International Journal of
English and Literature

  • Abbreviation: Int. J. English Lit.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2626
  • DOI: 10.5897/IJEL
  • Start Year: 2010
  • Published Articles: 253

Full Length Research Paper

The practice of process approach in writing classes: Grade eleven learners of Jimma preparatory and Jimma University community preparatory school in focus

Habtamu Shiferaw Adula
  • Habtamu Shiferaw Adula
  • Department of English Language and Literature, Jimma College of Teachers Education, Ethiopia.
  • Google Scholar


  •  Received: 07 May 2018
  •  Accepted: 25 September 2018
  •  Published: 31 October 2018

 ABSTRACT

The purpose of this study is to explore the practices of process writing approach in grade eleven students at Jimma Preparatory School and Jimma University Community Preparatory school in Oromia Regional State. To accomplish this purpose, the study employed a descriptive study method, which was supplemented by both quantitative and qualitative research to enrich the data. The study was carried out in two school selected through purposive sampling aimed to make the sample by including the teachers and grade Eleven learners in the region. Then, all Grade Eleven EFL teachers and 170 learners were selected from the two schools using simple random sampling techniques particularly lottery method. Questionnaire, interview, classroom observation and content analysis were data collection tools used for this study. The frequency, percentage, and means were used in the analysis of quantitative data while qualitative data were described in narrative way. Based on the data, the result of the finding showed that students were not familiar enough with the skills of writing. Further, it was shown that the teachers have high theoretical orientation of teaching process-writing strategies, but they lacked skills in teaching students how to write. Therefore, having done the necessary analysis on the study’s findings, recommendations were drawn on the key stakeholders in practices of process writing approach.

 

Key words: Process approach, EFL writing classrooms, practice.


 INTRODUCTION

Writing is one of the most required lifelong language skills to serve in academic areas and in real life situation. Countrywide, it serves as school settings; writing plays major roles in helping us to gain recent information such as in writing e-mail, textbook, business letter, dissertation, thesis, conference presentation, test of writing standardized English proficiency as in TOEFL  for  further studies and being involved in global network (Reid, 1993). There is much more to writing than mere learning and applying of linguistic or rhetorical rules. Writing itself, by its nature, is a process (Emig, 1982). Describing writing this way, writers and linguistic researchers are attempting to describe the incredibly complex system of transforming    thought     into     written     communication (D‟Aoust, 1997).
 
As indicated above, a significant impact on writing teachers who demand for a product is replaced by a concern for the series of stages, which make up the writing process. The stage-process model has been used as a teaching tool to facilitate students’ writing. The significance of understanding the writing process for both teachers and students that may have to restructure the classroom and constantly reevaluate his or her role as a writing teacher (D‟Aoust, 1997); whereas the latter helps us to see how initial weaknesses in writing can actually become successes through feedback and revision in the processes of writing.  The study of the writing process approach has thus produced notable changes in the teaching of writing (Walshe et al., 1981). Understanding the writing process approach implies finding out what actually goes on when students write, which is “disgracefully difficult” (White and Arndt, 1991).  This issue of thinking of what they have to do when they are teaching writing enables their students to utilize their cognitive skills in writing and what writing strategies the students apply to generate ideas, organize and write to communicate. Thus, writing skills are crucial in the teaching and learning process and a combination of the language skills has a positive effect on the students’ success (Selma, 2010).
 
D’Aoust (1997) argued that as the teacher facilitates the students’ writing process, it becomes apparent that the writing stages overlap and sometimes compete for the students’ attention. The students’ own recursive inner processes dictate the sequence of the writing process. Writing teachers are thus faced with the challenging tasks of developing students’ awareness that as they write, they might dart back and forth from one stage to another (White and Arndt, 1991). Therefore, instructional approaches that assign sequential planning, drafting, and revising stages miss the point of the cognitive model of writing (Lipson et al, 2000). The phases involved in the writing process capture the complexity of writing and the difficulty of teaching it (Lipson et al., 2000: 211).
 
Consequently, writing instruction is complex, demanding teachers who are astute observers of students’ writing and who are capable of making instructional decisions responsive to writing issues that students are grappling with as they write (Freedman Dyson, 1991 in Lipson et al., 2000). The process approach means that students spend more time writing (Coe, 1988). One of the most valuable perspectives to come out of the process approach is that rewriting and revision are integral to writing (Myers, 1997); they are fundamental to improvement of students’ writing skills. Coe (1988) explained that the process approach includes explicitly helping students develop the cognitive, affective, and verbal abilities that underlie effective writing and speaking. It is not enough to just show students what good writing is, demand that they do it, and grade them down if they fail. In addition, the process approach means treating writing and speaking as creative and communicative processes. It means guiding students through the writing process, not just grading their written products. It means helping them learn how to communicate effectively in various situations.
 
Practicing the process approach regularly would help students realize that not even the professionals can get their writing right straight off. “Everyone needs to revise and everyone can revise – and that means everyone can learn to write, at least competently” (Walshe, 1981: 16). Students are expected to eventually realize that writing generally requires many drafts and revisions to get ideas into a form that satisfies the writer. Within the construct of the process approach, revision is seen as a way of shaping and forming and discovering meaning, thus aimed at conveying the writer’s ideas as effectively as possible (Peregoy, 1997). To raise some of the works done on process writing approach, Getnet (1993) and Tesfaye (1995) conducted a research on Evaluating the Effectiveness of Writing Materials while the second one is Provision of Feedback in Writing. The finding of their study revealed that students are less successful to meet the instructors’ expectation to write in their academic area. Moreover, Temesgen (2008) also conducted a study on the effects of peer feedback on the students’ writing skills at Adama University. The study shows the text analysis for both the experimental and control groups’ writing.
 
However, the students without trained peer feedback provision brought better changes in their writing. Most of the previous studies both the universals and the local did not attempt to look into the practice of the process approaches to teaching writing, and study on how to make process approach is being practiced by teachers and students in the selected schools.  The purpose of this study is, therefore, to explore the practice process approaches in their writing classes with particular reference to Jimma and Jimma University Community Preparatory schools in Grade eleven students. Consequently, this schoolwork differs from the above studies in that it has used the descriptive research design involving both quantitative and qualitative methods. To fill this gap, the need for exploring the area has a paramount significance.  
 
Objectives of the study
 
To explore grade eleven EFL teachers and students to become more efficient practitioners of process approach in writing classes in some selected centers of Jimma and Jimma University Community Preparatory schools.
 
The specific objectives of the study are:
 
(i) To assess the extent to which grade eleven EFL teachers and students  practice  the strategies of process writing.
(ii) To evaluate the teachers’ beliefs practice process approach towards teaching writing skills.
(iii) To find out the writing activity in the textbook designed in line with process approach to writing practice. 
 
Significances of the study
 
It reveals the strength and weaknesses of the current practice of process approach in teaching writing skills for practitioners of secondary schools. It can facilitate the teaching and writing through the process approach to writing in grade eleven EFL classes. The result of the study provided learners with the chance of using the existing professional skill and knowledge gap on the part of practice process approach in writing class. Finally, it serves as stepping stone for furthers researches in the area. 
 
Limitations of the study
 
As expected, this research study is not free from limitations. To this end, some limitations were observed in this study. That is, the researcher would like to note that due to scarcity of research budget, they were obliged to limit the study site to only two secondary schools. They were also forced to limit the informants to as few as 181 (11 EFL teachers and 170 learners) from the two schools. Had it not been for the shortage of resources, it would have been better to reach more areas and participants that would strengthen the dependability of the data and generalize ability of the results. As a result, the study missed additional information, which might be useful to support both quantitative and qualitative data.


 MATERIALS AND METHODS

The research designs employed to conduct the study were both quantitative and qualitative; it focused more on quantitative design. However, the qualitative part needs more time and experience of the researcher. Thus, it is incorporated in the study only to enrich the quantitative data.
 
Population and sample size of the study
 
The target population was drawn from two secondary schools (Jimma and Jimma University Community Preparatory schools) which are found in Oromiya Regional State. The selection of the study area was purposive because the researcher has experiences in teaching in different secondary schools of the region; it was suitable for them to gather necessary data. The sample size of the participants of the quantitative data was determined based on the Krejcie and Morgan (1970)’s required sample size determination techniques. Consequently, 9 EFL teachers and 140 learners in Jimma Preparatory, and 2 EFL teachers and 30  learners  in  Jimma University Community Preparatory School summing up to 181 samples were proportionally selected from each school respectively.
 
Data collection instruments and procedures
 
In the descriptive study, primary information was gathered from the respondents using questionnaire, observation and interview tools (Kothari, 2004). In addition to these tools, the researcher made content analysis of the writing activities in the current Grade Eleven English textbook for Ethiopian students. Hence, qualitative data were analysed thematically, whereas for the quantitative data descriptive statistics like frequency, percentage, and means were employed. Thus, teachers’ and students’ responses to the questionnaire were entered into SPSS computer software and each item’s reliability was checked. Prior to collecting the data, the researcher did the following major activities. Firstly, they visited Jimma and Jimma University Community Preparatory schools main office to get general information about the sites and respondents.
 
Ethical considerations
 
Ethical issues pertaining to the legitimacy of this study and the rights of the human participant were addressed in the following ways. Before leaving for the data collections, the researcher secured letter of permission from the schools to the research sites. Firstly, all the respondents were provided with information regarding the objectives of the study, and ethical issues related ahead of data collection activities. Secondly, the current researcher designed appropriate ways of ethical consideration for many people to be willing to disclose a lot of personal information. We treat all the participants with respect and keep their information confidential. More importantly, respondents were told not to write their names on the questionnaire papers.


 RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

The main purpose of this study was to explore the practice of process approach in writing classes of Grade Eleven students in Oromia Regional State. To collect relevant data for the study, questionnaire, interview, classroom observation and content analysis were employed. Therefore, the analysis of the data collected from all respondents was done using percentage, mean. Table 1 depicts the students’ responses about their attitudes towards writing in English.  Many ELT scholars like Silva (1990) argued that process writing teaches learners how to become active writers in terms of generating ideas actively and dynamically throughout the composing process from producing ideas to the final version. Every one of them explicitly is explained based on the data collected. Thus, the first item shows the frequency of the two secondary schools (JP and JUCP) students’ involvement in the research.
 
Accordingly, Table 1 depicts that 70 (50%), 34(24.3%) and 14 (10%) of the respondents confirmed that they strongly agree, agree and normally like were engaged from various centers of JP school students. On the other hand, 6 (20%), 16(53.3%) and 2 (6.7%) of the respondents were from JUCP school. Overall, the mean values of these two schools’ (M=4.02 and 3.67) inclined towards agree.
 
 
Every writing process, the writer and the process through which the writer goes to produce text are the most important components of writing (Kroll, 1990). Owing to this, in replying to item two, 56(40%) JPS and 11(36.7%) JUCPS Grade Eleven students disagreed with the statement. This shows that most of the two students perceive that writing in English is not easy for them. The mean value of this item (M= 2.37 and 2.47) inclined towards disagree.  For the items, 3 to 5 were used to find out the respondents' wakefulness of the different uses of process writing in teaching/learning. Table 1 demonstrates that the mean values 3.6,  3.63, 4.34,  4.23,  3.79, and 4.13 for both students’ items respectively reveal that the respondents agree' with the issues raised in these items.
 
Generally, the data in Table 1 collected from the students showed that the majority of the respondents have positive attitudes towards learning writing English and they need their teachers to teach them the strategies of writing process in order to get help for the difficulty of their writing. Ross and Dereshiwsky (1993) suggested that teachers were observed when they guided their students’ writing based on their teaching beliefs in teaching practices. The actual classroom observation showed that the teachers have theoretical orientation of teaching the process writing   strategies   but   not   succeed  to make students practice process-writing techniques in writing instruction.
 
As can be seen in Table 2, on the first item (how often students in the two schools have the habit of revising their contents of writing to improve it by adding, deleting and rearranging), 65(46.4%) rarely revise the content of their writing; 28 (20%) never. The majority of the respondents were unable to decide how frequently practice in their writing habits. On the other hand, 11(26.7%) rarely; 10(33.3%) of them never revise contents in the process of writing. Similarly, the mean for the item, which is (M=2.51 and 2.3) clearly shows that most of the students rarely exercise content revision strategies. From this, it can be implied that  most  of the students have noticed when they did not make revision of contents in writing classes. Regarding this, Raimes (1987) also argued that advantage of  revision stating that even professional writers cannot get it right in their first draft of writing immediately unless they revise their draft. In the same manner, Kroll (1990) believed that it is a strategy of writing which helps students to improve their writing. Again in Table 2, item 2 above, 56(40%), 13(43.3%) of the respondents have shown their rarely, and were unable  to   decide   on   the    claim   respectively. Likewise, the mean for the item is M= 2.16 and 2.23. This indicates that students’ response lies in the range of rarely. From this, one can conclude that the above, 56(40%), 13(43.3%) of the respondents have shown their rarely, and were unable to decide on the claim respectively. Likewise, the mean for the item is M= 2.16 and 2.23. This indicates that students’ response lies in the range of rarely. From this, one can conclude that the respondents have no request and interact with their  teachers  to  get  help  when  they need supportin writing activities.  White and Arndt (1991) stated that the role of the teacher in writing class is to create a learning environment that enables students to learn about writing, engage in writing and feel enthusiastic about writing.
 
 
When we see the students’ responses for item 3, in Table 2 above was intended to identify whether students exercise the convention of planning, drafting, revising and editing their writing or not. Most of the students, 50 (35.7%) showed rarely   and   10    (33.3%)    never    to   the   item respectively.
 
Moreover, this can be seen from the mean value (M=2.58 and 2.43) of the item which inclines to neutral. Hence, this mean value clearly depicts that students do not involve in the exercise of planning, drafting, revising and editing strategies in their writing process. White and Arndt (1991) also argued that process approach to writing helps students to know how to actually write using the strategies of generating ideas, reviewing, evaluating, focusing, structuring, and drafting.
 
Item 4 indicated whether the students were involved in revising, editing and commenting or not. Consequently, 62 (44.3%), and 14 (46.7%) respondents were unable to decide and rarely with the item respectively; whereas 20 (14.2%) of the respondents showed usually. Hence, the students tend to have a negative attitude  towards this negative item, which implies that they are positive to the classroom writing. Furthermore, the classroom observations in the schools indicated that students have not seen when they practiced revising, editing and giving feedback activities in their writing classes.  Regarding the last three items that are teachers control the students, using error free grammar and mechanics, students perceive in writing, majority 61(43.6%) / 14 (46.7%), 57(40.7%) / 15 (50%) and 51 (36.4%) / 11 (26.7%) of the students and teacher respondents responded as usually respectively. The mean value of these items were M=3.65, M=3.83, M=3.74, M=3.67, M=3.41 and M=3.7 which inclines to neutral. Hence, this shows that the respondents have knowledge gap on understanding as reflective own self-confidence and autonomy in  writing were  overlooked  of  the two-sample secondary schools in the region. Supporting this finding, ELT theoreticians argue that teachers’ educational attitudes and theories have an effect on their classroom practices, influence what students actually learn, and are a determinant of their teaching approach (Karavas, 1996).
 
Generally, from the above quantitative and qualitative data discussion, it can be incidental that grade eleven students in the two sample schools of the study area have no good understanding of process writing. Moreover, EFL teachers do not make the students practice each strategy of writing.
 
As it is seen from Table 3, item 1 was designed to gather information of how often students use reading model texts strategies before starting to write.  To  this  end, 66 (47.14%), and 15 (50%) of the student respondents use model textbooks’ strategies to write rarely and usually in their schools. As seen from the table, the teachers rarely encourage their student to read model text strategies. Similarly, the mean for the item, M = 2.3, M = 3.0 also shows that the students have shown rarely with the statement.
 
 
In their response to item two, 62 (44.2%) and 14 (46.7%) of the respondents have shown they rarely exercise the strategies of planning and making outline in their writing, and usually with the claim respectively. Moreover, the mean values of the item, M = 2.47, M = 3.13 are found almost sometimes. This implies that majority of the respondents in the schools have no experience of prewriting [planning and making out line and so on]. From the result, therefore, the classroom practices observation showed that most of the students abruptly begin writing without planning what they want to write and try to copy from friends who write their drafts. In the rest items (3, 4 and 5), respondents were asked to assess the strategy of asking their friends comments, the strategies of revising and editing their drafts in their writing and the strategy of group writing (item 5). Thus, most of the sample respondents 67 (47.9%)/ 13(43.3%), 62(44.3%)/ 14(46.6%), 64 (45.7%)/ 12(40%) rated the three items as rarely and usually respectively. Furthermore, the mean value of the three items, M = 2.43, M = 2.8 and M = 2.4, M = 2.93, M = 2.47, M = 2.87 clearly shows all the items were rated as rarely and usually respectively. This shows that the respondents have practiced process writing strategies poorly to make plan, outline, feedback, revise, edit, and group writing strategies, which are major aspects of process writing. Hence, JUCPS students have relatively better exposure of exercising process strategies than JPS students.
 
The interview conducted with teachers also depicted lack of facilities and in service trained human power in the area of process writing strategies were the prominent factors in realizing the practice of process writing approach programs effectively in the two sample secondary schools. As a result, the stage of the current practice of process writing approach, stage of encouragement, and content analysis of the writing lessons were not effective in the sample secondary schools.
 
Generally, from the findings of the above items, it can be concluded that concerned bodies like teachers and students in the Jimma Preparatory and jimma University Preparatory school were not fully committed to making fertile ground for the practical process writing approach.
 
Results from grade eleven English textbook
 
The subject of the study is whether the writing strategies in the writing lessons adequately help students to learn writing or not. This was done through analyzing the existence of process writing strategies in  all  units  of  the text, and how much the students and teachers are encouraged to follow writing instruction. Content analysis is a research method that uses a set of procedures to make valid inferences from text (Webb, 2011). Hence, the procedures refer to the techniques the investigator applies to analyze the required data to the context of its uses, whereas the text addresses the book, unit, paragraph, etc in the analysis of the writing strategies in each unit of the current Grade Eleven English book.
 
The general discussion for the Grade Eleven English textbook has process writing strategies that students could practice in their writing. Students are required to exercise prewriting activities like brainstorming, making notes, selecting points and organizing ideas before the actual writing process in unit 2 of page 52 in a “magazine article” on the needs of Ethiopian educated women. However, the Grade Eleven English textbook showed that the contents are neither sufficient nor competent to address the entire unit.  Cotton (1988) argued that students’ writing skill improves when they use the writing strategies for process approach.  
 
Nunan (1991) also noted that these strategies promote the development of learning language use in general, cooperative learning and learning autonomy of the learners. From this, the theoretical bases of the current Grade Eleven English Textbook at Ethiopian student provide the process writing strategies that promote and motivate students in learning EFL writing skills. 
 
RESULTS FROM OBSERVATION  
 
Observation was made to investigate the approach of writing instruction implemented by both teachers and students in writing classes. Observation was made of four sessions of writing lesson in three sections A, C and I in JP and B in JUCP School for two consecutive periods in each section. Hence, the data were gathered through students’ questionnaire, teachers’ interviews and analysis of writing lesson in current Grade Eleven English textbook. Observation was based on the process writing strategies given by Shameem (1988), who sees writing as a recursive and nonlinear process, with four basic processes: prewriting, writing, revision and proofreading/ editing. These strategies were used as a benchmark to prepare the checklists for the main activities done in each stage of process writing.  
 
Therefore the score scales of students as most, many of, some of , a few and none were observed how they demonstrated their involvement in writing instructional activity at each stage of writing strategies based on VanTassel-Baska (2003)’s classroom observation guidelines.
 
The main target of the checklist above was to triangulate the data collected by the tools. Accordingly, both schoolteachers were not seen in organizing and encouraging  peer-writing   activities,   rather   they   were observed in providing individual writing activities. In addition, none of the three section students were observed in exercising the strategies of thinking, making out line, discussing with peers to generate and organize their ideas in the prewriting activities (Table 4). Cotton (1988) also argued that students who do the prewriting activities have greater writing achievement than those who start to write without any preparation. In general, the classroom observation for all the students shows there is little practice of process writing approach, though the current grade 11 English texts and literature support the effectiveness of using process-writing instruction. In fact, the researcher observed that the teachers were theoretically oriented to teach the strategies of process writing but they lacked the skills of making students practice the strategies in actual writing instruction. 
 
 
Moreover, he noticed when a few students described orally to their teachers the process writing strategies, they did not exercise the strategies in classroom writing. (Williams, 1998) argued that “to instruct someone in a discipline is not a matter of getting him to have results in mind. Rather, it is to teach him the process that makes possible  the  establishment  of  knowledge”. This  implies that transferring theoretical knowledge of writing strategies to the students does not bring the intended results of students’ writing skills if they are not taught the theory of using the practices of the writing techniques. The interview conducted with the teachers also depicted that lack of facilities and in service trained human power in the area of process writing strategies were the prominent factors in realizing the practice of process writing approach programs effectively in the two-sample secondary schools. As a result, the stage of the current practice of process writing approach, stage of encouragement, and content analysis of the writing lessons were not effective in the sample secondary schools. Generally, from the findings of Table 5, it can be concluded that concerned bodies like teachers and students in the two schools were not fully committed to making fertile ground for the practice of process writing approach.
 
 


 CONCLUSION

Based on the findings of the questionnaire, interview, classroom observation and content analysis,  it may be possible to conclude that grade eleven students of JP & JUCP have benefited and encountered difficulty from practicing process approach in writing class. Consequently, majority of the students have a positive attitude towards learning writing and they need their teachers to teach them how to practice the strategies of process writing. In their response to the interviews, the teachers    have     high     theoretical     orientations   and understanding of process writing strategies in the light of teaching writing; there was incompatibility between the teachers prescribing the strategies of writing with what they practice with their students in the actual writing instruction in both schools. Therefore, the teachers made it clear that they did not get adequate pre/in-service training opportunities on issues related to process writing teaching.
 
The finding of this  study verifies that the current Grade Eleven English textbook on writing strategies in EFL writing classes has not enough variety of practical activities in writing. In addition to that, the finding of this study indicated that the teachers perceived teaching writing as an optional activity and tedious work; they claimed students complain that process writing is not done in national exams and time constraints do not allow them to teach writing.
 
Generally, from the above quantitative and qualitative data discussion, most of the teachers focus on the grammatical aspects of writing while teaching and comment on students’ writing more than the contents and strategies of the process of  writing needed for students in EFL writing instruction. Thus, the result of the study indicated that there is little effort in making students practice process writing in teaching writing, though the textbook and literature support the effectiveness of making students involve in process writing in teaching EFL writing classes. 


 RECOMMENDATION

Based on the conclusions drawn above, the following recommendations are given:
 
(1) It would be advisable for the EFL teachers to be given in service training from university/college to familiarize them with the new textbook approach of teaching writing; it would play a crucial role in determining the implementation of approaching our context through the ministry of education. Since writing is not an easy skill for EFL students, practical skills of students’ cognitive process should be given from the earlier levels of teaching language to make students have good background skill in writing. 
(2) It would be helpful if teacher training colleges and universities are aware of the gap between teachers’ knowledge on the theoretical orientations of teaching process writing and their practical skills in teaching and writing. Thus, they need to make the required adjustments to ensure that the knowledge is transferred to trainees concerning theoretical and practical aspects of teaching process writing in classes.
(3) It seems to be difficult to improve the situation in process writing strategies; they lecture theoretically in writing class without practices. It would be better if a national exam agency center in collaboration with a regional education sectors find a means on how to incorporate process writing skill marks in national exams to avoid students’ wrong perception of learning writing.  
(4) It would be better if teachers usually and confidentially give constructive comments to the schools that help them to create fertile ground for the practice of process writing in classes. Current English textbook should get balance-writing contents with other language skills to give students many exercises rather than including repeated few language skills. This study needs to be  conducted  in the future to determine the status of the practice of process writing in secondary schools.


 CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

The author has not declared any conflict of interests.


 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Author would like to appreciate the valuable contribution of Jimma Preparatory and Jimma University Preparatory School EFL teachers and grade eleven learners for their co-operation in responding to the questionnaire and interview of this study; and also the teachers who generously permitted the researchers to observe their EFL classes.



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