A case study investigating the essay writing skills of Eastern Cape Technikon education students using the Writing Process Workshop language software
This research is based on a study which was made in order to investigate why the students who study Education at the Eastern Cape Technikon fail to acquire competence in essay writing, in spite of going through the Computer program that is being used by the Department of Communication. The name of this program is the Writing Process Workshop, and will be referred to as the WPW throughout the study. This program has been in use at the Technikon as a form of supplementary program for those students who were perceived to have shortfalls1 in their essay writing communication skills. This perception came about from the Department of Communication which decided that those students who scored less than 40% overall in (in language, not in content) their assignments, class works, and tests should go through the program and work independently, in the hope that their performance will improve. The study spans over two years, with the first year being the period where the researcher collected data in the form of written errors that the students made in their essays. The second year of the research is the period when the main research took place. During the second year of the research, the researcher observed the students as they went through the WPW for three months. Upon completing the program, the students were asked to respond to a questionnaire. In addition to the questionnaire, the researcher examined the student errors that occurred in the students’ essays throughout 2003 (while they were on the program, together with the ones from last year (2003). The reason for this was to determine if the errors that were present in 2002 are still present even after the students had gone through the WPW. The researcher then found that there was still considerable occurrence of the same errors in the students’ essays, a fact which led the researcher to deduce that very little improvement in the writing skills of the students has occurred between 2002 and 2003. To explain the above point further, the research findings indicated that the essay-writing competence of the subjects did not improve in spite of the WPW intervention.The researcher then went on to evaluate the program, using a set of guidelines2, and found it consistent with the requirements of the evaluation; and therefore ruled it out as the cause of the failure of students to improve their competence in writing. Based on the findings of the study, the researcher found that the students do not put conscious effort to apply what they have learnt in the program, and that some have not even completed the required tasks from the program. She also found that there is lack of integration of the software into the curriculum. Specific recommendations in Chapter 9 are given on how to facilitate this integration and to motivate the students to apply what they have learnt from the WPW to the mainstream essay writing exercises.