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Initiating ESL Students into the Academic Discourse Community: How Far Should We Go? Author(s): Ruth Spack Source: TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Mar., 1988), pp. 29-51 Published by: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL) Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3587060 . Accessed: 07/05/2013 06:00
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TESOL QUARTERLY, Vol.22, No. 1, March1988
Into the ESL Students Initiating AcademicDiscourse Community: How Far Should We Go?
RUTH SPACK and Boston Tufts University University
In theinterest of finding students succeedin ways to help their and studies, college-levelL2 writingresearchers university teachershave endeavoredfor years to define the natureof tasks.The effort academicwriting to determine whatacademic is and what ESL students need to know in orderto writing of a number of different produceit has led to thedevelopment to of Most the thiseffort approaches teaching writing. recently, has led to a problematic trend toward teachers ofEnglish, having teachersof freshman teach students to including composition, in other write Thistrend has emerged in response to disciplines. criticism of previouswriting of programs, analysesof surveys academicwriting andmovements suchas Writing Across the tasks, Curriculum for and English Thisarticle reviews specific purposes. studies of Li writing in which students in learnto write programs variousdisciplines, theimplications discusses of theresearchers' and argues that (a) the teachingof writing in the findings, shouldbe leftto theteachers of thosedisciplines and disciplines teachers should focus on general (b) L2 Englishcomposition ofinquiry and rhetoric, with on writing from principles emphasis sources. Withinthe last decade, numerousapproaches to the teachingof in programsforESL college studentshave been tried,and writing much discussionhas focused on the most appropriateapproach to Forum contributions of Horowitz, adopt (see the TESOL Quarterly 1986c/Liebman-Kleine, 1986/ 1986/Horowitz, 1986b/Hamp-Lyons, Horowitz, 1986a; Reid, 1984b/Spack, 1985a/Reid, 1985; Reid, 1984a/Zamel, 1984). Though a misleading process/product,or process-centered/content-based, dichotomyhas characterizedthe researchers and teachershave generally debate, ESL writing agreed that the goal of college-level L2 writingprograms is to prepare students to become betteracademic writers.
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ofthisgoalis complicated theachievement by at least However, two major factors.One is that we have not yet satisfactorily whatacademicwriting is, determined, surveys, despitenumerous The otheris thatthereis most examines. an issue thatthisarticle oftena large gap betweenwhat students bringto the academic ofthem. and whattheacademiccommunity expects community basic writers-academiIn the case of nativeEnglish-speaking who have achievedonlyverymodest students callydisadvantaged the outthat ofhighschoolliteracy-Bizzell standards (1982)points and previous social situation students' training may hampertheir to succeed in theacademy.In other words,their problems ability but withacademic writing ability may not lie in a lack of innate thatinfluence factors in thesocial and cultural rather composing. as who can be classified The gap is even widerforESL students deficiencies. and cultural L2 linguistic forit includes basic writers, in theirnative who are highlyliterate Even for ESL students and lackofL2 linguistic The students' a similar gap exists: language, can standin thewayofacademicsuccess. cultural knowledge It is clearlythe obligationof the ESL college-level writing literate or highly basic writers whether students, teaching teacher, we must thegap. As Bizzell(1982)suggests, a waytonarrow to find the the of culture and the master students university; language help intothe students is to initiate teacher roleof theuniversity writing article in this The issueof concern academicdiscourse community. ourrole. fulfill which we should is themeansthrough trend to be a disturbing whatI perceive from stems My concern bothby has been influenced that a trend in L2 writing instruction, in L1 writing theCurriculum Across theWriting (WAC) movement forspecific and theEnglish instruction purposes(ESP) movement of English, This trendtowardhavingteachers in L2 instruction. towrite teach students freshman of teachers composition, including in thecomposition thanEnglish other in disciplines maylead many fieldto assignpapers thattheyare ill-equippedto handle.The thatwe are of English teachers is to remind purposeof thisarticle we that to and academic in argue writing general justified teaching totheteachers inthedisciplines ofwriting leave theteaching should of thosedisciplines. WRITING DEFININGACADEMIC is and what ESL students whatacademic writing Determining need to knowin orderto produceithas notbeen an easytaskfor researchersand teachers. In fact, a number of L2 writing
instructors,including this author, have tried several different
TESOL QUARTERLY 30
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textbook Early ESL guidelines. following approaches,faithfully workbooks that fostered textbooks were controlled largely writing and that did not students' need to learn how to satisfy composition of work for other their own their courses. university produce body ownacademictexts Laterefforts tohavestudents createtheir often thatstudents could not logically resultedin absurdassignments fulfill. For example,one textbook that (Bander,1978) suggested science studentsbegin with a topic sentence such as "The be-overstated" of oxygen to mankind cannot and that importance humanities students showhow "therevolutions thattookplace in in majorchanges and Russiaresulted in France,theUnitedStates, those countries" to the could be done book, (p. 30). (This, according in one paragraph!) ESL writing textbooks began at thistimeto be modeledafter textbooks fornative whichemphasized (NSs) of English, speakers therhetorical researchers claimed were found patterns commonly in American academic prose. These books ask students to write whole pieces of discourse by imitating models (which are, often rather than whole paradoxically, excerpts piecesofdiscourse) and to describe, and determine thecause define, compare, classify, and effect ofeverything from to Chinese food. religion this has been Thoughstill popularwith manyteachers, approach inbothL2 and L1 fields calledintoquestion because"starting from and students to find and given patterns asking topics produce essays to fitthem is a reversal of thenormal writing process"(Shih,1986, act of p. 622) and turnsattention away fromthe meaningful in a socialcontext communication a (Connors, 1981).Furthermore, recent (though admittedlylimited) survey of actual writing handouts students in assignment givento university by teachers coursesotherthanwriting reveals that these (Horowitz,1986d) do notask students to start from and produce assignments patterns fit to If them. further research bears this it will be safeto essays out, that this is not suitable for a say pattern-centered approach program that academicwriting. emphasizes In responseto some of thiscriticism, and again following the modelof NS writing the ESL field has to textbooks, begun publish textbooks thatemphasizethe cognitive This processof writing. is based on the research of who approach composition specialists have drawn on the theories of cognitive psychologists and to the mental writers use to psycholinguists explore procedures communicate ideas (see, forexample, theLi research ofFlower& of Lay, 1982; Raimes,1985; Hayes, 1977,1981; the L2 research The thrust of ESL textbooks these Zamel, 1982,1983). (see, for & Jacobs,1985) is to teach example,Hartfiel, Warmuth, Hughey,
THE ACADEMIC DISCOURSE COMMUNITY 31
and writing skillsso thattheycan use studentssystematic thinking their own composing strategies effectively to explore ideas. organized topics, with thematically Emphasis is on self-generated forideas. readingsusually,but not always, actingas springboards Yet the writing produced in such courseshas notbeen universally accepted as academic, even thoughit takes place in the academy. Much of the writing is based solely on students' personal experiences or interests.Although this provides studentswith a to them, drive to learn to writeby focusingon what reallymatters ithas itsdrawbacks. As Bazerman (1980) pointsout,in emphasizing is the writer's independentself,teachersignorethe factthatwriting "not contained entirelyin the envelope of experience, native to communicate"(p. 657). and personalmotivation thought, the I would argue thatsince the personalessay as a genreinforms can be thiskind of writing discipline known as English literature, and considered academic. It also serves as a vehicle forreflection in science other for fields, including many specialists self-expression (e.g., Cole, 1985), medicine (e.g., Thomas, 1983), and engineering 1986). And thepersonalessay plays a role in students' (e.g., Petroski, future academic success: When they apply for transfer,for scholarships,or to graduate school, they are asked to write on personal topics in order to sell themselves and presumably to skills.Still,thereis no evidence thatthe skills display theirwriting withthe learned in thiskind of writing adequately provide students tools theyneed to produce the academic writing required in other courses. Althoughthe cognitiveprocess approach is admired because of as a learningprocess and itsdevelopmentof itsemphasison writing Its MacDonald (1987) reveals itslimitations: teachable skills, useful, one on is based & Flower research 1977, only 1981) Hayes, (e.g., L1 whichMacDonald describesas "composingwithan kind of writing, undefinedproblem,withthe writerforcedto create a problem for associated him- or herself. . . a kind of composing traditionally or of literature with English departments--whether interpretations scientific as such of kinds Other writing, personal essays" (p. 328). or social science writing, which have differentdemands and are ignored. Raimes's (1985) L2 research, based on constraints, students' personalexperienceessays,has been challengedon similar grounds(Horowitz, 1986c). of a process approach thatpromotesstudentcriticism A further and formis thatit does not acknowledge that generated meaning "most writingfor academic classes is in response to a specific assignmentor prompt" (Johns,1986, p. 253). Shaughnessy(1977), Bizzell (1982), and Rose (1985) thereforeclaim that it does not
32 TESOL QUARTERLY
with ofacademiclifebut thechallenges students tograpple prepare confrontation withthe "complexlinguistic their rather postpones and rhetorical oftheacademy"(Rose,1985, p. 357). expectations Bizzell (1982) arguesthatto succeedin their studies, university and recommends a "social-contextual students needcritical training approach" that "demystifiesthe institutionalstructureof and textbook Bizzell writers, knowledge"(p. 196). Researchers need to focuson theconventions of academicdiscourse, contends, therelationship betweendiscourse, and community, emphasizing academic discourse, ways to "demystify" knowledge.In finding of genreanalysis, ESP researchers have been at the forefront such as Case Studiesin and analyzing "key genres, identifying in Science, in Law, lab reports documents Business, Legislative in Medicineand Agriculture" (Swales, 1986, disease-descriptions p. 18). a number of surveys to have conducted L1 and L2 researchers acrossacademic tasks determine whatwriting areactually assigned Horowitz(1986d) has foundfaultwithsome of the disciplines. & Carlson, studies 1984;Johns, 1981,1985;Kroll, 1979; (Bridgeman of whatthe he points Ostler, out,"beg thequestion" 1980),which, tasksare: "Insteadof trying to discoverand classify university with tasks-a logicalpriorendeavor-they a set of writing began on 'the classifications, preconceived forcing respondentsthe schemeused in each survey" The surveys of particular 448). (p. Behrens(1980),Rose (1983),and Horowitz(1986d) take a more classifications after thedata. view,creating ethnographic examining the Horowitz surveyhas been criticizedon the Nevertheless, groundsthat it is a limitedstudy (only 38 of the 750 faculty members who were contacted responded; only 54 writing werecollected)(Raimes,1987)and that itignores the assignments inwhich context thetasks wereassigned (Zamel,1987). Until we collect moreassignments, interview theteachers tolearn thepurposes oftheassigned inwhich observe thecourses the tasks, tasks areassigned, examine theresulting student and essays, analyze theteacher to and evaluations ofthese we cannot responses papers, understand thenatureof theacademicwriting students are truly asked to produce.Furthermore, we shouldnot forget thatit is to takea critical look at theseassignments. important Havingseen numerous of for other examples writing courses,I assignments membersrespondedto suspectthatone reason so few faculty Horowitzis thattheymay have been reluctant to show English teachers their ownpoorly written orpoorly texts. The fact designed thatpapersassigned in teachers other are different by disciplines
fromthose assigned in freshman compositionclasses-the finding
THE ACADEMIC DISCOURSE COMMUNITY 33
of several surveys-does not necessarilymean thatthe formerare superior. Still, it is impossible and perhaps foolish to ignore the of thesurveys:The writing students do in coursesother implications than English compositionis rarelydependent solely on theirown with generalknowledge base. Rather,"studentswill be confronted eitheracademic or professional tasksthatsurfacein relation writing to textsof various kinds (literary, historical,psychological,legal, managerial) or data (computer, laboratory-testing, statistical, are viewed as chemical)" (Scheiber,1987,p. 15). These assignments a means of promotingunderstanding of the contentpresented in courses (Shih,1986). Furthermore, academic subject-matter writing papers involves the recursiveprocesses of drafting, revising,and editing (Shih, 1986). Therefore,writingteachers can comfortably design process-centeredcourses around text-basedor data-based tasks in which writtenlanguage acts as a medium for learning else should be is the focus of somethingelse. What thatsomething thisarticle. TEACHING WRITING IN THE DISCIPLINES Until fairlyrecently, studentswrote the various kinds of papers listed above only in classes other than English, with the obvious texts.But therehas been a exception of essays related to literary to add growingtendencyin both L1 and L2 compositioninstruction inotherdisciplinesto theother theresponsibility of teachingwriting responsibilitiesof English department writing programs. It is beyond the scope of thisarticleto examine all the reasons forthis trend; only two of the influencesare touched on in this section: an L1 movement,and English for Across the Curriculum, Writing specificor academic purposes,an L2 movement. Acrossthe Curriculum Writing For a number of years, faculty have complained about weaknesses in students' abilityto produce papers of highqualityin in part to a loosening subject-area courses--weaknessesattributed of standardsin theacademy and in partto thechange in thestudent population in the 1960s and 1970s from a somewhat elitist, homogeneous group to an academically underprepared group diverse culturesand educational backgrounds.Partly representing Across in response to thisconcern,a movementknown as Writing the Curriculum, modeled on a British program, took hold in in the 1970s,its purpose to restorewriting colleges and universities
34 TESOL QUARTERLY
to its centralplace in the curricula of institutions of learning (Maimon,1984). Thoughtherehave been severalWAC models, in all they have shared the goal of encouraginginstructors to makewriting an inevitable and partof theteaching disciplines In faculty courses. seminars learning processin their development withsubject-area have collaborated instructors teachers of English can learnmoreaboutwriting. so that thelatter ButWAC programs have notalwaysmetwithsuccess(Russell, loads, largeclasses, 1987). Obstaclessuch as "increased teaching lack of collegialsupport, administrative pressures responsibilities, and the like" (Fulwiler, to research, 1984, publish,writegrants in other have caused someto refuse disciplines p. 119) on teachers the writing the extraburdenof introducing process into their the lack of understanding on the part of courses.Furthermore, of the processesinvolvedin writing faculty Englishdepartment norinterpretive has led to counterpersonal essaysthatare neither (Applebee,1986; Fulwiler, 1984). faculty workshops productive haveonly Collaborative faculty workshops recently begunto focus on theprocesses inscientific, and strategies involved and technical, social science writing, have only perhaps because researchers the writing recently begun studying processesof scientists (see & Mulkay, Gilbert ofthese 1984;Myers, 1985;and,fora discussion and other studies, Swales,1987), (Selzer, engineers 1983),and social scientists (Becker, 1986). seminars now bringteachers of English Facultydevelopment with notonlyso that instructors thelatter can together subject-area learnmoreaboutwriting, butalso so that theformer canlearnmore aboutthesubject area (Dick & Esch,1985).In writing and planning linkedcourseswithcolleagues, the Englishcomposition teacher's students' skills is becoming the general goalofstrengthening writing morespecificgoal of training students to handlethetasksof the other disciplines.This goal has led today to the creationof such as thatat Beaver College (describedin Maimon, programs arebuilton the Belcher, Hearn,Nodine,& O'Connor, 1981),which foundation of a cross-disciplinary, freshman required composition course.L1 textbooks foruse in suchEnglish designed composition coursesincludeinstructions forwriting in otherdisciplines-case studiesin the social sciences,laboratory reportsin the natural and so on (e.g.,Bazerman, et al., 1981). sciences, 1985;Maimon for for Academic English Specific Purposes/English Purposes Atapproximately thesametime theWAC movement was gaining inL1 writing theESP movement had taken prominence instruction,
THE ACADEMIC DISCOURSE COMMUNITY 35
hold in the field of L2 acquisition. ESP programs arose as a "practical alternative to the 'general' orientation of language and literary teaching:cultural emphases,educationforlife"(Maher, 1986,p. 113). Taking as itsfocusscience and technology-the fields with the heaviest concentrationsof international students-ESP creates courses,taughtby Englishlanguage teachers,whose aim is to fulfill thepracticalneeds of L2 learnersand specifically generally to produce technicians and technocratswho are proficientin English (Coffey,1984). Collaboration, or team teaching,between the language instructor in the otherdisciplineis and the instructor the preferredmethod of instruction but is possible "only where there is a high level of goodwill and mutual interest and understanding" (Coffey,1984,p. 9). When the students'needs consistof "the quick and economical use of the Englishlanguage to pursue a course of academic study" (Coffey, 1984, p. 3), English for academic purposes (EAP) is offered. The incorporationof writinginto the EAP curriculum, in the other however, necessitatescollaborationwiththe instructor discipline,followingwhat Shih (1986) calls the "adjunct model" of But the many university compositionprogramsfornative students. has been slow, and developmentof such programsforESL students Shih recommendsthatwe learn fromexisting programs: The potential contributions and possiblelimitations of theadjunctin general, and forpreparing ESL courseapproachforESL programs to be to handleuniversity tasksin particular, remain students writing is cooperation from evaluated. Whatis needed,minimally, subject-area instructors and ESL facultywillingness to step into subject-area classrooms andkeepup with ForESL instructors to classevents. seeking setup adjunct theexperiences ofcomposition courses, adjunct programs are a richsourceof information. alreadyin place fornativestudents
The next section of this article examines studies of these NS of theresearchers' findings. programsand discussestheimplications STUDIES OF WRITING PROGRAMSIN THE DISCIPLINES AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS to to introducestudents Several L1 programshave been instituted In in the methods of inquiry various disciplines. typicalprograms, English teachers have collaborated with teachers in other 1985), psychology(Faigley disciplines,such as biology (Wilkinson, & Hansen, 1985), and sociology (Faigley & Hansen, 1985), linking the compositionsto subject matterin the other course. Investigations of these programsreveal some obvious advantages: Students
36 TESOL QUARTERLY
learnnew formsof writing whichas professionals theymightneed; theyhave more timeto write,since thereis less reading due to the fact thatone subject matteris employed fortwo courses; and their discussions of student papers are more informative, since knowledge is sharedamong class members. However, thedisadvantagesof such a programare equally,ifnot as Wilkinson(1985) and othersshow, and should more, significant, be of greatconcernto the Englishteacher.Firstof all, it is difficult for a writingcourse to have a carefullyplanned pedagogical or rhetorical rationalewhen it is dependenton anothercontent course; the timing of assignmentsis not always optimal. furthermore, Second, theprogramcan raise falseexpectationsamong thefaculty as well as among the students.English faculty,even when they collaborate with content teachers,find they have little basis for find themselvesin the dealing with the content.They therefore uncomfortableposition of being less knowledgeable than their students. Students likewise can resent finding themselves in a situationin which theirinstructor cannot fullyexplain or answer questions about the subject matter. Faigley and Hansen (1985) observed collaborative courses in which completely different criteriaforevaluationwere applied to students'papers by the two teachers because the English teacher did not recognize when a student failedto demonstrate adequate knowledgeof a disciplineor showed a good grasp of new knowledge. The same phenomenoncan hold truein L2 writing instruction. Pearson (1983) findsthat"theinstructor cannotalways conveniently divorce the teachingof formfromthe understanding of content" This is drawback often in mentioned (pp. 396-397). only passing in articles recommending that English teachers use technical and scientific materialstheyare not familiar with (see Hill, Soppelsa, & West, 1982). But the lack of controlover contenton the part of English teachers who teach in the other disciplines is a serious article on problem. This concern is reflectedin a state-of-the-art Englishformedical purposes (EMP): A sense of insecurity and uncertainty can sometimes be observed EMP teachers their effective rolesas lay persons amongst regarding 'medicalEnglish' teaching amongmedical professionals. ... the specialistinformant, who is co-opted on to a Occasionally, harbours aboutthelanguage teacher's teaching programme, suspicions motives.Considerthe view of the DUODECIM [FinnishMedical teamofdoctors: 'We believethat itis essential tohaveteachers Society] at andEnglish andwhohavesomeexperience entirely homeinmedicine in writing and lecturing' and 'Too few teachers (Collan, 1974:629),
THE ACADEMIC DISCOURSE COMMUNITY 37
combine intheuseoftheEnglish ingeneral enough experience language and knowledge of thespeciality in particular' (Lock et al., 1975:cover). 'Is theteacher toteachmysubject?' ifs/hegets themedical trying 'What bitswrong and misleads thelearners?' 1986, (Maher, p. 138) In spite of these drawbacks, some investigators claim that it is an for teacher to conduct a course that focuses on possible English in a if the teacher learns how a writing particular discipline creates and transmits is This discipline knowledge. accomplished by examiningthe kinds of issues a disciplineconsidersimportant, why certainmethodsof inquiryand not othersare sanctioned,how the conventionsof a discipline shape text in that discipline,how individualwriters in a text,how textsare read themselves represent and disseminatedwithinthe discipline, and how one textinfluences subsequent texts(Faigley & Hansen, 1985; Herrington, 1985). This exploration, of course, would involve a great deal of commitment,as anyone who has studied a particular field or for discipline knows. Specialists in second language instruction, example, have spent years acquiring the knowledge and understanding that enable them to recognize the issues that dominate discussion in the field (e.g., communicative competence), the methods of inquiryemployed (e.g., ethnography), the structure of manuscriptsfocusingon those issues (e.g., the TESOL Quarterly format),the names associated with various issues (e.g., Krashen/ Input Hypothesis;Carrell/schematheory;Zamel/writing process), and the impact a given articlemighthave on thinking and research in the field. It seems that only the rare individualteacher can learn another discipline, for each discipline offers a different system for examining experience, a differentangle for looking at subject matter, a differentkind of thinking (Maimon et al., 1981). Furthermore,whereas the transmissionof a discipline within contentcoursesprimarily recall, comprehend, requiresthatstudents and display information in examinations, in the writing disciplines a withthefactsand active,struggling requires complete, engagement and the texts ofa discipline, an encounter with thediscipline's principles of one's of theminto one's own work, the framing incorporation that a discipline, within themyriad conventions help define knowledge is legitimate. that one'sknowledge ofother thepersuading investigators (Rose,1985, p. 359) The teaching of writingin a discipline,then,involves even more specialized knowledge and skills than does the teaching of the subject matteritself. The difficultyof teaching writing in another discipline is compounded when we realize thatwithineach discipline,such as
38 TESOL QUARTERLY
each withitsown set of the social sciences,thereare subdisciplines, conventions. Reflection on personal events, for example, is considered legitimateevidence in sociologyand anthropology, but not in behavioral psychology (Rose, 1983). Even withinsubdiscithereare other subdisciplineswith plines, such as anthropology, theirown sets of conventions.The articlesof physicalanthropolowhereas gists, for example, resemble those of natural scientists, those of cultural anthropologistssometimes resemble those of scholars(Faigley & Hansen, 1985). literary To further no disciplineis static.In virtually complicate matters, all academic disciplinesthereis controversy thevalidity concerning of approaches, controversy thatnonspecialists are usuallyunaware of untilit is covered in the popular media (see, for example, Silk, 1987, for a discussion of the recent debate between political and In addition,the principlesof reasoning anthropological historians). in a discipline may change over time, even in science, which is affectedby the emergence of new mathematicaltechniques,new itemsof apparatus,and even new philosophicalprecepts (Yearley, 1981). Formal scientific papers, then,thoughoftenconsideredfinal statements of facts,are primarily contributions to scientific debate (Yearley, 1981). And althoughwe may be able to read and studytextsfromother disciplines,analyze genres, and therebylearn writingstylesand conventionsto teach our students, we should also be aware of any critical stance in relation to the texts. For example, Woodford researchjournal,has mocked (1967), editorof a scholarlyscientific the stateof scientific writing: The articlesin our journals-even the journals with the highest Some of theworstare standards-are, by and large,poorlywritten. ofauthor whoconsciously toa "scientific produced bythekind pretends He takeswhatshould be lively, andbeautiful scholarly" style. inspiring, to makeit seem dignified, chokesit to deathwith and, in an attempt abstract inthenameofscientific he fits nouns; next, stately impartiality, it witha completeset of passive constructions to drainaway any life'sblood or excitement; then he embalms theremains in remaining molassesof polysyllable, veil of wrapsthecorpsein an impenetrable old mummy withmuchpomp and vogue words,and buriesthestiff inthemostdistinguished circumstance that willtakeit. (p. 743) journal Woodford argues that this kind of writingis damaging to the studentswho read it. In his experience as a teacher of graduate studentsof science, he has found thatit adverselyaffects students' ability to read, write, and think well. (English teachers, who have seen themselvesas purveyorsof effective traditionally prose,
THE ACADEMIC DISCOURSE COMMUNITY 39
might do well to wonder why they should present such poorly textsto theirstudents.) written a finished or notEven studying product-whether well written cannot prepare English teachers to teach studentshow writersin otherdisciplineswrite.A written report productsuch as a scientific of a researchprocess, which is finally is merely a representation of a writing summarizedforpeers; itis nota representation process. should thewriting teachers teach To teach writing, writing process; and to teach the writing process, theyshould know how to write. But English teachersare not necessarilyequipped to writein other appears in the ESP literature: disciplines.Testimonyto thistruth a passage,however to write In theauthor's everyattempt experience, was promptly vetoedby it seemedon pedagogicgrounds, satisfactory ofsomekind solecism adviser becausea technical theProject's scientific howeverexperienced, The ESP writer, had been committed. simply is beingcommitted. ofthis kind does notknowwhena mistake (Coffey, 1984, p. 8) To learn to write in any discipline, students must become immersed in the subject matter; this is accomplished through reading,lectures,seminars,and so on. They learn by participating and by talkingabout it withthose in the field,by doing,by sharing, who know more. They can also learn by observing the process throughwhich professionalacademic writersproduce textsor, if thatprocess in the typeof program thatis not possible, by studying Swales recommended by (1987) forteachingthe researchpaper to nonnative-speaking graduate students. They will learn most in the subject fromteacherswho have a solid grounding efficiently themselves. theprocess matterand who have been through to writein other students I do notdeny thatprogramsthatinstruct disciplines can work. But a review of the L1 literature(e.g., Herrington,1985) and the L2 literature(e.g., Swales, 1987) on successful programs reveals that the teachers are themselves immersedin the discipline.For example, Herrington's (1985) study is an observation of senior-levelengineeringcourses taught by engineeringfaculty. And Swales's list of publications reveals a discoursedatingback at least to 1970. backgroundin scientific ACADEMIC WRITING TASKS FOR ESL COLLEGE STUDENTS English teacherscannot and should not be held responsiblefor in the disciplines.The best we can accomplishis to teachingwriting create programs in which students can learn general inquiry
40 TESOL QUARTERLY
rhetorical and tasksthatcan transfer to other strategies, principles, coursework.Thishas been ourtraditional role,and it is a worthy one. The materials we use should be those we can fully understand. we assign and evaluate The writing should be those we are projects The remainder ofthis article is devoted capable ofdoingourselves. to practical forincorporating academicwriting intoan suggestions course designedfor ESL undergraduates, English composition without theneed forlinking thecoursewithanother subject-area program. With Data Working to a number of surveys discussed students are earlier, According askedtowork often with either as observers oras participants. data, These experiences can become a part of the writingclass In theLi literature, instruction. Hillocks(1984,1986)recommends that we engagestudents in a process of examining various kinds of data-either objects such as shells or photographs, or sets of information suchas arguments. Students can be led to formulate and testexplanatory observe and report generalizations, significant and generate criteria forcontrasting similar details, phenomena. Such programs have been shownto workin L2 writing classes. Zamel (1984)has reported on a classproject inwhich students read with interviews then conducted and wrote published workers, up theirown interviews, and later compared the data. Likewise, studentshave become amateurethnographers, observingand thelanguagein their communities evaluating (Zamel,1986).Such taskscan producewriting thatis "richand original" (Zamel,1984,
But since composingin a second languageis an enormously andbecause"itseemsthat this has complex undertaking complexity moreto do withtheconstraints the task itself imposedby writing than with difficulties" need linguistic (Zamel,1984, p. 198),students consistent teacher input in the observationand interviewing in-class collaborative processes. Theyalso need regular workshops so that can comment on and raise abouteach other's they questions writing. From Other Texts Writing in observation and interviewing can undoubtThoughtraining be useful in academic career,perhapsthe most students' edly
important skill English teachers can engage students in is the
THE ACADEMIC DISCOURSE COMMUNITY 41
complex ability to write from other texts,a major part of their academic writingexperience. Students' "intellectualsocialization withpeople, but also may be accomplished not onlyby interacting the of others" writing (Bizzell, 1986, p. 65). As by encountering Bazerman (1980) says, "we must cultivatevarious techniques of on, and usingreading"ifwe absorbing,reformulating, commenting want to prepare ourstudents to "enterthewritten exchangesof their chosen disciplines and the various discussions of personal and (p. 658). public interest" L1 and L2 research shows the interdependent relationship between reading and writing processes (see Krashen, 1984; 1982; Salvatori,1983; Spack, 1985b): Both processes focus Petrosky, on the making of meaning; they share the "act of constructing meaning from words, text, prior knowledge, and feelings" then,students (Petrosky,1982, p. 22). To become betterwriters, need to become betterreaders. Intelligentresponse to reading, Bazerman (1980) reminds us, of a text-not just the facts begins with an accurate understanding to achieve. But thisis and ideas, but also what the authoris trying not easy for second language readers. Even advanced, highly do not. in a way thattheirNS counterparts literatestudents struggle First, there are linguistic difficulties.Overcoming them is not simplya matterof learningspecialists'language because oftenthe more generaluse of language causes the greatest problem,as one of students pointedout in a workingjournal(mechanical my freshman errorscorrected): thelastfewdaysI had to readseveral (about150)pages formy During inunderstanding thematerial. difficulties exam.I had great psychology It'snot with. I'm unfamiliar ofwords hundreds Therearedozens, maybe terms (such as "repression," the actual scientific "schizophrenia," that make the readingso hard,but it's or "neurosis") "psychosis," descriptive and elaborating terms (e.g., "to coax," "gnawing the To understand "fervent "remnants," discomfort," appeal"),instead. it often takesmorethanan hourto read justtenpages. And textfully, It is a understand. look up all thewordsI didn't didn't eventhenI still feels one because kinds of these to read texts, thing veryfrustrating and stupid. incredibly ignorant And thereare culturalbarriers,best expressed by anotherstudent corrected): (mechanical errors After culture. intheJapanese discussing Mylastessaywas aboutbowing I feltI could get and with first draft Luis, classmates, my my Ramy that bothof itinteresting across.ButI found abouthalfof themessage I was Buddhism. themwere stuckat the part where I mentioned with becauseI saw a similarity interested i.e.,I am myownexperience; or I am notBuddhist whenanyessaymentions Christianity. alwaysstuck
42 TESOL QUARTERLY
is so muchinfluenced butJapanese culture Shintoist, religions by those thatit is almostimpossible to talk about Japanwithout them.The are problemis that many conceptsassociatedwith these religions in Christian-influenced nonexistent I do not (Western society society). knowhow to explainsomething whichdoes not existin theEnglishin And I do not knowhow to world the English language. speaking in myframe understand that of reference. neverexisted To something me itis almost math as hardas solving complicated problems. Given the complexity of reading in a second language, it is withtheories teachersto become familiar necessaryforL2 writing and techniquesof L2 readinginstruction for (see, example, Dubin, to become Eskey, & Grabe, 1986) iftheyare to guide theirstudents betteracademic writers. Some of those techniques are already part of Li and L2 composition instruction.Marginal notes, note taking, working journals (see Spack & Sadow, 1983), and response statements to discoverand recordtheir own (Petrosky, 1982) can trainstudents reactions to a text. Exercises that focus on the processes of summarizing,paraphrasing,and quoting can encourage precise understanding of an author's style and purpose. But these techniquesshouldnotbe ends untothemselves. Rather, paraphrase, summary,and quotation become part of students'textsas they incorporatekey ideas and relevant facts from theirreading into theirown writing. In thisway, students can develop informed views on the issues they pursue, building on what has already been written. Readings can be contentbased, grouped by themes,and can be as well as informative. expressive or literary They can be drawn froma specificfield,if the area of studyis one thattheinstructor is well versed in, or fromseveral fields,if the articlesare written by professionalsfor a general audience. Althoughthese articlesmay not be considered academic since they were not writtenfor academic/professional audiences, they can give students an of how writersfromdifferent understanding disciplinesapproach the same subject. Most important, to avoid they allow instructors in themselves the awkward of materials placing position presenting they do not fullyunderstand.But whatever readings are chosen, teachers of ESL studentsshould always consider the background texts(e.g., knowledge thatreadersare expected to bringto written of the publicationsin knowledge of Americanhistory, recognition which the textsoriginally of organizational appeared, discernment establisha frameof reference formats, etc.) and help theirstudents thatwill facilitate comprehension (Dubin et al., 1986).
THE ACADEMIC DISCOURSE COMMUNITY 43
Writingtasks should build upon knowledge students already possess but should also be designed to allow new learningto occur. Studentscan initially write about theirown experiencesor views, in writing to theassigned thenread, discuss,and respondinformally next of can be the task evaluating,testing readings.They assigned the texts.Students can be the truthof, or otherwiseilluminating directed to compare the ideas discussed in one or more of the readingswiththeirown experiences,or theycan be asked to agree or disagree or take a mixed position toward one of the readings. to the readings,theycan develop ideas Making specificreferences by givingexamples, citingexperiences,and/orprovidingevidence fromothertextson the subject. the teacher can move the students By sequencing assignments, from a away primarilypersonal approach to a more critical of to the readings. The goal should not be regurgitation approach others'ideas, but the development of an independentviewpoint. Studentscan develop the abilityto acknowledge the pointsof view in a of othersbut still"question and critiqueestablishedauthorities field of knowledge" (Coles & Wall, 1987, p. 299). This is a skillforforeign students, manyof whom are important particularly acceptance "products of educational systemswhere unquestioning of books and teachers as the ultimate authorityis the norm" (Horowitz & McKee, 1984,p. 5). Yet other assignments,such as research projects utilizing the can and/or observations, libraryand perhaps data frominterviews materialfroma numberof ask studentsto evaluate and synthesize sourcesin orderto establisha perspectiveon a givensubjector area discussed above, thistype of Like the assignments of controversy. of knowledge and prompts demonstration allows for assignment and learning"(Shih, 1986, the "independentthinking, researching, write fortheirotheruniversity students when often required p. 621) on skills studentshave builds also Such an courses. assignment note summarizing, paraphrasing, taking, already practiced:reading, and so on. quoting,evaluating,comparing,agreeing/disagreeing, students tasks that to many writing These skillsare transferable will be required to performin othercourses when theywrite for academic audiences. The contentwill vary fromcourse to course, and the formatwill vary fromdiscipline to discipline and within of individual disciplines, depending on the particularconstraints teachers.But of individual concerns the and particular assignments studentsshould have a fairlygood sense of how to focus on a subject, provide evidence to support a point or discovery, and of the materialdiscussed. examine the implications
44 TESOL QUARTERLY
The Process ofAcademicWriting glance that asking studentsto Althoughit mightappear at first write from other texts-a common writing assignment before research on the composing process gained prominence-is a throwbackto traditional thatis farfromthecase. teachingmethods, above take place within described The kindsof writing assignments a of the context process-centered approach, with students employing appropriate inquiry strategies, planning, drafting, and editing. consulting, revising, The students'papers become teaching tools of the course. An to followprescribedrules ability assigned paper is nota testof their of writing,but a chance to examine and organize, and then Because more than one reexamine and reorganize,theirthinking. draftis read, it is not a matterof "betterluck nexttime,"but "try again untilyou have communicatedyour ideas clearly." Students can be trained to respond productivelyto each other'swork-inprogress; thus,they can learn how collaborationamong scholars evolves. These experiencesin collaborativelearninghelp students become "socialized intothe academic community" (Maimon, 1983, p. 122). is almost always necessary,at least Student-teacher interaction for to take initially, learning place. Over time,studentsinternalize variousroutines and proceduresand "take greater for responsibility the of an controlling progress assigned task" (Applebee, 1986, teacherfeedback on drafts toward p. 110). But first, guides students a more well-focused that fulfills producing tightly organized, paper the assignment. The finalproduct of thiseffort shows them what effective shouldlook like. Their own good work becomes a writing model for futureacademic papers, includingessay examinations. The writing classroomis theplace wherestudents are giventhetime to learn how to write. Witheach assignment, so thatstudents learningcan be structured are provided with useful strategiesfor fulfilling the task at hand. can be given in such a way thatstudentsunderstand Assignments fromthe beginningwhat the task requiresand what its evaluative criteria will be (Herrington,1981). Students can be helped to " 'deconstruct'the assignment 1986,p. 247). After prompt"(Johns, they have done some informal writing, including invention of suggestions techniques(Spack, 1984), theycan be givena variety on how to organize an academic paper that makes referenceto anotherauthor'swork.For example,theycan be told whatmight go in the beginning (a summary of the author's article and an identification of the particularissue the studentwill respond to),
THE ACADEMIC DISCOURSE COMMUNITY 45
middle (ideas and examples presentedin logical order,never thecentral issueand frequently back to wandering referring firom and ending thereading), oftheimplications ofwhathas (discussion justbeen written). The constraints oftheform are meant to benefit, nothamper, the students'writing.Knowledge of what usually comes at the in themiddle, and at theend of suchdiscourse can give beginning, students another writingstrategyor cognitive framework. to specific formulas is counterproducHowever,rigidadherence tive. Students, in a different especiallythosewho were trained and who are now enriched culture can create by a secondculture, textsthat may not follow explicitguidelines but that are still effective. of herexperience in writing is an Indeed,Lu's (1987) discussion imitative exampleof thisphenomenon. Caughtbetweentherigid, at schoolin Chinaand theinner-directed forms required approach of the at-homeEnglish instruction given by her Westernized she wrotea book report that was notacceptableto either parents, her school instructors focusedon the (because she sentimentally conflict ofa character) orherat-home internal instructors (because she praiseda "Revolutionary" book). Yet the essaywas a highly text. original As Coe (1987) pointsout, an understanding of the purposeof to communicate andeffectively form-toenablewriters accurately to understand, to readers-can "empowerstudents use, and even is fornew purposes" forform invent new forms (p. 26). So, respect if students are to succeed in certain encouraged-and necessary is builtintothecourseto encourage othercourses-butflexibility as well. to respect thecomposing students process CONCLUSION to teachthe It is ironic that on ESL/English teachers thepressure is manifesting at precisely thetime itself ofother writing disciplines institutes suchas theMassachusetts wheninfluential technological to increase student of Technology are funding Institute programs in an effort to produce more wellexposureto the humanities is course The English students. rounded, composition open-minded are course:a place wherestudents and should be a humanities thatprovoke of readingand writing provided the enrichment and ethical their intellectual and foster development. thought tasksthatdeal with This approachincludes writing exploratory As Rose (1983)reminds and experiences. senseof thoughts making fortheself, establishing us, "making ordering experience, meaning
46 TESOL QUARTERLY
toitis whatinforms one'sownrelation anyserious writing" (p. 118). It also includes tasks that direct to take students expository writing an evaluative and analytical stancetoward whatthey read.Each of these processes"makes a crucialcontribution to the whole of intellectual activity" (Zeiger,1985, p. 457). Students will mature as writers as they receiveinvaluable input from numerous classroom and from teachers who are experiences conversantin other disciplines.To initiatestudentsinto the academic discoursecommunity, we do not have to changeour orientation tasks cannot we ourselves or completely, assign master, limitour assignments to prescribed, tasks.We can rule-governed instead drawon ourownknowledge and abilities as we strengthen and expandtheknowledge and abilities ofourstudents.
This is a revisedversionof a paper presented at the 21st AnnualTESOL inMiamiBeach,April Convention 1987.Theauthor wouldliketo thank Catherine Sadow and threeanonymous TESOL Quarterly reviewers fortheirvaluable on earlier drafts. suggestions
THE AUTHOR Ruth Instructor forForeign Spackis Adjunct in the Students Lecturer/Special atTufts andLecturer inthe English Department at University English Department Boston Shehaspublished several articles on theteaching ofwriting, University. serves as a member ofthe Editorial Board ofthe TESOLQuarterly, and Advisory iscurrently atwork ona writing textbook for students.
Applebee, A.N. (1986). Problemsin process approaches:Toward a
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