17th Educational Conference Adelaide 2004

Approaches to Teaching Second Language Writing
Brian PALTRIDGE, The University of Sydney
This paper presents a discussion of developments in the teaching of writing. This includes a discussion of genre-based approaches, critical perspectives, and academic literacies perspectives on teaching second language writing. The underlying philosophies of each of these approaches as well as implications for the classroom is discussed. A proposal for teaching writing based on the drawing together of a number of these perspectives is then presented.

Earliest work in the teaching of writing was based on the notion of controlled, or guided, composition. This was the predominant approach from the mid 1940s to the mid 1960s. In the mid 1960s, however, teachers began to feel that controlled composition was not enough. This led to a focus on ‘rhetorical functions’ which took textual manipulation beyond the sentence level to the discourse level, and focussed on teaching types of texts such as descriptions, narratives, definitions, exemplification, classification, comparison and contrast, cause and effect, and generalisations. The process approach of the 1970s that followed mirrored a similar development in first language writing instruction. The process approach was not, however, universally accepted by teachers with writers such as Reid (1984a, 1984b) arguing that it did not address issues such as the requirements of particular writing tasks, the development of schemata for producing written discourse, and variation in individual writing situations. Others, such as Horowitz (1986), questioned whether the process approach realistically prepared students for the demands of writing in particular settings. This led to a focus on examining what is expected of students in academic and professional settings and the kinds of genres they need to have control of to succeed in these settings.

The genre approach
The 'genre approach' to teaching writing has taken place in different ways in different parts of the world. It has also had different underlying goals as well as focused on different teaching situations. In Britain and the United States, for example, teachers have been mostly concerned with teaching international students in English medium universities. Genre-based classrooms in Australia, on the other hand, have had a rather different ideological focus. This, in part, draws from the underlying concern in Australian genre work with empowering underprivileged members of the community and providing them with necessary resources for success. The genre approach to teaching writing focuses, as the terms suggests, on teaching particular genres that students need control of in order to succeed in particular settings. This might include a focus on language and discourse features of the texts, as well as the context in which the text is produced.

Approach, design and procedure
A helpful way of summarizing a genre-based approach is through Richards and Rodgers’ notions of 'approach', 'design' and 'procedure' (Richards and Rodgers 1986). 'Approach' refers to the theory of language and language learning which underlies the particular approach or methodology. 'Design' includes the objectives, organization, and content of the particular syllabus type, kinds of teaching and learning activities, teacher and learner roles, and the role of instructional materials. 'Procedure' describes the actual classroom techniques and practices that might be employed within the particular method or approach. The view of language that underlies a genre-based approach is that language is functional; that is, it is through language that we 'get things done' and we achieve certain goals. Another

English Australia

1999. or whole text. or not (Johns 1990). thus. Language. 1994. She discusses the expert. why they are doing this. or specific variety of genre. at times. and how these are reflected in texts. A process approach to genre-based teaching Drawing together genre and process approaches. is both purposeful and inseparable from the social and cultural context in which it occurs. The goals and objectives of genre-based approach are to enable learners to use genres which are important for them to be able to participate in. explores issues such as ideology. Flowerdew (1993) and Badger and White (2000) argue for a procedure which focuses on the process of learning about. Starfield. including relevant discourse and language level features and contextual information in relation to them. however. beliefs. no such thing as the onesize-fits-all academic essay that can be written in all areas of study. rather than one which focuses solely on the end product. ‘it is no longer possible to assume that there is one type of literacy in the academy’ (1998: ix) and that there is one ‘culture’ in the university whose norms and practices simply have to be learnt in order for our students to have access to academic institutions. Here. as they go. there is. in time. and acquiring genres. even 'challenging' texts. 2004). Classroom tasks aim to unpack ideologies. how the same genre may vary. is the genre. then. in some ways to a critical perspective on teaching writing is the academic literacies perspective on teaching writing. sees learning to write as learning to acquire a repertoire of linguistic practices which are based on complex sets of discourses. identities. need to be able to participate in. even though lower levels aspects of language are focused on as well in the course of the program. Lea & Street. relationships. use particular genres in order to fulfil certain social functions and to achieve certain goals within particular social and cultural contexts. Critical perspectives on second language writing One further and important development in the teaching of writing is what is sometimes called a ‘critical perspective’ on second language writing. and what each position implies. As Zamel and Spack. and values (Lea. Audience and second language writing Johns (1993) discusses the importance of audience in the teaching of second language writing. An academic literacies perspective on second language writing Linked. and who they want to be. learning to understand. and have access to. have argued. in the plural sense. further.17th Educational Conference Adelaide 2004 important aspect of this view is the position that language occurs in particular cultural and social contexts and can only be understood in relation to these contexts. students learn to switch practices between one setting and another. Speakers and writers. sadly. In their view. The starting point of the syllabus. English Australia . 1998. in a genre perspective. This perspective goes beyond description and explanation of texts to 'deconstructing' and. and identity. A critical perspective on teaching writing. Flowerdew (1993) and Johns (1997) argues that we cannot hope to predict the range of genres our students will. As Johns (1997) and Samraj (2004) have observed. In her view knowledge of this audience's attitudes. we need to help our learners see how they can go about discovering how genres differ from one another. and identities as a way of helping students make choices in their writing that reflect who they are. as well as what the particular expectations of the writing they are engaged in might actually be. An academic literacies perspective. A genrebased syllabus will. among other things. then. be made up of a list of genres learners need to acquire. 'all-powerful reader' of students' texts who can either accept or reject students' writing as coherent and consistent with the conventions of the target discourse community. and expectations is not only possible but essential for students writing in a second language.

The relationship between the reader and writer of the text and how this impacts about what they say and how they say it. This is often one of the most difficult things for second language students in that they often have to write to tell someone something they already know (or know better than they do). of the context the texts are located in. and consider how the various components of the situation in which they are writing impacts upon what they write and how they write it. * * * * * * The teaching. how should they quote. or they may write a text which challenges. the level of critical analysis required (or not required) of them. and break new ground? The content of the text . Students can be trained. how should they paraphrase (versus plagiarize). An ethnography of writing Grabe and Kaplan’s (1996) notion of an‘ ethnography of writing’. to convince the reader. and the criteria they will use for assessing the text. thus. Students may then decide to produce a text that fits in with these expectations. but not an explanation or understanding of why it is as it is. and what points of view and claims are not. provides a useful way of drawing a number of these perspectives together. they argue. set texts. as well as particular expectations. 1989) to explore the context in which the texts are produced as well as reasons for the linguistic choices that the students are making. and understandings it is assumed they will share with their readers. We should give them. English Australia . how are they expected to reference in their area of study. the skills to ask questions of the texts they are required to produce. values. what is expected of them.Is the purpose to display knowledge and understanding in a particular area.For example. they argue. 1997) as a way of helping them write texts that consider the institutional and audience expectations of their particular fields of study. research reports etc) and how they will be used to support an argument. Benesch 1999). General expectations and conventions for the text. and the people who will be reading (and evaluating) their texts. conventions and requirements of the student’s field of study . The background knowledge. to critique. Just looking at texts alone might give our students a description of a particular genre. how should they use source texts.For example. and what are they not expected to say? The intended audience for the text. including what’s important to their readers and what’s not. or a first year university course? Is it undergraduate or postgraduate? The purpose of the text . and at more advanced levels. is the text written in a high school. moves 'beyond the text' (Freedman.17th Educational Conference Adelaide 2004 Students as researchers Johns (1997) and Canagarajah (2002) recognize the difficulty this presents for our students by suggesting that we train our students to 'act as researchers' (Johns. their role and purpose in reading the text – including how they will react to the text. and the amount of negotiation that is possible (or not) in terms of assessment requirements (see e. It is important to remember that the reasons for the linguistic choices we make are nearly always outside the text. the level of originality expected of them. The relationship the text has with other genres (such as lectures. students can be asked to undertake an analysis of the social and cultural context in which the text they are writing occurs.For example. and why? What are they expected to say. journal articles.g. to argue a case. or indeed resists. The analysis might include a discussion of: * * The setting of the text . to demonstrate particular skills. In the case of teaching academic writing. I have found. what points of view and claims are acceptable in the students’ area of study. to unpack the knowledge and skills that are necessary for membership of their particular academic community.

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