Using portfolios in teaching academic writing to the third – year students at English Department of Military Science Academy: A quasi – experimental research

Writing is often believed to be one of the most important forms of communication. Regardless of how the writing is communicated, it gives us valuable links into the past. In deed, in written works, words leave behind a record of what was and has been said. From such works, it can be seen where our ancient civilizations started and where our current civilization is headed. This is vital to modern-day society. Therefore, almost all the written documentations are vital to all spheres of life, especially to learning a foreign language. In learning a foreign language, writing is considered as the ticket to greater academic achievements in a learner's life. In other words, writing is considered as an indispensable means of learning and acquiring a foreign language. In the first place, writing helps to foster the learners' creativeness and imagination in language use. Hence, they may help learners become good writers in not only their mother tongue but also their foreign language. In a better position, writing serves as a tangible learning evidence for the learners. Therefore, the learners' writing skills may help to hone their learning abilities and to develop critical thinking in other language skills. Most importantly, writing is both an essential part of the learning process and one of the most important ways that help the learners to communicate their ideas to others. Thus, writing should be considered of great importance, especially, in the context of the English Department-Military Science Academy (MSA). In the environment of the English Department-MSA, the writing skill has been considered of crucial importance in teaching and learning curricula since the Ministry of Defense mandated it to educate and to train military cadets to become army officers who use foreign languages in such careers as translators, teachers, and interpreters for military forces as well as military counselors to other countries. At the same time, it has been mandated to educate and to train civilian students to meet the demands of job vacancies for non-military forces. The reason for writing skills being attached importance to is its practicality. After graduating from the academy, due to their job requirements, many of the graduates will use writing skills in their professional life. To the military cadets, whatever career path they are provided, they will have to write letters, memos, reports, speeches, and proposals, even books in their job. Some of them will take IELTS or TOEFL tests for overseas study if mandated. To the civilian students, without any government's subsidy, besides the fore-mentioned needs of writing skills, they have to meet the demands for any job they apply for. Hence, all the students need to learn writing skills. Being aware of the responsibility, the first and foremost priority of the English department, MSA is given to improving the quality of teaching and learning writing skills so that the students will be able to satisfy the requirements of their jobs after graduation regardless of whether they are subsidized or not. The first way applied by the academy is that besides general language practice, 40 periods (45 minutes a period) are allocated for writing skills every year, except for the fourth year students who have to spend one semester doing their trainee jobs. Though the time allocated is not enough, it is, at least, paid equal attention to other language skills. Furthermore, the writing skill is distinctively focused on each semester. The freshman begins with correcting common errors on simple sentences, linking sentences using transitional signals and writing simple sentences. The second semester covers common error correction on complex sentences, linking sentences using transitional signals and writing complex sentences. The third term deals with all kinds of letters, memos and notes. The fourth semester marks simple compositions such as narrative, descriptive, comparison and contrast, and cause and effect. The third school year is begun with academic writing in which topic sentence, supporting sentences, concluding sentence, coherence, cohesion, unity, types of paragraphs are introduced. The second term introduces a general introduction to academic essay in which thesis statements, and introductory, concluding, developmental paragraphs and the essay outline are dealt with. The seventh term signals the end of the writing curriculum when all types of academic essays are handled. The whole learning process indicates that the writing skill is viewed of significance.

doc68 trang | Chia sẻ: superlens | Ngày: 04/06/2015 | Lượt xem: 1595 | Lượt tải: 16download
Bạn đang xem nội dung tài liệu Using portfolios in teaching academic writing to the third – year students at English Department of Military Science Academy: A quasi – experimental research, để tải tài liệu về máy bạn click vào nút DOWNLOAD ở trên
Chapter I: Introduction 1.1 Rationale of the Study Writing is often believed to be one of the most important forms of communication.  Regardless of how the writing is communicated, it gives us valuable links into the past. In deed, in written works, words leave behind a record of what was and has been said.  From such works, it can be seen where our ancient civilizations started and where our current civilization is headed. This is vital to modern-day society. Therefore, almost all the written documentations are vital to all spheres of life, especially to learning a foreign language. In learning a foreign language, writing is considered as the ticket to greater academic achievements in a learner's life. In other words, writing is considered as an indispensable means of learning and acquiring a foreign language. In the first place, writing helps to foster the learners' creativeness and imagination in language use. Hence, they may help learners become good writers in not only their mother tongue but also their foreign language. In a better position, writing serves as a tangible learning evidence for the learners. Therefore, the learners' writing skills may help to hone their learning abilities and to develop critical thinking in other language skills. Most importantly, writing is both an essential part of the learning process and one of the most important ways that help the learners to communicate their ideas to others. Thus, writing should be considered of great importance, especially, in the context of the English Department-Military Science Academy (MSA). In the environment of the English Department-MSA, the writing skill has been considered of crucial importance in teaching and learning curricula since the Ministry of Defense mandated it to educate and to train military cadets to become army officers who use foreign languages in such careers as translators, teachers, and interpreters for military forces as well as military counselors to other countries. At the same time, it has been mandated to educate and to train civilian students to meet the demands of job vacancies for non-military forces. The reason for writing skills being attached importance to is its practicality. After graduating from the academy, due to their job requirements, many of the graduates will use writing skills in their professional life. To the military cadets, whatever career path they are provided, they will have to write letters, memos, reports, speeches, and proposals, even books in their job. Some of them will take IELTS or TOEFL tests for overseas study if mandated. To the civilian students, without any government's subsidy, besides the fore-mentioned needs of writing skills, they have to meet the demands for any job they apply for. Hence, all the students need to learn writing skills. Being aware of the responsibility, the first and foremost priority of the English department, MSA is given to improving the quality of teaching and learning writing skills so that the students will be able to satisfy the requirements of their jobs after graduation regardless of whether they are subsidized or not. The first way applied by the academy is that besides general language practice, 40 periods (45 minutes a period) are allocated for writing skills every year, except for the fourth year students who have to spend one semester doing their trainee jobs. Though the time allocated is not enough, it is, at least, paid equal attention to other language skills. Furthermore, the writing skill is distinctively focused on each semester. The freshman begins with correcting common errors on simple sentences, linking sentences using transitional signals and writing simple sentences. The second semester covers common error correction on complex sentences, linking sentences using transitional signals and writing complex sentences. The third term deals with all kinds of letters, memos and notes. The fourth semester marks simple compositions such as narrative, descriptive, comparison and contrast, and cause and effect. The third school year is begun with academic writing in which topic sentence, supporting sentences, concluding sentence, coherence, cohesion, unity, types of paragraphs are introduced. The second term introduces a general introduction to academic essay in which thesis statements, and introductory, concluding, developmental paragraphs and the essay outline are dealt with. The seventh term signals the end of the writing curriculum when all types of academic essays are handled. The whole learning process indicates that the writing skill is viewed of significance. Another common way is to pay greater attention to updating teaching methodologies. Every year, seminars and reports of science research on teaching methodologies concerning writing skills are held to create opportunities for the teaching staff to make contributions to improving the quality of teaching and learning. Of all the teachers’ contributions, any research on learners’ learning process is highly appreciated for its usefulness to students’ writing attainments. However hard the teachers have tried, there are a lot of problems facing the students when learning writing skill as follows. First, the students find it hard to get used to academic writing as they may be influenced by the negative transference of Vietnamese ways of writing into English ones. For example, when asked to write an argumentative essay for the statement: "Capital punishment should be radically abolished. To what extent do you agree with the statement? Why?" one student wrote an argument in a Vietnamese-like way: "Some people said that capital punishment don't need existing but others think that it still should keep." In another case, being asked to write an introductory paragraph of an essay basing on the topic "Tourism in Vietnam", one student began her paragraph with "Traveling is a hobby of many people and also mine". In short, the first problem facing students when learning writing skills may stem from negative interference of their mother tongue. In addition, students' limited background knowledge about the writing topic is likely another source of the problem. Typically, when asked to formulate a thesis statement beginning with “foot and mouth disease”, surprisingly, three students produced such incorrect and funny thesis statements as “Foot and mouth disease is dangerous because children do not brush their teeth properly”, “Foot and mouth disease is due to unproper teeth cleaning” and “Foot and mouth disease only happens in the old people and children”. Marking their writing assignment made us shocked. However, these heartbreaking phenomena are not unpopular among the students. Moreover, poor organization, lack of coherence and cohesion, inappropriate sentence construction and erroneous grammar structures, incorrect spelling and faulty mechanics of writing seem to be the most worrying problems facing the students. For example, when asked to write an argumentative essay on the topic: “Should couples have sexual relations before getting married or not? Why?”, one student began the essay with the thesis statement: “For that reason, other people said that having sexual relations before getting married was not accepted and, our government should give strong law specially to reduce this problem at minimum. In my opinion, I support the second thinking.” In conclusion, students' poor writing skill is one of the most serious problems affecting their academic attainment. More sadly, they tend to give neither enough information and examples nor illustrations to support the stated ideas in the thesis statement. They often develop a new idea that is not found in the thesis statement. Most typically, being asked to write a cause and effect essay basing on the topic “causes and effects of wars”, one student began with the thesis statement: “War is caused by many reasons” and then supported it with “At that time, when everybody have right to live peaceful, children have right to go to school, womans have right to elect. Somewhere in the world, wars happen. A lot of people are taking part in bloody battle.” In deed, students often lack supporting ideas for their statements. These examples indicate that the students' quality of learning writing skills has not been as high as expected. Therefore, there is an urgent need to have some investigations into the reasons for students’ failure in learning academic writing and into solutions to the problems at the English Department, MSA. 1.2 Statement of the Problem All the fore-mentioned problems facing the students at the English Department of MSA can be traced back to the following reasons. As for learning curriculum, the limited time allocated to teaching and learning academic writing seems to be the most prominent. Only 40 periods are often reserved for separated writing skills in a school year. Due to the limited time, the students may find writing very difficult to learn and to master. The second reason may lie in the way of assessing students’ academic attainment. In fact, the only way to assess students’ academic attainment at MSA is the final examination. In other words, the focus has been made more on the learning product than the learning process. Therefore, the student’s attainment may not be assessed comprehensively and precisely. As for teachers, it is supposed that an appropriate teaching methodology has not been applied to our real context. Furthermore, up to now no teaching materials have been effectively adapted to our context. These factors may affect students’ learning attainments. In my opinion, the solution to be tested to address such problems should be started with our teaching methodology. This idea created strong inspiration for me to study on “Using portfolios in teaching academic writing to the third-year students at English Department of Military Science Academy: A quasi-experimental research”. 1.3 Purpose and Research Hypothesis of the Study 1.3.1 Purpose of the Study The study on “using portfolios in teaching academic writing to the third-year students at English Department of Military Science Academy: A quasi-experimental research” was carried out with a view to: - identifying the significant difference between pre-test and post-test scores after applying portfolios in teaching academic writing. - determining the effect of using portfolios on students’ writing performance; 1.3.2 Research Hypothesis This study was designed to test the following hypothesis: "When the students use portfolios in their academic writing, their writing performance in the post-test is better than that of the pre-test" 1.4 Scope of the Study The study is limited to investigating the effect of using portfolios in teaching academic writing to the third year students of the English Department at the Military Science Academy; therefore, the study was carried out on the subjects of 22 third-year undergraduates at MSA. 1.5 Significance of the Study The study will be of the theory of ESL writing as well as practical significance for the following reasons. First, the outcome of the study could be used as evidence of the impact of portfolios on students' academic writing performance so that decisions could be made on whether portfolios should be encouraged or not. Second, if the use of portfolio is effective, the decisions on how they can be used extensively should be made. 1.6. Structure of the Study Chapter I: Introduction This chapter provides an overview of the study, including the rationale, the purpose, the hypothesis, the scope, the significance, the structure of the study, and the definitions of terms related to the research. Chapter II: Literature Review This chapter conceptualizes the issues and theories of the importance of writing, approaches to teaching writing skills, the differences between the product and process approaches, characteristics of process writing, the effect of process writing, definitions of portfolio, the content of portfolios, principles in using portfolios, portfolio assessment, stages in implementing portfolio, and the effect of portfolio on students' writing performance. Chapter III: The Study This chapter presents the actual procedures of the study: the data collection method and arguments for the research method, the context, participants, sampling, instruments, procedures of data collection, data analysis, findings and discussions of findings. Chapter IV: Implications This chapter discusses the implications of the study to teaching academic essays to the third-year students at the English Department of at MSA. Chapter V: Conclusion The last chapter of the study summarizes main points discussed in the paper and presents limitations of the study and recommendations. 1.7 Definition of Terms Following are the definitions of the terms used in this research: Academic writing: As Oshima and Hogue (1991) put it, “academic writing as the name implies, is the kind of writing that you are required to do in college or university. It differs from other kinds of writing (personal, literary, journalistic, business, etc.) in several ways. Its differences can be explained in part by its special audiences, tone, and purpose” (p.2) Essay: Essay is defined by Smalley and Ruetten (1995) as a group of paragraphs that develop more than one controlling idea. Thesis statement: Smalley and Ruetten (1995) and Boardman and Frydenberg (2002) define thesis statement as the most important sentence of an essay. It is the main idea of the whole essay, and frequently shows the number and the content of the body paragraphs of the essays. A thesis statement consists of two main parts: the topic and the controlling idea. It should be placed at the end of the introductory paragraph. Topic: According to Boardman and Frydenberg (2002), and Smalley and Ruetten (1995), topic is the subject of the essay; it is what the essay is about. Controlling idea: Boardman and Frydenberg (2002), and Smalley and Ruetten (1995) cite that controlling idea serves to state an idea or an attitude about the topic that controls what the paragraphs in the essay will discuss. Introductory paragraph: Boardman and Frydenberg (2002) summarize that the first paragraph in an essay is called the introductory paragraph. This has twofold purposes: to get the reader’s attention and to introduce the subject of the essay. A good introductory paragraph consists of at least two general statements and the thesis statement; and the thesis statement should come at the end of the paragraph. Developmental paragraphs: According to Smalley and Ruetten (1995), developmental paragraphs are paragraphs that develop various aspects of the topic and the central idea. They may discuss the causes, effects, reasons, examples, processes, classifications, or points of comparisons and contrast. They may also be descriptive or narrative. Concluding paragraph: Boardman and Frydenberg (2002), and Rooks (1997) define that the concluding paragraph is the last paragraph of the essay. A good concluding paragraph may consist of a summary of the main points made in the body paragraphs; or a restatement of the thesis statement in a different way; or a final comment on the topic; or a combination between a restatement with a final comment or a summary with a final comment. Parallelism: The arrangement of two or more elements of a sentence in grammatically equivalent patterns: noun is lined up with noun, verb with verb, phrase with phrase, and clause with clause. Agreement of pronoun and antecedent: The correspondence in number and gender between a noun and its antecedent. Agreement of subject and verb: The correspondence in number and gender between a verb and its subject. Sentence fragment: A part of sentence is punctuated as if it were a whole one. Unity: According to Dodge (1986), unity in an essay is developed when one general idea governs the entire essay. Coherence: The glue that holds sentences together. Cohesion: Cohesion in an essay is realized by dense clusters of cohesive ties, giving a very close texture which serves to signal that the meanings of the parts are strongly interdependent and that the whole forms a single unity. Brainstorming: Raimes (1983) recommends that students should say or write as much as possible about a topic without worrying about grammar spelling, organization, or the quality of the ideas. Process writing: Tsui (1996) reviews that process writing involves 4 stages of writing; namely, generating ideas, drafting, revising and editing and focuses more on content than form. Portfolio: Kemp and Toperoff (1998) specify that a portfolio is a living, growing collection of a student’s work - each addition is carefully selected by the student for a specific reason which she/he will explain. The overall purpose of the portfolio is to enable the student to demonstrate to others learning and progress. The greatest value of portfolios is that, in building them, students become active participants in the learning process and its assessment. Writing content in process writing: According to Tsui (1996), writing content is seen as a process of creating, discovering and extending meaning rather than a process of putting down preconceived and well-formed meaning. Chapter II: Literature review 2.1 Introduction This chapter is concerned with some of the most important issues in the theories of teaching writing skills. Two main features will be taken into consideration; namely, theoretical backgrounds of writing approaches and using portfolios in teaching writing skills. 2.2 Review of the Literature 2.2.1 The Importance of Writing Though it is said that we may teach a foreign language without teaching the written language, there are plausible pedagogical reasons for the teaching of writing a desirable job. First, teaching writing enables teachers to provide their students with different learning styles and needs. Moreover, writing enables the students to see some tangible evidence of their making progress in the target language. Most importantly, Byrne (1979) cites that the role of written language is undeniable in certain informal settings and in most formal ones while the combination of written language and spoken one is of special importance in teaching and learning a foreign language. For these reasons, the status of writing in foreign language teaching has been higher and higher. In addition, in a social context, when individuals learn and know how to write, they are likely to take on social roles. Accordingly, Tribble (1996) says that when people learn how to write, not only are they developing a new skill, but they are also “getting involved in an activity in which questions of social role, power, and the appropriate use of language cannot be avoided” (p.14). Apart from that, through the mastery of writing, individuals come to be fully effective in an intellectual organization, in the management of everyday affairs, in the expression of ideas and arguments. In deed, the role of writing in all spheres of life, especially in studying a foreign language, is of obvious importance. In short, there is little doubt that writing plays a very important role in all walks of life in general, in learning a foreign language in particular. 2.2.2 Approaches to Teaching Writing Skills According to Nunan (1991), there are various ways to teach writing but the two most common applied at present are product and process approaches. 2.2.2.1 The Product Approach Traditional approaches to the teaching of writing focus on the product. In other words, the product approach is a traditional one that has been applied by many schools, colleges and universities in Vietnam for a long time. This approach is differently defined by different educators. Nunan (1991) reviews that the product approach favors classr

Các file đính kèm theo tài liệu này:

  • docluanvan.doc
  • pptbaoveluanvan.ppt
Luận văn liên quan