A Socio-Cognitive Approach to Teaching English Language Writing: Impact on Primary School Students’ Compositions

Project Number
OER 07/15 CYL

Project Duration
June 2015 - June 2018


Most of the existing studies on academic writing were conducted in ESL/EFL university settings. Further research targeted at other educational settings such as primary schools, which are quite different from the university settings previously studied, for students in different stages of their studies, will advance our understanding of student writing broadly. In 2016, the Journal of Second Language Writing will devote an entire issue to English language writing in elementary classrooms across contexts, calling for studies to address the difficulties that young students face in their learning, as well as the kind of support they do or should receive during classes. Therefore, research that investigates how English language writing is taught in primary school classrooms, outside of EFL/ESL contexts, is of much current interest, but sufficient existing knowledge is still lacking. The present study will fill this research gap identified. A further rationale for understanding the teaching of English language writing at the primary school level is that existing studies in Singapore do not explicate the effect of explicit writing instruction on primary school students in genres other than argumentative essays. To the best of our knowledge, there have been only two studies (Koh, 2002; Neo, 2004) that yielded empirical data on the English language writing of primary school children in Singapore. The proposed research will contribute to addressing these observations raised specifically for the weaker learners. A starting point of the proposed research is to analyse and document how primary English language teachers in Singapore teach writing in traditional writing classes. In particular, we seek to understand how different genres of writing are taught in English language writing classes in a Singapore primary school. Extensive classroom observation data will be collected to support this analysis. Another goal of the proposed research is to design and implement a writing programme based on a socio-cognitive approach. We will test the advantages of this approach relative to the traditional teaching methods, by identifying and understanding how it may impact the quality of writing produced by underachievers in the primary school. Based on the classroom observation data collected about the traditional teaching methods, we will design and implement writing tasks for the intervention programme that are relevant to the students' lives and socio-cultural environment. The results will yield findings that are likely generalizable across English language writing classrooms, thereby helping students who are struggling generally with the learning of writing and compositions.

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