Product, process and genre: Approaches to writing in EAP

Richard Badger, CELT, University of Stirling

There are commonly said to be three approaches to writing within EFL and EAP, product, process and genre. These approaches are regarded as being mutually exclusive and there has been much debate between proponents of the different approaches. This workshop attempts to identify an approach which draws on the best of all three.

Product/ Text based approaches

Product based approaches can be said to see writing as mainly concerned with knowledge about the structure of language and writing development as mainly the result of imitation of input in the form of texts provided by the teacher. The main criticisms here are that skills, such as planning a text, play a relatively small role in these approaches, that the knowledge that learners bring to the classroom is undervalued and not enough attention is given to the social context in which texts are produced.

  1. Familiarization/ analysis of target text
  2. Controlled writing
  3. Guided writing
  4. Free writing

Process/ Expressivist/ Writer

Process approaches see writing primarily as the exercise of linguistic skills and writing development as acquisition which happens in situations where teachers facilitate the exercise of writing skills. The main criticisms are that such approaches often regard all writing as being produced by the same set of processes, that they do not give enough importance to the kind of texts writers produce , and finally they may not provide learners with sufficient input to carry out the writing tasks successfully.

Rehearsing or pre-writing

Genre Approaches

Genre based approaches are said to see writing as essentially concerned with knowledge of language in context and the development of writing as a response input in the form of texts. The main criticisms are that genre approaches down play the skills needed to produce a text and see learners as largely passive. This last factor may lead to learners who are able to deal with the kinds of writing they have dealt with in the classroom but are not able to deal with any new forms of text they may come across outside the classroom and is unlikely to produce high levels of motivation. In addition they are unlikely to be able to use the language creatively.

Introduce sample text
Analyse text
Manipulate language elements
Produce target text

The Process Genre Approach

A process genre approach starts with the situation which gives rise to a particular genre of writing. The students then produce some writing in line with their own needs supported by the teacher, their peers and sample texts.

Figure 1: A genre process model of teaching writing 

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