Is the Process Approach to Teaching Writing Applicable at All Levels?

Binod Raj Bhatta

Process approach applies a certain process of teaching writing like brainstorming, information collection, making outlines, preparing the first and the second draft, reviewing, editing, proofreading, and finalizing the writing (Badger & White, 2000). Can we apply this process in the classroom while teaching writing skills or not? A debate among the scholars of language teaching and learning about this issue is all over the world. Though the use and demand of the process-based approach of teaching writing is increasing, some people think that this approach is impossible to apply in real classrooms. They argue that the application of the approach is not practical especially in primary classes and even in higher classes in which mixed level of students study together. However, some other people think that the process approach is suitable and applicable in all the classes and for all levels of students. I support this view because the process-based approach of teaching writing is taken as the paradigm shift to the traditional product-based approach of teaching writing skills which can be applied in all situations of writing teaching using some learning resources and modern technologies. Accepting it as the modern and student-centered approach, I used it in my class conducting the activities suggested by this approach and fostered the writing ability of my students despite its application related challenges.

Many English teachers argue that the effectiveness and application of the process-based approach of teaching writing skill is not possible and fit in all the context of Nepal because students of this level have a lack of vocabulary power and they could not bring the writing context and information about the writing content and could not produce a text being independent (Bhandari, 2011). But I cannot agree with the concept. If the process-approach is not applicable to teaching writing skills to primary students, then what is the alternative for it? We all know that writing skill is necessary and important to learn right from the primary level for various purposes of our life. Can we produce a text within a single attempt using product-approach or learn the text by heart which is produced by teachers or somebody else?  Of course, it is not possible to learn writing by heart. Writing skill is only developed through writing. However, the instructors have to play a crucial role in teaching writing skills to primary students. At this stage process-approach can be applied to teaching writing skills using the meta-language of writing (Raimes, 1983). For this, at the very beginning stage, very small things such as the sentence level of writing, words, and phrases can be developed in the students which is also part of writing skills. For example, writing their names, writing their family names, writing about their family, about themselves can be taught to the students in the early stages (Simmerman et al., 2012). For engaging them to write about their family using this approach, first, they can be asked to write the numbers of the family, their names, then they can be engaged to write the ages of all members, then their occupation, their likes, and dislikes. After collecting this information the students can be encouraged to make sentences using this information and small paragraphs gradually. In this way, the process-based approach of teaching writing skills is effective and applicable in primary or pre-primary students.

Cheung (2016) states that the process approach is economical in terms of time and money and it may bring monotony to the shy and introvert students in the language classroom. In his study, Cheung finds the negative attitude of the teachers and students towards the process-approach and their demand for product-approach in developing writing skills. But I think this is their misunderstanding of  taking the approach economic because process-approach reduces both time and money in comparison to the product-approach. The time that the students have to give for learning by heart or memorizing an already produced text is more than producing by oneself. Instead, the teacher can bring verities of learning resources like pictures, newspapers, maps, globes, diagrams, etc. as per the need and the nature of the writing to be written.

In my view, only the teachers and the students who do not have sufficient experience on the process approach  say that the process-approach is impractical and ineffective for teaching writing skills. Therefore, I would like to kindly suggest them to apply it for longer time so that they get higher achievement in writing obtaining sound exposure and experiences in it. Of course, it is a crystal clear fact that the process-approach requires more activeness of teachers and students. Both of them cannot remain silent and passive in the classroom as they have to bring context from diverse sources, brainstorm the information, jot down the information and prepare outlines, frameworks, and drafts which may be chaotic for some of the people but all these activities in the writing classroom develop 21st century skills of learners and the teachers that are related to critical thinking. This approach encourages creativity, activity, eagerness, learning curiosity, and enthusiasm to the teachers and the students. This approach highlights the autonomy of learners to make their learning planning and strategies. If the students are encouraged to learn and write, then they can apply in their daily life of writing. Then how can it be impossible to apply in the classroom while teaching writing skills to students of different levels? Of course, we can apply it in our primary classrooms.

Some teachers in developing countries like Pakistan take it as a burden to prepare and practice at home and they implement the traditional product-based approach of teaching writing skills neglecting the process-based approach in the English language classroom (Khan, 2012). They focus on the memorization of the readymade text or the pieces of text as the teaching-learning activities of free writing. But I do not think that this way of teaching can fulfill the needs and demands of the students of this era as their students may pass exams but maynot be able to not write for the international market being a creative and innovative writer if they continue this way of teaching writing skills for longer. I would like to suggest my readers who are still using the product approach to shift their way of teaching writing skills from product-based to process-based approach.  This approach has become practical and successful even in the early classes in developed countries like the United Kingdom (Fhonna, 2014). Not only in America but we can read and observe the practices of some of the developing countries like Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, and the Maldives, they are also shifting the teaching writing approach and methodology from teacher-centered to students centered i.e. they are gradually implementing the process-based approach of teaching writing skills. Why are these countries shifting their pedagogical epistemology if the process-approach is not practical?

Let me relate my observation of English teachers of Nepal, who have been teaching English language for decades. They say that the method which they use for teaching writing is the best. In this regard Bhandari (2011) argued that although the process-based approach is considered modern and scientific, it is not accepted by many English teachers and students because they feel comfortable while teaching and learning writing using the traditional product-based approach and they learn better while using it in the class. The students who are habituated of listening from the teacher in the classroom may love the lecture given by the teacher and feel tortured if the teachers ask them to do some writing activities. However, we should keep in mind that these students have missed their track of learning to develop their writing skills. Teachers and students, having this concept should remind that the process-based approach can only address and fulfill the intended goals and objectives of the curriculum because at our present school level, all curricula have also been designed based on the functional and the process-based approach.

Finally, I would like to link my own experiences of students’ disagreement on the practicality of process-approach in teaching writing here. When I apply this approach in my classroom while teaching writing skills, they ask me how they could apply the same process in the examination as they have very limited time in the exam hall. Of course, it can be used there too though the complete procedure may not be possible to apply, they should think about the writing topic, brainstorm the information related to the topic. Then they can write thinking and arranging the words, phrases, sentences, and the paragraphs.

The debate or the issues about the application of process-approach is an ongoing process as different people have different perceptions and views in a particular subject. However, we should not forget the Chinese proverb ”I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand/know” which emphasizes the possibility and practicality and the guiding principles of teaching writing skills.

The author: Binod Raj Bhatta is a teacher at Sangkosh secondary school and CP college in Dhading district. Mr. Bhatta is also pursuing his M.Phil. from Nepal Open University.

References

Badger, R., & White, G. (2000). A process genre approach to teaching writing. ELT Journal, 54(2), 153-160. https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/54.2.153

Bhandari, J. (2011). Teaching writing through process writing. Master’s thesis Tribhuvan University.

Cheung, Y. L. (2016). Teaching writing. In English Language Teaching Today (pp. 179-194). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-38834-2_13

Fhonna, R. (2014). An analysis of students’ free writing, 1.

Khan, H. I. (2012). English Teachers’ perceptions about creativity and teaching creative writing in Pakistan, 2.

Raimes, A. (1983). Techniques in teaching writing. ERIC.

Simmerman, S., Harward, S., Pierce, L., Peterson, N., Morrison, T., Korth, B., Billen, M., & Shumway, J. (2012). Elementary teachers’ perceptions of process writing. Literacy Research and Instruction, 51(4), 292-307. https://doi.org/10.1080/19388071.2011.557764

 

 

 

                                                                                                                            

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