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Paper presented at the 4th Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference, Singapore, 30 May to 1 June 2011
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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