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An Investigation into the Problems Encountered in Directed Writing

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This work is titled an investigation into the problems encountered by form four and five students in directed writing. Data for this study was collected with the use of questionnaires for students and teachers. Four research questions formulated to guide the study.

A survey design was used with the sample population which comprised 92 students with 92 questionnaires. Data were analyzed and presented using frequency tables and percentages. From the findings in WUM, certain recommendations were made, for instance, the government should try and recruit well-experienced and qualified teachers and Directed writing should be taught at least twice a week and it should be taught at the early stage of secondary school.



Directed writing task requires students to produce a piece of writing in which they present their own views in a particular form. They need to show they can control a style of writing and write engagingly and purposefully.

Writing is the activity or occupation of composing text for publication. There are four types of writing

  • Expository writing: the author explains his/her purpose to the reader
  • Persuasive writing: It states the opinion of the writer
  • Narrative writing: Here the author tells a story
  • Descriptive writing: It uses the five senses to paint a picture.

This chapter will therefore be examining the background of the study, the scope of the study, research hypotheses research objective, research question, the significance of the study, the scope of the study.

Background of the Study

The study on Directed Writing was introduced in the Cameroon G.C.E board in 1990 and become operational in 1992. Anybody with the ability to read and write always needs to write something in their daily lives. There are so many things that people write which include; public signs, songs, advertisements, books, short stories, epics, and much more. All these varieties of things are brought about by different circumstances in how and what people write. These are types of circumstances reproduced when people write directed writing. As a result of this, directed writing gives students the opportunity to practice various forms of writings which they will apply in their everyday lives.

According to Yembe (1995), since its introduction in the Cameroon Certificate of Education, Ordinary Level examination in 1990. Students have held Directed Writing as one of the most difficult types. They complain that they do not understand the introduction and therefore cannot respond appropriately to the questions been asked. This view is also supported by teachers and examiners of Cameroon. They claim that students can not follow instructions and produced what is needed without necessarily copying the whole texts. As a consequence the examiners claim, there has been a low success rate for Directed. Writing as compared to other English Language exercises.

The moderator (a person whose job is to work on both sides) adds that he accounts for the low percentage pass in the English Language Paper even for schools that score 100% at the G.C.E. The moderator attributes this poor performance to the fact that Directed Writing is still very new in the syllables. Although it was introduced twenty-four years ago, students and teachers have not been fully sensitized to its requirements. The workshop which takes place at the marking center cannot effect much change because teachers do not come from all the schools in the country to mark. The above accounts for the performance of candidates in the English Language at the General Certificate of Education examination, Ordinary Level, evident from the year (1990 – 1995). According to Nzuoh (1996), refused to give the discouraging results statistic of 1992.


TABLE 1. Performance of Students At The G.C.E. ENGLISH LANGUAGE.



























The above performance motivated this investigative study which seeks to highlight the problems students of form five encounters in Directed writing. Directed writing is one of the sections taught in forms VI and v V and is written at the Ordinary Level. It is the last stage at which English is taught as a compulsory subject. This level lays a foundation that sustains most ESL (English as a second language). Learners in Cameroon mostly those that will not do English at the higher levels throughout their life-long learning process. A poor foundation will lead to a lack of productive language skills, which many people claim are a characteristic of ESL Learners of higher institutions like the Ecole Normal Supérieure (E.N.S) And other State and private Universities

Generally, among the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Writing is the most difficult. Some writers like Raimes (1983) think that writing is the most difficult even for the native speaker to acquire. They attribute this difficulty to the difference between the writing and speaking processes. The writing problems can be categories into three headings, psychological, linguistic, and cognitive.

Psychologically, he says writing is a solitary process, unlike speech, where we are used to the physical presence of interactors who provide feedback. In like manner, Rivers (1982) holds the opinion that writing is performed as it is in “avoid” in response to internal stimuli. The writer adds and compensates for the absence of external contextual elements by including elaborate explanatory details that a speaker will leave out.

At the linguistic level, Byrne (1979) says the writer has to master standard forms of sentence structure, sentence corrections, and organization so that the text can be understood in the absence of the writer.

Cognitively, Raimes (1983) and others believe speech is a Universal kill acquired by everyone without any conscious effort. Writing on the contrary is not for all. Byme emphasizes that we have to be taught how to read and write through a process of instruction. We have to learn how to organize our ideas for readers. This view is also held by Raimes who says writing is not simply speech written down on paper, neither is it just a “natural” extension of speaking a language. We are all taught how to write the language we speak.

Directed Writing is a very difficult thing to teach. For this to be successful to the students, they have to pay attention when the teacher is teaching. There are so many problems that students will face even teachers if they don’t take the following into consideration. Classroom management, for a teacher to teach directed writing successfully, you must know your students very well and follow them up for better understanding. To show that the students understand you very well, they must develop communicative skills so that they can interact with their teacher. Since directed writing is newly introduced into the Cameroon GCE Board, students and teachers of form five find it difficult to teach and to understand it. For them .to understand this, they have to do a lot of exercises very often.

Teaching itself is a human activity that involves a range of planning, interactions, organizations, and material resources that takes place in the teaching-learning process. Teaching requires that its practitioner clearly understand what should be done to bring about the most desirable learning in the learner. The success also relies on how well the teachers train their students. (Beltran, 1992).

Yembe (1995) says that for students to perform well in Directed Writing, they must first of all \know the importance of Directed Writing and how beneficial it is to them. Directed Writing is useful in teaching students certain skills that are indispensable in English Language usage she presents the following skills developed in students as a result of Directed writing.

Students have the ability to select relevant materials from any given piece of Writing.

  • It trains students to write for a specific purpose.
  • Directed Writing trains students to slant their material that is written in a specific tone that is persuasive, convincing, Sarcastic or gentle
  • Directed Writing Encourages students to write for a specific audience.
  • Directed Writing helps students to get used to writing essential facts.
  • Directed Writing requires students to write accurately: that is correct their tenses, punctuation, and spelling.
  • In Directed Writing, much emphasis is laid on the purpose of writing and the audience for which people write.

In our present context of education in Cameroon, formal education beginning from the pre-primary right up to the University level must take sequential tests. Directed writing has brought a lot of failures most especially to the form five students. In order for students to perform well in Directed, Writing, teachers should give them the opportunity to do practical exercises so as to bring out the best in them. This is necessary because it will helps the students to fulfill their goals in the mastery of Directed Writing and the competencies needed as clearly spelled out in the National competency-based standards for Teachers (NCBTS) and CMO 30, s.2004 and its regional adaptation.

Paper one of the “O” Level English is of great concern and importance to most students and teachers of the English language. It is not only concerned with the marks at the end of the course but it also tests the more difficult skills in Writing. Directed Writing is often divided into two sections which are 15 marks for language 15 marks for task fulfillment. Most students find the questions manageable. Even weak students can cope with it for several reasons.

  • Students do not worry about the content as points are provided.
  • Students can actually score full marks for content and even format if they have been taught the different types of formats.
  • The questions do not make excessive linguistic demands, unlike the continuous writing question.
  • The question usually revolves around the experiences of students.
  • There are general guidelines for Directed Writing:
  • Always read the questions carefully and highlight what you are required to do.
  • Use the 45 minutes allocated for the question wisely.
  • Plan your essay and organize your thoughts. Always read through what you have written and made amendments where necessary.
  • Rectify grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors.
  • Use all the points given.
  • Include points of your own if you are asked to.
  • Elaborate on the points given
  • Use a variety of sentence structures.
  • Include an introduction and conclusion and make sure your paragraphs are well organized

There are also some common pitfalls: The first is poor time management. Some students spend more than 45 minutes on more than one question. As a result of this, they have less time for the other question. Which carries the substantial 50 marks?

Lengthy essays. Some students write too much. Remember writing long essays does
not mean your essay is the best. Save your time and energy for continuous writing.

Statement of the Problem

Concerning the various sections of the English language paper of the G.C.E “O” Level: Composition, directed writing, listening comprehension poses a lot of problems to both students and teachers. Yembe (1995) indicates that directed writing was introduced in 1990 and came operational in 1992 for the first time. Consequently, it is a problem for teachers and students because they find it very difficult to understand.

In order to teach Directed Writing very effective to students with a problem I hereby suggest that instead of teaching it only in form five which brings down the percentage of the school, it should be introduced in form three so that students should Master the tactics for three years before writing it at the “O” Level. As a result of this, it will be easy to understand the teacher at this level. The reason why students fail so much in Directing Writing is that they do not understand that task and what is required of them.

Purpose of the Study

This study attempts an investigation into some of the problems students face in Directed Writing at the G.C.E board. It also seeks to bring out their attitude towards Directed Writing. To achieve these objectives, the following research questions were posed.

  1. What are the problems students encountered in Directed Writing?

  2. Do students have enough practice in Directed Writing?

  3. Do students use an effective approach in their practice?

Aim of the Study

The aim of this research is to find out:

To what extent do students of form five use Directed Writing approaches effectively.

– To examine why Directed Writing is taught only informs four and five.

Directed Writing

Directed Writing

Directed Writing

Directed Writing

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