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Exploring learning transfer in L2 writing education Taipei Municipal University of Education June 14, 2012 Mark Andrew James Arizona State University

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Presentation on theme: "Exploring learning transfer in L2 writing education Taipei Municipal University of Education June 14, 2012 Mark Andrew James Arizona State University"— Presentation transcript:

1 Exploring learning transfer in L2 writing education Taipei Municipal University of Education June 14, 2012 Mark Andrew James Arizona State University

2 What is learning transfer? Learning transfer occurs “when learning in one context or with one set of materials impacts on performance in another context or with another set of materials” (Perkins & Salomon, 1994, p.6452). For example knowing how to ride a bicycle  learning how to ride a motorcycle;... learning math in school  shopping outside school.

3 ... a topic of widespread interest Psychology: Learning transfer has been actively studied for over a century in psychology (Haskell, 2001).Psychology: Learning transfer has been actively studied for over a century in psychology (Haskell, 2001). Education: “When students cannot perform tasks only slightly different from those learned in class, or when they fail to appropriately apply their classroom learning in settings outside of school, then education is deemed to have failed” (Marini & Genereux, 1995, p.1).Education: “When students cannot perform tasks only slightly different from those learned in class, or when they fail to appropriately apply their classroom learning in settings outside of school, then education is deemed to have failed” (Marini & Genereux, 1995, p.1). Human resources development (HRD): U.S. corporations spent $58.5 billion on workplace training in 2007 (Training, 2007), with the obvious expectation that the results of this training would transfer to the workplace.Human resources development (HRD): U.S. corporations spent $58.5 billion on workplace training in 2007 (Training, 2007), with the obvious expectation that the results of this training would transfer to the workplace.

4 Learning transfer is a fundamental goal of L2 writing education “[O]ne of the most important aspects of an EAP reading/writing class (or any ESL/EFL class) is the development of transfer of learning” (Johns, 1993, p.283) (emphasis mine). “The goals of most English for academic purposes (EAP) writing classes are transcendent. That is, the usual purpose is to enable students to write better not for EAP writing classes but for academic purposes” (Leki & Carson, 1997, p.39) (emphasis mine).

5 How “far” learning transfers is important to discussions of writing and L2 writing pedagogy Far transfer Cognitive perspectives on writing (e.g., Flower & Hayes, 1981); -- Process-oriented approaches to writing instruction (Zamel, 1976); -- General writing skills instruction (GWSI) (Petraglia, 1995); -- English-for-general-academic- purposes (EGAP) instruction (Jordan, 1997); -- Language-for-specific-purposes “education” (Widdowson, 1984). Near transfer Sociocultural perspectives on writing (e.g., Russell, 1995); -- Genre-oriented approaches to writing instruction (e.g., Swales, 1990); -- Writing-in-the-disciplines (WID) programs (Bazerman et al., 2005); -- English-for-specific-academic- purposes (ESAP) instruction (Jordan, 1997); -- Language-for-specific-purposes “training” (Widdowson, 1984).

6 There is a need to understand how learning transfers in L2 writing education “Positive findings of transfer, near and far, suggest that whether transfer occurs is too bald a question. It can, but often does not. One needs to ask under what conditions transfer appears” (Perkins & Salomon, 1994, p.6455) (emphasis mine).

7 There is a need to understand how learning transfers in L2 writing education The most important question about the validity of genre- based instructional approaches is "whether, to what extent, and under what conditions skills acquired within one genre are transferable to another" (Swales, 1990, p.233) (emphasis mine); this is "a highly significant investigative issue" (p.234). “[I]t is assumed that students will transfer skills from the [EAP class] to the content class examination, and then ultimately to their other content classes. But we do not know what conditions must exist for this positive transfer to take place.” (Snow, 1993, p.45) (emphasis mine).

8 What do we know about learning transfer in L2 writing education? Learning transfer can occur, but it is not inevitable (e.g., Leki & Carson, 1994; Leki, 1995; James, 2006). “There is no guarantee that skills and strategies learned in an ESL program actually will be applied in new situations” (Spack, 1997, p.50); “[T]ransfer from one domain to another is, at the very least, difficult for learners” (Tardy, 2006, p.92).

9 Learning task Learning context Elements of learning transfer situations (from James, 2007, adapted from Marini and Genereux, 1995) Transfer task Transfer context Learner

10 Learning task Learning context Elements of learning transfer situations (from James, 2007, adapted from Marini and Genereux, 1995) Transfer task Transfer context Learner

11 Learning task Learning context Elements of learning transfer situations (from James, 2007, adapted from Marini and Genereux, 1995) Transfer task Transfer context Learner

12 Transfer context/task In studies of ESL students' interactions with instructors and classmates, ESL students have described: a “wall” between themselves and native English-speaking (NES) classmates due to different background knowledge and values (Harklau, 1994); NES classmates’ lack of interest in ideas put forth by ESL students during collaborative group work (Cheng & Fox, 2008; Leki, 2001); relatively little effort by NES classmates to complete assignments (Leki, 2003); instructors’ desire to deceive students, refusal to provide information to students, or lack of understanding of students’ questions (Leki, 2006).

13 Transfer context/task Transfer climate is the support for learning transfer that an individual perceives in the target context of instruction (Burke & Baldwin, 1999).... for example, in EAP writing instruction, transfer climate involves students’ perceptions of support for learning transfer from instructors and classmates, and perceptions of outcomes (e.g., grades, work efficiency) of learning transfer.

14 Transfer context/task Researcher:How do you think your professors [in mainstream courses] feel about freshman writing courses? Participant:Some I would say, my math teacher, she doesn't feel too good about it, kind of negative, being in math and all. Researcher:How do you know that? Participant:I remember when she said, “the writing”, she said, “this is the only writing, I'm sorry, this is the only writing you will ever have to do in math. I was never good in writing.” She was explaining the course. She said, “in this part of the course, you'll have to do a little bit of writing, and I'm sorry for that.” (Participant 23)

15 Learning task Learning context Elements of learning transfer situations (from James, 2007, adapted from Marini and Genereux, 1995) Transfer task Transfer context Learner

16 Learner “[S]ignificant and general transfer is primarily the consequence of personality and other dispositional characteristics such as attitude, motivation, and feeling” (Haskell, 2001, p.116) (emphasis mine). L2 education researchers have suggested that learning transfer is influenced by motivation-related factors like student effort (Leki & Carson, 1994), value students place on skills (Hansen, 2000), and students’ socio-cultural attitudes (Waters, 1996).

17 Learner Transfer motivation = Desire to transfer Favorable attitude toward transfer Effort to transfer + +

18 Learner Participant: I hate doing, I hated doing in [the EAP writing course], doing the visual arguments [assignment]. I hated it. It was bad. It was complicated. Way complicated. And of course if I'm going to apply visual argument in another class, I'm going to feel stressed. I'm going to feel tension, I'm under pressure. I didn't like it the first time, why should I do it again. I'm doing it again, am I doing it right? Should I do it in another way? What should I do? (Participant 25)

19 Learning task Learning context Elements of learning transfer situations (from James, 2007, adapted from Marini and Genereux, 1995) Transfer task Transfer context Learner

20 Learning context/task Learning transfer can be enhanced by: the integration of academic tasks in an EAP writing course (Braine, 1988; Carson, 2000; Meyer, 1996); the integration of academic tasks in an EAP writing course (Braine, 1988; Carson, 2000; Meyer, 1996); the provision of a range of conceptual activities in an EAP writing course (Currie, 1993); the provision of a range of conceptual activities in an EAP writing course (Currie, 1993); having students use disciplinary portfolios (Hirvela, 1997); having students use disciplinary portfolios (Hirvela, 1997); training students in ethnographic methods (Johns, 1988; 1990); training students in ethnographic methods (Johns, 1988; 1990); having students compare and contrast a variety of texts in familar and unfamiliar genres (Johns, 1997; 1999); having students compare and contrast a variety of texts in familar and unfamiliar genres (Johns, 1997; 1999); having students reflect on strategies they use to complete writing tasks (Johns, 1997; 1999). having students reflect on strategies they use to complete writing tasks (Johns, 1997; 1999).

21 Learning context/task Teaching-for-transfer techniques (Perkins & Salomon, 1988): Teaching-for-transfer techniques (Perkins & Salomon, 1988): Hugging = designing learning tasks/context to appear similar to target tasks and contexts Bridging = designing learning tasks/context to stimulate abstract thinking

22 Future directions? How can we most effectively identify learning transfer? How can we most effectively identify learning transfer? Where should we look? (all writing vs. some writing) When should we look? (immediately vs. delayed) How should we look? (low-road vs. high-road) How do various learning outcomes in L2 writing education compare/contrast in terms of learning transfer? (e.g., near vs. far; low-road vs. high-road) How do various learning outcomes in L2 writing education compare/contrast in terms of learning transfer? (e.g., near vs. far; low-road vs. high-road) How do elements of transfer situations interact with actual learning transfer? (e.g., transfer climate; transfer motivation; teaching-for-transfer techniques) How do elements of transfer situations interact with actual learning transfer? (e.g., transfer climate; transfer motivation; teaching-for-transfer techniques)

23 References (1 of 5) Bazerman, C., Little, J., Bethel, L., Chavkin, T., Fouquette, D., & Garufis, J. (2005). Reference guide to writing across the curriculum. Parlor Press and WAC Clearinghouse. Retrieved online from Braine, G. (1988). Two commentaries on Ruth Spack’s “Initiating ESL students into the academic discourse community: How far should we go?”: A reader reacts. TESOL Quarterly, 22, Burke, L.A., & Baldwin, T.T. (1999). Workforce training transfer: A study of the effect of relapse prevention training and transfer climate. Human Resources Management, 38, Carson, J.G. (2000). Reading and writing for academic purposes. In M. Pally (Ed.), Sustained content teaching in academic ESL/EFL (pp.19-34). New York: Houghton Mifflin Co. Cheng, L. & Fox, J. (2008). Towards a better understanding of academic acculturation: Second language students in Canadian universities. Canadian Modern Language Review, 65, Currie, P. (1993). Entering a disciplinary community: Conceptual activities required to write for one introductory university course. Journal of Second Language Writing, 2, Flower, L., & Hayes, J.R. (1981). A cognitive process theory of writing. College Composition and Communication, 32, Hansen, J.G. (2000). Interactional conflicts among audience, purpose, and content knowledge in the acquisition of academic literacy in an EAP course. Written Communication, 17, Harklau, L. (1994). ESL versus mainstream classes: Contrasting L2 learning environments. TESOL Quarterly, 28,

24 References (2 of 5) Haskell, R.E. (2001). Transfer of learning: Cognition, instruction, and reasoning. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, Incorporated. Hirvela, A. (1997). “Disciplinary portfolios” and EAP writing instruction. English for Specific Purposes, 16, James, M.A. (2006). Transfer of learning from a university content-based EAP course. TESOL Quarterly, 40, James, M.A. (2007). Interlanguage variation and transfer of learning. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 45, Johns, A.M. (1988). The discourse communities dilemma: Identifying transferable skills for the academic milieu. English for Specific Purposes, 7, Johns, A.M. (1990). Coherence as a cultural phenomenon: Employing ethnographic principles in the academic milieu. In U. Connor & A.M. Johns (Eds.), Coherence in writing: Research and pedagogical perspectives (pp ). Alexandria, VA: TESOL. Johns, A.M. (1993). Reading and writing tasks in English for academic purposes classes: Products, processes, and resources. In J.G. Carson and I. Leki (Eds.), Reading in the composition classroom (pp ). Boston, MA: Heinle and Heinle. Johns, A.M. (1997). Text, role, and context: Developing academic literacies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Johns, A.M. (1999). Opening our doors: Applying socioliterate approaches (SA) to language minority classrooms. In L.Harklau, K.M.Losey, and M.Siegal (Eds.), Generation 1.5 meets college composition: Issues in the teaching of writing to US-educated learners of ESL (pp ). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

25 References (3 of 5) Jordan, R.R. (1997). English for academic purposes: A guide and resource book for teachers. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Leki, I. (1995). Coping strategies of ESL students in writing tasks across the curriculum. TESOL Quarterly, 29, Leki, I. (2001). “A narrow thinking system”: Nonnative-English-speaking students in group projects across the curriculum. TESOL Quarterly, 35, Leki, I. (2003). Living through college literacy: Nursing in a second language. Written Communication, 20, Leki, I. (2006). Negotiating socioacademic relations: English learners’ reception by and reaction to college faculty. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 5, Leki, I., & Carson, J.G. (1994). Students’ perceptions of EAP writing instruction and writing needs across the disciplines. TESOL Quarterly, 28, Leki, I., & Carson, J.G. (1997). “Completely different worlds”: EAP and the writing experiences of ESL students in university courses. TESOL Quarterly, 31, Marini, A, & Genereux, R. (1995). The challenge of teaching for transfer. In A. McKeough, J. Lupart, & A. Marini (Eds.), Teaching for transfer: Fostering generalization in learning (pp. 1-20). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. Meyer, L., (1996). The contribution of genre theory to theme-based EAP: Navigating foreign fiords. TESL Canada Journal, 13, Perkins, D.N., & Salomon, G. (1988). Teaching for transfer. Educational Leadership, 46,

26 References (4 of 5) Perkins, D.N., & Salomon, G. (1994). Transfer of learning. In T. Husen & T.N. Postlethwaite (Eds.), The international encyclopedia of education (second edition), (vol. 11, pp ). Oxford, UK: Pergamon. Petraglia, J. (1995). Introduction: General writing skills instruction and its discontents. In J. Petraglia (Ed.), Reconceiving writing, rethinking writing instruction (pp.xi-xvii). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Russell, D. (1995). Activity theory and its implications for writing instruction. In J. Petraglia (Ed.), Reconceiving writing, rethinking writing instruction (pp.51-77). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Snow, M.A. (1993). Discipline-based foreign language teaching: Implications from ESL/EFL. In M. Krueger & F. Ryan (Eds.), Language and content: Discipline- and content-based approaches to language study (pp ). Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath & Co. Spack, R. (1997). The acquisition of academic literacy in a second language: A longitudinal case study. Written Communication, 14, Swales, J.M. (1990). Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Tardy, C. (2006). Researching first and second language genre learning: A comparative review and a look ahead. Journal of Second Language Writing, 15, Training. (2007, Nov./Dec.) industry report. Retrieved online from Waters, A. (1996). A review of the research into needs in English for academic purposes of relevance to the North American higher education context (TOEFL Monograph Series, #6). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

27 References (5 of 5) Widdowson, H.G. (1984). Explorations in applied linguistics 2. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Zamel, V. (1976). Teaching composition in the ESL classroom: What we can learn from research in the teaching of English. TESOL Quarterly, 10,


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