Systematic Review: Challenges in Teaching Writing Skills for Upper Secondary in ESL Classrooms and Suggestions to overcome them

  • Saravanan A/L Palanisamy Faculty of Education, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)
  • Azlina Abdul Aziz Faculty of Education, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)
Keywords: systematic review, writing challenges, writing skills, ESL classrooms, writing strategies


This paper presents a systematic review of relevant published studies on challenges in teaching writing skills for upper secondary in ESL classrooms and solutions to overcome them from year 2012-2020. This systematic review attempts to address two research questions ; i.e. what are the writing challenges of the students and what are the solutions to overcome writing challenges faced by ESL students. 12 single studies and 2 systematic reviews were systematically reviewed and revealed that the most challenges encountered by students in writing are word choice, vocabulary, grammar and poor organisation of ideas. The findings also shed some lights on solutions to overcome the challenges from teachers’ and students’ perspective. Teachers should act as a guidance by providing sample essays, giving feedbacks and choose suitable approach by identifying students’ needs. Meanwhile the students should read more to generate ideas and improve their vocabulary and grammar knowledge.

Abstract views: 68 , PDF downloads: 77


Download data is not yet available.


Ahmed, P.H. (2019). Major Writing Challenges Experienced by EFL Learners in Soran University. Journal of University of Human Development, 5(3), 120.

Akhtar, R. … Hussain, S. (2019). A systematic review of the challenges and solutions of ESL students’ academic writing. International Journal of Engineering and Advanced Technology, 8(5), 1169–1171.

Al-Gharabally, M. (2015). the Writing Difficulties Faced By L2 Learners and How To Minimize Them. International Journal of English Language and Linguistics Research, 3(5), 42–49.

Alfaki, I.M. (2015). University students’ English writing problems. International Journal of English Language Teaching. Published by European Centre for Research Training and Development UK (Www.Eajournals.Org), 3(3), 40–52.

Anwar, M.N. & Ahmed, N. (2016). Students ’ difficulties in learning writing skills in second language. Science International (Lahore), 28(4), 735–739.

Aragón, C. et al. (2013). An analysis of the writing skill difficulties of the english composition I students at the Foreign Language Department of the University of El Salvador. University of El Salvador 79.

Asiatefl. 2013 (1) English Challenges. (n.d.).

Basri, H. et al. (2019). Using Google Apps as Learning Strategy to Enhance ESL Writing. Creative Education, 10(2008), 2649–2657.

Boon, Y.M. et a. (2013). L2 writing challenges for the undergraduates: A performance analysis and a literature review on SIL domains. The Asian Conference on Language Learning Conference Proceedings 2013 302–316.

Christzer, J. et al. (2018). Writing Difficulties and Quality of Academic Essays of Senior High School Students. Asia Pacific Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, 6(4), 46–57.

Conference, I. & Childhood, O.N.E. (2019). International conference on early childhood development ​(icecd 2019) 6.

Deane, P. (2018). The Challenges of Writing in School: Conceptualizing Writing Development Within a Sociocognitive Framework. Educational Psychologist, 53(4), 280–300.

Eng, I.J et al. (2016). International Journal of English Language , Literature and Translation Studies ( Ijelr ) Writing Problems Faced By the Secondary Level Students : a Study of the Kendrapada District 3: 36–41.

Fareed, M. et al. (2016a). ESL Learners’ Writing Skills: Problems, Factors and Suggestions. Journal of Education & Social Sciences, 4(2), 83–94.

Farooq, M.S. et al. (2012). Opinion of Second Language Learners about Writing Difficulties in English Language. South Asian Studies, 27(1), 183.

Gabrielatos, C. (2016). EFL Writing : Product and Process EFL Writing (December).

Ghabool, N. et al. (2012). Investigating Malaysian ESL Students’ Writing Problems on Conventions, Punctuation, and Language Use at Secondary School Level. Journal of Studies in Education, 2(3), 130–143.

Giridharan, B. (2012). Identifying Gaps in Academic Writing of ESL Students *. US-China Education Review A 6, 1548–6613.

Habibi, A. (2017). Students’ Perception on Writing Problems: A Survey at One Islamic University in Jambi. Ta’dib, 22(1), 96–108.

Haynes, J. (2008). Language Learners Language Learners. Development 12(February 2004): 1399–1412.

Hodges, T.S. (2017). Theoretically Speaking: An Examination of Four Theories and How They Support Writing in the Classroom. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 90(4), 139–146.

Ibnian, S.S.K. (2017). Writing Difficulties Encountered by Jordanian EFL Learners. Asian Journal of Humanities and Social Studies, 5(03), 2321–2799.

Ien, L.K. et al. (2017). Overcoming Writing Problems Among Pupils In A Rural Primary School Sarawak. Jurnal Pendidikan Humaniora, 5(1), 1–7.

Jelas, Z.M. & Dahan, H.M. (2010). Gender and educational performance: The Malaysian perspective. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 7, 720–727.

Kho, M.G.W et al. (2013). Writing difficulties faced by Politeknik Kuching Sarawak commerce diploma students in doing their assignments. The Asian Journal of English Language & Pedagogy, 1, 90–101.

Larsen-Freeman, D. & Long, M.H. (2014). An introduction to second language acquisition research. An Introduction to Second Language Acquisition Research, 1–398.

Li, K.L. & Razali, A.B. (2019). Idea sharing: Process-based approach to writing in Malaysian english education. Pasaa, 58(12), 319–341.

Lowenfeld, B. (1963). Chapter III: The Visually Handicapped. Review of Educational Research, 33.

Maarof, N. & Murat, M. (2013). Writing strategies used by ESL upper secondary school students. International Education Studies, 6(4), 47–55.

Md. Kamrul Hasan & Mohd Moniruzzaman Akhand. (2010). Approaches to writing in EFL/ESL context: Balancing product and process in writing cass at tertiary level. Journal of NELTA, 15(1–2), 77–88.

Meiranti, R. (2012). Improving Students’ Writing Skills Through Field Trip Method. English Review: Journal of English Education, 1(1), 1–8.

Mokhamar, N.W. (2016). The Impact of Integrating Reading and Writing Skills on Palestine Technical College Students ’ Paragraph Writing and Attitudes 192.

Moses, R.N. & Mohamad, M. (2019). Challenges Faced by Students and Teachers on Writing Skills in ESL Contexts: A Literature Review. Creative Education, 10(13), 3385–3391.

Munawar, S. & Chaudhary, A.H. (2019). Effect of Cooperative Learning on the Writing Skill at Elementary Level in the Subject of English. Bulletin of Education and Research, 41(3), 35–44.

Péwé, T.L et al. (1997). Eva Interglaciation forest bed, unglaciated East-Central Alaska: Global warming 125,000 years ago. Special Paper of the Geological Society of America, 319, 1–54.

Pratiwi, K. D. (2015). Students ’ Difficulties in Writing English ( A Study at The Third Semester Students of English Education Program At University of Bengkulu Academic Year 2011-2012 )

Selvaraj, M. & Aziz, A.A. (2019). Systematic Review: Approaches in Teaching Writing Skill in ESL Classrooms. International Journal of Academic Research in Progressive Education and Development, 8(4), 450–473.

Selvaraj, M. & Aziz, A.A. (2020). Utilizing Flow Chart in Writing Narrative Essay: English as Second Language Students’ Perceptions. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciencesn, 10(3), 1–16.

Singh, C. K. S. et al. (2017). Grammar Errors Made by ESL Tertiary Students in Writing. English Language Teaching, 10(5), 16.

Solagha, O.Z. (2013). Writing Difficulties in the Swedish ESL-Classroom Writing Difficulties in the Swedish ESL-Classroom 1–25.

Sua, T.Y. (2007). Problems and Challenges of Learning Through a Second Language: the Case of Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English in the Malaysian Primary Schools. Kajian Malaysia, 25(2), 29–54.

Thevadas, S.A. & Hashim, H. (2020). Improving Pupils’ Descriptive Essay Writing Skills with The Use of Email Dialogue Journals. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 10(3), 698–722.

Thulasi, S et al. (2015). Role of model essays in developing students writing skills in Malaysian Schools: A review of literature. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 6(2S1), 56–61.

Wong, M.S.L. (2009). Language Anxiety and Motivation to Learn English: A Glimpse into the Form 4 Classroom. Online Submission (May): 1–15.

Yahya, M.Y. Bin. (2013). USM-PPIP TESOL Colloquium 2013, 25 May 2013 (Universiti Sains Malaysia) Writing Difficulties Faced by USM Postgraduate TESOL Students Marcus Kho Gee Whai Muhammad Yasir Bin Yahya. Writing Difficulties Faced by USM Postgraduate TESOL Students 2013(May).

Zahid Javid, C. & Umer, M. (2014). Saudi Efl Learners’ Writing Problems: a Move Towards Solution. The Global Summit on Education GSE 2014 2014(March): 4–5.
How to Cite
Palanisamy, S. and Abdul Aziz, A. (2021) “Systematic Review: Challenges in Teaching Writing Skills for Upper Secondary in ESL Classrooms and Suggestions to overcome them”, Malaysian Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities (MJSSH), 6(4), pp. 262 - 275. doi: