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1.0 Introduction

Writing is hard for everyone, even for the great writers. It is even more difficult to

write in a foreign language. Isaac Bashevich Singer, winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize for

literature, once said,

“I believe in miracles in every area of life, except writing. Experience has

shown me that there are no miracles in writing. The only thing that
produces good writing is hard work.”

(Zeliha Gulcat, 2004)

Today, most students seem to fear writing essays regardless of whether their

enrollment is in an elementary school, a high school, a college, or university. Writing an

essay is usually the subject of procrastination when they have to do it. This is because

they do find it most difficult to write.

However, writing is an important skill whereby it requires knowledge and

focussed thought. In order to write, students must have something to say. Hence, students

do not merely express knowledge by writing, they also discover knowledge. Moreover,

one of the more important aspects of recent educational reform efforts is increased

attention to writing skills. (Risinger, and Fredderick, 2000).

In an extract from the LingualLinks Library (1999) states that writing skills help

the learner gain independence, comprehensibility, fluency and creativity in writing. If the

learner have mastered these skills, they should be able to write effectively and others,

especially speakers of that language could read and comprehend it.

Besides that, the most important factor in writing is that students need to be

personally involved in order to make the learning of lasting value (Kenneth Beare, 2005).

On the other hand, Menon (1987) claims that “teachers need to personally feel

that writing is a very important skill to teach in school and one that requires careful

planning because otherwise it will end being frustrating for teachers as well as for the

students. Therefore, teachers of English should help students develop competency in

writing through eliminating students’ dislike by using appropriate approach that is

suitable to be applied in the classroom.

Moreover, according to Dr Ghazi Chaith (2002), writing is a complex process that

allows writers to explore thoughts and ideas and make them visible and concrete. Writing

encourages thinking and learning for it motivates communication and makes thought

available for reflection. When thought is written down, ideas can be examined,

reconsidered added to, rearranges and changed.

Besides, according to the Chun Ling Sun (2009), English writing as a basic

language skill for second language learners is being paid close attention to. How to

achieve better results in English teaching and how to develop students’ writing

competence remain an arduous task for English teachers.

Thus, many approaches in writing were developed in order to teach students to

write effectively by many teachers; especially in ESL classroom. The examples of these

approaches are “free writing approach”, “product based approach”, “genre-based

approach and the “process approach” or simply known as “process writing” or “writing


In the “free writing approach” learners write for a period of time in class on a

topic of interest to them. This writing can take many forms, including quick writes, which

are time-limited, done individually, and not only always shared; and dialogue journals,

written to a teacher, a classmate or other partner who then responds (Peyton & Staton,

1996 as cited in Bello, Tom 2000)..

The “product-based approach” sees writing as being primarily about linguistic

knowledge, with attention focused on the appropriate use of vocabulary, syntax, and

cohesive devises (Pincas, 1982) whereas the “genre-based approach” regards writing as

predominantly linguistic but they emphasize that writing varies with the social context in

which it is produced (Flowerdew 1993: 307 as cited in Badger, R. & White, G. 2000).

However, the approach that is invented to facilitate students in writing and has

been utilized vastly in most English Language classrooms is the “process writing”. The

“process approach” to writing is not a new approach. It has been around since the early

1970s. This approach treats all writing, as creative act while requires time and positive

feedback to be done well. It focuses on the writing product rather than the final product

(Grabe & Kaplan, 1996). Besides that, the “process approach” also refers to a teaching

approach that focuses on the process a writer engages in when constructing meaning to

various proficiency level of the students..

This teaching approach may include identified stages of the writing process such

as: pre-writing stage, drafting or actual writing stage, the revising stage, editing stage and

publishing or presentation stage (Trupe, 2001). It is a way to let students work on

successive drafts of a piece of work before it receives its final evaluation. Hence, this

approach showed a remarkable significance in relation to students’ writing performance

and helps in enhancing their writing skills in ESL classroom.

Many educators are positive towards the process approach and think that the

students will benefit greatly from this approach (Raimes 1983, Stewart and Cheung 1989,

White and Arndt 1991). In addition teachers found the effectiveness of this approach in

teaching writing skills through their research and studies. However the feedback from

students on this approach has not been seen. Thus, this study is mainly designed to gather

the feedback of low English proficiency students on the ‘Process Approach’ in the

teaching of writing skills.

1.1 Statement of Problem

Writing is an important component of the Integrated Secondary School

Curriculum (KBSR) English syllabus. According to MOE ,(1991), The Malaysian

Minister of Education states that as the end of the Secondary School English Language

Programme, students are expected to be able to write and understand written English in

the school and in real life situations outside the school. Therefore, in order to develop

acquisition of the target language, the skill of writing needs to be emphasized.

Since writing is an important skill, students’ achievement in acquiring the writing

skills will be determined by the kind of approaches used by the teacher in teaching of

writing. No doubt writing is a complex process and there is no definite answer on how to

teach writing in ESL classroom. Thus, it remains one of the most difficult areas for the

teacher and learner of English (Simpson, 2004). So, a few factors have been identified on

why students find difficult to master the writing skill.

According to Byrne (1988), the underlying factors that contribute to the

complexity of writing are psychological, linguistic and cognitive problems. His points of

views were supported by Hadfield and Hadfield (1993) cited in Simpson (2004) whereby

they also note the same three areas of difficulty for the learner in relation to the writing

skill. They further explained that the psychological problems occurs because writing is a

solitary activity where the students are required to write without knowing the benefit of

writing and with no face interaction which makes the writing difficult.

They added on stating that the linguistic problem faced by the students is through

oral communication. Since verbal speech is spontaneous and less attention paid to the

sentence structure, grammar and vocabulary, they end up writing as how they speak.

On the other hand, they also pointed out that cognitive problems emerge when the

students have not mastered the written form of the language as well as have not learned

certain structures, which are relevant socially and professionally. Besides that, students

just cannot help feeling nervous and pressured whenever they are to perform a writing

task. Raimes (1983) describes that her ESL students’ faces were painted with anguish and

nervousness whenever they had to produce a piece of writing.

Moreover, teachers always assume that writing problems stem only from students

lack of knowledge, difficulties encountered during the composing process and negative

attitudes towards writing, as well as lack of confidence in writing (Stein, 2002).

Apart from that, as any writing teachers has experienced, students are frequently

worried about the prospect of writing in English. They worry about expressing their ideas

clearly within the boundaries of correct usage, grammar, spelling, sentence structure and

punctuation Simpson (2000). Due to this, students develop a fear of writing and think that

everything they write is riddled with errors. These fears hinder them and frequently make

their writing process slow and also unsuccessful

Besides that, Gomez and Gan Lay Huah (1991) claim that most teachers prefer to

implement the traditional way of teaching writing, that is by assigning the topic and

instructing the students to produce a piece of writing within the given period of time. This

creates terror in students as they do not know where and how to start.

In addition to that, a writing class is usually conducted in the conservative

“teacher teach-student learn way” (Muhammad Kamal Nawawi, 1989). This traditional

way of teaching writing has been criticized for it does not allow active participation of

the students and only emphasize on the teacher who function as an authoritative figure. In

fact, students are forced to write as they have low interest in writing. Here, teachers are

interested in the writing product rather than the writing process.

On top of that, Jenny Bedwell (2009) stated that a number of reasons on why

students find it difficult to write are most probably students have had negative

experiences of writing in the past, perhaps they see it as a waste of class-time, which

could be spent for better purpose such as practicing their oral skills, or perhaps they

simply find writing a difficult and laborious task.

As a result of all these problems, the “process approach” is clearly seen as the

approach that treats all writing as a creative act, which especially requires time and

positive feedback to be done well. In process writing, the teacher moves away from being

someone who sets students a writing topic and receives the finished product for

correction without any intervention in the writing process itself (Stanley, 2004).

According to Graham Stanley (2003), feedback plays an important role in this

approach. It takes a lot of time and effort to write and so, it is only fair that student

writing is responded to suitably. Teachers need to give positive comments in order to

build students’ confidence level as to create good feeling for the next writing class.

Normally, in the process approach, the feedback comes from the teacher who

comments on the piece of students’ written work and most of time the students accept

them. Understanding the importance of providing feedback does not necessarily enables

teachers to provide appropriate feedback. Teachers have to find the right way of

providing feedback to learners and gain feedback from the students as well.

Looking at all these, it is believed that students basically rely on feedback given

by teachers on their piece of written work in this process. But do teachers know what

students feel about this process and which aspects of the process approach interest them

the most? Hence this study will provide feedback of the low English proficiency students

on the process approach in teaching writing skills as to find out on which aspects or

stages interest them the most in this.

1.2 Objectives of the Research

Basically, students of low English proficiency face various problems in writing

skills. In fact getting these students to participate in writing activities in class can be an

arduous task. Despite our best efforts as teachers to make prospect of writing a fun and

collaborative activity, it is often met with groans of reluctance. Though the process

approach has been used to help these students to write effectively and improvements have

been seen yet the feedback on the use of this approach in the classroom from the students

has not been collected. Thus, the objectives of this study are to gather feedback of low

English proficiency students in teaching writing skills and to identify the aspects or

stages in this approach that the students prefer the most.

1.3 Research Questions

This particular study will help to find answers to the following questions

i) How low English proficiency students find the process approach in

teaching writing skills?

ii) Which stages or aspects of the process approach that the students

prefer the most?

1.4 Definition of Terms ( Constitutive and Operational Definitions)

The terms used in this study are:


According to the Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary (1994), “process” is

defined as series of actions or operations performed in order to do, make or

achieve something.


The term “approach” in the field of teaching is clearly defined as the theoretical

assumption about the nature of language and the nature of language learning. It

means that before language teachers decide on the methods that they are going to

use, they have to bear in mind certain theories.

( Allen & Csmpbell, 1972)


Writing is defined as both a process and a product where the writer creates plans,

writes various drafts, revises, edits and publishes. This process of writing is

usually recursive and at times unsystematic. Finally, what the audience reads is a

product-a-synopsis, a composition, an essay, letter etc…

(Nunan, 2003)

“Process Approach”

The “process approach” refers to a teaching approach that focuses on the process

a writer engages in when constructing meaning. This teaching approach includes

identifying stages of the writing process such as pre-writing, writing or drafting,

revising, editing and publishing.

(Murray, 1972 cited in Montague, 1995)


According to Wikipedia Encyclopedia, Feedback describes the situation when

output form (or information about the result of) an event or phenomenon in the

past will influence the same event/phenomenon in the present or future. When

an event is part of a chain of cause-and effect that forms a circuit or loop, then

the event is said to “feed back” into itself.

1.5 The Importance of the study

The “process approach” is frequently discussed as a wholly positive innovation

allowing teachers and students into a more meaningful interaction and more purposeful

writing. Writing tasks based on this approach involve thinking of ideas to write, selecting

what to include, plan, writing a draft, revising and editing the draft before the final

written work is produced or published.

For that reason, it is hoped that this study will provide useful insights and

feedback of low English proficiency students on the process approach for teachers

teaching writing skills. Furthermore, it also gives directions to the teachers to discover

the strengths and weaknesses of their students in writing in respect to teaching of writing

in classroom.

On top of that, this study can also help teachers teaching writing skills to improve

their teaching style and be more creative besides enable them to make evaluation and

judgment over the “process approach” from the feedback given by the students.

Therefore, teachers should not only look into “process approach” in writing at how to

generate ideas and how to organize them to think and develop their writing skills when

producing a written piece of work like an essay, report or a letter from their perspectives

but also need to gain feedback on the approach from the students’ point of view.

1.6 Limitation of the Study

This study was conducted using a sample consisting of 30 students who have low

proficiency in English. The duration of the study spans three months especially for data

collection to be fully completed. One of the major factors in prolonging the research time

was the erratic and irregular attendance of students during the time the classroom study

was conducted. The implication of this ‘setback’ was that the research had to be

rescheduled a few times to ensure the student sample is sufficient.

In addition, another limitation of this study is the low level of proficiency among

students which in turn creates a thick ‘linguistic barrier’. Students were having

considerable difficulty comprehending the instructions given. Their level of participation

and motivation was also notably affected by this inability. The researcher had to rely on

translations at times in order to complete the study. This has led to more time spent in

explaining the questionnaire to the student.

Not only that, the dearth and scarcity of materials related to the subject of enquiry

also affected the course of the study. As the research needs support from academic

writings such as respectable published research-based journals and articles, it hinders the

researcher from producing a comprehensive survey of the literature intended to give

credibility to the research at hand. Other alternatives had to be secured such as getting

access to other institution libraries and procurement of personal materials from


On the same note, even when said materials are gained, there are still

complications arising out of the contextual difference inherent in the literature review as

they are mainly based on overseas research. This sometimes poses a problem as the

researcher is unable to draw a common conclusion from the materials. This is due to

proximity of the context, socio-cultural irregularities etc.

Financial concerns, although not quite a ‘prominent factor’ in the determining the

success of the research, it is nonetheless a practical factor which does affect progress of

the research from an individual perspective

1.7 Summary

According to Holmes (1999), teaching writing skills using the

“process approach” helps students to write more with fewer errors. He claimed that the

teaching of writing that emphasizes on correct structures, rigid organization and grammar

prevent students from “knowing how writers behave and the process involves. Hence, by

using the process approach to teach writing skills to low English proficiency students, the

effectiveness of using this approach can probably be seen through the ability of the

students to write and the feedback given by the teacher to improve their writing skills.

In other words, no doubt that the “process approach” helps in enhancing students’

writing skills in ESL classroom and at the same time helps teachers to improve their

teaching style as well as to be more creative in teaching writing but the feedback of these

students are yet to be collected. Thus, this particular study will be on the feedback of the

low English proficiency students on the process approach in teaching writing skills. So,

the next chapter will be the literature review of the study in detail on the matter

mentioned above.