Generating ESL ideas from a FRIEND or a TEACHER – which is better?


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I want talk a bit today about a piece of research that was done on the teaching of writing to ESL students and the impact of teacher input vs friend input into the final output of writing. The research was documented in an article by Gianfranco Conti, and worth a read.

As teachers we are always keen to get involved in students learning and vice versa. Many students believe to have a one on one native English teacher would be the ultimate, but way to expensive. In fact the results of the research show some interesting points.

The results were as follows:

  1. Students who were asked to work in partners to create a writing passage, without any input by their teacher were found to create pieces of writing that were more advanced in content and ideas however weaker in grammatical and sentence structures.


  1. Students who were asked to work alone with the frequent input by the teacher to guide them created written passages that were far more grammatically correct, with correct formats, but less in depth content.


Clearly, you can see what has happened here. The student obviously feels a lot more comfortable with their friends to come up with some great ideas and plans but neither of them want to focus on their structure or correct grammar. At the same time the student who had a lot of guidance and support from their teacher was far more interested in getting the answer correct rather than communicating something new.

The question remains, what is the best way to guide students with this? How much teacher input is necessary to get the best balance?

Tell me what you think?


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