n Journal for Language Teaching = Ijenali Yekufundzisa Lulwimi = Tydskrif vir Taalonderrig - 'What do we do in the meantime?' (Ferris 2004) : language errors and scaffolded intervention strategies in the writing of distance education students

Volume 49, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0259-9570



The ongoing theoretical debates on the value of error correction and the attention that should be accorded to language accuracy have overlooked the needs of teachers 'at the chalkface'. Yet, effective teaching strategies are vital in multi-lingual South Africa, particularly given the under-performance of South African students evidenced in international comparative studies. Based on a Master's dissertation entitled 'A critical review of the language errors in the writing of distance education students' (Ward-Cox, 2012), this article interrogates linguistic competence and investigates the language 'errors' made by a heterogeneous group of 100 entry-level distance education university students with the aim of improving academic writing. The research follows a process of error identification and statistical analysis and reviews intervention strategies. The implications of the bimodal pattern of distribution in the review findings and its link to school background are discussed. Scaffolded intervention strategies are presented in response to Ferris's (2004) question to teachers: "... what do we do in the meantime [while the academic debate debate rages]?"

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