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Supporting the development of academic literacy in first year Education and Early Childhood Studies students Amanda French Karen Clarke Wolverhampton University.

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Presentation on theme: "Supporting the development of academic literacy in first year Education and Early Childhood Studies students Amanda French Karen Clarke Wolverhampton University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Supporting the development of academic literacy in first year Education and Early Childhood Studies students Amanda French Karen Clarke Wolverhampton University

2 Background to project This paper draws on a project which is part of the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) at Wolverhampton University. This paper draws on a project which is part of the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) at Wolverhampton University. The project runs for five years. In this first stage it examines the writing skills of our first year cohort in the School of Education. The project runs for five years. In this first stage it examines the writing skills of our first year cohort in the School of Education. The next stage will explore ways of embedding writing skills development for first year students The next stage will explore ways of embedding writing skills development for first year students

3 Central to the project is the belief that the development of academic literacy requires university lecturers to teach specific writing skills and to recognise that these skills are as important to students achievement as the acquisition of subject specific content (Ivanic 1998; Street 1995, 1996). Central to the project is the belief that the development of academic literacy requires university lecturers to teach specific writing skills and to recognise that these skills are as important to students achievement as the acquisition of subject specific content (Ivanic 1998; Street 1995, 1996).

4 Research questions What writing skills do first year students need to develop in their first year ? What writing skills do first year students need to develop in their first year ? What strategies do students use to develop their writing skills? What strategies do students use to develop their writing skills? To what extent can tutors use writing activities in their subject-specific modules to support the development of academic writing skills for students? To what extent can tutors use writing activities in their subject-specific modules to support the development of academic writing skills for students?

5 The paper takes as its starting point the idea that academic literacy can be characterised through the use of certain privileged discourse conventions. The paper takes as its starting point the idea that academic literacy can be characterised through the use of certain privileged discourse conventions. These, it can be argued, function to distinguish and legitimise writing produced within higher education from other kinds of writing. (Goodman, Lillis, Maybin, Mercer, 2003). These, it can be argued, function to distinguish and legitimise writing produced within higher education from other kinds of writing. (Goodman, Lillis, Maybin, Mercer, 2003).

6 Markers for academic literacy The creation of an authoritative and distinct academic "voice" (primarily through referencing other research) The creation of an authoritative and distinct academic "voice" (primarily through referencing other research) Inclusion of a clearly identifiable aims for the writing ( usually identified though assessment criteria) Inclusion of a clearly identifiable aims for the writing ( usually identified though assessment criteria) Conformity to a logical and coherent pattern of organisation Conformity to a logical and coherent pattern of organisation Evenness of tone and diction appropriate to the academic writing exercise ( through use of the passive voice and formal English) Evenness of tone and diction appropriate to the academic writing exercise ( through use of the passive voice and formal English) Application of sentence boundaries, an understanding of the rules governing apostrophes, commas, and other less commonly used forms of punctuation (if used) Application of sentence boundaries, an understanding of the rules governing apostrophes, commas, and other less commonly used forms of punctuation (if used)

7 Academic literacy and assessment The importance of producing an appropriate form of academic literacy is reflected in most assessment criteria for higher education. Wolverhampton is no exception. The generic assessment criteria for year one includes the following statements:

8 Generic assessment criteria The work is coherent - there is good linking of ideas & paragraphs. ( higher grades) The work is coherent - there is good linking of ideas & paragraphs. ( higher grades) Grammar and spelling sound( middle grades) Grammar and spelling sound( middle grades) Poor English, poor structure ( lower/fail grades) Poor English, poor structure ( lower/fail grades)

9 Stage One – initial diagnosis Within the first four weeks of attending university all students taking core modules were asked to read a subject specific article. Within the first four weeks of attending university all students taking core modules were asked to read a subject specific article. They were then given a number of questions on the article which they had to answer under controlled conditions. They were then given a number of questions on the article which they had to answer under controlled conditions. These samples of writing were then analysed for the following errors: These samples of writing were then analysed for the following errors:

10 Common errors Lack of clarity /poor expression Lack of clarity /poor expression Inappropriate/poor use of vocabulary Inappropriate/poor use of vocabulary Missing/misplaced apostrophes Missing/misplaced apostrophes Missing/misplaced commas Missing/misplaced commas Missing/misplaced capitals Missing/misplaced capitals Sentence structure Sentence structure Unnecessary shift in tense Unnecessary shift in tense Unnecessary shift in pronoun Unnecessary shift in pronoun Its/its confusion Its/its confusion There/their There/their Use of abbreviations Use of abbreviations

11 Lack of clarity /poor expression This resulted more often than not from students having problems in several of the categories. ( This may mean that in future we should not include it as a separate category.)

12 Missing/misplaced apostrophes- This was the most common problem in otherwise correct samples of writing Missing/misplaced commas This included using commas instead of full-stops and general inappropriate use as well as not using them at all in the appropriate place.

13 Missing/misplaced capitals This included not using capitals for proper nouns but also using them unnecessarily for important words e.g. education and theoretical

14 Unnecessary shift in pronoun This included the inappropriate use of you but more commonly covered a shift in the writing from first to third person narrative form (and often back again several times). This included the inappropriate use of you but more commonly covered a shift in the writing from first to third person narrative form (and often back again several times).

15 Use of abbreviations This issue may have arisen because students were writing under pressure but I have noticed it a lot when marking students work so feel that it is something a lot of them are not sure about This issue may have arisen because students were writing under pressure but I have noticed it a lot when marking students work so feel that it is something a lot of them are not sure about

16 Sentence structure issues This section includes the following errors: This section includes the following errors: Long sentences Long sentences Fragments Fragments Using note form – often hyphenating instead of punctuating correctly Using note form – often hyphenating instead of punctuating correctly Using conversational style Using conversational style

17 Analysis of initial diagnosis data 149 first year students participated in the initial writing sample which was used to diagnose common errors 149 first year students participated in the initial writing sample which was used to diagnose common errors Simple feedback criteria went to students which indicated the common errors that they had made and put them into the following categories : Simple feedback criteria went to students which indicated the common errors that they had made and put them into the following categories :

18 32 students went into the generally sound column – this meant there were very few errors in the initial piece of writing. (The most common error in this category was misuse of /or missing apostrophes). This group included 2 Dutch students and at least 2 second year part-time students that I could identify. 32 students went into the generally sound column – this meant there were very few errors in the initial piece of writing. (The most common error in this category was misuse of /or missing apostrophes). This group included 2 Dutch students and at least 2 second year part-time students that I could identify.

19 20 students went into the should seek support from the Learning Centre before handing work in column– this means there was a significant technical error rate frequently impeding understanding. Of this group 4 were identified as having EAL, 2 as Creole transfer and 2 as self-identified dyslexic, there may, however, be more students with one or more of these literacy difficulties. 20 students went into the should seek support from the Learning Centre before handing work in column– this means there was a significant technical error rate frequently impeding understanding. Of this group 4 were identified as having EAL, 2 as Creole transfer and 2 as self-identified dyslexic, there may, however, be more students with one or more of these literacy difficulties.

20 97 went into the middle category which indicated that students should proof read their work carefully before handing it in. At least one self-identified dyslexic student and several EAL students were included here. This category covered students who evidenced a range of consistent technical errors but whose work was not difficult to read.

21 The categories for the initial diagnosis were cross referenced against a sample of students taken from a core module that employed a seen exam as its final summative assignment. The conditions for the production writing for the summative was therefore the same as that for the initial diagnosis. This was to see if there was any similarity between the students initial diagnosis category and their final summative mark. At its crudest this might translate as a poor initial diagnosis and low final summative mark or vice-versa

22 The sample showed that those students who achieved a low initial diagnosis usually achieved a final summative mark below C8. The sample showed that those students who achieved a low initial diagnosis usually achieved a final summative mark below C8. This was below average for the module as a whole ( which was C8). This was below average for the module as a whole ( which was C8).

23 Those students who achieved a high assessment for their initial diagnosis generally got a higher grade of B11 or above for their final summative. Those students who achieved a high assessment for their initial diagnosis generally got a higher grade of B11 or above for their final summative. This was above the average for the module as a whole. This was above the average for the module as a whole.

24 Those students who achieved a medium initial diagnosis had a wider span of final summative marks ranging from the low Ds up to the top C grades. Those students who achieved a medium initial diagnosis had a wider span of final summative marks ranging from the low Ds up to the top C grades. However no student in medium range of diagnostic assessment achieved higher than C10. However no student in medium range of diagnostic assessment achieved higher than C10. The wide range of summative marks in this category was not surprising as these students had the greatest variation of technical errors. The wide range of summative marks in this category was not surprising as these students had the greatest variation of technical errors.

25 Conclusions The initial diagnostic results were broadly in line with the final summative marks. The initial diagnostic results were broadly in line with the final summative marks. Students do not, therefore, appear to have significantly improved their academic writing skills over the course of the year? Students do not, therefore, appear to have significantly improved their academic writing skills over the course of the year? This lack of progress was especially marked for those students who did badly in the initial diagnosis. This lack of progress was especially marked for those students who did badly in the initial diagnosis.

26 Outcomes We need to identify students who need support with their writing as early as possible on the module. We need to identify students who need support with their writing as early as possible on the module. We need to offer lots of non-assessed opportunities for writing on modules We need to offer lots of non-assessed opportunities for writing on modules We need to incorporate overt and embedded discussion and development of writing skills into modules We need to incorporate overt and embedded discussion and development of writing skills into modules

27 Next Stage The next stage of the project is to introduce a number of interventions designed to develop first years writing skills The next stage of the project is to introduce a number of interventions designed to develop first years writing skills These have been developed collaboratively with all the core module tutors and delivered across the programme These have been developed collaboratively with all the core module tutors and delivered across the programme The usefulness of these interventions for tutors and students will be monitored and evaluated The usefulness of these interventions for tutors and students will be monitored and evaluated

28 References Goodman, S. Lillis, T. Maybin, J. Mercer, N. (eds.) (2003) Language, Literacy and Education: A reader. Trentham Books: The Open University Press. Goodman, S. Lillis, T. Maybin, J. Mercer, N. (eds.) (2003) Language, Literacy and Education: A reader. Trentham Books: The Open University Press. Ivanic. R. (1998) Writing and Identity: the discoursal construction of identity in academic writing. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Ivanic. R. (1998) Writing and Identity: the discoursal construction of identity in academic writing. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Street, B. (1995) Social Literacies: critical approaches to literacy in development, ethnography and education. London: Longman. Street, B. (1995) Social Literacies: critical approaches to literacy in development, ethnography and education. London: Longman. Street, B. (1996) Academic Literacies, in Baker, J. Clay, C. and Fox, C. (eds.) Challenging Ways of Knowing in English, Mathematics and Science. London: Falmer Press. Street, B. (1996) Academic Literacies, in Baker, J. Clay, C. and Fox, C. (eds.) Challenging Ways of Knowing in English, Mathematics and Science. London: Falmer Press.


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