Teaching Academic Writing: A Toolkit for Higher Education

Teaching Academic Writing: A Toolkit for Higher Education

Teaching Academic Writing: A Toolkit for Higher Education

Teaching Academic Writing: A Toolkit for Higher Education

Synopsis

Student academic writing is at the heart of teaching and learning in higher education. Students are assessed largely by what they write, and need to learn both general academic conventions as well as disciplinary writing requirements in order to be successful in higher education. Teaching Academic Writing is a 'toolkit' designed to help higher education lecturers and tutors teach writing to their students. Containing a range of diverse teaching strategies, the book offers both practical activities to help students develop their writing abilities and guidelines to help lecturers and tutors think in more depth about the assessment tasks they set and the feedback they give to students. The authors explore a wide variety of text types, from essays and reflective diaries to research projects and laboratory reports. The book draws on recent research in the fields of academic literacy, second language learning, and linguistics. It is grounded in recent developments such as the increasing diversity of the student body, the use of the Internet, electronic tuition, and issues related to distance learning in an era of increasing globalisation.Written by experienced teachers of writing, language, and linguistics, Teaching Academic Writing will be of interest to anyone involved in teaching academic writing in higher education.

Excerpt

Contradictory expectations in assessment

A law student wrote an essay that required her to advise two people being charged by the police. The student was concerned because this suggested the addressee for her essay should be her fictitious clients. However, she was not actually advising clients, but writing an academic essay to be marked by a lecturer. Another problem derived from the lecturer's oral instruction to include 'not too many facts and to argue it'. The student interpreted 'argue' as the need to present her clients with one preferred option rather than setting out a range of perspectives, as the question itself seemed to require. She was further confused by generic assessment guidelines that told students:

Write in the impersonal third person. There are few things so irritating as the constant intrusion of the author via the (unnecessary) first person 'I think …'.

This guidance seemed to be contradicted when (later) feedback on the student's essay called for 'more evidence of what you thought the likely outcome would have been'.

The problems faced by the student above are not uncommon. In producing any form of writing for assessment, students need to work out what type of text they are expected to produce and how this will be evaluated. However, even when instructions or guidelines are given, students may be left uncertain about aspects of the assessment. In this case, the student had difficulty with different forms of guidance, which she felt offered conflicting advice; and also with the term argue - perhaps unsurprisingly as the notion of argument is notoriously difficult to pin down (see Chapter 2).

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