APPLYING COLLABORATIVE TECHNIQUE TO DEVELOP THE STUDENTS’ WRITING SKILL IN TEACHING ENGLISH AS FOREIGN LANGUAGE (TEFL)
By Agustina, M. Pd.
Widyaiswara Muda Balai Diklat Keagamaan Palembang
Dosen IAIN RF Palembang
Writing is a difficult activity either in a mother tongue or in a foreign language. However, it is essential for the students to overcome their writing constraints because they use the writing skill for personal, academic, and future professional purposes. This difficulty is worsen by the poor quantity and quality of teaching method. Most of teaching and learning process is done in lectures, discussion, and exercises. Some researchers proposed the procedures in writing process through collaborative technique. Collaborative learning is a student-centered approach and the teacher becomes a facilitator for the students as they construct their own knowledge. It is a teaching technique where two or more students produce one written product, realize mutual goals, brainstorm ideas, give feedback, and proof read edit other’s writing. This article discusses on the rationales of applying collaborative technique and the process of teaching writing in classrooms.
Key words: Writing, Collaborative technique, TEFL
As an international language, the role of English in globalization era is very important. The need of English proficiency has been increasing significantly. It can be seen through the job requirements in which the English proficiency is put as the first priority in employees’ recruitment. One of the English proficiencies is writing. Graham and Perin (2007) state that writing skill is a predictor of academic success and a basic requirement for participation in the global economy. A wide range of jobs require employees to produce written documentation, visual/text presentations, memoranda, technical reports, and electronic messages.
Based on the writer’s interview with some students from Senior High Schools as well as university and the writer’s own teaching experience, the students still have difficulties in writing business correspondence, not only on the grammatical sentence formation but also on the use of technical words, paragraph organization, and topic mastery (Risnawati, 2008), but also in coherence (Nadjamuddin et al., 2005).
Referring to Byrne (1988) in Kareviati (2004), writing is a difficult activity either in a mother tongue or in a foreign language, no wonder if any student has writing problems especially when writing in EFL. However, it is essential for the students to overcome their writing constraints because they use the writing skill for personal, academic, and future professional purposes.
There are some factors contributing to the difficulties, one of them is the poor quantity and quality of teaching method as stated by Nadjamuddin et al. (2005). Most of teaching and learning process is done in lectures, discussion, and exercises. Therefore, the motivation of the students is relative low. In his research on teaching English at Polytechnics, Nugraha (2006) claims that one of the suitable teaching techniques for business English is small group simulation, because this student-centered activities provides the students with interactive exchanges and put the teacher in the role of communication reviewer rather than giving drills or other grammatically based activities.
Interactive exchanges in small group are the idea of collaborative technique. This technique enables students not only learn their own mistakes and weaknesses, but also learn from others’ mistakes and weaknesses (Alwasillah, 2008). In relation to teaching writing, Rahim et al. (2008) propose the procedures in writing process through collaborative technique. An action research did by Kurniawan (2008), also supports the promising result of this technique. Therefore, the writer is interested in discussing why collaborative technique is suitable to apply for developing students’ writing skill business correspondence and how the procedure is.
II. The Discussion
II. 1 The Concept of Writing
A hard working is needed for a-good piece of writing. Many people have the mistaken notion that being able to write well is talent that either has or doesn’t have. This not necessarily true, if someone is willing to learn some strategies and practice them, he/she will be able to write effectively (Oshima, 1991). Since writing is communicating and good writing helps the readers to understand the ideas as clearly as possible (Leki, 1995), the writer should present a clear ideas, thoughts and expression, knowledge of different genre to suit the different purposes, and the ability to use conventional spelling, grammar, and punctuation. These opinions are supported by Alwasillah (2008) that writing is not as simple as what people think, because it needs hard working. The writer should express what he thinks as clear as possible because the reader is not in front of him. Good writing should be able to send the writer’s message to the readers that the readers do not need to get any oral explanation.
Therefore, Alwasilah (2008: 173-175) states the characteristics that should be possessed by a reader-oriented writing. Some of the characteristics are:
1) Accuracy, precision
The choice of words (phrases, Clauses, sentences) and the use of terminologies in the composition should be accurate.
Every word should be considered in terms of topics, readers or context.
The word which are used do not lead to ambigious meaning.
A composition should be complete by presenting all of the elements or components which have been stated conventionally.
The scientific language is characterized by its consistency, the use of numbers, abbreviation, spelling, punctuation, etc.
The writer should be able to control the length of the sentence, in order not to make the reader get bored.
The order is determined by convention or logic.
Academic writing should be simple and following the international standardization.
Moreover, Nunan (1989) states that successful writing involves (1) mastering the mechanics of letter formation, (2) mastering and obeying conventions of spelling and punctuation, (3) using the grammatical system to convey one’s intended meaning, (4) organizing content at the level of the paragraph and the complete text to reflect given/new information and topic/comment structures, (5) polishing and revising one’s initial efforts, and (6) selecting an appropriate style for one’s audience.
II.2 Approaches in Teaching Writing
Basically, teaching writing can be classified into two approaches: product- and process-focused approach (Oshima, 1991).
1) The product-Focused Approach
This so-called traditional approach has been popular in 1970s, emphasizes more on the final result of writing. Nunan (1989) claims that the teacher who follows this approach is usually not interested in the quality of ideas but only concerns with the linguistics competence such as grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, and so on. The classroom activities are copying and imitating, reordering sentences to make a good paragraph, reordering paragraph to make a good text, constructing paragraphs based on the given key words or sentences.
2) The Process-Focused Approach
Sun (2009) states that process-focused approach to the teaching of writing has been advocated in contrast with the traditional-product-oriented method of teaching writing, and has been generally accepted and applied by English teachers in their classroom teaching of writing. This approach is aimed at allowing the students to express their feeling or idioms freely, with not very strict allocated time, because they have to plan, organize, redraft, and edit in order to achieve a final product which meets the reader’s expectation. It also intended to lead the students to be aware of how good or skilled writers behave and what process is involved when they are writing (Suprianto, 2000). It means that the approach allows the students to the stages that any writing goes through rather than only produce writing. Moreover, Oshima (2000) states that writing is a process, not a product. It means that a piece of writing is never complete; that is, it is always possible to review and revise, and review and revise again. In shorts, writing is impossible to be done at once because it needs revisions.
Furthermore, Oshima (2000) adds that there are four main stages in writing process: prewriting, planning, revising drafts, and writing the final copy. While Peregoy and Boyle (1993) students are doing prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing.
Furthermore, Sun (2009) summarizes his research concerning the process-focused approach, that the approach to teaching writing should be a process including several stages, namely prewriting or invention activities, drafting, seeking feedback from peers or instructor, revising on the whole-text level, revising the paragraph or sentence level, proofreading, and publishing. In essence, process-focused approach to teaching writing focuses on the writing process rather than the final product. Finally, Sun (2009) claims that good product depends on the good process.
II. 3 Collaborative Technique
Most students are used to the traditional classroom or foundation learning. The teacher gives and they receive. They have not been asked to think and actively participate in their own learning. This passive approach to learning assumes students learn independently (Hiltz, 1998). However, Hiltz (1998) adds that an active approach sees learning as a social process that is not only active but interactive. Collaborative learning is a student-centered approach and the teacher becomes a facilitator for the students as they construct their own knowledge (Lee-Ernest, 2008). Collaborative technique is derived from the collaborative learning (Alwasilah, 2000). Gokhale (1995) defines collaborative learning as ‘instruction method in which students at various performance levels work together in small groups toward a common goal. Interaction and collaboration among students complement the affective factors in foreign language learning. Self-esteem, empathy, reduced anxiety, and improved attitude and motivation are all fostered. Furthermore, collaborative technique allows students to get more chance to be involved directly as well as get more responsibility in the process of learning.
Collaborative technique or co-authoring is a teaching technique where two or more students produce one written product (Graham and Perin 2007), realize mutual goals (Tinzmann, et al, 1990), brainstorm ideas, give feedback, and proof read edit other’s writing (Larsen and Freeman, 2000).
The following figure shows the process of writing in classroom using Collaborative Technique (Rahim, 2008).
Figure 1: Developing a Process of writing in Classroom Using Collaborative
|Peers act as readers, generate ideas, provide feedback|
Figure 1 shows a flow chart on the stages of process writing in collaborative technique. The activity encourages students to generate their own ideas with their friends. They will select and organize these ideas before they begin to write their letters. The students will repeat the process until they are satisfied with their letter and are ready to hand in their writing which is the final draft.
2. 4 Advantages of using Collaborative Technique
Tinzman et al (1990) claim that research strongly supports collaborative learning over individualized learning in variety of tasks. Collaborative learning has been found to promote higher quality reasoning strategies and problem solving skills. Moreover, it has been reported to demonstrate greater academic achievement than traditionally taught counterparts.
Alwasilah (2000) states advantages of using collaborative technique in the composition classroom. They are:
1) collaboration allows students to be cooperative and tolerant to the others’ opinions and improves the skills in formulating and expressing ideas (Screnck, 1986);
2) it allows students to learn from each other, as confident students will model successful writing practices for struggling students (Lunsford, 1986);
3) it supports students to learn i a group, and create working atmosphere which they will face in the future (Allen,1986);
4) it allows the students to be accustomed to correcting themselves and writing draft repeatedly, in which the students as writers become the readers (Brookes and Grundy, 1990) and
5) in shorts, writing collaboratively is a social process, in which the writers find out the mutual comprehension. In order to achieve the comprehension, each member plays his role in accordance with the number of social and interaction rules. These members set a mutual objective, have different performance skills, interact in one community, and take distance to the texts (Murray, 1992).
Furthermore, Alwasilah (2000) reports the benefits of using the collaborative writing through his research. They are:
1) It allows the students to realize the complexity of writing and self weaknesses;
2) It can be used as a strategy in teaching writing from primary to higher education; and
3) It motivates students to write, learn other people’s strategy of writing and read more references.
Tinzman et al (1990) state that members of collaborative groups become more curious, motivated, and caring of others. Collaborative learning creates the cognitive interdependence among the groups, because they realize that the success of the group depends on upon the success of each member. This idea is supported by Cabrera et al. (2005) who claims that collaboration encourage collective responsibility in a diverse world. To foster the critical thinking is also the advantage of collaboration. Moreover, findings suggest that as these teachers improved their lessons most changes focused on enhancing students’ vocabulary development, increasing students’ participation in classroom discourse, and providing scaffolds for student writing.
II. 5 Business Correspondence
Correspondence is essential in establishing and conforming transactions, therefore it is a part of a successful business. Communication through exchange of letters is known as correspondence. While, the communication in day to-day transactions among businessmen is called business correspondence. Business correspondence or business letter is a written communication between two parties. Businessmen may write letters to supplier of goods and also receive letters from the suppliers. Customers may write letters to businessmen seeking information about availability of goods, price, quality, samples, etc. Or place order for purchase of goods. Thus, Dugger (2000) states that business letter may be defined as a media or means through which views are expressed and ideas or information is communicative in writing in the process of business activities.
II.6 Structure of Business Letter
The following is an example of an enquiry letter (request for special terms)
Dear Sir or Madam
Please send us your current catalogue and price list for bicycle. We are interested in models for both men and women, and also for children.
We are the leading bicycle dealers in this city where cycling is popular, and have branches in five neighboring towns. If the quality of your products is satisfactory and the prices are reasonable, we expect to place regular orders for fairly large numbers.
In the circumstances please indicate whether you will allow us a special discount. This would enable us to maintain the low selling prices which have been an important reason for the growth of our business. In return we would be prepared to place orders for a guaranteed annual minimum number of bicycles, the figure to be mutually agreed.
We look forward to receiving your reply.
II. 7 The Importance of Business Letter
Now-a-days business operations are not restricted to any locality, state or nation. Today production takes place in one area but consumption takes place everywhere. Since the businessmen as well as customers live in far off places, they don’t have sufficient time to contact each other personally. Thus, there arise the needs for writing letters. In the past the situation was not so. Business letters were not essential in olden days. But now the importance of letters has increased because of vast expansion of business, increase in demand as well as supply of goods. The followings are the importance of business letters.
1) Help in maintaining proper relationship
Now-a-days business activities are not confident to any one area or locality. The businessmen as well as customers are scattered throughout the country. Thus, there is a need to maintain proper relationship among them by using appropriate means of communication. Here business letters play an important role. The customers can write letters to the businessmen seeking information about products and businessmen also supply various information to customers. This helps them to carry on business on national and international basis.
2) Inexpensive and convenient mode
Though there are other models of communication like telephone, telex, fax, etc. But business information can be provided and obtained economically and conveniently, through letters.
3) Create and maintain goodwill
Sometimes business letters are written to create and enhance goodwill. Businessmen at times send letters to enquire about complaints and suggestions of their customers. They also send letters to inform the customers about the availability of a new product, clearance sale, etc. All this results in cordial relations with the customers, which enhance the goodwill of the business.
4) Serve as evidence
All facts and figures in a conversation that normally take place among businessmen cannot be memorized. Through letters, all of the facts can be recorded. Thus, letters can serve as evidence in case of dispute between two parties.
5) Help in expansion of business
Business requires information regarding competing products, prevailing prices, promotion, market activities, etc. If the trader has to run from place to place to get information, he will end up doing nothing. It will simply result in loss of time. But through business letters, he can make all enquiries about the products and the markets. He can also receive orders from different countries, and thus enhance sales
II.8. The Study related to the Collaborative Technique
In line with the effectiveness of collaborative technique, Alwasilah (2001) conducted a research which was aimed at describing the effectiveness of collaborative writing as perceived by students of writing course at university level. This study was also aimed at describing the effectiveness of collaborative writing compared with the common practice of writing in high schools. They were asked to read the opinion article from newspaper published in Indonesia and to critique in Indonesian. The results show that the respondents are likely to appreciate experience of multiple drafting. The students’ writing becomes not mere assignments, but the heart and soul of the entire term. This study is similar to the writer main discussion because the writer will also study the effectiveness of collaborative technique at college level. Anyhow, the difference is the writer focus on the business correspondence not on writing critique.
A class action research did by Kurniawan (2008) shows a significant result of collaborative technique. Writing good thesis statement is the main theme of his study. In his action research, Kurniawan has an assistant as the observer during the process of collaboration. In this study, the writer will handle the experiment and the control groups by herself. Furthermore, a research on collaborative technique in tertiary level was also conducted by Rahim et al. (2008). They applied the technique to improve students’ essays.
It can be concluded that teaching business correspondence using collaborative technique helps the students develop their achievement. The collaborative technique is a pleasant technique to get involved, sufficient opportunity is given for the corrections, the students receive positive and negative feedback from the members of the group. Thus, the English teachers, especially those who teach business correspondence are suggested to apply collaborative technique in order to facilitate the students to work actively by giving feedback to their peers.
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