Sample research paper on Developing Creative Writing Skills in English Language

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Introduction

Assessment in English as a second language has often focused on improving students' speaking, listening and reading skills. In the process of doing this, it has ignored the development of the students' writing skills in English language. This has further neglected the much needed attention in regard to assessments and research writings compared to other areas of skills. This is regardless of efforts that have been exerted by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education and the General English Inspectorate whose aims are raising English language standards in students. Many are of the view that there are many problems that generate in organizing ideas in writing, which further decrease the ability to use English, as a tool of realizing its pragmatic functions and meta-functions. To avoid these problems, there is a need for teachers to improve their ways of instruction and assessment (Li, 2011).

This paper will discuss the implementation of the suggested strategy based on E-portfolio on developing creative writing skills among intermediate stage students in Kuwait. Moreover, the output of this study will help English language instructors to deal with an innovative methodology for tracking their students' progress over the years of their studies.

Many people are inundated with technology in their lives, and because of these many students are increasingly becoming technology savvy. This is evident, by the way they have responded to technology either by teaching others or learning more on them. Because of this rapid advance in technology, there have emerged powerful and iterative modes of capturing student work which has enabled teachers’ to assess their students’ learning abilities. One of the technological devices is an E-Portfolio which provides a means of collecting assigned work, as well as students' accomplishments in non-classroom settings. This device is designed to help teachers and others to assess and aggregate or disaggregate the results depending on the purposes of the assessment.

A study conducted by Ritzhaupt et al. (2010) reveals that electronic portfolios have a clear picture of the student's growth and development. The findings of this study also show that a well-designed portfolio can also support quality learning through the integration of theory and practice. It further reveals that a well designed portfolio also helps in promoting self-assessment, reflection and autonomy, and further still in the enhancement of the program relevance. Through this research, it is clear that e- portfolio can be used to promote the generic skills included in graduate attribute lists or profiles. It has also been seen as an effective assessment tool, not only because of it providing a feedback loop, but also because it enhances learners' understanding of writing as a recursive process (Remova & Andrew, 2011).

Literature Review

This review will describe literature relevance on research purposes. It will also outline three main areas of research purposes namely (1) The importance of E-Portfolio, (2) the importance of authentic assessment, and (3) the creative writing skills of English language.

The Importance of E-Portfolio

E-Portfolios are described as appropriate assessment methods; they can be used for assessments at various levels. For instance, a faculty can use them as assessment tools for specific assignments, such as culminating activities in a course. Ritzhaupt et al. (2010) describes the validation of the modified electronic portfolio as a student perspective instrument. The analysis according to his description includes various forms of analysis such as descriptive analysis and exploratory factor analysis. He further suggests that student perspectives toward e-Portfolios are multidimensional, and they involve four distinct and highly internally underlying constructs. He concludes that e-Portfolios are reliable assessing systems.

Moreover, E-Portfolio systems are designed to help both the students and tutors. Through E-Portfolios students can develop a greater sense of responsibility in both the course process and the products, or assessment artifacts that they have to produce as part of their study program. By using e-portfolios, students can also integrate on their career development as they leave higher education and embark on their professional career (Luchoomun, McLuckie, & Wesel, 2010). Alenezi (2010) examined the effect of using e-Portfolio in science for elementary students, its achievement and the parents' satisfaction towards it. This examination by Alenezi consisted of 49 students who were assigned into two groups namely; the controlled group and the experimental group. Results indicated statistically significance between the two groups; however, the results did not give evidence of high satisfaction among parents.

Another important aspect of e-Portfolio is that it provides a dual focus on basic knowledge retention as well as the application and demonstration of teaching related skill that span on an entire teaching education program and beyond. The strengths of portfolios are magnificent because of the connection that students make between their professional growth as a result of coursework and fieldwork during the process of learning. Fielder, Mullen, & Finnegan (2009) used Engestrom's cultural historical activity theory to explain how portfolio tools are used to mediate the experiences of pre-service teachers. Through his analysis, it was revealed that the networked nature of portfolio arose from the network of activities.

Portfolio is the most common method used in presenting the evidence for prior learning. Brinkie et al. (2010) investigated assessor's approaches on the portfolio in the context of assessing prior knowledge. Ten assessors affiliated with six educational domains were involved in the portfolio assessment; they used a retrospective, open-ended interview and questionnaire to investigate assessors' approaches. However, data analysis showed that there were no significant differences between them.

The Importance of Authentic Assessment

Bullens (2002) described the implementation of various forms of assessment methods that can be used to show any form of authentic picture in students' progress and abilities. The targeted population consisted of 40 eighth grade students in two classes. The problems that came out with these assessment methods were documented, and they revealed that many teachers in the targeted school were not taking note of the authentic assessment methods laid. This study also reveals that a majority of students experienced test anxiety and authentic research methods.  Solution strategies suggested various implementation assessment forms that included components such as the rubrics, checklists, and portfolios and teachers made tests. Post intervention data indicated that students like to be graded with authentic assessment methods.

Furthermore, Borowski (2001) described a plan for using student portfolios as a tool for authentic assessment. The targeted population was classes of 5th, 8th, and 12th graders in three urban school settings. Analysis of data showed that, the current traditional assessment methods focused on memorization rather than the acquisition of knowledge. Solution strategies documented the validity of portfolios as a more balanced and valid assessment tool. The teachers found that although the implementation of portfolio assessments involved major investments in time, money and storage, they proved to be valuable tools for individualizing the learning process and in documenting student progress over time.

The Creative Writing Skills of English Language

Ahour (2009) conducted a study that was aimed at finding various contributions that a particular writing gives on writing performances. For instance various researches have revealed that there are several factors that contribute to variance in writing scores. This research further found that students have weaknesses in components of grammar and cohesion.

Writing skills are essential for satisfactory academic progress. A study conducted by Parker, McMaster, and Burns (2011), examined the technical features of potential instructional-level criteria in writing. Weekly writing performances were assessed with 85 first graders for a period of over 12 weeks by use of picture word and sentence copying. Various scoring procedures across picture word and sentence copying prompts produced reliable alternate-form correlation and statically significant relationships with a standardized writing assessment.

Problem Statement

Many factors contribute to the weakness of students' creative writing skills. These factors include; the student's unawareness of the importance of the writing skills, inexperienced English language novice teachers, insufficient time allocation in teaching and practicing the writing skills, the absence of feedback and standardized evaluation rubrics and writing as a cumulative skill throughout the years. Weiss, et al. (1997) identifies 11 types of difficulties on graduate students and suggests methods to help alleviate them. Major difficulties include; language barriers, cultural barriers, emotional barriers, lack of commitment, and lack of ability. On the other hand, Writing skills are essential for satisfactory academic progress (Parker, McMaster, and Burns, 2011, p.158). Early identification and intervention are critical for preventing the long term negative consequences of persistent writing problems (Berninger, Nielsen, Abbott, Wijsman & Raskind, 2008).

Three sub-questions emerge from the main research question, which are:

  • What are the suitable creative writing skills for intermediate stage students?
  • What are the components for the suggested strategy based on E-Portfolio for developing creative writing skills in English language among intermediate stage students in Kuwait?
  • What is the effect of the suggested strategy based on E-Portfolio for developing creative writing skills in English language among intermediate stage students in Kuwait?


Research Significance

This research is aimed at a playing a significant role in helping students to develop their writing skills by urging them to share their writing works with their teachers and peers. This will be enhanced by students documenting their writing skills and saving their works in E-Portfolios. By doing this, they will be able to save their time and their teachers time in reviewing and assessing their writings. E-Portfolio can be a basis of graduate studies and job qualification if it is well-maintained. (Ritzhaupt, Ndoye and Parker 2010). E-Portfolio will also be beneficial if adopted by the ministry of education for implementation in the governmental schools. They will also promote self-paced learning as well as collaborative learning among students.

Research Objectives

Writing is a skill that is developed over time. Performance-based assessment in the context of portfolio only allows the demonstration of the students’ knowledge and ability (Fielder, Mullen, & Finnegan, 2009). In this regard, this research is also aimed at achieving the following research outcomes:

  • Assigning the suitable creative writing skills for intermediate stage students.
  • Assigning the components for the suggested strategy based on E-Portfolio for developing creative writing skills in English language among intermediate stage students in Kuwait.
  • Investigating the effect of the suggested strategy on E-Portfolio for developing creative writing skills in English language among intermediate stage students in Kuwait.


Definition of Terms
Learning Strategy.

Learning strategy is defined as a specific action or technique that learners use in order to progress in developing a second or foreign language skill (Wong, 2011).Researchers further define strategy as the specific step a student uses for writing. They classify learning strategy into five sub-strategies, namely:

  • Pre-writing strategies: brainstorming, clustering, questioning and listing.
  • Drafting strategies: webbing.
  • Revising strategies: using rubrics.
  • Editing strategies: using resource material and models.
  • Publishing strategies: publishing using E-Portfolio.

E-portfolio

E-Portfolio or electronic portfolio is defined as a collection of work used to document student achievement or progress (Yao, Aldrich, Foster, & Pecina, 2009).The researcher further defines E-Portfolio as the digital collection of students' works displayed for a specific purpose,

Creativity

Creativity is defined as the ability of producing original, novel and useful work or idea (Pishghadam, & Mehr, 2011). It is further defined as the ability to produce a piece of writing according to the following constituents:

  • Proficiency: is described as the ability to create a sizeable number of ideas.
  • Flexibility: is described as the ability to have a variety of ideas.
  • Authenticity: the ability to produce unusual, unique ideas or idea that is infrequent.
  • Elaboration: the ability to develop or embellish ideas and produce many details.

Creative Writing Skills

Creative writing skill is defined as the ability to originate with free imagination in regard to a particular topic on any form of writing. It involves going beyond the ordinary without deviating from normal values. It also involves coming up with ideas that are considered different from other forms of ideas that already exist. In order to achieve positive results in creative writing, it is essential to have any form of restrained thoughts (Temizkan, 2011). It is further defined as specific abilities which help the students put their thoughts into words in a meaningful and logical form based on four creative writing skills dimensions namely; authenticity, proficiency, flexibility and elaboration.

Authentic Assessment

Authentic assessment refers to any use of instructions and assessments that are mirrored in the real world tasks rather than a contrived learning experience (Keyser, & Howell, 2008). It can further be defined as the development by a student to develop responses rather than select from predetermined options. Authentic assessment encourages students to evaluate their own work also allows multiple judgments in a writing work.

Research Methodology
The Study Model

The method adopted to fulfill the aims of the proposed study is the experimental design which is considered the most appropriate method by testing its hypothesis. The students will be randomly assigned into experimental and control group. Randomized subject control group design will be adopted to test the students' development. In addition, the researcher will use techniques from qualitative research for result analysis

Research Variables

There are two types of variables that were used in this paper, namely; the independent variables and the dependent variables. The Independent Variables also known as categorical variables are described as the assessment methods that use E-Portfolio and the traditional assessment methods. Whereas the dependent variables are students' creative writing skills that are measured by their dimensions: authenticity, proficiency, flexibility and elaboration.

The Control Variables, in this research, the control variables are limited to: Age Nationality, previous and social experience, educational level, information technology skills and the pre-creative writing skills test scores.
Population and Sample

The target population of the proposed research will be all intermediate stage students in Kuwait governmental girls' schools. The students' ages range between 13-14 years and they should hold the Kuwaiti nationality. The students should also pass the pre-creative writing test, in order to take the designed creative writing course. The proposed research will be applied on a class of 60 intermediate stage students in a governmental girls' school, in one of Kuwait's Governorates.

Research Hypothesis

The proposed research hypothesized the suggested strategy based on E-Portfolio and the improvement of creative writing skills in English language among intermediate stage students in Kuwait. In this regard, there was a sub-hypothesis which was derived from the main research hypothesis, and it included the suggested strategy based on E-Portfolio which improves authenticity among intermediate stage students in Kuwait.

Data Collection Method
The Students' Creative Writing Test

This tool is used to test the students' development. A pretest and posttest will be analyzed in order to compare the development of creative writing skills of the experimental and control group.

English Language Creative Writing Skills Checklist

English language creative writing skills checklist will be used to assess students' writing skills. This will be made possible by monitoring students' progress after acquiring each writing skill.

Estimated Research Cost

In order to fulfill the proposed study goals, the researcher needs the following requirements:

  • Estimated cost of 1500 BD for seat rental from www.efolioworld.com
  • Estimated cost of 35 BD stationary (photocopy papers, pencils and files).
  • 30 CDs costing 7.500 BD

    Research will be applied in the first semester of the academic year 2012/2013.The duration of the research is eighth months. A more detailed schedule is listed below:

    Literature review

    First month

    Designing Strategy            Second Month
    Measurement tools preparation            Third Month
    Research implementation            Fourth and fifth month
    Data collection and analysis

    sixth month

    Writing final report

    Seventh and eighth month



    Research will be applied in a Kuwaiti governmental girls' school in one of Kuwait's governorates.



    References
    Ahour, T. (2009). Analytic Assessment of Writing: Diagnosing Areas of Strength and Weakness in the Writing of TESL Undergraduate Students. Iranian Journal of Language Studies, 3 (2): 195-208.
    Alenezi, M. (2010). The Effect of Electronic Portfolio in Science for Elementary Students on Achievement, the Parent's and Student's Satisfaction Level . Master Thesis, Arabian Gulf University, Kingdom of Bahrain.
    Aly, M. (2006). An Analytic Study of the Postgraduate Students' Difficulties in Writing Abstracts in English. Research Report. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED493860).
    Borowski, M., Thopson, C., & Zaccaria, K. (2001). Portfolios: Authentic assessment. Master of Art Action Research Project. (Eric Document Reproduction Service No. ED 457189).
    Brinke, D., Sluijsmans, D., & Jochems, W. (2010). Assessor's Approaches to Portfolio Assessment in Assessment of Prior Learning Procedures. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35 (1): 59-74.
    Bullens, D. (2002). Authentic Assessment: Change for the Future. Master of Arts Action Research Project. (Eric Document Reproduction Service No. ED 468067).
    Fiedler, R., Mullen, L., & Finnegan, M. (2009). Portfolios in Context: A Comparative Study in Two Preservice Teacher Education Programs. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 42 (2): 99-122.
    Keyser, S., & Howell, S. (2008). The State of Authentic Assessment. Research Paper. (Eric Document Reproduction Service No ED 503679).
    Li, S. (2010). Functional Analysis of the Problems in Non-English Majors' Writings. US-China Foreign Language, 8 (9): 38-41.
    Luchoomun, D., McLuckie, J., & Wesel M. (2010). Collaborative E-Learning: E-Portfolios for Assessment, Teaching and Learning. Electronic Journal of e-learning, 8 (1): 21-30. (Available online at www.ejel.org, 2009).
    Parker, D., McMaster, K., & Burns, M. (2011). Determining an Instructional Level for Early Writing Skills. School Psychology Review, 40 (1): 158-167.
    Pishghadam, R., & Mehr, F. (2011). Learner Creativity and Performance in Written Narrative Tasks. World Journal of Education, 1 (2): 115.
    Remova, Z., & Andrew, M. (2011). Teaching and Assessing Academic Writing via the Portfolio: Benefits for Learners of English as an Additional Language. Studies in Writing Assessment in New Zealand and Australia, 16 (2):111-122.
    Ritzhaupt, A., Ndoye, A., & Parker, M. (2010). Validation of the Electronic Portfolio Student Perspective Instrument (EPSPI): Conditions under a Different Integration Initiative. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 26 (3):111-119.
    Sarsar, N. (2008). Intervention Learning Plan to Address the Issue of Poor Writing Skills Among Students of Al Ittihad Model School. Research Paper. (Eric Document Reproduction Service No. ED 503022).
    Temizkan, M. (2011). The Effect of Creative Writing Activities on the Story of Writing Skill. Educational Sciences: Theory and Practice, 11 (2): 933.   
    Wong, M. (2011). Language Learning Strategy Use: A Study of Pre-Service Teachers in Malaysia. Research Paper. (Eric Document Reproduction Service No. ED 5214115).
    Yao, Y., Aldrich, J., Foster, K., & Pecina, U. (2009). Preservice Teacher's Perception on an Electronic Portfolio as a Tool for Reflection and Teacher Certification. Journal of Educational Research & Policy Studies, 9 (1): 25.