USIA English Language Programs

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs


Report on Academic Specialist Visit to Morocco:
July 3 - 15, 1999

By Martha Grace Low, University of Oregon


About the Specialist

Martha Grace Low is a senior instructor in English as a Second Language at the American English Institute, the intensive ESL program at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon, where she has taught since 1988. She holds a baccalaureate degree in English from Baylor University (1969) and a master's degree in English from the University of Houston (1976). In addition to her position at the University of Oregon, Ms. Low has taught ESL at Oregon State University, at the University of Houston, at the Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey in Queretaro, Mexico, at the Universitat Siegen in Germany, and at the Instituto de Estudios Norteamericanos in Barcelona, Spain. Her publications include a writing textbook entitled A Practical Guide for Advanced Writers in English as a Second Language, a reading textbook entitled Thresholds in Reading, and a co-authored chapter on copyright and permissions in the textbook Writing for Publication. She is a frequent presenter at conferences and is an active member of TESOL.


Areas of Specialization

Teaching writing, reading, vocabulary, integrated skills, critical thinking, intercultural communication, English for academic purposes. Materials development (both writing and editing). Curriculum design and documentation.


Trip Report

I was one of eight invited presenters at the 15th Annual Summer Institute of English (SIE) in Rabat, Morocco, in July 1999. This prestigious institute was jointly sponsored by the Moroccan Ministere de l'Enseignement Secondaire et Technique, the British Council, and the United States Information Service, and the presenters were provided through these organizations. The participants in the institute were Moroccan teachers of English in secondary schools around the country.

The focus of this year's SIE was "Approaches to the Teaching of Writing in the ELT Classroom." Most of the presentations encouraged instruction in the process approach to writing, which occasioned a lively debate on exactly how to implement it in classes that are large and in a curriculum that is already very full. Over the course of the two weeks of the institute, in addition to the presenters' speeches and mini-courses, participants who were already implementing the process approach gave testimonials and encouraged their colleagues to pilot this approach in small ways, to evaluate its effectiveness, and to discuss possibilities for further implementation with each other.

I found it stimulating to offer my ESL experience and information for an environment in which it would necessarily have to be adapted to the realities of the local EFL programs. I was very interested to hear the Moroccan teachers' reactions and discussions of what would work, what would not work, and how adaptations might be made. Any approach to teaching a foreign language can be adapted, and it is critical to ask how the fundamental principles of the approach can be maintained while the details are creatively changed to fit the realities of a new situation. In the ensuing dialogue, I learned as much as anyone present.

I also was reminded of some of the basic tenets of innovation in educational settings. Innovation requires support from both the top and the grass roots, and educational innovation requires training for practitioners and the creation of supporting materials. In Moroccan secondary schools, a full-fledged adoption of the process approach to teaching writing will necessitate cooperation among the teachers, the inspectors, the writers of the curriculum goals, the textbook-writing commission, and the examination writers. Yet even before such a concerted effort has taken place, it was exciting to hear the reports of teachers who are already incorporating elements of this approach into their classrooms, and who are enthusiastic about the results.

Overall, I found Moroccan secondary-school teachers and inspectors to be a lively and well-informed group. They are conscientious about their work and are highly professional. Their local professional organization, the Moroccan Association of Teachers of English, is an impressive and very active body. The teachers' questions and references to their own reading kept me on my toes, and I learned at least as much from them as they did from me.



Suggested Bibliography

Bates, Linda, et al. 1993. Writing clearly: Responding to ESL compositions. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.

Connor, Ulla, and Ann M. Johns. 1990. Coherence in writing: Research and pedagogical perspectives. Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Kroll, Barbara (ed). 1990. Second language writing: Research insights for the classroom. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Langer, Judith A., and Arthur N. Applebee. 1987. How writing shapes thinking: A study of teaching and learning. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English

Leeds, Bruce (ed). 1996. Writing in a second language: Insights from first and second language teaching and research. London: Longman.

Nelson, Marie Wilson. 1991. At the point of need: Teaching basic and ESL writers. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers.

Raimes, Ann. 1983. Techniques in teaching writing. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Scott, Virginia Mitchell. 1996. Rethinking foreign language writing. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.

Tchudi, Stephen N. 1986. Teaching writing in the content areas. National Education Association of the United States.

White, Ron, and Valerie Arndt. 1991. Process writing. London: Longman.



Recommended Links

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)

American English Institute -- University of Oregon


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