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1.1 Background to the Study

Writing is the most powerful medium for knowledge retention and dissemination. Hence, the wise saying of the Arabic tradition (Prophet SAW) that, “The ink of the scholars is more precious than the blood of the martyrs”, and the saying of Allah the exalted on the power of the pen that: “…Read! Your Lord is the most bountiful One, who taught by the pen, taught man what he did not know”.Q.96:1

This signifies the extent to which a good writing skill becomes necessary for perfect understanding of its content and context. Particularly to a teacher who is shouldered with the responsibility of imparting knowledge to his student so that the student‟s entire life will become meaningful for himself and his society. Hence, Strategy of teaching is the most important factor. It is an established fact that modern civilization in new revolutions and developments are everywhere round the globe technologically, as a result of breakdowns in intellectual systems; breakdowns that occur when old Strategies won‟t solve new problems (Kuhn 1963). The change in theory that underlies this kind of revolution is a paradigm shift. Indeed the belief that we are currently at the point of such a paradigm shift in the teaching of writing is inevitable. This aspect- art of writing- is a necessary tool for any form of expression in any given discipline. This is with particular reference to teachers in training at NCE level who are studying Arabic as a second language and Nigerian indigenous Arabic learners who might have been product of conventional secondary schools and might have acquainted themselves with Arabic language for the first time as a subject to study at higher level. Nevertheless, composition theorists and writing teachers can learn from Thomas Kuhn if they see his theory of scientific revolutions as an analogy that can illuminate developments that are taking place in our profession Hairston, (1982). Those developments the most prominent of which is the move to a process-centered theory of teaching writing, indicates that our profession is probably in the first stages of a paradigm shift. Lawal (2009), Lakpini (2006) and Oyedokun (1998) conducted similar researches in teaching Biology in Nigerian secondary schools, but this study transferred the Strategy to Language Arts and in teaching Arabic language as the first trial. This is one of the recommendations of the proponents of the new Strategy in view of using scientific approaches to solving educational problems. Therefore, this research implies use of science based Strategy which is centered towards combining prior knowledge and guided strategies to teach essay writing in language generally and Arabic language in particular among NCE students. This combined strategy is the use of Conceptual Change Instructional Strategy (CCIS). The Strategy that aimed at teaching difficult concepts; setting on from students‟ misconceptions and preconceptions of their previou experiences in learning Arabic language which in turn affected their writing skills. This aspect is prevalent in Nigerian context and especially the conflicts affecting the students due to their Arabic backgrounds. The implication resulted at refining the concepts of essay writings among students of higher institutions of learning particularly NCE students. Those aspects of good Arabic essay are to be redressed; they include grammar, coherence in expressions and vocabulary development in the professional study of Arabic language for teachers in training at Federal Colleges of Education in Nigeria. Also, it will develop how these skills could be mastered and utilized in their academic and scholarly writings in their future studies and career. The artistic values of every culture are found in its Literature. It is the study that has to do with life experience. This life experience is mainly derived from the writer‟s experience (Al-Hashimi, 2005). Another perspective of literature is a representation of life written by way of an imagination. Students‟ teachers should therefore understand that literature as a work of imagination written in various forms will perceive different conceptions. The major components of literature are known as literary genres; this particularly is concerned with three branches. Each category deals with a unique literary artistic work; its proficiency is based on cardinal rules like: form, style or subject matter into which all kinds of artistic work can be derived. These genres are: Poetry, Prose, and Drama. Above all, the contents of these literary works or artifacts are primarily in a form of essay writing- as scripts or manuscripts. As such, any piece of purposive writing on any peculiar subject matter can be referred to essay writing. In Arabic all these genres are bound to specific rules, students who study it as second language are likely to confront misconceptions due to their backgrounds and academic level of competence. According to Microsoft Encarta Dictionaries (2009): an essay is a short non fiction prose piece: a short analytic, descriptive, or interpretive piece of literary or journalistic prose dealing with a specific topic, especially from a personal and unsystematic view point. Therefore, any piece of written Work expressing artistic or journalistic work or resembling it in any medium could be classified as part of an essay. In the same vein, Hornby, Gatenby and Wakefield (2010) explained the meaning of an essay as; 1.piece of writing, usually short and in prose, on any one subject.

b.attempt a task, or to do something – testing or trial of the value or nature of something. The Arabic perception of an essay in this context refers to a way of expressing one‟s mind peculiar to his feelings and life opinions, in written description. As such, an essay is a medium which a writer exposes his thinking to the public in a passionate form. The quest for composition writing is not mainly taught as a subject in schools. It is mostly developed as a skill due to keenness and an impact of intensive and extensive reading from numerous materials. Examples of materials for composition writings are: text records, journals, newspapers, magazines, books, sources of contemporary issues. Non-materials include discourse in media houses and programmes, or exchange of opinions or ideologies between scholastic colleagues on intellectual issues. Ezzeldin (2007: 5-7) is of the opinion that, the zeal that derives the talent of students toward writing essays is peculiar to actualize in scholastic life generally. Not only in preparation to succeed in an examination. He identified some points that will help students to become fully prepared towards writing essays after mastering them. Viz:

  1. Developing ideas: this contained the contents of the topic.
  2. Vocabulary: having wide range of words and the use of idiomatic expressions.
  3. Grammar: having the full comprehension of linguistic rules.
  4. Style: requires the beauty of language expression and wisdom of figurative speech and punctuation.
  5. Length of the topic: a long essay that is interesting indeed determined the proficiency of the language.
  6. Good Presentation: the relevance of the content material and its mechanical accuracy displays literary intelligentsia (pp. 5-7).

Therefore, this study focused on students‟ performance towards redressing their essay writing abilities and improves their creativity as well.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The challenge of studying Arabic as a foreign language is a peculiar one, particularly at the tertiary level like NCE where a good number of students begin its study without a sound background. The fact that its difficulty and complexity of concepts in grammar, linguistics, rhetoric, poetry and features of its unique writing process calls for special attention to teaching using multiple and new strategies other than traditional teaching methods which are in use. Karin (2003) reported, on difficulty level of learning Arabic as a foreign language thus: … “Arabic is categorized as a State Development “level 3” language – – the highest on the difficulty rating scale (1-3), along with Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. It is the only Semitic language rated at this level of difficulty. Hebrew and Amharic, for instance are rated at difficulty level 2. For level 3 languages it takes longer (sometimes twice as long) for adult learners to reach their proficiency goals. In Nigerian context, there are two groups of Arabic learners at NCE level with different backgrounds and the problem persists in their study except for intelligent ones. The first group is those who attended Arabic secondary schools whose medium of learning in most of the subjects is Arabic language. The second group is those who attended public schools whose medium of instruction is English except those who opted for Arabic as an elective subject. These two groups meet at NCE in the same class! Study of Arabic language as a second language especially at tertiary level like NCE is likely to reveal different types of misconceptions particularly to students with poor backgrounds. Recently, some scholars endeavor to proffer approaches in which the misconceptions might best be changed Al-Duaish, (1994), Daud (2011). Although Samba, (1998) quoted from scientific research that, these misconceptions are viable and relatively resistant to change. Thus,the question of how students can be encouraged to give up their previously acquired misconceptions is still a pedagogical problem. The choice of Conceptual Change Instructional Strategy for the present research is based on the fact that scholars in science education have developed some analogies and models towards solution to the problem. For example Davis (2001) pointed out that Conceptual Change Instruction can help students overcome misconceptions and learn difficult concepts in all subject areas. This became an eye opener to other disciplines, such as arts and social sciences.

This study therefore attempted to remediate students‟ misconceptions in Arabic essay writing. The remediating strategies are expected to be used in the process of restructuring students‟ concepts using the Conceptual Change Instructional strategy. This may help to develop proficiency of Arabic students in tertiary teacher programmes, specifically their written skills.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The general objective is to investigate the effect of Conceptual Change Instructional Strategy on the performance of NCE students in Arabic essay writing.

The specific objectives are to:

  1. Investigate the effects of Conceptual Change Instructional Strategy on the performance of students in Arabic Essay writing in Federal Colleges of Education in Nigeria.
  2. Compare the academic performance of NCE students in Arabic essay writing taught using Conceptual Change Instructional Strategy and those taught with Traditional Method of teaching.
  3. Find out whether there is a difference between Male and Female NCE students‟ academic performance in Arabic essay writing taught using Conceptual Change Instructional Strategy.
  4. Compare the performance of NCE students in Arabic essay writing in the experimental and control groups based on the location of their institution.

1.4 Research Questions

This study aimed at finding answers to the following questions:

  1. Does Conceptual Change Instructional Strategy have any effect on the performance of NCE students in Arabic Essay writing in Federal Colleges of Education in Nigeria?
  2. Is there any difference in the academic performance of students in Arabic essay writing taught using Conceptual Change Instructional Strategy and those taught with Traditional Method of teaching?
  3. Is there any difference between Male and Female NCE students‟ academic performance in Arabic essay writing when taught with Conceptual Change Instructional Strategy
  4. Does any difference exist in the academic performance of NCE students in Arabic essay writing in the experimental group as compared with the control group based on the location of their institution?

1.5 Research Hypotheses

Ho1: Conceptual Change Instructional Strategy has no significant effect on the academic performance of NCE students in Arabic Essay writing in Federal Colleges of Education in Nigeria.

Ho2: There is no significant difference in the academic performance of students‟ in Arabic essay writing taught using Conceptual Change Instructional Strategy and those taught with traditional Method of teaching in Federal Colleges of Education in Nigeria.

Ho3: There is no significant difference in the academic performance of Male and Female NCE students in Arabic essay writing when taught with Conceptual Change Instructional Strategy in Federal Colleges of Education in Nigeria.

Ho4: There is no significant difference in the academic performance of NCE students in Arabic essay writing between experimental and control groups when taught with Conceptual Change Instructional Strategy on the basis of the location of their institution.

1.6 Basic Assumptions

The study is based on the following assumptions that:

  1. The use of Conceptual Change Instructional Strategy (CCIS) and Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is appropriate for teaching Arabic essay writing at NCE levels.
  2. The selected topics used in the research are appropriate to the Minimum Standard Curriculum of NCCE Arabic language NCE II level.
  3. That the students in the colleges selected for the study are homogeneous in all their learning characteristics and are facing similar problems in their study of Arabic language.

1.7 Significance of the Study

This work is the first among few recent researches that internalized the use of scientific strategies in the effective training of NCE students on writing process. This directly identified problems in Arabic essay writing concepts and to solve the problems facing students of Arabic language in the Nigerian Federal Colleges of Education and future teachers of our generation. Understanding of Arabic complex concepts encourages talent which will contribute a lot to the Nigerian Arabic literary development. Also, it will drastically reduce the incompetency of Arabic teachers in our schools. Although, some studies carried out noted that students of Arabic mostly at tertiary Diploma and N.C.E. levels have poor deliverance in their writing expressions of Arabic language particularly in the aspects relating to grammatical and mechanical errors in essays and creative writings Dantsoho, (2009) and Daud, (2011). This originated from their poor background, negative attitudes towards writing, or that the Curriculum did not place emphasis on this aspect by making the course one unit only at either NCE I or II. The study will be an important piece for reference and a pacesetter to other researchers and stakeholders who would like to build from where the researcher stopped. Teachers are the backbone for the successful implementation of any Curriculum. Their dedication and commitment is highly needed. Their self efficacy will enhance their output in applying new pedagogy in teaching, to produce specialists in Arabic language who are not only articulate in oral and written Arabic, but also conversant with current global trends in education; and would be able to impart same on students in Nigerian secondary schools where they are mostly employed to teach (Bawa and Aminu, 2007). The significance of this study to teachers is to adopt the Strategy (CCIS) in teaching Arabic writing particularly and other difficult aspects of Arabic language generally. Curriculum planners on their part will investigate areas of improvement of the new Strategy in teaching Arabic reading and writing compositions and can be adopted in other Nigerian languages, suggests provisions for human and material resources for the effective implementation of the CCIS in the Curriculum fully taking into cognizance of Nigerian values. The textbooks publishers on their part will open up new commercial ventures by developing new publications in line with the developing new Curriculum. All the stake holders including Government, policy makers, educators, private agencies, companies and individuals are required to join hands towards publishing the relevant materials for the benefit of Nigerian citizens and the development of education sector. Researchers on their part will endeavor to develop models and explore new modalities, approaches and techniques in their researches to improve the learning experiences. The researcher will also investigate and critically observe the validity and reliability, as well as the evaluation of the new Strategy in the research process. In addition, the area is subjected to further researches. It is the hope of this research that, the Conceptual Change Instructional strategy as a model of teaching can be adopted by teachers for teaching in their classrooms, as the model has been found to be very effective in teaching even large classes using modern materials. If the teacher would employ CCIS teaching process in the classroom, it will help him explore talents, understand better student‟s conception and possibly help the students to resolve whatever misconceptions they might have in their earlier experience. Also, it is hoped that students taught using CCIS will be effectively involved in the learning activities and as such will help them develop more confidence in themselves and what they learn. The Strategy also encourages exchange of thoughts and interactions. The students may become more conscious, confident and develop the ability of creative and reflective thinking, so that they would try to correct their own misconceptions. The strategy therefore realizes student centered learning. Findings of this research work has provided an insight into the effect of variables like background, gender and retention in shifting misconceptions for the purpose of improving learning among Arabic students in Federal Colleges of Education in Nigeria. Also, to help teacher training institutions, such as Federal Colleges of Education and Universities to include the Strategy into the existing approved teaching Strategies. Also, other stakeholders can follow suit in enlightenment campaign to teachers e.g. Nigeria Association of Teachers of Arabic Language and Literature (NATALL), Nigeria Association of Teachers of Arabic and Islamic Studies (NATAIS), National Board of Arabic and Islamic Studies (NBAIS) the Linguistics Association of Nigeria (LAN) etc. That can further conduct researches and organize conferences, seminars and workshops for professional teachers of language, which should build into their activities. This effective teaching strategy will be made a masterpiece for effective learning of language concepts. Furthermore, institutions responsible for teacher professional development like: Nigeria Education Research and Development Council (NERDC). National Teachers Institute (NTI). Curriculum Organization of Nigeria (CON) etc. would find the results of this research useful, thereby incorporating such into their Curriculum development, innovation and instruction programmes in language learning and beyond.

1.8 Scope of the Study

The study focused on Federal Colleges of Education in Nigeria, given the fact that, in terms of Curriculum, objectives, facilities and general characteristics. They are the same in the provisions of the National Policy on Education.

The study was delimited to FCEs found within the North-West States of Nigeria, this comprises seven states namely: Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara with five Federal Colleges of Education identified namely: FCE Zaria, FCE Kano, FCET Bichi Kano, FCE Katsina and FCET Gusau Zamfara. Among these, four operates Arabic language departments and run Arabic programmes at NCE level, with the exception of FCE (Technical) Bichi in Kano state. State colleges of education are not involved. To this effect, the study investigated the effect of Conceptual Change Instructional Strategy in remediating students identified misconceptions about selected topics in Arabic essay writing. It also investigated the effect of this Strategy on students understanding and their performance on the skills of writing and grammatical concepts when compared with those taught using the traditional instructional strategy. In addition, the effect of the Conceptual Change Instructional strategy on students attitudes towards learning Arabic as a second language due to its positive effects of developing students interest, span of thinking and critical analogy of the concepts in question. Also, gender related differences as it relates to the effect of Conceptual Change Instructional Strategy.