A Process Approach to
by Adam Simpson
In process writing, the first thing that a writer
needs to do is to find something to write about. In language
classrooms this issue is often solved by the teacher, who
provides the subject matter. When a subject is chosen, the
audience, purpose and tone of the writing need to be considered(1)
. The next stage is to employ strategies that will help the
learner to explore the topic. Strategies such as brainstorming,
clustering and freewriting enable the writer to expand a narrow
topic or narrow a broad one, as well as enabling a learner
to focus on the specifics that need to be covered This is
consistent with 'top-down processing'(2) . This differs from
product writing, in which the audience is rarely considered,
and readings provide the model for students to emulate. Furthermore,
there is already a focus on structural accuracy at this stage.
2.3 Writing Production
Process writing production is merely a 'prototype'
stage, which will involve aspects such as free-writing and
peer feedback. At this stage the emphasis is on content and
organisation. In contrast, the product approach employs genre
based writing tasks based on previously modeled structures,
and the focus is again on accuracy.
Revision is not something that clearly exists
in product writing, as the assumption is that the provided
model has been followed. Process writing, in contrast, requires
that a degree of analysis be undertaken. Revision would usually
be based on the feedback given by peers.
2.5 Teacher Evaluation
Williams (2003) states that written feedback
is an essential part of any language course that involves
a writing element(3) . Feedback falls into two categories:
feedback on form and feedback on content. Content feedback
relates to product writing, and generally consists of the
indication of grammatical errors. Feedback on form, however,
focuses on the communicative effectiveness of the piece.
2.6 A further Note
It should be noted that, while the product approach
follows a linear pattern, the process approach is, in direct
contrast, cyclical. While some degree of structured product-oriented
writing may be appropriate for lower level learners(4) , Baskoff's
opinion, cited in the introduction, indicates that a cyclical
process approach initiated in the early stages of learning
will be beneficial to the long-term writing skills of the
As many authors have noted, the process
approach is a relatively new phenomenon in the English Language
classroom. Indeed, it was something that I was unaware of
when I started teaching. This lack of awareness, particularly
in terms of the cyclical nature of the process, has obvious
repercussions in classroom application, and these will be
discussed in the next section.
1.Obviously, this is a
bigger issue for higher level learners than elementary students,
who don't have the range of language available to change their
2.Top-down processing utilises the background knowledge of
the learner, either in terms of knowledge of the world around
them or of text structures.
3.Williams, (2003), http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Williams-Feedback.html
4.Who have less language available to them to be able to consider
factors such as audience or tone.
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