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Background of the Study

Language is at the heart of human activities .Any activity carried out by human beings uses language which can be in the spoken form or in the written form. Language then can simply be defined as a complex and arbitrary system of vocal sounds used by human beings for communication in a given community (Amadi et al 2001). One of such languages is the English language which has become an international language and also a language of wider communication. It is Nigeria’s official language as well as the language of law, business, aviation, politics, education etc. Realizing the importance of the English language, for enhancing educational attainment as well as for improving communicative competence and ability of citizens, the Nigerian government has made it a core and compulsory subject for all students in Nigerian schools and for any good employment. In order to facilitate its study, Nigeria government begins its project of teaching English language from primary school as stated in the National Policy on Education: in lower primary the policy stated: “English shall be taught as a subject”, while in upper primary: “English shall be progressively used as medium of instruction” (NPE, 2004:14) . In junior and senior secondary, the policy stipulated that English should be a “core subject” (NPE, 2004:18-21), which must be offered by all the l earners. In tertiary institutions also, English is seen as a compulsory course offered as a general study (GS). Hence, it is seen as a medium of instruction, a compulsory and core subject that must be offered and passed at all levels of education in Nigeria’s educational system. It is therefore evident that without a thorough mastery of the language, learning is inefficient in Nigeria. Despite the provision of this policy which shows clearly the central role of English in the Nigerian educational system as observed by Nwachukwu (2007), the mastery of the language has continued to be poor. This accounts for the poor performance of students in English especially in essay writing. 2 In English language, there are basic four language skills which include listening, speaking, reading and writing. While listening and speaking are the oracy skill, reading and writing are the literacy skill. These skills are to be taught properly for proper mastery of the English language. However, among these four language skills, writing skill has an incalculable influence on humanity because it is a common instrument for the dissemination of knowledge. It is also a complex skill which is seen as difficult and hard. This is because, a learner is always judged from what he writes since he will not be there to defend himself on the course of assessing him. The learner should be able to think, form basic concept, plan and write coherently in English (Uzoegwu, 2004). Writing skill is not like speaking and listening skills which are acquired naturally and hence informally. Writing on its own must be learned through planned and guided educational programme. It is not a skill that can be acquired by chance. It must be taught. Essay writing in particular is a higher form or level of writing skill, and proficiency in this can only be achieved when the students are well grounded in composition skills. Writing is the act of creatively and imaginatively putting down one’s ideas, feelings and opinions using the correct words. It is the use of language in its graphic form, a means of finding out what students know, of testing students and of writing examination. This is also one of the most important activities of the literate community (Uzoegwu, 2004). Writing skill must be learned and mastered through practice. To this end, Thorton (2000) in Egbe (2011) advises that students must be assisted to develop their writing ability and so gain competence in handling different forms of writing that they may need in their lives. Most students feel that those who write are those naturally endowed with the art of writin g. This is a wrong impression which makes them believe that it is difficult for one to write an essay very well. Writing an essay is a skill which requires the writer to organize and express his thoughts clearly and effectively. The ability to write a good essay should be an important goal of any language learner (Onuigbo, 2006).

Statement of the Problem

There have been consistent reports of poor achievement in English language among Nigerian students over the years. Students’ achievement in essay writing at Senior School Certificate Examinations has been generally poor. This low level of achievement has been attributed primarily to poor teaching and assessments methods. (WAEC chief Examiners report 2009) The method of assessment often used by most English language teachers is the conventional assessment method where teachers mark and grade the essays written by their students. This method does not give room for immediate feedback which is an integral part of learning. This is because most times the students are not aware of their performance until after the end of the term. In Owerri educational Zone statistics shows that the number of candidates that pass English language is less than 40% in the recent years (Statistics Unit Owerri zone educational zone). Educators are worried especially when the poor achievement has been blamed on poorly written essays which have the highest mark allotted to English language in Senior School Certificate Examination If English language achievements of students in SSCE remain like this; both economic and technological growth of this nation may be affected. Findings reveal that teachers’ use of conventional method in assessing essay writing among other factors has contributed to the poor achievement of students in English language. However, effectiveness of peer assessment has been established in most science subjects. Evidence from foreign countries suggest that peer assessment has the potential to improve students achievement in English essay writing.(Falchikov, N.2005)

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NAME:                       TITUS AYANI SOLA

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Updated: 9th May 2019 — 4:49 pm

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