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Title: Pre-university students’ use of evaluative meanings in essays: Evidence for transforming the teaching of academic literacy
Authors: Chandrasegaran, Antonia
Issue Date: 2011
Citation: Paper presented at the 4th Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference, Singapore, 30 May to 1 June 2011
Abstract: One characteristic of successful academic essays is the effective use of evaluation or expression of evaluative meanings to achieve valued discourse behaviours such as sustaining the writer’s stance and projection of authorial voice. Evaluation is the expression of the writer’s attitude towards the propositions the writer incorporates into the essay. Choice and expression of evaluative meanings can be a challenge for students who may be unfamiliar with the finer practices in academic discourse or are not fully equipped with the linguistic resources for expressing evaluation. While there have been studies on the role of different types of evaluation in texts, there has been little or no research on how student writers select and use evaluation in their own writing. This paper reports preliminary findings of a study on students’ use of evaluation. The study was conceived within a social-cognitive model of writing and guided by two research questions: 1. What cognitive acts may account for the expression of appropriate and inappropriate evaluative meanings in the process of essay writing? 2. What genre knowledge do students apply in decision-making related to the expression of evaluation? Data addressing the research questions were collected from a group of pre-university students by means of two writing tasks and an interview conducted individually immediately after each writing task. The texts generated in the writing tasks and interview transcripts were analysed to identify decision-making processes and genre knowledge underlying instances of evaluation in the written products. The findings show a higher frequency of rhetorical thinking and application of genre knowledge among student writers of texts containing more instances of appropriate evaluation compared to students whose texts show fewer instances of appropriate evaluation. The pedagogical implications of the findings are discussed with reference to how pedagogy might be redesigned to raise students’ academic writing skills.
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