undertaken on ESL/EFL teachers' cognitions about the diverse aspects of their practice (Goh, Zhang, Koh,
& Ng, 2005), including teaching grammar (Borg & Burns, 2008), reading (Atai & Fatahi-Majd, 2014), writing (Ferris, 2014),
listening (Graham, Santos, & Francis-Brophy, 2014), speaking (Baleghizadeh & Nasrollahi Shahri, 2014), and pronunciation
(e.g., Baker, 2014). However, a few studies have explored teachers' cognitions about CF and how such cognitions are (trans)
formed (e.g., Junqueira & Kim, 2013; Kamiya, 2014; Roothooft, 2014).
Earlier research (e.g., Lyster & Ranta, 1997) have developed taxonomies of CF types that teachers used in their practice and
explored: 1) teachers' rationale for CF (Fanselow, 1977), 2) attitude towards CF (Nystrom, 1983), 3) awareness, 4) beliefs, and
5) perception about CF (Long, 1977), and 6) their reasoning for providing different types of CF (Chaudron, 1986; Nystrom,
1983). This line of inquiry into CF has been extended by experimental studies that examined the differential impact of
various CF types on learners' CF uptake, production, and learning (e.g., Rahimi & Zhang, 2013; Nassaji, 2013; Shegar, Zhang, &
Low, 2013; Rassaei, 2013).
Taken together, meta-analytic reviews of research on the effectiveness of CF (e.g. Li, 2010) show that CF is effective and the
effectiveness of CF is mediated by instructional setting variables, student variables, target form variables, and teacher vari-
ables, among others. Additionally, classroom CF research (see Brown, 2014, for a meta-analytic review) demonstrates that
recasts comprise 57% of all CF, whereas prompts account for 30% (Brown, 2014). Brown also identified moderators (e.g.,
student variables, teacher variables, classroom setting variables) that may affect teachers' CF provision. Echoing prior research
results (e.g., Mackey, Polio, & McDonough, 2004), Brown's synthesis revealed that target forms (i.e., phonological, gram-
matical, lexical, or pragmatic errors that teachers' correct) influenced teachers' provision of CF, and that syntactic errors
obtained the highest percentage of CF (43%).
Moreover, Basturkmen's (2012) review of research on the relationships between teachers' beliefs and practices yielded
contradictory findings. The review reveals the mediating role of context in, and constraints on, the relationship between
teachers' beliefs and practices; correspondences were found mainly between experienced teachers' stated beliefs and
practices and also between teachers' beliefs about and practices of planned aspects of teaching. There was not enough
research to reach conclusions on the correspondence or lack of correspondence between teachers' beliefs and practices of
unplanned aspects of teaching (e.g., CF). Basturkmen (2012) argued that this contradictory finding can be partially attributed
to case study methodology used in research to date. She proposed that research move beyond case studies. For instance, she
recommended further research on the beliefs of experienced versus inexperienced teachers and on the teachers' beliefs in
relation to planned (e.g., task design) vs. incidental (e.g., CF) aspects of their teaching (see Rahimi & Zhang, 2013).

2.2. Research on novice and experienced language teachers' cognitions about language teaching

Research into teacher cognitions is significant, as what teachers believe and practice are key to their success in teaching
and student success in learning (Barnard & Burns, 2012). In fact, research into teachers' cognitions and especially on factors
that influence (trans)forming such cognitions are imperative for informing teacher education, as student teachers' cognitions
are unlikely to be influenced by reading research articles and assigned reading materials alone (Junqueira & Kim, 2013; Kagan,
1992; Va'squez & Harvey, 2010). One factor that is shown to influence teachers' cognitions is experience, particularly their
previous teaching experience (Mok, 1994) and language learning experience (Borg, 2009; Farrell, 2009, 2014). Although
studies exploring novice and experienced teachers' cognitions in the general teacher education field abound (e.g., Doganay &
Ozturk, 2011; Melnick & Meister, 2008; Peterson & Comeaux, 1987; Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2007), and there are a growing
number of studies on language teachers' cognitions (e.g., Akbari & Tajik, 2012; Akyel, 1997; Gao & Ma, 2011; Gatbonton, 2008;
Mok, 1994; Rahmani Doqaruni, 2015), studies comparing novice and experienced teachers' cognition about CF are scan in the
literature.
In the field of language teacher education, studies comparing experienced and novice teachers have shown differences in
teachers' pedagogical practices. For example, Akyel's (1997) comparative study of experienced and novice ESL teachers
revealed that while novice teachers were concerned about sustaining the smooth flow of their instructional activities and
appropriateness of their instructional strategies and considered learners' incomplete responses and initiations as barriers,
experienced teachers showed flexibility in their instructional strategies and considered a wider range of instructional options
in their practices. Richards, Li, and Tang' (1998) study of L2 reading teachers showed that novice teachers had a limited
M. Rahimi, L.J. Zhang / System 55 (2015) 111e122 113

understanding of L2 reading as compared with the experienced teachers. Tsui (2009) found three critical differences between
expert and non-expert teachers: ability in integrating their knowledge into instructional practices, consideration of the
contextual factors in their practices, and engagement in conscious reflection and deliberation. Rahmani Doqaruni's (2015)
study of novice and experienced teachers' use of communication strategies (CS) in dealing with the difficulty of communi-
cating their intended meaning in the classroom show that the novice teachers used relatively the same pattern of CS in their
oral communication, while their experienced counterpart used the least number of CSs. Rahmani interpreted this finding as a
sign of transformation in these teachers' cognitions as a result of their teaching experience over time.
However, comparative studies on language teachers' cognitions have yielded contradictory findings partially due to the
case study methodology (see Basturkmen, 2012; for comments). Gatbonton (2008), for example, found both similarities and
difference in the novice and experiences teachers' pedagogical knowledge base (PK). The novice teachers were concerned
about their relationship with their students and the students' reaction to their instruction rather than instructional pro-
cedures and learning outcomes with which experienced teachers were preoccupied. Gatbonton posited that similarities
between two groups' PK indicate that certain aspects of PK can be acquired by “apprenticeship of observation”, but the
differences suggest that intervention is imperative for teachers to acquire other aspects. In contrast, Watzke (2007) found that
regardless of teaching experience, teachers were concerned with students' learning outcomes and well-being. These findings
contradict those of Berliner's (1986) and Nunan's (1992) studies, which revealed that teachers started their career mainly
preoccupied with self-image and classroom management issues, while experienced teachers concentrated more on
instructional procedures and student learning outcomes. Akbari and Tajik (2010) also found a critical difference between
novice and experience teachers with regard to their PK priorities; novice teachers ranked “language management” as their
top pedagogical thought category, whereas “self-reflection” was the experienced teachers' number one preoccupation. These
contradictory findings with regard to the role of experience in the (trans)formation of teachers' cognitions calls for further
research to identify 1) the similarities and differences between novice and experienced teachers and 2) aspects of language
teaching expertise, which can only be acquired through intervention. Once these findings are available, they can be used for
providing potential insights into language teacher education.

2.3. Research on novice and experienced language teachers' cognitions about CF

With regard to the novice and experienced teachers' cognition about CF, two studies investigated novice and experienced
ESL teachers' CF beliefs and practices (Junqueira & Kim, 2013; Mackey et al., 2004). Junqueira and Kim (2013) collected data
through observations, stimulated recalls, and interviews. Their findings show that the amount of CF that teachers provided
and learners' uptake and repair in both teachers' classes were comparable. However, the experienced teacher provided more
CF types, with more balanced proportions across target forms. Teachers' teaching experience and training did not seem to
affect teachers' beliefs about the inefficacy of CF, whereas teachers' language learning experience appeared to have a greater
role in affecting both teachers' beliefs about the inefficacy of CF.
Mackey et al. (2004) explored the impact of ESL teachers' teaching experience and education on their awareness and use of
incidental focus-on-form episodes (FoFE), which is also referred to as incidental CF. Their results show that the experienced
teachers exploited FoFE more frequently than their inexperienced counterparts to draw the learners' attention to the
ungrammaticality of the learners' utterances. In contrast, the novice teacher commented on the semantic content of the
learners' errors and ignored the ungrammaticality of their utterances. These authors conducted a follow-up short-term
workshop to investigate its impact on the novice teachers' awareness and use of FoFE. The short-term workshop raised
teachers' awareness of FoFE, but teachers were not able to integrate their FoFE awareness into practice. The authors suggested
these teachers might gain such ability with experience.
As Mackey et al. (2004) and Junqueira and Kim (2013) have convincingly observed, classroom teaching experience has an
important impact on teacher' cognitions about CF, and further research is warranted to investigate the role of experience in
(trans)forming teachers' cognition. Additionally, from a methodological perspective, adopting mixed-methods approaches is
imperative to better understand the nature and sources of teachers' cognitions about CF (Basturkmen, 2012). Evidently,
studies on the effectiveness of CF, classroom-based observational research on CF, language teachers' cognitions, and novice
and experienced teachers' cognitions abound. However, there is a paucity of comparative studies on novice and experienced
EFL teachers' cognitions and sources of their cognitions about CF (Junqueira & Kim, 2013). This study endeavours to fill this
void and provide potential insights into language teacher education. Motivated by Basturkmen's (2012, p. 282) call for
“research agenda beyond case studies”, we used a mixed methods design to explore the differences between experienced and
novice teachers' cognitions about three fundamental aspects of CF (see Ellis, 2009) and their reasoning for their cognitions.
Comparing teachers' cognitions about the other aspects of CF and the relationships between teachers' cognitions about, and
practices in, CF are beyond the scope of this study. Specifically, this study was designed to seek answers to the following
research questions:

1) Are there any significant differences between the novice and experienced teachers' cognitions about the necessity of CF?
2) Are there any significant differences between the novice and experienced teachers' cognitions about the timing of CF?
3) Are there any significant differences between the novice and experienced teachers' cognitions about the types of CF?
4) What do the novice and the experienced teachers attribute their cognitions about CF to?
114 M. Rahimi, L.J. Zhang / System 55 (2015) 111e122

3. Method

3.1. Context of the study

Language education in Iran is provided by mainstream formal schooling system and private language schools. The main
objective of teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) at public schools is to assist students to achieve survival level
communicative competence in order to be able to communicate with others (Secretariat of the Higher Council of Education,
2006, cited in Farhady & Hedayati, 2009). Despite the attempts made to implement communicative language teaching
approaches in Iran's mainstream schooling system by modifying English textbooks and promoting formative assessment
rather than summative testing, the outcome is unsatisfactory (Farhady & Hedayati, 2009). This unsatisfactory outcome is
partially due to the washback effect of summative discrete-point language tests. Because of the discrete-point nature of
University Entrance Exam and language tests at all grades, students are concerned with high performance on the tests
rather than achieving communicative ability. Consequently, teachers are not able to implement the communicative
approach curriculum which is aimed at enabling students to achieve communicative competence (Safarnavadeh, 2004;
Zhang & Ben Said, 2014).
Private schools in Iran provide both intensive and extensive English language courses based on the principles of
communicative approaches (Rahimi & Zhang, 2013; Zhang & Rahimi, 2014). Typically, English courses are taught by near-
native English-speaking teachers who hold university degrees (e.g., BA) in teaching English a foreign language (TEFL). The
main objective of these courses is to enable students to communicate with others in both oral and written English. Prepa-
ratory courses for international tests such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Test of English
as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) Internet-based Test (iBT) are also offered. The language schools where this study was con-
ducted offer English conversation courses for all proficiency levels.

3.2. Participants

The participants, 40 non-native English-speaking teachers, were recruited from among teachers teaching oral commu-
nication classes in private language schools due to a popular demand in Iran for improving English oral communication skills
rather than public schools or universities, as in these two institutions language teaching is reading-based and oral
communication is not emphasized (Zhang & Rahimi, 2014). The teacher participants' experience varied from less than one
year to 15 years, and they were teaching low-intermediate to advanced level oral communication classes. They were male and
female teachers whose age ranged between 24 and 45 years. All teachers had a Bachelor Degree in teaching EFL, and had
attended pre-service teacher training courses at the private schools. In the literature (e.g., Gatbonton, 2008), teachers with
more than four to five years of teaching experience and those with less than two years of experience are considered expe-
rienced and novice, respectively. Twenty novice teachers with less than one year experience and 20 experienced teachers
with more than five years’ experience from among 180 teachers working at private language schools in central Iran were
recruited via an invitation email message to participate in this study on a voluntary basis. Teachers were advised that they
might be invited to participate in an interview and member checking sessions on a voluntary basis. They were informed that
they could withdraw from the study at any stage without any consequences. The participating teachers had received similar
teacher education and were teaching in a similar context. The most important difference between the novice and experienced
teachers was their classroom teaching experience.

3.3. Instruments and procedures

3.3.1. Teacher questionnaire


For this study, the first author distributed a questionnaire, adapted from Fukuda (2004), to teachers to investigate their
cognitions about CF. The questionnaire has two sections. The first section was designed to collect background information
about teachers, including their gender, university degree, and the experience of teaching EFL. The second section includes
twelve questions investigating teachers' cognitions about the necessity of error correction, timing of error correction, and
types of corrective feedback (Ellis, 2009). As this study aimed at exploring teachers' cognitions about the effectiveness of
timing of CF, rather than teachers' agreement or disagreement with different timing of CF, the Likert-type scales measuring
agreement (1 ¼ strongly disagree to 5 ¼ strongly disagree) were changed to scales measuring effectiveness (1 ¼ Very
ineffective to 5 ¼ Very effective). To identify the teachers' reasoning for, and sources of, their cognitions about CF, follow-up
semi-structured interviews (Fontana & Frey, 1994), designed based on the teachers' responses to the questionnaire items,
were conducted with randomly selected five novice and five experienced teachers from among 40 teachers who completed
the CF cognitions questionnaire.

3.4. Data collection and analysis procedure

In the first phase of the data collection, the first author distributed the questionnaire to the novice and experienced EFL
teachers in the schools' staffroom. The teachers were requested to return the completed questionnaire in two weeks to the
M. Rahimi, L.J. Zhang / System 55 (2015) 111e122 115

secretary of the school. The items of the questionnaire were divided into three categories: The necessity of CF, the timing of CF,
and the methods of CF. The teachers were asked to rate the items on a 5-point Likert-type scale.
In the second phase of the study, 10 teachers (five teachers from each group) were randomly selected and invited to
participate in the interview, which was conducted in Farsi and English. The teachers did not know the interview questions.
The interviews were recorded with the consent of the participants and transcribed by the first author. The interviews were
conducted in private language schools in central Iran and each interview took 27 min.
After ensuring that the collected data met the assumptions of the t-test and that the questionnaire data, the Likert-type
scale section, enjoyed acceptable level of reliability, (a ¼ 0.78), we ran t-tests to analyse quantitative data to examine if there
were statistically significant differences between the two groups' cognitions about CF. Further analysis was also conducted to
identify the percentage of teachers' ratings for questionnaire items.
A deductive approach (Patton, 2002) guided by research question 4 was used to analyse the interview data. The analysis
was conducted by the iterative reading of the transcripts to look for typical patterns of teachers' reasoning for, and sources of,
their CF cognitions. Two coders, who were well versed in the CF literature, coded the qualitative data. Their coding agreement
reached 87%; their disagreements in coding were resolved through discussion. The coders' interpretations of teachers'
interview data were submitted to the teachers in a separate meeting held with each teacher (member-checking) for their
confirmation. Teachers agreed with the coders' interpretation of their data. The findings of the qualitative data corroborated
those of the quantitative data. Triangulation of the quantitative and qualitative data, one of the merits of mixed methods
design, further ensured the validity of the collected data.

4. Results and discussion

4.1. Novice vs. experienced teachers' cognitions

4.1.1. Necessity of error correction


For Question 1 on the questionnaire, the teachers were requested to rate the statement, “Students' spoken errors should be
corrected.” As Table 1 shows, the mean score of the experienced teachers (M ¼ 4.50) was higher than that of the novice
teachers (M ¼ 3.75). The result indicated that the experienced teachers favoured error correction more than their novice
colleagues. Ninety percent of the experienced teachers and 75% of the novice teachers responded with “strongly agree” or
“agree” to Question 1. It is interesting that none of the teachers strongly disagreed with the statement.
As Table 2 demonstrates, the findings indicate that both groups of teachers agreed with correcting students' errors in oral
communication classes; the experienced teachers, however, believed in the importance of providing CF to a much greater
extent than the novice teachers did. The discrepancies between the two groups' responses were statistically significant
t(38) ¼ 3.21, p ¼ 0.003, with a large effect size, d ¼ 1.01.
Both the novice and experienced teachers believed that providing CF is the teachers' responsibility; however, they
attributed their cognitions to different sources. The novice teachers believed that teachers have to correct learners' errors;
they believed that students need to be assured that they are using correct forms. They asserted that not giving CF can confuse
the students. They highlighted their own language learning experience as a source of their cognitions, as shown in the extract
of the interview with Siamak.
As students, we expected our teachers to give us the correct form of our errors, so that we could improve our language
proficiency. My classmates and I did not like lenient teachers who did not give us any CF. We did not like to keep talking
during language classes without learning. Actually, it is the teachers' responsibility to give corrective feedback. (Siamak,
Novice teacher, Interview: 11/12/2013)
The experienced teachers also emphasized on drawing learners' attention to their errors and helping them develop their
interlanguage; however, they attributed their cognitions to their teaching experience. Such a pattern is typically represented
in the interview with Mohsen.
By teaching different students with different proficiency levels, emotional and psychological status, and language
learning aptitudes, I have come to the conclusion that students like to be corrected. Students like to be corrected in
different ways, though. I do believe that CF works; students typically do not repeat the same errors in their following

Table 1
Novice vs. experienced teachers' responses on the necessity of error correction.

Necessity of CF Groups Total

Novice Experienced
Disagree 3 1 4
Undecided 2 1 3
Agree 13 15 28
Strongly agree 2 3 5
Total 20 20 40
116 M. Rahimi, L.J. Zhang / System 55 (2015) 111e122

Table 2
Comparison of responses on the necessity of error correction: novice vs. experienced teachers.

N Mean SD t df Sig. (2-tailed) d


Novice 20 3.75 0.910 3.21 38 0.003 1.01
Experienced 20 4.50 0.512

Note. d ¼ effect size.

productions, but I take many factors into account in providing CF to increase the effectiveness of CF. (Mohsen, Expe-
rienced teacher Interview: 13/12/2013)
Understandably, novice and experienced teachers' to their learning and teaching experience, respectively, as evidence for
their cognitions about CF can be explained, to some extent, by the recency of their experiences. In line with prior research
(Junqueira & Kim, 2013; Kagan, 1992; Kennedy, 1997; Va'squez & Harvey, 2010), teachers stated their experience, not their
teacher training courses, as a source of their cognitions.
In addition, our triangulation of the qualitative data and the quantitative data shows that the findings are in line with
previous research (Borg, 2006; Junqueira & Kim, 2013; Mori, 2011); namely, teachers' cognitions are influenced by their
experience as language learners and teachers. Also, our study shows that teachers consider providing CF as their re-
sponsibility. This finding is also reported in prior studies (e.g., Chaudron, 1988). However, the findings regarding EFL teachers'
cognitions about the necessity of providing CF contradict ESL teachers' stated beliefs (e.g., Junqueira & Kim, 2013), which
suggests that teaching contexts influence teachers' cognitions.

4.2. Methods of corrective feedback

The second category of items on the questionnaire targeted the teachers' cognitions about the effectiveness of CF types.
The category comprised seven methods of CF types, including, recasts, repetition, clarification request, elicitation, explicit
feedback, metalinguistic feedback, and no CF (Ellis, 2009).
Table 3 reflects the novice and experienced teachers' cognitions about the effectiveness of each CF types. Recast (M ¼ 3.75)
and Clarification request (M ¼ 3.55) had the highest mean among the novice teachers, whereas explicit feedback (M ¼ 3.90)
and Recast (M ¼ 3.80) had the highest mean among the experienced teachers. No CF had the lowest mean for the experienced
teachers, while elicitation request and explicit CF had the lowest mean for the novice teachers. These findings show the
differences between the novice and experienced teachers' cognitions about the effectiveness of CF types.
Table 3 shows that the differences between the novice teachers and experienced teachers' cognitions about explicit CF,
t(38) ¼ 4.932, p < 0.001, d ¼ 1.56 and metalinguistic CF, t(38) ¼ 3.395, p ¼ 0.002, d ¼ 1.08 were statistically significant, with
a large effect size for each. In other words, the experienced teachers favoured explicit CF and metalinguistic CF as effective
methods for error treatment, while the novice teachers considered them ineffective.
The highest statistically significant difference between the two groups' cognitions about CF types was the effectiveness of
the explicit CF. Seventy-five percent of the experienced teachers believed that explicit CF was effective, whereas only 15% of
the novice teachers regarded it as effective. The finding suggests that the experienced teachers believed in the value of explicit
CF for their students' L2 acquisition. On the other hand, novice teachers did not consider explicit CF as an effective CF type for
enhancing L2 learners' oral communication skills. There were statistically significant differences between the two groups of
teachers with regard to the effectiveness of metalinguistic CF. Sixty percent of the experienced teachers believed that
metalinguistic feedback is effective, whereas only 15% of the novice teachers did so.
Table 4 shows a percentage compilation of the novice and experienced teachers' cognitions. Recast (70%) and clarification
request (60%) were the most favoured methods of CF among the novice teachers. Repetition and elicitation with 50% each
were the third most favoured error treatment method, while explicit CF, metalinguistic feedback, and No CF were recognized
as the least effective methods (15% each) by the novice teachers. The findings indicate that the novice teachers favoured
implicit CF to the explicit CF types. Follow-up interview data reflected these teachers' language learning experience as a

Table 3
Responses on the methods of corrective feedback: novice vs. experienced teachers.

Types of feedback Experienced teachers Novice teachers t df Sig. (2-Tailed) d

M SD M SD
Clarification request 3.75 1.11803 3.55 1.14593 0.559 38 0.580 0.22
Repetition 3.60 1.23117 3.25 1.25132 0.892 38 0.378 0.28
Explicit feedback 3.90 0.91191 2.30 1.12858 4.932 38 0.000 1.56
Elicitation 3.55 1.09904 2.30 0.97872 0.760 38 0.452 1.21
No corrective feedback 1.95 0.82558 2.35 1.08942 1.309 38 0.198 0.41
Metalinguistic feedback 3.55 0.88704 2.60 0.88258 3.395 38 0.002 1.08
Recasts 3.80 0.95145 3.75 0.71635 0.188 38 0.852 0.06

Note. d ¼ effect size.


M. Rahimi, L.J. Zhang / System 55 (2015) 111e122 117

Table 4
Comparison of teachers’ responses on the effectiveness of methods of corrective feedback (%): novice vs. experienced teachers.

Types of feedback Very effective Effective Neutral Ineffective Very ineffective

Novice Experienced Novice Experienced Novice Experienced Novice Experienced Novice Experienced
Clarification 20 25 40 45 20 15 15 10 5 5
Repetition 15 20 35 50 20 10 20 10 10 10
Explicit 5 25 10 50 20 15 40 10 25 0
Elicitation 5 15 45 50 30 15 15 15 5 5
No CF 5 0 10 5 20 15 45 50 20 30
Metalinguistic 0 10 15 50 40 25 35 15 10 0
Recasts 10 20 60 55 25 10 5 15 0 0

source of their rigid cognitions about CF. They believed that what worked for them as language learners will work for others
as well, and they were concerned with saving their students' face. Elham's comments are most compelling.
Telling students directly that their sentences are incorrect can make them anxious and discourage them from speaking
in front of their classmates. I remember when my friend and I were learning English; we didn't like to be mocked by our
classmates, when our teachers corrected our errors by explaining that what we said was incorrect, and why it was
incorrect. (Elham, Novice teacher, Interview: 11/12/2013)
Another novice teacher, Siamak, stated:
I believe teachers should not point out students' errors explicitly. As a language learner, whenever I received explicit
feedback, I got anxious and lost track of my thought because I had to think about what I was going to say and also listen
to the teachers' feedback. But when the teacher did not interrupt me by just repeating correct form of my errors, I
would continue speaking without becoming very anxious and losing track of what I wanted to say. (Siamak, Novice
teacher, Interview: 11/12/2013)
However, the experienced teachers considered both implicit and explicit CF types almost equally effective. They rated
recast and explicit CF as the most effective (75% each), clarification and repetition as the second most effective (70% each),
elicitation (65%) and metalinguistic (60%) as the third and fourth most effective, and no CF (5%) as the least effective CF types.
These findings indicate that, although the experienced teachers provided explicit CF on their students' utterances that
deviated from the target forms, they also provided opportunities for their students to do self-correction instead of entirely
relying on their teachers' correction. Explicit CF assists learners in acquiring target forms by drawing their attention to the
error, whereas indirect CF can help learners acquire self-editorial skills (Rahimi & Zhang, 2013).
Our findings suggest that the experienced teachers believed in the equal effectiveness of various CF types. Further, follow-
up interviews with the experienced teachers revealed that these teachers considered the significant role of contextual and
individual factors in providing CF (e.g., students' proficiency level, level of anxiety, and types of error). The experienced
teachers commented that “The effectiveness of CF types depends on the type of error, the type of learning task, and the
student who makes the error” (Nasim, Experienced Teacher, Interview: 13/12/2013). They also stated that their classroom
practices have helped them realize the importance of different types of CF, as is shown in an experienced teacher, Nasim's
comments:
My teaching experience tells me that I should monitor what works and how it works for each individual learner's
different errors in different learning activities; there is no one single CF type that works for all individuals and all error
types in all learning activities” (Nasim, Experienced teacher, Interview: 13/12/2013).
The experienced teachers direct students' attention to the ill-formed utterances and allow students to self-correct errors
that they can self-correct (Ellis, 2009). These teachers believed that providing explicit feedback in such cases was inappro-
priate because the teachers' explicit feedback in such cases may deny learners opportunities to produce “pushed output”
(Swain & Lapkin, 2002), which is believed to be conducive to L2 acquisition. In light of the interview data, on the other hand, if
the experienced teacher believed that the students cannot self-correct errors (e.g., after providing opportunities for self- and
peer correction), they give explicit CF.
When my students make errors, I alert them to do self-correction. I do not want to interfere with the flow of their
communication. If it is a serious error, which makes their production incomprehensible, I give them the correct form of
their errors. If they do not understand my correction and repeat the error, I explain the underlying rules because it
shows that they have not learned the rules yet. Even sometimes I ask them to repeat the correct form several times, for
example, in the case of pronunciation errors (Mohsen, Experienced teacher, Interview: 13/12/2013).
The experienced teachers also believed in providing explicit CF as they considered metalinguistic knowledge significant in
their students' learning journey (Rahim & Zhang, 2013; Zhang, 2010). Overall, the experienced teachers' cognitions about CF
(their being in favour of both CF types), which might appear contradictory to an outsider, indicate their flexible cognitions
about CF. These teachers attributed their flexibility in their cognition to their considering the role of individual learner factors,
118 M. Rahimi, L.J. Zhang / System 55 (2015) 111e122

types and severity of errors, instructional focus, and task types in providing CF. Although classroom teaching experience was
the most important difference between the two groups and both groups had received similar education and teacher training
program, the differences between the two groups ’cognitions about CF can partially be attributed to their teaching experience.
Both the quantitative and follow-up qualitative data indicate the flexibility of the experienced teachers' cognitions about
CF and the novice teachers’ rigidity. While the experienced teachers believed that their teaching experiences influenced their
cognitions about CF (e.g., Kang & Cheng, 2014), novice teachers highlighted the role of their own language learning expe-
rience in affecting their cognitions. It is unexpected that neither group mentioned their teacher education programs as a
factor influencing their cognitions about CF, which corroborate some recent findings along this line of research (e.g., Junqueira
& Kim, 2013; Va'squez & Harvey, 2010).

4.3. Timing of error correction

Questions 2 to 5 in the questionnaire were designed to elicit teachers' cognitions about the effectiveness of the four
different times to correct learners' oral production errors. The category comprised four items: (3) immediately after errors
occur even it interrupts oral production, (4) right at the end of students' oral production, (5) after the activities end, and (6) at
the conclusion of class. Table 5 shows the teachers’ cognitions about CF timing. Among the four options, “at the conclusion of
class” received the lowest mean from novice and experienced teachers (M ¼ 2.30 and M ¼ 2.55, respectively). “As soon as
errors are made” received the highest mean score from the experienced teachers (M ¼ 4.05), whereas “after the student
finishes speaking” received the highest mean (M ¼ 3.80) from the novice teachers.
Table 5 also shows that the differences between the novice teachers and experienced teachers’ cognitions about the
effectiveness of immediate CF, t(38) ¼ 5.522, p < 0.001, d ¼ 1.75, and CF after the activity, t(38) ¼ 3.688, p ¼ 0.001, d ¼ 1.16
were statistically significant; the effect sizes for both were large. In other words, the experienced teachers believed that
immediate CF and CF after the activity were appropriate times for error treatment, while novice teachers did not believe in the
effectives of CF provision in these two times. CF after the student finishes speaking was considered appropriate by both
groups, while CF at the end of class was conceived by both groups inappropriate.
The survey results are illustrated in Table 6. Eighty percent of the experienced teachers rated immediate CF very effective
or effective. On the contrary, a mere 15% of the novice teachers considered correcting their students' erroneous utterances as
soon as they occurred. For “CF after students finish talking”, there was no statistically significant difference between the
novice teachers (70%) and experienced teachers (75%). The difference was negligible; almost the same percentage of both
groups regarded “CF after students finish talking” as the suitable time to correct students' erroneous forms. There were
statistically significant discrepancies between the two groups of teachers with regard to correcting errors “after the activ-
ities”. Seventy percent of the experienced teachers rated “after the activities” very effective or effective. They agreed that
learners' errors should be treated “after the activities”, whereas only 20% of the novice teachers regarded correction “after the
activities” effective. With regard to treating students' errors at the conclusion of class, 70% of the novice and 60% of the
experienced teachers considered correcting students' errors at this time very ineffective or ineffective. They believed that the
students' erroneous utterances should be corrected right after they occur even if CF hampers the flow of students' oral
production. They were focused more on drawing learners' attention to accuracy in their spoken English; the experienced
teachers regarded accuracy and fluency as crucial factors for their students' interlanguage development. Both groups believed
that treating students' errors after students complete their talk can augment the accuracy and fluency of their oral production
since it provides opportunities to direct students’ attention to their erroneous utterance without interrupting the flow of their
oral production.
Consistent with their cognitions about the effectiveness of CF types, the experienced teachers' flexibility and novice
teachers’ rigidity in their cognitions about the effectiveness of four different timings for giving CF emerged from the interview
data. The experienced teachers rejected the either-implicit-or-explicit approach to CF, and attributed their cognitions about
CF to their classroom teaching experience, as explicitly stressed by Mohsen:
For timing of CF, I think, it depends on the significance of the error. If it makes the students utterance incomprehensible,
I will immediately correct the error to help her make her point clear. Also, if it is a repeated error, I will try to draw the
students' attention to the point immediately; otherwise, I will wait for the students to finish their talk. Also, it depends
on the type of activities. If the focus of the lesson is grammar, I will correct immediately. If we are working on fluency, I

Table 5
Comparison of responses on the timing of error correction: novice vs. experienced teachers.

Timing of feedback Experienced Novice t df Sig. (2-Tailed) d

M SD M SD
Immediate CF 4.05 0.95 2.45 0.89 5.52 38 0.000 1.73
CF after students finish talking 3.80 0.83 3.65 0.88 0.56 38 0.582 0.17
CF after the activity 3.60 0.94 2.50 0.95 3.69 38 0.001 1.16
CF at the conclusion of class 2.55 0.89 2.30 0.80 0.94 38 0.356 0.29

Note. d ¼ effect size.


M. Rahimi, L.J. Zhang / System 55 (2015) 111e122 119

Table 6
Teachers’ responses on the timing of error correction (%): less Exp.ts vs. more Exp.ts.

Timing of feedback Very effective Effective Neutral Ineffective Very ineffective

Less Exp.ts Exp.ts Less Exp.ts Exp.ts Less Exp.ts Exp.ts Less Exp.ts Exp.ts Less Exp.ts Exp.ts
Immediate CF 35 15 45 25 10 50 10 10
CF after students finish talking 10 15 60 60 15 15 15 10
CF after the activity 10 20 60 20 10 50 20 10
CF at the conclusion of class 10 20 20 20 60 55 10 5

will do the correction after the student finishes. Through teaching over the years, I have learned the tricks of the trade, I
think. (Mohsen, Experienced teacher, Interview: 13/12/2013)
On the other hand, novice teachers referred to their language learning experience as a source of their cognitions about the
effectiveness of providing CF after students finish talking. They were concerned about the emotional reaction of their students
because of their own learning experience.
…if it is a serious error, I take notes and teach the form directly to the whole class after we finish speaking tasks without
pointing at the student who made the error. This way, they can learn the form without being laughed at, without
becoming anxious, and without losing their self-confidence. I have learned this from one of my English language
teachers whom I liked very much because of her error correction style. (Elham, Novice teacher, Interview: 11/12/2013)
In line with Kang and Cheng's (2014) study, the findings of this study highlight the role of classroom teaching experience in
the development of teachers' cognitions. As such, providing pre-service teachers with approaches to theorize from their
teaching is imperative. This can help novice teachers understand the role of contextual and individual learner factors in the
effectiveness and efficiency of their teaching approaches. Empowered with reflective teaching (Farrell, 1999, 2014) during in-
service or pre-service teacher education, followed by classroom observations, working with experienced teachers, and
seeking experienced teachers' arguments for their choice of approach can help novice teachers become aware of their choices
and seek to justify their preference for their classroom practices by focussing on the impact of their preferences on their
students' learning outcome (Guskey, 2002).
With regard to the development of teachers' cognitions about CF, Ellis' (2009) guidelines for CF should be used to raise
teachers' awareness of different types of CF, timing of CF, and necessity of CF, among others. Then, through reflection in, on,
and for, action (Farrell, 2014), joining a community of professionals (Richards, 2008), and monitoring the impact of their
classroom practice with regard to CF on their students' learning outcomes, teachers can be mentored to learn how to theorize
from their informed evidence-based practices to come up with solutions to their local issues (Zhang & Ben Said, 2014; Zhang
& Rahimi, 2014). They can also contribute to theory by theorizing their practice, namely, taking a cyclical approach (Kang &
Cheng, 2014). That is, as discussed previously, novice teachers can be informed by recent theories through reading recent
research articles and meta-analyses about the topic and discussing the relevance of the theory to their context with expe-
rienced teachers. Their reflective practice can also be used as a source of evidence and data from their teaching context, which
can be used to inform theory and other teachers’ classroom practices for mutual professional growth.

5. Conclusion

Li (2010) meta-analysis of the second language acquisition (SLA) literature on CF shows that overall feedback was effective
and the effective sizes ranged from medium to large and such effects were maintained over time. Teacher cognition research
has also identified factors influencing teachers' cognitions about CF (Junqueira & Kim, 2013; Mackey et al., 2004). Building
upon the prior teacher cognition literature on CF, the findings of our study extends prior research findings by revealing that
teacher education alone, without reflective teaching experiences, does not transform teachers' cognitions, and novice
teachers start teaching with rigid cognitions about CF. Novice teachers extrapolate their personal language learning expe-
riences to all other language learners without taking into account the factors that experienced teachers report considering in
providing CF due to their teaching experiences, which lead to flexibility in their cognitions about CF.
Our findings suggest that as non-native English speaking teachers gain more classroom teaching experience in an EFL
context, they value the role of CF in learners' interlanguage development to a larger extent than the novice teachers do. This
finding is in contrast with the stated CF beliefs of teachers working in English-as-a-second-language (ESL) contexts (see
Junqueira & Kim, 2013), highlighting the role of context in influencing teachers' cognitions' about CF. Our findings about the
experienced teachers' flexibility in their cognitions about types and timing of CF and novice teachers' rigidity corroborate
Junqueira and Kim's (2013) results with regard to ESL teachers' practices in providing CF. Such findings indicate that the
experienced teachers, through theorizing from their practice (e.g., Kang & Cheng, 2014), realize that there is no single panacea
for correcting all kinds of errors. That is, depending on the particularities of their teaching contexts, teachers choose the
approaches that their practices inform them as the most appropriate for their particular group of learners.
On the contrary, the novice teachers' cognitions suggest that they have distinct tendencies in their cognitions about CF and
believe that implicit CF and explicit CF at the conclusion of talk or activity is the most effective regardless of the diversity of
classroom context variables (e.g., learners' attributes, error types, and task types). Furthermore, in line with previous studies
120 M. Rahimi, L.J. Zhang / System 55 (2015) 111e122

(Borg, 2006; Junqueira & Kim, 2013), our follow-up interview data show that the novice teachers' cognitions about CF was
mainly informed by their personal language learning experiences. Moreover, akin to the findings of Junqueira and Kim (2013),
teacher education programs did not emerge as a key factor informing teachers' cognitions about CF in our study. It appears
that these teachers' assigned readings in the teacher education programs did not seem to influence their cognitions about
teaching, or to be more specific, about CF. This finding lends support to prior research findings that reading research articles
alone might not significantly affect teachers’ cognitions and practices (Junqueira & Kim, 2013; Kagan, 1992; Kennedy, 1997;
Va'squez & Harvey, 2010). Although reading articles can provide the student teachers with the theoretical necessity and raise
their awareness of instructional procedures and strategies, it does not provide them with opportunities for reflecting in, on,
and for, action (Farrell, 2014) and for theorizing teaching and CF from their practices.
In light of our findings, and in agreement with other scholars (Farrell, 2014; Junqueira & Kim, 2013; Va'squez & Harvey,
2010), we suggest that through teacher education programs offered at teacher-education institutions and agencies,
teachers-in-training be empowered with the theoretical knowledge of CF and practical skills of responsive CF provision. For
instance, Ellis' (2009) guidelines on CF and other meta-analytic reviews of effectiveness of CF (e.g., Brown, 2014; Li, 2010;
Lyster & Saito, 2010) can provide the student teachers with such theoretical knowledge, and Farrell (2014) proposal for
“reflection in, on, and for, action in teacher learning” can help student teachers acquire theoretical knowledge of reflective
practice. Follow-up reflective practice can provide opportunities for teachers' responsive provision of CF. This might result in
the flexibility in teachers' cognitions about CF and lead them to consider the role of particularities of teaching contexts (e.g.,
classroom setting variables, learner variables, task type and target form variables) in their provision of CF.
It is highly possible that such reflective practice will transfer to other aspects of their teaching and result in the effective
and efficient teacher development, with positive outcomes for their students' learning. In short, in order for teachers to
benefit from theoretical knowledge, teacher education programs should be designed with due consideration of not only
building teachers’ theoretical knowledge but also providing them with opportunities to apply their theoretical knowledge
reflectively in various teaching contexts.
Admittedly, we note three limitations in our study. First, as we were interested in exploring the role of classroom expe-
rience in teachers' cognitions about three aspects of CF, we did not collect data in relation to their actual classroom practices in
providing CF. Teachers might develop certain cognitions with regard to certain aspects of teaching but might not practise
them in reality accordingly owing to a multitude of factors. As such, this is an obvious shortcoming of our study. Future
research can further illustrate the role of experience in teachers' cognitions about, and practices in providing CF. There is also a
need to find out the sources of teachers’ cognitions about CF.
Second, our study focused only on the role of teachers' teaching experience in one teaching context. As such, future studies
might need to compare the impact of sociocultural contexts on teachers' cognitions about and practices in providing CF.
Furthermore, only three aspects of teachers’ cognitions about CF (necessity, types, and timing) were explored in our study
with a limited number of participants. Future research can expand this line of inquiry.
Methodologically, although we employed a mixed methods approach to collect the data, because of our small sample size,
further studies are in order so that the issues we explored can be crystalized. Developing or adapting a more comprehensive
questionnaire, using more robust statistical analysis, and validating the instrument with a large number of random samples of
participants can boost the validity and reliability of the instruments and findings. Likewise, in-depth case studies of teachers
can also shed more light on teachers' cognitions about and practices in other dimensions of CF, including teachers' percep-
tions of the severity of the errors and their provision of CF and the focus of the lesson (content vs. form) and teachers’
provision of CF, among other aspects.

Acknowledgements

We declare that this research has not been supported financially or whatsoever by any funding agency. We are also
indebted to the Editors' for their patience during the revision. We are particularly grateful to Dr Andy Gao for his detailed
suggestions for revising our paper. All faults remain ours.

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