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Title: Examining a genre-based approach to the teaching of English writing: A case study in Saudi high schools
Contributor(s): Alharthi, Hajar Saad M (author); Chan, Eveline  (supervisor)orcid ; Macken-Horarik, Mary  (supervisor)
Conferred Date: 2017
Copyright Date: 2016
Thesis Restriction Date until: Access restricted until 2020-04-02
Open Access: No
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Abstract: Learning to produce socially purposeful and coherent texts in English can be very challenging for students learning English as a foreign language (EFL). Such learners are expected to compose readable texts, often drawing on limited exposure to decontextualised grammar lessons that are unrelated to texts. In order to pass examinations, many students resort to reproduction of memorised written passages and leave classrooms without the ability to produce English texts independently. In such contexts, genre-based approaches to literacy instruction are increasingly recognised as powerful 'ways in' to writing, based as they are on a functional model of language in context and highly supportive explicit pedagogy. The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of a genre-based approach to teaching of writing in two EFL classrooms in Saudi Arabia. Specifically, it aimed to address students' problems with learning to write purposeful and coherent texts in English and thus ease transition into tertiary study. This study focuses particularly on the value of genre pedagogy for improving the writing of Saudi high school students. The study adopted a qualitative case study design. It focused on a purpose-designed 12-week genre-based EFL teaching cycle, implemented at two different high schools in the city of Taif, Saudi Arabia in October, 2011 for the first intervention, and later in March, 2012 for the second. The participants in this study were 33 female year 12 students (15 in the first intervention, 18 in the second) and eight English teachers, including one who observed teaching of Recount and another who participated in evaluating students' pretexts. The study's findings are based on multiple data sources, including students' personal and biographical Recounts (pre-and-post intervention), individual interviews with teachers, and focus group interviews with participating students. Supplemental data included researcher's notes (teacher journals) to monitor teaching and observer notes about intervention classes. Students' written texts were collected to identify levels of English proficiency prior to the intervention and to inform design of the teaching program. Teachers' interview data collected prior to the intervention provided information about current challenges facing EFL instruction in their different classrooms, their approach to language and practical aspects of teaching writing used in schools. Similar information was sought from participating students prior to and following the intervention. Students' written texts were analysed using aspects of systemic functional linguistics (SFL), focusing on text structure, coherence and grammatical features such as tense. Interviews with teachers and students in a pre- and post-intervention focus group were analysed using thematic analysis, providing important data about attitudinal changes and complementing those observed in students' writing of Recount. Results reveal the positive impact of the intervention on students' English literacy development, specifically their production of purposeful, engaging and readable Recounts. Significantly, students' texts demonstrated enhanced control of the structure of Recount, greater length, and improved use of past tense, conjunctions and text connectives, along with more purposeful use of vocabulary. Students were able to draw on the genre-based instruction to help them achieve the purpose of the genre in their writing, innovating on the language used in modelling and joint construction phases of the teaching learning cycle. Importantly, students demonstrated positive attitudes towards the approach in interviews. Moreover, data from observer's notes and the researcher's field notes showed that students were aware of having made progress in terms of borrowing from the model, had a good grasp of vocabulary and enhanced awareness of the value of group work, and understood the different roles of the teacher, which allowed them to actively participate in their learning. A genre-based approach provides students with valuable insights into the cultural expectations of writing in English, the role of a supportive and explicit pedagogy, and the importance of improving teachers' capacity to implement such approaches. The study has the potential to contribute to the policy goals of the Saudi government for the upgrading of English teaching, and contribute to achieving its stated English education communication goals.
Publication Type: Thesis Doctoral
Fields of Research (FoR) 2008: 130207 LOTE, ESL and TESOL Curriculum and Pedagogy (excl Maori)
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 390108 LOTE, ESL and TESOL curriculum and pedagogy
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2008: 930102 Learner and Learning Processes
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: 160302 Pedagogy
Rights Statement: Copyright 2016 - Hajar Saad M Alharthi
Open Access Embargo: 2020-04-02
HERDC Category Description: T2 Thesis - Doctorate by Research
Appears in Collections:School of Education
Thesis Doctoral

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