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Learning support needs and solutions in university academic writing contexts Clare Furneaux The University of Reading England.

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Presentation on theme: "Learning support needs and solutions in university academic writing contexts Clare Furneaux The University of Reading England."— Presentation transcript:

1 Learning support needs and solutions in university academic writing contexts Clare Furneaux The University of Reading England

2 Imagine you were going to Studying in a Chinese University What would you want to know about the writing context into which you are going? What learning support would you like to receive?

3 Establishing Academic Writing (AW) needs 1. Read the literature: L1 & L2 research L1 & L2 advice 2. Predict: own experience of AW 3. Horses mouth: academic staff 4. Horses mouth: students on the course

4 Pedagogy But how does pedagogy work? Through shielding a learner from distraction, by fore fronting crucial features of a problem, by sequencing the steps to understanding, by promoting negotiation, or by some other form of scaffolding the task at hand. Bruner 1997: 69

5 Scaffolding The creation of a pedagogic context in which combined effort results in a successful outcome… Crucially scaffolding involves simplifying the learners role rather than the task Daniels 2001:107

6 Transmission of culture Depends on: Concordance between a learners capabilities and what the culture offers Some person in the culture who identifies what a learner needs and delivers it. Tomasello et al 1993

7 Example context British University Post-graduate programme (MA TEFL) Campus-based and distance study Wide range of student backgrounds All with ELT experience Assessment: 3-hour essay exam papers 4,000 word assignments 15,000 word dissertation

8 What does the academy expect? a range of reading: no set book synthesis of reading: not beads on a string display of knowledge (knowledge telling*) plus your own voice (knowledge transforming*) criticality – being able to evaluate * Bereiter and Scardamalia 1987.

9 What does the academy expect? (2) task fulfilment: answering the question meeting genre norms drawing on teaching and learning experience well-structured text a thesis autonomy

10 Student concerns on starting All: what does AW at this level mean? I was worried that I might be rusty. (UK student) Non-UK: what does AW mean in this academic context? I was not at all confident – very worried about my writing. (Japanese student) At a loss. (Argentinean) I thought I was very brilliant in writing and then when I got here… (Syrian)

11 Non-UK contd I felt confident when I started knowing that I had done well at Dutch University and use English writing most of the time in my work. However it was a false sense of confidence, as Reading University uses a different style in academic writing than I was used to. (Dutch) I was worried as I felt I didnt have enough experience in this kind of writing. (Canadian)

12 On-going concerns Plagiarism: Sometimes if Im trying to avoid plagiarism and then I change things and I change them a lot and I start doubting whether it is correct – whether the English is correct – or if I am saying the same thing because sometimes things are so subtle that if I change them I fear I might not be saying what the author was really saying

13 On-going concerns (2) Using sources: I have to justify what I say with a reasonable source, on the other hand I have to say the same things using different words… So then I got angry and say So what does this mean? That I cant think for myself? I may be saying many things which have already been written by somebody else - I am not that well read so how am I going to check who said this?

14 On-going concerns (3) I try to forget about creativity and try to stick to what is written – the ideas…I dont know what would happen in Spanish – if its a question of insecurity with the language or worry that Im changing the whole idea. The problem is I felt not knowledgeable enough to know if this was obvious in the field or if it was just my thought.

15 On-going concerns (4) Being critical: Maybe its a cultural thing … Im reading a book I think Im not the appropriate person to tell that this idea is ok, this idea is not so much convincing because ok this is a very well-known writer… Drawing on own experiences: Im trying to talk about theories but Im not trying to apply that to my teaching experience…Im not trying to add something of my own,

16 On going concerns (5) Structuring writing Time – meeting deadlines Interpreting feedback Exam pressure – no planning time

17 Threats to sense of identity: Fatima For my diploma project at home I got something like 85 and it was brilliant and then there was a contest of essay writing organised by the American embassy and I was the first prize winner… I thought that I am very genius but I am not…

18 Threats to sense of identity:Fatima (2) During the first term I worked very very hard. I was reading all the time – proof reading the essays many times…When I got that feedback… the problem is that Im reading books but Im not being critical…I wasnt satisfied… I thought that I had a wrong idea about my abilities… I wasnt assessed in a good way back home… There, I know that the supervisor will be happy if she sees that I have read many books.

19 Threats to sense of identity:Fatima (3) Now I can identify my problems but I cant do anything about it. Thats why I gave up; thats why Im not doing much work because I think the problem is with my mind not with my writing abilities…If its my nature, because Im telling you even when Im reading something and there is something faulty with it, Im not trying to criticise that writing.

20 Threats to sense of identity:Fatima (4) Asked about her strengths in AW: No strengths at all; come on, Clare! …I am very disappointed with my marks and then when my father talks to me and they say Are you still number one? Oh my god, come on, forget it!

21 Threats to sense of identity: Maria I had a crisis actually last week… I thought that I had at least – no, I HAVE! – a critical mind but then I said Why is it that I cannot reflect what I know - all my insights - in a paper with a better mark?

22 Threats to sense of identity: Maria (2) I dont know how it happened that for example I read something which either I didnt think it was that thoughtful and even the English was not that good and I say And they did better than me – so how come?

23 Threats to sense of identity: Maria (3) And then I thought… if I am not the person, the critical person I think I am because I understand things but I then cannot explain and this was something I didnt know what to do. I say Well, I have a wrong perception of myself. Part of my crisis is that people come to me for advice and I think that if I am that good I should be doing better.

24 Fore-fronting crucial features: current practice Study skills guidance specific to the programme and to assignments: online, on paper, face-to-face. Clear assignment rubrics, which include: Statement of task criteria. Feedback on specifics and according to task criteria.

25 Example: Criteria for Written Language module task 1. Demonstration of a range of relevant reading and understanding of issues 2. Ability to evaluate reading and relate it to your experiences as a writer and a teacher of L2 writing 3. Depth and breadth of discussion of the chosen topic 4. Coherence of assignment, especially overall organisation and division into sections and paragraphs 5. Presentation, especially correctness of referencing and bibliography, and quality of writing

26 Pass level coverage / understanding of topic, and breadth of reading The essay contains several key points, but may also reveal one or two important gaps and contain irrelevant material. Reading for the essay is limited to lecturer-provided material and a few major secondary sources and possibly one or two primary sources. There may be at least one major error of understanding, and several minor ones, but overall, the writer understands the relevant background material for the essay. The ability to make links between sources will usually be limited at C level, but there will be some evidence of it. Grading criteria document – extract

27 Assignment submission checklist Presentation: Is your assignment divided up into sections and sub-sections, with clear headings? Are all appendices numbered and labelled?... Referencing: In the text, are all verbatim quotations acknowledged as such (by either indenting or putting in inverted commas)? Are all verbatim quotations given authors name, date and page reference?...

28 Resources students have Other people: – Academic writing advisors – Language teachers – Module tutors – Personal tutor

29 Resources students have (2) Peers: on same course in same academic discipline with AW experience in English as linguistic advisor

30 Resources students have (3) Texts: – articles/books – other students writing

31 Tomokos Ah-Ha! moment Something interesting happened while I was working on my essays… I gave Sarah (EL teacher) my previous one and she pointed out my typical not mistake, but my style which is not very academic. I use my words a bit wordy and typical Japanese style and she pointed out.. Dont overuse however and this is typical Japanese structures, just bring that point first, just few comments over coffee…

32 Tomokos Ah-Ha! moment (2) And on that night I just looked at my essay for Reading and Testing and then it looked like as if my student wrote it. It was mine but…it was 12 oclock at night and I started correcting and I couldnt stop until like 7 in the morning. I just all in one go and I changed most of the sentences and the next night I did it again for Testing.

33 Tomokos Ah-Ha! moment (3) And then there was just so much irrelevant expression…and then I just kept cutting down… and I think my writing became much better compared to the first term, still I want to improve. No one before pointed out my style, they said Its ok, its understandable, but that wasnt enough and we did look at some sentences – I dont know – it wasnt me holding the pen and correcting, but I could see the mistakes and all the expressions. Before that I underlined some words I wasnt happy with but I didnt know how to rephrase but that night all the words just came out and I just got it… its amazing.

34 References Bereiter, C. & Scardamalia, M ThePsychology of Written Composition. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Bruner, J Celebrating divergence: Piaget and Vygotsky. Human Development 40: Daniels, H Vygotsky and Pedagogy. London: Routledge Falmer. Hyland, K Teaching and Researching Writing. Harlow, UK: Pearson. Tomasello, M., Kruger, A.C. and Ratner, H.H Cultural learning, Behavioural and Brain Sciences 16/3:

35 Study strategies students have developed autonomously Colour coding parts of drafts Annotating drafts with reminders/alerts Noting down useful chunks of language from reading Making personal glossary of useful jargon Planning and note taking using questions Reading examples of good/bad essays, with explanation of strengths/weaknesses

36 Scaffolding Shielding a learner from distraction: preparing him/her for feedback/grading making tasks and task criteria clear clarifying reading requirements

37 Scaffolding Sequencing the steps to understanding: More class/online time to explain assessment process – in general and re specfic tasks Formative feedback on drafts?

38 Scaffolding Promoting negotiation: With tutors on assignment tasks With peers on drafts

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