The Best and Worst Ways to Provide Feedback to Learners

Today we bring you the latest segment in a video series by Voxy’s Chief Education Officer, Dr. Katharine Nielson, who’s answering all your nitty-gritty questions about how people learn languages.

As a language instructor, when and how should you be offering your learners corrective feedback? And what’s the worst thing you can do when a learner is in the middle of completing a task, answering a question or telling a story? In this video, Dr. Nielson explains the difference between implicit and explicit instruction and feedback,  talks about the most effective kind of corrective feedback (and when to use it) and some common pitfalls to avoid.


Dr. Katharine B. Neilson, PhD, is Voxy's Chief Education Officer.

Dr. Katharine B. Neilson, PhD, is Voxy’s Chief Education Officer.

Voxy News

Voxy Launches Popular Digital Marketing Course from General Assembly

Voxy is proud to be working with General Assembly (GA), a global education company specializing in 21st-century skills, to deliver its Digital Marketing course on the Voxy platform.

This collaboration will bring GA’s popular Digital Marketing course to the Voxy platform for English language learners around the world. The professional-level foundation course has been taken by more than 10,000 employees at large companies and uses exclusive content from GA’s online curriculum. The online course covers functional and relevant topics including: social media, UX (user experience), mobile strategy and content marketing.

GA addresses the skills gap in today’s tech- and data-focused workforce and provides professional development and training in areas like marketing, data science and visual design. This new offering will allow Voxy’s learners to access applicable skills to further   their comprehension of the English language.

“Voxy’s partnership with GA is 100 percent aligned with our unique task-based approach to language learning, which takes authentic materials and converts them into language lessons that address real-life goals,” said Mari Nazary, Voxy’s VP of Pedagogy & Curriculum. “Thanks to GA’s rich and effective Digital Marketing course, we’re continuing to address our learners’ needs for improving their professional development skills while also practicing the English they need to advance their careers.”

Want to check it out? Visit the Voxy Unit Catalog and choose Courses from the dropdown menu at the top of the page.


Idioms of the Week: Health

In this blog series, we’re breaking down common English expressions that are used in everyday conversation, so you’ll be able to expand your language skills and have fun with new English phrases. This week, we’re keeping to the theme of health.

1. bitter pill to swallow (noun phrase): an unpleasant fact one must accept

Ex. Losing the highly competitive presidential election was a bitter pill to swallow for the once-revered candidate.

2. as fit as a fiddle (adjective phrase): to be healthy and physically fit

Ex. Despite being nearly eighty years old, Tom is as fit as a fiddle.

3. back on one’s feet (noun phrase): to regain one’s physical health again

Ex. With the help of antibiotics to treat her flu symptoms, Melanie is back on her feet.

4. bundle of nerves (adjective phrase): used to describe a very nervous or anxious person

Ex. Because she was scared of flying, Denise was a bundle of nerves during the whole plane flight.

5. burn (oneself) out (verb phrase): to become emotionally and physically tired from doing something for a long term

Ex. After working continuous ten hour shifts as a waitress, she was totally burned out.

6. clean bill of health (noun phrase): a statement or assessment that someone is healthy

Ex. My doctor gave me a clean bill of health when I visited him for my annual physical exam.

7. green around the gills (adjective phrase): used to describe someone who looks sick and nauseated

Ex. After a tumultuous rollercoaster ride, Cindy was green around the gills.

8. bun in the oven (noun phrase): used to describe someone who is pregnant

Ex. When Sharon returned from her honeymoon, she had a bun in the oven.

9. break out in a cold sweat (verb phrase): to perspire from nervousness or anxiety

Ex. Dan broke out in a cold sweat upon learning of the surprise pop quiz in math class.

10. breathe one’s last (noun phrase): to die

Ex. Despite fighting a chronic illness for years, the ninety-year-old man breathed his last.

Try using these idioms the next time you practice your English skills. You’ll find yourself using them more naturally in conversation in no time!

Teacher's Corner Header Image

Ashley Dresser: The Morale of Making a Mistake or an Error

Achieving oral proficiency in a foreign language can often feel like an insurmountable challenge. And sometimes, no matter how fast you ride your horse toward it, it still remains a distant speck on the horizon. My adult English learners frequently express their frustration with this feeling, so I always have a lesson ready to help them take ownership over their speaking journey. I call this lesson “The Morale of Making a Mistake or an Error,” and its objective is to teach adult learners the basics of error analysis. As a result, they become better equipped to measure their own progress and they learn not to sweat the small stuff.

From day one of their speaking practice, my adult learners must be able to classify any deviation from correct grammar as either a mistake or an error and maintain two respective lists in their notebooks. A mistake is a grammatical correction that they already know, but they just didn’t apply it correctly in conversation at the time. An error is much more important because it tends to be unrecognizable to the learner; errors represent a lack of knowledge of the correct language rules and a gap in understanding that the teacher and learner must work together to address.

These distinctions are particularly effective for intermediate to advanced students where the learner typically experiences a feeling of “leveling off” in their progress, or they feel like they are making the same mistakes over and over again. It becomes more difficult for them to identify notable day-to-day improvement, and they are often discouraged by repetitive, minor errors, which are usually caused by interference from their mother tongue.

In these moments of frustration, I ask my adult learners to take out their error analysis lists and tell me which one is shorter: the mistakes or the errors. The number of mistakes almost always outweighs the number of errors, and in some cases, they even find that one of their previous errors could now be better classified as a mistake. Their faces light up at this hint of progress and I remind them then that even native speakers make frequent mistakes and they certainly don’t give up speaking!

The power of providing students with consistent visual measurements of progress is one of the great advantages of the online language-learning environment. Through historical feedback, skill scores and word performance percentages, students now have a much more precise picture of their language evolution. Tiny victories can suddenly become major motivators when mapped out in greater detail, and students are very much empowered by this new level of control and autonomy in their learning process. By teaching students to pinpoint their more serious errors as well as to recognize and celebrate their small advances, we are creating a more effective learning environment.

The power of providing students with consistent visual measurements of progress is one of the great advantages of the online language-learning environment. Unlike traditional classrooms, Voxy students have immediate access to data showing their daily progress in core skills like grammar and reading, which allow them to identify and react to weak areas more quickly; and they’re able to monitor the frequency of their study habits to make sure they’re reaching their established goals. The Voxy Proficiency Assessment (VPA®) also personalizes their online course to meet their current proficiency level, so that learners can speed up or slow down their language studies based on their performance and progress rather than the fixed pace of a traditional classroom experience. By teaching students to pinpoint their weak areas, to celebrate even the smallest advances and to become more autonomous learners overall, we are creating a more innovative and effective learning environment.

Ashley Dresser is a Voxy tutor.

Ashley Dresser is a Voxy tutor.


Idioms of the Week: Money

Learning English as a second language is hard enough, but it can be especially difficult when you run into idioms in casual conversation that don’t mean what they seem. In this weekly series, we’re breaking down common English expressions that are used in everyday conversation, so you’ll be able to expand your language skills and have fun with new English phrases.

Today, we’re keeping to the theme of money, so you’ll be able to clear up your confusion over which expressions actually refer to situations involving the bank!

1. a dime a dozen (noun phrase): used to describe something very common or easily acquired

Ex. Romantic movies are a dime a dozen in movie theaters now, each one with predictable plotlines and happy endings.

2. from rags to riches (noun phrase): a situation where a person rises from poverty to wealth

Ex. Samantha went from rags to riches overnight when she won the multimillion dollar lottery.

3. on the other side of the coin (noun phrase): a different and opposite view of a situation previously talked about

Ex. The house has a beautiful backyard, but on the other side of the coin, it is in the middle of nowhere.

4. a penny for your thoughts (noun phrase): to ask what someone is thinking about, or ask for someone’s opinion

Ex. Penny for your thoughts?” Jack asked Jen when he noticed she was silent for the entire meeting.

5. my two cents (noun phrase): to give one’s opinion

Ex. Anna put her two cents worth in about the new color scheme for the office.

6. to cost an arm and a leg (verb phrase): used to describe something very expensive

Ex. The designer purse cost an arm and a leg.

7. to be born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth (verb phrase): used negatively to describe someone who has come from generations of wealth

Ex. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, so he doesn’t have to worry about working full-time after college graduation.

8. saving for a rainy day (verb phrase): to keep money for the future, especially for an emergency

Ex. Every month, they transferred a set amount of money into their savings account to save for a rainy day.  

9. money talks (noun phrase): used negatively to describe how money can be used to influence one’s actions or make things happen

Ex. There is no clearer evidence that money talks than how congressional representatives’ opinions are easily swayed by the small fee of $30,000.

10. penny pinching (noun phrase): the practice of trying to spend as little money as possible

Ex. After John had to unexpectedly repair the leaking pipes in his attic, he resorted to penny pinching to save for his new winter coat.

Try using these idioms the next time you practice your English skills. You’ll find yourself using them more naturally in conversation in no time!