This study investigated the effect of peer review technique on the achievement of students in English essay writing in Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State. Five research questions and five null hypotheses were formulated to guide the study. The study engaged quasi-experimental research design. The sample for the study consisted of 160 SSS2 students from two co-educational schools in Odigbo Local Government Area. The experimental group comprised 78 male and female students from schools located in rural and urban areas. The control group comprised 82 male and female students from schools located in rural and urban areas. A multi-stage random sampling technique was used. First to draw the two co-educational schools and two intact classes from each of the schools, and to assign schools to experimental and control groups. Both the experimental group and control group were given the same essay writing but the difference is that while those in the experimental group were taught essay writing with PRT, those in the control group were taught essay writing in using the lecture method. The instrument used for data collection was Essay Writing Achievement Test (EWAT) which was marked over fifty. The EWAT was validated by three experts. The instrument was trial tested on twenty students from Methodist secondary school, Okitipupa, Ondo state. The data obtained from the trial tests were used to calculate the reliability of the instrument using Kendall’s formula. It yielded an index of 0.71. Mean was used to answer the research questions while ANCOVA was used to test the hypotheses at P< 0.05. From the results obtained, it was found out that students in the experimental group had significant higher achievement score in essay writing than their counterparts who are in the control group. Also, gender had a significant effect on the achievement of students in essay writing but school location did not. In addition, the interaction effect between treatment and gender was not significant as well as the treatment and school location was not significant. Based on the findings, it was recommended that English language teachers should adopt peer review technique in teaching essay writing. Different tasks which can aid extensive writing activities should be employed from junior secondary schools to senior secondary school being the foundational classes. The curriculum planners should also include the use of peer review technique in the next review of curriculum.
Background of the Study
Language is an arbitrary system of symbols which enables man to communicate an infinite number and variety of messages, meanings, intentions, thoughts, requests and items of information. It is involved in thinking, memory and reasoning, problem-solving and planning. Indeed, language is involved in higher order mental processes. It is also a means of cultural and value transmission from one generation to the next and from country to the other (Uzoegwu, 2010). Language is a human activity and the development of the individual depends on its usage. Obi (2005) explains that one notable function of language is the record of observations, incidents and processes. Language, he continues, has also been considered as an integral part of culture. It reflects the culture of the people concerned and their world view. Language serves as a means through which people living together structure and organize their experiences. It makes the human society what it is as it plays a leading role in the cultural orientation of the person in the socio-cultural group he belongs (Anasiudu, 2002). English language has played a major role in Nigeria which could be seen in the areas of education, government, business, commerce, mass media and most of internal and external communication. Following Nigeria’s independence from British colonization in 1960, English was retained as the medium of instruction through the implementation of a transitional bilingual education policy. The policy as embedded in the National Policy on Education (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004) states that throughout early childhood, pre-primary and the first three years of primary education, pupils must be taught in the “Mother tongue or language of the immediate community” (Sections 14 (b), 19 (e). The language of immediate community refers to the 521 local languages (Euron Monitor International, 2010) of which three, Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo, are spoken by over 70% of the population and serve largely regional functions (Ibekwe, 2006, P.45). From the fourth year of primary school onward, English is to be employed as the medium of instruction while the language of the immediate community (LIC) and French are to be taught as subjects(Sections 19 (f). By S.S.3, students are expected to be proficient in English and are assessed for English language ‘competence’, judged as the degree of closeness to standard British English (Akeredolu, 2007). The assessment is conducted nationally by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), in a test of written comprehension and verbal skills for the award of the West African Senior School Certificate in English.
However, in spite of the vital roles of the English language, most Nigerian students are unable to acquire proficiency in the skills of the language, especially writing. Akinwamide (2012) observes that the poor performance of students in English could be connected to their inability to write effectively. This translates to low performance of students in other subjects in both external and internal examinations.
From the foregoing, it is evident that achieving student proficiency in the English language has been difficult. However, it is even more difficult to ensure social mobility and economic development in the face of this problem. Individual’s prospects for further education, and higher skilled jobs are consequently foregone, as a credit pass in English is required for admission to all Universities in Nigeria and for appointment to such positions (World Education Services, 2011). In addition, as all subjects are taught in English, this incompetence leads to limitation in student understanding and ability to grasp curriculum content which impacts on them overall academic achievement (Obameata, 1999), as cited in Jekayinta, 2010). From the perspective of the labour market, English remains a critical skill for employability, compensation and career success (EuroMonitor International, 2010), implying that the average student is unqualified for positions in key sectors of the economy. Finally, incompetence in the English language has severe implications for the realization of the nation’s goals. This is especially so for national unity, where the language is to foster inter-tribal communication, as well as economic growth through Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), 58% of which received from English speaking countries (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004; Euromonitor International, 2010). As a result of the innumerable and numberless roles being played by the English language in Nigeria, this makes the Nigerian educational system adopt it as a school subject. The singular aim is to help students acquire the basic elements and skills in the language and also to educate them on the easy, coherent and articulate method of communication in the language.
Conversely, students’ performance at (both junior and senior secondary schools) levels in English language is deteriorating every year. This statement is re-iterated by WAEC Chief Examiners’ Report (2011) “The questions are generally within the scope of the students, although the performance of the students bellied the quality and simplicity of the questions.
They generally organized their essays badly and they made no conscious efforts at grammatical corrections”. From the above comment by WAEC Chief Examiners’ Report, it is observed that even though the questions were very cheap, the students failed to organize their essays well and they committed grammatical errors which also contributed to their poor performance. The report further stated that the poor knowledge of students in the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) contributed to their poor performance. For these reasons, proper attention should be given to the teaching and learning of essay writing in the English Language.
Essay writing is a common linguistic activity. Writing an essay provides a natural outlet for the writer’s reflections on a given topic. It is a form of composition whose content and organization are guided by the topic and purpose of writing (Ezema, 2010). Onyekwere, (2012) sees essay as short piece of writing on a particular or given subject. He continues by saying that essay entails the expressions of the writer’s thought with words. An essay reveals not only the writer’s ability to communicate ideas, but also provides the basis for assessing whether the writer possesses a lively mind.
In addition, Oyinloye (2005) upholds that essay writing has always held a hallowed place within the English syllabus and that it is usually the first questions to appear in most examinations and always carries a substantial amount of marks. From this point of view, the time spent in paying close attention to essay writing is not unjustified. It is not only within the English syllabus that essay writing is a necessary skill, many examination questions in other subjects take the form of essays. It is necessary that students adopt their answers to the specific type of essay writing technique that the question requires. Polio (2003) in cognizance of the task involved in teaching essay writing points out that in essay writing, the sentences must be guided or controlled by the language teacher.
Also, Ezema (2010) attributes failure of students to write good essay to many factors. Ezema observes that writing as one of the language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) has been neglected. This neglect has led to the students not being proficient in essay writing. The teaching of essay writing should aim at the achievement of a technique of expression adequate to the pupils’ future practical needs, the development of a capacity for orderly constructive thinking and the ability to respond to and if possible to use some of the responses of English language.
In essay writing, the writer is interacting with a reader who does not know what the writer has in mind, the writer has to ensure that what the reader writes can be understood. Oyinloye (2005) sees writing as a very complex skill in language learning. A person is deemed a good writer if he is able to put down his thoughts and ideas on paper in an organized manner. In language learning, it is a very important skill because it affords the students the opportunity of using the appropriate words, phrases, and clauses to describe persons, events and situations and to express personal and individual thoughts or ideas. It gives the language teachers the opportunity of assessing their students to monitor their language problems. Writing consists of having something to say and knowing how best to say it on paper.
There are four type of essays: narrative, argumentative, descriptive and expository essays. A narrative essay is one that requires the writer to relate an event or incident as an eyewitness. Narration is a process of telling any kind of story such as biographies, experiences, factual stories and fairy tales, (Ezema, 2010). An expository essay is one that requires a writer to explain something fully. This explanation necessarily demands writing a great deal about what distinguishes the subject of the essay from all other things, (Ezema, 2010). A descriptive essay on the other hand is one that requires a writer to write a description of an object, a person, an animal, an incident or a scene. An argumentative essay is one that requires a writer to present a subject with a view to persuading his reader to agree with his own point of view. It is expected of the learners to know how to write these essay types, skillfully within and outside the four walls of the classrooms.
For second language learners, there are many factors that can hinder students’ academic achievement. These problems can be traced to teachers and their teaching methods, learning environment, and gender. Augustine (2013) observes that non-enhancement of teaching with modern teaching resources, inadequate coverage of course contents, teachers’ inadequacy to teach effectively and inability to assimilate what teachers teach students are problems facing teaching and learning of English language. In view of this statement, it can be inferred that this same problems are facing essay writing teaching and learning. Gloria (2008) sees essay writing as a very complex skill in language learning. Therefore, the best way to learn it is to use appropriate method, assigning hour-long periods each day to focus on its direct teaching. Conversely, teachers often avoid teaching essay writing on regular basis because its teaching makes little meaning to the students. They see essay writing as unimportant area of language learning and whenever the teachers teach it, they use methods that are not innovative and practical oriented (Oyinloye, 2005).
In teaching essay writing, the teacher has many teaching methods to adopt in order to enhance effective teaching and learning. Basically, any teaching method chosen by the teacher should make learning activities active and practical rather than passive and theoretical. It should give students opportunity to practise what they are learning in the real context and appeal to all their language skills. There is general belief that the method chosen by English language teachers to a large extent determines students’ achievement in the language. Uzoegwu (2005) and Oyinloye (2005) hold the view that the method of teaching is indispensable in the teaching-learning process of English as a second language. This view is reinforced by Bolunde (2005), that stresses that the teaching method used by the English language teacher can affect students positively because it is a weapon of enhancing the language ability of his students. There are many teaching methods. These include Lecture Method, Grammar Translation Method (GTM), Audio-Lingual Method (ALM), Direct Method (DM) etc. All these methods are conventional teaching methods. They are methods that involve teacher in complete verbal instruction or expression. Communication flows from teacher to students (Anyima, 2011). They stress on the knowledge of language than use. Azikiwe (1998) observes that, in conventional teaching methods, students learn the speech sound like parrots. Students are expected to internalize the rules of the target language through memorization.
Most teachers have been using lecture method where the students are arranged in straight lines down and across the classroom. The teacher assumes that all the students in the class have equal knowledge or that they know little or nothing. He stands in front of the class and delivers his lessons. As the teacher dominates the lesson, the students’ potentials are rarely used to the fullest and impatience rather than enthusiasm is generated (Offorma 2013). For language learning, grammatical analysis and rote learning of grammatical rules, vocabulary acquisition and translation from the target language to the learner’s mother-tongue and vice-versa are emphasized in conventional method (Offorma, 2004). The students work individually and are assessed individually. Only the best students are rewarded which forces students to work against each other so as to be the best.
In using the lecture method to teach English language essay writing in senior secondary school, the teacher devotes the whole lesson period to explain essay writing and its types and how to write these types of essays. There are no practical strategies or techniques such as flash cards and word games that will stick the vocabulary items to use into the students’ memory when writing a particular type of essay. Throughout the lesson period, there will be no attempt made by the teacher to enable the students practise essay writing. The students, therefore, become passive rather than active in classroom activities. Since no single teaching method takes care of all the components of the language, it may be possible for teachers to combine appropriate methods to suit the lessons they want to teach. As a result of the shortcomings of the existing language teaching methods, the researcher has decided to investigate the effect of a novel teaching method peer review technique on the achievement of students in English essay writing.
The peer review technique (PRT) was developed by Charles James a linguist at Johns Hopkins University in 1990 (Peterson, 2003). Peer review technique is referred to as “peer feedback”, which is an assessment form performed by equal status learners (Gielen, 2010). This technique involves collaborative learning in which students review and evaluate each other’s writing and offer each other with feedback. It offers students the opportunity to contribute to a dialogue concerning the text. Students become active participants in discussion. Students could play two roles, both reviewers and writers, to comment with their own observations and other students’ inspections on the same writing (Wang, 2004). This technique is different from the traditional one-way teaching mode, and students can also take notice of their own errors and find different problems during this procedure. On one hand, students act just as reviewers, editing compositions from a diverse reader point of view. On the other hand, students as writers could also be trained to improve their own writing capabilities. Peer review technique can also improve both spoken and written standard of English Language among the learners (Hansen, 2002). The standard English will be encouraged by teacher and the peers during the review process in the classroom setting.
Peer review technique could be in small groups (two, three, four, or five) or class-wide (a peer tutor to the whole class) and could involve cross-age or cross -ability groups (Oviawe, 2008). In this technique, a child trains another child in the skill in which the first child has mastered. He provides individualized instructions to other students for skill remediation and supplemental instruction. In peer review technique, students become exposed to new patterns of cooperative, collaborative, consensual and non-authoritarian exchanges of ideas (Onabanjo, 2000). Peer review technique is very useful as it makes learners actively engaged in the learning process while the teachers become facilitators of instruction using penetrative questions to make students learn. It allows learners to build on their knowledge base (constructivism) as well as reflect on and regulate their thinking and behaviour as they learn in the classroom (Gielen, 2010). It is not only a good pedagogical tool, but also has the potential to foster and strengthen learning in schools. It makes learners know each other better, share experiences, improve quality of education and build relationships in the school (Hu & Tsui, 2010). The choice of using peer reviewing was based on a strong conviction by the researcher. This conviction was founded in both theory and practice. Theoretically, peer review in process-oriented instruction finds its theoretical support in two different, but closely related disciplines: learning and rhetorical theories. In terms of learning, Vygotsky’s (1978) theory on learning and language coincides with the use of peer review. Vygotsky deemed social interaction an essential element for cognitive learning and accorded great importance to language in human thought development. To him, learning is a cognitive activity that takes place in social interaction. By the same token, writing is a learning activity in which the writer learns best through interacting with his peer reviewers. With regard to rhetorical theories, those stressing the social nature of writing have also favoured the use of peer reviews (Nassaji &Swain, 2000; Rollinson, 2005).
In terms of practice, empirical research findings emphasized the positive impacts of peer review technique. Among studies conducted internationally, results showed that gains in reading were achieved in the United Kingdom using a peer reading approach (Topping, 2000). A similar result was recorded by (Cheng, 2004). The peer review technique leads to gain not only in cognitive domain but also in affective domain. Oviawel (2008) found that the peer review technique helped boost students’ staff concept. Onabanjo (2000) also recorded significant improvement in students’ attitude towards mathematics when peer review technique was employed.
The effectiveness of PRT has been noted in some school subjects like chemistry, mathematics, typewriting, introductory technology etc. both within and outside country can never be denied. However, the fact that PRT recorded great success in the sciences does not mean it will yield the same result when tried out in the humanities, especially English language essay writing. The researcher, therefore, attempts to investigate whether the peer review technique will have any effect on the achievement of students in English essay writing in senior secondary school in Odigbo Local Government, Area of Ondo State.
However, although there is a general belief that students’ poor achievement in English essay writing could be traced to inappropriate method of teaching adopted by teachers, it is likely that some intervening variables such as gender and school location of students can also have some effects on the effectiveness of teaching method and learning outcome especially in English essay writing.
Gender as a psychological term is used to describe male or female humans. Some people assume that gender and sex mean the same, while others regard gender and sex as different. Sex is an inborn physiological condition that makes individuals to be either males or females (Nwafor, 2002). Gender on the contrary is a learned, socially constructed conditions ascribed to males and females (Offorma, 2004).
The effect of gender on students’ achievement in languages has been an area of focus by researchers. Opinions differ on which gender achieves better than the other. For instance, Akabogu (2002) and Marja (2008) recorded no gender difference in performance of male and female students in reading comprehension. Offorma (2009) reported that girls achieve more than boys in foreign language acquisition. On the other hand, Anizoba (2004) and Uzoegwu (2004) also reported no significant influence of gender on the students’ achievement in essay writing. Following the findings, it seemed that the exact nature of the differences in abilities according to gender was not yet clear; therefore, there is need for further studies in the nature of students’ performance by gender.
Closely related to gender influence on students’ performance in English essay writing is location of the school. Differences in school location imply the existence of differences in demographic and socio-economic parameters of the school. Anizoba, (2004), Uwa (2005) and Adepoju (2008) observed that students in schools located in the urban area perform better in second language learning than those in schools located in the rural area. The observation is that schools in the urban area have access to electricity which in turn attracts infrastructures like language laboratory, computers, for computer based learning, availability of well equipped school libraries, conducive classroom and enough qualified English language teachers. On the contrary, schools located in the rural areas lack most of these amenities. So far studies carried out on the influence of location on reading comprehension have shown controversial results. This calls for further investigation. The researcher, therefore, intends to find out the effectiveness or otherwise of school location on students’ academic achievement in English essay writing.
Based on the previous studies, the effects of peer review technique (PRT), school location and gender on students’ academic achievement seem to be inconsistent and contradictory. This calls for continuous and further research on the effects of PRT, gender and school location on students’ academic achievement from time to time and place to place. Consequently, the aim of this study is to find out the effectiveness or otherwise of PRT, location and gender on students’ academic achievement in English essay writing in senior secondary schools in Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State.
Statement of the Problem
There have been consistent reports of poor achievement in English language among Nigerian students over the years. Also, students’ performance in Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) in English language over the years has not been commendable. Students’ achievement in essay writing at Senior School Certificate Examinations has been generally poor. This low level of achievement has been attributed primarily to poor teaching methods. The method often used by English language teachers is the lecture method. This method makes students passive listeners in the class. More so, the lecture method does not allow teachers to adapt learning to the level of students’ understanding.
The poor achievement of students in English essay writing may also be attributed to poor knowledge of the Standard English. Many students could not express themselves in the Standard English. Most students go straight into answering the questions without properly understanding them. Some of them are not well prepared for the Examination. It is evident that major weakness of the student could be their inability to express themselves very well in the Standard English.
Although the use of peer review technique has been tried in subjects like chemistry, government, social studies and typewriting. However, its effectiveness is yet to be determined in the study of English language essay writing, and narrative essay in particular. Also, no study to the best of the researcher’s knowledge explored the effect of the peer review technique on students’ achievement in English essay writing in Nigeria, Odigbo Local Government in particular.
Purpose of the Study
The general purpose of this study is to find out the effect of peer review technique on the achievement of students in English essay writing. Specifically, this study is aimed at
1 Finding out the achievement of students taught essay writing using peer review technique and those taught using lecture method.
2 Establishing the achievement of male and female students taught essay writing using peer review technique and those taught using lecture method.
3 Determining the achievement of urban and rural students taught essay writing using peer review technique and those taught using lecture method
4 Determining the interaction effect between treatment and gender on students’ achievement scores in English language essay writing.
5 Determining the interaction effect between treatment and school location on students’ achievement scores in English language essay writing.
Scope of the Study
The study was carried out in Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State. Odigbo Local Government is made up of seventeen co-educational secondary schools. Senior Secondary School Two (SSII) students were used for this study. The choice of SSII is made because the students’ performance in English essay writing in this area is very poor. The researcher intended to investigate the effect of PRT on students’ achievement in English essay writing in this Local Government.
The study covered only narrative essay writing. The researcher chose narrative essay because students are familiar with narrative essay and also for the researcher to be intensive in the teaching and learning of this type of essay. The narrative essay questions were culled out from Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) past questions. Lecture method was used for the control group while peer review technique was used for the experimental group. The variables of school location and gender were considered along with peer review technique.
Significance of the Study
The theoretical significance of this study is anchored on Vygotsky theory of language learning (1978) which explains that the process of intellectual development takes place within social and cultural contexts. It also views learning as a process that requires environmental input and social interaction. This theory shows how, within a set environment, individuals serve as each other’s monitors, supporters, and guides. If the result of this work is established, it will help students to create their own knowledge in a social and cultural setting thereby supporting Vygotsky’s theory of language learning.
The finding of this study will benefit the students, teachers, education authorities, and curriculum developers. The findings of this study will also contribute to the existing knowledge about methods used in the teaching of English language especially the essay writing.
The utility values of English language to students and the general public need not to be overemphasized. Every citizen of Nigeria needs to be proficient in the use of the language for effective communication within and outside Nigeria. This is why the public out-cry of students’ persistent poor achievement in English language is very loud. Researchers have investigated the effect of the use of various teaching methods to address the issue of students’ poor achievement in English language with minimal success. Therefore, the students will benefit from the findings of this study because the use of peer review technique will improve their achievement in English language essay writing. Consequently, their achievement generally in English language will improve.
Application of the findings of this study pedagogically will reduce the teacher’s stress in the classroom as most of the learning activities will be carried out by the students while the teacher will just be a facilitator of learning. Peer review technique permits the award of group scores to students. Because of the large number of students each English language teacher handles in a class, group scoring will reduce the number of scripts the teacher will have more time to prepare for subsequent lessons.
The findings of this study will enable education authorities to organize seminars and workshops where they will enlighten the English language teachers on how to use the peer review technique and impress on the teachers the necessity to use the technique in their various schools as it will improve their students’ achievement in English language.
Curriculum developers will also benefit from the findings of this study. They will include the technique as an innovation in language teaching technique in secondary schools curriculum. The technique will also be included in the curriculum used for training teachers. When this work is published, the end users will locate the findings of the study.
The following research questions guided this study:
i What are the mean achievement scores of students taught essay writing using peer review
ii What is the effect of gender on the achievement of students taught essay writing using peer review technique?
iii What are the mean achievement scores of urban and rural students taught essay writing using peer review technique?
iv What is the interaction effect of treatment and gender on students’ achievement scores in English language essay writing?
v What is the interaction effect of treatment and school location on students’ achievement scores in English language essay writing?
Five null hypotheses guided this study and were tested at alpha level of 0.05.
HO1 There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of students taught essay writing using peer review technique.
HO2 There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of male and female students taught essay writing using peer review technique.
HO3 There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of urban and rural students taught essay writing using peer review technique.
HO4 There is no significant interaction effect of treatment and gender on the mean achievement scores of students in English essay writing.
HO5 There is no significant effect of treatment and school location on the mean achievement scores of students in English essay writing.