Can creative writing be taught? Can those who “don’t have it” inside be creative?
The article being criticised can be found here: http://cscanada.net/index.php/sll/article/viewFile/1335/1438
The article Enhancing ESL Writing via a Literature Based Instruction summarises the experiment undertaken by Chittra Muthusamy, Faizah Mohamad, Siti Norliana Ghazali, and Angelina Subrayan. As the title suggests, the article encloses the literature, the experiment and the findings of incorporating literature based language instruction in ESL writing lessons to trigger, evaluate, and enhance creative writing of the students.
The article starts with an introduction in which the writers gave a holistic view of writing skills in comparison to different aspects of creative writing arguing that literature plays an important role in shifting students’ writing from the dullness of academic writing, to the liveliness of creative one. Then the writers discussed the elements of literature that can engage students, and provide a wide variety of resources for ESL teachers to choose from. The writers cited a number of references to support the claims of literature exposure and its role in enriching students’ academic, intellectual, cultural, and linguistic learning. The article then discussed the principle of creativity, and its relation to education and English
language. The writers gave a close look on some types of language creativity ranging from lexical, phonological, graphological, semantic and grammatical creativity, in addition to the use of metaphor. Finally, the writers provided a lengthily details description of the method used in the experiment, a research instrument, the treatment and instructional procedures, data collection and analysis procedures, and finally the findings of the experiment.
The whole article and research can be perceived as a scientific try to answer and solve the complicated issue of how teachable is creative writing. One can notice that the language of the article ranged between pure scientific information-oriented style when talking about the methods and data analysis, and somehow prose-like style when it comes to the rationale behind the experiment. The article is well referenced and well structured in order to reflect the explanatory aspect of the reasons behind such research and study. It provides concise definitions and explanations of literature usage in ESL; and also the difference between writing, creativity, and creative writing. The researchers even went further to explore the relation between creativity and education, and the different types of creativity that ESL learners may reflect. One of the positive points in the article is the scientific explanation and description of the approach and methods used by the researchers in order to test the enhancement of creative writing. The research was conducted on two experimental and control groups; and was built on a quasi-experimental design in which Ibsen’s I-Model of text exploration was applied on the experimental group. The findings and results reflected the overall improvement in creative writing of the experimental group. The researchers gave a full account on the stages of Ibsen’s text exploration and mentioned in details the nature of tasks, the interaction taking place between the readers and the story, in addition to the type of active reading and negotiation of meaning.
Yet, the article raises a number of question marks towards explaining, describing, and validating some key concepts and issues.
First, the researchers gave an exaggerated negative description of the students’ competence and their actual writing skills. They also could not provide a decisive say in whether creativity is considered to be an innate gift, or a tool used in education. The article also fails in describing the appropriate input of the appropriate literary piece that should be used. That not all literary works could be used as a good input for creative writing. Add to this, the well-known, appealing and good literary works usually utilise somehow complicated and complex language structures, vocabulary registry, and writing techniques that can prove challenging for ESL learners and consequently will lead to unfulfilling the aim of creative writing.
Second, the article fails in explaining key arguments the article is based upon. The researcher did not explain the relation between linguistic competence and subject and content details; and between literature and syntax enhancement. The research did not give any pedagogic explanation of how this enhancement is taking place.
Finally, the article could not provide validation for some key points in the study. The article concentrates, especially in the findings, on the overall group achievement in the pre-test post-test comparison. However, the researchers did not pay attention nor highlight the individual differences among ESL learners. ESL learners have different learning preferences, needs, and intelligences. Literature based language instruction may cause disengagement and raise serious effectiveness questions. Their creative writing responses in the post-test might not be but immediate reflection on the experiment where there is no indication of any long-term testing taking place in order to eliminate the temporariness of the results. Moreover, constant exposure to literary works and literature works centred lessons and practices (the entire focus is on creative writing) may raise plagiarism concerns. The writers did not provide any evidence that the creativity measures found in the students’ post-test were authentic and were not mere replicas of the characters, structures, plots, and vocabulary found in the literary work they studied before. In addition, one of the limitations looming around the article is the potentiality of focus-shifting to written forms of output neglecting, in the same time, any other form of output.