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.
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
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.
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.
Teachers of English to Speakers of
Other Languages (TESOL)
American English Institute -- University
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