A Master of Arts Thesis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) by Aida Fares Abou Eissa Entitled, "Responding to Students' Writing in UAE Government Secondary Schools: Teachers' Attitudes and Practices, and Students' Perceptions," May 2010. Available are both Hard and Soft Copies of the Thesis.
The significance of implementing appropriate techniques when responding to students' writing has been widely discussed in the field of language learning in general and second language (L2) context in particular. Paying a great deal of attention to how teachers respond to students' writing, how they go about it and if differences occur between teachers' feedback practices in addition to teachers' attitudes and perceptions, have received little consideration in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) context. Teachers may find responding to students' writing a stressful and time-consuming task, and they may as well encounter some challenges in responding to students' writing. In other words, implementing traditional methods of writing assessment may result in decreasing teachers' awareness and appreciation of the necessity to look for useful assessment tools and the factors that might influence their practices. Moreover, little information in the UAE context is available about the perceptions and reactions of students in government secondary schools to their teachers' feedback on their written assignments. This study was an attempt to investigate teachers' attitudes towards writing assessment and their actual practices when responding to students' writing in government secondary schools in the UAE. It also examined students' perceptions regarding this issue. The research sought to answer the following questions: (1) What are English teachers' beliefs and attitudes about providing feedback on students' written assignments in the L2 classrooms? (2) How do English teachers respond to their students' writing in UAE government secondary schools in one educational zone? (3) What are the students' perceptions of their teachers' written feedback on their written assignments? In order to answer these research questions, a combination of qualitative data collection instruments were utilized in the form of two questionnaires and follow-up interviews. The respondents were fifty-one male and female secondary school English language teachers working in eight different secondary boys and girls schools in the Sharjah Educational Zone in the UAE. The follow-up interviews with the eight volunteering teachers provided in-depth information about their attitudes and practices when responding to students' writing. The investigation also surveyed 240 male and female secondary school students in grades 10, 11, and 12. This allowed a better understanding of teachers' assessment practices and students' attitudes towards them. Results showed that regardless of their negative attitudes towards these practices, English teachers were fully aware of their significance for developing students' writing skills and how important it is to implement various responding techniques. The data collected from the students' questionnaire highlighted the fact that students were aware of their teachers' feedback practices. In addition, results indicated that students valued the feedback they receive.