It is our great pleasure to release the third quarterly issue (July-September) of 2022.
While working for ELT Choutari we realized that teachers are reluctant to writing despite the fact that they are good communicators. Their experience remains undocumented, causing a situation where the grassroots realities of ELT classes are not reflected well in academic discourse. There are two main reasons behind this case; the first is that the teachers do not consider writing their work. Second, they think they cannot write. However, we believe that teachers can write and must engage in the practice of writing because writing is paramount for teachers’ professional development.
It is argued that the teachers who do not engage in the writing process themselves cannot adequately understand the complex dynamics of the process and cannot empathize with their students’ problems (Hairston, 1986). While engaging ourselves in writing, we better understand writing as a process since we become more conscious of the writing process, its mechanisms, and its importance, which is very important for a successful teacher.
Writing as a process helps the ELT practitioners share their experiences. The habit of sharing creates multiple platforms for both parties; the writers and the readers. In this light, writing helps to maintain professional solidarity. Similarly, reflection through helps them enhance their professionalism since they carefully note their successes, failures, and plans for improvement.
Writing does not necessarily equal a fine-tuned final product; instead, it is a recursive process that allows reflection and revision, and includes a series of processes like planning, drafting, editing, reviewing, revising and preparing final draft (Harmer 2006). While working to develop ideas, organize them and incorporate comments and feedback, the writers understand their strengths and weaknesses, which helps them refine their writing strategies and hone their creativity and confidence.
Teachers do not always need to research and write a well-formatted research article. They can start writing from their day-to-day experience, practice, and challenges they tackle in their professional life. While dealing with them, they think and work on multiple possible solutions and finally discover the best one. The teachers can make an issue about their challenges and explore this issue based on their practice with possible answers in their writings. Initially, these things look simple but can be an asset in academic discourse.
Writing a fine-tuned scholarly article can be an intimidating experience for school teachers and novice writers. As a beginner writing practitioner, the teacher can choose to write blog posts since they are flexible in length, structure, and themes and are beneficial for their professional development. For it, ELT Choutari can be a good choice for novice writing practitioners since it encourages local scholarship providing a common platform to communicate in academic circles. It prioritizes narrations and reflections from ELT practitioners to full-fledged research-based papers. Moreover, it gives space for local methods and practices, which in turn assists other related practitioners boost their classroom performance practically rather than merely enlarging their theoretical knowledge horizon.
Last but not least, one cannot be a good writer over night. It needs a step-by-step process. Writing blogs can be the first step. We can pick up a simple idea, prepare a writing piece, reach a broader audience, receive constructive feedback, and address them judiciously while revising it. This practice of our writing assists us in developing our writing habits in academia.
Papers and post on this non-thematic issue covers professional development ideas, reflections of teachers on online teaching and teachers’ exploitation in higher education.
Yadu Prasad Gyawali in his article Bridging the gaps of learning through learner centered integrative approaches (LCIA): A reflection explores how learner centered integrative approaches bridge the gap in learnability. Moreover, he reveals how these approaches result in enhanced learners’ motivation, self-preparedness and learners’ engagement.
Likewise, Rajendra Joshi on his post Online education during COVID-19 pandemic: an experience of a teacher reflects on the challenges the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic entailed and the opportunities it brought. He further explores alternative learning platforms and strategies schools incorporated in the pandemic, which can be useful in the future crisis too.
Similarly, Bimal Khatri on his paper Part- time teachers’ well-being in urban community campuses: a narrative inquiry raises questions on discriminatory treatment to teachers at higher education, and unfolds how teachers’ well being affect both teachers’ and students’ academic performance.
Finally, in the editor’s pick post, we have included a multimodal blog, in which an English teacher and teacher trainer shares some ideas of teaching grammar to students
Here is the list of posts for your further exploration:
Finally, I would like to thank our co-editor Nanibabu Ghimire for extending invaluable support throughout the entire process. We jointly are thankful to all our editors and reviewers, Ganesh Kumar Bastola,Mohan Singh Saud, Ashok Raj Khati, Jeevan Karki, Sagar Poudel, Ekraj Koirala, Jnanu Raj Poudel, Karna Rana and Rajendra Joshifor their relentless effort and contribution.
If you enjoy reading these blog posts, please feel free to share in and around your circle, and of course, drop your comments in the boxes below. Likewise, please write and send us your teaching-learning experiences for which we will be happy to provide a platform at Choutari. Our email is email@example.com
Hairston, M. (1986). When writing teachers don’t write: Speculations about probable causes and possible cures. Rhetoric Review, 5(1), 62-70.
Harmer, J. (2006). How to teach writing. Pearson Education India.
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.
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
In my past nine years of association with ELT Choutari as a reviewer and editor, I reviewed and edited hundreds of manuscripts, and communicated with dozens of teachers to encourage them to write. Based on this experience, I argue that teachers are undoubtedly the right professionals to write and publish and every teacher (including schoolteachers) can do so.
ELT Choutari generally gives space to new and first-time authors, hence it encourages teachers and teacher educators to share their experiences through writing. While exploring the potential teachers to write and publish, I have come across different types of teachers. When I approach them, initially most of them show interest, gradually some of them drop with some excuses and a few of them try, nonetheless. Interestingly those who give it a try, majority of them produce publishable write-up when they are guided through a series of writing processes.
I would like to recall a case of a particular teacher here. He is a schoolteacher of English language having rich experiences of teaching English to speakers of other languages from a variety of backgrounds. He used to show interest in writing and publishing on ELT Choutari. Once I personally approached him and discussed the possible issues and areas to write following the call for articles. He was all set to go. The next week, when I followed up, he responded that he was going to start soon. Later, when I followed up, he said he had just begun writing something and would finish by the next week. The next week was the deadline but he didn’t respond. I told him that we could give a few days more if he wished to finish but he quit stating he would contribute in a future issue.
In the next issue, with multiple follow-ups and reinforcement, he submitted a write-up on teaching vocabulary. It was a well-organised write-up in about 2000 words. However, there were two major issues with it- structure and content. Structurally, it was heavily influenced by the format of research-based journal paper as he included even an abstract section for a blog piece. Talking about the contents, he went on giving an introduction to teaching vocabulary and explaining different methods and techniques of teaching vocabulary, which was followed by a few tips of his own. When I anlyased it, the majority of the content in it was merely the reproduction of what was already available. So, where is the voice of the author? He was only explaining and summarizing other’s ideas, which is readily available on Google.
Then I realised why teachers like him are anxious about writing and publication in Nepal. Instead of narrating his own real practices and experiences of teaching vocabulary, he went on explaining and summarizing others’ ideas, which can be challenging for first-time authors for two reasons. First, the ideas of others should be well reproduced and paraphrased to avoid plagiarism. Second, such a write-up is less likely to be published because it is commonly available on the Web. If I were him, I would compose the write-up on my first-hand experiences of trying out different methods and techniques. Sometimes teachers also devise their own techniques or strategies to fit in their context. Capturing the same experiences and practices would be fantastic content to write about as it would be easier to write one’s experiences, which would have enough space for the author’s voice.
Most of the Nepali English teachers are anxious about writing and publication and consider that it is not their cup of tea. One of the major reasons behind it is the lack of a culture of reflection and journaling. They have decades of teaching experience and they even teach their students how to write a good paragraph or an essay but paradoxically, they are unable to produce reflective writing themselves. They teach different language skills using multiple methods (including some local methods), but they rarely reflect upon their practices. Like, what’s working and what’s not working? What’s going good and what’s not? Which methods or strategies should I continue and which to drop? This culture of reflection and making notes would also develop writing habits and boost their confidence. However, they are simply following the teaching-learning principles and practices of their gurus, where there was rarely any scope of reflection and writing. Therefore, the present generation of teachers must break this tradition and should start the culture of reflection and documentation, which would enable them to write and publish with ease.
What to write and what not ?
There is a popular saying, which goes, “cut the coat according to the size of your cloth.” The same is true in the case of writing too. So rather than choosing a heavy topic or summarising others’ ideas, the easy way is to write what you do, see, face, or experience in your everyday classroom. Therefore, it is better to choose the issue or topic, in which you feel comfortable to write. In the above case, for example, the teacher could have focused on the challenges he was facing while teaching vocabulary and strategies he used to overcome the challenges. Or he could also have highlighted the methods and strategies, which were the best working in his context. Similarly, he could also have critically examined the popular teaching methods and strategies and their applicability in his context.
Writing issues and topics are right in your classroom, all you need is to reflect on your own practices and classroom phenomena. Please remember that classroom is a lab from where very powerful theories and practices have been developed. Therefore, the easy way of reflection is to ask questions like below to yourself:
Why am I doing what am I doing?
Why am I using this method instead of another?
What if I try this over that?
Is this method facilitating the learning of my students? If yes, why? If no, again why?
Which methods and techniques do my students enjoy and learn from the most?
Why don’t my students sometimes learn the way I want them to learn? What’s wrong with my process?
How to write?
First, we should remove the illusion that all writing and publication must be research-based and formal. Please remember, publishing papers in the journals could be your goal but initially, you can start with something as simple as a reflective narrative or a blog, which don’t necessarily require any research frame or literature review. Take this blog for instance. Is there any research frame or literature review in it? No, I’m just reflecting on my experiences, and adding my voice to it. So, you can also simply write about the good practices in your classroom, challenges, or striking moments in your professional life.
The simple way to write powerful writing is to choose simple but meaningful and relevant issues from our everyday practice and narrate it in a captivating way like the way you narrate something orally to someone. Choosing the right issue and narrating in the form of a story is one of the easiest ways of writing, which any teacher can do. Voice your ideas instead of summarizing others’ ideas. If your story is engaging and relevant, readers will read and enjoy it. I also started my writing journey with narrative reflections. For instance, see HERE.
Narrative reflections and blogs are the stepping stones in one’s writing journey. Our experiences serve as content in such writing and narration works as the writing style. And there is nothing right or wrong about the narration technique. Narrating is way easier than writing some formal academic composition. Reflective narrative and blogs are informal in styles, juicy to read and yet they can raise important issues. For instance here is one by Karna Rana , another here by Alban S. Holyoke, and here is another by Yashoda Bam. Once you are confident and comfortable on writing them, then you can gradually move towards other scholarly writing and research papers.
Writing can be as easy as narrating an interesting event to our friends and family. Therefore, choosing interesting practices, challenges, striking events, or observations from your classroom and putting them in the form of a story would produce a good write-up. Moreover, reading related literature also provides ideas and confidence in writing, so read a few blogs and guidelines HERE before starting your own. Write and show it to your colleague, who cares for writing. Hear his/her feedback, review, and finalise.
Dear teachers, writing and publication on the blogs and web magazine like ETL Choutari is not as hard as you think. Therefore, before wrapping up this piece, I would like to note the following:
Teachers have rich experiences and issues to write about. So why not to write?
Reading and writing are part of the teaching profession, so, let’s make it our professional practice.
If teachers don’t write, how can they expect their students to write?
Writing helps us to better understand and to be better understood.
You definitely have some good practices and success stories and if you document them, others will benefit, and you will develop a writing habit.
Now looking forward to reading your reflective narrative and blogs on future issues.
[Note: since you have come up to here reading it, please share your feeling, feedback, or any question related to it in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]
Can be cited as: Karki, J. (2021, April 20). Dear teachers, you can write and publish. [blog post]. Retrieved from: https://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/dear-teachers-you-can-write-and-publish/
The Author: Jeevan Karki is a freelance teacher trainer, researcher, and writer. He serves as an expert in designing materials and developing training for the literacy program at Room to Read. He has authored several op-eds and blogs including some national and international journal articles. He is also an editor of ELT Choutari and the Editor-in-Chief at MercoCreation.
Perhaps, it was the month of December 2018. One of our classes in B.Ed. first year grouped into another section as the students were high in number in the former section. Then, I was asked to take class in the new section. The next day, I went to the classroom taking my laptop and few materials. I had few short videos and slides related to the subject matter that I was going to introduce in the classroom. In the very beginning, I asked few things to the students regarding their previous classes and the topics that they studied in earlier section. At the same time one of the students said, “Sir, we need notes”. Then I asked, “What notes?” Then again another student said that I need to write note of each and every topic on the board. Then I said, “If I have to give you notes, then what do you do from your side?” There was silence for few seconds. Then the students admitted that they cannot write themselves as they are very weak in writing. I leaned on the lecture desk, spoke nothing and thought for a while.
It was my first lesson for them. A question came into my mind continuously, why the students demanded written note in my first class before I started the lesson. Again I began to wonder how they were taught in their previous lessons. How did they practice writing in the past? Then I asked them to attend my classes at least for a month and assured them that if they were not satisfied with my strategies for teaching writing, the campus would address their problem immediately. After that, I started my lesson through PowerPoint presentation where I played few videos related to the topic to be introduced that day. I could notice that few of my students were enjoying the videos and my delivery but few of them were not happy as they were not given written note on the board. I asked my students to have patience and assured them that they would become independent writers if they followed my instructions well.
As I came out from the classroom, their words ‘we need written notes…’ were buzzing in my mind. It was obvious that they got the habit of copying notes from the board which must be the reason why the students had no interest in trying to write themselves. Although copying and memorizing notes for examination must be easy for them but that would certainly not help students develop their creativity and become independent writers. I always learned from my teaching experience that the learners require ample opportunities to explore by exercising to write themselves and it is teacher’s responsibility to give an appropriate environment. I always remember one Nepali proverb “Machha khana matrai hoina, machha marna pani sikaunu parchha.” which means we should teach a man how to fish instead of just teaching him to eat fish. Keeping this proverb in my mind, I started dealing with these students differently. That evening, I planned something different for that classroom.
My techniques of teaching writing
First technique: come near to me
It was my second day in that class; however, it was the first day of my intervention of a new technique. That day, I used brainstorming technique to encourage my students to come up with some ideas and write a short story. As I asked them some questions to stimulate ideas for writing many of them were too shy to respond. Then, I wrote few sentences on the board which was the starting of a story. Meantime some of them were ready to copy out from the board but I requested them not to copy but write similar expression changing the major words i.e. content words of my writing. I had also given few content words in a box and asked them to replace content words of my writing. Most of them did but again few of them were still confused. I told the students who already completed their task to help other students too. On that very day, I asked the students come near to me but did not let them stand on my foot i.e. copying my exact sentences. My students practiced writing in this way for five days and I also gave them few tasks as their home assignment to be done regularly. I was not very strict about their assignment; rather I encouraged them to write whatever came in their mind related to the topic. In this way in the beginning, I brought them near to me/my writing.
Second technique: hold my hand
During the third week of my intervention, I tried out another technique to deal with the writing of my students. I asked them to recall the story they all had read in my previous lesson. I then wrote some points that represented important events of the story that but did not write the whole story or the summary. Then I asked my students to write just two paragraphs including the given points in them and adding few ideas from the text. Few of them hesitated to start writing and few of them said that it was difficult to write two paragraphs themselves. I asked them to write what they know and how much they can without worrying about the correctness of the sentences. As I went through their writing, I found that some of my students did not write anything at all while some of them created good pieces adding very good points and joining the given sentences in the sequences. Thus, I did similar activities for a week and I could notice changes in their writing. Many of my students improved and developed confidence in writing. I felt that, I was somehow able to make them walk holding my hand in the journey of writing.
Third technique: walk now
‘Walk Now’ is another technique that I used in my writing lesson. It was the last week of my intervention period. Now, I wanted to make my students walk themselves or in other words I wanted to make my students to write freely and independently. To make this happen, I read aloud an interesting piece of writing, e.g. a story and asked my students to jot down striking and important ideas or points they find in the text. I read the text twice or even thrice giving emphasis on the important points with specific sentence structure or events and guided them to elaborate those points and write at least one page. The one page writing could be a summary of the text or they were free to modify the text and rewrite it or if the text was a story, they could give it a different ending.
The next day almost all the students who were present in the previous day wrote one page and even those students who struggled a lot in writing were improving rapidly. They began to talk about their assignments and write summary of the previous lesson. It was encouraging to see my students making progress in writing.
After a month of intervention, I gathered students’ response about my writing lessons. Most of them admitted that copying notes and memorizing could probably help them pass the examination but that did not help them build confidence in writing. One of my students said, “Sir, now at least we started writing ourselves and if we go on following these writing strategies, we can write easily on any topic. You made us to write rather than expect and wait for your notes”. I realized that my students at least started to walk themselves, although they were not ready to run in their journey of writing.
From that very day I continued teaching same class and the students were happy with me. However, I used to give note if I felt that the concept were somehow new and challenging. In other cases, my students of that very class started writing and exploring their ideas themselves rather than depending on the teachers even for the simple topic, issue or concept.
Writing is one of the most desirable skills of language. We need to make our students write something themselves rather than letting them to copy our note. If we give ready-made notes, they just copy out and read. But if the situation became slightly different than our note, students explore nothing because they have just ready-made answers for particular questions. My experience of one month teaching writing with my own techniques i.e. ‘Come Near to Me’, ‘Hold my Hand’ and ‘Now Walk’ became somehow successful in my writing lessons. So, to make our students walk themselves and make them able for fishing, i.e. to make them write themselves, I think we teachers need to create the environment to writ. We should avoid giving ready-made notes which, in my opinion, kills the learners’ creativity.
The author: Sagar Poudel is an MPhil in English language education from Kathmandu University. His areas of interest are Second Language Acquisition, Socio-linguistics, Academic Writing and ELT pedagogy and materials. He is currently working as lecturer and the head of English department at Aadikavi Bhanubhakta Campus, Damauli Tanahun.
The main purpose of most language courses today is to facilitate communication in the target language, formulating a successful and effective lesson plan becomes indispensable. The idea of how to prepare a successful and effective lesson plan fundamentally depends on the alignment of assessment activity with the objective(s) of a lesson plan. This piece of writing deliberates on the different parts of effective lesson design and assessment and keeping the discussion into consideration, a sample of lesson design and assessment has been provided. Even though the current discussion focuses on the classroom teaching activities at the tertiary level, the same lesson plan and assessment can be applied in other classrooms at different levels with minor adaptation.
Firstly, an ELT (English Language Teaching) professional needs to have a clear picture of putting those actions words/verbs that would fit his or her in the portion of the lesson objective(s). In addition, he or she needs to know that his or her lesson plan objective encompasses a clear statement of measurable outcomes which can be achieved by providing action words, such as ‘identify’, ‘state’, or ‘demonstrate’, not words like ‘comprehend’, ‘feel’, ‘learn’, etc. since the latter cannot be measured or evaluated.
Furthermore, an ELT practitioner needs to have knowledge of an effective warm-up activity and its objectives. Then, he or she needs to investigate whether his or her warm-up activity makes an attempt to get students’ attention, recall of prior learning, and introduce new ideas and connect these ideas to the past learning. Likewise, an English teacher (ESL/EFL) also requires to include objectives, which consist specific aims of the lesson.
Moreover, an EFL/ESL teacher needs to have knowledge of “instruct and model” while formulating his or her lesson plan; under “instruct and model”, he or she needs to apply the use of teacher talk, to know how to keep things conversational, and to employ activities that would make the instruction sticky (memorable, usable, durable). He or she necessitates having the knowledge of either using traditional modelling (teach, model, question) or inductive reasoning (model, infer, elaborate).
In addition, we as English teachers require to understand the importance of “guided practice” and “independent practice” that would be included in our lesson design. Under “independent practice”, English teachers (EFL/ESL) should check and allow students to show that they have understood the instruction provided by the teachers. Finally, under “assessment” activity, an ELT practitioner needs to check that his or her assessment activity is aligned with the objective, and the assessment activity is authentic (The situations, where the students are placed in during the assessment, are as similar as possible, to situations they may encounter outside the classroom).
Now, here is a sample of such a lesson design and assessment to have a better understanding of the ways that could be employed while formulating a lesson design and assessment.
A sample of a lesson design and assessment
Objective: Students will be able to use the simple past tense to describe and write a paragraph describing their travelling experiences in Bangladesh.
Business/Materials: Pictures, videos and question prompts and model paragraph
A warm-up activity: I would place some pictures of attractive and historical visiting places of Bangladesh on the whiteboard E.g. the pictures of St. Martin Island of Bangladesh and the Red Fort of Mughal Empire in Dhaka city. Then, I would show the video clip of “beautiful Bangladesh”, prepared by the government of Bangladesh.
I would mention the pictures of other places we discussed in our previous class to relate to the previous lesson. Then, I would ask my students whether they can recognize the pictures and places of Bangladesh and provide positive feedback to those willing to speak.
Asking questions is one of the ways of triggering the recall of prior knowledge; thus, it would bridge old to new information.
I would also draw students’ attention to the written prompt on the whiteboard by offering a quote from St. Agustine:
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”.
An example of prompt:
The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. Agree or Disagree?
I would ask them whether they agree or disagree with the statement. In addition, as my students are in the advanced level, I would ask them “What do you think this quote has to do with what we talk about today?”
I would ask them to write their agreement or disagreement in their notebooks. Then, I would record their answers on the whiteboard and provide them feedback (mostly encouraging ones)
I would write a phrase ‘travelling experiences in Bangladesh” and ask them (by getting their feedback) to relate the discussion of some beautiful places of the previous class. After that, I would ask them whether their experiences were pleasant or bitter. I would mention the probable reasons for having mixed experiences and concerning issues, like safety, accommodation, food problems and so on. I would make some groups and ask them to discuss various points among themselves and come up with answers by brainstorming. Likewise, I would record their answers on the whiteboard and offer them feedback.
I would mention that we were going to discuss more on the travelling experiences in Bangladesh and write in a paragraph ensuring there is the topic sentence, supporting details and concluding the sentence.
I would ask my students whether they would like to go abroad for their further study. If they would like to, they need to sit for international language testing systems (e.g. IELTS, TOEFL) or any other competitive tests for the job search in Bangladesh. In these tests, they need to write some paragraphs. Then I would motivate them my writing class would be helpful for them to learn the structure of paragraphs (*this is important for the objective) and practice developing good paragraphs.
I would tell my students that they are going to learn the basic structure of paragraph writing and provide them with a model of a narrative paragraph with topic sentence and three supporting details with the use of transition words, and finally, tell them about the concluding sentences. The model would help them to internalise the structure of the paragraph. (*This is for specific details/instructional objectives). I would ask them whether they can relate or differentiate the structure of the previous lessons and the present one.
I would mention here about the structure of other types (for example, descriptive or cause-effect type of paragraph writing) of a paragraph in from the previous lessons. Then, I would ask them if they would be able to differentiate between or among the types of structures of paragraph writing (*this is for the check for understanding).
I would ask them to get ready for the next class whether they would be asked for a paragraph writing impromptu in the class. Similarly, the evaluation of their wring will lead to their final grading. (*This is for stating the objective)
Instruct and Model
Even though I would prefer using the inductive reasoning (model, infer, and elaborate), I would wait for quite some time to see whether my students would be able to grasp (wait for an opportune time) before providing the models of the paragraphs.
First, I would tell them a very popular folk story about a king and his four daughters (narration of a story is to keep things conversational). I would ask them whether they could come up with any structure of the story. I would note the responses on the (teacher talk: using board work to introduce the topic). I would clarify that a story generally has a beginning, middle, and ending; so does a paragraph have (use of analogy). I would repeat those key sentences and check their understanding (teacher talk: repetition). I have chosen the story keeping the objective of the lesson plan in mind. The story uses the past tense; as I am going to focus on the use of past tense in the paragraph writing.
After that, I would show my students some of the models of paragraphs using multimedia and I would also give them hard copies (photocopies) of the models of paragraphs (more than one) from the Book by John Langan (part of teacher modelling) to my students, and also my prepared samples of paragraphs (‘Sharing your own work so that students can see what you have done’ is a part of teacher modelling) for suiting the learning of past tense and a structure of a paragraph. I would ask my students whether they can see any beginning, middle, and a concluding part of a paragraph (the analogy is a part of teacher talk). I would provide them copies the model of paragraphs and form some pairs or groups (‘Giving students a problem to solve in pairs or groups’ is an example of inductive reasoning) to do the brainstorming to figure out the structure of the paragraph.
After getting my students’ feedback (‘Getting feedback’ is a part of keeping classes conversational), I would write the main concept on the whiteboard; ‘topic sentence’, ‘supporting points’, and ‘concluding sentence’. Then I would emphasise the following:
Topic sentence of a paragraph: the main idea of a paragraph is known as a topic sentence. The two parts of a topic sentence is called subject and the controlling idea.
Supporting point/details: when we provide the main idea of a paragraph, it must be supported by three main points. Each supporting point needs to have an idea that supports the topic sentence
Concluding sentence: the paragraph is summarized with a concluding sentence. In this part of the paragraph, a new concept or idea is not introduced but the idea the topic sentence is rephrased using the transition words.
I would also mention or elicit the importance of using transition words, such as using ‘firstly’ with first supporting point and ‘secondly’ with second supporting point and ‘finally’ with concluding sentence (sign post expressions).
I would ask my students (‘asking questions’ is a part of teacher talk) whether they can compare and relate the three things mentioned in the story and in the models provided. By asking questions, I would check whether they have understood my elicitation (‘Elicit reactions and responses from your students’ is a part of keeping classes conversational); even sometimes students say that they have understood, I would repeat (‘clarifying and elaborating when students don’t understand’ is part of teacher talk). My experience shows that repeating the same concept more than once help students remember the concept better and use for a long time (As the learning sticks, it becomes usable and durable). All through my lecture, I would use warm language and speak clearly if any of my students fail to understand.
Since I would be working on a paragraph writing unlike an essay writing, I would pick up the three parts (topic sentence, supporting points and a concluding sentence) of a paragraph writing as a whole under my guided practice in the class.
Firstly, I would mention “A topic sentence is”, and ask one from one group of my students to complete the required information of the sentence, and then I would inform “there are three supporting points in a paragraph”, and invite others from other groups of students to complete the three supporting points. The same goes for “the concluding sentence” (A teacher-led activity includes responses from a variety of students; it also encompasses starting a sentence and inviting students to complete the sentence). For each correct response, I would give them “thumbs up” and encourage them to speak more if they would be able to add up more information.
Less Guided Practice
After that, I would divide my students into different groups, and I would provide some samples of topic sentences (without three supporting points and concluding sentence-‘backwards fading’) to one group (group 1) and some samples of paragraphs with topic sentence and three supporting points without concluding sentence to other three groups (group 2, 3 and 4). Under the instruction and model section of lesson template, I have already provided the models of a structured paragraph to all my students. As the strength of my class is around 30, I would make 5 groups. I would ask my group 1 to deal with a topic sentence (to discuss the two parts of a topic sentence; the subject and the controlling idea). Then the other three groups; 2, 3, and 4 would deal with each of three supporting points (the use of transition word and the idea that supports the topic sentence), and the group 5 to discuss on the concluding sentence of a paragraph (to come up with the idea of rephrasing the topic sentence and use of transition words, and not to introduce new concept or idea again). I would give low-performing students the most difficult task under each group and ensure that groups are of mixed levels and abilities. While my students are working on their assigned task, I would go round the class, observe, and ask them to see if they needed any support. (‘Walking around the room, checking work and answering questions’ are known as facilitators of independent practices).
I would make sure that each group would have a scribe to jot down the summary of their discussion, a spokesperson to present the summary of the group work and a controller to ensure that everybody is taking active participation in the group activity. I would give 10 minutes for each group to discuss and prepare for the presentation and give three minutes to present their work.
I would ask each group to present their work in the class (students give a presentation relating new information to the class’- an example of independent practice activity). After finding that they are able to get the fundamentals of the structure of a paragraph, I would ask each student to write a paragraph on their travelling experiences abroad (or different places of Bangladesh or similar topics) as home task, and they would make sure that their experiences and writing would be different from one another. Then I would ask them to submit their home tasks in my pigeon hole one day before the next class (Generally, in my institution, students get one or two days break before the next class). I would check all the home tasks before going to my next class.
I would provide feedback on the written tasks and discuss any improvements required for them (with positive and motivating words). In addition, I would ask them to submit their write- up again at the end of the class.
From the objective of my above lesson, it can be gauged that the lesson assessment would relate to knowledge learning, not memory learning (recalling). The objective of my lesson plan is to teach my students how to write a paragraph, so I would provide them the actual model of a paragraph in my assessment before the final examination; as a result, this task would be authentic and require them to apply their learning of writing the paragraph. By doing this, I would be able to assess that students should be able to transfer classroom knowledge to the real world; for example, at the time when they would go for different examinations in writing paragraphs in English.
After finishing the independent practice (which is a part of formative assessment-given below) [in my class] mentioned above, I would take a test (which would be upgraded; and the reason for that is that in order to get the best idea of performance of the students, a teacher does not need to grade everything that students do in the class) on a paragraph writing, providing the outline of a paragraph. A sample of such a test is given below:
Instructions: Write a paragraph within 150 words on the basis of the outlines provided. You will have 15 minutes to complete the task.
I had experienced some wonderful memories while travelling the picturesque island of Saint Martin in Bangladesh. (Topic sentence). Firstly, (the first reason) —————————————————————————————————————————————————. Secondly, (the second reason) ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————. Finally, (the third reason) ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-. Moreover, (concluding sentence) ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–.
This type of assessment would help us understand that the students would have higher order thinking (analyse, evaluate and create) since such as assessment requires them to talk what they know about a topic, and what the structure and organisation of a paragraph, and combine the two into a coherent product.
I would also provide them with a scoring rubric for a paragraph writing; as a result, they would be able to have a clear picture of how their work would be evaluated in their final examination.
Name: …………………………………………… Score: ……….. /10
The paragraph has proper indentation ½ inch
Use of Tense
Uniformity of the tense
No spelling errors
Clearly demonstrates the use of past tense and his or her experiences
Provided all the three supporting points in details
Cohesion and coherence
Ideas are connected to each other
Restates the main idea (the topic sentence); no new ideas are introduced again
Very few errors that do not interfere with the meaning of the sentence
*Dr. Hasan is the assistant professor, English, English Language Institute, in the United International University, Dhanmondi, Dhaka, Bangladesh. You can reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I received the information about reflective writing workshop in the messenger a few days before the event through Jeevan Karki. We were asked to be there with our laptops. Finally, the day came. I and my friend headed towards the program venue. Before we reached there, many of the participants had already been there. Mr Jeevan Karki and Dr Karna Rana were busy arranging furniture and other stuff in the hall. We exchanged our greetings. We were approximately 20 participants there.
The first activity was the opening session. One of the facilitators welcomed us and talked very briefly about the topic and its objectives and the benefits for the participants using power points. Then in the next activity was the introductory session and scene setting, led by the next facilitator. We all became excited when the facilitator came along with some pieces of paper on his hands. He told us to pick one piece of paper each and find our pair. Everybody became busy to find their pair. I happened to pick the digit 9 and began to search my pair but I couldn’t find anyone. When none of them in the hall had the digit 9. Then the facilitator asked me to pause as someone was on the way. I waited for a while. I could see all the participants were seated with their pairs. After a few minutes, a young gentleman with a shiny beard appeared at the door. I guessed he was my pair. Fortunately, he was placed next to me as my pair. The climate setting was over. One by one the peer began to introduce their partner. We did the same.
After that, the facilitator asked us to reflect on ‘self’ and select the best wearing of our own. We were provided one minute to reflect on. The facilitator threw some questions: What do you like the most? Why do you like it most? How do you feel on that particular wearing? We had to answer those questions. Everybody began to reflect, and so did I. The facilitator asked us to share the idea we had on our mind. At that point, the environment remained quiet. No one spoke. Later the facilitator himself reflected on his wearing. On his reflection, he found the muffler the best on his body. He described it and he focused on its colour and comfy quality. After the demo, many voices came aloud. Many hands were raised to share their ideas. I listened to them attentively. Their choices were varied as jackets, shoes, scarfs and so on. It sounded really interesting.
The next session was the discussion on ‘why to write?’ The facilitator raised the same question for the audience. Everybody started thinking about the question. Suddenly, the facilitator asked me “Why do you write, Muna?” I simply answered, “To express myself, my ideas…” He took more responses from other participants too. There was a variety inside varieties. Some of the responses were like to express ideas, to connect with others, to improve writing and many more. Finally, the facilitator presented some ideas that were taken from other renowned scholars. Their thoughts were stimulating for us to make habit of writing. Then the other facilitator discussed on the difference between academic writing and reflective (non-academic) writing. He discussed the differences between the two terms regarding its structure, language and flexibility. Then we had a short tea break.
After the break, the other facilitator distributed a sample of reflective writing. It was about the ways of improving children reading habits in early grades. We were asked to read and find a few strengths and areas of improvement in it. Everyone started reading it. The text was so long that I couldn’t catch it. I was unable to understand it though I read it twice. Perhaps, my eyes just ran over the unintelligible text. After some time, the facilitator started collecting responses. I completely remained silent as I didn’t have to say anything. The fact was that I didn’t understand the whole text. Likewise, the second sample was given to us. It was about the author’s experience of learning the English language. That text was clearer and easier than the previous one. I enjoyed while reading it. I also noted the strengths and areas of improvement regarding the text.
Then, the facilitator presented the context setting for writing. He talked about the possible context i.e. striking moments, habits, college, and profession to reflect in writing. He told us that our lived experiences in those contexts can be turned into a good piece of writing. The context can be created around what, when, who, where, how and why structure. Further, another facilitator talked about the frame of the reflective writing. He mentioned it into three facets: action, reaction and reflection. The framework was figurative and expressive which I liked a lot. Further, he also talked about how to write a reflective essay. He said that a good piece of writing requires a rigorous furnishing. According to him, good writing possesses several steps: write, self-review, peer-review, review and finalise the writing. I came to know that writing is an art which is possible through devotion. He also shed light on the three major aspects that the writer should be aware of viz, issue, language and style. He said that before writing any piece of text we need to choose the issue/area on which we are going to write. The issue should be unique and draw the attention of readers. Then we need to make a framework of writing and read the related literature to collect ideas. At that moment I thought that a good writer is a good reader; a reader who can make of the writing and sees a frame in writing so that she can develop a piece of writing herself. Then it was the time for a short break. We had some snacks during the period.
After the break, the facilitators highlighted the eight habits of a good writer. A good writer is also a good reader and a good listener is the striking one for me. A writer can write effectively after reading enough, listening carefully to others and observing the context. Then he asked us to transform the theory into practice by writing a reflective essay in the workshop itself. They asked us to reflect our own past and remember the most influential event that had happened in our lives and turn it into writing. Everyone opened their laptops and began writing something. I was still busy to recall the past and choosing an issue to write. Many things came in my mind, but one incident drew my attention. The incident was about saving a mother cow from sinking. I began to write, ‘last year…’ After forty-five minutes, we were asked to submit the writing. Then facilitator taught us how to make comment on others’ writing in an electronic copy. He displayed that on the projector and we were asked to follow the process and practice. I became happy to learn about the practical knowledge which I was wondering before. Finally, the facilitators collected the feedback from us and the event was formally closed.
Finally, I concluded my day as a productive one. The best part of the workshop for me was the introductory part. In this part, we had a pair to introduce each other. It sounds simple but that thrilled me a lot that day. Next is the graphics. I really liked the design of power points. The power points were full of pictures and drawings that caught my attention. Likewise, I also liked the feedback collection method. That was really wonderful. Most of all the workshop stimulated me to write something and hence, you are reading this piece now.
To sum with some feedback for the workshop, it would be more effective if it could start on time. We were in a sort of rush towards the end, which could have been avoided had it been started in time. We were many participants in the program. It would be more interesting if different activities like pair work and group were organised. For example, the session ‘sample of reflective writing’ was so pressurising for every participant, I think. I could see that all the participants were feeling hard to find the ideas. I myself was feeling empty. Had that work been done in a group, it would have been easier to discover many more things. In the same way, it would have been better if the writing of the participants was exchanged among the participants to get constructive comments. Critical comments and exchanging ideas are essential parts of good writing. As a whole, the motive of the event was praiseworthy. It brought ELT students and ELT practitioners together to equip them with some skills of writing and motivate them to reflect and write.
*Raiis the Master’s student at the central department of education, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. She is also a life member of NELTA since 2015.
“Thesis” this word always had been a matter of mystery for me since I started master level because every senior I talked
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This review is based on the interview which was published in April 2018 issue of ELTChoutari. Ashok Raj Khati, one of the editors of https://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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Jagadish Paudel: Former lecturer at Department of English education, Dadeldhura Shiksha Campus, Dadeldhura (Currently a lecturer in University Campus, Kirtipur, TU)
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)
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.
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.
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
Lack of vocabulary: students lack sufficient vocabulary to compose their writing. In fact, the vocabulary is the prerequisite for any types of writing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Writing is one of the important language skills. A piece of writing communicates our feelings, emotions and ideas. In order to develop the writing skills of our students, we can ask them to take notes, summarize and answer questions given in the textbooks. Likewise, dairy maintaining, writing travelogues, reflection, and journals improve their writing skills and helps them build confidence to express their feelings and ideas. Particularly students can perform their language ability, record their critical moments. As a teacher, we can motivate our students to do these writing activities.
My experiences and feelings
In my experience, teachers and students in Nepal, particularly from government schools, hesitate to write an academic piece in the English language. It is perhaps because of not having enough grammar skills and having the limited vocabulary. I believe that the grammar skills and vocabulary in any language are fundamental to compose a piece of writing in that language.
I am aware of the school and community environment where the Nepali language is the major language leaving many other indigenous languages in different ethnic communities. I rarely encounter someone speaking English on my way around the school and community. However, the current generation of children in Nepal would like to learn English and develop skills of the English. But there are so many issues behind it. I have tried to collect some information from students about current challenge of teaching writing skills in community schools. One of my students said, “I can’t write what I feel. I feel writing in English is hard, how to start to answer questions. I don’t get an idea how to start.” The English language is not a common language of conversation Nepal. Around 123 languages are spoken Nepali being the national language in this multilingual country. The English language is learned in the classroom and is limited in the classroom. Hence, it is obviously challenging for children to attain the advanced skills in the English language including the writing skills. However, teachers can try out some ways of teaching writing skills in their classrooms. The teachers can start with asking students to copy something with good handwriting, then gradually assign them some guided writing practice. Once they are confident with guided writing and able to compose appropriate and accurate sentences structures, now we can slowly introduce creative writing to them. Perhaps creative writing helps strengthen their writing skills. Teachers can provide their students with various writing opportunities in different fields like essays, letters, story development, paragraph writing, dairy writing, travel journal writing.
One of my students expressed the difficulty of writing in English, “I can’t write properly because I don’t understand many types of word meaning. How to find out the difficult word meaning?” As a teacher, we always have pressure to complete the curriculum in each academic session. I repeat the same book in the classes each year. There is no provision of additional books to enlarge the vocabulary of students. Extracurricular activities are also conducted for the formality only. English subject related activities such as essay writing, story writing, English debate competition, word meaning, spelling context, etc. get less priority. I think the school administration should manage extra classes for writing after the consultation with parents. Sometimes, guest resource persons of writing should be haired for inspiring the students for experience sharing and writing. On the other hand, the teachers also can do some activities to encourage students like diary or journal writing competition. Then, the good writings can be displayed on the school notice board or wall magazine. Likewise, the teachers must be update-to-date with the new trends of teaching writing effectively to the students.
After the students write, the teachers must read and offer feedback for rewriting if necessary. Generally, the writing process of our students never goes around another cycle. They just write once. Teachers mark the writing and what. Nothing. The process stops there. Actually, teachers must orient their students about the writing process and cycle. The first writing is the first draft and it should be rewritten if necessary. The role of teachers is very vital in reading the composition, offering the feedback and encouraging them to rewrite.
Most of the students are eager to learn the English language. They know the importance and scope of the English language but their foundation is very weak. One of the reasons behind this is the teachers’ own proficiency in English language. Some teachers (of course not all) have problem in composing a good paragraph and conversing in English with their students and colleagues. One of my colleagues expressed that, “There is no English environment in community school. All the students should speak English in their school premises.” It made me think further about learning and teaching the English language. I would imagine that my colleague has an overwhelming concept of educating children, but his expression reflects that he needs to differentiate between the English language and education. If he is teaching the English to his students in the classroom, he has to focus on the language. The increasing shift to English medium instruction from Nepali in the classroom has rather influenced the students’ Nepali language learning and learning of other subjects such as Science, Mathematics, Social Studies and History. The strategy of imposing the English as a medium of instruction in the classroom raised a question: are we teaching the English language? On the other hand, despite using English as a medium instruction, the writing of students is not satisfactory. And it is obvious that the demand of writing composition is going to be increased with the introduction of English medium instruction. Therefore, we need to review and rethink our method of teaching writing to the children.
Bimal Khanal is an English teacher in a community school in Kathmandu. He is also a freelance researcher.
In this blog post, we have attempted to present a broader picture of writing practice in English Language Education (ELE) programs in Nepali universities. The interaction is focused on how the ELE/ELT (English Language Teaching) programs in Nepali universities are guided by the policy provision and the initiations that have been taken to boost up writing skills of the students. The interaction incorporates the current practices as well as the challenges to develop academic writing of the students. Furthermore, the participants opine in relation to the publication practices of the faculty members and the issue of plagiarism in relation to their ELE/ELT programs of the university.
Let me introduce the participants of this interaction.:
Laxman Gnawali, PhD– Associate Professor and the coordinator of ELE/ELT program, school of education, Kathmandu University Nepal.
Laxmi Prasad Ojha– Lecturer at the department of English education, faculty of education, Tribhuvan University Nepal.
Bishnu Kumar Khadka- the chairperson of English subject committee, faculty of education, Mid-Western University Nepal.
Janak Singh Negi- Lecturer at Manilek Multiple Campus, a proposed constituent campus, Far Western University Nepal.
Uttam Gaulee, PhD– Assistant Professor at Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland Area, the USA.
Dr. Gaulee provides his opinions concerning Nepali Universities based on his long experience of working in Nepal, general observation and his academic collaborations with these universities in different ways.
Can you please share any good initiations to develop writing skills of students in ELE/ELT program in the University you are involved?
Dr Laxman Gnawali: We have a strong focus on academic writing development in the graduate programs. For both MEd and MPhil programs, we have formal credit courses. These courses give theoretical understanding as well as practical exposure to develop students’ writing skills. We start with the basics such as paragraph writing, move on to a five-paragraph essay, and later to thematic paper as well as research paper writing. The culmination is the thesis writing in which they fully actualize their academic writing skills.
Mr Laxmi Prasad Ojha: I have seen a positive sign by including research and writing as the integral part of the curricula in my university. This is encouraging step towards developing students with reading, writing and critical thinking abilities. Most courses in Bachelor’s and Master’s degree includes writing as an essential part of curricula and evaluation system. Students are supposed to write essays, narratives, reflections, research reports, research papers, book reviews, analytical writing at graduate and undergraduate levels and the thesis writing in the graduate level despite the fact that we have not been able to deliver the courses very well.
Mr Bishnu Kumar Khadka: We formed an ELT club of the students studying in English language education with the support of some international scholars. The journey of writing begins with writing meeting minutes which generally includes the name of the attendees, agenda, discussion and decisions in English. Furthermore, members of the club write and share their experiences and new insights they found during the study. In our semester-based system in Mid-Western University, students write assignments, project-based reports, review reports and research reports. The system generates the writing as a process during the whole semester as well as a part of the evaluation. When we felt a few challenges to gear up writing on the part of students, we established the Writing Center in the University with support of some international scholars. The center started webinar, training of teachers facilitated by scholars from the USA. It is really an inspiring move for us to develop writing in the English language.
Mr Janak Singh Negi: Apparently, there are some good initiations. It is because writing courses have been taught at the university level. I know these courses touch some practical aspects of academic writing, but most of the students do not seem practicing writing except writing Master’s thesis at the end of the program in this region.
Dr Uttam Gaulee: In the USA, there is a saying, “put your money where your mouth is.” In Nepali universities, teachers are given money to grade student papers but not for providing feedback. Providing incentives for students to write and for teachers to provide feedback more frequently would help. I see that Mid-Western University has now established a writing center. I think this is a good beginning.
What are the best practices for developing writing skills of students?
Dr Gnawali: Formal lessons in which students get engaged in writing and peer feedback followed by tutor feedback are common practices. Our process is from simple to complex. We encourage students not only to write papers as assignments but also to restructure, if needed, the same and submit to the national and international journals. Many papers get published in peer reviewed journals. We also encourage students to present the same papers in the conferences. The conference presentation itself may not help writing but as the students work harder when they plan for the conferences, their papers get better. In order to inject the latest development in academic writing, we organize academic writing workshops led by international facilitators having expertise in academic writing.
Mr Ojha: After the introduction of the semester system, we have been able to engage our students in various writing projects such as book reviews, reflective essays, narrative reports which helped the students develop writing skills. The effort gradually enabled students to develop writing academic and research papers. Some students pursuing their Master’s in ELT program at Tribhuvan University can produce some coherent pieces of academic papers. We have regular conferences with students, we organize seminars and workshops in academic writing, we provide focus on giving feedback to students’ write-ups and encourage them to attend conferences and present there. We also encourage and help them to write for different ELT related magazine and journals. These days, they are able to write theses with better academic writing and research skills due to the constant feedback they receive from their tutors while writing the assignments for various courses.
Mr Khadka: To encourage the writing of students, I created a Facebook group for them to raise questions, generate discussion, and write on different academic issues. Students actively participate in the discussion and they write reflective notes on their experiences which I found very effective both for classroom purposes and developing writing skill.
Mr Negi: Regarding the best practices, I think, it depends on whether you are talking about theoretical or practical aspects. If we look at the theoretical aspects, over the last few years there is drastic change in the university course; some course on academic/creative writing e.g. Academic Writing, Creative Writing in ELT, Advance Academic Writing to name only a few have been introduced in Bachelor’s and Master’s programs, where students get the opportunities to enhance their academic and creative writing skills. But, if we look at the practice side of these skills, rather different scenario comes in the mind i.e. some students know about academic/creative writing. However, most of them cannot write academically and creatively.
Dr Gaulee: Apart from sporadic one or two-day workshops, etc., I am not aware of a good writing development program functioning in a Nepali university so far. I wish I am wrong. I think writing is probably not yet understood as a process that can be developed with the continuous effort with proper feedback. I think there is an opportunity in the universities to make students aware of writing steps and allow them to practice pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Teachers need to provide appropriate feedback to students depending on where they are struggling. Students typically are not given a proper reason to write other than to sit for the nightmarish high-stake year-end exams.
What are the challenges to enhance writing practices of the students?
Dr Gnawali: The major challenge is that the most students join the program with no experience of writing anything except in the examination. They have issues with the grammar, vocabulary and generating ideas. So, starting from the scratch is very challenging. As they have not had any experiences in sustained writing, it’s challenging to get them to write longer texts in the beginning.
Mr Ojha: I think the most important challenges are a large number of students (large class size) in my department. It is really challenging to support, mentor and provide feedback at the personal level to help them develop writing skill. The knowledge and skill of the faculty members involved in higher education is another real challenge as most of them are involved in teaching without any prior academic and professional background or training on academic writing. Therefore, if we want to introduce research and academic writing in our higher education, we have to groom our teachers to be able to mentor their students.
Mr Khadka: In my experience, writing, either in mother tongues or any other languages, is considered as a tough and the most reluctant task in our context for the beginners or advanced level language learners. Students do not feel comfortable in writing. I have experienced that many students‘copy and paste’ from the internet-based resources to complete the assignments and meet the deadlines in the university. Therefore, it is highly challenging to foster the culture of original, cohesive and purely academic writing in our cases.
Mr Negi: This is really an interesting question. The big challenge is to put theory into practice i.e. making students write academically or creatively instead of knowing or writing about academic or creative writing. Most of the students spend their time preparing for the examination and in the examination, they are asked questions like these: “What are the 5R techniques for summarizing the paragraph?” instead of “Read the following paragraph and summarize it”. “What do you mean by invention techniques for generating ideas?” instead of “Generate the ideas for writing an essay on the following topic/s…”. “What are the characteristics of poetry?” instead of “Write a poem (for example, a sonnet, a free verse, Gajal, haiku…). I mean the evaluation system, in general, itself is a challenge for better learning output. If students are taught, for example, to summarize or to write a poem they should be able to do so and the same should be tested in the examination. If not, they know/memorize few lines about academic or creative writing but will not be able to write academically or creatively.
Dr Gaulee: I think one of the major challenges is large classes. The teachers should be able to coach a student to develop writing skills. The second major challenge is the lack of teacher training on how to successfully serve as a coach for their students toward developing writing.
What about the publications practices of faculty members involved in the program?
Dr Gnawali: Publication is a regular feature of the faculty here at Kathmandu University. Every faculty publishes at least one paper each year in national or international journals. We also have our own journal, Journal of Education and Research which is edited by the faculties. They develop their own expertise in course of editing and publishing process. Some senior faculties are editors and reviewers for the peer reviewed journals.
Mr Ojha: In general, we have been doing fairly well in research and publication in the recent times. Some of the faculty members (for example the Head of Department, Dr Prem Phyak) have really been inspirational both in terms of number and quality of publications in high standard journals. The faculty members are collaborating with each other to research, write and deliver presentations in the seminars and conferences. This is certainly a good indication of collaborative academic and professional growth. We are also planning to publish a journal on ELT and Applied Linguistics from our department so that the faculty members from various institutions can get support and space for the publication of their research works. Some senior colleagues are also mentoring the young faculty through collaboration, review and resources.
Mr Khadka: Regarding the publication of the academic journal, I coordinated the publication of ‘Journal of Education Science’ (JOES) in the capacity of Editor-in-chief, the first volume in the university in 2012. In the volume, there are contributions of faculty members and students. We are planning to publish another volume very soon. Likewise, we encourage the students to publish the journal with their own initiation. Faculty members and students are also collaborating with the Journal of NELTA Surkhet in term of participating in the workshop in writing and contributing to the volume.
Mr Negi: Currently the interest in publishing academic work in academic or research journals is growing very fast. Most of the colleges and departments have started publishing some academic journals and Souvenir in the region where both students and teachers have opportunities to publish their academic and creative works. Some ELT professionals have started writing for national and international academic journals and are really engaged in academic publications. However, it is yet to meet the standards as the most articles by the faculty members seem a mere elaboration of the classroom notes. They lack a broad study on academic and ELT related issues.
Dr Gaulee: While writing has always been encouraged – probably ideally, it is only recently that universities are giving more emphasis in publications, which is certainly a good sign. Research, writing, and publications have been more of an exception than the norm so far, which needs to be changed with the recent growth of publication avenues, access to resources and networks of professionals via scholarly societies and conferences.
What are your thoughts on plagiarism- an issue in the Nepali higher education?
Dr Gnawali: There have been publicly discussed issues on plagiarism in higher education. University Grants Commission has had some cases of plagiarism with the University faculties. Colleges that run foreign University programs have faced the issues with their students for plagiarizing papers/assignments. I believe that there are some major reasons for scholars to plagiarize. There are some cases that authors have intentionally plagiarized with an intention to get a quick promotion. The key reason is that there is no proper training and awareness raising on how not to plagiarize. Authors refer but either they do not know how to properly give credit to the original author. Likewise, the regulations are not fully enforced, and when someone is found guilty, they are not penalized.
Mr Ojha: Plagiarism is a serious issue in Nepali academia. The motivation of the students to pursue higher education is an important factor to influence how they write their papers and theses. Many of them are not even aware of the issues related to plagiarism. Moreover, we do not have any system (e.g. digital repository of the theses submitted and the software) to track malpractices like plagiarism. It is not possible for a professor to track the plagiarized papers, assignments and theses of the student/s. Hence, it is important to develop awareness on maintaining ethics in research and writing through training and other possible ways.
Mr Khadka: It is a serious issue in the higher education in Nepal – very difficult to speak out for me. So, there is a blaming culture in our context regarding plagiarism. The writers in this university are not the exception. Students often submit highly plagiarized papers and research reports, not intentionally, but because they do not know how to avoid plagiarism. However, in Nepali universities, few so-called academicians, writers and researchers do it deliberately for different purposes. Therefore, it is a high time to be well informed by ourselves (faculty members) and guide our students in the university accordingly to avoid plagiarism.
Mr Negi: Oh! This is the most interesting query above all! Ashok Ji, if you read the course books on academic writing itself written by some Nepali authors, the definition of plagiarism itself is plagiarized. Very honestly, this is not my criticism to particular authors but it is the ground reality. The plagiarized case of Master’s thesis has already been disclosed in various print media. So, I do not need to elaborate it further. It means we know plagiarism. However, some of us still plagiarize and our plagiarized work is accepted; nobody (even some academicians in authority) raises questions on it seriously, so we (some academic practitioners) neither realize nor make somebody realize the impacts of plagiarism. Therefore, to control and check plagiarism to some extent, we need to have at least a plagiarism checking software in our colleges or departments. My point is plagiarism should be avoided at any cost.
Dr Gaulee: In the lack of proper writing development in place, plagiarism in Nepali higher education is still a “white crime.” It sometimes serves as a fodder for blame game or even political ammunition. Either way, it has not been addressed in a way that it should.
Would you like to add anything about the writing practices at the end?
Dr Gnawali: To be honest, academic writing has not been established as a culture in Nepalese education scenario. Therefore, we need to revamp academic writing practices from the school level to the university.
Mr Ojha: We still lack adequate research and writing culture in Nepali academia which negatively affects the students and faculties in a long run. To be frank, we have not been able to give enough space to write in our university courses especially the academic writing skills. I think it is high time to introduce academic writing as a compulsory course in all disciplines including ELT program and deliver them following mentoring model. The university department and colleges can also establish writing centers where students can receive support from the mentors.
Mr Khadka: In my view, we must discourage ‘copy and paste’ culture. Hence, there is much to do in academic writing in the university.
Mr Negi: In fact, we are floating on the surface with motionless motion, we are not anchored academically; we are more formal and still practicing much with formality. Let’s try to be more practical and realistic.
Dr Gaulee: Status quo needs to change. In universities, writing centers need to be established, an intensive educational plan should be implemented, which may need a great deal of willpower on the part of leadership to facilitate awareness, planning, and implementation, which will involve expertise, training, money and patience.
We thank our valued participants for generating this ELT Choutari interaction. We will come up with the further discussion and writings on the “Writing” based on these valuable ideas and opinions in our upcoming issues. For now, ELT Choutari opens the discussion forum for you to share your thoughts after reading the ideas of our contributors. Please share your thoughts in the comment boxes below.
Ashok Raj Khati is one of the editors of ELT Choutari. He writes for academic journals, ELT blogs and Nepali national dailies.
(The ideas are based on the practice of the writer)
A. How to prepare and organize ideas for an essay?
As a language teacher for 8 years, I have found that my students struggle with their writing skills. When I ask them to write an essay for 250 words, it sometimes takes more than an hour to write because they do not know what to write or get stuck in the middle of their writing. Even the students with rather good grammar skills and sufficient vocabulary feel the same. To solve this problem, I undergo the following three-steps-process of writing to make it easy for them to write.
Step 1: Think of different social roles relating to the topic
Let’s see how we can think of different social roles related to the topic. For example, with the topic “Tertiary education should be free. To what extent do you agree?” When students get this topic, they often think of their arguments around students such as students could study freely without paying fees. And they cannot go further in their argument. I often suggest them to think of different people related to this topic such as lecturers, students’, parents, university administrators, government, or tax-payers. Now after thinking the different stakeholders associated with the topic, I ask them to follow the step: 2.
Step 2: Ask all Wh-questions
In relation to the above topic for essay writing, I ask my students to raise the following questions associated with people related to the topic.
What do students get if tertiary education is free?
What do the parents benefit when tertiary education is free?
And where could the lecturers get the salary if tertiary education is free?
Where do universities get money to pay salaries for teachers and provide other facilities if tertiary education is free?
Is it good if the government pay for university education?
Is it fair for everyone if the government pay for university education?
Does the government have enough fund to pay for the university?
When the students brainstorm all the answers for the above questions, they will have a lot of ideas to write an essay. However, to write a good essay with logic arguments, they need to state their point of view and organize their ideas to support their arguments. Therefore, I ask them to follow the step: 3.
Step 3: State the point of view and organize ideas in a logical way
After answering all these questions, students should decide their point of view and organize their ideas according to the point of views. They should try to select the ideas that are more prominent and support their point of views. They do not need to include all the ideas in one essay. Each main point (topic sentence) needs three supporting ideas and try to give examples to support their point of view.
I believe following the above three steps offers students a lot of ideas and help them write an essay with the main point of view and ideas to support their arguments.
B. How to take academic notes effectively?
When I started my PhD journey, I read many articles. However, I did a blunder by not taking any notes. At the time of reading, I thought that I could remember what I had read. However, after reading more than 30 articles, I did not remember exactly what I had read! Luckily, I had chances to attend some workshops organized by my supervisors and PhD colleagues about completing the PhD journey. I was happy to share with you what I learnt and applied successfully after attending these workshops.
To come up with a paper, any other writing or a PhD thesis, I think the most important thing is to take notes methodologically. And organize the notes in a logical way so that you can retrieve it whenever you need it and use your notes for further analysis or comparison to discuss with other scholars in the world. Here are the main three steps that I find very useful.
Step 1: Take notes
When you are reading an article, take notes during reading or immediately after the reading. You may wonder what should note down. Sometimes, the article is very long and interesting but you do not know what is important to write down. In that case, you can include the following things:
The context of the study,
Findings of the study and
Your critical view of the article.
Some of you may wonder why you need to take these notes. I will explain that in step 3.
Step 2: Organize your notes
Now, in this phase, we have to organize these summaries into themes/topics with the original articles because you may need to read these articles one more time when you find it related to your topic or area. On the other hand, you may need it to list in the reference section of your article or writing. Organizing this way, helps you compare many articles about the same topics.
Step 3: How to use your notes effectively
When you have all your notes, you will wonder how you can use these notes effectively. Please read your notes and compare or contrast the findings, methods or theoretical framework together to write the literature review. In the methodology section, you can also compare your methods with the method applied in the articles you read and summarized, so that you can figure out any differences and similarities between your method and the one used in the literature you read. Then you can state why you choose your own methods. I think it is very useful in the discussion section because you can compare your findings with the findings from previous studies. Then you show your readers that you find out something different from other people based on your context and your research method.
If you do not organize all these notes in a logical way, you may finish your writing. However, it might take you more time to go back and forth with the original articles to find the information that you need.
I hope that these practical tips could help you in to accelerate your writing.
Editor: Dear valued readers, perhaps you may have other ideas of composing the essay and note-taking effectively and efficiently. Please share your ideas in the comment box below.
*Thinh Le is a lecturer of English at Vietnam Banking Academy, Phu Yen Branch, Vietnam and he is also a PhD Candidate in College of Education, Health and Human Development, University of Canterbury, New Zealand.
During my recent visit and involvement with teacher training programs throughout some rural parts of Nepal, I did a lesson on writing, both in schools and during training sessions. Writing about Writing illustrates the process I go through when I teach writing. In this article, I have tried to outline the steps I take while teaching writing for both younger developing writers and older more experienced emergent writers.
When I teach writing, I teach it as a process because that is the way that I view it. Writing involves planning, writing a draft, editing and revising and publishing. It takes practice to develop your skills as a writer; it just doesn’t happen overnight.
To begin with, when I work with students, I do several things that vary only with the age and skills that my students have. First, I activate prior knowledge by having students brainstorm the different ways that they use writing. Younger students generally talk about the notes they write their moms or the handwriting practice they do while older students talk about lists, taking notes, writing letters or now-a-days, texts, and writing stories. Activating prior knowledge is important because students need to become aware that we use writing in many ways and for many different purposes.
After brainstorming about how we use writing, I model my own writing so that my students see me as a writer. For example, if I am asking students to write about themselves then I share with them the process that I go through when I am writing about me. It is important that students watch the process of writing so that they know that this is a process that all writers go through. Again, this process is planning, draft writing, editing and revising, and then publishing.
Let’s say that it is the beginning of the school year, and I am asking my students to write about themselves. If I am working with younger students or developing writers, I will first model a picture plan by drawing a picture of myself, my family, my house and a few other interesting details. Then I would orally go through my picture and describe it while at the same time labeling key pictures, (myself, my husband, my dog, cat, house, ect.)
By orally describing my picture and labeling, I am showing my students the picture/word association and also giving them some ideas about how they can do their own picture plan. I would also include some discussion with my students about their own families, who is in it, where they live, what they like to do, ect. Before letting students go off and do their plans, again, giving some guidance for their plans. Then I would set them free to draw their picture plans about themselves, their families, where they live, the things they like, and any other details that they might like to add. Picture plans work well for kindergarteners, first graders, and other developing writers.
Older students generally have more language and can use a different type of plan. Generally, for older students I use a circle map, which is a type of thinking map; thinkingmaps.org. A circle map has a frame around it that guides the writer’s ideas. The frame is usually divided into four sections which can vary dependent on the topic you are writing about. A beginning piece about themselves might be framed with things like: Facts: name, age, family members, where I live; Things I like; My Favorites; and My Goals or things I’d like to get better at this year. Using a plan like this allows students to jot down their ideas before they begin writing. Students then list the answers for these questions or topics in the different areas of the circle. I try to remind them not to write out complete sentences in their circles because this is just a plan and that draft writing is when they put their ideas into complete sentences. Just as I did with younger students, I model my own plan and go over it with them and then show the students how I moved from my plan to my piece of writing. For this assignment, I give the direction that they are to write at least one paragraph about themselves using information from their plans.
As students finish their plans, my job as a teacher would be to go around and have them describe their picture plan to me so that I could help them label it. I would encourage students to label what they could beforehand and share their plan with their neighbor, but I would try to get around to all the students to help them label and add any extra details. Planning might take a whole class for some students but for others, it might be quick and they might be able to continue on to the next step- draft writing. My directions for younger students might vary dependent on the age and development of their skills as a writer but usually I would give a direction for students to write 1-3 sentences about their picture. My goals for younger students are to get them to write so I accept invented spelling and look to see that they are generating some sentences that give me information about their picture.
Conferencing with students, I might point out spacing issues, handwriting difficulties, but primarily I am focusing on their ideas. “Wow, I see you wrote that you like to play with your dog. What is your dog’s name? Can we add that to your sentence? Good job.” I like to think of a “Star and a Wish” when I am giving feedback. Writing takes practice and it is important to praise what a student is doing well rather than focusing on the things they need to correct. If I see many students having the same errors or difficulties, then I use that as a teaching point and do a mini lesson the following day about whatever the issue was, or I say, “Today I am going to be looking for good spacing between your words as you write” to draw their attention to something I noticed was an issue previously. If my students need more support to generate their ideas then I will use some patterned sentence starters to help them. For example, I might put on the board the following pattern: My name is ____. I live with _____. I like to_____. I might also have a mind map that I’ve done previously with students to list things they like to do; again, the idea being that they have a list of words already generated that they can use for their own labeling or to add additional information to their sentences.
When I model my paragraph, I point out that I didn’t use all my details to make my paragraph, but if I wanted to use all the information then I share with them how I could write a multi-paragraph piece of writing that included all the information from the plan. I show students both models of writing, (one paragraph and multi-paragraph) and then provide them with models of patterned sentences/paragraphs that they can use for either writing one paragraph or multi-paragraphs. These are written out on charts and hung on the wall, or they are written on sentence strips and put in a pocket chart for students to see. I also talk about topic sentences, (main idea sentences) that begin a paragraph and let the reader know what my writing is about. Then I talk about closing sentences that end my paragraph by summing things up or by adding an emotion to it. I add this in the form of a sentence starter and label it with either topic sentence or closing sentence. We also spend some time brainstorming aloud some other ideas for topic sentences and closing sentences and if needed, this is organized as a mind map for students to see and choose from.
Now, my students are ready to begin the process of writing at least one paragraph about themselves. First, they plan and I go around and comment on their details and ask a few open-ended questions where necessary to encourage them to add to their ideas. I also might make my own connections to their ideas to reinforce to them that I’m interested in them. For example, one student writes that purple is her favorite color, and I say, “Oh, purple is my favorite color too; how cool is that!” As the purpose of this writing activity is to help me get to know my students, it’s important to connect with them about common or shared interests when and where I can.
After students finish their plans, they can begin their draft writing and can use either the patterned sentences model for one paragraph or the multi-paragraph model to help them write, if needed. Again, I rove and comment here and there on something they’ve written, but I don’t use this time to correct, unless a student is asking me something specific. When their drafts are done, then I set up a writing conference with them, and that is the time to point out some things that might need fixing up or to emphasis some details that might be needed to strengthen their writing. I still use the idea of a star and a wish to guide my conferencing, and I don’t overcorrect. By pointing out something that they are doing well with their writing before adding a constructive point for them to think about, I help my students recognize their strengths in their own writing while also encouraging them to look more critically at how they can strengthen their writing. I also try to get students to read back over their writing first before coming to me or to share their writing with a neighbor or a friend first. I want to be able to help them self edit and do revisions on their own. I also look for common errors and use them as a teaching point for a mini lesson the following day.
If I have students who are more proficient with their writing skills, then I use my conferencing time to extend their writing. Some things I might do are to to ask them to select at least two sentences to revise by adding more details using adjectives, adverbs, or other figurative language such as metaphors or similes. I might also ask students to select a few sentences and add more details by adding the word, “because” to let their readers know why they like something or like to do something. Combining ideas and varying their sentence structures so that they start their sentences in different ways to improve the fluency of their writing might also be something to conference about. How I use my conferencing time with students is dependent on their skills and needs. As with writing, everyone is different; however, taking the time to conference with students isn’t. It is an important part of the process. It takes time, but it is important for students to get that one on one time with you to look more critically at their own writing.
When conferencing is done, students go back and revise their writing to produce a final draft, which is their published piece. Whenever possible, I encourage them to word process this or to hand write it neatly and if time, to add an illustration to it. We share our published pieces with the rest of the class, so students know that their work is valued and then it is posted in our Writer’s Corner for others to see. Celebrating their work helps students see that writing is important and something to be proud of. A saying I like is, “Writing is Power.” If you can write well, you can do anything.
Teaching writing is something I’ve done for many younger and older students. While the topics and content may vary, the process for teaching writing is generally the same. Planning, developing their ideas, drafting, and then revising and editing before publishing are steps that all writers take with their own writing. By modeling and providing structure and guidance, students of all ages learn how to develop their own skills as writers. They also learn to appreciate that writing is a process and an important one.
The Author: Doreen Richmond has taught at all grade levels in the USA. She was a Special Education teacher for many years and currently teaches Reading and Writing in the Transitional Learning Department at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Washington. Recently, she has been involved in a teacher training program in Solukhumbu, coordinated by REED Nepal.
It has been well experienced that academic writers can rarely be “self-dependent” in discussing or explaining ideas in the course of developing some thesis in any field of inquiry. Instead, ideas or insights are generated and developed by making reference to the works (including research finding, theoretical proposition, or any sort of written description, etc.) of previous authors. In this connection, one can summarize the points stated by the previous author and carry out critical analysis, synthesize the propositions of some authors, identify the lacking/gaps therein, and then refine the proposition/s by adding new insights. Or, one can even come out with a different perspective to look into the existing phenomena so that new propositions are established.
While doing so, acknowledging the previously done works and the respective authors who had contributed therein is one of the common minimum academic cultures that everybody should maintain in doing research as well as writing academic papers. Accordingly, this tradition has been established in the world more or less everywhere – for academic as well as professional practices in universities and publication houses.
However, some differences are found in the style of reference citation in the written text and the way of writing the authors’ names in the reference list that is usually placed at the end of the text. In this post, I am particularly raising the issue of crisis in author identity that has been created as a consequence of a particular ‘style’ of work listing in the ‘reference’ section of academic papers, research articles, books and dissertations.
When someone writes and publishes any material with his/her name, we need to understand that the very name that appears in the paper is his/her identity. Needless to say, the author has the willingness to be identified publicly with the name as appeared in the print; and it is a matter of honesty on the part of the subsequent writer/s to regard the previous authors by their respective names and surnames without any sort of intention to misinform the readers and without causing injustice against the author to the extent of losing his/her identity.
In this connection, I would like to draw the attention of the respected audience towards a question which should be considered a genuine one in the academic world, which is: How can the authors’ identity be properly respected while recording their works in the subsequent academic writings (when the previously produced source is consulted for reference purpose)? We must answer this question before deciding the style of making a list of works cited in the text, because some of the formats that are in widespread use in the ‘academic market’ have not been able to do justice in favour of authors as regards their identity.
Usually, the key information about any work to be listed in the ‘Reference’ section of a research paper includes: author, year of publication, work title (book, article, journal, dissertation, or any other document), the place of publication and publisher. We can be in a very comfortable position to say that there should not be a problem in any of the styles followed in making the reference list if the list contains these key things in the entry. Despite this, it would be relevant to raise serious reservations regarding the ‘style’ which deliberately reduces (and thus disregards or even undermines) the identity of previous authors by ‘abbreviating’ their first (and middle) names – which is an unwanted action for the original authors, and even objectionable from the point of view of their identity.
In the past, when I prepared academic articles, my reference list had duly honoured the authors whose works were cited in the text by entering the words carrying their identity as appeared in the respective sources (i.e. full names and surnames if the author mentioned so, and ‘abbreviated’ names only if the source itself contained the author’s identity like that). After the articles were submitted for publication in different forums (journals in particular), many of them have been published without reducing the previous authors’ identity. But, in some of them, the editorial team has taken the ‘action’ of identity reduction by abbreviating the initial and middle names – in the name of following the APA format and maintaining uniformity in the style of all writers in the journal.
A reference entry of this kind, in addition to doing injustice against the identity of authors discussed above, has also caused confusion among the mass of readers in properly recognizing the author. For instance, when someone quotes a sentence or phrase from an article written by Ram Ashish Giri and writes ‘Giri, R. A.’ in the reference entry, there is no point to ensure that his/her readers will, without confusion, understand that ‘R. A.’ stands for ‘Ram Ashish’! Instead, ‘R. A.’ can be understood by readers as any name beginning with R and A in the case of the first and middle names respectively (e.g. Raj Ashish, Ram Anish, Raj Avatar, and so on). Such a style, in this way, has not only reduced the authors’ identity but also misguided the readers more or less intentionally.
Interestingly, although such a style (which is in widespread use) does not allow the authors’ full recognition in the reference list; it has clearly instructed the writers to mention the complete name of the publisher. In this connection, the attempt of giving full recognition to the publisher should be well appreciated, but there is no point in disallowing authors’ full recognition. And, there can be no reason why authors’ identity should always be hidden on one hand and the curious readers should be left in confusion on the other!
The essence underlying the discussion so far is that we must have author acknowledging and reader friendly attitude; otherwise we cannot create an encouraging environment for academic and professional prosperity, growth and development. In absence of the willingness to make correction in style (with the aim of preserving author identity), the culture of intellectual exploitation can sustain forever under the banner of academic works such as publication and research. The academia throughout the globe needs to be aware of such a practice – which is not simply a matter of style but essentially a sort of academic offence against intellectuals. Steps need to be taken towards stopping such wrong practices so that the environment of academic honour can prosper towards right direction.