Adults learning to write : exploring alternatives to functional writing

Abstract :

The purpose of this study was to explore the effects of a writing intervention, in an adult literacy class which focused on content and meaning, rather than formal features of texts.

During the seven months of the intervention the researcher worked on a weekly basis with two students, the remnant of an initially larger class, both domestic workers in their early fifties. Both had spent a number of years at primary school in a rural district of the current KwaZulu-Natal. Subsequently, they came to Johannesburg as young women to find employment. Although each had learned a limited amount of English at school, they had largely acquired English informally once they were working in Johannesburg.

A key principle underpinning the intervention was that writing is essentially a communicative act. Here the researcher’s approach to teaching differed from that of many of the teachers at the Centre, whose focus was mainly on the formal features of writing. The researcher chose not to focus on features such as grammar and spelling, instead using activities where the communication of meaning was central, such as autobiography or oral forms from the students’ primary language, such as proverbs or narratives. The researcher also asked the students to keep daily journals, so that they were involved in regular, self-generated writing.

In some ways, the findings of the project were surprising. On the one hand, the students showed involvement and enjoyment in class discussions and their resultant writing was frequently extensive, vivid and detailed. On the other hand, they expressed their dissatisfaction at the neglect of areas they perceived to be important, such as explicit grammar and vocabulary teaching and error correction. Despite this neglect, die grammatical accuracy of one student’s writing showed a significant improvement.

The study highlights the importance of learner beliefs about schooling, the way these beliefs may affect their learning and the need for the teacher to be aware of them. The study also points to the value of sustained and regular writing, of the use of scaffolding in a writing class, and of the value of the learner’s personal resources, such as her life experiences and her primary language in a literacy class.



Author Sher A
Date Accessioned 2016-09-22T11:20:17Z
Date Available 2016-09-22T11:20:17Z
Date Created 2001
Identifier URL 2003
Language English
Subject 2
Alternative Title
Degree Type Masters degree
Degree Description  MA (Applied English Language Studies)