An investigation into the relationship between the educational context and the written product of university EFL students with implications for the teaching of writing
This study investigates the sources of difficulties that Damascus University learners face in their composition writing courses at the Department of English Language and Literature. The research is carried out through a longitudinal study of both the context and the product of writing across a four year EFL writing course. Findings suggest that the writing problems that students face are inherent in the writing pedagogy in current practice at the University. Most studies in ESL/EFL writing have looked at the final product in isolation from the context in which it has been produced. This work has attempted a study of the process of teaching and evaluating writing at Damascus University across four years and analysed longitudinally, in the light of the contextual findings, the final products (written under the influence of the context described) of the same group of learners. Research on ESL writing too has focused mainly on the teaching of writing in smaller classes. This work is unique too in having to deal with a large class situation. In addition to the introduction and conclusion, the thesis comprises six main chapters. The first chapter looks at the theoretical developments in the teaching of Li writing and their impact on ESL,/EFL perceptions and writing pedagogies. Based on the insights gained from the above survey, chapters two and three attempt to evaluate the Damascus University context of teaching writing across the four year program. Chapters four and five analyse longitudinally the syntactic and the discourse level features of an authentic sample of students' written exam products, produced under the effect of the context of writing described in chapters two and three. The aim of this is twofold, to investigate the influence of the context on the product of writing and to trace the development that learners make across the four year program. Chapter six incorporates the relevant theoretical beliefs outlined in the work with an understanding of the Damascus University context to present suggestions for instructional practices that are to make of the writing course a more effective, purposeful and useful one. The approach to writing pedagogy upheld in this work focuses on the 'process' and 'context' of writing without ignoring the 'product'. Its ultimate aim is not only the improvement of the writing abilities of learners but also their growth and development through the composing experience.