Writing In Everyday Life For Academic Purposes English Language Essay

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Oprah Winfrey may not be a certified philosopher, but words that come out from the media mogul are worth a second take. Oprah, who has touched the lives of many, recognizes the power of journal writing as a tool that can change people's destiny. Journal writing promotes the spirit of sharing and communicating thoughts and feelings that lets common people become expressive writers.

The structure and purpose of writing journals is almost similar to diary writing. Therefore, in the broadest sense, a journal is not more than a personal tool of expression. It should be noted however that journals can be adjusted for one's convenience be it for personal, social or business usage; any setting that is necessary. The focus of this study for example is on the use of journal in the academic context.

Fulwiler (2000) in his book Language Connections: Writing and Reading across the Curriculum states that journal writing is an interdisciplinary learning tool with a place in every academic classroom. In the English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom for instance, journal writing is a beneficial tool for writing practice. This may not be new to school practitioners in the Western countries but in Malaysia, journal writing is not a popular idea. Very little research has been done on the use of journals in the Malaysian schools.

The rationale behind adopting this method lays in the importance of writing in Malaysian ESL classroom. First and foremost, writing is one of the four literacy skills taught in the syllabus. At the same time, writing is one of the main assessments to measure the students' performance in terms of language proficiency. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare the students to reach their full potential in ESL writing.

Prior to the objective, this research aims to experiment whether the use of journals is beneficial in the ESL classroom to motivate students to write better. To collect the data, a study was conducted at a school in Pahang, the eastern state of Malaysia. A pre and post-test are given apart from a 5-week journal writing assignment. This is followed by an analysis of the data gathered.

BACKGROUND OF STUDY

Why is 'writing' chosen as the focus of this study instead of reading, listening or speaking? Are not all skills equally important as the other? The four skills are of paramount importance (Brown, 2001) to learn a second language (L2) but writing is given the most emphasis here in the Malaysian schools. Minor and major English examinations throughout Malaysia require students to write their responses in different forms. Therefore, writing indirectly becomes the tool to measure the students' proficiency level in L2. Other than that, students also should realize that their writing skill is not only needed in schools but also in the higher institutions. Hence, if they only perform at only a satisfactory level, they might have problems coping with academic writing assignments in the higher educational institutions.

The constraint of the examination-oriented instruction creates problems for L2 students to become effective writers. Students are trained to write to suit the goal of getting good or passable grades. Tan (2006), conducted a study on English essay writing among Malaysian urban school students. Among the recorded findings were the students' approaches towards writing. Their writing performance is as much as to "meet evaluation criteria" (Tan, 2006, p.29). This shows that the students too are aware that their L2 writing is being assessed by examinations and therefore they train themselves to meet that goal.

When writing is focused on fulfilling grades or academic requirements, the end product becomes the priority. This means that the piece of writing should be grammatically accurate while the topic given should be adequately discussed. This causes disinterest and difficulty among students. Thus it becomes the reason why writing has been claimed as a difficult skill, dreaded by L2 students (Gupta, 1998 as cited in Mat Daud et. al. 2003). In Malaysia, writing is considered the skill that most students are less proficient in (Citravelu, 1995). It also yields the least reward (p.141) as it is of little significance in the immediate presence. This is because the students fail to see the relevance of learning how to write in English other than to sit for the examinations. Therefore they are not interested to learn about writing and what more to practice and polish their skills even further.

The idea of writing in English to simply score an examination paper is not ideal to the goals stated in the Integrated Curriculum for Secondary School (KBSM). The curriculum aims to, among others, enable learners to; i) take part in social interaction, ii) to present, process and use information from various sources and iii) express ideas, opinions, thoughts and feelings imaginatively and creatively through the four skills (KBSM, 2003). By right, students should be taught to write for not only academic but also for personal and social purposes. This would make writing more meaningful and fun for the students.

However, to practice what is ideal is quite challenging. At the end of the day, teachers have to ensure that their students write well enough to get good grades in order to prove that the students are proficient L2 writers. Therefore, to improve this situation, something has to be done. The best way is to integrate a sense of 'fun' and 'meaningfulness' into writing assignments and practice. When students find certain writing tasks enjoyable, they may be motivated to practice more on their own. More practice means higher chances of improving their writing skills which can help to give better grades to the students. The use of journals is therefore suitable to be used as an integrated writing tool.

STATEMENT OF RESEARCH PROBLEM

This experimental study is designed to investigate the effectiveness of using journals to enhance and motivate ESL writing among secondary school students. Since writing determines how well students perform in the English language, students train themselves to "read and write to meet examination requirements and standards" (Bilton and Subramaniam, 2009). This makes writing become boring and difficult. Students also have a hard time expressing their thoughts and feelings through English because they only write during their English lessons. A study by Leki (1992) as cited in Chan and Abdullah (2004) finds that ESL students have problems to find the correct word forms and word order in English. "Limited vocabulary and the difficulties to understanding word connotation and depth of meaning" were also cited to be among the reasons why ESL writing is difficult (p.4).

To help overcome the aforementioned problems, students have to enjoy writing in English first before they receive intensive trainings that can help them to score the examinations. The motivation has to be intrinsic. O'Connell (2009) states that student instruction with intrinsic motivation draws on students' passions and enthusiasm which in turn promote the students to create higher-quality work (p.26). Coughlan (2007) meanwhile explains that intrinsic motivation is the better kind considering that someone does something because he / she wishes to and does not feel obliged or forced to do so.

This concern brings the researcher to study a different instructional method that can motivate the students and also to enhance their performance in writing. The method chosen for this research is the use of journals for English writing. A group of students are randomly selected to write journals in English for 5 weeks. At least two topics are given weekly together with a personal entry of the students' choice. A pre-test and post-test are given to record the progress that the students have made if there is any. The tests serve as a proof to the effectiveness of the tested method. A set of questionnaire is also given to the participants to find out their perception towards English journal writing. To further validate the findings of this study, the experimental group students are compared to a control group.

PURPOSE OF STUDY

The purpose of this study is to suggest an alternative method to motivate and improve the L2 writing performance among Malaysian students. It also aims to find a different approach to teaching writing that is applicable in the Malaysian schools. The suitable learning tool to meet the above objectives must be something that can promote meaningful and fun learning. After much consideration, the use of journal is chosen to be experimented. Journals serve as a platform for students to become creative, express themselves and "work out their feelings" (Fulwiler, 1986) in a way that they could not with formal writing assignments in the classroom. Therefore, teachers are free to assign any topics to the students' journals. Students too are free to give opinions, to share their feelings and ideas inside the journals. Through journals, they have the opportunity to "construct their own meaning of the text, making connection between the text and their own lives" (Mulcahy-Ernt and Ryshkewitch, 1994). Indirectly, the journals can help to drive the students to write in English. At the same time, it may help the teachers to get to know their students better and locate what their weaknesses are.

SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY

This study is significant because it may provide the remedy to the L2 writing problems among Malaysian students. It may help to create interests among the students to train themselves better in terms of writing so as to prepare themselves for greater challenges such as writing for the tertiary level, for work purposes or as simple as to complete personal tasks. The use of journals is applicable to school students in the attempt to help improve their writing skills. This study too may benefit students of higher learning institutions, teachers, or any related fields that involve writing in L2. Journal is flexible and applicable to any situations and can be useful to anyone.

RESEARCH OBJECTIVES

The objectives of the study are:

To identify whether the use of journal writing helps to enhance students' performance in ESL writing.

To identify the students' perception towards writing journals in enhancing their ESL writing performance.

To identify whether the use of journal writing helps to motivate the students to write in English.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The questions developed to describe the research are:

Can the use of journal writing help to enhance students' performance in ESL writing?

What are the students' perceptions towards the effectiveness of using journal to help ESL writing?

Can the use of journal writing help to motivate the students to write in English?

RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS

The hypotheses developed for this research are as followed:

Journal writing can help to enhance students' performance in ESL writing.

The students find writing journals a helpful tool to enhance their performance in ESL writing.

Journal writing helps to motivate the students to write in English.

THE DEFINITION OF TERMS

Writing in ESL

Writing is among the four literacy skills (apart from reading, listening, speaking) taught to ESL learners. Although it is the most widely taught skill in Malaysian schools (Hassan & Selamat, 2002), students still find it difficult. Silva, 1993 as cited in Brown, 2001 finds that writing in L2 is trivial. Silva demonstrated in a survey of L2 writing that L2 writers were "less fluent, less accurate, did less planning and were less effective in stating goals and objectives" (p.339). L2 writers have to think of not only what the ideas are but how can the ideas be presented in a written form. L2 writers are also often restricted by the fear of making grammatical errors that hinders them from sharing their ideas. This idea is also put forwards by Muhammad Salem (2007) whereby L2 writers tend to "engage in many conscious cognitive processes" and "attending to grammar, vocabulary, coherence, audience and appropriateness of the text" simultaneously (p.1).

In Malaysia, writing is the main method of assessing English Language proficiency and the skill prolongs to tertiary level of education. Teachers tend to train their students to write so that they can pass the examination.

Journal

The word 'journal' has not one definite meaning. It can be in the form of a written record like a diary, a serious magazine or newspaper publication (Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 2010) such as medical or education journal or even a "ledger" to record transactions (wordnetweb.princeton.edu). In the context of this study, journal is used in the education setting. Journal is an experimental tool to evaluate whether it is effective in helping to enhance and motivate the secondary school students' ESL writing performance. The journal entries include a series of given topics as well as the participants' own thoughts of anything that they would like to say.

Motivation

Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary defines motivation as 'enthusiasm' or 'reason' for doing something. This study aims to, among others; experiment whether the use of journals can help to motivate students to write in English. Therefore, in this context, the use of journal can help to build drive and enthusiasm among students to write. It can also become the 'reason' for them to practice writing more and most importantly to practice writing on their own.

Journal is a fun, interesting and meaningful tool of writing which can motivate students intrinsically and extrinsically. When students are motivated, they will be more likely to succeed in their undertakings. Here, it can be said that both motivation and success are therefore interdependent. Thus, assigning students to write journals in English will hopefully be able to motivate and enhance their writings.

LIMITATION OF THE STUDY

One of the inevitable drawbacks to the study is the measurement of effectiveness. Since the study is conducted only among Form 3 students in Sekolah Menengah Agama Rompin, the result of the study cannot be generalized to the students from other forms or schools. Besides that, English proficiency level may differ from students in urban and rural schools. Therefore, the effectiveness of this method may not be applicable to other situations.

Meanwhile, the study was conducted only in a period of 5 weeks. Such a short period of time may affect the effectiveness of this study because it limits the number of journal writing assignments given and how much it would affect the participants' writing performance. The feedback given may also not be sufficient to help improve the participants' weaknesses in writing. Moreover, some students are reluctant to cooperate with the researcher. They tend to write less in their journals which affects the overall effectiveness of this programme.

SUMMARY

This chapter covers about the introduction to this research which is 'The Effectiveness of Doing Journals to Motivate and Enhance English as a Second Language (ESL) Writing: A Study Conducted in SMA Rompin' which includes some background information of this study. There is also the background of problem, the statement of research problems, the purpose and significance of study indicating what leads the researcher to conduct this research. Next, the objectives, the research questions and the hypotheses sum up the aim of this research proposal prior to the research title. The definition of terms explains the terms that are used in this research proposal and its in-depth meanings. Lastly, the limitation of the study states the disadvantages that may affect the overall result of this study.

INTRODUCTION

This chapter introduces the works of previous researchers of a similar topic that will help to define the topic of this research. There are 3 sections under this chapter which are:

L2 WRITING

This subchapter will discuss the issues pertaining to L2 writing especially the ones that involve writing in Malaysian schools. These would include the condition of L2 writing in Malaysia, problems in L2 writing, the approaches used to teach L2 writing especially in the Malaysian context and the debate of fluency versus accuracy in L2 writing. These topics will help to define this research by showing the connection with the method being tested which is journal writing.

L2 Writing in Malaysia

There are many definitions to writing. Chitravelu and Teh (1995) define writing as a system for interpersonal communication and Siti Katijah (1994) put writing in "one of the four modes of the system of human communication" called language. Meanwhile, Sokolik (2003) defines writing as "a series of contrasts". Writing is both a "physical and mental act, with the purpose to express and impress" and it goes through processes that finally becomes a product (p.88). Brown (2001) lists writing as one of the four literacy skills taught to students.

There are also researchers who see writing as a social process especially since it is used as a means of communication. Haring-Smith (1994) calls writing as a social activity in which writers can communicate their ideas and opinions to other people. Likewise, Silva and Leki (2004) describes the skill as both a cognitive and socio-cultural processes. When writing becomes a social process, writers have to ensure that they write what they truly mean.

Because writing is a 'skill', it is considered "unnatural" (Muhammad Salem, 2007) because it has to be taught and developed over time. The teaching and learning of writing involve certain processes starting from learning the alphabets to writing simple and complex sentences and then to forming paragraphs and compositions. Learning this skill becomes more complex as writers try to put meanings into words.

To write in L2 as opposed to the first language (L1) is considerably a tough challenge because more processes are involved. L2 writers have to not only come up with ideas but they also have to struggle to express the ideas using a clear and direct form of L2. In Malaysia, writing is compulsory to be learned by students and this skill is the most widely tested in order to determine whether the students are good in English or not.

Problems in L2 Writing

Writing, in general, is a handful task as opposed to speaking, listening or reading. It takes up several complex processes of putting meaning into words while taking into consideration of the possible reader / audience, the correct and ideal semantic form and also the coherency of the written product. A written product is considered effective when the readers or audience understand easily what the writer is trying to convey.

It is to be noted however that a lot of complications are involved to ensure that learners can write well in the English Language. Basturkmen and Lewis (2002) as cited in Nur Shidrah et. al. (2003) eloquently explain the problems that L2 students are facing when it comes to writing. They state that "the notion of success in writing is associated with self expression, flow of ideas, outsider expectations, growing confidence and enjoyment of L2 academic writing, and L2 students are known to have problems coping with this" (p. 6).

When it comes to using L2 instead of the first language (L1), L2 students become lost in translating the words and finding the right ways to express themselves. The problem worsens when the learners lack vocabulary to create sentences. If the students do not read enough on themselves, they would not be familiar with the structure of the language and therefore they will find it hard to express their opinions.

Often, the topics given to school students as in-class activity and homework are restricted to certain themes like past experiences, interests or other prompts that require them to use their imagination. For high-level students, the task may be interesting mostly because they can play around with their ideas and express their thoughts using the correct English vocabulary and sentence structure. Unfortunately for low-achievers, they may not be able to express their ideas because they do not know how to. Some of the topics given for exercises may need the students to be expressive using words that they rarely hear or read.

Because the students may be assigned a writing task that is not suitable to their prior knowledge and also their own interests, it would immediately kill their willingness to write. In other words, they are not motivated to pen down their thoughts because they have no idea how to answer the given task and subsequently it will affect their motivation and perception towards writing. They will instantly perceive any writing task as difficult and time-consuming.

Lastly, writing needs frequent practice. Students may only have one or two writing lessons per week and they would only write when they are told to. The task given is usually not authentic because the students only write to compose essays that should help them to answer examination questions. The lack of practice would also lead to the aforementioned problems such as the lack of vocabulary and sentence structure and the lack of motivation to write because they are not used to it.

APPROACHES TO TEACHING WRITING

There are a significant number of theories developed on how to teach writing. Researchers have tried to come up with different approaches to make teaching writing more effective. There is however, no definite theory or professional opinion as to which approach is the best. Ferris and Hodgcock (2005) state there is a lack of coherent conclusive theory for L2 writing. There is no correct or wrong way to teach although the teachers can accommodate the approaches based on the needs of the students. This sub-chapter will discuss some of the theories of writing approach that has been studied by previous researchers prior to the topic of this study. There is also the discussion on which writing approach has been practiced in Malaysia and its effectiveness towards producing the intended ESL writing skills among the students.

ACCURACY VS FLUENCY IN L2 WRITING

The issue of accuracy versus fluency has always been a debatable topic when it comes to L2 writing. The proponents of writing accuracy believe that

Discussion

The use of journal writing in this study aims at integrating the free writing and process writing approach as an alternative to the conventional controlled and product approach used in Malaysia. Although the latter approaches have advantages of their own, the method of teaching bores the students and becomes too examination-driven. The topics given by teachers for writing practice are often "arbitrary and artificial" (Scott, 1996). Students, therefore, dislike the idea of L2 writing because they perceive the task as difficult.

As opposed to writing journals, students can become more expressive in their writing and practice L2 at the same time. The writing task would be more authentic and meaningful and would help to improve the students' writing skills. They are also not restricted to writing about certain topics only because they are free to choose what they wish to write. Kroll and Reid (1994) state that it is important to design prompts that will allow students to "demonstrate their ability to write rather than to decipher a writing prompt". This would stimulate the students' interest in L2 writing and in turn can help them improve their writing skills.

JOURNAL WRITING

Journal or diary writing is a free form of writing where learners can express their own thoughts and feelings by choosing to say what they want. Teachers too can give interesting topics that they might be interested in such as movies, celebrities, sports or sometimes their opinions over teenage issues like love that are usually not suitable or are not asked in examinations. Creative writings too can be interesting journal entries.

There should not be a certain format to write journal entries because a journal is a personal form of expression that should be done for fun. For instance, the length of the writing script should not be fixed because such things will only make them feel like they are completing "yet another homework". Most importantly, teachers should give feedback in a way that can motivate the students to write more. Instead of focusing too much on grammatical errors and mistakes, teachers can give opinions on what the students have said. The feedback should be more on the issues discussed rather than the sentence structure and whatnot.

Types of journals

Concise Oxford English dictionary (2004) defines journal as a record; be it of personal news and events, of business transactions or as the popularly known diary. This definition suggests that journal is written or documented and that it is useful in both formal and informal settings. It is also a means of communication by which individuals can trade the pre-recorded information.

In the educational settings, journals may be used in many different ways. Scholarly journals provide access to original experimentation and research from scholars of different subjects or disciplines (Purdue University, 2006). Peyton and Reed (1990) meanwhile views journal writing as a way to interact students and teachers. A good example of this kind of journal is The Freedom Writers Diary initiated by Erin Gurwell and her students in California. Gurwell is able to discover the problems that her students face and this helps her to form activities that nurture and motivate learning.

In the classroom, teachers can maximize the use of journals in many different ways. Tompkins (2004) lists down six types of journals that teachers can assign to students in order for them to practice writing. These include personal journals, dialogue journals, reading logs, learning logs, double-entry journals, and simulated journals (p. 193 - 210). Below is a summary of the journal type descriptions:

Personal journals: This is a medium where students write about personal interests and events. The journals are mostly private but the students have the option of sharing their writings with close friends and families.

Dialogue journals: Similar to personal journals, students can include personal entries in their journals together with any general topics of their interests. Students may also use the journals to communicate with their classmates or teachers.

Reading logs: This journal is suitable for reading assignments. Students write their responses to a short story, poem, and/or any books that they are studying in class. The responses should relate to their own personal experiences.

Learning logs: Learning logs are meant for students to take notes, draw mind maps and diagrams or write vocabulary words that are related to the subject that they are learning. This journal is applicable to different subjects such as Science, History and so on.

Double-entry journals: This is another response journal where students can write two types of information in two different columns. A given example is; the student can write a quote from a story in the left column and tell how the quote relates to their life experiences on the right column.

Simulated journals: The journal serves as a simulation whereby students imagine themselves as a character from a book or a historical figure and write any entries from the characters' point of view.

This study adopts the second type which is the dialogue journal. The researcher assign the students several journal writing prompts that focus mainly on creative writing topics and issues that may nurture their interests to write (See Appendix #). Apart from that, the students are also required to write any entries that they like on a regular basis. The researcher gives feedback on the students' entries focusing mainly on the ideas and meaning they are trying to convey.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Journal Writing

The rationale for giving journal writing assignment with such requirements is to get the students to have writing practices that are fun and easy but beneficial at the same time. This is because the students may find it easier to express their thoughts with such topics especially one that involves themselves. Other than that, they are not restricted by the formality of school homework or exercises because journal writing is a fun task. Therefore, they are free to share their thoughts without worrying about grammar. They do not have to worry about making mistakes because the emphasis is more towards familiarizing themselves with writing, decreasing their anxiety to write and prompting them to pen down their ideas. Plus, by giving feedback on the content rather than the structure, students will feel appreciated for their effort. Teachers can also demonstrate sentences with correct grammatical form through such feedback. These can help to improve their writing skills and to motivate them to write better when it comes to answering examination questions.

Research on Journal Writing

Focusing on the ESL context, journal writing serves as the primary purpose of polishing students' writing skills. It can also be a reason for them to write and gives them more room for practice. They also get to use the English language in an authentic manner because the expressions come from themselves with their own ideas. Thus, journal writing can be considered an effective tool to help students build their writing efficiency and to nurture their confidence in using their ideas and express them. At the same time, students also get other benefits that can be considered the hidden curricula or the head fake. This is a platform for them to express their creativity, a friend for them to share their experiences and thoughts and also a record of their language progress.

MOTIVATION AND SUCCESS IN L2 WRITING

Motivation is a coined from a Latin word movere which means to move (Romando, 2007). It determines the extent, to which one makes choices about goals to pursue and the effort of achieving the goals (Brown, 2001) and energizes, directs and sustains behaviour (Santrock, 2008).

Theoretically, motivation is viewed in many different ways. The Behaviouristic theory developed by psychologists such as B. F. Skinner stresses the role of rewards and punishments in motivation. Skinner's operant conditioning model views that people pursue a goal for the anticipation of rewards. For some others, being afraid of punishment may gear them towards completing a task or goal. The Humanistic Perspective (Santrock, 2008) defines motivation based on Abraham Maslow's (1970) hierarchy of needs. It shows how people's motivation in life starts from fulfilling basic needs until they reach "self-actualization". The cognitive theorists meanwhile believe that there are sources to motivation and that self-reward has its own power to drive people.

Prior to the definitions and theories discussed, motivation is also named as extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation responds to the behaviourists' theory where people "do something to obtain something else" (Santrock, 2008, p. 454). Intrinsic motivation on the other hand is the desire to do something for the sake of doing it (Coughlan, 2007) without anticipating any desired outcomes. In the context of learning, researches favour a classroom climate in which students have intrinsic over extrinsic motivation to learn (Hennesey & Ammabile, 1998; Lepper, Corpus & Iyengar, 2005; Wigfield, Byrnes & Eccles, 2006; Wigfield & others, 2006 as cited in Santrock, 2008; Brown, 2001). If students keep on anticipating rewards or punishment to learn, they will not value the education they receive and they will perform without the anticipated outcome. Moreover, students with intrinsic motivation find learning interesting and satisfying (Azizi, 2004).

In learning L2, motivation is very important because the learning process can be exhausting and difficult. Howard Gardner (1985) views that attitude and motivation influence the acquisition of L2. Yang, Zhang and Wang (2009), claim in their research that L2 students will not be successful unless they are motivated. This is because, motivation, especially intrinsically can push the students towards gaining proficiency in L2. It would take a long time to learn L2 especially in countries like Malaysia whereby English is taught only in school and the environment does not support the students to use the language in their daily lives. To those who learn only to pass the examinations, they will not become interested in the target language. They may not put their best effort when they learn and thus they will become weak in the language.

The same concept applies to L2 writing. To motivate students to write, teachers have to plan an effective writing lessons and tasks. Meanwhile, in L2 writing, students need the motivation in terms of their interests towards the writing topics and whether they perceive the task as easy or difficult. They also need support in writing and have fun at the same time so that they do not think of writing as something too challenging. The writing task should also be meaningful and authentic.

Controlled vs Free Writing Approach

Chitravelu and Teh (1995) states that the pragmatic approach towards building writing skills among students is by following the continuum starting from controlled to guided and finally to free writing approach. They call it the 'Principal of Gradually Diminishing Control' (p.157) which promotes learner autonomy and allow the students to have enough practice before they start producing writings on their own. These approaches are practiced in the Malaysian schools but with the concern that the overall result lead to teaching writing as a product. This issue is discussed one by one as stated below.

Controlled writing can be seen as a way to learn, reinforce or test grammatical concepts (Brown, 2001). It lets students to practice writing error-free sentences of paragraphs of a certain topic like using substitute tables where they can produce different sentences (Chitravelu and Teh, 1995, p. 157). Silva (1990) as cited in Muhammad Salem (2007) suggests using controlled writing by giving students model paragraphs and asks them to substitute the pronouns and tenses or any other grammatical items. Students can also be taught by "adding, combining, replacing or deleting some sentences" (p.31). Although controlled writing serve as a model to good writing, teachers can only look at the technical aspects when it comes to evaluating the students' compositions. Students cannot go further than just substituting words. This approach may be beneficial to kick-start students' writing. However, teachers should move beyond controlled writing to promote students' creativity and fluency in L2 writing.

After controlled writing, Chitravelu and Teh (1995) suggest moving to guided writing. It serves as "a bridge between controlled and free writing (p.162). Guided writing provides more challenge as students move up a step higher to learning L2 writing skills. This is a popular approach among Malaysian teachers and it is also tested in the examinations for both lower and upper secondary school students. Students may have some sort of freedom when it comes to writing using notes and guidelines. However, they are also restricted to following certain criteria. Some students may not be able to write effectively because they are not familiar with the topic or they may not know certain words from the guided writing task. Teachers too tend to evaluate their writing by looking for grammatical errors.

These two types of approaches discussed above are popular among Malaysian teachers and these are also tested in the examinations. Although it is good as a kick-start to teaching writing, teachers especially in Malaysia, tend to focus more on the technical aspects when e

After the teacher has taught using controlled writing and guided writing method, they can get the students to write on their own. This is called free writing. It is a method in which students write on any topic they want without the concern of grammar, spelling, or punctuation which is usually done over a period of time (Elbow as cited in Sokolik, 2003). This approach provides students with the chance to practice writing especially in L2 without giving so much attention to the technical aspects of writing and thus help to build writing fluency. The focus of free writing meanwhile is on quality not quantity (Scott, 1996).

Product versus Process Approach

Among some of the methods to teaching writing are product and process approaches. Product approach is a conventional method of teaching writing whereby the process approach is more recent. Product approach concerns more on what has been written than what is being written. It is assumed that a good writer knows how to spell and punctuate and knowing parts of speech (Williams, 1989). Siti Katijah Johari (2004) lists down several key components of product approach:

It focuses in the end result of writing.

It pays more attention to the mechanics of writing (sentence structure, tenses, cohesion).

It is a "Language-form exercise" in a controlled context.

Language proficiency determines the skill of composing.

With the product approach, teachers control the writing session. Writing is treated more as a language reinforcement activity than a communicative practice. The steps taken in the product approach is linear. It is demonstrated in the diagram below:

Rules of styles, mechanics and grammar  Manipulate elements  Produce a text

Figure 1: Product Approach to Writing

In the Malaysian schools, writing is taught primarily using this approach.

On the contrary, the process approach to writing gives more emphasis towards what is being written and how to go about writing the compositions. Numerous researches on writing over the few decades have brought up "the understanding and teaching of writing as a process" (Chow, 2007). The process approach involve a few stages that basically starts with the generation of ideas and compilation of information through a series of activities for planning, gathering information, drafting, revising, and editing (Campbell, 1998, p. 11). This sequence of activities is named as such: "prewriting, composing/ drafting, revising, and editing" (Badger & White, 2000, p. 154). These stages or steps are demonstrated in the two diagrams below:

Figure 2: Process Approach to Writing (Siti Katijah, 1994)

The process writing approach,

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