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T EACHER – S TUDENT C ONFERENCING Lecture 6 Teaching Writing in EFL/ESL Joy Robbins.

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Presentation on theme: "T EACHER – S TUDENT C ONFERENCING Lecture 6 Teaching Writing in EFL/ESL Joy Robbins."— Presentation transcript:

1 T EACHER – S TUDENT C ONFERENCING Lecture 6 Teaching Writing in EFL/ESL Joy Robbins

2 A PPROACHES TO TEACHING WRITING IN EFL TEXTBOOKS One thing we haven’t done yet on this course is look at a range of ELT textbooks, to determine the approach they use to teach writing… 2

3 T EXTBOOK WRITING MATERIALS : DISCUSSION Do the materials writers use product, process, post-process…or a combination, or even none of these approaches? Which of the materials do you feel most comfortable with? Which approach do you think learners in your context would be most comfortable with? Why? Are there any adaptations you’d make to the textbook materials if you were going to use them in class? If so, what kind of adaptations would these be? 3

4 T ODAY ’ S S ESSION What is conferencing? What types of conferences are there? What are the pros and cons of each type of conference? Would conferencing be appropriate in your teaching context? N.B. Ferris (2003a,b) and Ferris & Hedgcock (1998) provide excellent discussions of conferencing 4

5 T YPES OF CONFERENCE (1) Teacher—Student conferences, where students meet teachers individually to discuss their writing (2) Student—Student conferences, where students evaluate/discuss their colleagues’ writing Today = teacher—student conference (we’ll look at the 2 nd type next week) Before we look at conferencing in detail, make a list of arguments FOR and AGAINST holding teacher—student and student—student conferences in class. Do you think both types of conference are equally pedagogically useful? 5

6 T HE TEACHER — STUDENT CONFERENCE Normally when researchers like Ferris (2003a,b) and Ferris & Hedgcock (1998) talk about the teacher—student conference, they’re thinking about the following format: The teacher meets each student individually, and makes oral comments about the student’s writing However, there are other ways of doing it: The teacher could meet students in pairs or small groups outside class time The teacher could help students during class, while the students are writing, going from student to student The teacher could provide each student with written feedback, and then meet each student, using the conference to discuss the teacher’s written comments 6

7 T EACHER —S TUDENT CONFERENCES : PROS AND CONS 7

8 T EACHER —S TUDENT CONFERENCES : THE ( SUPPOSED ) BENEFITS Saves teachers time and energy which would be spent in marking student papers at home. Conferences can be done in class time… (Although of course if you prefer to give written feedback first, followed by a conference outside of class, this won’t save you any time at all!) Provides students with authentic opportunities for negotiation and interaction which normal classroom activities do not provide (contrast the artificiality of, say, roleplays, with the students’ genuine need to communicate in the conference) 8

9 T EACHER —S TUDENT CONFERENCES : BENEFITS (2) Research on learning styles (e.g. Oxford 1990, 2001; Reid 1998) has shown that people learn in different ways. Some students are predominantly auditory rather than visual learners. In other words, these learners learn best by listening rather than by reading. So these learners might learn best if the teacher gives spoken feedback via a conference, instead of via written comments on the bottom of the student’s writing 9

10 Other researchers have argued that giving written feedback has limitations, and that oral conferencing can get round these limitations… Let’s look at a couple of problems these researchers identify with written feedback… 10

11 T HE DANGERS OF WRITTEN FEEDBACK : COMPLEXITY Conrad & Goldstein (1999) argue that some of the problems that students have with writing (e.g. weak argumentation) are sometimes too complicated to be put right by written feedback, and that conferencing is needed 11

12 T HE DANGER OF WRITTEN FEEDBACK : TEACHER APPROPRIATION OF TEXTS Some researchers argue that written feedback is too directive, being non-negotiable in a way that conferences are not. In other words, conferences allow the student more say and influence in how their writing is changed Two influential studies which looked at responding to native speaker writing, Brannon & Knoblauch (1982) and Sommers (1982), warned of the dangers of written feedback. Brannon & Knoblauch’s article is called ‘On students’ rights to their own texts’. They argued that written feedback can rob learners of a voice: ‘the teacher’s agenda is more important than [the students’] own,…what they wanted to say is less relevant than the teacher’s impression of what they have said’ (Brannon and Knoblauch 1982: 158). 12

13 T HE DANGER OF WRITTEN FEEDBACK : TEACHER APPROPRIATION OF TEXTS (2) Students are therefore forced to make the changes the teacher wants rather than the ones they perceive to be necessary (Sommers 1982; Sperling and Freedman 1987). Brannon & Knoblauch, Sommers, and other researchers have argued that this may lead to students losing the incentive to write, because their texts are no longer their own The text appropriation idea was originally proposed by writers working with native speaker students. Do you think it’s relevant when talking about non- native students? 13

14 T EACHER APPROPRIATION OF TEXTS : THE CONSENSUS (?) The idea of teacher appropriation as far as non- native speaking students are concerned remains controversial However, it’s probably fair to say that most EFL/ESL researchers agree with Reid (1994), who claims that the appropriation argument misses the point: students need to be helped by the teacher (although, of course, in a sensitive manner) 14

15 However, there are also a number of obvious dangers with giving feedback via teacher— student conferencing… 15

16 T EACHER —S TUDENT CONFERENCES : POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS Students may not feel comfortable with the role teachers expect them to play in conferences (e.g. questioning the teacher’s feedback, asking the teacher to clarify what they mean by their comments, etc.) (Silva 1997) Students may not understand the teacher’s comments (and may be reluctant to ask the teacher to clarify what they mean) 16

17 T EACHER —S TUDENT CONFERENCES : POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS (2) One of the studies which looked at teacher— student conferences, Patthey-Chavez & Ferris (1997), noted that the conferences with weaker students were shorter and more heavily teacher- dominated than conferences with stronger students. So teachers will have to be sensitive to the needs of students, and adjust their style accordingly. If teachers fail to do this, perhaps there’s a danger that students won’t benefit from the conferences as much as they should 17

18 P RACTICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT CONFERENCING Now let’s move on to practical questions about how to conduct conferences… (i.e. How often should conferences be held? Should conferences be about the grammar or content of students’ writing?) 18

19 H OW OFTEN ? There are a range of options: Hold compulsory conference with each student every week Hold compulsory conferences with each student every month Allow any student to come up to your desk for an unplanned conference whenever you get students to write in class Make conferencing completely optional, so that if a student doesn’t like it, they never do it 19

20 W HAT SHOULD YOU TALK ABOUT IN CONFERENCES ? You could focus on particular grammar points, especially the grammar you’ve been doing recently in class Alternatively, you could decide to focus exclusively on content and organization of ideas Or you could talk to the student about both grammar and content 20

21 C ONFERENCE DYNAMICS : STRUCTURED VS. UNSTRUCTURED You could go for the structured approach, where you give the student a handout with questions you want them to talk to you about You could ask the students questions ( ‘What do you think of this paper?’ ; ‘Do you have any issues you wanted to ask me about?’ ) to get them talking Alternatively, you could go for an unstructured approach. The idea here would be that the student talks about whatever they think is important, and the teacher responds 21

22 A FTER THE CONFERENCE Ferris & Hedgcock (1998) suggest that ‘it is helpful to build some sort of accountability into the conferencing event so that the student does not regard it as merely an opportunity to have a nice chat with the teacher’ (p.145). They suggest each student writes a short paragraph after the conference to summarize what was discussed, and to indicate which of the teacher’s suggestions were incorporated into subsequent drafts of their writing and which were rejected, and why… 22

23 S TUDENT TRAINING & PREPARATION I’ve left perhaps the most important thing to talk about till last, which is: How should teachers prepare and train students for teacher—student conferencing? Come up with a list of practical ways you could do this… 23

24 S TUDENTS ’ PREPARATION FOR THE CONFERENCE Ferris (2003b) also makes the important point that we need to train and prepare our students to get the most out of a conference with the teacher. As Ferris says, we need to: -make the student realize a conference is a two- way conversation, not a teacher ‘monologue of comments and corrections’ (p.133) -ask the student to prepare for the conference, ‘by reading through their papers and making a list of strengths, weaknesses, and questions to bring up during the conference. The teacher should model and structure this preparation step for students’ (p.133) 24

25 T EACHERS ’ PREPARATION FOR THE CONFERENCE Teachers need to ensure they’ve thoroughly read the students’ writing, and know what they want to discuss in advance (Otherwise things probably won’t run smoothly, and the teacher might realize that they haven’t talked about something which was important) Teachers need to consider the personality of the students, and perhaps give them the option of letting them come to the conference with another student Teachers need to think about how they can encourage as much student participation as possible ‘Considering that conferences place additional stress on L2 students’ aural/oral skills, teachers should encourage students to summarize orally at the end of a conference what has been discussed and what the ‘“next steps” are for the paper, to take notes and/or audiotape during the conference, and to write a cover memo to submit with the next draft explaining how the conference influenced the revision process’ (Ferris 2003b: 133) 25

26 M AKING STUDENTS FEEL COMFORTABLE ABOUT CONFERENCING Ferris & Hedgcock (1998) make the following suggestions for making student—teacher conferences easier for the student: teachers should explain why they hold conferences and how the conferences work students who have difficulty remembering /understanding what the teacher says should be free to take notes and/or tape record the conference if students feel uncomfortable about meeting the teacher alone, conferences can be held in pairs, during class time (when other students are in the room), or via 26

27 D ISCUSSION I asked you at the beginning of today’s session whether you thought teacher—student and student—student conferences were pedagogically useful. Have you changed your mind about this as a result of today’s session? Why (not)? If you’re an experienced language teacher, have you used teacher—student conferencing before? Did it work? If not, why not? Based on today’s session, would you consider using teacher—student conferencing in your classroom in future? Why (not)? 27

28 D ISCUSSION ( CONTD.) What type of teacher—student conferences do you prefer? And: -how often would you hold them? -would they be compulsory or optional? -what would you talk about? Grammar? Content and organization? A combination? -would you give students a set of questions to talk to you about? Or would you leave it up to the students to decide what to ask you? -how would you prepare/train students for conferences?) Do you think that there may be any cultural problems with expecting students to conference with teachers? Would teacher—student conferences work worldwide? 28

29 R EFERENCES Brannon L & Knoblauch CH (1982) On students’ rights to their own texts: A model of teacher response. College Composition & Communication 33 (2): Conrad SM & Goldstein LM (1999) ESL student revision after teacher-written comments: text, contexts, and individuals. Journal of Second Language Writing 8: Ferris D (2003a) Responding to writing. In B Kroll (ed.), Exploring the Dynamics of Second Language Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp Ferris D (2003b) Response to Student Writing: Implications for Second Language Students. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum. Ferris D & Hedgcock JS (1998) Teaching ESL Composition: Purpose, Process, and Practice. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum. Oxford RL (1990) Language Learning Strategies: What Every Teacher Should Know. Boston: Heinle & Heinle. 29

30 R EFERENCES (2) Oxford RL (2001) Language learning strategies. In R Carter & D Nunan (eds.), The Cambridge Guide to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp Patthey-Chavez GG & Ferris D (1997) Writing conferences and the weaving of multi-voiced texts in college composition. Research in the Teaching of English 31: Reid J (1994) Responding to ESL students’ texts: The myths of appropriation. TESOL Quarterly 28 (2): Reid J (1998) Understanding Learning Styles in the Second Language Classroom. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall Regents. Silva T (1997) On the ethical treatment of ESL writers. TESOL Quarterly 31: Sommers N (1982) Responding to student writing. College Composition & Communication 33 (2): Sperling M and Freedman SW (1987) A good girl writes like a good girl. Written Communication 4 (4):

31 Just before we finish… A few references which you may (or may not) want to have a look at when you’re preparing your assignments… 31

32 T EACHING WRITING AROUND THE WORLD We’ve noted that the process-oriented approach to writing has its origins in the west, particularly in American universities, where teachers have lots of time to devote exclusively to writing EFL teachers around the world who only have, say, 3 hours a week to cover everything (grammar, vocabulary, skills) will need to make changes to the process approach as used in American classrooms Here’s some literature talking about different ways of teaching writing around the world, which you may find of interest… 32

33 Boughey C (1997) Learning to write by writing to learn: a group-work approach. ELT Journal 51(2): Clachar A (2000) Opposition and accommodation: an examination of Turkish teachers’ attitudes toward Western approaches to the teaching of writing. Research in the Teaching of English 35(1): Lee I (2008) Student reactions to teacher feedback in two Hong Kong secondary classrooms. Journal of Second Language Writing 17: Tarnopolsky O (2000) Writing English as a foreign language: a report from Ukraine. Journal of Second Language Writing 9(2): Xiang W (2004) Encouraging self-monitoring in writing by Chinese students. ELT Journal 58: You X (2004) “The choice made from no choice”: English writing instruction in a Chinese university. Journal of Second Language Writing 13: You X (2004) New directions in EFL writing: a report from China. Journal of Second Language Writing 13:

34 T HIS WEEK ’ S READING Hyland F & Hyland K (2001) Sugaring the pill: praise and criticism in written feedback. Journal of Second Language Writing 10:


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