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1.1Background to the Study

English is undoubtedly the most important language which is being employed for communication purposes across the globe (Akinwamide, 2012).  The use of English as a tool for effective communication, study and work, as well as an important goal of secondary education is advocated in the national policy on education (FRN, 2013). The crucial role English Language plays in the Nigerian linguistic scene makes it imperative for Nigerians to show evidence of reasonable degree of competence and of more vigorous training in its use, than in the use of any other foreign language. Muodumogu and Unwaha (2013), stated that English language is a recognized medium of communication in the administration of government businesses in Nigeria. It is also the medium of instruction through which learners acquire knowledge and skills at all levels of education. However, in spite of the vital roles of the English language, most Nigerians are unable to acquire mastery in the skills of the language especially writing. Consequent upon this, there is a need to orientate quality of instruction towards utilizing competencies and essay writing skills for self- reliance and development of the society.

The poor performance of students in national examinations both in English language and other subjects has been attributed to poor language teaching and learning (Okonkwo, 2015; Saad & Usman, 2014).  The mastery of writing skills is crucial since constant evaluation either formative or summative is conducted to gauge students’ acquisition of their writing skills based on their writing performance. Hence teachers adopt and adapt various strategies in the essay writing classrooms to ensure that students excel in writing. But from the existing situation of poor and low performance of students in essay writing, one can conclude that the approaches or strategies used may be faulty at one level or the other. This presupposes that more researches need to be carried out to ascertain this claim.

Teaching essay writing is usually approached with apprehension by many teachers and students because it demands the knowledge of many skills such as grammar, style syntax and semantics in one lesson (Okonkwo, 2015). Writing is a basic tool for secondary education in Nigeria and many other parts of the world.  Writing does not come naturally as speaking but it is an activity that students and teachers cannot run away from. It must be consciously learnt and developed for it is one of the critical skills a student develops in high school.

The inspiration for this study arose from the fact that over the years, there has been   persistent rate of low performance of students in English language, especially essay writing. Students are unable to write effectively (Komolafe &Yara, 2010). This situation is not peculiar to any level, but it is more pronounced and disturbing at the secondary school level because certificates are required for higher education at this level.

The trend of general poor performance in English language is not peculiar to Nigerian students and schools alone. It is a worldwide phenomenon existing even in developed countries like America. Harwood in Alao (2011) complained about the poor mastery of essay writing skills in America. This situation pervades all levels of Nigeria’s educational ladder-primary, secondary and the post-secondary institutions. The reports of Grieves and Banjo were attempts by the Nigerian government to find how best to improve the teaching of English language and enhance essay writing skills. Despite these efforts, the skills of students in essay writing have not shown any improvement. Hence, there is need for rigorous training.

West African Examination Council (WAEC) Chief Examiner’s Report (2019) listed poor knowledge of the rules of grammar, inability to construct good sentences, lack of teachers’ exposure to modern strategies of teaching as causes of students‟ poor achievement in English. Adeosun (2006: 4) lamented the inability of students to write good compositions, noting:

Composition tests are designed to test the candidates‟ ability to use English as effective means of communication in a given situation, the ability to express oneself with clarity and coherence in a manner appropriate to the audience, purpose, topic situation, adding that most students lack variety of skills, good grasp and knowledge of basic language skills which they are expected to know effectively

  Essay writing is taught at secondary level to enable students develop writing skills to cope with their academic work, as well as develop type of writing needed both inside and outside the school situation. Students at this level depend to a large degree on extended writing skills in examinations (Adeyemi, 2012). Essay writing refers to continuous writing produced in form of any of the following: letters, speeches, articles, descriptive, persuasive, narrative and expository compositions. Increasingly, students are required to demonstrate proficiency in essay writing through planning, writing and revising an essay, summary, note taking in groups and so forth.  This study seeks to explore more modern strategies that would help provide a valuable head start to improve students essay writing thereby resulting into better grades in English especially at the senior secondary level.

  Essay writing involves more than just being able to compose correct sentences; it also involves the ability to use the lexical item appropriately in acts of communication to achieve communication ends (Alao, 2011). Evidence from students’ WAEC scripts in various subjects, shows that the skill and abilities that students need in writing, must be formally taught in order to perform the writing demands of their various subjects with some ease and some confidence. Essay writing among these students therefore deserves attention more than any other aspects of language especially at the Senior Secondary School, which is the target of this study. This is because there is need to prepare the students for the various writing tasks, which they would meet in their future academic pursuits.

The teaching of essay writing should take the communication approach that aims at helping the learners to manipulate language structures effectively since the essence of language is for communication. Adeyemi (2012) posited that in process approach, students are guided to plan, draft and revise their writing and are also encouraged “to learn to write” as opposed to “writing to learn”. This would facilitate their ability to form clear and correct concepts through the use of language to express their feelings, needs, ideas, knowledge and interests with exactness and precision. This is why Ogbu (2009) indicated that writing, which could be seen as the ability to produce correct forms of words and sentences is a very important skill of language acquisition. This study would examine a communicative and interactive approach that would help learners manipulate language structures effectively.

Participatory Writing Approach (PWA) is an instruction strategy that makes use of small, heterogeneous groups of students who work together to achieve common learning goals. It is a task-centred activity requiring students-to-students interaction in small groups as the structures and contents are organized and sequenced in essay writing. Individuals are responsible for their actions which include learning, respect and contributions among their peers. They extend their critical thinking and reasoning skills, which help in understanding of social interactions as they become involved, and take control of the learning process through participatory activities (Nwakonobi & Obiagwu, 2013). It is a strategy which has been proven to culminate positive results and outcomes (Tengku Nor Rizan, 2007). Participatory writing between and among students should be trial-tested to see how effective they are in generating healthy discussion, and learning which encourage an effective process of essay writing.

The mastery of essay writing skills is crucial since constant evaluation either formative or summative is conducted to gauge students‟ acquisition of their writing skills based on their writing performance (Okonkwo, 2014). In view of the present ineffectiveness in the writing of students, the inability of the previous approaches to cater for the shortfall in writing pedagogy and the fact that writing has been a neglected area of English language teaching for some years (Siddique & Singh, 2016), the need for sound writing research now is greater than ever. The need for this research cannot be over-emphasized. There is therefore the need to undertake a research of this nature in order to explore modern strategies to the teaching of essay writing. It is against this background that this study sought to investigate the effects of Participatory Writing Approach on narrative essay writing of Senior Secondary School students in Bokkos.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

There has been general outcry on the low performance of students in essay writing. Inability of senior secondary students to write and communicate effectively in both written and spoken English based on their inability to use correct grammatical structures and present ideas in a systematic and appropriate manner gives parents, teachers, examination bodies and even students a lot of concern.  Annual results from WAEC and the Chief Examiners‟ Reports for 2010 and 2011 reveal woeful performance of students who have made enrolment for English language examination a yearly ritual.

Many factors have been adduced for students’ inability to write effectively at the secondary level. These include use of inappropriate teaching methods and approaches.  Many strategies have been used in teaching and learning essay writing, yet students’ performance is low. Writing is taught as a product with heavy emphasis on mechanical accuracy and the final product of writing. Khan, Javaid and Farooq (2015) viewed such classes as usually dull and as such, teachers and students view writing as an uphill task. Students are just given topics to write on by teachers and marks are awarded accordingly without teachers’ interest in the process of what went into the production of the essay.

Another problem is the inability of students to write composition that would clearly express their thoughts or ideas in such a way that all the various components of writing- content, organization, grammar, mechanics and objectives of writing would be integrated. Trotman (2010) sees writing as fundamental to success in academics, in the workplace and in the global economy.  The ability to write well, hitherto a luxury is now a dire necessity. In the light of this, teaching learners to write well should be uppermost in a worthwhile educational system.

Teachers of English language have expressed preference for teaching certain aspects of the English language syllabus of which essay writing is not one. Many students have little practice in writing essays (Adeyemi, 2012) because their teachers rarely ask them to write because the teachers judge the exercise as laborious coupled with large classes. Teachers are mandated by the educational authorities to follow strictly the National Curriculum, which does not specify especially how the content is to be taught. This practice has granted teachers enough freedom to adopt whatever strategies they like. The current practices disregard the fact that writing is an interactive activity which presupposes that learners need to know who they are interacting with and why.

Considering the need to improve Senior Secondary School students essay writing skill, it becomes necessary to explore alternative strategies of teaching essay writing. The researcher believes that if modern interactive, participatory and participatory strategies are employed and properly implemented, this can lead to increased motivation and more positive attitude for students towards students‟ essay writing tasks. This can invariably improve students’ performance in essay writing. This study therefore investigated the effects of Participatory Writing Approach on students’ essay writing in Senior Secondary Schools in Bokkos Local Government Area of Plateau State, Nigeria.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The main focus of this study was to evaluate the effects of participatory writing strategies on the performance of students in essay writing in Senior Secondary Schools in Bokkos.  In specific terms, the study sought to:

  • Examine the difference in performance of students who were exposed to participatory and those who were not exposed to it in organization.
  • Determine the difference in the performance of students who were exposed to participatory and those who were not exposed to it in content.
  • Find out the difference in the performance of students who were exposed to participatory and those who were not exposed to it in grammar.
  • Determine the extent to which participatory strategies have effects on students’ performance in punctuation.

1.4 Research Questions

The study was guided by the following research questions:

  1. What is the difference in performance of students who were exposed to participatory and those who were not exposed to it in organization?
  2. What is the difference in the performance of students who were exposed to participatory and those who were not exposed to it in content?
  • What is the difference in the performance of students who were exposed to participatory and those who were not exposed to it in grammar?
  1. What is the extent to which participatory and conventional writing strategies have effects on students’ performance in punctuation?

1.5 Significance of the Study

The need to advance the writing pedagogy using new and innovative strategies has been a subject of research to English language specialists. Also, evidence abounds in literature that there seemed to be a dearth of research on students‟ writing.  Thus, this study is considered significant in many ways and will be of immense value to teachers of English language, curriculum planners, examination bodies, textbook writers, educational administrators, students, possibly parents and future researchers.

It is believed that the findings of this study will be of utmost significance to teachers of English who will be in a better position to guide students toward producing better written essays using the process based strategies. Essay writing, which is the main focus of this study, has not been properly taught at the primary and junior secondary school levels hence the problems students face at the senior secondary level. The result will help writing teachers to identify the strategy that is more effective between participatory   writing strategies since the two strategies demonstrate a shift from the product oriented type of teaching to process approach thereby injecting new dimension into writing pedagogy for improved performance in essay writing at both internal and external examinations. This might also be useful to other subject specialists who could adapt the study for their teaching.

 Teachers of English will use the findings of this study to foster collaboration among students during and after lessons. In addition, teachers will be able to identify their shortcomings and inadequacies and thereby improve on the strategy and quality of teaching. This could translate into improved essay writing performance if any of the strategies used in this study is found effective and adopted by stakeholders. This could also lead to improved scores in essay writing and better grades in English. Problems of anxiety and apprehension faced by students when faced with essay writing tasks might be reduced based on the activities therein.

 Also, curriculum developers could benefit from the result of this research in selection of content, methodologies and materials that would support the use of interactive process-based strategies for teaching essay writing. Activities of interactive, participatory   writing strategies could be included in the curriculum to enrich it for better quality of teaching and mastery of essay writing in secondary school English language contexts. This might in turn enhance the performance of essay writing through the use of appropriate teaching strategies.

 Examination bodies like WAEC, NECO and so on will also benefit from the result of this present study because the study will likely re-direct their attention to the strengths of PWA and PWS thereby designing tests that assess essay writing in an interactive way. Assessment of essay writing could be designed to take cognizance of both the formative and summative forms.   Findings from this study will be of immense value to textbook writers to produce books and materials that would foster interactivity and cooperation among students groups in essay writing and thereby enhance their writing performance. Group activities could be given priority in textbooks and teaching modules.

 Researchers in the field of writing will find this study useful as the findings of the research could also advance available literature on writing and essay writing in particular. Scholars in the field will also benefit as the strengths and weaknesses of strategies examined in this study would be documented. It will provide additional information about the procedure employed in using the two strategies of teaching essay writing in the Nigerian context as opposed to their use elsewhere.

  Moreover, the suggestions at the end of this study will be useful in improving the performance of students writing especially in the area of content, organization, grammar and mechanics. The skills acquired by the students will make them have better grades and greater academic achievement. Use of these strategies will enable students to develop more confidence and better attitude to essay writing.

1.7 Scope of the Study

 The main thrust of this study was to investigate the effects of participatory   writing strategies on essay writing of Senior Secondary School students in Bokkos. Thus, this study was delimited to two teaching strategies namely: Participatory   writing and essay writing component of the Senior Secondary School English curriculum.  This aspect of English is viewed as one that indicates the extent to which a student is proficient in the written language.

These schools were sampled because they enroll students from diverse cultural backgrounds but with similar educational backgrounds. This research while using the participatory writing strategies to teach essay writing focused on content, organization, grammatical component and mechanical accuracy as sub-skills. This is because these aspects form part of the areas that are usually assessed in both internal and external examinations at the senior secondary level in Nigeria.


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