How Blending Process and Product Approaches to Teaching Writing Helps EFL Learners: A Case Study

How Blending Process and Product Approaches to Teaching Writing Helps EFL Learners: A Case Study

Khadernawaz Khan (Dhofar University, Oman) and Umamaheswara Rao Bontha (Dhofar University, Oman)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6619-1.ch007
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Abstract

Writing is a deciding factor for academic success among tertiary-level students. Developing the writing skill of learners at the foundation level plays a significant role in their academic career. In teaching writing, a debatable issue has been whether to use a process or product approach. While some researchers contend that a process approach helps develop writing among ESL/EFL learners, others argue that the product is more important than the process. However, process without product would be aimless and a product without a process would be hollow. This chapter deals with the writing module taught across the three levels of the Foundation Program at Oman's Dhofar University. It focuses on how writing course content, learning outcomes, writing portfolios, and assessment procedures are addressed and how the process and product approaches are blended to achieve learning outcomes. Teacher and student perceptions on how this approach helps are analyzed and discussed.
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Writing Skills In Esl/Efl

Writing is by far the most complex and difficult of the four language skills. It has long been neglected in the history of teaching English as a Second and or a Foreign Language. According to Raimes, cited in Nunan (1999):

Until the mid-1970s, writing was seen as a subservient skill, whose function was to support the development of oral language. Pedagogy was therefore dominated by form-focused techniques that were in line with the audio-lingual ideology of drill and practice (p. 271).

Neglecting writing instruction made the skill a very complex and difficult one for instructors to teach and learners to learn. According to Walters (1983:17) “writing is the last and perhaps most difficult skill students learn - if they ever do.” This holds true for the early encounter of students with a foreign language in countries where the community is unilingual. In Omani schools, students routinely try to avoid the task of writing a paragraph on their own. Widdowson (1983:35) finds writing “....an irksome activity and an ordeal to be avoided whenever possible”. Even when students attempt to produce a piece of writing, it often lacks the essential elements of composition. To fashion well developed writing, students must know the nuances of integrating ideas with appropriate lexis and structure. Nunan (1996) says, “producing a coherent, fluent, extended piece of writing is probably the most difficult thing there is to do in language”. Being able to do this in school situations is not common among foreign language learners, because they do not encounter the target language in their social situations. In fact, “in comparison to speaking, listening and reading, writing outside of school is rare”. (Weigle, 2002:4). Hence, it would be wrong to assume that students automatically learn to write and master the skill through instruction in grammar and other skills. Technological advancements and the advent of the Internet and World Wide Web help students to access material in all the skills. However, while improvement in their listening, speaking and reading can be seen, the same cannot be said of writing. Even highly motivated learners cannot acquire the writing skill on their own. Lack of exposure to writing outside the classroom, and lack of enough opportunities to write in English, are key limiting factors.

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