Theauthorsdescribehowtheyhaveusedthegenreofuniversityapplicationletters to help Japanese
high school students in a writing class gaina richer understanding of the complex relationship between written textsand the social contexts in which they are situated. Before exploring howexactlythegenreapproachwasemployedinourcontext,itwillbenecessaryto distinguish between a genre-based approach and the earlier product-based approach since these pedagogies, though quite distinct in theory,share a similar focus on discourse patterns.
Product and genreapproaches
What are thedifferences?
Prior to the burgeoning of process-based pedagogies in the 1970s and1980s, the product approach was the dominant approach in L2 writing(Raimes1991;Matsuda2003).AccordingtoRaimes’(ibid.)historicalsurveyofL2writing,product-orientedpedagogieswerecharacterizedbyafocusonaccuracy and the ‘imitation of paragraph or essay form’ (p. 409). Typicalclassroom activities included writing from an outline, paragraphcompletion,identiﬁcationoftopicandsupport,andscrambledsentencestoreorder. In thisapproach,thetextsthatwriters aretoproducerepresenttheentry point of instruction, and they are largely seen as autonomous objectsthat can be ‘analyzed or described independently of particular contexts,writers, or readers’ (Hyland 2002: 6).Product-basedapproachesbecamewidelycriticizedbyanumberofscholarsfor reasons that included: constraining the freedom of writers (Rohman1965: 108) and an over-emphasis on the surface level features of writing(Zamel 1987: 700). During the 1970s and 1980s, the many variations of processpedagogiescametodominatetheﬁeldofL2writingscholarship(forexample Zamel ibid.).Sincethe late1980s, however, there hasonce again beena ‘paradigm shift’in L2 writing from process- to genre-based pedagogies (Johns 2002b: 3).Atkinson (2003: 3) even argues that the changes in L2 scholarship are socomprehensivethattheﬁeldhasentereda‘post-processera’.Thoughsomescholars have expressed reservations about using such terms to describethese changes (for example Matsuda op. cit.), the genre approach hasundoubtedly been the subject of much recent discussion in the ﬁeld of L2writing (for example Hyland 2003; Johns, Bawarashi, Coe, Hyland,Paltridge, Reiff, and Tardy 2006).Proponents of genre-based pedagogies have attempted to broadentraditional conceptions of genres by characterizing them not just in termsof their linguistic properties but their social functions as well. Hyland(inJohns
ibid.:237),forexample,explainsthatgenresare‘agroupingof textsbasedonhowwritersuselanguagetorespondtoandconstructtextsforreoccurringsituations’.Inthesamearticle(p.235),Paltridgedescribesthemsimply as ‘the ways in which people get things done through the use of language in particular contexts’. This emphasis on the social dimensionof genres represents a major point of departure from earlier productapproaches. In genre-based pedagogies, developing an understanding of thesocialcontextwithinwhichtextsaresituatedistheproperentrypointof instruction. A focus then on the linguistic and rhetorical features of a textshouldonlycomeafterasocialcontexthasbeenestablished(Hyland2002:96–111).
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Gordon Myskow and Kana Gordon