Developing Teachers.com
A web site for the developing language teacher

The use of a process-oriented approach to facilitate the planning and production stages of writing for adult students of English as a Foreign or Second Language
- by Nicola Holmes - 2

The motivational and educational benefits of providing a real audience for students to direct their writing to is illustrated quite effectively by the experience of Susan Vincent, who managed to bring about a dramatic change in her students' motivation and performance by providing them with an authentic and personally relevant context in which to write. (cf Vincent, 1990). Personally, I have observed similar results when presenting two classes with a request from a British secondary school teacher to send her students compositions on the subject of materialism in Spain and in another very simple request made by myself to a different class to write some advice to my sister on places she could visit in Spain.

Although it is advantageous to provide students with a genuine audience for whom to write, it is not always possible. However, Tribble suggests that the simple incorporation of peer-conferencing sessions into a writing lesson, a typical feature of the process writing approach. can achieve similar motivational effects on the written:

Knowing that your peers will be evaluating your work provides a more motivating context in which to write than writing for an entirely fictitious reader. (Tribble, 1996, p107)

This shift in focus to producing what Flower defines as 'reader-based' as opposed to 'writer-based' prose (Flower, 1979. quoted by Keh, 1990, p 294) can also constitute the first step in the process of decoding the rules and conventions of discourse and genre, which can present another demotivating obstacle to the EFL student writer.

Simple principles of genre and discourse analysis can easily be incorporated into several stages in the writing process. The covert interaction between reader and writer can be overtly reconstructed to assist writers in the ideas-generation and focusing stages, as demonstrated in an exercise by Brown and Hood, where students are assisted in the preparation of a newspaper article by the use of a headline and the kind of focusing questions often inherent in journalistic texts. Brown and Hood, 19&9, quoted by Tribble, 1996, p 112). Similarly, McCarthy recommends the provision of a pre-written topic sentence and focusing segment-starters to assist lower-level students in the production of texts which conform to a 'problem-solution' structure. (McCarthy, 1991, p 162). White and Arndt suggest questions which can be used to assist students in ideas generation, selection and organisation by focusing on the concept of 'shared knowledge' between reader and writer, and also provide a range of activities which incorporate analysis of the styles of different text-types and reader expectations into the focusing, drafting, evaluating and re-viewing stages of the process (cf White and Arndt, 1991, pp 51 - 52; pp 69-77; pp108-109; pp 122-123, and pp 137- 138).

Finally, especially if we accept Keh's definition of feedback as 'the comments, questions and suggestions a reader gives a writer' in order to produce 'reader-based' prose. (Keh, 1990, p 294), both teacher and peer-evaluation stages in process writing can also assist students in the all-important task of discourse recreation. In fact, perhaps one of the most valuable contributions that the process writing approach has made to the teaching of English as a whole is to force teachers to re-examine the nature of feedback given on student writing, resulting in a development of a wealth of new techniques, including peer feedback, conferencing, minimal marking, taped commentary and self-monitoring (cf Keh, 1990, Hyland, 1990, and Charles, 1990), and a shift in the teacher's role and in teacher-student and student-student relationships.

As Tribble comments, evaluation and feedback can also occur much earlier in the writing process. not merely at the end. (Tribble, 1996, p122-125). This allows the teacher to respond as a genuine and interested reader, rather than as a judge and evaluator' (Diffley and Lapp, 1988, quoted by White and Arndt, 1991, p125) and to prioritise the all-important issues of content, communication and successful organisation of ideas at the earlier drafting stages. This can render the feedback process a more humane, less threatening and overall more positive experience to the student, and, possibly also, more valuable and effective. (cf White and Arndt, 1991, pp 2-5)

Nevertheless, in spite of all the arguments in favour of the use of a process approach to the teaching of writing, the problem still remains in many circumstances that writing is not sufficiently prioritised, by teachers, students and curriculum designers, as occupying an important place in a communicative teaching syllabus. However, White and Arndt remark that many of the activities included in their book:

...include pair and group work, not to mention discussion and collaboration, so that the writing class becomes, in a very genuine sense, a communicative experience in which much more than skill in writing is practised and developed. (White and Arndt, 1991, p 5).

Thus, the process writing class can be 'sold' to teachers, students and institutions alike as a typically communicative lesson, which can successfully incorporate all four skills, along with activities to build vocabulary and raise awareness of discourse and structure.

In conclusion, it can be said that the incorporation of process-oriented approaches and activities into EFL writing lessons, especially when used in conjunction with genre and discourse analysis, can go a long way towards tackling some of the problems traditionally experienced by teachers and students in this difficult area. What is more, they can turn the writing class into a stimulating, pleasurable and communicative learning experience, making a firm and valuable contribution to the 'language-learning experience as a whole.



Bibliography

Bamforth, R, Process vs genre: anatomy of a false dichotomy, Prospect 8/1-2 (pp 88- 99)

Brown, K and S Hood, Writing Matters, (CUP 1989)

Charles, M, 'Responding to problems in using a student self-monitoring technique, ELF Journal, Volume 4414, (October 1990, pp 286 - 293)

Diffley, F and Lapp, R, 'Responding to student writing: teacher feedback for extensive revision' - a workshop
presented at; TESOL Chicage (1988)

Flower, L, Writer-based prose: a cognitive basis for problems in writing', College English 41/1 (1979, pp 19-37)

Hedge, T, Writing, (OUP, 1988)

Hyland, K. 'Providing Productive Feedback', ELT Journal, Volume 44/4, (October 1990, pp 279- 285)

Keh, C L, 'Feedback in the writing process: a model and methods for implementation', ELF Journal, Volume 44/4, (October 1990, pp 294 -304)

McCarthy, M, Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers, (CUP, 1991)

Nunan, D, Language Teaching Methodology - A Textbook for Teachers, (Prentice Hall, 1991)

Raimes, A, 'Anguish as a Second Language? Remedies for Composition Teachers' in Learning to Write: First Language, Second Language, Pringle, Feedman and Yalden (eds) (Longman, 1983 a)

Raimes, A, Techniques in Teaching Writing (Oxford American English, 1983b)

Raimes, A, 'What unskilled writers do as they write: a classroom study of composing', TESOL Quarterly 19/2, (1985, pp 229a-58)

Tribble C, Writing (OUP, 1996)

Vincen, S, Motivating the advanced learner in developing writing skills: a project', ELF Journal, Volume 44/4, (October 1990, pp 272-278)

White, Rand & Arndt, Process Writing (Longman, 1991)

Zamel, V, 'Recent research in writing pedagogy', TESOL Quarterly 21(4), (1987, pp 697- 715)

To appendix A & B

To the lesson plan

Back to the articles index

Back to the top


Tips & Newsletter Sign up —  Current Tip —  Past Tips 
Train with us Online Development Courses    Lesson Plan Index
 Phonology — Articles Books  LinksContact
Advertising — Web Hosting — Front page


Copyright 2000-2016© Developing Teachers.com