The Use of Mind Mapping to Develop Writing Skills in UAE Schools

Introduction

This chapter presents the process and findings of a classroom-based action research which was conducted over ten weeks of my second semester internship in a government high school located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The target population consisted of female Grade 11, English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners aged between sixteen and seventeen years. The focus group of this research was three students selected based on their parents’ agreement to be participants in this academic investigation.

This research began during the first semester of my teaching practice with a preliminary investigation to gather information about the current practices that teachers in government high schools use to teach and enhance writing. The primary purpose of the preliminary investigation was to help students, in grade 11, move from a product-based approach to a process-focused approach to writing, and to evaluate the use of mind mapping in this context as a pre-writing brainstorming strategy in the EFL class. The preliminary investigation revealed that the process of mind mapping caused a noticeable transformation in the students’ writing, making them more active learners who also began to learn different skills such as asking questions to understand given writing topics, and generating their own ideas for different writing tasks. Moreover, the students seemed to understand the process of the mind map technique and the rationale behind using it.

As a result of these findings, the research in my second semester looked into the impact of the use of the mind mapping strategy under exam conditions, as students were preparing for sitting formal exams. The aim is to help the students plan and organize their ideas about the writing topic rather than just jumping in and answering the exam questions without planning. From my teaching practice experience, I noticed that students not used to planning writing almost always upset the balance of an essay in some way: too much middle, not enough beginning, or no conclusion. They may end their essays having too many specifics and not enough generalization or they may fail to develop their most convincing piece of evidence and give too many subsidiary points, or they may leave out the best examples to illuminate their argument. Indeed in exam essays, without the benefit of a second draft, a lack of planning can be disastrous (Payne, 2003).

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