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Journal of English for Academic Purposes 11 (2012) 294–303

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Journal of English for Academic Purposes
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Effects of an efficacy-focused approach to academic writing
on students’ perceptions of themselves as writers
Kris Van de Poel a, b, *, Jessica Gasiorek c, d
University of Antwerp, Applied Language Studies, Rodestraat 14 R202, BE 2000 Antwerp, Belgium
North-West University, School of Languages, Private Bag X6001, Potchefstroom 2520, South Africa
Department of Communication, SS&MS Bldg., Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA
University of Antwerp, Belgium

a b s t r a c t

Keywords: To become a successful participant in the community of their academic discipline, students
Efficacy must learn this community’s communicative currency: the norms, standards, procedures,
Academic discourse and linguistic forms that constitute academic discourse. However, it is rare for a disci-
Academic literacies
pline’s expectations and requirements to be overtly discussed or taught, despite the fact
S/FL academic writing
that research has demonstrated that there is a persistent gap between staff and student
expectations and standards in this domain. In this article, we focus on academic writing,
one component of academic discourse. Specifically, we consider the effects of an efficacy-
focused teaching approach (actively targeting students’ knowledge, skills, and related
affect) on S/FL English language and literature students’ (self-reported) knowledge of what
constitutes academic writing, their comfort discussing it, and the role this has in their
perceptions of themselves as writers. We conclude by discussing the implications of these
findings for learning and teaching in the area of academic writing.
Ó 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

Learning to write for an academic context is not easy; learning to write for an academic context in a second/foreign
language (S/FL) is perhaps doubly difficult. In this article, we consider academic writing a component of academic discourse,
a set of contextualized practices into which students in a tertiary education setting need to be socialized. Research has
demonstrated that there is a persistent gap between staff and student expectations with respect to what is considered “good”
academic writing (Cotton, 2004, p. 97; Lea & Street, 1998; Street, 1999; Van de Poel & Brunfaut, 2004a, p. 329). Students often
do not know what qualities their instructors are looking for in their writing, and as such do not have confidence in their ability
to write in this context. Students’ confidence in their writing capabilities has been found to influence their writing motivation
as well as writing anxiety, grade goals, and depth of processing (see Pajeres, 2003 for a review of the literature); as such, the
effects of writing instruction on confidence, as well as competence, are important to consider.
In what follows, we propose that explicitly making students aware of the standards for academic writing in a Flemish (i.e.
in the northern Dutch-speaking part of Belgium) university setting, paired with a program of instruction targeting the skills
necessary to meet those standards, should positively impact students’ confidence in their own writing abilitiesdin other
words, their self-efficacy, or belief in their own capability to accomplish what is asked of them (Bandura, 1986; Pajeres, 1996).
We then present a study undertaken in Flanders, Belgium that examines the effects of such an instructional program on S/FL

* Corresponding author. University of Antwerp, Applied Language Studies, Rodestraat 14 R202, BE 2000 Antwerp, Belgium.
E-mail addresses: (K. Van de Poel), (J. Gasiorek).

1475-1585/$ – see front matter Ó 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

with a focus on both knowledge and relevant skills. and purposeful rhetorical practices – and the confusion yet relative lack of complexity in students’ perceptions” (p. 1990. these practices define and constitute the parameters within which the community’s members operate. “an understanding of the discourse of any discipline depends on a detai- led knowledge of that discipline – not just knowledge of its content. Passeron & De Saint Martin. 2003. 2006. 1990 for the EAP/ESP context). Loosely defined (and not without controversy). 2006. 1990). Unfortunately. K. & Rimmershaw. 2009. and embedded within that context’s ideological framework (Gee. Cotton. how it can be communicated. 1998 “textography of communities”). learning how to productively use and deal with written language “in disciplinarily approved ways” (Hyland. or even more narrowly within the area of linguistics. most scholars agree that academic discourse generally refers to ways of thinking and using language in a specific context. Although the term itself is general. but in all cases. Hyland & Hyland. including essays. 1997. the words) for it. 2004b). Clark. an additional challenge. we would like to emphasize that “academic” writing is by no means monolithic. In other words. or language. is a social group involved in discourse pertaining to that group. helped to understand the social and cultural context in which the academic discourse operates. While academic staffdwho are established members of their respective academic communitiesdare familiar with the “code” of academic discourse.. Cotton. 1999. Casanave (2002) rightfully points out that there is an “asymmetry between the ways that teachers seem to perceive their worlds – full of complexity. . Van de Poel. projects. S/FL learners must not only learn the norms. Gasiorek / Journal of English for Academic Purposes 11 (2012) 294–303 295 English language and literature students’ (self-reported) knowledge of what constitutes academic writing. Academic staff rarely explain the assumptions that underlie this type of feedback. A discourse community (a construct developed by the American linguist Swales. marking) students’ progress (Hyland. lecture notes. 2004a). the language. Each discipline (and even sub-discipline) tends to have its own unique conventions and norms. Barker. especially when the language being used is a second or foreign language for the speaker. Street. explicit instruction in relevant skills and in issues related to this kind of socialization cannot be taken for granted.. generally are not (Belcher.e. and commu- nication in general to which its members have to adhere and in which its members have to engage (see Goffman’s. in other cases. Writing as an academic practice requires a considerable amount of language competence. and the role this has in their perceptions of themselves as writers. 2000. their comfort discussing it. the ways in which individuals think about and use language within an academic settingdgenerally fall under the rubric of academic discourse.g. academia has a set of (largely unwritten) “rules” with regard to interaction. Even within the Humanities. These issuesdthat is. and how the audience should be approached. 4). then. different ideas exist about what should be communicated. knowledge displays. it is limited to underlined words or orthographic (re)marks. 38) is crucial to students’ success in their time at university. 2. and do not know what to make of the comments provided on assignments (Ivanic. 2000). Street. 2004a.g. and students’ interpretations of these implicit expectations may be quite different than what instructors intend (e. 1959 “membership” and Swales’. and expectations related to academic writingdas anyone seeking to engage in this community woulddbut also they have to learn the vehicle (i. The instructional program presented in this article was designed with the goal of bridging this gap in knowledge and expectations between staff and students in the area of academic writing. We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for learning and teaching in the area of academic writing. and theses. and for a Flemish approach Van de Poel & Brunfaut. p. 1999). Students often do not understand why or how they are falling short of their instructors’ (and by extension their academic community’s) expectations. and is often the principal means of assessing (and by extension. which may take a number of different forms. university setting. Like any (discourse) community. values. Sometimes this feedback is nothing more than a mark (at a final exam). and the institutional expectations placed on itdto be able to successfully participate. 2006).. Writing and academic discourse A prominent component of academic discourse is academic writing. The start of university is the first time most students encounter academia as a community. As writing is the primary way in which students demonstrate and are evaluated on their understanding of their field. Van de Poel & Brunfaut. 80). Students thus need to be familiarized with the conventions of their disciplinedthat is.g. 2004. choices of language and text vary considerably across disciplines and sub-disciplines. 1994. 3. p. Discourse communities and academic discourse To successfully participate in a community. 1999. one must learn to communicate in a manner that is approved and accepted by that group (Hyland. 1994 Linguistic Misunderstanding and Professorial Power). Established forms of interaction and communication in an academic context are “typically taken-for-granted as straightforward and unproblematic by tutors” but “regarded with uncertainty and incomprehension by students” (Hyland. which is determined by complex social activities (Hyland. 2009). 2006). Although this term immediately brings to mind controversy and debate (e. 2004. students who are new to a given discipline. The closest attempt that academic staff often make at explicating their expectations vis-à-vis academic discourse is feedback on students’ writing (see e. Lea & Street. a community is a group of people connected around common values for a common goal or purpose which is communicated among its members. the communities’ purposes with the discourse. J. p.. detail. Harris & Thorpe. 123). but knowledge of its everyday practices” (Myers. Bourdieu in Bourdieu.

Johns. and discussions of attaining academic literacy more broadly. students’ level of comfort and confidence with this knowledge and these skills are also an important consideration. previous research (Belcher. and self-efficacy for self-regulation. their knowledge and skills do them little practical good. After the first exam period. 1987). not just drilleddare also critical and there is a need for explicit instruction to facilitate the learning process (Gordon & Braun. values. 1999.296 K. 1997). 4. it has also been found to mediate the effect of gender and pre- performance on writing performance (Pajeres. 1982). norms. Attaining academic literacy is a term commonly used for this socialization process. and language as they relate to academic discourse. 2003)dis often neglected in discussions of academic writing. their perceptions of their knowledge of what constitutes academic writing. This is particularly the case in an S/FL context. 2006. 5. 1987. To produce texts. and writing may be considered both a cognitive and affective activity (Hayes. Gasiorek / Journal of English for Academic Purposes 11 (2012) 294–303 Finally. students do not learn by osmosis. concrete (language) skillsdwhich. Receiving feedback on literature assignments and receiving exam grades were landmarks for many students. However. we propose an efficacy- focused approach to instruction. 1999). and how competent and experienced they feel as writers. Street. 2010) has shown that becoming academically literate seems to be closely identified with the process and experience of acquiring a foreign language and language skills awareness. 2006. Attaining academic literacy relies on (somehow) developing insights into and awareness of the entire communication process. again. 2003). 2009. However. It appears that the affective component of writing. knowing what the expectations are is of relatively little concrete value to students if they do not have the practical skills to be able to meet them. However. Leki. a program’s instructional approach cannot solely rely on the notion that literacy is a set of divisible skills that can or need to be learned and. J. Writing self-efficacy has been associated with writing apprehension. Belgium among Master’s students of English looking back on their process of acculturation (De Rycke. Littlewood. A study carried out in Antwerp. interact. These moments were often cited as a(n emotional) point in time at which students suddenly and rapidly gained insights in their academic literacy. defined as self-perceptions which help determine what individuals do with the knowledge and skills they have. which considers learners’ comfort and confidence in their knowledge and abilities (McLeod. Cotton. Researchers have found that students’ self-efficacy beliefs are correlated with other motivation constructs. with academic literacy referring to the competence and range of skills students need not only to read and write texts. Attaining academic literacy As outlined above. and communicate with members of their academic community (the practice) (see Hyland. as grades are experienced as powerful indicators of discrepancy between the students’ own evaluation of their work and the teacher’s opinion about it. 2004a) has indicated that a discrepancy exists between the interpretations of and expectations about academic literacy of teaching staff and students. students must learn and ultimately become comfortable with their discipline’s expectations. students must attain certain knowledge and skills (a skills-based approach. 2012). 2005. due to its persistent failure to develop students’ academic writing skills. 2005. According to the freshmen. it is rare for the expectations of academic discourse to be explicated to students. Similarly. 1997). students seem to struggle with adapting to academic demands and expectations. Van de Poel. There also seems to be a discrepancy between how quickly students acculturate to university as a new social environment versus how slowly they adapt to university as a new learning environment. and expectations of academic discourse. rather. as we have shown. and why . since engaging in a community requires action. 1994. Such an approach has already been rejected by Howes (1999) and Street (1999) among others. In terms of acculturating to this new learning environment. 2007). Snow. Given that the grading system used by staff reflects what is expected from students. Van de Poel & Brunfaut. and related affect as a means of socializing students into the norms. students reported experiencing a “reality shock” after receiving their first grades. this element is captured in the construct of efficacy (Bandura. many students were dissatisfied with their grades and claimed that they had expected them to be different. The writing program: an efficacy-focused approach As noted above. 1986). can be applied to other contexts. If students have the ability to engage but not the requisite confidence to do so. That said. To meet this set of needs. for S/FL students. one that targets awareness. as a first step in helping them attain academic literacy. in a 2011 study among freshmen of English at the University of Antwerp. this shock appeared to be caused by the discrepancy between their self-assessment criteria and the criteria used by university staff (De Geest. 2004. it is problematic that students do not seem to know what these expectations are. Academic literacy is not only dynamic. to successfully advance in their studies. knowledge. once acquired. but also to understand. perceived value of writing. we discuss a study undertaken to test the effects of an efficacy-focused instructional English writing program on Flemish students’ comfort discussing academic writing. that is. skills. We argue that a writing program should explicate these expectations to students. where it is much less likely that students are familiar with that S/FL’s language and meta-language of academia. as every student’s academic literacy is the result of a string of personal experiences. Thus. Lillis & Scott. 2004. Pajeres. but also personal. In what follows. need to be explicated. as well as with their academic performances and achievement. Becoming academically literate according to the standards of a given program or discipline should not be considered the sole responsibility of the student. 1999. Christie. the main problem of acculturation appears to be figuring out what the criteria for assessment are. Just exposing learners to academic practices or presenting them with “good” examples is not sufficient either (Howes. a two- way “investment” should be carried out – academic staff as well as students should take responsibility for clarifying expectations and making adjustments where necessary (Macrae. McLeod.

Before written assignments are handed in. who is one of the authors and under whose supervision the corrections of the assignments were/are undertaken. no entrance exams (except for medical school) or numerus clausus for students wanting to start tertiary education. English or American history. Both writing courses were/are taught by the same instructor. Then. Gasiorek / Journal of English for Academic Purposes 11 (2012) 294–303 297 they are not meeting them. lexical practice. 2009). essays. argumentation. For example. presentation skills). they are responsible for several small writing exercises and two short essays. The Bachelor’s in English Language and Literature is a three year program that students complete in conjunction with a program in another language (Dutch. and what about them is or is not appropriate. courses on literary texts in English (Romanticism and Realism). In the Ba2 course. Such a high proportion of students failing freshman year cannot solely be because university poses some kind of impossible intellectual challenges for half of incoming students. in which they ask for an extension on a deadline. McCann. Sample solutions for task-based Reflection Exercises are provided. citing sources. students write their own (fictional) email to a professor. those of the English Language and Literature Bachelor’s program). and an introduction to the study of English literature. phonetic transcription. This section shows how to apply what has been learned to academic situations. and should help them avoid common errors.e. philosophy. They are asked to consider these examples. and lexicon). students are first presented with short text excerpts (drawn from a corpus of actual work of past years’ students) and are guided through a critical analysis of the text as it relates to the topic (e. articles.. The focus in both courses is on an understanding of the expectations and requirements for writing in an academic context (and more specifically. and producing academic writing. Each assignment they complete undergoes peer review in class before being handed in and corrected individually. each chapter presents and explains a topic or skill central to writing in an academic context. . All courses are medium-taught. students take Advanced English Practice (including translation. including transitions. J. The Ba1 course introduces students to the basic principles of formal/academic writing with a strong emphasis on what constitutes an academic essay and how to evaluate one (introducing the required terminology and meta-language to do so). freshmen’s academic performance and their motivation to stay in school also partly depend on how easily they integrate into the university environment (Brinkworth. Students’ inability to understand why and how they received a particular mark could also explain why their attitude toward their teachers becomes less positive after the exam period: they may feel that staff did not communicate their expectations clearly enough. or film and theater studies. and advice on writing in an academic context that is related to the theory discussed in the main text. Thus. The Ba2 students who partici- pated in the study had completed the Ba1 writing course the year before. they write a 3000-word paper for their elective course (but many students opt for an elective that does not require this). articulatory phonetics. In the Flemish university system. respectively. Of students entering Flemish universities. Van de Poel. In the third and final year. In the second year. The information here is meant to address dilemmas that freshmen often face. & Nordström.1 just over half (51. 2007) begins with a list of objectives complemented with a writing checklist.2 For each topic each course covers.4%) pass their first-year exams (Vives. grammar. The theory related to each reflection exercise can be found in the text that immediately follows it. K. each chapter contains a practical application of the skill discussed. and providing students with banks of words and phrases) as well as an introduction to relevant terminology and metalanguage. Students do not do a lot of writing in their second and third year. grammar and grammar exercises. at maximum. the first year course specifically trains students for the types of writing tasks they will undertake in their program at the university. and both courses aim to raise students’ awareness of features of academic writing as well as give them practical experience with analyzing. for the first topic register. students learn to work with a rubric listing 1 Belgium has no national exams at the end of secondary school. students write a similar text component themselves on the basis of an excerpt. The writing program examined in this article consists of a first-year (Ba1) introductory course on writing in an academic context and a second-year (Ba2) writing course focusing on more advanced academic writing (i. evaluating. Then. and theses). students are shown examples of email messages sent to professors that use a very informal (and not always polite) register. and two courses in literature (Modernism and Post-Modernism). and an elective in literature. a linguistics course. Rather. Finally. conversational practice and grammatical exercises). instruction includes an emphasis on both the language and meta-language of this type of writing. 2 Each chapter in these (published) course materials (Van de Poel & Gasiorek. Following the objectives. Matthews. students take English Proficiency II (writing. as an assignment. In this second term literature course. Each chapter includes Reflection Exercises. French. In the first year of the Bachelor’s in English Language and Literature. each course includes both socialization and skills components. Thus. 2010). Students conclude their studies with a 12. history. or linguistics. This includes discussion of what constitutes academic style and register (explicitly discussing the constructs of register and audience.. Some of them are theoretical in naturedquestions to reflect upondwhile others are task-based. as well as an additional elective. with particular emphasis on Ba1 students’ first exams after the first term and essay writing in the second term. students follow a clearly delineated curriculum of courses in the academic program in which they are enrolled. in addition to a number of general education courses in the Humanities. a linguistics course. in terms of register. Each chapter in the Ba1 materials also includes information entitled The tutor says.g. students must complete courses in English Proficiency (comprised of writing. these are part of the English Proficiency courses in the Ba1 and Ba2. Spanish or Italian). what in the example is or is not correct or appropriate). and on foundational skills in argumentative writing. and word choice. tips. This “tutor” provides additional hints. students undertake a series of targeted exercises and writing assignments aimed at addressing specific aspects of academic writing.000-word Bachelor’s thesis in English if they major in English. providing both theoretical background information and concrete examples. papers. German. As these are S/L English students.

the courses aim both to socialize and empower students in a context which will be theirs for at least the three to four years. For each text. in which students revise their text according to the instructor’s feedback and upload their revised text on the learning platform. students’ perceptions of their own writing ability. Likert-type scale. collected over two years (Ba1: n ¼ 112 for the first year and n ¼ 53 for the second year of the study. After students have critically assessed their own text on the basis of this rubric. with corresponding descriptors as they relate to the text. the pedagogical approach in the academic writing courses borrows from several traditions.. The exercises have to be completed autonomously alongside the awareness raising and writing. linguistics. As the scope of the program is restricted to the study of a particular language. we evaluate the effects of this approach on students’ perceptions of themselves as writers. sometimes resulting in different sample sizes for different questions. This questionnaire contained seven closed-format questions asking students to rate their own level of experience and competence as writers. incorporating their peer’s comments.and post-course survey responses were compared with a two-tailed paired-samples t-test.. 6. Ba2: n ¼ 75 for the first year and n ¼ 33 for the second year of the study) at a Flemish university. All students across all years completed the same questionnaire.e. in terms of both knowledge (e. and errors pointed out (contrastively). the data for Ba1 were analyzed separately for each year. Students then have the oppor- tunity to revise their text. where a 1 indicates a low (self-reported) score on a given construct. there were statistically significant differences in students’ self-reported comfort in discussing their . This questionnaire was developed to target constructs and skills emphasized in the writing program (i. Between the first and second years of this study. participants in this writing program are still learning the language (ESL). however. the instructor provides both a mark and comments. 7. All students in each of these two writing courses were given a one-page questionnaire (included in Appendix 2). In summary. how comfortable they felt editing and commenting on their peers’ writing. in English. In short. and the nature of which can go from brainstorming to jointly outlining to critically analyzing a text extract written by the peer). whom they could also consult with during set office hours. are gradually introduced to the different components and aspects of academic writing. see Appendix 1 for an example). Method The population of interest for this study is students of English language. and the end of the academic year for Ba2 students. the first language of this sample is Dutch.e. domain content knowledge and knowledge of procedures of use of genres embedded in their social communicative context (cf. Students are given solutions and feedback for every exercise. who uses the same rubric students were given to evaluate the text.298 K. and experience with the course more generally. the Ba1 writing program underwent one significant change in course curriculum. Students are first exposed to “writing-through-reading”. at the beginning and then again at the end of the writing course.).. These assignments were completed in class. the language learning is tailored to the students’ academic purposes. its approach can be defined as one of English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP). as such the data collected from the two years were combined (for a total n ¼ 86) in the analysis that follows. To reinforce course material. and literature. and then were individually corrected by the instructor. underwent directed peer review (that is. Following the Ba1 coursedwhich focused on introducing students to the standards and norms of academic writingdin the first year of the study. when a student either left a question blank or indicated more than one response category) were excluded on a case-by-case basis. Pairs with missing data (for example. for whom English is a foreign language. 2008). Tardy & Swales. which was made on the basis of evaluation data collected in the first year of the study: while the first round of students examined here did not do any substantial writing in the Ba1 year beyond an outline (as a final exam for the course). Students were instructed to fill out the questionnaire as an aid to becoming more aware of their identity as writers in an academic context. and whether they felt they knew to produce this kind of writing. the second round of Ba1 students did a series of short writing assignments (following the format described above) in addition to a final essay. Van de Poel. how comfortable they felt discussing their own writing with peers and with teachers. did not change year to year. Gasiorek / Journal of English for Academic Purposes 11 (2012) 294–303 the key qualities and components their text should have (i. students exchanged papers and provided comments on specific aspects of each others’ work). they submit their texts for peer review (the ethics and process of which is introduced at the beginning of every course. In what follows. genres and disciplines. This process is concluded with a rewriting phase. However.g. its literature and culture. students also complete a series of multiple choice and short-answer exercises online. criteria. As S/FL students. comfort discussing and editing writing. As this changed the nature of students’ writing experience in the course. understanding of what constitutes academic writing). The sample examined here consisted of Ba1 and Ba2 students. The Ba2 course. With the exception of a handful of exchange students. Both criteria and descriptors aim to help the students evaluate their text from different angles. first receptively (via questions) and then productively (though still guided by a text excerpt). (This meant the end of the first term for Ba1 students. These questions used a four-point. and a 4 indicates a high (self-reported) score. pre. before the assignment is handed in for correction by the instructor. in this targeting genre knowledge. J. specific language skills need to be taught. of disciplinary standards and expectations) as well as skills. their (perceived) understanding of what constitutes academic writing. Results To assess the effects of this writing program on students’ perceptions of their knowledge of and comfort with academic writing.

48** 108 Understand what makes a successful (academic) essay 2.60.88 (0. Finally.18* 106 Comfort discussing paper with peer 2.20 (0.001) and ability to write one (t ¼ 5.60) 2.60** 74 Know how to write a successful (academic) essay 2.80* 74 Comfort discussing paper with teacher 2.40.001) following the writing course. However. df ¼ 110 and t ¼ 11. Ba1 students’ (perceived) confidence in their understanding of what makes a successful academic essay. In the first year of the study.29.68) 3.62) 3. there were statistically significant differences across all areas tested but one. which provided students with additional theoretical information regarding academic writing and practical experience with it through a number of exercises and writing assignments.001) increased.33 (0.52 (0.12.73) 2. df ¼ 108. interestingly. 35. respectively.32 (0.62) 2.47 (0.39) 9.42) 5.79 (0.68 (0.40) 2. Descriptive statistics for all items are reported in Table 2. p < . df ¼ 82.73.19 (0.43 (0.47) 11.55) 6.05) and competent (t ¼ 2.59 (0. also improved significantly (t ¼ 5.28.65) 2.48 (1. writing with instructors and peers (t ¼ 3.64.01. Gasiorek / Journal of English for Academic Purposes 11 (2012) 294–303 299 Table 1 Students’ self-assessment pre. df ¼ 74. Descriptive statistics for all items are reported in Table 3.01). students also felt significantly more experienced (t ¼ 2. Item Pre-Ba2 M (SD) Post-Ba2 M (SD) t df Level of experience 2. Following the Ba2 course. p < . as well as their level of comfort making comments on and editing other students’ work (t ¼ 4.95 (0.67) 3.51) 6.15 85 Comfort discussing paper with teacher 2. p < . students felt more experienced as writers (t ¼ 6.01) after taking the Ba2 course. df ¼ 74.14 (0.45 (0.37 (0. Table 2 Students’ self-assessment pre.51) 2. and making suggestions about fellow students’ writing (t ¼ 6. p < . p < . df ¼ 85.01.and post-Ba2 course.75) 2.01.94) 0.001). There were no significant changes in students’ competence ratings for the combined (year 1 and year 2) sample.65) 3. df ¼ 74. **p < .49 ( also improved. Table 3 Students’ self-assessment pre.65) 3. However. Van de Poel. as well as their ability to write one. Item Pre-Ba1 M (SD) Post-Ba1 M (SD) t df Level of experience 2.55) 2.62) 3. p < . df ¼ 74.46.and post-Ba1 course (study year 2).89 (0.46 109 Comfort discussing paper with teacher 2. Following the Ba1 course in the second year of the studydwhich included short practical writing assignmentsdthere were also statistically significant differences in students’ self-reported comfort in discussing their writing with instructors and peers (t ¼ 3. p < .63 (0.43 (0. respectively. df ¼ 74 and t ¼ 3. p < .44 (0.52) 3. also improved significantly (t ¼ 9.28** 85 Comfort discussing paper with peer 2. J.82 (0.80 (0.31 (0.48** 74 Comfort discussing paper with peer 2.29** 82 Competence as a writer 2.73** 83 Comfort editing and making suggestions 2. df ¼ 106.64** 85 Understand what makes a successful (academic) essay 2. p < .39 (0.76** 106 Note: *p < . students described themselves as more competent writers (t ¼ respectively.05 111 Competence as a writer 2.12 (0.39* 74 Comfort editing and making suggestions 2. df ¼ 74 and t ¼ 9.68) 2.61) 2.79.62) 2.38 (0. df ¼ 85.48 (0.68) 2.71) 2.76 (0.65) 1.11 (0. following the Ba2 course. p < .02** 81 Note: *p < .64) 1. Students’ (perceived) confidence in their understanding of what makes a successful academic essay.46) 9. following the course. df ¼ 83. df ¼ 85.78 (0.76.58) 2.8% of students rated themselves as .001).60) 2.16.64) 4.60 74 Understand what makes a successful (academic) essay 2. K. **p < . respectively.01).01.72) 2. p < .16** 110 Know how to write a successful (academic) essay 2.73 (0.and post-Ba1 course (study year 1). students’ level of comfort making comments on and editing other students’ work did not change significantly.60) 0.61) 6. Item Pre-Ba1 M (SD) Post-Ba1 M (SD) t df Level of experience 2. After the course in year 1 of the study.63) 2. as well as their ability to write one.51) 5. df ¼ 52. **p < .97 (0.01). p < .57) 2.09** 74 Note: *p < .59) 3. p < .63) 4.88 (0.11 (0.00. Finally. df ¼ 106 and t ¼ 3. Their self-reported understanding of what makes a successful academic essay (t ¼ 6.22 (0.01). Students’ level of comfort with discussing a paper with instructors (t ¼ 4.79 (0. discussing a paper with peers (t ¼ 2. there were significant changes in competence perceptions when the first and second years of the study are considered individually.87 (0.001).00* 74 Competence as a writer 2. p < .01) as writers.05.36 (0.43 (0.64 (0.69 (0. df ¼ 83. df ¼ 109.67) 3.79** 109 Comfort editing and making suggestions 2. Descriptive statistics for all items are reported in Table 1.32** 83 Know how to write a successful (academic) essay 2.

7%. criticisms. they must also actively use this metalanguage to convey their comments. The significant increase in students’ comfort levels talking with both peers and instructors about their writing suggests that this kind of exposure to and practice using this kind of language and metalanguage may be an effective means of socializing students in this areadin other words. df ¼ 32. Harris & Thorpe. external factors. perceptions of their competence as writers. practices.8% of students rated themselves as competent and 18. This was primarily a result of practical considerations related to students’ time and workload. our results should be interpreted cautiously. Cotton. (As the course is medium-taught.4%.75. each accompanied by focused peer review) there were significant changes by the end of these students’ second (Ba2) year. as students must have a certain level of knowledge and ability to reason about writing in order to successfully discuss it with others. We also find support for this finding in evaluative feedback from faculty which has indicated that after the introduction of the new writing programs students in Ba1 and Ba2 seem more aware of their own writing capacities and are able to communicate them more effectively. 1997. However. Arguably. 2004b). or communicators with English as S/FL. though they felt their (theoretical. abstract) knowledge of what makes a successful academic essay increased. however.6% and 54. and how to write one).3 When students participate in peer review. Second. by the end of the second year of students’ studies (Ba2) they have had enough practice with peer review to achieve a baseline level of familiarity and therefore comfort with the activity (as comfort generally accompanies exposure and socialization). respectively. a design including a control group was not possible here. 2010 and Van de Poel & Gasiorek.). 75. 2003. and students’ informal comments on the value of these courses. given that relatively few other courses in their curriculum explicitly address these issues. When feedback to written assignments and papers is given. This increase in comfort may also suggest positive changes in metacognition relating to writing as well. respectively. This contrasts with results from the second year of the study. To communicate information about the norms. and language in the area of academic writing. and suggestions to their fellow students. students did not feel significantly more competent as writers after taking the course. as these questionnaires were administered as part of the writing courses. or from other. and practices of academic writing. after the course). we still believe these data provide useful insights into students’ perceptions of themselves as writers. 1999. Practical experience with peer review may also have affected students’ perceptions of their own ability to write and to edit the work of others. students’ baseline perceptions of their competence were much higher: here. we feel it is reasonable to discuss these results in terms of the writing program. Gasiorek / Journal of English for Academic Purposes 11 (2012) 294–303 competent and 50. J. Other data also indicate that practice and practical experience play an important role in students’ self-perceptions relating to writing. due to the design of the study. some limitations must be acknowledged. all student communication and exercises are undertaken in English. before. addressing the gap in staff–student expectations discussed above (Barker. 2006/2008. That their comfort levels discussing this kind of writing increased also indicates that this process is arguably lowering affective thresholds to participating in this discourse community and thus increasing their readiness and willingness to communicate with peers and staff.. 2004a. in which students described themselves as less competent writers (t ¼ 2. they must use metalanguage for the subject. students felt significantly more experienced and competent as writers following the Ba1 course. . 8. With only minimal practical experience in writing in the first year study of the Ba1 course. 2010). that is. comfort discussing their writing. Nonetheless. it could be argued that the data we draw on in this study (seven questionnaire items) are somewhat limited. p < .01) following the course.300 K. First. In this second year. Van de Poel & Brunfaut. As outlined above.6% and 36. as this is what students need to write for their degree program) suggests that this may be a pedagogically viable approach for making students aware of the intricacies of this type of writing. Again. Although students’ level of comfort making comments on and editing other students’ work did not change significantly in the second year of the Ba1 course (in which students completed a number of short writing assignments. an inter- vention with no control groupdwe cannot be certain that changes that students experienced resulted from the writing program itself. Van de Poel. when writing assignments were added to the course (Ba1. and understanding of what makes a successful essay. cultural brokers. language instructors (as well as lecturers in literature and linguistics) must talk about writing. and by extension. Discussion At the outset. a number of factors are likely to have aided students’ increases in confidence across the areas surveyed (i. as all students in a given program in a given year were required to follow a uniform program of study. Despite the brevity of the questionnaire. because of the design of this studydessentially. However (and unfortunately). The significant increase in students’ feeling they understood how to write a successful academic essay (the type of writing the courses focused on. text editors. 1999. expectations. In both years of the 3 This is particularly important in the present situation where most graduates will work as language teachers.e. However. students are able to critically discuss them in one-to-one sessions and most are able to formulate suggestions for self-improvement (see the faculty evaluation data in De Rycke. we cannot definitively attribute these gains to the writing program.9% as somewhat competent writers.2% as somewhat competent writers before the course (as compared to 63. this writing program (comprising Ba1 and Ba2 courses) sought to socialize students with respect to their discipline’s expectations. of teaching them relevant (linguistic and practical) skills. given both these limitations. as compared to 22. 2004. Considering the content and structure of the course. Street. study year 2).

standards. comparing one’s own and others’ work to an explicit set of expectations. academic staff). 1996. and language of each discipline’s academic culture are often self-evident to its established members (i. 1997. in a Flemish context. it is rare for a discipline’s expectations and requirements to be overtly discussed or taught. Pajares & Valiante. they must become academically literate. and the content of the program we outline here reflects this belief. overall.g. Students who completed reflective and skills-focused writing assignments also viewed themselves as significantly more experienced and competent writers upon completion of the course. the same curriculum and assignments. Jorissen’s (2011) study on the effect of the in-class writing assignments on first year students’ (N ¼ 134) experience of self- efficacy provides some additional insight into the effect of the hands-on assignments on the students’ acculturation. The perceived interest in the assignments remained fairly high throughout the first term... Conclusion: implications for the teaching and learning of academic writing Communication in a specific and delineated (academic) community requires knowledge of and insights into that com- munity’s expectations. 9. In this study.. most work on academic socialization has portrayed socialization as the student’s responsibility. and feelings of self-efficacy as it relates to writing. Unfortunately. where students are routinely evaluated on the basis of their understanding of their academic community’s expectations and practices. influencing learning outcomes. 1997. but also instructors. De Geest. the students reported that the writing assignments were interesting and useful. Although this writing program appears to have had positive effects for most students in most areas of interest.e. While the expectations. and practices. In an academic context.g. that are responsible for students’ socialization. 2012) have shown that a “reality check” on students’ actual level of acculturation and understanding comes some weeks later. and their perceptions of themselves as competent and experienced writers (i. they interact with each other. Pajares & Johnson. We also propose that in addition to its content. these results remind us that no program is “one size fits all” and that results of a standardized curriculum may differ from year to year depending on the cohort in question. Bandura. 2004. A comparison of students’ pre. taught by the same instructor)dmay simply be idiosyncratic. However. there are significant differences for this item. At the same time. In year 1 of the Bachelor program students perceived the six guided assignments as increasingly difficult but only slightly more frustrating over time. which in turn have been linked to the regulation of well-being and attainment (e. after they receive their first set of exam results. when the data is examined on a year-to-year basis. In other words. these results suggest that a writing program designed to both socialize students as participants in their academic community and teach relevant skills through hands-on experience may significantly impact students’ self-reported knowledge of what constitutes academic writing. Street. We asked if such a program and approach could effect changes in students’ (self-perceived) socialization in the areas of knowledge and confidence... procedures. which includes a number of practical writing assignments. Howes. Honeycutt & Pritchard. and making revisions in light of feedbackdlikely play an important role in increasing students comfort. That said.g. Johns. other studies (e. producing one’s own text. this is not usually the case for students.and post-course responses suggested that it potentially could: following the program’s courses. Gasiorek / Journal of English for Academic Purposes 11 (2012) 294–303 301 study. Ba2 students also felt a significant increase in their level of experience following the Ba2 course. while students in the second year of the study rated themselves as significantly less competent. Stajkovic & . The high face validity of the writing assignments appears to have helped students feel acculturated after just one term. rather than a joint enterprise. That said. the format of the class and its activitiesdwhich include critically analyzing example texts. and attributed this to the theoretical foundations of the writing course (and its accompanying textbook). To date. despite the fact that it has been established that newcomers in the community do not acquire such knowledge or skills in an osmotic way (e. confidence.e. while targeting specific skills that F/SL students need to meet those requirements. Overall. and linguistic forms that constitute academic discourse. and thus downgraded their competence (as they became increasingly aware of their academic community’s expectations in this area) even as their experience increased. (Students in the first year of the study rated themselves as significantly more competent after the course. and even academic failure. students were significantly more confident in their understanding of what constitutes academic writing as well as in discussing their writing. particularly those early in their academic career. J. such that the effects cancel each other out when the groups are combined. To become a successful participant in the community of their academic disci- pline. We contend that it is not just students. Knowledge. their comfort discussing and editing it. one aspect of academic literacy. the combined Ba2 group saw no significant increase in their perceptions of their competence as writers. practical experience that the course provided impacted students’ perceptions of their ability to write academically. This suggests that the targeted. discrepancies between student and staff expectations of academic communication may result in poor marks. students must learn this community’s communicative currency: the norms. but in opposite directions each year. students thought they did well on the assignments and felt well-prepared for writing exams and papers. The second group was generally regarded by faculty as a more critical cohort. 1997. As noted above. K. data from this study also suggest that there may be individual differences in students’ interpretations of their experiences. 1999). However. so they may have focused more attention on the difficulties and complexities of academic writing. customs. 1999.) This difference between the two years of the study–even though both groups followed identical writing tracks (that is. critiquing peers’ work. we examined an English writing program that explicitly addresses disciplinary expectations for academic writing. All three contribute to students’ feelings of efficacy. skills and affect are not independent factors. discouragement. Van de Poel. their self-efficacy as writers).

New York: Freeman. Circle your answer. and thus. Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. 39–40 Explain/analyse. strongly agree [4] – agree [3] – disagree [2] – strongly disagree [1] References Bandura. and experience to help them meet those requirementsdmay help facilitate students’ (perceived) socialization into their academic community. 35. Overseas students in higher education: Issues in teaching and learning (pp. discuss.. very comfortable [4] – comfortable [3] – uncomfortable [2] – very uncomfortable [1] 4..-C.. A. 36 concise (one sentence)? 3. (1994). contexts. Text reference 1. 108–123). I understand what makes a successful (academic) essay. J. NJ: Prentice Hall. (1986). P. of fostering academic literacy (and socialization more gener- ally). 5. Multicultural case studies of academic literacy practices in higher education. such an approach may also be a viable means of addressing the gap between student and staff expectations of academic writing.. Support/evidence Is my support structured and Linking support and thesis statement p. If I had to edit and make suggestions about a fellow student’s writing. very comfortable [4] – comfortable [3] – uncomfortable [2] – very uncomfortable [1] 6. Bourdieu. p. Barker. and programs. Students’ perceptions of themselves as writers are crucial for our understanding of how to facilitate their entrance into the academic community in a way that enables the academic discourse they engage in. London/New York: Routledge.). Bandura. . . 1998). (2002). 35. & Nordström. p. Van de Poel. J. 36 organized? Linking to a type of argument. 1. skills. competence and confidence. it is important for academic writing programs and teachers to engage in nurturing students’ self-efficacy. . p. (1994). is it effective/persuasive. I would rate myself as a writer in the following way: very competent [4] – competent [3] – somewhat competent [3] – not very competent [1] 3. P. strongly agree [4] – agree [3] – disagree [2] – strongly disagree [1] 7. counter-arguments. rather than outside evidence. Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Constructing an argument Criteria Questions Think about. Questionnaire Complete the following sentences by circling your answer. If I had to discuss a short paper I had written with a teacher right now. McNamara. By extension. one which explicates expectations and requirements of the students’ specific academic community while also increasing students’ awareness. Casanave. 1. . p. . at least where writing is concerned. attitudes to study and staff–student relationships. organized. Academic discourse. Appendix 2. First year expectations and experiences: student and teacher perspectives. its principles are in the process of being adapted to other languages. I would feel. rather than beliefs. Circle your answer. R. . 13–34. I would feel. I would feel . (1997). Since “self-beliefs can have beneficial or destructive influences” on students’ academic functioning (Pajeres. . J. define. very comfortable [4] – comfortable [3] – uncomfortable [2] – very uncomfortable [1] 5. . Belcher. in addition to teaching them content knowledge and related skills. 153). Writing games. Gasiorek / Journal of English for Academic Purposes 11 (2012) 294–303 Luthans. p. Brinkworth. C. Appendix 1. point of view. 35. Mahwah: NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Passeron. The purpose of study. & R. 34 2. and that measuring changes in performance. Higher Education. D. B. (1997). & De Saint Martin. I would describe my level of experience as a writer in the following way: very experienced [4] – moderately experienced [3] – not very experienced [2] – not at all experienced [1] 2. Englewood Cliffs. Cambridge/Stanford: Polity Press & Stanford University Press. While the program we outline here is location-specific (to Flanders). Matthews. K. 42 overview 4. McCann. 157–173. Evidence Is my supporting evidence Positive evidence. Thesis statement Is my thesis statement clear and Linking to a particular type of argument. p. Argument Is my argument debatable? Including an opinion. Although this study only considered students’ perceptions (we fully acknowledge that this paper relies on self report. compare/contrast. M. C.. In D. (2009). If I had to discuss one of my papers with a fellow student. 38 labeled? refutation.302 K. English for Specific Purposes. I know how to write a successful (academic) essay. structured. 58(2). 2003. The apprenticeship approach to advanced academic literacy: graduate students and their mentors. Argumentation Is my argumentation convincing? Cluster information. look for topic p. Sample Ba1 writing course rubric 3. requires a different kind of research) its results suggest that an efficacy-focused approachdthat is. Harris (Eds. 36 categories. . A.

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