For more than a decade now, a great deal of research has been done on the topic of written corrective feedback (CF) in SLA and second language (L2) writing. Nonetheless, what those research efforts really have shown as well as the possible implications for practice remain in dispute. Although L2 writing and SLA researchers often examine similar phenomena in similar ways, they do not necessarily ask the same questions. SLA-focused researchers investigate whether written CF facilitates the acquisition of particular linguistic features. In contrast, L2 writing researchers generally emphasize the question of whether written CF helps student writers improve the overall effectiveness of their texts. Understanding these differences in starting points is important because it provides a possible explanation for the conflicting methodologies and conclusions of various reviews on this topic (e.g., Ferris, 2003, 2004; Truscott, 1996, 2007). This article briefly traces the history of these two parallel lines of research on written CF and notes both contrasts and convergences. It then moves to a focused discussion of the possible implications and applications of this body of work for the L2 language and writing classroom and for future research efforts.
Earlier versions of this article were presented at the American Association for Applied Linguistics conference (March, 2008, Washington, DC) and at the annual symposium of the Applied Linguistics Association of New Zealand (November, 2008, Auckland). I am grateful especially to John Bitchener of Auckland University of Technology, Jeffrey Brown of California State University, Sacramento, Kory Lawson Ching of San Francisco State University, and Carl Whithaus of University of California, Davis, for their helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this article. I am also grateful for the helpful comments made on an earlier version by two anonymous SSLA reviewers. All errors and omissions remain my own.