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In
teaching a foreign language in general and English in particular, one of
challenges that teachers have to face is teaching writing skill because it
requires the students’ knowledge about a relationship between meaning and form.
Therefore, to teach writing effectively, “giving feedback is an effective way
to train students to become better writers because it helps students to correct
their own mistakes and be independent ones” (Ken, 2004, p. 98). There are many
types of feedback and they can be distributed based on some following factors: the
performer (the provider) of feedback (teacher, peer, self and CALL Computer
Assisted Language Learning), the timing of feedback (delayed and immediate
feedback), the form of feedback (direct and indirect feedback), the method of
performance of feedback (oral and written feedback), the concentration on a
specific item in feedback (grammar, spelling…), the stage of process writing
feedback and the effect of feedback. In this literature review, much attention
will be given to the teacher’s written feedback and especially how direct written
feedback affects on learners’ writing performance.  

            In teaching setting, according to
Ferris and Hedgcock (2005), performance is defined as what the learner will be
able to do. Assessing writing is categorized as performance assessment because
it requires students to accomplish the tasks assigned to them. Furthermore, Ferris
and Hedgcock (2005) stated that when we measure or score students’ writing
performance or proficiency, the outcome must be based on a student-generated
text. The writing aspects that may be indirectly related with writing
performance include verbal reasoning, error recognition, or grammatical
accuracy. Moreover, writing performance is the ability for the writer to
perform the skills which are being assessed. Knapp and Watkins (2005) added
that the aspects of students’ writing performance include syntax, punctuation
and spelling. In relation to feedback, Aridah (2003) believed that feedback is
useful to examine the success or failure of students’ performance, including
writing performance. Burstein (2004) claimed that the best way to improve one’s
writing skills is to write, receive feedback from an instructor, revise based
on the feedback, and then repeat the whole process as often as possible. However,
this make the classroom teacher overload, who is faced with reading and
providing feedback for perhaps 30 essays or more every time a topic is
assigned. As a result, teachers are not able to give writing assignments as
often as they would wish.

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            The term feedback is defined as
“input from a reader to a writer with the effect of providing information
to the writer for revision. In other words, it is the comments, questions, and
suggestions a reader gives a writer to produce reader based prose as opposed to
writer based prose” (Keh, 1990), as “information on performance which
affects subsequent performance by influencing students’ attention to particular
matters so that those matters undergo a change in the subsequent performance”
(Lamberg, 1980) or we can simply understand that feedback is the useful response
to authors from readers. Feedback has an important role in teaching all of four
language skills, especially writing skill because of some reasons. First of
all, it helps students distinguish their performance is good or not (Mi, 2009; Littleton,
2011). Secondly, when their performance is not good, students take corrective
action about their writing from the further feedback to improve it and achieve
an acceptable level of performance (Getchell, 2011). In addition to monitoring
students’ progress, feedback also encourages them to take another’s view and
adapt a note to it (Asiri, 1996). Last but not least, feedback is an encouraging way to help students
not to consider what they write as a final product; they can write multiple
drafts and reread their writing as much as possible in order to make a much
improved piece of writing (Asiri, 1996; Russell & Spada, 2006).

Written feedback includes giving corrections or giving
comments to what learners wrote. Written corrective feedback can be divided
into direct and indirect feedback. According to Ferris (2006), direct feedback is an approach
which provides feedback to students to help them correct their errors by giving
the correct linguistic form or linguistic structure of the target language.
This technique requires the teacher to give some comment or answer that an
error exists in a student’s performance directly (Ellis, 2008; Ferris, 2006).
Direct feedback is usually used to correct grammatical mistakes by providing
the correct answer or the expected response above the linguistic or grammatical
errors and is usually given by teachers. For example, if a student writes “I
get up late yesterday”, the teacher will cross the word “get” and write “got”
above “get”. Direct feedback is appropriate for students who are at basic level
or are unable to do self-correction to recognize what is wrong and how it
should be written in writing activity, or it can be useful when the teachers
want to direct the student attention to their error patterns that require the
student correction.

    Is direct feedback effective in teaching? A number of studies
are about the effectiveness of direct feedback. Chandler (2003)’s result of her
study involving 31 ESL students on the effects of direct and indirect feedback
strategies on students’ revisions is direct feedback was the best way for
producing accurate revisions and preferred by the students as it was the
fastest and the easiest way for them to make revisions. Another result of a study
on the effects of direct corrective feedback involving 52 ESL students in New
Zealand was conducted by Bitchener and Knoch (2010).  There are three different types of direct
feedback (direct corrective feedback, written, and oral metalinguistic
explanation; direct corrective feedback and written metalinguistic explanation;
direct corrective feedback only) were compared with a control group is that each
treatment group outperformed the control group and it does not significantly
differ from effectiveness among the variations of direct feedback in the treatment
groups. From results of their studies, it can be concluded that direct feedback
is effective to be used in teaching writing. However, besides the effectiveness
of direct feedback, there are some different researchers (Rymanowski and et.
al, 2011; Ko and Hirvela, 2010) argued that direct teacher feedback is the
least effective method of providing feedback on student errors and mistakes.
Clements et al. (2010) reported that direct methods in providing feedback do
not tend to have results which value for effort needed from teachers to attract
the attention of students to surface errors because students aren’t given an
opportunity to think or to do anything by the teacher.

Another type of
feedback is indirect feedback. It is a strategy of providing feedback commonly
used by teachers to help students correct their errors by giving indication that
an error exists without providing the correct form (Ferris & Roberts,
2001). When is indirect feedback used? When teachers only indicate in some way to
make students aware that there is an existent error in their writing and do not
provide the students with the correction. In doing so, teachers give some
suggestions by providing general clues regarding the location and nature or
type of an error such as an underline, a circle, a code, a mark, or a highlight
on the error, and ask the students to correct the error themselves (Lee, 2008;
O’Sullivan & Chambers, 2006). For example, when the student makes a mistake
in the sentence “I get up late yesterday”, instead of writing the word “got”,
teacher will underline or circle the word “get” and write verb tense above it. Through
indirect feedback, there is a challenge for students, they have to reflect upon
the clues given by the teacher, who acts as a ‘reflective agent’ (Pollard,
1990) providing meaningful and appropriate instruction to students’ cognitive
structuring skills arising from students’ prior experience. Students can then
relate these clues to the context where an existent error is, determine its
area, and correct it based on their informed knowledge. Indeed, facilitating
students with indirect feedback to discover the correct form can be very
instructive to students (Lalande, 1982). It raises students’ engagement and
attention to forms and allows them to solve the problem which many researchers
agree to be beneficial for long term learning improvement (Ferris, 2003a;
Lalande, 1982).

Both direct
feedback and direct feedback can improve student’s writing, but there are some
researches on  second  language 
acquisition  shows  that 
indirect  feedback  is more 
preferable  than  direct feedback (Chandler, 2003; Ferris
&  Roberts, 2001; Sheen et al., 2009)
and that indirect feedback is generally more appropriate and effective than direct
feedback (Moser  & Jasmine, 2010)  because it engages students in the correction
activity and helps them reflect to upon 
it  (Ferris&  Roberts, 
2001)  which  may 
help  students  develop 
their  long term acquisition  of 
the  target  language 
(O’Sullivan  Chambers, 
2006) and  bring  more 
benefits  to  students’ long term writing development than
direct feedback (Lalande, 1982; Frantzen, 1995; Ferris, 2002), particularly for
more advanced students (O’Sullivan & Chambers, 2006). A previous study
(Lalande, 1982), which involved 60 German foreign language learners, compared
two different methods of error correction: 
direct correction and indirect correction reported that students
receiving indirect corrective feedback made 
considerably  greater  gains  than  students 
who received direct corrective feedback from the teacher. Or Chandler’s
(2003) result of her study shows 
that  indirect  feedback 
with underlining  on  students’ 
mistakes  is  a 
preferred  alternative  to 
direct feedback in  a multiple-draft
 setting 
as  indirect  correction 
engages  the  students 
in  the  correction process and engages them more
cognitively during the process. It is important to note that,  in 
her  study  if 
students  were  required 
to  make  corrections, 
both  of two kinds of feedback
(direct and indirect feedback)  with  underlining 
of  errors  resulted 
in  significant raise in accuracy
and fluency in following writing over the semester. An additional finding  of 
Chandler’s  study  is 
that  if  students 
did  not  revise 
their  writing  based 
on teacher  feedback  about 
their  errors,  getting 
their  errors  marked 
was  comparable  to receiving 
no  feedback  as 
their  correctness  did 
not  increase.  Another study which is conducted  by 
Ferris  (2006), involved  92 
ESL  students  in 
the  United  States 
receiving several  types  of both direct feedback and indirect
feedback,  shows  that 
there  was  a 
strong relationship  between  indirect 
teacher  feedback  and 
successful  student  revisions 
on the following drafts of their essays.

Feedback can
help students improve their writing skill. Each type of feedback has different
advantages and disadvantages, so it is clear to say that there is no the most
effective method in giving feedback. Teacher should think carefully about types
of feedback will be provided and how often the feedback will be used. In
addition, it is also important to recognize that different students may require
different kinds of feedback. If students cannot acquire the basic grammatical
rules of English easily, teachers should give correction directly because
students cannot correct by themselves. On the other hand, students who are good
at English grammar may want every error indicated and be able to self-correct their
errors. Moreover, different errors and different students may need different
error correction strategies. Every student is unique with special needs and the
more written feedback can be suitable for the student and the error, the more
likely it will lead to greater writing proficiency for the student. However, correcting
students’ errors, either directly or indirectly; teachers should be selective
and not correct every mistake. They explained that correcting every mistake may
result in students’ adoption of negative attitudes toward writing and negative
feelings about themselves as writers (Ko & Hirvela, 2010).

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