TOOLS FOR DEVELOPING STUDENTS' ADVANCED FOREIGN LANGUAGE WRITING SKILLS
Elon University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Conference name: 5th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2011
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:As foreign language (FL) instructors we constantly seek ways to improve students' proficiency in the target language. Nonetheless, there is relatively little scholarship about effective teaching of FL writing especially beyond elementary or basic proficiency levels. FL curricula seem to shift from structured and form based instruction during the first two years of instruction to content (culture and literature) based one in the third and fourth years, leaving a vacuum during which students’ writing skills should be transitioning from relatively simple sentence structures to more complex and elaborate ones. For example, in university FL classrooms where students learning outcomes include demonstrated writing skills beyond sentence-level and/or simple translation tasks, knowing what kind of skills students need to achieve, as well as what types of support students seek when writing, can be helpful for instructors to better facilitate students’ learning. This project attempts to address the need for designing more successful approach to teaching advanced level writing in the FL classroom.
This preliminary study was motivated by a question shared by instructors teaching different foreign languages “how can we help students improve their writing skills?” Hence, the main objectives of the study are (1) to explore trends in students' general attitudes towards L2/FL writing and reasons for them, (2) to have a better idea of students' views as to the type of support they need to become better L2/FL writers, and (3) to learn if there are any language specific aspects in the trends in students' attitudes and the support they need for L2/FL writing.
A total of 26 students enrolled in third-year Japanese and Spanish language courses at a private university in the United States participated in this preliminary study. At the beginning of the semester in which the study was conducted, students were asked to fill out a questionnaire about their perceptions of, and attitudes towards, writing in both their native language (i.e., English) and foreign language (i.e., Japanese or Spanish). Students in both courses engaged in writing tasks with a similar theme. Once the majority of the writing assignments in each course were completed, the students filled out another questionnaire, which again asked their perceptions of and attitudes towards writing in the FL with the experience of writing during the semester taken into consideration. In order to better understand the changes, or lack thereof, in expressed student perceptions of FL writing between the pre- and post-assignment questionnaires, a subset of students further participated in the study via interviews. Students' opinions about different types of written assignments and feedback received from the instructor were also collected. Collected data are triangulated for interpretation.
Discussions of findings based on quantitative and qualitative data and implications for FL instructors to better facilitate students’ learning will be the subject of this presentation. Intriguing differences between the students’ and instructors’ perceptions will also be visited in order to depict discrepancies. Areas of further investigation will also be discussed.
Keywords: Foreign language, writing.