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This paper reviews the intense debate that has been taking place in the past six decades concerning the value of traditional grammar instruction in the improvement of students’ writing abilities since the release of the Braddock Report (1963), whose
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  Teaching Grammar in College 1 Teaching Grammar in College Eduard C. Hanganu B.A., M.A., Linguistics Lecturer in English, UE Draft 5 Revised  –   December 8, 2014 © 2014  Teaching Grammar in College 2 Abstract This paper reviews the intense debate that has been taking place in the past six decades concerning the value of traditional grammar instruction in the improvement of students’ writing abilities since the release of the  Braddock Report   (1963), whose conclusion was that grammar instruction did not improve the students’ writing skills, but had a “negligible,”  or “even a harmful effect , ”  on students. Subsequent studies have shown that the  Braddock Report  ’s  inferences had been based on incorrect and misconstrued data (Tomlinson, 1994). More recent data has demonstrated improvement in the student s’ writing after grammar instruction (Lyster, Lightbown & Spada, 1999).On the other hand, Feng and Powers (2005) mention Weaver, McNally and Moerman (2001) who think that “to teach or not to teach grammar is not the question,” but whether “what and how to teach it,” a  matter that teachers and instructors have to confront (Feng & Powers, 2001). The vast number of methods and approaches designed for grammar teaching indicates the confusion amongst the English instructors concerning an acceptable grammar definition, and the most acceptable methods and approaches for the teaching of the discipline. Key words: grammar, writing, composition, teaching grammar, grammar instruction.  Teaching Grammar in College 3 Teaching Grammar in College Grammar instruction has been a matter of debate in the American education for the past six decades, since Fries (1952) published The Structure of English , which established “the foundations of modern linguistics,”  but also comprised a harsh criticism of traditional grammar as outdated and  based on an unempirical tradition. Fries promoted structuralism as the scientific replacement of the traditional, prescriptive approach to language education (Williams, 2005, pp. 99-100), and avowed that language research required conclusions based on the “empirical   observation,”  of language and the “facts of language , ” implicating that “traditional grammar ought to be discouraged ,  —  outlawed, if possible” (Mulroy, 2005, p. 5).  Other scholars went even further, and disputed whether grammar instruction was needed in the achievement of good writing skills. The conclusions of the  Braddock  Report   (1963) were that “the teaching of formal grammar has a negligible” if not “a harmful effect “on the improvement of writing” and should be removed from the curriculum (Mulroy, 2005, p. 6). This paper examines how English language education has been impacted in the past decades due to the  Braddock Report   and other parallel and contrasting studies, considers the present situation, and reviews the different methods and approaches used at the present time to teach grammar in college. Teaching Grammar: Harmful to Students? In 1963, about a decade after Fries published The Structure of English  (1952) in which he dismissed traditional grammar and endorsed structuralism as the linguistic, empirical approach to research on language structure, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) released the conclusions of “The Braddock Report, ” called  Research in Written Composition , which had been commissioned to Braddock, Lloyd-Jones and Schoer in the beginning of the decade. The purpose of the research had been to examine English composition as part of the American curriculum and to evaluate its condition. The srcinal conclusion of the research was that composition was in the  Teaching Grammar in College 4 emergent phase, and that little was known about this new academic field: “ Some terms are being defined usefully, a number of other procedures are being refined, but the field as a whole is laced with dreams, prejudices, and makeshift operations" (p. 5). The “ Braddock Repor  t” had involved 485 studies on composition, with the avowed goal to create a “review [of] what is known and what is not known about the teaching of composition and the conditions under which it is taught” (p.1). From all the research, the team selected five studies which examined the English composition from different perspectives, among which was grammar and its relation to writing. Braddock and his colleagues deemed Harris’ (1962) unpublished Ph.D. dissertation as providing the most reliable evidence that grammar instruction was not beneficial to students. The conclusion drawn at the end of Harris’ research had been that “it seems safe to infer that the study of English grammar had a negligible or even harmful effect upon the correctness of children’s writ ing in the early part of the five secondary schools ”  (1962, p. 35). Since no opposing evidence seemed to exist in the reviewed studies, Braddock and the other researchers affirmed: In view of the widespread agreement of research studies based upon many types of students and teachers, the conclusion can be stated in strong and unqualified terms: the teaching of formal grammar has a negligible, or because it usually displaces some instruction and  practice in actual composition, even a harmful effect on the improvement of writing (p. 37) Harris’ ( 1962) research conclusions must be seen as tentative. The data he collected could not warrant a generalization, and the research approaches he used were flawed. Tomlinson (1994) and even an earlier critique of Harris’  dissertation (Mellon, 1977), had shown that much too much reliance had been placed on a single, two-year investigation. Kolln and Hancock (2005) state: Although the evaluations were based on writing, pre- and post-essay, the essays were not scored holistically nor were they rated for effectiveness; they were scored on the basis or  Teaching Grammar in College 5 errors and numbers. Numbers of spelling errors and coma splices were tallied; numbers of words, numbers of subordinate clauses and such were tallied. Clearly, such a scoring method would never pass muster today. (p. 16) The Braddock et al. (1963) research conclusions on the relation between composition and grammar caused a direction change in English writing instruction. Dixon continued with Growth   Through English ,    published   in 1 967, a report which “grew out of a month -long, Anglo-American Seminar on the teaching of English held at Dartmouth College in 1966, the seminar that gave rise to the ‘learner  - centered’ view of education” (Kolln & Hancock, 2005, p. 16). The writing method and various approaches to writing skills development presented in Growth Through English  were untraditional, and quite unusual: It introduced such concepts as free writing, journal writing and peer-review, all of which  became part of the writing process. This philosophy could not have been further from the traditional, teacher-centered classroom, in which students are seen as empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge. (Kolln & Hancock, 2005, p. 16) The man, though, who anathemized the grammar teaching in connection with writing was Peter Elbow. Professor of English and Writing Program director at SUNY, Elbow wrote the book Writing With Power   (1981) in which he included Dixon’s (1967) new approaches to composition teaching, and expressed without equivocation the idea that grammar instruction should be seen as the main obstacle in the development of student writing skills: Learning grammar is a formidable task that takes crucial energy away from working on your writing, and worse yet, the process of learning grammar interferes with writing; it heightens your preoccupation with mistakes as you write out each word and phrase, and makes it almost impossible to achieve that undistracted attention to your thoughts  and
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