The Process Approach and UAE High School Students' Attitudes Towards Writing
Aouina, Hichem Taieb
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Many students have negative attitudes towards writing and they feel frustrated because they do not know what to do to improve it. One of the main reasons behind this attitude is the adoption of the product approach that looks at writing basically as grammar practice and teaches and assesses compositions as final products regardless of the process that students have gone through to come up with them. Moreover, the feedback provided by the instructor does not seem to help students to pinpoint their weaknesses and deal with them. The "process approach" or "process writing" brought about an interesting change to composition classes as to how to go about writing, what to focus on and what sort of feedback might be more helpful to learners. Indeed, the process approach, as its very name suggests, focuses on the process that takes students all the way to come up with a final piece of writing, does not concentrate only on teaching or assessing the grammar knowledge of the learner, and encourages students to express their own ideas through a recursive movement through the different writing stages that allow brainstorming, freewriting, drafting, revising, peerediting, etc. Moreover, the sort of feedback that the teachers provide aims to help students with expressing what they really want to say. The purpose of this study is to examine whether using some process-approach associated activities in UAE high school writing classes can contribute to a change in students' attitudes towards writing. If yes, what sort of change can it bring about? If no, what might be the reasons? To answer these questions, a six-week writing course adopting some process-writing techniques was offered to a class of 25 grade 9 students, the experimental group. Before and after this course, a survey was administered to this group, and to another group that did not take the course, a control group, in order to gather some comparative data. Informal interviews were constantly conducted and descriptive journal notes were also continually taken all along the course as extra supportive qualitative tools of research. Results of this research, first, emphasize that many students initially had rather negative attitudes towards writing and, second, point out that adopting process-writing activities may change the majority of students' attitudes towards writing in general and towards some writing features in specific.