A Process Approach
by Adam Simpson
When I first started teaching writing in the
English Language classroom, two issues immediately sprang
to my attention;
i) the students were extremely demotivated whenever asked
to write in English;
ii) the end product was fairly disappointing and didn't seem
to correlate with my students' abilities as displayed in other
aspects of their language ability, such as speaking for example.
As my teaching developed over several years, so did my understanding
as to why the students displayed such aversion to writing
and why the end product of the writing they did do left something
to be desired.
Numerous authors(1) note that there has been
a dramatic evolution in the way that writing is being approached
in the English Language classroom, with the aim of making
writing a more personal and satisfying experience for the
learner. This has evolved alongside the development of different
approaches to teaching in general, and a greater impetus has
been placed on the role of writing in the Language classroom.
Writing, however, remains one of the most difficult areas
for the teacher and learner of English. This is evident in
the way that it has been neglected and/or treated poorly in
the past. Indeed, many high level English learners cannot
write. As Baskoff (1990) notes, many writing weaknesses in
advanced learners can be traced back to lack of systematic
practice during the earlier stages of learning(2) .
In this paper I will discuss how the concept
of process writing has raised the profile of writing, how
it differs from the traditional 'product' approach, and how
the application of a process approach to writing, even at
low levels, can eliminate most of the problems normally associated
with this skill.
2. An Analysis of Writing
In the past, writing was something that teachers
expected learners to do in class without giving any prior
thought to the meaning of the finished product(3) . As a consequence,
learners' attitudes towards writing were less than positive.
This was compounded by the fact that this skill was often
relegated to the status of 'homework' due to pressures of
time and syllabus requirements(4) , thus nullifying the possibility
of teacher guidance. Furthermore, writing was viewed primarily
as a tool for the practice and reinforcement of specific grammatical
and lexical patterns; accuracy being all important whereas
content and self expression given little if any priority.
Basically students were 'writing to learn' and not 'learning
to write'(5) .
However, this is a trend that has changed greatly
in recent years. Meriwether (1997) notes that there is now
widespread recognition that writing is a process which involves
several identifiable steps(6) . The basic steps are as follows;
- Prewriting (selecting a topic and planning
what to say)
- Writing (putting a draught version on paper)
- Revising (making changes to improve the
- Evaluation (assessment of the written work)(7)
2.1 Process Versus Product
Nunan (1999) clearly states how very different
this 'process' approach is from the traditional product-oriented
approach(8). Whereas the product approach focuses on writing
tasks in which the learner imitates, copies and transforms
teacher supplied models, the process approach focuses on the
steps involved in creating a piece of work(9). The primary
goal of product writing is an error-free coherent text. Process
writing allows for the fact that no text can be perfect, but
that a writer will get closer to perfection by producing,
reflecting on, discussing and reworking successive drafts
of a text(10).
Jordan (1997) acknowledges that process writing
evolved as a reaction to the product approach, in that it
met the need to match the writing processes inherent in writing
in one's mother tongue(11) , and consequently allow learners
to express themselves better as individuals. This is not to
say, however, that the product approach no longer exists,
nor that it has no practical applications. Indeed, the process
approach can still contain elements of product-based writing.
Nunan (1999) reaffirms this by stating that there is no reason
why a writing program should not contain elements of both
approaches(12) . With this in mind, each of the aforementioned
stages will now be considered.
1.Including Nunan (1999), Meriwether,
(1997) and Jordan, (1997)
2.Baskoff, (1990), p.5.
3.Meriwether, (1997), p.2.
4.Hedge, (1988), p.301.
5.Tribble, (1996), p118.
6.Meriwether, (1997), p.2.
7.Examples of strategies for all of these stages will be explored
in more depth in section 6.
8.Nunan, (1999), p.272.
10.Nunan, (1999), p.272.
11.Jordan, (1997), p.164.
12.Nunan, (1999), p.298.
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