were provided based on the consultation with other coworkers and supervisor and broad searches in the Internet for this genre (see Appendix.2).
Then, the papers were gathered and scored manually by the teacher using Storch and Wigglesworth (2009)’s measure as a criterion to measure the accuracy of the writings of the participants by dividing the total number of error-free T-units into the total number of T-units. More technically, a T-unit is a dominant clause and its dependent clauses: as Hunt said, it is “one main clause with all subordinate clauses attached to it. It is defined as the shortest grammatically allowable sentences into which (writing can be split) or minimally terminable unit. Often, but not always, a T-unit is a sentence (Hunt 1965, p.20).
To make sure about the scores’ reliability and since this was the only study conducted for the first time in the institute, the papers were reexamined by the supervisor of the institute. Based on the achieved scores, the students of the experimental group were classified into the helper and writer to make the pair: The student with the lower mark was named Writer and the one with the higher score was called as the Helper. In this activity, a more proficient student was paired up with a less proficient one with the intention of utilizing the knowledge and experience of the former to assist the latter in writing. In addition, this activity was based on a balanced approach (Scarcella, 2003), which emphasizes teachers’ explicit instruction on both meaningful communication (such as content and organization) and specific features of the English language (such as grammar and mechanics).
In many existing peer response writing activities, students are expected to proofread and edit each other’s writing on their own without the teachers’ intervention. However, a strong belief implies that when a peer-assisted writing activity is implemented in an ESL/EFL setting, the teachers’ intervention and direct corrective feedback will help writers to overcome problems, such as grammatical errors in their writing, as well as to learn how to generate ideas for a better content.
Since writing is a complex problem-solving process, the teacher is recommended to intervene at the points in the writing process that can most benefit the writers. Thus, in the final step, the teacher evaluates, of this activity, the teacher meets with each pair and comments on the meaning, order, style, spelling, and punctuation of the writing.
On the other hand, in the experimental group, another pamphlet including the guideline containing the steps of pair work, adopted from Adeline (2001) was given to the students in the second session that was going to be followed exactly in the class (see Appendix.1).
Students needed to become familiar with these steps since peer-assisted writing was the treatment of experimental group and the students were required to read them carefully, discuss them with their partners, and remove their doubts in the primary sessions by the help of their partners and instructors.
The steps mentioned in the pair work manual were as follows:
Step 1: Ideas
In order to help ESL/EFL writers understand the important components in narrative writing such as character, setting, problem, and solution, students are provided with complete questions that mostly begin with “Wh” words to generate ideas.
The questions are as follows:
• Who did what?
• What happened?
• Where did it happen?
• When did it happen?
• Who are the main characters in the story?
• Why did he/she/they do that?
• What was the problem?
• How did he/she/they solve the problem?
• What happened next?
• Then what?
• Did anyone learn anything at the end?
• What was the lesson the characters learned?
• (Ask any questions you can think of.)
To help the Writer stimulate ideas, the Helper begins by asking the Writer the list of questions stated above. The Helper could raise the questions with the Writer in any relevant order. The “ask any question” option on the list above is provided to indicate that the Helper can think up his/her own questions and not suffice to the mentioned questions in the items. As the Writer responds verbally to the questions asked by the Helper, the Writer also makes a note of key words. The Writer might also add to the notes any relevant information he/she wants to write about.
The pair then reviews the keywords in the notes and determines if the order or organization should be changed. This could be indicated by numbering the ideas. Alternatively, the ideas may seem to fall into obvious sections, which can be dealt with in turn. Such sections can be color-coded and the ideas belonging to them underlined or highlighted with a marker. Pairs may also choose to draw lines linking or around related ideas, so that a “semantic map” is constructed.
Step 2: Draft
The key words in the notes created in Step 1 should be placed where both members of the pair can easily see them. In this step, there are five different stages as shown below, varying from the simplest to the most challenging degrees of task difficulty:
Stage 1: Helper writes it all, Writer copies it all
Stage 2: Helper writes hard words for Writer
Stage 3: Helper writes hard words in rough, Writer copies in
Stage 4: Helper says how to spell hard words
Stage 5: Writer writers it all
The teacher chooses one specific stage from the five stages given to the students before they move on to writing. However, one should keep in mind that the stages chosen should not be stagnant. They should rely on the students’ writing development. In other words, teachers may choose a higher stage for the pair to work on when the student progress in their writing. They may also go back one stage (or more) when they find that their students encounter a particularly difficult stage.
After the teacher chooses a stage, the paired writers will receive instruction from the teacher regarding what they are expected to do in that particular stage. The pair then proceeds to write. The teacher should emphasize that the Writer does not have to worry too much about spelling when he/she is writing a draft. Emphasis at this point should be on having the students continue writing and allowing the ideas to flow.
Step 3: Read
The Writer reads the writing aloud. If he/she reads a word incorrectly, the Helper may provide support if he/she is capable of doing so.
Step 4: Edit
In this step, the Helper and Writer look at the draft together, and the Writer considers whether improvements are necessary. At the same time, the Helper also considers if there are any improvements the Writer might want to make. The problem words, phrases or sentences could be marked with a colored pen, pencil or highlighter. There are five edit levels in this step. They are meaning, order, style, spelling, and punctuation. The Writer and Helper should inspect the draft more than once, checking on different criteria on each occasion. To provide scaffolding to the students, teachers should encourage the Writer to ask himself/herself the following questions:
1. Does the Helper (H) understand what I want to say in my writing? (idea and meaning)
2. Did my writing have a clear beginning, middle, and ending? (order)
3. Did I use all the words and write all the sentences correctly? (style)
4. Did I spell all the words correctly? (spelling)
5. Did I put all the punctuation (, . ? ! “…”) in the right places? (punctuation)
The questions for the Helper are:
1. Do I understand what the Writer (W) wants to say in his/her writing? (idea and meaning)
2. Did the writing have a clear beginning, middle, and ending? (order)
3. Did W use all the words and write all the sentences correctly? (style)
4. Did W spell all the words correctly? (spelling)
5. Did W put all t
he punctuation (, . ? ! “…”) in the right places? (punctuation)
The order of each question shows the ranking of the importance of each criterion, the first question being the most important, and the last being the least. Questions 1 and 2 are the two most important questions the pair should pay attention to while editing the written products. With the questions in mind, the Helper marks any areas the Writer has missed, and the Writer can make any additional suggestions about changes based on his/her own reflection of their writing. The pair discusses the best correction to make, and when agreement is reached, the new version is inserted in the text (preferably by the Writer). If the pair has doubt about spelling, they may refer to the dictionary.
Step 5: The Final Copy
The Writer then copies out a neat or best version of the corrected draft. The Helper provides help when necessary, depending on the skill of the Writer. The best copy is a joint product of the pair and is then given to the teacher.
Step 6: The Teacher Evaluates
Teacher Evaluation is the final step. In this step, students will have an opportunity to receive comments and instructive feedback directly from the teacher. When the Writer and the Helper turn in their best copy, the teacher will meet with them and provide them with explicit writing and grammatical instruction as well as corrective feedback.
The teacher’s comments focus on meaning/idea, order, style, spelling, and punctuation, which are the five editing criteria stated in Step 4. The writers are then expected to review the correction and feedback together as a pair.
At the end of educational period, the teacher can select top works of the pairs and show them by screen or projector to the whole class.
After discussing the steps and instruction, the teacher gave a list of new topics from narrative writing prompts to the students of experimental group. The assigned topics in both groups were the same and the instructor used the same procedure for providing feedback. These topics were selected from among the amplitude of topics in books and Internet sites that seemed interesting and tangible to the students and had rooms for extensions as well as consults with other coworker teachers of the institute.
As Mirhassani and Hosseini (2002, p. 47) pointed, “There is the tendency of Iranian EFL students to non-cooperation rather than cooperation. Additionally, competitive learning is the primary approach in our educational system”. Then, students’ early resistance to group interaction technique also might have an effect on the outcome of this study. To overcome these deficiencies, therefore, the teacher should overcome the students’ negative perceptions for implementing it in class by the means of spending time with the groups or with individuals during the class, walking around the class to observe group interaction, making suggestions, or asking questions in order to help the groups, emphasizing upon her role in this process, and finally making clear for students why they use this technique and what the outcomes will be from this activity.
In the control group, there was no specific instruction. From second session on, every session the teacher gave a new topic from narrative writing prompts to the students and they wrote about it individually. The order of given topics in the list was exactly the same as the experimental group. There was no help from dyads and the students got the feedback and help only from their teacher. The teacher took the papers home and corrected them and wrote corrective feedback or explained them verbally to the students. This trend continued for other eight sessions.
3.3 Site of the Study
This study was conducted in Pardis Language House, an English language school in Marand Town, Iran. It is one of the oldest and most famous foreign language institutes in Marand.
Regarding the requests of students who were weak at writing and willing to get English degrees such as