Now showing 1 - 5 of 5
  • Publication
    Open Access
    The evolution of an online writing test standardisation in a pre-service communications skills course for teachers in Singapore
    Ellis, Mary
    Chan, Hsiao-yun
    The National Institute of Education (NIE) is the provider of teacher education in Singapore and is an institution within the Nanyang Technological University; NIE is simultaneously accountable to the Ministry of Education in Singapore. A Communication Skills for Teachers course (CST) was introduced for all pre-service teachers at NIE in July 2005. A catalyst for the development of this course, which focuses on speaking and writing skills, was the perception that the standard of English of Singaporean teachers had declined. Since 2010, the course has been offered as a blended course and increasingly, several aspects of course administration have also been conducted online. The two main areas of assessment for the course are an oral presentation and a written test. In order to ensure that grading is consistent, standardisation meetings for these tests are important but not always possible given the tutors’ varied schedules. This paper outlines the development and implementation of online standardisation for the written assessment component of the CST course. Utilising collaborative tools for standardisation saves time and reduces the need for face-to-face meetings for this important aspect of assessment.
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  • Publication
    Discourse analysis of research papers & the acculturation experiences of novice writers In a university foundation program
    This thesis addresses the perceived problems that novices enrolled in a university’s Foundation program face when writing their first academic research project papers. An investigation of the coping strategies used by novices in overcoming these problems should therefore help shed light on how they may be helped to effectively tackle the demands of academic research and academic report writing skills that they require in order to be accepted in the community of practice. The main findings are that novice writers struggle to acquire academic writing literacy and to understand academic writing requirements, expectations and conventions. The study then looks at how a group of novice writers in a foundation programme responded to the demands of completing their first research projects. The thesis is based on the premise that the beliefs and practices of novice writers are shaped by their knowledge repository of what constitutes research and academic writing as well as their nascent knowledge of academia.

    The research purpose is formulated as a set of general and specific research questions, as follows:

    1. What do research project task prompts require of novice writers? What do novice writers understand of these requirements?

    2. How do novice writers frame their research papers? Why do they do so?
     Are there any recurring patterns of discourse organizational structures used by novice writers? If so, what patterns of discourse organizational structures are typical of novice writing?
     How do novice writers achieve the purpose of each sub-genre? How are these rhetorical devices shaped by novice writers’ perceptions?
    3. How do novice writers describe their experiences as research writers?

    Data for the study constituted 45 research project essays written by two cohorts of students (novice writers) enrolled in a Foundation program at a university in Singapore. This represents a corpus of 175073 words. The study also drew on 14 research project task prompts from a university foundation program, interviews, journal entries and questionnaires which were collected over a period of 2 consecutive years from novice writers.

    All 45 research projects were analyzed for overall organizational structures. A core group of 24 research projects were further analyzed for the generic structure (comprising Move and Step analysis) within sub-genres. Strategies that novice writers employed in order to achieve each Move and Step were also analyzed. These analyses were compared with novice writers’ perceptions of research projects and sub-genres, as well as their experiences of literacy practices needed to write the research projects; of how they developed these practices and of what they believed to be the goal of writing research projects.

    A lexico-grammatical analysis and generic structure analysis of research project task prompts revealed that despite the authoritarian tone of instructions and the cognitive demands made on novices, the prompts did not alienate the novice writers.

    The prompts provided extensive scaffolding on how the task should be approached and carried out. They even imitated the Introduction-Methodology-Results-Discussion structure of research projects. This framework may seem to have shaped the way novices carried out and structured their research projects. The prompts addressed the cognitive demands of the research project tasks to a large extent. But they did not explicate the rhetorical and social demands involved in completing the task. These demands were implicit in the task prompts.

    The discourse organizational structure analysis of 45 research projects helped to identify recurring patterns of structural organization and how research projects were framed by novice writers. Novice writers largely used the Introduction-Methods-Results-Discussion structure as it allowed them to attend to the prompt in a step by step manner. However, they varied in their interpretation in the manner in which they presented the Results component. The Results sub-genre was often presented as Data Analysis (comprising Discussion and a Proposal). In general, the novices found Introductions and Conclusions easier to write. On the other hand, the Literature Review and Methodology sub-genres were the most rhetorically challenging component.

    A closer examination of 24 core research projects revealed that novice writers primarily write to impress their examiners. As such their main driving force in the writing is to show that they have understood the task requirements and have answered them diligently. They do so by addressing the task prompts explicitly in their research projects. The research project is a symbolic end of the research process. Their desire to narrate the research journey is evident in the Conclusion sub-genre which shows that the research process is not merely an academic exercise. It is also an emotional journey.

    The meta-text of the research projects provided an in-depth look into the use of Moves by novices. The novice writers’ beliefs about the purpose of each sub-genre shaped the contents of each component. Novice Introduction, Literature Review and Conclusion components tended to be contextualized from experiential knowledge rather than researched knowledge. The Conclusion component was presented partly in a narrative mode to demonstrate how they had developed as researchers and acquired interviewing skills and understood academic writing conventions. Research project papers were primarily considered to be written for the examiner who would be assessing them. Novices then employed several strategies to engage the examiner by sign-posting how they had answered the question and by explicitly referring to their development as academic writers. It was also in the Introduction component that they made several overt references to task requirements.

    There is a need to expand the definition of novice writers to include those who are entering academia as they play both the role of a novice and an expert. These researchers could be referred to as embryonic novice researchers. They require more scaffolding to acquire academic research and writing skills. They have an understanding of academic conventions but often choose to foreground experiential knowledge in their essays as they deem that to be the only way through which they can convey to the examiner that it was a poignant process for them. Experiential knowledge plays a dominant role in their research project papers as they consider the writing of the essay to be a cathartic exercise. At the same time, embryonic novice researchers play a dual role of pretending to be an expert who is writing for a wider audience, on the one hand, and as novices writing for the instructor and examiner on the other. The papers also comprise researched knowledge and ‘self-advocacy’ practices, suggesting that the writers believed that the Proposals have a larger impact. These strategies are more reflective of experts writing to ‘join the conversation’ than they are of novices who are merely peripheral participants.

    Apart from cognitive, social and rhetorical demands on novice writers, other implicit factors that are not initially evident are self-efficacy and self-regulation among novice writers. Novice writers who had a higher self-esteem as academic writers and greater control over the research process reported fewer difficulties in completing the research and writing the paper. These writers also depended heavily on a supportive network in the university, failing which their beliefs about their capabilities to write the research paper dropped. Primarily, novice writers depended on a supportive network, prior knowledge and experiential knowledge to help them complete the research projects.
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  • Publication
    Open Access
      670  934
  • Publication
    Open Access
    Task requirements and students’ perceptions of prompts in an academic writing classroom
    The paper examines the research project task expectations of university student writers. It offers a detailed analysis of the rhetorical Moves that are likely to occur in university-level research paper prompts. The analysis highlights that while, some Moves such as Background information and Assessment expectations are optional, others like Cognitive demands on students are obligatory, and that an Overview of task and Procedural directions are desirable traits of prompts. A transitivity analysis of the prompts, student interviews and reflections revealed that despite the prescriptive tone and the heavy cognitive and rhetorical demands made on student writers, the prompts did not alienate the novices who were on the whole receptive to the requirements specified by the instructors.
      124  231