Table of Contents
A peer-to peer dialogue has been acknowledged as a vital source for the L2 learning. Therefore, the interaction among peers is highly significant and should be sustained by communicative approaches in regard to the second language teaching, which highlights learning to communicate via interactions. Regardless the acknowledged significance of peer-to-peer dialogues in L2 classrooms, it appears to be restricted to mere oral tasks. Thus, peer collaborations for reading and writing tasks tend to be comparatively rare. Moreover, even if collaborative writing is introduced for executing writing tasks, it usually concerns only brainstorming peer feedback. This is highly vivid in foreign language contexts, where the collaborative approach is modestly utilized in classrooms. Nevertheless, despite the increasing recognition of the significance of the collaborative approach in terms of the language development, Saudi Arabian writing teaching remains to be in a form of teacher-oriented instructions. Therefore, it is essential to analyze ESL writing teaching, compare collaborative and individual writing tasks, especially in L2 classrooms, demonstrate the significance of technology usage in education, and reveal teaching EFL writing in Saudi Arabia.
The Teaching of ESL Writing
The facts demonstrate that a lot of energy, time, and resources have been dedicated to teaching non-native L2 learners the rhetorical characteristics of the written academic discourse in the English language at the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s (Kozma, 2003, p. 34). It is actually obvious that L2 learners have to be informed and learn about different rhetorical and discourse characteristics as well as specifics of the written English language (Storch, 2013, p. 12). This is a main reason why the teaching of college-level or university-level writing should not be executed without these specific features (Storch, 2013, p. 12). Nevertheless, the analysis of how L2 writing capabilities are developed by ESL professionals demonstrate that teaching techniques sustain as being concentrated on the writing product itself, while neglecting the significance of the writing process. Despite the fact that ESL professionals provide the information and tuition on creativity, brainstorming techniques, drafting, prewriting, reassessment and revision capabilities, such significant linguistic capabilities and competency as formal characteristics of text and grammar together with the academic vocabulary appear to be merely poorly and incoherently approached and appealed (Storch, 2013, p. 12).
Nevertheless, ESL professionals currently started utilizing multimedia, including movie clips, documentaries, audio recording, graphics, and documents in a form of writing learning through the computer system-based communicative approach. The facts demonstrate that concerns regarding the multimedia integration into the teaching/learning procedure date back to the 1950s. They were caused by the fact that a highly limited number of classrooms was equipped with broadcast recordings and phonograms (Tettegah & Hunter, 2006, p. 76). The usage of multimedia appears to be one of the fundamental capabilities, which an individual should possess in the present world. In addition, multimedia helped in changing the character of education in general and language learning in particular, especially in regard to L2 writing learning. The utilization of the collaborative approach and multimedia can assist pedagogy in becoming interactive and inclusive of all students on a simultaneous basis.
Collaborative Versus Individual Writing Tasks
A collaborative language learning appears to be efficient in terms of the language learning as it equips possibilities for the cooperation and provides more comfortable setting for learners (Storch, 2013, p. 7). Numerous scholars claim that collaboratively generated documents appear to have a better caliber, but not collaboratively and individually generated documents have been rarely compared and contrasted (Kessler, Bilowski & Boggs, 2012; Storch, 2013; Elola, 2010). Regardless of the stated efficiency of collaboration in language learning classrooms, it appears to be majorly concentrated on the spoken interplay. The facts show that collaboration has been typically utilized for peer-reviewing stages and brainstorming in regard to the written cooperation (Storch, 2013, p. 8). One of the researches compared the same students’ individually and collaboratively generated documents, while the composition was produced individually following the collaborative text reconstruction (Elola, 2010, p. 53). The research revealed that collaboratively generated documents appeared to be shorter in regard to word counts, clauses usage, and sentences' length, less complex in terms of the syntactical basis, but more precise regarding the medium quantity of errors and error-free clause sentences (Elola, 2010, p. 68). It was explained by the fact that students were more stimulated to concentrate on the grammatical correctness. Nevertheless, as the experiment was not time-limited, groups dedicated more time to writing and revising the text several times contrary to individuals, who typically neglected these procedures (Elola, 2010, p. 68). Another research analyzed a group that initially worked individually and then collaboratively, while completing a story based task within a restricted time limit (Dobao, 2012, p. 41). This study revealed that collaboratively generated texts appeared to be slightly more complex, but the analogously accurate ones were in contrast to individually generated documents (Dobao, 2012, p. 55). Another research revealed that collaboratively generated texts required more time, were more complex and accurate, but appeared to be shorter in regard to the word count (Kessler, Bilowski & Boggs, 2012, p. 93). In addition, the holistic scores of collaboratively generated documents were higher in contrast to the individually created ones (Kessler, Bilowski & Boggs, 2012, p. 106). Thus, the comparison of individual and collaborative writing tasks revealed three significant outcomes. Firstly, collaborative writing provided the possibility to utilize dialogues in order to alleviate the composing process, helping in correctly resolving the majority of encountered linguistic issues (Storch, 2013, p. 46). Therefore, collaborative writing helps in producing more language-connected, text-linked and framework-based documents (Storch, 2013, p. 46). Secondly, despite the fact that independent writing stimulated more fluent-written texts, they appeared to be of a lower quality and accuracy, especially when compared with the collaboratively written ones (Storch, 2013, p. 46). Finally, the majority of students approved that collaborative writing provided more possibilities for learning English in contrast to independent writing, expressing the desire to practice collaborative writing on a regular basis (Storch, 2013, p. 48).
Collaborative Writing Tasks in the L2 Classroom
The analysis of collaborative writing tasks in the L2 classrooms demonstrates the advantages of this technique. The previous section reveals that writing tasks performed in pairs provided learners with a possibility to collaborate, while resolving their language-connected issues, co-creating innovative language knowledge, and generating more linguistically precise written documents (Storch, 2013, p. 36). For example, Dobao (2012) analyzed the impact of the participants’ quantity on the complexity, fluency, and accuracy of the written texts, together with the character of the oral collaboration between the pairs/groups, when they cooperated during the writing procedure (p. 41). The analysis of interplay concentrated on LREs (language-related episodes) demonstrates that despite the fact that groups/pairs quite frequently dedicated their attention to language, groups revealed a tendency to produce more LREs combined with a higher percentage of appropriately solved LREs in contrast to pairs (Dobao, 2012, p 56). Therefore, the documents created by the groups appeared to be more proper and accurate than created individually or even generated in pairs (Dobao, 2012, p 56).
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The research of collaborative writing tasks in the L2 classroom typically concerns processes, its effects on the text quality and language development, and viewpoints of students on collaborative writing utilized in the L2 classrooms (Storch, 2013, p. 49). The facts demonstrate that a collaborative dialogue appears to be a crucial source of L2 learning and beneficial contexture for comprehending the procedures and effects of language learning (Storch, 2013, p. 51). Preliminary researches on the collaborative dialogue demonstrate the obvious connection between the L2 learning and collaborative dialogue at the same time. Storch (2013) recognized the dyadic connection in regard to the reciprocity (meaning the level of engagement with each other‘s contributions) and evenness (standing for control over writing tasks). This helped in revealing that pairs with a collaborative learning scheme demonstrated more instances of the knowledge transfer (Storch, 2013, p. 49). Another research concentrated on impacts of the learner proficiency on the collaborative dialogue in terms of the adult L2 learning (Dobao, 2012, p. 56). This research demonstrated that as the general pair proficiency elevated, the learners generated a greater quantity of LREs, appropriately solved a higher number of LREs, and concentrated more on the language form and not on mere lexical items (Dobao, 2012, p. 56). Different scholars also attempted to research how L2 proficiency discrepancies in pairs influence the procedures and outcomes of collaborative writing (Coskun, 2011, p. 19). It helped in vividly demonstrating that pairs with a collaborative direction can generate a greater frequency of LREs and achieve higher post-test scores, which is contrary to pairs with a non-collaborative direction, regardless of their partner's English proficiency level (Coskun, 2011, p. 19). Therefore, the proficiency discrepancies cannot be regarded as the determinative factor in influencing the character of the collaborative dialogue.
The analysis of procedures incorporates the examination of L1 function in collaborative writing. In fact, numerous researchers and teachers, especially the ones working in FL contexts, severely debate the optimum quantity of L1 usage during the pair/group work (Storch, 2013, p. 87). Some teachers are resistant to utilizing pair/group collaborations in their classrooms, as they believe that students might overuse their L1 instead of using the target language. Nevertheless, numerous studies on the topic demonstrate that L1 is a beneficial and advantageous meditational implement for learning L2 (Storch, 2013, p. 87). These researches highlight the significance of L1 due to the fact that it appears to be a psychological instrument, which performs a strategic cognitive function in frame-working, formulating and sustaining the inter-subjectivity and executing tasks during cognitively complicated operations (Storch, 2013, p. 89). In fact, L1 can be densely utilized for the idea's generation, retrieving the data from memory, understanding the meaning of the text and enhancing the text caliber. In addition, L1 in collaborative writing tasks can help in comprehending vocabulary derivations and task management, which demonstrates that it can have a substantial effect on the process of language learning than English proficiency discrepancies in collaboratively working pairs/groups (Storch, 2013, p. 89). In fact, in accordance with Elola (2010), the majority of learners explain that the pair/group attitudes and classroom atmosphere typically outline and define the extent to which they use English and L1 (p. 64). It practically means that the usage of L1 differs on the basis of learners’ connections and relations with their peers and the existent classroom attitudes towards the usage of English (Storch, 2013). Therefore, students appear to have a distinct differentiation between task talks, which incorporate the English language, and talks about the tasks and the language, which can be executed in the target language (Storch, 2013, p. 73).
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Therefore, it becomes obvious that a collaborative dialogue in the process of reconcilable writing appears to be a potential source of L2 learning. In addition, a pair/group interaction scheme and proficiency discrepancies can affect the character of the collaborative dialogue during collaborative tasks writing in the L2 classrooms. Furthermore, despite the fact that L2 learners utilize their L1 in a form of a societal and cognitive implement, it helps them in mediating their learning process during collaborative writing. Finally, the majority of learners appear to be entertained by collaborative writing at the same time demonstrating a tendency of enhanced learning opportunities in L2 classrooms.
Technology in Education
Starting from the mid-1990s, which revealed the expeditious increase of the computer technology, the collaborative writing started expanding online (Tettegah & Hunter, 2006, p. 15). This provided L2 researchers and teachers with a possibility to initiate investigations and usage of commute-mediated communication technologies in L2 writing classrooms (Kozma, 2003, p. 19). In fact, the change from the first-generation web (standing for Web 1.0) to the second-generation web (meaning Web 2.0) provided the possibilities of not merely retrieving and publishing the information, but creating and sharing it in an interactive manner, as well (Yun, 2014, p. 83). Therefore, such web applications as Google Docs and wikis, which provide possibilities for creating and editing the content of collaboratively generated produced documents, have attracted an elevated research interest (Yun, 2014, p. 83). They typically analyze the processes of writing, the caliber of collaboratively created documents, L2 learners’ perceptions, and contributions. Thus, researches demonstrate that despite the fact that L2 learners rarely corrected language errors made by peers, they revealed a tendency to provide feedbacks on language issues in personal dialogues (Yun, 2014, p. 85). The analysis of collaborative texts created through Google Docs demonstrates that ESL learners solve all language issues appropriately, despite the fact that they typically concentrated more on lexis than form (Coskun, 2011, p. 19). These results appear to be consistent with the researches on face-to-face collaborative dialogues (Coskun, 2011, p. 19). The research of L2 learners‘ perception of web-grounded collaborative writing demonstrates that the major part of L2 learners express positive feedbacks concerning their experience, mainly because of the accessibility of peer assistance and the novelty of technology (Storch, 2013, p. 99). Nevertheless, it is crucial to mention that web-grounded collaborative writing provides hazardous possibilities of uneven contributions by group members, presupposing that students with a higher L2 proficiency present a higher amount of materials and dedicate more time and efforts to conducting writing tasks (Storch, 2013, p. 99).
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Thus, the usage of multimedia enriches the students’ insight of the world. In addition, it makes students more sympathetic to global problems and issues. It also helps in shifting the classroom to a more dynamic environment, at the same time making it more interactive. Finally, it develops and improves the students’ communicative competency and enhances their ability to utilize the up-to-date technology.
Teaching EFL Writing in Saudi Arabia
The facts demonstrate that when the Saudi Arabian government ratified the tuition of English in a form of a Foreign Language (EFL) as a constituent of the formal functionary curriculum of the Ministry of Education in 1925, the position and viewpoints towards the English language learning appeared to be negative. Nevertheless, they changed at the beginning of the 2000s (Alnofai, 2014, p. 106). The latest researches on the topic vividly demonstrate that the Saudi Arabian perspective have altered to a positive one due to numerous causes, while job hunting appears to be the primary one (Yun, 2014, p. 85). However, the facts demonstrate that the Saudi Arabian classroom still appears to be teacher-oriented; meanwhile, the English language tuition is majorly executed in the form of lectures. It reveals that the communicative and collaborative approach is seldom performed in regard to public classrooms (Alharbi, 2015, p. 2015). Nevertheless, the incorporation of multimedia, encompassing graphic novels, movies, documentaries, and songs can successfully manifest itself in changing traditional classrooms into the student-oriented and communicative ones (Tettegah & Hunter, 2006, p. 75). The research on the Saudi Arabian students and their usage of technology executed by Alfahad (2009) demonstrates that the technology elevates and improves communication skills, at the same time shifting students from the position of passive learners to a more communicative one (p. 111). Thus, the research demonstrated that media appears to be the best mean for equipping authentic conversations and speech due to the fact that they can be regarded as a ‘’replica’’ of everyday routine dialogues (Alfahad, 2009, p. 111). The usage of media can result in a better English teaching/learning practice (Yun, 2014, p. 80). Another research performed by Li and Brand (2009) on the music usage demonstrates that the utilization of songs in ESL classrooms leads to a better language learning practice and enhances the vocabulary acquisition (p. 73). Moreover, students demonstrate a highly positive attitude towards the intensive songs usage. Finally, the analysis of impacts of graphic novels on critical thinking conducted by Ching and Fook (2013 have revealed that when they are implemented in terms of the language curriculum and model lesson plans, they can actually magnify the capabilities of critical thinking (p. 66).
Numerous studies and researches demonstrate that the major learner’s objective of learning a language stands for being communicatively competent. This is a main reason why the communicative and collaborative approaches in the language class can provide students with various advantages, at the same time changing the nature of class from being dynamic to the student-oriented one. Heba Alharbi (2015) demonstrated the shortage of the English proficiency and competency among Saudi Arabian students (p. 105). This research revealed that the teacher’s usage of the target language (meaning L1), together with the grammar translation methods utilization, appear to be the major causes of Saudi Arabians’ shortage of communicative capabilities in regard to English (Alharbi, 2015, p. 106). Abdullah Coskun (2011) demonstrated that there is a serious lacuna between teachers’ tuition convictions and practices and collaborative language teaching (p. 19). Despite the fact that teachers believe that the collaborative approach can be highly beneficial for the classroom practice, they neglected it and applied traditional techniques of language teaching. On the other hand, Storch (2013) examined different grammar books and exercises in order to understand whether they teach contextualized grammar rules (p. 102). The research demonstrated that the majority of books and exercises provide the de-contextualized grammar, which negatively impacts L2 proficiency and competency (Storch, 2013, pp. 102-104).
Thus, the section vividly demonstrates that English is taught as a subject and not as a means of communication in Saudi Arabia. This is a reason why classrooms are teacher-oriented, while students appear to be passive receivers of information. The main methods concern lecturing and rote learning. Nevertheless, the utilization of modern technologies can change the nature of classrooms to a more dynamic one, while enhancing the students’ critical thinking capabilities and providing the possibility to use authentic materials. This can enhance L2 writing learning and make the overall process of learning better suited to the contemporary life of the Saudi Arabian students.