TEFEL and IELTS or the university students confronted with the teachers asking them to represent English reports or ISI articles and also for the policies of the institute for training proficient learners, technical writing classes were conducted in the summer term of 2013. The aim of these classes was to cover writing skills and help applicants improve their writing skills. An announcement was made and graduates of intermediate levels were asked to attend writing classes in case they wished. The statistical population included 28 applicants, voluntarily registering for writing classes who were all from the institute. All of them were female and adults. They were all Iranians and English was their second language. Pardis required students to be at intermediate level since the class was going to be held in English and no other language (either Turkish or Persian) was allowed in the classes. The students who had passed intermediate level and had received acceptance scores based on the institute’s standards took no test and were identified as qualified by the institute to attend technical writing classes. The homogeneity of the learners was quite assured by the supervisor of the institute. Then, they were divided into two classes. One experimental and one control group each with 14 students (the details of participants are represented in a table in Appendix.4).
3.5 Research instruments
The instruments used in this study were as follows: first of all, the report cards of the students were checked to make sure that all the participants are at the intermediate level.
Next, the writings of all participants in both control and experimental groups in the pretest stage and also in the post-test stage were used. The other instrument was a pamphlet including the descriptions of narrative writing genre, provided from general explanations and specific example scripts to help the students to become familiar with what was going on in their writing in the class.
One other instrument was a list of ten common topics for narrative writing which was obtained from the Internet site named “prompts for narrative writing “. They were about 100 topics; but, because of the limitations of writing sessions for both control and experimental groups, only ten of them were selected in consultation with other co-worker teachers and based on the agreement with the supervisor of the institute. Two of them were used for both pretest and post-test writing exams and excluded from the list. The other eight topics were sequenced in a list and printed for writing practices of both groups.
3.6. Data Collection
To gather the data of this study, library and field methods were used. First, the related literature was obtained by studying associated theses on writing in the Central Library of Tabriz University. Then, different articles from reliable websites were gathered and based on them, writing topics were selected. After dividing classes into control and experimental groups, a writing test was conducted as the pretest. Next, after the researcher gave the experimental group the treatment (i.e. practicing pair work) during the study period, a posttest writing exam was given whose scores were obtained and compared with pretest results. To analyze data, the Independent Samples-T-Test was used.
3.7. Data analysis
3.7.4. Accuracy Measurement
There are different scales for measuring accuracy in the writings. These scales can be standard ones or researcher-made scales based on the expectations one teacher or author has from conducting writing exams. But, based on the studies on previous theses on writing and regarding the goal of these writings which was defined to be identifying accuracy levels of EFL students, the accuracy of written performance of the participants was measured by calculating the percentage of error free T-units to the total number of T-units ( Storch and Wigglesworth, 2009). By the term error here, it is meant any error that excludes a clause and consequently a T-unit from being error free. Errors of capitalization and errors of lexical choice, unless they hindered meaning and punctuation errors, were not counted. Serious spelling errors were counted but if they were repeated, they were not counted as an error anymore. Errors in using prepositions that caused misunderstanding were counted.
In this chapter, the researcher started out by noting that independent Samples T-test is used when you have exactly two mean scores to compare, and the research question is whether the two groups those mean scores come from are different from each other (or whether the same group performed differently at different times or on different tests). In other words, independent sample T-tests are used when you have two different (independent) groups of people (males and females), and you are interested in comparing their scores. In this case, you collect information on only one occasion but from two different sets of people .
3.8 Chapter summary
This section was allocated to the statement of research question and hypothesis. Then, the participants and the place of conducting the study were described. The next section explained study design in detail and the next part described research instruments. Then, the ways of data collection were described in detail; and at the end, data analysis was explained in the form of tables, box plots, and figures.
In this section , first, some information which deals with background information of the students as the participants of this study as well as background information of the instructor which is the researcher of this study are offered. Then, the research question is stated and the achieved result for testing it is mentioned. At the final step, a summary of the whole chapter is represented and a conclusion is offered.
4.2 Background Information
4.2.1 Students’ Background Information
The students in the language institute of Pardis in Marand Town who had passed the intermediate level of English proficiency with required scores by the institute and had acquired an acceptable level of grammar were among the applicants of a writing course conducted by the manager of Pardis institute in the summer term of 2013. This course was conducted for the ones who were apt to improve their writing skills for many purposes including TOEFEL, academic writings, and so on. Most of them were classmates in different classes of the institute for a long time and had affinity with each other. Other applicants were from other institutes who were informed about the formation of a technical writing course by Pardis Language House through advertisements or mouth-to-mouth quotations of other students. When registering for writing class, representing the score card’s marks which revealed their intermediate English level was the acceptance criterion. Then, the applicants who received the required scores in the final test were allowed to register in the writing class. Most of these students had problems in organizing ideas in writing exams and complained about the lack of spending enough time in English classes by their teachers for practicing writing skills. As a result, they needed a technical class for writing. According to the mentioned points, from 39 applicants, only 28 of them were qualified and allowed to participate in the writing class. They were mostly adults with the age range of 21-27. Three of them had Diploma and the rest were studying in different universities at different levels (BA and MA). Fourteen of them were grouped for the experimental group and the rest were recruited for the control group.
4.2.3 Language Instructor’s Background Information
The instructor of both control
and experimental groups who was also the researcher of this thesis has finished her undergraduate studies from the State University of Tabriz and is the MA student of Tabriz University. She has been an English teacher for 10 years and has taught in several language institutes at different levels. Through the experience of these years and for dealing with different students, she has found that in English classes little time is spent for teaching writing skills since in communication-centered classes of today, the focus is mostly on speaking and listening. While in formal assessments and final exams, writing gains the equal importance. Also, writing is placed at the final sections of the unit and most teachers deliver writing tasks to students to do them at home. So, they are short of time to cover them fully. This issue is also highlighted in academic settings in which the writing has become a predicament for both teachers and students. For, the number of students in university classes is higher and the writing demands from students for reports, articles, thesis, and etc. are even higher. Thus, conducting a writing course with a systematic plan for improving writing skills was recognized as a dire necessity for the researcher of this thesis to assist students in dealing with writing complexities, aiming to shed some light on teaching techniques of writing.
4.3 Responding to the Research Question
Research Question (RQ): Does instructing pair work strategies affect writing performance of Iranian EFL learners?
This question was formed to examine the effect of collaborative writing on improving writing skills, especially regarding grammatical accuracy.
For finding an answer to this question, a quasi-experimental design with a pretest- delayed posttest was utilized. Two classes were randomly selected as the control and experimental groups. Both control and experimental groups were taught by the researcher. The classes met twice a week and each class took one hour and half (except for the first session which took 2 hours). In the first session of both classes which took two hours, a summary of the features of narrative writing and some example texts were given to the students in a pamphlet and the researcher gave explanations about them and discussed them with the students. The reason for selecting narrative genre among others was frequency of its usage in different ESL classes. Giving a summary of readings or short story English books has been an important part of classes as well as final exams at all levels. Narrating personal experiences in a way that it leads to accompanying the audience eagerly with the narrator is another crucial ability that all exemplify the features of the narrative genre.
Next, a pretest was given to the students in both groups with a narrative topic (Narrate the first or last day of school/college) in the remaining time which took 45 minutes. Then, the papers were gathered and scored manually by the researcher 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.
To make sure about scores’ reliability and since this was the only study conducted for the first time in the institute, the papers were examined by the supervisor of the institute. Based on the achieved scores, the students of the experimental group were classified as 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 referred 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