Academic journal article Adult Learning

Increasing Writing Self-Efficacy of Adult Learners: Different Approaches, Different Results

Academic journal article Adult Learning

Increasing Writing Self-Efficacy of Adult Learners: Different Approaches, Different Results

Article excerpt

Abstract: To help graduate students with academic writing, a college of education at a large university implemented a new service, Writing Support Circles. Based on the results of the first series of this service, we changed its design. The purpose of this article is to share how changes in the design affected these adult learners' writing self-efficacy and workshop satisfaction.

Keywords: academic writing, program design, instructional design, graduate students, professional development

"Writing is one of humankind's most powerful tools" that helps people communicate despite time and space barriers, share ideas in a variety of print and web formats, and express themselves when seeking for inner peace or nurturing a creative talent (MacArthur, Graham, & Fitzgerald, 2006, p. 1). Not surprisingly, the National Commission on Writing for America's Families. Schools, and Colleges called attention to this powerful tool: "American education will never realize its potential as an engine of opportunity and economic growth until a writing revolution puts language and communication in their proper place in the classroom" (National Commission on Writing, 2003, p. 3).

Unfortunately, in the United States, students from K-12 to graduate school do not have adequate writing skills. For example, a recent national assessment of student writing showed that 88% of 8th graders and 82% of 12th graders score only at the basic level, which "denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills" (SalahuDin, Persky, & Miller, 2008, p. 6). The students bring these inadequate writing skills with them to college. Fifty percent of freshmen make serious grammatical mistakes in their academic papers (National Commission on Writing, 2003). Thirty percent of doctoral students may lack skills necessary to conduct a literature review and to analyze and present the reviewed literature to identify the significance of their own research (Switzer & Perdue, 2011). Only 30% of postgraduate students understand why their thesis should include a critique of the existing literature on a topic, and even fewer understand how this literature could inform them about a new direction of research on the topic (Bitchener & Turner, 2011). Graduate students have no or little interest in writing for publication and "see themselves neither as competent writers nor as active participants in the scholarly exchange of their chosen field" (McMillen, Garcia, & Bolin, 2010, p. 428).

The search for ways to improve graduate-level writing has not received much attention. Some graduate programs require or suggest students to take a stand-alone writing course (e.g., see Street & Stang, 2008). Some incorporate teaching academic writing into research courses (e.g., Sallee, Hallett, & Tierney, 2011) and content area courses (e.g., McCarthy, 2008); some programs and instructors chose to give more guidance to students with their writing by using rubrics, TurnitIn, and Track Changes. However, often assistance with writing is limited to courses for non-native speakers at intensive English programs and writing centers on university campuses, none of which focus on graduate-level academic writing.

Although graduate students in all academic disciplines have poor academic-writing skills, colleges of education could feel a heavier responsibility toward this issue because they prepare teachers who would spend their professional lives teaching many subjects, including writing. "The best hope for improving both writing and schools generally lies in high-quality professional development" of teachers (National Commission on Writing, 2006, p. 9). Teacher education programs remain fundamental in preparing both pre-service and in-service teachers to facilitate student academic growth. Unfortunately, these programs put a larger emphasis on teaching reading than writing (Grisham & Wolsey, 2005).

To help in-service teachers with writing, a college of education at a large southeastern public research university implemented a new service, Writing Support Circles (WSCs). …

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