Using WebQuests and Electronic Journals to Cultivate Writing Skills

Introduction

Tertiary-level students in the UAE, particularly those on foundations courses, often find producing written texts in English (L2) quite challenging. One obvious reason for this is the students’ limited linguistic knowledge of L2. Another less obvious reason is the inability of students to generate their own ideas and produce real writing based on these ideas; in other words, they have difficulty with the processes involved in producing a piece of writing. It is therefore important that students are encouraged to understand the actual process of writing, which should enable them to produce better L2 written texts.

However, an exclusive use of the process approach to L2 writing with students on foundations courses, many of whom have weak L2 skills, is not realistic for two main reasons. First, the students have just entered tertiary education from an exam-driven secondary school system where L2 writing activities have traditionally followed the product approach. Secondly, even when writing in L1 (Arabic), many students find the process of drafting, editing and finally publishing their text very difficult (Cozens & Knowling, 2008).

– This paper examines the design and use of L2 writing activities built around WebQuests and electronic journals in a task-based, product/process hybrid approach to L2 writing. First, the paper outlines three approaches to writing: product, process, and task-based hybrid. This is followed by a description of WebQuests and electronic journals. Next, Gagné’s (1985) theory of instruction, an instructional design methodology which can be used in the materials design process, is briefly discussed. Finally, there will be a detailed description of how I have designed and used writing activities incorporating WebQuests and electronic journals with my students. This discussion will focus on how the activities help students not only improve their L2 linguistic knowledge, but also allow them to better understand the process of writing, cultivating their writing skills as a result.

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