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The Social Effect Of Extracurricular Activities English Language Essay

The present chapter intends to present some of the most prominent issues concerning employing extracurricular activities and their effect on the learners’ achievement in writing in general and in the ELT in particular. Also, it’s relation with attitude of the learners, writing apprehension, and the emergence of different strategies will be under study.

Extracurricular Activities in ESL/EFL Context

Extracurricular activities play an important role in today's secondary education programs (Holland & Andre, 1987).The development of extracurricular activities was slow in the beginning, with many seeing it simply as a temporary fashion that would pass and quickly lose its style (Millard, 1930, as cited in Broh, 2002). One of the early philosophies behind extracurricular activities was that they should, wherever at all possible, “grow out of curricular activities and return to curricular activities to enrich them” (Millard, 1930, p. 12, cited in Broh, 2002, p. 71).

Eventually people, including educators, began to see the benefits of extracurricular activities, but it took a while to assimilate with the new trend. In fact, before 1900, educators were suspicious of participation in extracurricular activities, believing that “school should focus solely on narrowly defined academic outcomes. Non-academic activities were viewed as being primarily recreational and therefore were detrimental to academic achievement, and consequently were discouraged” (Marsh & Kleitman, 2002, p. 5). Early experts on extracurricular activities including Millard (1930, cited in Broh, 2002) believed that “Extracurricular activities supplement and extend those contacts and experiences found in the more formal part of the program of the school day” (p. 16). It was not until recently that educational practitioners and researchers have taken a more positive perspective and asserting that extracurricular activities may have positive effects on life skills and may also benefit academic achievements (Marsh & Kleitman, 2002).

Kuh (1993) asserted that more than70% of what students learn in college comes from extra-curricular activities and that most students believe that the activities they do out of class provide the most significant learning experiences (Moffatt, 1989). In addition to the confirmations made by these researchers, the students themselves asserted that extracurricular activities contributed to their maturation (Kuh, 1993).

Jugovic's (2011) positive perspective about extracurricular activities was concerned about the power of such activities to overcome some difficulties in the language classroom. He believed that it is advantageous to “think outside the box,” and in various contexts, to consider and apply the physical aspect of language learning such as integrating simple activities like talking and walking, which occur in natural communicative situations (Jugovic, 2011).

There have been some studies devoted to studying the relationship between student involvement in activities and student academic achievement and the optimal proficiency in a foreign language (Jogovic, 2011; Marsh & Kleitman, 2002). Although a positive correlation has been shown in many of these studies, there is still a fierce battle among educators concerning the need for extracurricular activities. Even some researches took a more neutral stand and attribute the ultimate influence of extracurricular activities to the context in which they occur (Shephard, 1996). They assert that extracurricular activities can have a positive or negative impact on students, depending on the context in which they are experienced. One way of viewing the impact of after-school activities is to apply a risk and resilience framework to them. Under certain circumstances after-school programs may present deficiencies (detract from positive growth and development); while under others they may provide protective impacts (prevent students who are at risk for negative outcomes from experiencing those outcomes).

Two positions appear to be prevalent in today's academic community regarding extracurricular activities (Marsh, 1992). These are referred to as either the academic or developmental perspective. The academic perspective considers extracurricular activities as purely leisure and not part of the purpose of schools. The developmental perspective considers extracurricular activities necessary to the total development of the student in today's schools (Holland & Andre, 1987).

Educators who believe in the developmental perspective see activities as an extension of the educational program. Furthermore, participation in these activities is positively associated with many student characteristics. Activities allow students to develop skills such as leadership, sportsmanship, self-discipline, self-confidence, and the ability to handle competitive conditions. Participation is associated with higher levels of self-esteem (Marsh, 1992; McNamara, 1985; Simeroth, 1987). Participation is also related to lower delinquency rates (Marsh, 1992; Newman, 1991). Howley and Huang (1991) found that extracurricular activity across different schools exhibited a positive correlation on academic achievement.

McNamara (1985) concluded in his study that students benefit academically if they participated in high, moderate, or low numbers of extracurricular activity. Extracurricular activities offer an opportunity to interact in ways that allow the previously mentioned skills to develop. The developmental professionals believe that many of these skills would be impossible or very difficult to develop in a classroom setting.

Marsh (1992) stated:

According to different theoretical perspectives, extracurricular activity participation may be posited to (a) divert attention from academic pursuits, as evidenced by its negative effects on narrowly defined academic goals; (b) have little or no effect on academic outcomes but contribute to desirable nonacademic outcomes; or (c) have positive effects on nonacademic outcomes and facilitate academic growth, perhaps indirectly, as well. (p. 553)

According to Marsh (1992), extracurricular activities may have both positive and negative effect on students' academic growth. Based on this statement, Jordan and Nettles (2000) referred to structured after-school activities which have been associated with higher educational outcomes. Jordan and Nettles (2000), in their analysis of data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988, found that student participation in structured activities, religious activities, and time with adults during 10th grade had a significant positive effect on educational outcomes for those same students in 12th grade. Conversely, students who spent more unstructured time were at greater risk of negative educational outcomes. The authors provided a model reflecting that in addition to student characteristics and factors inherent in the school context, the investments students make during their off hours in themselves and in their community affects their investment in schooling and, consequently, their performance in school. It is important to note that the extracurricular activities examined in the study were broad-based, and did not specifically included homework assistance programs.

Cosden, Morrison, Albanese, & Macias (2001, cited in Jogovic, 2011) summarized the outcomes of 10 studies on structured after-school programs that offered students assistance with homework and other academic needs. Nearly all of the studies focused on children considered at risk for school failure as a result of low income, limited familial resources, and/ or poor grades. Further, these after-school programs offered a broad range of activities in addition to academic support (Beck, 1999; Halpern, 1992; Posner &Vandell, 1999). While the nature of the academic support varied, each program provided children with structure and adult contact. The full impact of these programs on the student's academic performance appeared to be combined by other child and teacher factors, such as increases in the child's self-esteem and school bonding and changes in teacher impressions regarding the effort and abilities of the students.

In a comprehensive study, Cooper, Valentine, Nye, & Lindsay (1999) also examined the relation between after-school activities and academic achievement as measured by standardized tests and teacher-assigned grades among students in grades 6 through 12. Using a questionnaire, adolescents reported approximately how much time they spent on homework, working at a job, extracurricular activities, structured groups outside of school, and watching television. Findings revealed that more time in extracurricular activities and less time in jobs and watching television were associated with higher test scores and grades. In addition, more time on homework was associated with better grades.

In another study, both Beck (1999) and Halpern (1992) conducted qualitative evaluations of the dynamics of large, urban after-school programs. Beck (1999) studied a program that was suitable for youth from kindergarten through 12th grade. The author reported that the factors crucial to the program's success were the provision of a structured time and location for doing homework and instructional support. Beck (1999) suggested that academic outcomes of this program were conflated by changes in the student's self-confidence as well as changes in teacher impressions of the student's endeavors.

Halpern (1992) conducted a qualitative evaluation of a program that provided after-school homework assistance to younger children (5-12 years old). Similar to Beck (1999), Halpern (1992) found that participation gave students greater confidence in their abilities and provided an opportunity to develop positive, school-related, adult attachments. Although the findings of these two studies were descriptive and did not identify causal relationships between homework completion and academic performance, they suggested that homework completion can affect students' perceptions of themselves and teachers' expectations of students in meaningful ways.

In a comprehensive study of 400 elementary school children in several different after-school programs, Ross et al. (1992) provided support for using these programs to build self-esteem, while also finding that self-esteem can be a predictor of academic performance. The researchers found that participation in an after-school program designed to build self-esteem had positive effects on standardized test scores in math and reading, while receiving extended school time to complete homework did not have the same positive effects on self-esteem or achievement. These findings strengthen the idea that after-school academic support does the greatest achievement when it enhances the students' perceptions that they can be successful at school.

Several other studies (e.g., Morrison et al., 2000) have found that after-school academic tutoring or homework assistance may not result in an improvement in academic performance, but, rather, prevent a decline in performance that is evidenced by many at-risk youth. The extracurricular activities such as watching were connected to cognitive development of students (Shin, 2004). The amount and quality of television viewing and family involvement were not the only influences of helping at risk students. The effects of music and sports were also influential in their relation to the prevention of this decline.

Morrison et al. (2000) studied 350 at-risk students, half of whom participated in an after-school program that provided homework assistance, tutoring, and cultural enrichment activities. They found after 1 year students in the program maintained their initial levels of school bonding and teacher ratings of student behavior, while some of students who did not participate in the program showed decreases on these measures over the same period of time.

Ross et al. (1992) evaluated an after-school tutoring program serving low-income African American students. After 2 years, participants did not show significant increases in grades, but students who were not in the program showed a significant grade decrease. Together, these studies indicate that after-school academic support may play a protective role by helping to prevent a loss of school engagement even if it doesn't result in higher levels of functioning and academic success.

Based on the concept of extracurricular activities, The Gevirtz Homework Project (Cosden, Morrison, Albanese, & Macias, 2001) was established as an after school program. It differed from other previously reviewed after-school assistance programs in that it included students who were not at risk for school failure. All fourth-grade students in three participating schools were engaged in the project, with students randomly assigned to treatment (Homework Project) and non-treatment after homogenizing them into high, medium, and low achievement groups at school. Students were also homogenized on the basis of ethnicity and English proficiency, with equal numbers assigned to the homework project and to the non-treatment control group. The program was designed to provide students with homework assistance and to help them learn study skills. Students attended the program 2-3 times a week over a period of 3 years (Grades 4-6); although during the specified time the lack of attendance of some members in the treatment group was observed. All students in the Homework Project and the non-treatment control group were assessed at the beginning and end of each grade. Measures included students' ratings of their impressions of school belonging, teacher ratings of student behavior, student grades, and standardized test scores from the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT-9).

At the end of sixth grade, teachers rated English language learner participants in the homework project higher in academic effort and study skills than English language learners in the control group. This was not the case for students who were proficient in English. That is, students with English proficiency in the treatment and control groups had similar teacher ratings and academic outcomes at the end of the 3-year project. Further, there was higher overall attrition from the treatment group for English proficient students. It appeared that regular attendance in the Homework Project in fourth grade helped students develop study skills, which they were able to use in later years. This was supported by student interviews conducted as part of the process evaluation (Brown & Herrity, 2001). In particular, the investigators found that students who benefited the most from the Project were those who learned to do homework right after coming home from school, while children who benefited least did not. For example, one child stated, "Most of the time I start my homework right away (after school). I didn't do this in third grade. I guess I got in the habit from the Homework Project" (Brown & Herrity, 2001, p. 8).

Some other studies, reported on the low dropout rate of students in school by doing the extracurricular activities (Cooper, Valentine, Nye, & Lindsey, 1999; Gerber, 1996; Jordan, 2000; Mahoney & Cairns, 1997). These studies typically assessed involvement in non-academic activities, most of which occurred after school hours. Rather than divert students from meeting their academic goals, studies found that students engaged in extracurricular activities--including sports, service clubs, and art activities--were less likely to drop out (Mahoney & Cairns, 1997) and more likely to have high academic achievement (Gerber, 1996).

Of particular importance, students at risk for school failure appeared to benefit even more from participation in extracurricular activities than do children who were normal achievers. Most researchers believed that involvement in extracurricular activities had an indirect impact on achievement by increasing connectedness to the school and by helping to build student strengths, thereby increasing self-esteem and positive social networks. Mahoney and Cairns (1997) noted that while supportive academic programs "focus on the deficits of students," involvement in high interest, non-academic activities "provides a gateway into conventional social networks ... through the maintenance and enhancement of positive characteristics of the individual that strengthen the student-school connection" (p. 248).

2.2.1. Social Effect of Extracurricular Activities

With regard to the importance of the extracurricular activities, a great body of research has been done to evaluate the social aspects of these activities on the development of students' personal and interpersonal characteristics and the ultimate result in language proficiency (Astin, 1985; Tinto, 1993; Pascarella &Terenzini, 2005).

Some researchers focused on the affective side of extracurricular activities. One study found that adolescents who participated in extracurricular activities reported higher grades, more positive attitudes toward school, and higher academic aspirations (Darling, Caldwell, & Smith, 2005). Darling, et al (2005) conducted a longitudinal study concerning extracurricular activities and their effect on various aspects of development, including academic performance. A survey containing a list of twenty different extracurricular activities was distributed to students; they were asked to check which extracurricular activities they participated in that year. Demographic questions, such as their favorite activity, gender, and ethnicity were asked in order to take the social factors and influences into account when calculating the results. The students were also asked what their academic goals were and their grade point average (GPA). The results indicated that the students who participated in school-based extracurricular activities had higher grades, higher academic aspirations, and better academic attitudes than those who were not involved in extracurricular activities at all.

McNeal (1995) also attributed the low rate of school drop outs to the affective aspect of extracurricular activities. The outcome of his research was observed primarily among students who were at highest risk for dropout. The association between reduced rates of early school dropout and extracurricular involvement differed according to the competence of the individual. For students in the risk clusters, the associated reduction in dropout was stronger compared with more competent students. For students whose prior commitment to the school and its values had been marginal, such participation provided an opportunity to create a positive and voluntary connection to the educational institution. Unlike optional procedures (e.g., school dropout prevention programs, remedial education), which focused on the deficits of students, extracurricular activities can provide a path into the conventional social networks while, concurrently, promoting individual interests, achievements, and goals (Eder, 1985; Kinney, 1993; McNeal, 1995). Thus, school dropout could be effectively decreased through the maintenance and enhancement of positive characteristics of the individual which intensified the student-school connection.

Kinney (1993) commented that the associated reduction in school dropout was greater during early high school. One explanation is that the increased diversity of activities offered in high school provided adolescents more opportunity for activity participation suited to their interest-ability (Kinney, 1993). The range of activities included in the domains that risk students most often participated (athletics, fine arts, and vocational) increased during high school, as did their participation in these areas. Also many activities highlighted in yearbooks required expertise in particular domains (e.g., music, sports, languages, mathematics, science), some school activities required minimal academic performance in order to be eligible for participation in them. Furthermore, socioeconomic status, although not a general barrier to participation, could influence the types of activities students would choose to participate and the attainment of status within those activities was crucial for students (Coleman, 1961, cited in Jordan, 2000). Thus, the effect could be stronger in high school because participation increases as a result of greater opportunity.

In an exhaustive survey, Kinney (1993) referred to North American public secondary schools as unique educational places which offer a range of pursuits in classroom and beyond. In addition to offering a broad academic curriculum, middle schools and high schools encourage students to participate in various extracurricular activities; these include organized sports, special-interest academic pursuits, vocational clubs, supervised student government, newspapers, yearbooks, and various other activities. Extracurricular activities differ from standard courses in American school because they are optional, ungraded, and are usually carried out outside the school day in school. The researcher mentioned that although these activities are extra to the curriculum, they are closely linked to academic achievement and performance (e.g., math club, French club, national honor society). He concluded that the participation in this kind of context would enhance learning instruction. For example, participation could raise an individual's status within the school, extend her or his social affiliations in the school community (Csikszentmihalyi, Rathunde, & Whalen, 1993; Eder, 1985; Eder & Parker, 1987; Kinney, 1993), or enable both to occur. The impact would be to make school a more meaningful and attractive experience for students who have experienced few successes in academic subjects.

An overview of the educational and psychological literature on the effects of extracurricular activities indicates, curiously, that only subtle attention has been given to the effects of extracurricular activities for marginal students (e.g., Brown, 1988; Holland & Andre, 1987). In contrast, a large amount of work has concentrated on the role of extracurricular activities for the smartest and the most privileged students. Specifically, (a) activities and positions of leadership may indicate only a small number of individuals (Brabd, 1987; Hollingshead, 1949, cited in Broh, 2002; Cooper, et al, 1999), (b) students of high socioeconomic class tend to report more engagement than lower class students and show greater leadership and talent within these activities (Csikszentmihalyi, Rathunde, & Whalen, 1993; Hollingshead, 1949, in Broh, 2002), (c) girls tend to participate in more activities than boys (Coleman, 1961; Hollingshead, 1949; Jacobs & Chase, 1989 all cited in Broh, 2002), (d) those individuals who participate in interesting activities tend to be popular with peers, are school leaders, and may be influential in conducting the status norms of the school social system (Coleman, 1961, cited in Broh, 2002; Eder, 1985; Eder & Parker, 1987; Kinney, 1993), and (e) participation in academically linked activities is connected with somewhat higher levels of academic performance and educational attainment (Brown, Day & Jones,1983; Marsh, 1992; McNeal, 1995; Shephard, 1996).

Extracurricular activities also may facilitate the development of qualities such as determination and perseverance. Individuals with these characteristics may be less likely to surrender when they face challenging tasks at school, which also may explain the researchers found an association between extracurricular activities and school self-esteem (Marsh, 1992).

2.2.2. Formal and Informal Extracurricular Activities

Some researchers have divided extracurricular activities into informal and formal activities. The formal activities include activities which are relatively structured, such as participating in athletics or learning to play a musical instrument. Informal activities, on the other hand, also known as leisure activities, include less structured activities, such as watching television. Some literature on leisure studies has suggested that formal and informal activity settings have different influences on motivation and feelings of competence (Guest & Schneider, 2003). One study found “that more time in leisure activities was related to poorer academic grades, poorer work habits, and poorer emotional adjustments,” while more time in “structured groups and less time watching TV were associated with higher test scores and school grades” (Marsh & Kleitman, 2002, p.5).

Structured activities outside of school may also facilitate the development of social ties (Eccles & Barber, 1999; Larson, 1994). Time in organized activities, for example, may bring youth into contact with peers and adults who share their interests. Interactions with well-adjusted peers who share similar goals and aspirations, in turn, can motivate youth to do well in school and cause interest in future educational and occupational pursuits (Jordan & Nettles, 2000).

Jordan and Nettles (2000) also used broader conceptualizations of youth’s time outside of school among high school students and found that students who spent more time in structured activities (e.g., youth groups, sports) as well as students who spent more time alone in skill-building activities (e.g., computers, hobbies, reading) had higher math and science achievement.

Schreiber and Chambers (2002) categorized adolescents’ after-school activities as in- or out-of school, academic or nonacademic, and organized or unorganized. Focusing on results for eighth grade African American adolescents, these researchers found that participation in out-of-school, nonacademic, organized activities (e.g., neighborhood clubs, nonschool team sports) was negatively related to math achievement, and participation in out-of-school, academic, unorganized activities (e.g., homework) was positively related to math achievement. These findings are consistent with theories about the benefits of participation in structured activities, which claim that such activities provide adolescents with opportunities to learn and develop skills (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Larson &Verma, 1999). In addition to specific skills, participating in sports and clubs may facilitate learning organizational, planning, and time management skills that are important for school success. Furthermore, participation may have implications for the “self-system” (Holland & Andre, 1987). For example, participating on a sports team may promote self-confidence. Also students learn the attitude of respect toward their counterparts. They try to tie up their good school relationships and continue their friendships outside of the context of school. The feeling of self efficacy can also be developed within individuals as they see themselves supporters of other fellow students and the leaders of the groups. Leadership qualities are the special personal traits that their root can be strengthened within school days.

2.2.3. Academic Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities that focus on academic areas include the school newspaper, quiz team, science club, school government, and debate team or journalism club. Each of these activities promotes academic excellence and provides students with an opportunity to expand their content knowledge outside the classroom (Linder, 1999). While building leadership skills, students will also learn the advantages of technical writing, keeping and meeting deadlines and public speaking. Students will also have opportunities to broaden their content knowledge about unfamiliar subjects by conducting research in preparation for debates or academic competitions (Mahoney & Cairns, 1997).

Regarding the role of extracurricular activities for ESL/EFL students, Al-Ansari (2000) confirmed the previous research that sheltered curricular exposure to the target language through English-medium instruction would seem intuitively to be a qualitatively different and potentially much richer source of intake than other, less sheltered kinds of exposure, especially as far as the development of academic proficiency in the target language is concerned (Krashen 1982; Wigzell 1983; Wesche & Ready 1985). ). In order to verify this impression, Al-Ansari (2000) carried out a study in a sample of Bahraini university students.

He gave the students two types of questionnaire. The first part of the questionnaire was designed to measure the amount of extra-curricular contact and the second part the amount of curricular contact through English-medium instruction in subjects other than English language.  For the first part of the questionnaire, a set of questions, each with three alternative responses, was formulated to measure the frequency/duration of each of the modes of contact: Extra-curricular listening activities included watching English videos, films and TV shows, listening to English programs on the radio. Listening activities consisted of both academic and nonacademic extracurricular activities. The next category was out-of-class speaking activities with various categories of competent English speakers such as parents, teachers, fellow-students and others, both on and off campus. Like the previous category, this one also included both academic and nonacademic extracurricular activities. The third classification was reading activities involving different kinds of reading materials in English such as newspapers and magazines, stories, non-fictional material other than course-related material. The focus of this category was mainly nonacademic materials. Next item was social interaction with the target language community within Bahrain in places such as home, in clubs, recreation centers and other locations. Here the emphasis was mostly on nonacademic activities. The next part of the questionnaire belonged to questions regarding contact hours of English-medium instruction per week.

The findings with regard to extra-curricular contact had different implications for different categories of learners. As far as the average achievers were concerned, the implications were clear: in order to improve their proficiency level, they need to be more engaged in various extra-curricular activities in the target language, especially listening and speaking activities.

The results obtained for high achievers and underachievers, however, suggested that contact with the language outside the classroom was not a solution that would guarantee further linguistic development at all levels of attainment. With regard to the underachievers or false beginners, the findings were consistent with two possible inferences: either their level of proficiency was too low for them to derive any benefit from the kind of extra-curricular exposure they got to the language, which would suggest that much of the input they received was largely incomprehensible, or they did not have the necessary cognitive and verbal characteristics to derive the kind of benefit from their exposure that would be reflected in higher scores in an academically biased proficiency test

Much of what has emerged from the Al-Ansari's (2000) study supported Krashen's (1982) views. Central to his main thesis is the claim that certain linguistic environments and certain kinds of linguistic activity are a richer source of intake than others. This claim was proved by Al-Ansari's (2000) findings, which presented that sheltered curricular exposure correlates more consistently with attained levels of proficiency than unsheltered extra-curricular exposure.

In another study, Dheram and Rani (2007) carried out a study on how the newspaper as an academic extracurricular activity could be used for promoting learner autonomy in an international classroom with varying levels of English proficiency. It highlighted how the authentic use of the language helped the ESL/EFL teacher turn the newspaper into a powerful tool for encouraging reflections on its relevance to language learning. Similarly, the activities demonstrated how the students’ imaginative and creative potential could be used for enthusiastic interaction in the class. In this study, the researchers used the English newspaper in a multi-national, multi-cultural, and multi lingual classroom.  While some of the students in the researchers' classes were comfortable with English, the others knew very little English. Most of them were from the diplomatic corps, some civil servants, and some English teachers.  The youngest student was 26 years old, while the oldest was 59. The purpose for this research was to encourage students to appreciate the newspaper as a rich source for learning the language and reading. Then the researchers asked the students the reasons for reading the newspaper. They categorized the responses of the students. The responses were as the following list:

know what is happening currently

know more words to use

new use of the old words

coinage / making new words

learn difficult words which lead to the dictionary

improve reading and writing 

After doing the research, the researchers noticed the enthusiasm of the students in reading the newspaper. So they let the students borrow some newspapers from their classmates and read them at home or after the time of the class at school as an extracurricular activity. Then the researchers asked the students to write a brief note on any news from their countries that they would like to share with others and put it on the notice board. The researchers concluded that this method highlighted students' concerns, created a discussion forum, and helped perspectives emerge.

2.2.4 Homework Writing Program

One of the out-of- class activities that takes most of learners’ time is devoted to the role of homework needs to be considered in connection to the developmental needs of children. Children differ in their out-of-class experiences; some of them spend a lot of time for unstructured activities and some of them are involved in multiple extra-curricular activities with little time for unstructured ones.

Halpern (1992) summarized the outcomes of 10 studies on structured out-of- class programs that offer learners’ assistance with homework and other academic needs. Nearly all of the studies focused on children considered at risk for school failure as a result of low income, limited familial resources, and/ or poor grades. Further, these after-school programs offered a broad range of activities in addition to academic support (Beck, 1999; Hansen, 1999; Posner & Vandell, 1999). These programs influence the student's academic performance in such a way that result in increasing the child's self-esteem and school bonding and changes in teacher perceptions regarding the effort and capabilities of the student.

However, several other studies (e.g., Morrison, Storino, Robertson, Weissglass, & Dondero, 2000; Tarnopolsky, 2000) have found that out-of-class academic tutoring or homework assistance may not result in an improvement in academic performance, but, rather, prevent a decline in performance that is evidenced by many at-risk youth. Tucker et al. (1995) evaluated an after-school tutoring program serving low-income African American students. After 2 years, participants did not show significant increases in grades, but learners who were not in the program showed a significant grade decrease. In sum, these studies indicate that after-school academic support may play a protective role by helping to prevent a loss of school engagement even if it doesn't result in higher levels of functioning.

2.3. Writing Skill in the EFL/ESL Context

Writing is not only a mirror of one’s thought but it contributes newness to established information (Weigle, 2002). Brooks & Grundy (1998) define writing as a tool to communicate ideas in a target language. Hyland (2003) considers writing as a visual print coherently knitted into structured language. Kashiwagi (2007) suggests that writing could be the most difficult skill to teach among the four activities―listening, speaking, reading, and writing―because writing produces tangible records that allow countless revisions and consist of both technical accuracy and artistic fluency. Writing also can be the most time consuming activity to teach. It is extremely tempting for teachers to fall into what Corbett (1996) refers to as "the lazy way of teaching writing" (p.8).

The concept and the approaches to writing skills have undertaken radical revolution during the recent years. Therefore a brief review of the evolution of the concept of writing may be a useful effort in order to provide insights for both language instructors and scholars to apply new approaches in EFL/ESL setting.

2.3.1. An Overview of Writing

For long writing as an independent skill had been downgraded in the practice of language teaching and pageboy. The roots of this ignorance traces back to the heydays of audiolingual method. According to Raimes (1983), since Charles Fries introduced an oral approach in 1945, the audiolingual method of second language teaching had strongly influenced second language learning in the 1950s and early 1960s. Since the appearance of this approach, spoken language continues to be emphasized in English learning and teaching. Rivers (1981) explained that this method laid stress on developing listening and speaking skills by listening to utterances and repeating them as fast as native speakers uttered them. This approach holds that people normally learn their languages in a spoken form rather than in written form; therefore, quite naturally, listening and speaking were placed before reading and writing. According to this view of language teaching, it is reasonable to assume that the concept underlying this approach is that speech was dominant, and writing was regarded as a secondary agenda and not a goal of language learning. Widdowson (1990) eloquently states as follows:  

Early developments in discourse analysis tend focus attention on spoken language, on the management of talk and the speech acts of conventional utterances. This preference may in art be attributed to the orthodox linguistic belief in the primacy of speech. Old tough habits die hard. Pedagogy too has tended to the same belief, even to the extent of sometimes supposing that communicative language teaching involved only the development of the ability to converse—as if written language was no really authentic communication. (p.111)

Without a doubt, the teaching of speaking was dominant before the 1960s, and it still affects the view of writing in English learning. From the historical standpoint of writing, the 1960s have been considered a revolutionary age because writing began to be one of the objects of researchers and teachers attention; yet it led to the disciplinary division between composition studies and ESL writing (Matsuda, 1999).

Silva and Matsuda (2002) pointed out that writing was a means of recording students' speech and a support for the learning of speech because the technology for sound recording had not fully developed before the 1960s. During the 1960s, however, with the growth of ESL students in American universities, writing got much more attention because it was necessary to become familiar with the form of writing and how to write ideas beyond the word and sentence level. Furthermore, composition studies were developed in the U.S.A. and the audio-lingual approach fell at that time.

Contrary to this crucial change, as noted by Matsuda (2005), many teachers of L1 composition were troubled with ESL students because they were not willing to change their style of teaching grammatical and syntactic forms and did not know how to adjust to this new demand for speaking instruction. In order to solve this problem, ESL/EFL specialists who played a part in ESL/EFL writing, attempted to help L1 composition teachers figure out how to teach writing in ESL classes. As a result of this ESL/EFL issue, the growth of composition studies and the popularity of second language writing, led to the separation of composition studies and ESL/EFL writing. Due to this separation, composition specialists lacked the interest in and enthusiasm for instructing ESL/EFL writers, and ESL/EFL specialists had to be concerned with the of ESL/EFL writing.

The tendency to neglect writing in ESL/EFL has continued even after the communicative approach was developed. Since the communicative approach was introduced into the field of ESL/EFL, communicative language teaching has been praised for its emphasis on fluency rather than on accuracy. Yet, at the same time, it encountered much criticism because the systematic learning tended to be underestimated (Tarnopolsky, 2000). However, in the relatively short history of the communicative approach, the importance of writing has not been acknowledged because the communicative approach focuses very precisely on speaking and listening. For instance, although Littlewood (1981), in his book Communicative Language Teaching, does not entirely ignore communication through written mode, he identifies learners as speakers and describes communication mostly as oral activities such as discussions and role-playing. Takahashi (1995) suggests that since the term communication is associated for many people with oral communication such as speaking and listening, communication in the written mode tend to be belittled.

Johnson (2000) also argues that communication has become a surprising word. His assertion must be taken seriously when considering the rapid increase of departments and classes with the name of English Communication because, as he states, the emphasis placed on communication often replaces systematic learning activities with entertaining communicative activities. Writing e-mails would be a meaningful and motivational activity for students to engage in and learn writing; yet, if the activity is undertaken without clear instruction and pedagogical purpose, it becomes simply time filler in the curriculum. As Takahashi (1995) asserts, when undertaking communicative language teaching, teachers must set specific tasks and keep control over classes; otherwise, class activities will lose their pedagogical essence and become mere entertaining games.

Even though writing is believed to be an important communicative activity, writing courses based on the communication approach have not been systematically developed as a theory or a method of ESL/EFL writing, and, regrettably, the idea of writing as an important communicative skill has not been put into practice as much as it should have (Tarnopolsky, 2000).

In light of teaching writing to students, it is crucial that which teaching approaches to be used in the language. The choice of teaching approach and strategies in the curriculum depends importantly on how the teachers view or define the term writing and evaluate the theories related to ESL/EFL writing. According to Oxford (1990), strategies can “pave the way toward greater proficiency, learner autonomy, and self-regulation” (p. 372). Therefore, it is necessary to explore clear classification of ESL/EFL writing strategies from theoretic point of view so that ESL/EFL learners can easily facilitate their writing. However, as Oxford (1990) noted, “exactly how many strategies are available to learners to assist them in L2 learning and how these strategies should be classified are open to debate” ( p. 368). Victori (1995) found large classifications of writing strategies and processes which were termed with different labels. But few of these classifications have been discussed from a theoretic vantage point. Therefore, in the following section a brief discussion about the theories in teaching writing is provided.

2.3.2. Theories Related to ESL/EFL Writing

In the study of ESL writing history, Silva (1990) nearly divided ESL/EFL writing instruction into four stages distinguished by the four most influential approaches: the controlled approach, the current-traditional rhetoric approach, the process approach and the social approach.

The first stage was dominated by the controlled or guided approach which was under the influence of structural linguistics and behaviorist psychology and audio-lingual theory. As explained by Richards (1990), the view of writing as a product derives from the audio-lingual theory. Writing is seen as a “written form of spoken language” and writing serves to reinforce speech, through the stress of the mastery of grammatical and syntactic forms. The term guided or product approach itself reflects the focus on the students 'ability to produce correct texts. Thus, the correct sentence structure is an essential component of writing and grammatical skills receive considerable emphasis.

This approach saw learning to write as an exercise in habit formation and rote learning. Students were taught to practice sentence patterns and vocabulary by means of writing. In controlled composition, writing is regarded essentially as reinforcement for oral habits and as a secondary concern (Silva & Matsuda, 2002). Accuracy is the primary concern, and students are expected to adjust to the systematic process of English writing. In this approach, arrangement of sentences is the key element in effective writing, which means that following particular patterns is essential and it establishes certain formulas of writing, presupposing that adopting right ways of writing makes students good writers. The major approach in the second stage of ESL/EFL writing instruction was the current-traditional rhetoric approach with the influence of Kaplan’s theory of contrastive rhetoric. It considered learning to write as locating and internalizing patterns of organization. The main approach in the third stage of ESL/EFL writing teaching was the process approach. According to this approach, learning to write was developing efficient and appropriate writing strategies. In the process approach, the content of writing is important. The measurement of successful writing depends on whether one can convey the message or not. The view of writing as a process emerges as a result of the limitations of a product and controlled approach as the product approach focuses on ends rather than means, while ignoring how students write or create their writing that has form and structure. Thus, with the product approach the composing processes of good writers are ignored (Richards, 1990).

Regarding the views of writing, Lindermann (1995), in her article on “Three Views of English 101,” says that each view, whether as a process or product, is right for the person who holds it and each view has its own history, its own theory of language, its own notion about how students learn, and its own implications. In addition, regarding the same topic, Nunan (1991) says that in the “product-oriented approach” the teachers focus on the “end result” or the written paper of the students. In the classroom of the product-oriented writing, students are engaged in such activities as imitating, copying and transforming models of correct language. Students are believed to have to start at a small unit of grammar and sentence writing in order to be successful at the paragraph level.

While in the process approach, he points out that the teachers focus more on such various classroom activities as idea gathering, group work, and conferencing which are presumably important elements that a writer has to go through when writing.

The social approach in the fourth stage considered that learning to write was part of becoming socialized to the discourse community – understanding what is expected and trying to approximate it.

In fact, the four approaches in these four stages of ESL/EFL writing instruction are corresponded to four important theories related to ESL/EFL writing (Silva, 1990). They are Contrastive Rhetoric Theory, Cognitive Development Theory, Communication Theory and Social Constructionist Theory. Among these theories, it is obvious that contrastive rhetoric theory, cognitive developmental theory and social constructionist theory correspond with the current rhetoric approach, the process approach and the social approach of ESL writing instruction respectively. Furthermore, ESL/EFL writing as a means of communication is naturally influenced by communication theory. Thus, the communication theory is reflected in all these four stages of ESL writing instruction. In the following section, the classification of ESL/EFL writing theories based on Silva (1990) categorization is provided.

2.3.2.1 Contrastive Rhetoric Theory

Contrastive rhetoric theory is proposed by Kaplan (1966) in his Cultural Thought Patterns in Intercultural Communication. Kaplan (2001) was the first to examine how different thought patterns appear in writings of different cultures. According to Kaplan (1966), a native English writer "expects as an integral part of their communication is a sequence that is dominantly linear in its development" (p.13).

Research in contrastive rhetoric has surveyed the formal disparities between texts written by native and non-native speakers of English, and these textual differences have been related to cultural differences in rhetorical expectations and conventions. Following Kaplan, various studies have been undertaken to offer insight into different thought patterns across cultures (Connor, 1996; Eggington, 1987). Hinds (1987)'s article is one of the most notable studies on the Japanese written mode of communication. He argues that, in the Japanese culture, readers are expected to understand the writers 'message, whereas native English writers feel greater responsibility to the reader.

Connor (2002) has reviewed the studies of contrastive rhetoric during the past 30 years and identified four domains of its investigation. These areas are: (1) contrastive text linguistic studies: examine, compare, and contrast how texts are molded and construed in different languages and cultures using methods of written discourse analysis; (2) studies of writing as cultural and educational activity: investigate literacy development on L1 language and culture and examine the potential effects on the development of L2 literacy; (3) classroom-based contrastive studies: examine cross-cultural patterns in process writing, collaborative revisions, and student-teacher interactions. (4) genre-specific investigations: are applied to academic and professional writing.

However, since its advent, contrastive rhetoric theory has met numerous criticisms for its reductionist, deterministic, prescriptive, and essentialist orientation (Leki, 1991). At the same time, studies of contrastive rhetoric have gathered criticism for making cultural stereotypes, simplifying complex writing styles, and domesticating English writing style in different cultures (Panetta, 2001; Mao, 2003). In fact, Kaplan himself has been modifying his first assertion on his thought pattern (Kaplan, 2001).

Kubota and Lehner (2004) establish critical contrastive rhetoric by incorporating post-structuralist, post-colonial, and post-modern critiques of language and culture. They redefine cultural differences in rhetoric from such perspectives as relations of power, discursive construction of knowledge, colonial construction of cultural dichotomies, and rhetorical plurality brought about by cultural combinations. This broadens the paradigm of contrastive rhetoric theory.

Even with so many criticisms for several years, contrastive rhetoric has played a very important role in ESL writing classroom (Silva, 1990). Specifically, in 1990s the field experienced a paradigm shift and that “broader definition that considers cognitive and socio-cultural variables of writing… have been substituted for a purely linguistic framework” (Connor, 1996, p. 18). It is apparent that, the central concern of contrastive rhetoric theory is the logical construction and arrangement of discourse forms. As Silva (1990) noted, the elements of paragraphs such as topic sentences, support sentences, concluding sentences, and transitions as well as various options for its development such as illustration, exemplification, comparison, contrast, partition, classification, definition, causal analysis are attended in contrastive rhetoric theory.

2.3.2.2. Cognitive Development Theory

Cognitive development theory, which emerged in Europe in the eighteenth century, was related to the nature of knowledge and with the structures and processes by which it is acquired (Silva, 1990). Perhaps the most obvious contribution of cognitive-processing theory is the research direction leading to study of writing as process of observations of writers in the act of composing making the options and decisions that develop the text ahead (Kennedy, 1998). In English composition studies, Flower and Hayes’s model (1981) and Bereiter and Scardamalia’s model (1987) are valuable to mention because they directly influence ESL writing research.

Flower and Hayes (1981) viewed English writing as a recursive process in which planning, generating, translating, and editing need to be manipulated. However, this model has been criticized by Bereiter and Scardamalia (1987) with regard to its methodology and assumption. Methodologically it has been found to be rather limited since it relied only on equality in protocol data. Hayes and Flower’s model assumes there is a single writing process for all writers. According to it, skilled writers do the same things as novice writers. Thus, this model has not been able to account for the differences between good and poor writers.

On the contrary, Bereiter and Scardamalia (1987) propose two models of writing: knowledge telling model for novice writers and knowledge transformation model for expert writers. The knowledge-telling model is a task utilizing model and does not involve any complex problem-solving activities. In contrast, the knowledge transforming model is a problem-solving model that needs the writers to engage in constant reflective processes between the content problem aspect and the rhetorical problem aspect. Bereiter and Scardamalia (1987) found that novice writers who employed the knowledge-telling model of writing revised occasionally while mature writers did general revisions that involved transformations of information. However, this theory also has some limitations. One problem that has been pointed out by Flower (1994) is that the theory does not seem to consider the influence of context on writing. That is, it is totally cognitive in nature and does not give credit to the social factors involved in writing. Another problem is that it is not clear whether and when a writer can develop the more advanced knowledge transforming process of writing.

Atkinson (2003) proposed the notion of “post-process” as an appropriate basis on which to investigate the complex activity of ESL writing in its full range of socio-cognitive context, dynamism, diversity, and implications. In other words, the exploration of writers’ meta-cognitive and cognitive knowledge is required in this theory. According to Carson and Longhini (2002), meta-cognitive strategies are defined as strategies that writers use to control writing process consciously and cognitive strategies are those writers use to implement actual writing actions.

2.3.2.2.1. Product vs. Process Orientation Pedagogy

Based on Contrastive Rhetoric Theory and Cognitive Development Theory two independent pedagogies were applied in ESL/EFL classes. For decades, the teaching of writing at the tertiary level has been text-centered. Based on Contrastive Rhetoric theory, the emphasis of this pedagogy is on "style, organization, and correctness" (Hairston 1982). Writing topics are assigned by teachers and the composing process is linear. Although teachers “complain and brag about how much time they spend meticulously marking each paper, they feel frustrated to see that "many of their students improve so little despite their time and effort” (Hairston 1982).

A writing pedagogy that touches the textual orientation of any passages would work to actively develop the construction of rhetorical schemata in students which relates to those of English-speaking readers. A difference, then, between such pedagogy and one less likely to be interested in contrastive rhetoric findings, a process orientation, would center on the approach taken for the development of schemata. A textual orientation suggests that schemata can be directly taught while a process orientation would hope to develop the construction of schemata indirectly, perhaps through student contact with target language or target discourse community readings (Leki, 1991). Matsuda (1998) refers mentioned that text-based approaches hold a mechanical view of the writer and the writer creates a text by reproducing the patterns made by his or her linguistic, cultural or educational background. In such a view, the writer does not take an active role in learning, but rather continues to be influenced by his or her past learning experience. Leki (1991), mentioned that L2 writers, in this way, were little more than the products of a static culture.

Process pedagogy appears to presume that schemata are or can be grasped unconsciously, perhaps in somewhat the same way as comprehensible input is thought to promote acquisition of grammatical forms (Krashen, 1982). In a process-oriented classroom, if L2 readings are used, they do not typically serve as examples of successful target language communication but rather as sources for ideas or benchmarks for personal interactions and reactions. Their content is to be evaluated against personal experience.

This is not to say that process pedagogy overlooks structure, but that the focus of such a writing course would emphasize the structure of the student’s evolving text rather than the structure of an outside text (Leki, 1991). In the same line, a textual orientation does not require students to ignore content but rather might attempt to discover how structures promote meaning in texts -- by comparing them, analyzing them, looking for ways in which they duplicate each other, trying to uncover patterns and variations on patterns, patterns which develop meaning (Kaplan, 2001).

It should be clear that the distinction between a process orientation and a textual orientation in a writing pedagogy is not the simple distinction between form and content. Both attempt to create appropriate text schemata in writing students, both work to trigger students into the target discourse community, and both focus on the discovery of meaning - but in different ways (Leki, 1991). One is not innately more prescriptive than the other, but each draws its ability to elevate the student writer’s load from a different source: one from idea exploration and the exploitation of students’ own cognitive resources, the other from an exploration of how other writers have solved meaning problems and from a recognition that different cultures have developed different ways of solving those problems.

2.3.2.3. Communication Theory

Communication theory highlights the social and political purposes of discourse rituals where interpersonal communication is based in beliefs about individualism and independent interaction in society and investigates multiple levels of discourse (economic, social, material, institutional, and cultural) (Kennedy, 1998). To connect communication theories with composition studies, discourse is placed at the center of attention. According to communication theories, different discourses are used for different communicative purposes (Silva, 1990). Therefore, writing occurs in many different forms. Cooper and Odell (1977) have pointed to many styles of written discourses such as dramatic writing, personal writing, reporting, research, academic writing, fiction, poetry, business writing, and technical writing. As Grabe and Kaplan (1996) pointed out, academic writing needs to combine “structural sentence units into a more-or-less unique, cohesive and coherent larger structure (as opposed to lists, forms, etc.)” (p. 4). Students entering academic disciplines must learn the genres and conventions of that particular disciplinary community (Freeman, Carey, & Miller, 1991). Understanding the conventions of an academic discourse community constitutes a special literacy that writers need to acquire.

In order to better touch the concept of communication, Widdowson (1978), differs between aspects of writing act and composing act. Widdowson (1978) argues that there are two aspects in language; one is rules, such as grammar, that determine correctness, and the other one is the performative ability that allows people to undertake meaningful communication. He labels the correctness as usage and the performance as use. Since the language functions systematically and communicatively, both spoken and written modes of language cannot leave out either the grammatical and communicative aspects. According to Widdowson (1987), writing is the matter of use, and composing is the act of usage. Writing is not a communicative act because it is evaluated only by its correctness, and, in this sense, the equivalent of writing in the spoken mode is saying, simply reciting un-contextual words. Composing is a communicative activity of the written mode, as speaking is in the spoken mode. In his arguments, sheer writing is the matter of writing a correct sentence by following grammatical rules. Composition can be described as a collection of sentences, yet it cannot be communicative writing in a holistic sense. For example, speaking can be altered in form depending on the type of communicative activities, such as public speaking, presentation, and debate. These spoken activities are socially reciprocal because they take place in the presence of listeners. When being located in socially reciprocal settings, speaking becomes talking. Talking, in comparison to speaking, is a communicative activity because talking is an intended interaction with a listener. One can write journals, essays, and academic writings; yet, if one does so without thinking of communicating with a target audience, these written materials cannot be communicative products.

In other words, for writing as well as speaking to be a communicative activity, these activities must be evaluated in the presence of readers or listeners. Composing also must be in a reciprocal setting in order to be a communicative activity. In addition to the above argument, Widdowson (1978) mentioned that communicative writing can be described as the act of corresponding. Of course, as Widdowson (1978) acknowledges, the socially reciprocal setting of the written mode is different from that of the spoken mode because, unlike listeners, readers are not always available for immediate feedbacks or, even worse, for any form of interactions whatsoever.

However, communicative writing entails the presence of readers as a target audience. The important point is that one can write following grammatical rules, and one can compose in order to communicate with others through writing, yet, if one does not write with the target audience in mind, composition cannot be an act of communication. A personal diary, for example, is not a communicative writing. It is a simply composition because of its absence from the socially reciprocal setting with a target audience. As a result, communicative writing can be defined as writing activity aiming to correspond with a target audience. The reason why the presence of the target audience is in crucial communicative activity is that it provides not only the socially reciprocal setting, but also a specific purpose, format, and style for communicating (Widdowson, 1978).

Based on communication theory, communicative strategies should be exerted in ESL writing instruction. Cohen (1998) defined communicative strategies as means writers use to express their ideas in the most optimal way. Therefore, individuals have creativity in different ways of expressing their point of views in miscellaneous matters.

2.3.2.4 Social Constructionism and Writing

Social constructionism is an educational approach that is derived from social constructivism. Social constructionists believe that we do not find or discover concepts, models, and knowledge as much as we construct or make them (Silva, 1990). In fact, social constructionism has been used enormously in the area of writing and composition (Cazden, 1996). Social constructionist writing teachers claim that writing constitutes a mode of communication in an academic or discourse community. Social constructionist discussions of writing are concerned with discourse as socially constructed. The perspective of this model is so global and it considers the idea of social community discourse rather than individual beings. The focus is on how such a community defines writers and writing; how texts symbolizes that community; how the community, its discourse, and disciplinary knowledge are constituted and reconstituted; and how participants in discursive practices form and are formed by these practices (Kennedy, 1998).

Therefore, a social-constructionist writing instructor considers both a process approach and some aspects of a product approach to teaching writing (Zimmerman, 1993). From a product-approach perspective, writers use the writing products of others to help them build meanings, and from a process-approach perspective, writers collaborate and negotiate with others to exchange and construct their texts. Social constructionists believe that learning to write within the zone of proximal development happens when students engage in a task that is too difficult for them to perform independently, forcing them to seek support from an adult or from capable peers for their writing operation and writing performance (Dixon-Krauss, 1996).

In social-constructionist writing classes, the acquisition and the development of writing skill also takes place through the acculturation model of the social and psychological integration of the learner into the target language group (Schumann, 1978). The social/affective strategies are defined as strategies that writers use to interact with the target discourse community for the support and to regulate their emotions, motivation, and attitude in the process of writing (Carson &Longhini, 2002).

In sum, this section has mainly discussed the theories of contrastive rhetoric, cognitive development, communication and social constructionism and their applications in ESL writing studies, and five categories as rhetorical strategies, meta-cognitive strategies, cognitive strategies, communicative strategies and social/affective strategies are identified and defined according to understandings of these theories. Based on the analysis of the theories of contrastive rhetoric, cognitive development, communication and social constructionism related to ESL writing, writing process is a very complex development influenced by many factors such as culture, politics, education, economy, social environment, community and language. 

According to what had been discussed so far, it is apparent that the development of English as second language ESL/EFL writing is very complicated. Besides the complexity of writing, many factors affect its process. Angelova (1999) has illustrated such factors affecting the process and product of ESL/EFL writing as language proficiency, L1 writing competence, use of cohesive devices, meta-cognitive knowledge about the writing task, writing strategies and writers' personal characteristics. Knowing these factors, is crucial for the development of writing skills (Arndt, 1987; Beare, 2000; Raimes, 1983; Victori, 1995; Zamel, 1982) and it is one of the instruments for the teachers to be able discover the learning deficiencies successful from less successful student writers. Therefore, in the following section, intervening factors in the process of writing development are mentioned.

2.3.3. Intervening Factors in Writing Proficiency

Horowitz (1988) and Flower (1987, 1989) have stressed the significance of the role external constraints play in determining student success with assignments. These constraints include such factors as the purpose and audience of the assignment, features of the assignment itself, time limitations, the environment in which the student must function, and the various conventions expected by the discourse community.

In designing assignments or materials for writing, there are some internal constraints which are experienced by students too. Those internal constraints may include: L2 proficiency, content schemata, affect, formal schemata, cognitive skills, and meta-cognitive skills. Kirkland and Saunders (1991) believed that weaknesses in any of these areas can short-circuit student success in writings assignments. The most important factors in the writing skill of the students include their proficiency in L1, content schemata related to both L1 and L2, the effect of religion or culture, Formal schemata of the learners, critical thinking and meta-cognitive skills. In the following part, they are explained respectively.

2.3.3.1. L2 proficiency

The L2 skills needed in writing include adequate reading skills and comprehension level plus adequate control of grammar, vocabulary to manipulate and express the information. Kirkland and Saunders (1991) mentioned that limitations in any of these result in semantic distortions, inability to paraphrase, and other problems.

As in other reading-writing tasks, enough L2 skills seem fundamental to successful assignment fulfillment, regardless of skills and strategies the student may have in L1. This observation is supported by Cazden (1996) and Carrell’s (1984) findings on the transfer of L1reading skills to L2 reading, in which indications of a kind of ceiling effect were noticed; i.e., students must attain a certain level of proficiency in the second language before they can profit from L1reading skills. Hence, students should not be expected to produce formal, graded academic writing assignments until they have at least a favorable level of proficiency in the second language. Even then, it is important to compensate for the proficiency level by carefully controlling the external constraints.

2.3.3.2. Content Schemata

The vast amount of research conducted on the role of content schemata in reading by Carrell (1984), Rumelhart (1980), Johnson (1982), and others has demonstrated that students must have appropriate content schemata available in order to be able to comprehend material, a prerequisite to manipulating it. While this is a totally important constraint in writing assignments, it can be controlled since the teachers can carefully select the materials to be written by the students and establish background schemata through pre-reading activities, a series of readings and discussions.

2.3.3.3. Affective Schemata

Closely related to the area of content schemata is the affective domain. Victori (1995), and Markham and Latham (1987) have demonstrated the salient role of cultural factors and religion (which involve both content schemata and affect) in reading comprehension. Unfortunately, little formal research has been conducted on the role of affect per se in reading/writing activities. Johns (1988) reported that one of the main problems identified by professors she interviewed was international students’ highly emotional responses to texts that insulted their cultural values. Since such an emotional response can deteriorate the act of writing, Johns’ report highlights the importance of sensitivity in choosing texts that students must accomplish. Brand (1987) and McLeod (1987) also emphasize the importance of affect in writing and the need for further study.

2.3.3.4. Formal Schemata

Carrell (1984) has described formal schemata as the abstract knowledge structures that manifest conventional organization of a text, helping the reader in comprehension and recall.

Applied to the academic discourse community, the term would include expectations concerning elements such as format, thought and rhetorical patterns, and the conventions of paraphrasing, quotation, and documentation. Whereas the formal schemata of the teacher constitute external constraints, the formal schemata available to the student are internal constraints (Cocke, 2002).As a result, in designing writing assignments, instructors should select texts embodying patterns that are manageable for their putative students. Carrell (1984), claims that patterns exhibiting a solid relationship such as cause-effect or comparison seem to be easier than those exhibiting a weaker link, such as description.

2.3.3.5. Critical Thinking

A variety of definitions of critical thinking have been provided by theorists and educators. Siegel (1988) calls critical thinking “the educational cognate of rationality” (p.32). Lipman (1991) defines it as healthy skepticism, whereas Norris and Ennis (1989) call it “reasonable and reflective thinking that is focused upon deciding what to believe and do” (p.3). Elder and Paul (1994) postulate that critical thinking is the ability of thinkers to take charge of their own thinking and develop sound criteria and standards for analyzing and assessing their own thinking. Maiorana (1992) stresses that the purpose of critical thinking is to achieve understanding, evaluate viewpoints, and solve problems. There is little essential difference in these definitions.

Although there is little argument among theorists and educators about the interrelatedness of the development of languages and thinking skills, in typical school settings, language learning and thinking skills are often treated as independent processes (Suhor, 1984). In the tradition and transition of English language teaching methodology, the integration of language and thinking has been peripheral (Pica, 2000). Language as a way of thinking and learning has been more of a pedagogical object than instructional practice. The Thinking-Approach Project (2004) supported by the British Council criticizes the traditional approaches (i.e., grammar–based syllabus, functional-notional syllabus, natural approach, etc.) to language education. It mentions the key contradiction that language teachers spend most of their time teaching language competence but do not prepare students for life in the real world. In other words, living in the new world requires critical skills which students do not acquire in language learning curriculum. Kabilan (2000) also argues that the now popular communicative approach to language teaching, which emphasizes the use of language as a communication tool, does not really help students to become proficient in the target language. He suggests that for learners to be proficient in a language, they need to be able to think creatively and critically when using the target language.

Regarding the context of EFL/ESL learning, critical thinking involves the use of information, experience, and world knowledge in ways which allow L2 learners to seek alternatives, make inferences, pose questions, and solve problems, thereby signaling understanding in a variety of complex ways (Lipman, 1991). In EFL/ESL context, the critical and evaluating view toward a claim would include several stages. The first stage is noting the social, economic and political contexts of claims and support (Davidson, 1998; Suhor, 1984) next stage is questioning or challenging them the claims and evaluating them (Mohan, 1986; Vygotsky, 1962; Widdowson, 1990), after that the critical thinker should uses his/her understanding to synthesis as a basis for formulating ideas of his/her own, next the critical thinker presents ideas and uses appropriate strategies for expressing them (Leki, 1991; Horowitz,1986; Johns, 1988; Swales, 1987).

Pica (2000) asserts that modern foreign language teaching must incorporate activities to help students reflect on their own thinking processes and language-learning strategies. He further outlines activities to include: (1) identifying and understanding the links between the target language and native language in lexis, syntax, and grammar; (2) drawing inferences from unfamiliar language and unexpected responses; (3) using their knowledge of grammar to infer the meaning of new words and structures; (4) using language creatively to express their ideas, attitudes and opinions; (5) adapting and revising language for their own purposes; (6) identifying and using language patterns; and (7) devising their own language-learning strategies.

Critical thinking is also recognized as an important competence for students to acquire in academic language learning (Connolly, 2000; Davidson, 1998; Davidson & Dunham, 1997). Kuh (1993) further postulates that critical thinking is a social practice and is language itself. Maybe even more than L1 teachers, L2 teachers have reasons to introduce their students to aspects of critical thinking because if they do not, their students may become confused when they are confronted with the necessity of thinking critically, especially in an academic setting (Davidson, 1998). In academic settings, the teaching of higher order critical thinking skills promotes higher order learning skills which in turn enable students to reach higher levels of language proficiency (Renner, 1996).

For some reason, the learning of higher-level thinking skills appears to be more challenging for Asian learners of English than for EFL learners of other ethnicities.

Some researchers characterize Asian learners of English as lacking an individual voice and critical thinking skills (Stapleton, 2002). For example, Atkinson (1997) and Fox (1994) depict Japanese learners as group-oriented, harmony-seeking, hierarchical, and non-critical thinkers. Harklau (1994) points out that the Taiwanese students in U.S. high school classrooms bring with them the belief that “being quiet is good” because the schools in Taiwan anticipate students to be quiet in the classroom. In many Asian countries including China, Japan and Taiwan, student-teacher interaction is either lacking or inadequate, and English language instruction in is far from being conducive to development of critical thinking skills.

2.3.3.6. Meta-cognitive Skills

Crucial to effective cognitive and critical thinking skills are the conscious awareness and control which is called meta-cognition (Kirkland & Saunders, 1991). Sarig (1988) conceptualizes the role of the meta-cognitive skills of planning, assessment, and repair in the recursive process of writing. In Sarig’s taxonomy (1988), “planning” can include goal setting, strategy selection, and rudimentary ideational formulation.

Whereas these skills tend to be related to cognitive development, Brown, Day, and Jones (1988) found that the presence of planning activities was the best predictor of success for older elementary students in producing efficient writing assignments. Adult university students should be able to use appropriate planning mechanisms unless (a) they are not aware of these mechanisms, as may be the case with students who have had little L1 writing experience, or (b) they are doing so many complex linguistic and cognitive activities at the same time that the kinds of mature planning are debilitated.

According to Sarg's taxonomy (1988), as cited in Broh, 2002, assessment involves (a) assessing the assignment, evaluating the material which is going to be written according to one’s own schemata, and (b) evaluating the writing in terms of its relationship to the specific purpose of the assignment, the accuracy of the output, and lexical/grammatical correctness. Repair happens at any of the points in the writing process. A student can repair (a) his/her understanding of the assignment; and (b) the production of the writing at any stage in the process and within any of the layers of the activity. These met cognitive activities are clearly not completely linear stages.

As seen in Johns (1988), expert writers perform these meta-cognitive functions automatically, as part of their normal writing strategy. It is the novice writer who is deficient in these meta-cognitive skills and can be trained to perform them. In fact, the efficacy of training has been demonstrated on younger, less developed students by Brown, Campione, and Day (1981). L2 students can similarly benefit from meta-cognitive training within the context of a manageable cognitive load. In addition to specific training, proper meta-cognitive activities can be initiated through teacher modeling, revision, checklists, and guidelines with meta-cognitive cues inside them.

In sum, students who are attempting to write are operating under a cognitive load distinguished by their individual internal constraints and the external constraints imposed by the assignment and context. It is important to stress that these constraints are all inextricable. The students are attempting to develop their skills and strategies to mediate this cognitive load. As a result, this cognitive load should be manageable for the students and students should possess the necessary skills to handle them (Kirkland & Saunders, 1991).

In conclusion, the effect of home work varieties as extra-curricular activities influencing the SL learner achievements has been the home of choice for the ELT researchers (Antunez, 2000; Atkinson, 2011; Cooper, 1999; Petersen, 2003) as they have tried to present the importance of such activities in the language development of the ESL learners. Various forms of homework such as summarizing, reporting, simplifying, analyzing, and re-writing of the materials such as journals, short stories, newspapers, dramas, and fictions have been the matter of research (Barth,1995) in the ESL context. The importance of literary tastes and inspirations and their influence on the development of creative writing also have been discussed in the literature (Delbanco, 1999). The relationship between creative writing, talent and inspiration, accompanied with and energized by stages of development, within a systematic strategy also have been stressed in the literature (Smith, 2005). Fiction, poetry, plays, performance, and new media could be employed to practice creative writing in the ELT classes. The importance of creative writing as an art which needs practicing and support also has been focused on (Harper, 2010). More recently, the impact of web technologies on teaching writing in the EFL classroom has been the matter of concern and has revealed practical implications (Prinz, 2010). What seems to be in dear need of research is the extent various homework types as extracurricular activities might affect learners’ creative writing in the EFL context.

2.4 Attitude

Language certainly goes beyond forms, patterns, and rules. Some sociocultural factors are involved in learning a new language. Attitude as one of the main factors in the process of learning plays a crucial role in the field of language learning skills. As Johnson and Johnson (1999) define

attitudes may be thought of as opinions, beliefs, ways of responding, with respect to some set of problems. They may not be formulated verbally until someone asks; they may not even be immediately available to conscious attention. They may be formulated from haphazard experience, or they may be the result of deliberate thought. They may conform to cultural or peer-group norms or not. As such, they are vague, loose and difficult to capture. They may exert considerable control over a learner’s behavior in numerous ways, and therefore may be related directly or indirectly to levels of achievement. (p.14)

In language learning field, attitudes range from anxiety about the new language and the learning process through attitudes to the speakers of the second language, the country in which that language is spoken, the classroom, the teacher, other learners, the nature of language learning, tests and beliefs about learning in general. It is obvious that negative attitudes can affect success in learning a new language. McNamara (1975, cited in Brown 2007) did a research on the attitudes of children who were transported from Montreal to Berlin, and concluded that they learn rapidly German no matter what they think of Germans. But as children grow and reach school age, they also acquire some certain attitudes toward German people, consciously or unconsciously, from their parents, other adults, and peers. In that case, the negative attitudes could affect the learning process.

However, most research in second language writing focuses on the teaching of writing rather than on the learners’ experiences in the process of writing. It is clear that writing is a language skill that is essential to academic success. Since it is an active, productive skill, students learning to write in a foreign language face multiple challenges. For this group, writing requires thinking strategies that allow the individual to express him or herself competently in the other language, and it is a complex activity that requires a certain level of linguistics knowledge, writing conventions, vocabulary and grammar. As noted by Celce-Mercia (1991), expressing one’s ideas in written form in a second or foreign language, and doing so with reasonable accuracy and coherence, is a major achievement. The complexity of writing as a task tends to heighten anxiety levels in students who are taking writing courses. This anxiety can often demotivate the student or lead to discouragement, and thus may result in negative attitudes towards writing (Gere, 1987; Sharples, 1993 cited in Erkan & Saban, 2011). Most students, low and high achievers alike, find writing difficult and view it as something they just have to persevere through in order to pass certain exams (Yavuz & Genç, 1998 cited in Erkan & Saban, 2011). This may relate to affective elements such as student attitudes, writing apprehension and self-efficacy in writing.

Powell (2004) indicated that educators have explored various factors which may contribute to success or lack of success in writing with a large number of minority students and it is often concluded that widespread inefficiency in writing results because these students come from different homes and environments with different language backgrounds. It is assumed that these students have different attitudes toward their own learning.

Pacquette (2008) conducted a study which aimed to survey the students’ attitudes about writing after a cross-age tutoring experience. The study was designed to identify whether or not the implementation of a cross-age tutoring program would have a significant impact on students’ attitudes toward the subject of writing. At the end of the cross-age experience, interviews were conducted to attempt to identify aspects of the cross-age tutoring program which students like and/or dislike. Students’ attitudes toward writing were researched because of how students perceive themselves as writers, influences their writing performance.

Nordquist (2009) argued that whatever your attitude may be, one thing is certain: how you feel about writing both affects and reflects how well you can write. Certainly you can change your attitude—and you will, as you gain more experience as a writer. In the meantime, here are a few points to think about: You get the point. As you begin working to become a better writer, you will find that your attitude toward writing improves along with the quality of your work. So enjoy! And start writing. Spend some time thinking about why you would like to improve your writing skills: how you might benefit, personally and professionally, by becoming a more confident and competent writer. Then, on a sheet of paper or at your computer, explain to yourself why and how you plan to achieve the goal of becoming a better writer.

2.5 Writing Apprehension

In terms of other affective variables, perhaps the most noticeable is anxiety. Anxiety is said to be one of the factors that could affect the process of learning, and researchers such as MacIntyre (1995), Horwitz et al. (1986) and MacIntyre and Gardner (1989 and 1991) claim that language courses are very anxiety-provoking. Studies have also shown that students utilizing productive skills, namely writing and speaking, are found to experience a considerable amount of anxiety in the process of learning. Writing anxiety or ‘writing apprehension’ which was first coined by Daly and Miller (1975) is to describe the anxiety an individual experiences when confronted with the task of writing. More specifically, “writing apprehension refers to a situation and subject specific individual difference associated with a person’s tendencies to approach or avoid situations perceived to potentially require writing accompanied by some amount of perceived evaluation” (Daly & Wilson, 1983, p. 327).

A surprisingly large number of students have writing anxiety, a debilitating condition that often leads students to avoid courses, majors, and jobs that require writing (Daly & Shamo, 1976, 1978; Wachholz & Etheridge, 1996). Furthermore, studies show that affective aspects of learning such as anxiety have a strong impact on the student’s ability to learn course content (McLeod, 1997). Research specifically on writing anxiety has linked it to several factors, including both writing ability and student learning. Smith (1984), for example, states, “The research is clear: Writing apprehension interferes with the development of writing skills” (p. 2)

With the development and validation of an empirical measure of writing apprehension, Daly and Miller (l975) have provided the means with which to explore this construct. Extensive studies of writing apprehension have been conducted with populations drawn from elementary school level through college level, and adults (Daly, 1985). The Daly-Miller Measure of Writing Apprehension is one of the most widely used measures of writing anxiety, consisting of a 26-item self-report, Likert-type scale (Daly & Miller, 1975; Mango, 2008). The statements on the scale are designed to reveal an individual’s degree of apprehension regarding writing situations, thus classifying the respondent on a continuum between “high apprehensive” and “low apprehensive” (Daly & Miller, 1975).

Also, to measure writing anxiety, Cheng (2004) develops a three-dimensional self-report measure of foreign language writing anxiety that conforms to most anxiety researchers’ recognition of anxiety as a complex phenomenon. In this research, he executed to examine “the psychometric properties of the newly developed Second Language Writing Anxiety Inventory (SLWAI) as well as its three subscales: Cognitive Anxiety, Somatic Anxiety, and Avoidance Behavior” (p. 331). He believes that this multidimensional measurement tool, there is a step forward in the assessment of L2 writing anxiety.

According to Weigle (2002) there are some studies about the relationship between writing apprehension and writing quality in second language contexts, and it is obvious that writing anxiety is an equal or greater issue for these writers than for L1 writers. In this regard, she believes that “the issue of time constraints is salient for second-language writers, because they are unable to write as fluently and quickly as their native speaker peers” (p. 37).

Recent studies have provided validation to regard writing anxiety as a specific type of anxiety, unique to the language-particular skill of writing (Bugoon & Hale, 1983; Daly & Wilson, 1983; Bline, et al., 2001). According to Thompson (1980) writing anxiety is a ‘fear of the writing process that outweighs the projected gain from the ability to write’ (p.121). Tsui (1996), further believes that learning to write in the foreign language involves as much anxiety as learning the other skills, because writing is predominantly product-oriented, and it requires individual work, i.e., students are deprived of help, support and encouragement. As a result, learners suffer a ‘distress associated with writing’ and develop ‘a profound distaste for the process’ (Madigan, Linton, Johnson, 1996, p. 295).

2.5.1. Writing Apprehension and Evaluation

Evaluation has an established place in the educational process, giving both teacher and student an indicator of achieved proficiency in a particular course of study. In the majority of cases, school—based writing is subjected to direct or indirect evaluation by someone other than the writer (Daly & Wilson, 1983). From an instructor’s point of view, the direct evaluation of a paper and the subsequent awarding of a grade should communicate a message of encouragement or motivation (Hassan, 2001).

A history of unsuccessful writing experiences may be a contributing factor in the development of writing apprehension (Daly & Miller, l975). According to Daly and Wilson (1983), “a person’s apprehension develops, and is maintained, at least in part, from others’ evaluations of his or her writing” (p. 329). Other researchers have reached the same conclusion (Daly & Hailey, 1984). Certainly, high apprehension experiences “an excessive concern about evaluation” (Daly, 1985, p. 53; Daly & Miller, 1975), which appears to be related to “excessive criticism” (Daly, 1985, p. 61), and “negative teacher reactions” (Daly, 1985, p. 62). High apprehension also sees teacher corrections and markings on their papers as a form of punishment (Daly, 1985).

Several suggestions have been made with regard to the reduction of writing anxiety, which appears to increase as the student progresses through school (Book,1976). Aikman (1985) reported that reduction in teacher evaluation as well as the implementation of peer and self-evaluation has helped reduce negative attitudes and fear of writing. One method of evaluation which appears to meet the criteria furnished by Aikman (1985) as most beneficial in reducing writing apprehension is the portfolio assessment. Also, Ozturk & Cecen (2007) did a research and concluded that portfolio keeping as a self-growth tool for reducing writing anxiety in an EFL setting. Reeves (1997) points out that emphasizing systematic logic enhances self-esteem in apprehensive writers and gives them confidence in their editing skills.

2.6. Writing Strategies

One of the earliest studies on ESL writing strategies Arndt’s (1987) investigation on ESL writing strategies is one of the earliest studies done on writing strategies. She adopted eight categories to code the strategies the students used in their writing. These strategies are as follows: Planning (Finding a focus, deciding what to write about), Global planning (Deciding how to organize the text as a whole),Rehearsing (Trying out ideas and the language in which to express them), Repeating (Of key words and phrases - an activity which often seemed to provide impetus to continue composing), Re-reading (Of what had already been written down), Questioning (As a means of classifying ideas, or evaluating what had been written), Revising (Making changes to the written text in order to clarify meaning), and Editing.

Arndt (1987) has used these categories to categorize Chinese students’ writing strategies. He found out that Chinese students revise for word-choice more in the ESL task than in the L1 task, but rehearse for word-choice more in L1 than ESL. Arndt (1987) related this finding to the students’ less ability to find alternatives and less satisfaction with their decisions in ESL than in L1, not only because they had more limited vocabulary sources to use, but also because they felt less secure about whether they had chosen the word appropriately.

Wenden (1991) has done research on eight students of ESL, requiring them to write a composition at the computer and to introspect as they wrote. She studied how the students used metacognitive strategies in their writing and discussed what task knowledge they searched for before and while writing. She divided the writing strategies the students used in two categories as cognitive and metacognitive. According to Wenden (1991) metacognitive strategies include three kinds as planning, evaluation, and monitoring. Metacognitive strategies are mental operations or procedures that learners use to regulate their learning.

Wenden (1991) categorizes cognitive strategies into (a) clarification which includes self-questioning, hypothesizing, defining terms, and comparing; (b) retrieval which includes rereading aloud or silently what had been written, writing in a lead-in word or expression, rereading the assigned question, self-questioning, writing till the idea would come, summarizing what had just been written (in terms of content or of rhetoric), and thinking in one’s native language; (c) resourcing which includes asking researcher, and referring to the dictionary; (d) deferral, (e) avoidance, and (f) verification.

In another research, Victori (1995) has identified seven types of writing strategies based on the interviews and think-aloud protocol analysis. According to Victori (1995), planning strategies are strategies by which the writer plans and anticipates what ideas will come next, and explicitly states his or her objectives for organization and procedures. Monitoring strategies are those strategies that the writers use when they want to check and verify their writing process; also, this strategy is used when the writers identify the future problems. Evaluating strategies are strategies used when the writers reconsider their written text, previous plans, planned ideas and the modifications undertaken to the text. Resourcing strategies are strategies used by the writers when they use available external reference sources of information about the target language, such as consulting the dictionary to look up or confirm doubts (lexicon, grammatical, semantic or spelling doubts), or to look for alternatives (synonyms). Repeating strategies refer to the repeating chunks of language in the course of writing, either in reviewing the text or in transcribing new ideas. Reduction strategies are strategies used when the writers want to get rid of a problem, either by removing it from the text, giving up any attempts to solve it, or paraphrasing with the aim of avoiding a problem. Use of L1 strategies are strategies using the mother tongue with different purposes: to generate new ideas, to evaluate and make sense of the ideas written in the L2 or to transcribe the right idea/word in the L1.

Riazi (1997) studied four Iranian doctoral students of education focusing on accounting for the learners’ conceptualizations of their writing tasks, their strategies for composing, key aspects of the academic courses they were participating in as the immediate context of their writing and their personal perceptions of their own learning. He summarized their composing strategies following distinctions made in previous studies of second language learning in academic settings between cognitive, metacognitive, and social “search strategies,” he himself perceived. (Riazi, 1997, p. 122).

Riazi (1997) stated that Iranian doctoral students used macro-strategies to perform their academic tasks. With these strategies they were to form their mental representations of academic writing tasks as well as their social activities for accomplishing them. Participants’ cognitive strategies led them to work with, think about, and manipulate materials required for task completion. They included such specific strategies as note taking, inferencing, and elaboration; use of mother tongue knowledge and skill transfer across their two languages; and revising and editing multiple drafts of their papers. In particular, Riazi (1997) found participants in the study tried to relate between their L1 and ESL in their learning to write in the specific context of their graduate studies. They used their topical knowledge and in a dynamic and interactive process they tried to use and build new knowledge based on their previous knowledge, skills and strategies. The meta-cognitive strategies such as self-regulatory strategies helped the participants tried to have control on their performance of the writing tasks, thus reducing their anxiety over not knowing what to do. The social strategies included those practices and activities in which participants interacted with their professors and other members of their academic community to clarify a task, consult on a problem related to a task, or to discuss comments they had received about their learning to write in their discipline.

Sasaki (2000) investigated EFL learners’ writing processes using a Japanese L1 research scheme and found that (a) before starting to write, the advanced writers spent a longer time planning a detailed overall organization, whereas the novices spent a shorter time, making a less global plan; (b) After making the global plan, the advanced writers did not stop and think as frequently as the novices; (c) ESL proficiency appeared to explain part of the difference in strategy use between the experts and novices; and (d) after 6 months of instruction, the beginners began to use some of the expert writers’ strategies. As a whole, he made a list of eight different categories which are included as: (a) planning; (b) retrieving; (c) generating ideas; (d) verbalizing; (e) translating; (f) rereading; (g) evaluating; (h) and questioning.

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