Welcome to the Third Quarterly Issue of ELT Choutari: Special Coverage on Writing Education #Vol. 10, Issue 88

A teacher providing feedback on her students’ writing (www.alamy.com)

Editorial

We are delighted to present the third quarterly issue (July- September) of ELT Choutari of 2018, the 88th issue. The issue focuses on writing education in Nepali schools and universities.

We, the teachers of English in schools and universities teach about writing not writing itself. For instance, students are made to memorise what a paragraph means rather than making them write a paragraph on different topics. In the university, many students strive to create original pieces of writing. To meet the dates for submitting assignments, students ‘copy and paste’ in rush. They do not receive enough opportunity to practice writing in the classrooms. On the other hand, in schools, teachers generally write paragraphs, letters and essays on the board and students just copy them. They even memorise those notes including essays for the examination. Furthermore, there are ‘ready-made’ paragraphs, letters, job applications and essays in the markets; the “Bazaar Notes”. In a way, these notes make the teachers’ lives go easy. Of course, there are few teachers and students who invest their sufficient effort to practice writing processes in schools and universities. Interestingly, it has also been observed that the teachers and university faculties who have never produced a single piece of original writing in their career grade the students’ papers for their creativity and originality in writing. I mean, do we have experience of the process of writing? We need to rethink and revise the practice of teaching writing in our academic institutions.

In this connection, this 88th issue of ELT Choutari offers a wide range of writing practices, experiences and analysis of scholars. I believe that teachers, students and researchers will be benefited from reading these writings.

Here are nine blog posts for this issue:

  1. Thesis Writing: A Big Learning Opportunity: Nabina Roka
  2. Good Writing is All About Practice and Knowing its Requirements: Dr Hayes (by Jeevan Karki)
  3. Thesis Writing: A Next Step in Learning: Tara Rai
  4. Writing a Writing Education in Nepal: Dr Shyam Sharma
  5. Developing Students’ Writing Skill: Teachers’ Views from Far West: Januka Bhatta
  6. Academic Writing and the Reality in Universities: A Review of Academics’ Voices: Dr Karna Rana
  7. My Experience of Teaching Writing in School: Shanti Upreti
  8. Being Familiar with Academic Writing: Nani Babu Ghimire
  9. Teaching Writing at University Level: Practices from Far West Nepal

I would like to thank Choutari editors Dr. Karna Rana, Jeevan Karki, Praveen Kumar Yadav and a learning editor Narendra Airi for their reviews to release this issue. Finally, if you enjoy reading the blog posts, please feel free to share in your circle and of course, drop your comments in the boxes below. Likewise, please write your teaching-learning experiences and send us. We will give a space at Choutari. Our email is 2elt.choutari@gmail.com.

Ashok Raj Khati

The editor of the issue

Thesis Writing: A Big Learning Opportunity

 Background

“Thesis” this word always had been a matter of mystery for me since I started master level because every senior I talked

Nabina Roka

said that the toughest part of the study was thesis writing. They shared their success, failure, complexities and challenges they faced in terms of writing a thesis. When I approached that level, I was at a loss because I could not find myself more confident. However, I have always been prepared and concerned about this matter and became curious from very beginning. More, I often remembered my sister who used to share her experiences of writing a master thesis and energized me as thesis is ‘something especial’  which requires a lot of patience and handwork. Before approaching this level, I might not be more serious about this matter meanwhile a kind of feeling came in my mind like, oh my god, “it is a tough writing”. Keeping those things in mind, I prepared for it .As a result, I reached at its final result. During this journey of writing a thesis I experienced most suffering and stressful time, I feel like that a woman suffered during in labour pain. It was in the sense that I had no option escaping from it because I spent about a year for preparing this thesis and face several problems, challenges, dilemmas and fear since the early days of preparing proposal to facing thesis viva. These several painful moments during the process however made me strong and leads towards its successful completion.

 Early Preparation for Conducting Research

I could visualize my classmates and found the same inherent problem like me in terms of writing a master thesis. At that time our concern was on thesis ‘topic’. Though initially, I have no idea about thesis writing, yes! Of course, I have a desire to carryout out research quite differently than other (to be honest, till that time, I had no vision to carry out the research on totally new area and design, I don’t know why but it can from my inner heart my …..).Therefore, I have always been concerned about this matter with little knowledge about thesis writing since the very beginning of master level. Times flies very fast eventually, I approached to the first rehearsal stage of preparing research proposal for the partial fulfillment of assignment of research methodology subject. For preparing this proposal, like other friends of mine, I visited CRC and read out some theses and prepared proposal without knowing the real essence of writing well proposal. Actually, it was in third semester, without having proper knowledge on it I submitted to the Department. I was curious to know the feedback of my work. It is all because I was thinking that this work would be helpful for my further process of thesis writing. On the contrary, it did not happen to me. I neither got feedback from my teacher (initially he promised to return back with feedback) nor he returned checked copy. Feeling little depressed, immediately, after the completion of this project, I went to one of my senior teacher of our faculty and expressed my research interest. I shared my interest on doing research in new topic. Then, he advised me as, “sounds interesting! I wonder if you find the literature of that topic in our own ELT context.” He further added that he however might not be sure either I can ….  Being confused, I remained silent because I had no more option instead  of quitting it .Thus, I just quitted it and thinking on doing research in quite easier topic than earlier. Eventually, I appeared final exam and worried thinking about thesis topic. After the completion of exam, I immediately visited CRC and brought some theses and decided to carry out survey design research as others.

The Moment Somewhat I understood Area and Topic

The Department of English Education published the notice of thesis supervisor. I saw my name under the supervision of respected guru Dr. Prem Bahadur Phyak. I heard his name and his contribution in English language teaching. But, before that time, I had no formal visit to him. Some days later, he called a first meeting for a discussion. On that particular day, we gathered and discussed on general matters. My friends were sharing their ideas one by one after introducing themselves. When my turn came, I was really confused whether I could tell. Feeling little comforted I tried, but it went difficult for me to speak over there because before that time I never became serious about “area” and “topic”. Though I became nervous, I successed to speak something about topics, I brought. Meanwhile, he understood my intention, made me feel comforted. After discussing with him, somewhat I understood and got little idea on area and topic. I knew the area ‘gender’ but became confused how to carry out the research on it. I returned back home and laid down restlessly continuously thinking on it. But the question “how to carry” had drawn my attention. After a long debate within, I decided to do it and immediately requested to my supervisor for providing some materials related to gender. He immediately sent me a pile of reviewed works. Next day, I downloaded and printed out all, I had. Then, I started to read. I read and underlined the words which I considered most important. I read each article several times but became tired and frustrated when I understood nothing.  However, I kept on reading.

Gradually, we were called for second and third meeting for a discussion. In those productive meeting, I learnt many things but felt little uneasy because I was still in dilemma and not sure how to start and what to do later? Meanwhile, I saw some of my friends were confidently sharing their ideas .On the other hand, I found some of them were in dilemma (still) like me. Although I was in dilemma, I observed them and I felt little comforted. But till that time, I could not dare to speak. To be frank, finally, I tried to express my inner intention with my facilitator, ‘Sir, I went through all but understood nothing’. He simply replied, Nabina, “You show your interest on gender. Your issue is great. So, don’t be afraid. Be positive and just spend some more time on it”. This time, probably I felt little more comforted than earlier meetings. In such way, our last group meeting before preparing proposal was end with the discussion of choosing area, population and selecting research design particularly.

Experience of Preparing the First Draft of Proposal

Once I decided my area typically gender, having little knowledge about that field, I started working on it. As I mentioned earlier section, ‘I read but understood nothing’ later appeared as a milestone for me as it motivated me to do the work quite impressively. Keeping the quotation ‘understood nothing’ in my mind, I started to read. I spent about two and half months for reading and generalizing the ideas in my proposal writing. I had done it with paying full attention. Meanwhile, I found, it was as tougher as I thought. At that time, I encountered with several challenges. So, I had frequent visit with my facilitator and getting constructive suggestions for further improvement.

Finally, I prepared the first draft of proposal and visited to my supervisor with little excitement. I handed this draft piece to him to observe my first attempt of writing a proposal. On the other hand, I noticed that my facilitator focus was on my writing ability than the particular topic (It is because, in our earlier meeting, he used to say that not to worry about topic. It may change according to the demand of the study during any of the phase of working). He spent sometimes observing it and commented on my writing skill. As I remembered his first question as, ‘why did you start with definition in your writing, Nabina….?” however, I did not have answer of it. I was really surprised and suddenly said to him, ‘Sir I found the same writing culture when I observed some theses and I did the same here’.  (He laughs).Later, he had kindly awoken me. I got an exposure. During this discussion, I started getting more and more ideas related to language, content, related literature review, organization skill and methodology. It was the time he opened my eyes quite widely. On the other hand, I was embarrassed in front of him it is because I found myself in the very beginning stage of writing. As a result, I had to change my concept paper i.e. proposal for next time.

On that day, our discussion summarized with introducing new word ‘identity’. Though, I fascinated by the word became worried thinking on my investment in preparing earlier proposal. Again I returned back home and stayed restlessly. I was really in dilemma what to do again. I immediately emailed him. He provided pile of articles related to teacher identity. During that time, I faced the same problem as earlier (but not exactly it was) as I did not have many ideas on teacher identity because it was totally new area than earlier for me. Meanwhile, I tried to read quite widely. I spent some weeks, losing my sleep, hunger and ignoring many more. Then, after reading some complex articles (In the sense that, I have not such habit of reading such article by heart, instead I read some just for reading, assignment  purpose) about teacher identity, I consulted several times with my facilitator as it was really hard for me to make even  a general concept on it. Having discussion with facilitator about the issues related to female English teachers’ professional development and more importantly as being a female ELTpractioners, exposure to the difficulties other working female(teacher) have in their personal and professional life, I started fascinated  more by the term “identity”. This time, reading turned out quite enjoyable. But on the way to working, I felt bored and became somewhat redundant as I could not frame my ideas properly. During this phase, I had a several visit with him and expressed my problems as, ‘Sir I went through all articles but could not organize my ideas properly? He kindly advised me ‘you can’ but please does it passionately.

I then determined and followed his suggestion, continuing my job of preparing proposal. Since that day, the word “identity” sounded in my mind (is still). After all, I spent another one and half month for preparing next proposal. During this phase, I worked hard despites the difficulties I faced. As a result, I successed to write all the parts except introduction. Again, I spent some more days for preparing the introduction part. During the whole proposal writing, I found that writing introduction was most challenging and time consuming in comparison to other parts. Finally, after a several draft, it was submitted to proposal defense. After the successful completion of proposal defense I did required correction by following the suggestion provided by the research proposal evaluation committee for further improvement. Since the days of submitting research proposal to the department even today I feel that starting writing had impacted in my several writing draft so it can be appeared as strong basis for writing present proposal for me furthermore, it extends my horizon of knowledge in the interested area and got the chance to be familiar with the recent practices and trends in researching and academic writing.

Journey of Data Collection and Interpretation

My journey of data collection started after the phase of facing proposal viva. Regarding data collection, I was worried thinking on how it would be going on and whether I could find the expected participants. During the phase of proposal writing, I talked with some female ELT teachers whom I knew but later I found them being confused and trying to escape by remarking time limitation. So, I became worried and went to Pokhara .In order to fulfill the requirement for my research, I visited several public schools of valley. I asked help from my family and head of visited school to provide information. After the several days’ attempt, I met participants who were willingly taken part in my study.

After a phase of planning. I provided them a written consent letter for getting ethical approval. Then after having agreement with them, I conducted my first interview in August 2017. I met with my participants individually for narrative session. The interview was conducted in different places, time and context according to their own comfort than mine. At the very beginning, I started the first interview session by asking more open ended questions, to make them feel free with me. So, I started the conversation with more general questions like what are you doing now? How do you feel right now? etc. I was inquiring in such a way for exploring their present experiences and more importantly, I did it for rapport building. Gradually, I entered into their personal and professional life.  At the same time, I audio- recorded their each interviews.

A month later, to explore more about them, I again needed their help. So, I had a telephone call with each participant for our second meeting. We again fixed our meeting for follow- up interviews. Gradually, this happened in first week of September 2017. In this session, our visit was on different places like their own home, school’s premise, coffee station and so on.  At that time, we largely discussed about their personal and professional life. I mainly focused on the hindering and supporting aspects of their personal and professional life as it was the major objective of this research study. This time, we became more close to each other. So, without hesitation, they openly shared their stories though I noticed, they repeated the past events and even shared the events which they remembered during our ongoing conversation. (Feeling more comforted) In the same way, they even added new stories which they never shared to others. Listening to their unique lived voices, I lost myself with their lived stories and became nervous. At the same time we laughed and cried together. In this way, they not only shared their lived experiences, I also shared my growing interest on carryout out research on this area and growing journey of becoming a teacher. We talked for hours as there were no certain boundaries and fixed time. So, after having the interviews, I provided the question for written narrative. Despite their interviews and written narrative, I have a frequent visit to them on social sites. Furthermore, I observed their activities, facial expression as they were significant factors to explore their hidden reality of becoming an English language teacher. In such way, I collected pile of raw data.

Data Interpretation Stage

Data analysis started after translating (Nepali interview into English) and transcribing lengthy narratives. After two months rigorous hard work, I had prepared myself for data analysis and interpretation. When I stared to analyze raw data, I faced the same problem whether I would go further or escaped from it. Finally, despite the difficulties, I determined and did it. I collected data without having sufficient ideas on how to analyze and interpret them. I again glanced my eyes into the pages of narrative researches which I already have.  I turned the pages of these books but could not find anything I needed and again consulted with my supervisor. He suggested me to follow the framework for analyzing narrative data. (To be frank) I actually didn’t know what would be the framework. I consulted several researches and become frustrated. Later, I went through the work of Riesman (2008) for a discussion of thematic approach to narrative analysis and adopted her ideas which I thought more significant for my research study.

Few months later, I informed about my work to my supervisor. Until that time, I just completed fourth chapter of my thesis and visited with him. Few days later, he informed me about my work. On that day, he provided me more valuable suggestions as how to organize the narratives of participants effectively and how to put relevant literature in this part to make the research sound. Although I got the amount of exposure, while preparing this part, I encountered exactly the same condition as I faced during first proposal draft. I know, I am in the journey of research but I become really confused whether I would ‘go’ further or ‘leave’ it. Then, I remained silent for some days and looking for another simple way. However, I could not. I had no more option to quit it because I already spent half year working on it (faced proposal viva before 5 months). I tried numerous times and finally decided to continue. During this phase, I faced several challenges and lived through stressful time. Since interpretation to submission for thesis viva, I had numerous visits with him. Finally, through trial and error, I successed to arrive it’s completion and got its present shape.

Challenging Aspects of My Study in Terms of Preparing Thesis Writing

I discussed about my struggles, dilemmas and challenges I had been facing during this research project in the aforementioned section. More importantly, here I have presented these points as some consideration of my thesis journey.  I decided to carry out this research entitled Identity Construction in Female English Language Teachers Professional Development: A Narrative Inquiry without having knowledge on this area, even I did not think that I might to carry out the research on this very topic. However whole thesis journey energized me and finally I arrived  to my destination. Though I have no idea originally to this topic, later it went well. As a result, I found the work much more manageable than I thought it would be. However, throughout this thesis journey, I was spending most of my time working on this research project without having proper sleep, hunger, laugh and many more. It was therefore a very challenging (still is) stage and kept me going on and on.

First, I felt quite easy to carry out the research related to female teacher because this research project was partly inspired by my own personal experience as being ELT practioners however researching on female teacher identity construction particularly is challenging issue for me. It was because “identity” itself is a new area and has not been researched in the context of Nepalese ELT scenario.  Furthermore, I did not find the large amount of researches on this matter around the world teacher education.Infact, there were comparatively less number of researches, have given due emphasis on female teacher identity construction. So, selecting the area and carrying out research related to identity construction is challenging task.

Second, we know reviewing literature play a significant role to make every research sound and fruitful. However, we did not pay due respect on it. People might say, ‘Once we prepared literature in proposal writing we might think that we need not to review it again’. Even, I heard such argument time and again from my friends and seniors. To be frank, not only them, I was not exceptional in this matter. Before approaching that stage, I have an ideology that it might be true. On the contrary, later, I know the value and its impact throughout whole writing. So, I realized that it is an ongoing process. Meanwhile, another concern of my study was related to proper organization of ideas. It was not only the problem I faced in thesis writing, I am still suffering, writing this reflection.

Third, challenge I faced when I simply could not find the respondents for my research Though I  talked earlier( when I was writing proposal)with some female ELT teachers later trying to escape from this research project by pretending for not having time. Then, I became little frustrated and again was searching for required participant for my study. Finally, after my one week hard work, I met some female teachers who were searching a place for sharing their stories. Again, I need to consider other factors like rapport building, conducting interviews, time management, selection of language used for interview and so on.

Fourth idea which I considered is the relationship between researcher and participants throughout the whole thesis process. Throughout this journey, I noticed that in narrative research, the role of researcher is different from other such studies because of the relationship between researcher and participant. As I mentioned in third point, building rapport is the most difficult one in my early days and more concerned with whether I could build better relation to explore their hidden reality.  So, I need to view myself both from insider and outsider perspectives. However, I did not forget my role in this thesis writing.

Last but not least, another concern of my study was accurate representation of meaning in terms of what was expressed in Nepali and what resulted from translation into English. Maintaining core meaning and ideas of participants was a central issue for me. Therefore, I was always afraid of possible effect of misleading the interpretation of gathered data. During the whole thesis process, transcribing (took more than 2 month) and translating were most difficult tasks.

In this way, despite the difficulties I encountered, my interactions with participants provided huge insights on exploring female teacher identity construction, their everyday experiences, contradiction, dilemmas, frustration they experienced in their personal and social life. More importantly, I understood the value of shared story in ELT teaching and learning and its impact in educational change throughout this thesis journey.

My Final Thought, Suggestions and Acknowledgement

After all, the final result made me more energetic as I had been working with ignoring many obstacles, challenges and complexities. To be honest, it was not my earlier goal to submit my thesis on this very topic. But, later due to my strong desire and more importantly the part of motivation which I had from my supervisor, I started my journey of the research in May 2017 within four female teachers who are teaching in basic level at different public school of Pokhara Lekhnath-Metropolitan city. Starting from first stage of selecting area, preparing first research proposal draft, facing proposal viva, conducting interviews, analyzing and interpreting data with finding out conclusion, I passed several joyful and painful moments which sometimes motivated and frustrated during the whole process of working. To be honest, most of the time, I experienced the painful situation and no doubt that I was writing from the level of ‘fear and dilemma’. In fact these dilemmas and fear later made me strong and confident. Most importantly, throughout my educational journey, this firsthand experience enabled me to understand the real value of study from school days to graduation.

Next, during my working days, I observed some of mine friends carried out their theses within limited time and even I heard the thesis, “selling and buying” culture. Yes! Honestly, I am not sure about this rumor but was afraid of it. Instead, I want to say to you all that definitely you have to tackle with many ups and down moments like me during thesis process and you may deserve the result of your hardworking. So, I advised to all prospective researchers not to scare about word “thesis”. You must understand the essence of writing thesis before started writing further. If you do that it will be easier for your further steps.

Further, people I met often told that everyone writes thesis but it does not matter how you write, the goal of writing a thesis is just for getting marks than nothing else. Instead, my stressful time provided me an insights on what is thesis writing in real sense, what is my role as a researcher? Somewhat I got the chance to be familiar with little about thesis writing. Thus, I would like to suggest to all fellow students, you must grab thesis writing as a learning opportunity as you will get the chance to enlighten you and your knowledge on your interested area.

Now, I am at the end of this reflection writing, at this journey I highly indebted to those generous souls whose collaboration makes this journey of knowing mine and others’ possible. Most importantly, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to my respected guru and thesis supervisor Dr.Prem Bahadur Phyak, for his sound professional guidance, full attention, timely advice, expertise and encouragement throughout the whole thesis process in spite of his busy schedules and over whelming responsibilities. I am really grateful to him for everything.  More, I have a due respect to all research proposal evaluation and thesis approval evaluation committee for their support and encouragement in completing this research study.  I have a due respect to Prof.Dr. Tara Datta Bhatta for his  encouragement and enlightening ideas on language .Similarly,I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to Prof. Dr. Bal Mukunda Bhandari for his invaluable suggestion. I would equally offer my sincere gratitude to Mr. Laxmi. Pd Ojha for being there and provided suggestion for further improvement. Further, my entire research would not have been accomplished without the help and support of my participants. So, I have a due respect to them who believed me and enthusiastically taking part in this study.

Ms. Nabina Roka is a recent graduate from the Department of English, TU. Her master’s thesis explores identity construction of female EFL teachers in Nepal.

Good Writing is All About Practice and Knowing its Requirements: Dr. Hayes

Talking with an Editor on Writing and ELT

Jeevan Karki* 

British Council has recently published a book titled “English Language Teaching in Nepal: Research, Reflection and Practice” (2018). This volume is edited by Dr David Hayes. He is an associate professor at Brock University, Canada and an independent education consultant.  

This volume is a collection of 14 research papers including a majority of voices of Nepalese ELT practitioners focusing on ELT and critical analysis of the role of English in Nepal. On his remarks on its publication, Dr Lava D Awasthi, the chairperson of the Language Commission of Nepal states, “…it will serve as a resource kit for language planners, policymakers, practitioners and stakeholders.” He further adds, “…it is groundbreaking… drawing on national and international perspectives and practices, theorizing the issues generated from practical experiences and research-based empirical evidence.” On his foreword, Alison Barrett, the director, Education and society, East Asia (British Council) mentions, “…this volume will stimulate considered debate around the role and position of English within the education system in Nepal, and will enable agents of change… to make informed choices… on the quality of English language teaching, learning and assessment in Nepal…”

This book is divided into three sections. First, international perspectives (on ELT), which includes the papers of Rhona Brown, Pritivi N. Shrestha and Amol Padwad. Second, Sponsored research studies, which covers the other three papers of Min Bahadur Ranabhat and Subodh Babu Chiluwal, with Richard Thompson. Finally, the third section- Case studies includes the eight case studies of Ushakiran Wagle, Eak Prasad Duwadi, Laxmi Prasad Ojha, Jeevan Karki, Gopal Prasad Bashyal, Ashok Raj Khati, Laxman Gnawali and Vaishali Pradhan.

Karki with Dr Hayes

As the volume is out in the market, we thought of sharing the thoughts and reflection of the editor in editing the valuable volume. I managed to briefly talk with Dr. Hayes.

Jeevan: Dr. Hayes, you have recently edited a volume “English Language Teaching in Nepal: Research, Reflection and Practice”, which includes 14 chapters. Based on this valuable experience, what is your reflection on the writing of Nepalese ELT practitioners? What are the strengths in their writing and what could be done to make their writing even stronger and better?

Dr. Hayes: Nepalese practitioners are experts in their contexts and my job was just to help them to clarify their ideas and put everything together in a way which allowed them to make their contributions to the book the best that they could be. The strength in the writing generally was in bringing the Nepali school contexts to life so that readers elsewhere could see what was positive about teaching and learning English in Nepal, what the challenges were and where improvements could be made. Good writing is really all about practice and knowing the requirements of the publication you are writing for and its readership. Nepalese practitioners just need opportunities to be given- opportunities to write and to publish for both local and international audience. The more they write, and the more editors (of journals and, I hope, more books like ‘English Language Teaching in Nepal: Research, Reflection and Practice’) help them, the more proficient they will become.

Jeevan: Having gone through the research and practices in Nepalese ELT, where do you locate the ELT practices in Nepal in relation to the trends and practices in the world?

Dr Hayes: I think it’s always best to look at ELT practice in terms of how appropriate it is to the local context. However, there are clear trends which are present in Nepal just as in other countries worldwide. The most obvious of these is the expansion of English-medium education, even at the primary level. Personally, I don’t think this serves the interests of the majority of children well. International research shows that children are most successful educationally when they are taught in their first language and become literate in that language in the early years of schooling. Of course, this is a challenge for multilingual societies like Nepal but experience elsewhere shows that primary education in the first language can be achieved and, not only that, children are often more successful at learning another language such as English in later years too. The danger of English-medium education when the language is not available and regularly used in the local environment is that children often end up not learning anything very well. The work of the Language Commission in Nepal is extremely important in this respect. There is, of course, still a place for English language teaching but I think there needs to be some serious reflection about its place in the overall education system in Nepal. The educational interests of the children must come first.

English Language Teaching in Nepal: Research, Reflection and Practice

Mr Karki is one of the editors of this magazine and an independent teacher trainer* 

Thesis Writing: A Next Step in Learning

Tara Rai

Writing is a rigorous process. A good writing needs enough practice on the part of the writer. Moreover, academic writing is well organized and needs good effort. As a part of the academic course, I carried out a research on “Feedback in English Language Learning: Teachers’ Practices and Students’ Perceptions”. I went through several hard times during this research. The problem began from the very starting day of the writing process. The foremost problem I faced was to find out the way out for finding out the topic that I was interested in. It was not that easy for me to find out the area of my interest on which I was about to carry out the research. Hardly, I decided to do my research on a given topic. The topic suddenly came in my mind when I reviewed many available literatures related to language teaching and learning. Going through several literatures, I came to know that the role of feedback cannot be neglected, especially, in the process of second language learning. As being a student of semester, I was thinking of the feedback practice at the university. I wanted to find out whether the students are receiving effective feedback in the classroom or not, whether they are satisfied with it or not. What different ways are there to provide feedback to the students? These all led me to choose this topic.

Literature review is the most important aspect in any research. You can guide your research very well if you have good review of literature. Review helps to find out the gap in any area. Moreover, you can come up with the contrasting idea after the review of the literature. Finding out the appropriate area of interest in any research is challenging to any researcher. In the same way, I also went through several sleepless and stressed nights thinking over the area of my interest in carrying out the research. Several nights, I wandered in dream of finding out the suitable topic for my research. I used to dream of the same thing-research topic but forgot after I woke up. I myself didn’t know in which area I was interested in. It took me a couple of weeks to think about the topic. At some point, I thought that I could not do. But then, I gathered the courage to do it. And finally, I decided the topic. The journey of carrying out research did not stop there. It was just the beginning and a lot more was to come.

When the topic suddenly came into my mind, I became so happy. But the happiness did not last for long as I thought of the whole process of writing it.  I was like…(कुहिरोको काग). Sometimes, I thought that I took it more seriously than it needed to be. But the other times, I thought that it was ok! At some point, I thought that it was not of my reach.

I thought like I was lost in the ocean. Sometimes, I thought of changing the area of research. But when the whole struggle of coming up to that level came into my mind, I forgot the idea of doing so.

I had my own kind of mental map when I planned for doing my research. I wanted to do it on my own way. But the turmoil came when I asked my supervisor about the topic and he led me to other way. This made me sad again-so sad that I stopped working on it for several days. But ultimately, it was my work and I had to do it at any cost. I started working with the proposal again. I worked to first, second and third draft giving it to the final shape.

During the process of writing these all the drafts, I took support and guidance from my supervisor, teachers and my dear friends. When my proposal got the final shape, I felt like achieving a great victory over the enemies. It was the day I took a step forward. It was half done but there was a long way forward to go. And the paths were not that easy. The paths were not pitched-graveled, sloppy and spiky. I stepped back many times and it took me several weeks to move forward.

Collecting the required data is the next challenge in any research. I wanted to do my research through the questionnaire and classroom observation of the teachers. Collecting the data taught me the next lesson-the lesson of sketching all the possible future before the task begins. A single prediction may not work as a whole. So, what a researcher needs to think is that there are many alternatives way forward and these all should be kept in mind before conducting any research. I wanted to do my research based on the classroom practice of the teachers and simply through the perceptions of the students. But, I failed many times in getting the right idea of doing so as I lacked the prerequisites necessary to it. So, I learnt the lesson of looking out for the multiple possibilities of any result. A single lens does not suffice a good research work. I also thought of changing the whole research work as I was quite unable to collect the required data from the sample. The problem added when I could not collect the data from the respondents. Hardly, the respondents returned back the filled up questionnaire. So, good rapport with the respondents is also a part of survey research. I myself was not satisfied with my work. But then, hardly, I collected the required data from the respondents and the observation of the classes. The data were not of good quality though.

After the collection of the data, I met my supervisor time and again for guidance. I was lost for almost more than a month for the analysis and the interpretation of the data. Looking out the ideas from the teachers and friends, finally, I came up with the first draft. It was very rough and incomplete. With the help of regular guidance and support of the supervisor, I did it. Working with the first, second and third draft, I came to the final version. Even after the final version, I thought that I was missing somewhere.

Doing good research itself is challenging and the tag of good student added more challenge to me. So, what I feel sometimes is being good is always challenging. Everyone has their eyes on you. It adds to your stress-stress not only in your research but in every step of your academic journey, eventually personal! Sorry! Being somebody is always dangerous!

Ms. Tara Rai is a recent graduate from the Department of English Education, TU. Her master’s thesis explores the practices of providing feedback in ELT.

Writing a Writing Education in Nepal

Shyam Sharma, PhD

One of the most common activities that we do on a daily basis, and do it in increasingly more ways for more purposes, is writing. But writing for us is also like water for fish. “What water?” one fish might ask another fish that starts talking about water, unless the latter has been thinking about or deliberately observing water surrounding it. Likewise, most of us don’t pause to think and talk about writing. It is just what people do, and they have habituated, often fossilized, thoughts about it or have nothing to say. That means it’s important for us as educators to think about how we are going to meet the increasing academic, professional, and social demands of writing in Nepal. 

In this post, I’d like to share some thoughts and experiences, and a particular vision, about how Nepalese academe could adopt and advance writing as a discipline and pedagogy, as a profession and vocation within the academic context. I am not thinking about creative writing, the writing done by the special “writers” within the humanities, or the writing done by a few “scholars” in other disciplines. Nor am I thinking about writing done by journalists or other kinds of professionals who write for a living. I am thinking about writing as a subject, like social studies or math in secondary school, and like compulsory English or particle physics in college. How can we advance writing as an independent subject that is taught by academic scholars or teachers who have studied it as a subject? How can we advance scholarly conversation and research about writing, in its academic and professional forms, for improving its social and economic applications? How can we develop writing as a field of study and practice, as a matter of curriculum and policy, as an issue of public awareness and demand? How can we help our schools and universities adopt systematic teaching, research, and training of teachers and other professionals around writing as a foundational part of secondary and higher education, as a vehicle for professional development? How can we write a writing education of our own?

We do currently have a writing education of sorts. It exists in many forms, many contexts, many manifestations. It is not a separate subject/curriculum taught to students across the board; there are only a course or two within disciplines like English Education. Writing should be a distinct subject, or at least a part of “writing, research, and communication” skills course. Instead of considering writing as one of four language skills and taught within English or Nepali language courses, we must add academic writing as a foundational course in high school and college. We must offer specialized and/or discipline-specific writing courses, such as professional writing to help college and university students prepare for different professions, scientific writing and technical writing to help students write well in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and engineering, and writing courses for students who want to pursue academic careers in social science and humanistic fields. We also need academic and professional writing as a set of courses that form undergraduate writing major. And in order to produce writing teachers and scholars/researchers, we need writing degrees at the Master’s, MPhil, and Doctoral levels. We need departments of writing. We need conferences, journals and professional organizations for writing teachers and scholars.

One key question is what discipline is going to adopt writing, whether a new group of scholars are going to emerge and advance writing as an independent discipline, what shape our version of the discipline and profession of academic writing is going to take? Indeed, how do we characterize the courses/curricula and professional expertise in writing that we already have? Are the writing teachers, most of whom do not have specialized degrees or extensive training in the teaching and research of writing, going to lead this charge? Should they be connected to the broader community of writing scholars in the outside world? Are they and their new discipline and professional community–if such things are emerging or emerge in the future–going to be housed within another discipline, such as English Studies, English Education, or Applied Linguistics? Should a discipline and pedagogy of academic writing be limited within the context of English or Nepali for that matter? If so, what do the disciplinarity and linguistic identity of those other disciplines mean to the advancement of writing as a (sub)discipline and to the development of scholars/teachers with a distinct professional identity?

While putting in writing the chain of thoughts above, I was also thinking that we are yet to develop a significant understanding about writing–whether in our conferences and journals, blogs and other professional discussions or through curriculum change and teaching practices. As I indicated at the beginning of this post, Nepalese academe seems generally vague about academic writing, perhaps because it is not interested in this subject and only pay attention to it when there is a crisis. Writing is like a machine that people only talk about when it breaks down. Teachers talk about students “poor writing” when students fail in exams i.e. if they don’t assume that the students would have written perfectly if they knew what to write but writing mediates and can make or mar both the process and product of learning and assessment. It can open or close doors to the profession and often social success. Writing is not only a means of assessment in our education system–in fact, too much so–but also plays increasingly important professional functions. It is a means of democratic deliberation and participation, playing increasingly important roles there as well in a young democracy. And writing goes beyond professional application and social/civic action to empowering the individual in an era of rapid technological advancement and globalization where we conduct more work and communication through writing. So, it is time to challenge and reject problematic beliefs about writing in their place, teach and advance better understanding about the roles that writing plays in practice in today’s society (as well as academe). For instance, if we look at the so-called “genius” students, it is often because they know how to express and organize well what they know, through writing. They have a better grasp of the connection between reading or research and writing. They read and write rhetorically consciously. But these facts are lost on teachers and institutions alike because of the prevalence of many myths about writing.

Writing, many assume, comes naturally to individuals with a creative bent of mind. In reality, scientists who publish the results of their systematic research aren’t creative writers; nor are economists, journalists, or historians who are prolific writers. Writing is also often seen as an unteachable skill, one that must naturally emerge from regular reading, sustained practice, or just waiting until one has to do different kinds of writing in the “real world.” Learning to write happens, that is; there’s no need to teach writing. These assumptions and myths about writing take us back to understanding the nature and function of writing that we do or need. They prompt us to study the writing that our students must do, identify their struggles and failures and strengths, develop curricular and pedagogical strategies of intervention, put pressure on curricular and educational policies to recognize and integrate and support the teaching and study of writing. We must develop curricular models that will fit our own national and local contexts and needs. But we must also advance advocacy and education about writing–and that is what I mean by “writing” a writing education.

There is a need for those of us who are interested in making Nepal’s writing education visible, in promoting it professionalizing it, to come together and share our experiences and visions. There is a need for us to develop selling points, to show the exigency, to demonstrate the benefits of a more systematic and advanced writing education in secondary and tertiary education. It may not be the same discipline that we see in North America or Europe, or even in the rest of South Asia. It has to be built upon the expertise and resources we currently have, the demands and needs we can identify through research and exchange of ideas and practices. It is high time that we bring together those who are interested in and invested in teaching and advancing writing otherwise into a professional network or organization. This can help us educate other stakeholders about the benefits of teaching/learning writing more substantively, more systematically, more purposefully. It can help us show its applications that already exist, the gaps and pitfalls of how the teaching/learning of writing is currently done. We are yet to demonstrate to academe and the professions alike the importance and needs of well-developed writing skills in our students and our professionals.

It is time for Nepal’s writing teachers and scholars, in whatever proportion they would assume this academic/professional identity, to study and write the history of writing education in Nepal. We must understand and communicate what we have done well and what we haven’t. Collective action and ongoing conversation about academic and other forms of writing can also help us develop the arguments, the curriculum, the pedagogy, the practice, and the advocacy that we need for engaging other stakeholders. Together we can understand the uptakes, identify and try to overcome the obstacles. It is high time.  

Academic Writing and the Reality in Universities: A Review of Academics’ Voices

Karna Rana, PhD

This review is based on the interview which was published in April 2018 issue of ELTChoutari. Ashok Raj Khati, one of the editors of http://eltchoutari.com/ has explored significant ideas on academic writing from the interaction with scholars working in different universities of Nepal. The structured interview is centred on the university programmes which provide students with opportunities for learning skills of academic writing. It also highlights research and writing culture in the universities and publication habit of academics in their profession. The interview also raises the issue of plagiarism in Nepali academia.

The majority of academics in this interview emphasise that the formal courses they have in their universities can develop students’ academic writing skills. However, Khadka, Chairperson of English Subject Committee at Mid-Western University, Nepal, values the ELT club of students, which is a community of learning, to develop their writing skills. Students’ participation and presentation of their writing in seminars and conferences are highly focused by Gnawali and Ojha. Teachers’ feedback on students’ writing is focused to improve writing skills. However, developing students’ academic writing skills is a challenging job of university teachers in Nepali universities where the majority of students enrolled in English education come from government high schools. The students learn the English language in their schools as a subject among other subjects. Nevertheless, Negi doubts the scholarly qualification of university teachers and their learning and teaching habits who lack broad academic knowledge and extensively use diary notes to deliver lectures instead of teaching skills. Gaulee criticises university teachers for not providing feedback on students’ writing. He suggests the teachers need to value their salary for teaching life skills for students but not just for grading their level.

The academics in the interview highlight plagiarism in the works of academics and postgraduate students as a serious concern and a major issue in academic discussions in universities. Gnawali presumes that scholars plagiarise in their scholarly writing generally for two reasons: an intention to get quick promotion and lack of knowledge about how to acknowledge the sources. And the lack of enforcement of the law against the academic crime seems to be a loophole to allow the growth of plagiarism. Negi suggests the use of software to prevent plagiarism and discourage such activities in the authorship of academic publications. I believe that the academics’ arguments, ideas and suggestions signpost the demand for reformation in Nepali university programmes, the need for international standard academic writing and the development of research culture and publication.

The issues raised in the interview and the suggestions made to improve academic writings and publications in Nepal are genuine and significant if academics realise these in their professional activities. I reiterate the ideas of Gnawali and Gaulee that the honesty in knowledge and fair in sharing ideas in all kinds of academic publications should come first before thinking about earning money. However, the academic practice in Nepali universities is still based on Gurukul tradition, where chela (learners) just follow what their Guru (teacher) says. This culture is well maintained in academic writing and publications too. University lecturers and even professors compile contents from several sources based on the syllabus to prepare a book, author the book and insist undergraduate and postgraduate students to purchase their publications. None of such publications is ethical as the authors copy and paste contents without acknowledging the sources. Such publications are not standard because the information gathered in them is neither genuine nor authentic.

So far I know that the majority of standard journal articles and books in international academia are voluntarily written, reviewed and published, although few publishers charge little amount of money to cover the cost of press and distribution. Academics in Nepal need to learn about it and transform themselves before thinking to bring change in academic activities. Except rare recent graduates from local and international universities, who have been working hard to transform piracy academic culture to research-based original publication system in Nepali academia, the majority of university academics need to learn tangible academic skills and reflect their both soft and hard academic skills. Soft skills refer to social skills such as honesty in acknowledgement, fairness in information and unbiased criticality and hard skills refer to writing skills such as selection of academic language, organisation of ideas and presentation of information in an article or a book chapter.

Dr. Rana is associated with School of Teacher Education, College of Education, Health and Human Development, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

My Experience of Teaching Writing in School

Shanti Upreti

Introduction

I have been teaching English for a decade and a half. I started teaching English from a private English medium school in Kailali. As a novice teacher, I had an energy and ideas to teach.

Later I got a mentor; a head teacher of a reputed school in the region. She was quite inspiring for teachers. It was a turning point in my career. I found myself motivated to make changes in the classroom as I learned many things from her.

Chalk-and-talk method was the main teaching way in this part of the country in those days. It does not promote student-centred activities nor does it enhance their creativity. Many English teachers wish to improve students’ writing skills. However, it is not an easy job. Writing skill receives less attention in my context although it is well specified in our school curriculum. It has been evident that writing plays a significant role in improving overall English language proficiency.

Writing practices

I teach the English language to the upper primary and secondary level students. Writing is an expressive skill and it is felt one of the most challenging language skills to be taught and learnt in my context. I believe writing is not merely a transfer of ideas from one’s brain to paper; it involves organising and structuring ideas. Writing skill begins with copying the given text and ends with free writing provided that students have mastered the skill of combining letters into words and basic vocabulary. Learners have to learn vocabulary and a pattern of writing. Likewise, they need to generate ideas to be organised and a point to be developed; the theme to be explained in the piece. Many students are fluent and coherent in speech but they do not produce coherent pieces in writing of the same speech.

Students do the writing tasks both as homework and classwork. These kinds of writing tasks they do are completing exercises given in textbooks or practice books, answering comprehension questions, filling in the blanks and so on. They are also required to write short paragraphs and essays on different familiar topics.

Here is an example of a paragraph on the topic ‘library’ written by a student of upper primary level:

One of the other examples are writing is book reviews. The following is the book review on ‘The Alchemist’, an international bestseller written by one of my students:

In general, one of the objectives of teaching writing at the upper primary level is to develop skills in students’ to express their personal thoughts, insights, feelings and ideas. Teachers assign various activities depending upon the level of students and objectives of the lessons in this level. Some writing exercises aim to develop the ability of students to think independently giving them room for innovation. Students generate ideas on paper, construct paragraph and develop abilities to use grammar, vocabulary and punctuation marks properly.

My Experiences

Students usually answer questions, write paragraphs and essays. Most of the exercises are based on textbooks. I follow learner-centred activities to develop writing skills rather than writing on the board and making students copy it. Learners go through different stages of writing and they learn to write by doing. Furthermore, I provide maximum opportunity for them to think on the related topics, generate ideas and make notes of them. Then they are encouraged to organise those ideas.

In my experience, my students show a positive attitude towards writing. They pay attention to writing, describe the surrounding nearby them and try to get the meaning from what they write. They practise reading out what they write. They are careful of their spellings. Some of them also summarise the written texts in some instances.

However, it is not always easy for my learners to write as they lack confidence in it but I feel happy with them when they try improving the use of new vocabulary and sentence structures and make a flow of writing. My students commonly make errors in writing but for me, the errors are of great interest and usefulness. I collect the errors, study them, classify them in various ways and implement different ways to tackle them. The learners primarily commit errors in grammar, punctuation marks, contextual vocabulary and parts of speech. I have experienced that the more exposure they receive in the English language, the less error they commit. Therefore, I recommend teachers to provide maximum exposure in English and provide specific feedback to their errors rather than saying good, excellent or try again, improve your writing etc.

Conclusion

Students frequently write answers of short and long questions, write paragraphs and essays. Most of the exercises are text book focused. I employ learner centered activities to develop writing skills excluding write on the board and make student copy it. I attempt to provide maximum opportunity to think related ideas and make notes of them. Then they are encouraged to organize those ideas.

Ms. Shanti Upreti teaches English at upper primary and secondary level in Sainik Awasiya Mahavidyalaya, Teghari-Kailali.

Being Familiar with Academic Writing

Nani Babu Ghimire

Twenty-four years ago, on a fine morning, my maternal grandfather was having a conversation with one of his friends. He said, “My grandson wrote a letter in English and sent to his uncle in Okhaldhunga“. His friend replied, “It’s amazing. He has done a great job!” My grandfather felt proud of what his grandson (me) had achieved by writing a letter. This was my first piece of creative writing. The others I wrote were what I memorised. I also felt that I had achieved a great feat. I had gone through a book of local writer and followed the pattern of writing a personal letter. I have taught the English language in a community campus affiliated with Tribhuvan University for a decade. I am currently doing MPhil in English language education at Tribhuvan University. In this blog piece, I focus on how I got acquainted with academic writing during the first five months of the MPhil program.

I used to consider that the creative and academic writings are the same. Now I learned that academic writing is different from the creative ones. Academic writing is an activity of academics which requires a standard language. I got an opportunity to read what Greene and Lidinsky (2012) said: “Academic writing is what scholars do to communicate with other scholars in their fields of study, their disciplines (p.1)”. They further added that academic writers or scholars use specialised language to capture the complexity of an issue or to introduce specific ideas from their discipline. I learned that academic writing includes serious thoughts, complex sentences, specialised vocabulary, and variety in construction. Academic writing is thus authentic, objective, unambiguous, systematic and purposeful.

I have experiences of teaching, supervising masters theses and carrying out small-scale researches. I have also published a few journal articles in local journals. However, as a student of  MPhil, I felt I have not been much familiar with academic writing. One day our teachers in ‘Advanced Qualitative Research’ asked us a question: “Have you ever written a daily journal in your academic career?” We did not have the answer as many of us do not have the practice of writing even a page every day. They suggested us that novice academics should write a reflective summary of an article or any readings we have gone through on that day. Listening to them what I felt that I had not done what I am supposed to do to be an academic.

After two months, our teachers gave us some assignments to do. The teachers instructed us to write an introductory part of a research-based article on any topic. I was assigned to write a report on a selected topic choosing a research paradigm, an academic article and an experience on the influential professional issue. I found myself comfortable with the first two than writing an experience.

Regarding selecting the research issue and the problem, I had to strive a lot in the beginning. I was instructed to find an important issue, mostly in language education in Nepal in which I am interested in. I was able to choose an issue after going through several books, articles and interaction with teachers. I selected the issue and wrote a concept note on it and submitted to my professors. Then they advised us to link it with a theory, theoretical grounding of the issue. This was the most difficult part for me. I took support from my teachers and I went through many research articles and books. I wrote the theoretical framework of my issues as the second step for my assignment.

In the next step, they told us to collect data selecting appropriate research methodology. I have to mention the details of the methodology part. They made us practice developing themes from the transcription of our data. Finally, as the third assignment, they asked us to prepare a complete research-based article on the issue that we have selected as the first assignment. Doing a lot of practice, visiting different websites, studying research-based journal articles and taking help from teachers I completed my final assignment.

Reflection

The narrative that I mentioned above asserts to me that I am really satisfied with five months of my MPhil class. First of all, I took initiation to write a reflection on different issues that I am interested in and summary of the text that I studied. I learnt to choose the research issues and problems from the practical life for carrying out research. I learned to develop a theoretical framework on an issue of the research. Similarly, I got ideas to collect data using audiovisual devices, transcribe the recorded data in the paper following the rules and criteria of transcription, develop themes from the transcription, analyse and interpret the themes with the voices of my research participants and related literature. In a nutshell, I received a lot of ideas to write a research-based article in the first semester. I believe, it is an example of learning to create an academic writing.

At this point,

I started the journey of my creative writing by composing a personal letter when I was studying in Grade Ten. I have been a teacher in schools and colleges for several years. However, the MPhil program taught me to create an academic article. With this five-month experience, I felt that creating an academic article is different from writing in other forms as it has distinct features to be considered.

Reference

Green, S. & Lidinsky, A. (2012). From Inquiry to Academic Writing: A Text Book and Reader. New york: Bedford/ St. Martin’s.

Mr. Ghimire teaches at Siddhajyoti Education Campus in Sindhuli. He is currently pursuing MPhil in English language education from Graduate School of Education, Tribhuvan University.

Writing Practices at University Level in Far West Nepal: An Interactive Blogpost

Presented by: Ashok Raj Khati

In this interactive blog post, we present a scenario regarding writing practices at university level, particularly at bachelors and masters levels. The interaction focuses on the current practices, challenges and future prospects of developing writing skills on the part of students. The participants of this interaction are three young emerging scholars in English language education:

  1. Jagadish Paudel: Former lecturer at Department of English education, Dadeldhura Shiksha Campus, Dadeldhura (Currently a lecturer in University Campus, Kirtipur, TU)
  2. Mohan Singh Saud: Lecturer at Department of English education, Kailali Multiple Campus, Dhangadhi (currently a student of MPhil leading to PhD program at Graduate School of Education, TU)
  3. Jnanu Raj Paudel: Assistant professor at Tikapur Multiple Campus, Kailali (currently pursuing PhD from Graduate School of Education, Tribhuvan University).

Ashok: Based on your experience in the far west, when did/do your students write? I mean could you tell me some examples of what they write?

Jagadish Paudel: Leaving a few exceptions, students only write in the examination, I mean they only write for the exam. They only learn to write for examination. They usually pass the exam without enough practice of academic writing. They just read bazaar notes and pass the exam by writing what they memorise from those notes.

 

 

Mohan Singh Saud: Wow! This is really a thought-provoking question to be considered. What I can say about it is that I see students rarely involve in writing activities except at the time of examination. It’s really a pitiable condition in the region. The trend of writing is very low, almost at zero level. Though there are many things to be written for improving writing such as diary writing, writing about experiences and so on, students do not seem to be involved in developing writing skills. Majority of students are not found highly interested in writing activities.

Jnanu Raj Paudel: Students only write when they cannot avoid the situation of writing. As I have experienced in my work place and other institutions, they write only in their final examination paper. Teachers often provide them notes on the contents and students copy them in their note books. When teachers ask them to be prepared for classroom writing, they remain absent in the class.  When they are asked to write, they copy from bazaar notes, they do not make attempt of their own. They fear of being commented upon their writing. Teachers also do not encourage students to write. Teachers are mostly found writing in social media about the contemporary issues but academic writing is most neglected area in this region.

Ashok: You have a long experience of working in this region and visited several campuses particularly in affiliated with Tribhuvan University. Could you please tell us what are the current practices regarding developing writing skill of the students at the university level?

Jagadish Paudel: I do not see any practices for developing writing in most colleges I visited. Some courses have been designed for developing students’ writing skills; however, both the teachers and students, not all, do not practise the given exercises. It’s shame both the teachers and students enjoy if they are not required to write. But, students compulsorily require writing a paper or doing an assignment for a few courses. Even for such courses, the students copy from the students of previous years, or they copy from their friends who seem to be high achievers in the class.

Mohan Singh Saud: Of course, I have some experiences regarding the practices in writing. TU has designed really a very good curriculum for the development of writing skills in bachelor and master level. We can see different writing activities and tasks to be carried out by the students. But the reality is that our students are quite indifferent about writing. Teachers teach theories of writing but they do not involve students in writing activities. Students are also not interested in writing. For instance, in one of the classes, three students out of around sixty students did when I asked to write an essay. Therefore, the practical aspect of teaching and learning is missing though the curriculum has provided high priority. Teachers need to ‘complete’ (in fact the oral delivery) their courses and they think if students are involved in writing tasks in the classroom, they will be unable to complete those courses in time. So the trend of writing has been ignored.

Jnanu Raj Paudel: The syllabus for the university level has abundant strategies for developing writing skill of the students. However, it has not brought any fundamental changes in developing writing skill of the students. Academic writing course in BEd, Effective academic writing for BBS, critical writing course for BA are very resourceful for developing writing skill, but the way courses need to be handled by the teachers does not seem to be satisfactory.

Both teachers and students are exam oriented. They present the lesson in the way, it will be asked in the examination. They are asked to practice how to write topic sentence, thesis statement, supporting detail and so on while teaching paragraph. They are theoretically oriented. Moreover, the students also avoid practicing writing activities. The teacher who tries to encourage classroom practice is criticized for not being exam oriented. Therefore, the teachers also do not take much risk on adopting innovative ideas to develop writing skill. The method of writing teaching is entirely localized in wrong way and determined by the exam models. The students do not enjoy going out of exam model. Furthermore, the teachers are not interested in student centered pedagogy (practice based) and they are habituated using ready-made notes which they have prepared in advance. The syllabus is fine and I see there is a lot to do in instruction and the students’ culture of avoiding writing, but the trend has been very difficult to break.

Ashok: What are the major challenges in fostering writing culture, an essential part of the university curriculum, in this region in terms of management, teachers’ writing culture, plagiarism, bazaar notes and so on?

Jagadish Paudel: The curriculum is good for enhancing students writing culture; there are courses which foster writing. I see the problem of developing writing culture; here I do not see writing culture in students, with an exception. Similarly, most students are unaware of plagiarism. The bazaar notes are the problems for developing writing culture. Most students rely on bazaar notes for passing the exam.

Mohan Singh Saud: You raised a good question. Most examinations are especially based on reading and writing. Students read for examination and write in the examination. But in the classroom, we are not able to foster writing culture. Teaching and learning activities have become examination-oriented. I could see the harmful washback effect of testing on students’ learning. If there is any writing task in the course, students generally ask teachers “Sir, is it asked in the examination?”. If the teachers say, ”Yes”, students notice it and mark with ‘important’. I do not see any support from the campus management side to enhance writing culture. Teachers are just worried about finishing their courses, but they do not try to write anything creative. Regarding plagiarism, students just copy without any citations and referencing. They are not aware of plagiarism in several cases. Likewise, students mostly depend on bazaar notes and solution of old questions available in the market. The trend of buying books is very low. Only a few students buy prescribed textbooks. Most of the students have no books in the class. When the final examination is nearer, they search where the exam guides are found and buy the same for the exam. Nowadays students have become mechanical rather than creative. They prefer a kind of readymade answer to be studied only for the exam. So our teaching-learning trend has become spoon feeding kind of learning. The academic market is occupied with cheap low-quality bazaar notes.

Jnanu Raj Paudel: The most striking challenge in fostering writing is developing writing and sharing culture. A few teachers from this region have been writing for the newspapers and academic journals. Teachers’ writings and publications also encourage students to write. When the student is asked to write a project report, they generally expect a sample of writing the report from their teachers. They are told to visit local bookshop, a photocopy center nearby. Here, we have a loophole. These profit-making centers have soft copies of previous reports. They reproduce them again with minor modifications. For instance, some reports as the requirements for practicum (Practice teaching) are copied and pasted from previous reports with minor changes. They are not aware of the issue of plagiarism. Reproduction without acknowledgement is very common among students and teachers. As a result the students have developed an ideology that reproduction is socially accepted. The bazaar notes are models for their writings. The students are not exposed to authentic writing resources. Consequently, they have very poor writing proficiency.

Ashok: Do you see any future prospects to foster writing culture in the region?

Jagadish Paudel: I see prospects of developing writing culture in the region. For this, teachers themselves need to develop their writing habit. And this will motivate students to write something regularly. That is, teachers should not only impose the theory, but they should demonstrate their own writing. After that, students can be asked to write. Teachers must provide feedback to the students in their writing. Similarly, management of the colleges must encourage and support to the students and teachers to develop a writing culture in their campuses.

Mohan Singh Saud: Yeah, I am quite hopeful that writing skill of our students at university level can be fostered in this region. Students need to be encouraged to write anything they like such as a daily journal, narratives, paragraph, poems and essays. And teachers need to provide them with specific feedback on them.

Jnanu Raj Paudel: The universities in developed countries have shifted their focus on writing at present. Teachers in this region need to be aware of this shift. The writing can only be enhanced when writing and sharing culture is developed. Sharing the piece of writing among experts and peers helps to improve further. Reading culture is another aspect to be developed among the teachers and students. Both teachers and students are to be encouraged to involve in academic writing. The university should adopt mechanism to check plagiarism.

ELT Choutari thanks our valued participants for their ideas and it opens the forum for you to share your thoughts in the comment boxes below.

Developing Students’ Writing Skill: Teachers’ Views from Far West

Background

Januka Bhatta

I have been teaching English for more than a decade in English medium schools in the far western region. During my teaching, I found some students actively participating in classroom activities, whereas others have a slow pace in their learning. Students are found to be enjoying the reading sections and listening to their teachers, while they fear to make mistakes in other skills, like listening and speaking (Bohara, 2016). They do writing exercises every day like copying and answering questions given in the textbook but they are not yet able to produce an original and coherent piece of writing. The present curriculum of school level (secondary) has set a goal of achieving the students’ ability to produce a variety of written texts through controlled (guided) to free writing, allocating 35% of weight on it.

Challenges

English teachers, however, face several challenges to enhance the writing skills of students. I have collected the views of five English language teachers from the far western part of Nepal, especially the challenges they face while teaching writing to their students. I met two of them and telephoned the rest. Regarding challenges in developing writing, one of the teachers said:

I find difficulty in teaching writing skills than teaching other skills as my classroom is a multilingual one. I don’t understand their mother tongues except for Nepali but they take help of mother tongues to think first and express ideas on the papers. Students commonly commit errors in grammatical patterns and fail to use the punctuation marks.

The view of this teacher reveals the process the students undergo to come up with a writing piece in the English language. Likewise, it also shows how students commit errors in their writing due to the influence of their mother tongues. Another participant of my study shared his challenge this way:

My students understand the given questions but they are unable to write down the answers as they don’t have a sound vocabulary. They find difficulty in organizing sentences. They don’t use appropriate vocabulary. But I find that students can do better in guided writing and it’s easier to work because they make fewer mistakes on them.

Using appropriate vocabulary in writing answers of the questions and maintaining coherence in different pieces of writing is another challenge mentioned above. However, the teacher finds comfortable to work with students in guided writing practice than to move on a free writing (Tamang, 2018). One of the teachers from rural parts of the region said:

Mixed level of students’ English language proficiency is a challenge in my class. In the case of free writing, the students make more mistakes in terms of accuracy and organizing the ideas.

It shows that heterogeneous class is another challenge for teachers to enhance the writing skills. Likewise, a teacher teaching at English medium school explains her experiences this way:

The students can produce good paragraphs when they are provided with some clues-ideas to include in the paragraph, the sentence structures and vocabulary. Otherwise, their sentences are grammatically incorrect. They don’t even use the correct punctuation marks.

It indicates that the teachers need to provide a framework for writing a paragraph along with sentence structure and key vocabulary to use. Similar is the challenge of the following teacher, who uses the translation method to make things easier.

Students commit mistakes in spellings, sentence structure and organizing sentences. I find it easy to assign guided writing to the students. There is less exposure of the English language to students in my school. Therefore, I have to translate the written text into the Nepali language. Then it helps them to understand ideas and they can think of additional ideas to write.

Major Challenges Observed

Based on the views of the teachers, the following are the major challenges of the teachers

  1. Lack of vocabulary: students lack sufficient vocabulary to compose their writing. In fact, the vocabulary is the prerequisite for any types of writing.
  2. Incorrect grammatical pattern: use of the incorrect grammatical structure is another common challenge. One of the reasons behind this, as shared by the teachers, is the influence of their mother tongue.
  3. Less exposure in English: In many of our teaching-learning contexts, students do not get enough exposure in the English language- in terms of listening, reading, writing or speaking.
  4. Large multilevel classes:  Having different levels of students in English language proficiency in a large English classroom is an another challenge for teachers’ resourcefulness.

Some Strategies to Overcome the Challenges

These teachers use different strategies to overcome the challenges in teaching writing. One of the teachers presents some samples of writing before students generate their own writing. While another teacher reported of discussing the topic and providing some clues to further elaborate them. It could help students to think about the pattern and organize ideas in the given piece of writing (Dewan, 2018). Likewise, another teacher brings some authentic pieces of writing to the classroom. He asserted, “I bring teaching materials like the brochure, invitation card, notices and so on to show them in the classroom. It helps them to be familiar with the authentic pieces of writing.” Similarly, the next teacher explains the pattern to be followed while writing essays and paragraphs and reward students for their good effort. Likewise, another teacher provides the framework of writing on the topic, guide them in organizing the sentences and use the correct grammatical pattern. He further said: “I tell them to use simpler and shorter sentences in writing. I even make my students go to the library so that they can read short stories and other forms of writing.” This practice maximizes their exposure in the English language. The teachers’ experiences and practice show that the guided-writing practices are helpful in the initial stages to develop writing in my context.

Conclusion

I believe that EFL learners need to pay attention in planning and organizing the ideas in before producing a piece of writing. Similarly, the writing should not be taught separately but should be integrated with other language skills. Developing writing skills in students is not an easy job in rural parts of the region. Therefore, more exposure in English, use of supplementary materials, presenting model writing, sufficient practices in vocabulary and sentence structures could help in the initial stages of writing practices.

References:

Bohara, L.B. (2016). ELT at tertiary level: Perspectives from far west Nepal. ELT Choutari, December Issue, 2016.

Dewan, S. (2017). High expectations, low product: Why is writing scary ghost among our students? NELTA ELT Forum, 2017.

Tamang, BL. (2018). Paragraph writing: A process-based model. Journal of NELTA, vol-22.

 (Ms. Januka Bhatta teaches English at secondary level in Sainik Awasiya Mahavidyalaya, Teghari-Kailali.)

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