I have an exciting year of conferences and workshops ahead. Here are the highlights and handouts!
- Penn-TESOL East Fall Conference, Saturday November 9. “From Generic Writing to Writing Genres.” PowerPoint.
- Maryland English Institute, invited workshop on teaching EAP Writing for MEI faculty, November 15
- University of Trento, Italy, invited 2-day workshop on effective EAP instruction, February 17-18, 2014
- Writing Research Across Borders, Feb 19-22, Paris, France. Oh yes, France.
- Making Thinking Visible: Comparing Genre-Based Pedagogy and Cognitive Strategy Instruction (paper with Dr. Skip MacArthur and Dr. Zoi Philippakos)
- Exploring Disciplinary Genres (colloquium)
- TESOL 2014, Portland, Oregon (March 26-29)
- What Graduate Writers Really Need (invited session, with Chris Feak)
- Disciplinary Differences, Disciplinary Genres (colloquium, with Gena Bennett, Silvia Pessoa, Ryan Miller, and Kyung-Hee Bae)
Thanks to everyone who came to my presentation at Penn-TESOL East today. As promised, here is my PowerPoint with all the information and references.You might also be interested in the article I wrote recently on this topic (“From Generic Writing to Writing Genres”) in SLW News.
The textbook series I mentioned will be called Inside Writing and will be available in spring/summer 2014 from Oxford University Press. It takes a genre-based approach to teaching writing, from beginner to advanced (academic preparation) levels. I’ll post more details as production continues!
My short essay/conference review From Generic Writing to Writing Genres has been published in TESOL’s Second Language Writing Interest Section Newsletter (October 2013). In it, I argue (again!) in favor of a genre-based writing pedagogy as an antidote to the five-paragraph essay. I also summarize my 2012 and 2013 conference blitz, and you can find all the PPTs and handouts here: CCCC 2012, TESOL 2012, Genre 2012, SSLW 2012, EATAW 2013, and TESOL 2013.
Talking about the five-paragraph essay (as I so often seem to be), there was a great article in Slate recently denouncing the (five-paragraph) essay component of the SAT (one of the standardized tests taken by American high-school students as part of their university application). The title says it all: “We are teaching high school students to write terribly.” The article quotes Professor Anne Ruggles-Gere of the University of Michigan writing center:
“For those trained in the five-paragraph, non-fact-based writing style that is rewarded on the SAT, shifting gears can be extremely challenging. “The SAT does [students] no favors,” Gere says, “because it gives them a diminished view of what writing is by treating it as something that can be done once, quickly, and that it doesn’t require any basis in fact.”
As Professor Gere says elsewhere in the article, the result is that college writing teachers like me have to un-teach what students have “learned” about writing — and it’s not just American students. International students trained to pass the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or other English language proficiency tests also arrive with what Linda Flower has called a “limited literacy.”
Lest you think we exaggerate, here is a horrifyingly amusing blog post by Jed Applerouth, a teacher and doctoral student who takes the SAT regularly to help him tutor high school students to ace/beat the test. Since SAT essay raters are explicitly trained to ignore the veracity of the writing, here’s how to get a top score:
I stuck John Fitzgerald Kennedy in a Saxon war council during the middle ages, grappling with whether to invade the neighboring kingdom of Lilliput. Barrack Husein Obama shared a Basque prison cell with Winston Churchill, and the two inmates plotted to overthrow General Franco. Cincinnati’s own, Martin Luther King Jr. sought out a political apprenticeship with his mentor, Abraham James Lincoln, famed Ontario prosecutor.
Finally, an example of writing with absolutely no communicative value whatsoever. The SAT essay as anti-genre?!
(Hat tip to my Facebook friends and friends-of-friends for these links.)
I just returned from a wonderful few days in the beautiful Hungarian capital for the European Association of Teachers of Academic Writing (EATAW) conference. And congratulations to the organizing team for such an interesting and well-run event.
My workshop (developed with Chris Feak from the University of Michigan) was called University English is No-one’s First Language: Teaching the Genres of Postgraduate Writing, and you can find the PowerPoint, references, and related links to corpus and concordancing sites here.
Many papers at the conference considered the relationship between English and other languages in higher education and (especially scientific) publishing. This put my contribution in an interesting light: I argue that the genre-based pedagogy we use gives students/scholars access to “cultural capital” that will enable them to participate in the knowledge-making work of their disciplines. But it could be argued that we are instead spreading the hegemony of English and forcing writers with their own cultural and rhetorical traditions to subjugate themselves to anglo-saxon domination. I still think that you can’t change a system — or even participate in it — until you can speak its language. What do you think?
… because the blog post I wrote three years ago is once more showing up in Google searches! Just to add: no, there’s still no definitive answer, but then again, I’m a descriptivist not a prescriptivist, so I’m more interested in knowing what language users actually write* rather than what they should write. That said, according to one comment on the blog a few months ago, “The New Oxford Style Manual says that it is Father’s Day (capital letter, apostrophe before the s).” So there you have it.
One assumption I have been making, though, is that everyone has one father — but with the rapid expansion of marriage equality laws in the States in the last year, we might want to make a logical exception for children with two dads. Fathers’ Day would make perfect sense in that context, I suppose.
* It strikes me that this is one of very few linguistic distinctions, along with capitalization, that is not possible in speech. Unless, of course, you are the incomparable Victor Borge.
Happy Father’s Day for Sunday, dear readers.
I’ve just finished polishing my presentation for my first conference across the pond: the European Association of Teachers of Academic Writing (EATAW) in the beautiful city of Budapest, Hungary. My presentation, developed with Chris Feak, is University English is no-one’s first language: Learning the genres of postgraduate writing. You can see the abstract and PowerPoint slides (to follow) on this page.
Fortunately, Budapest appears to have survived the record floods in central Europe with little damage so far. The corner of Germany where I spent five wonderful summers, Wust in Sachsen-Anhalt, has sadly fared far worse and is underwater at this time.
Following a lively discussion at TESOL this year, we decided to set up a Yahoo!Group as an email list to share ideas for supporting (ESL) graduate students. You can join here.
Please share the link with colleagues who teach graduate students. Please note that this is a list for those of us who teach and support graduate students, primarily international/ESL graduate students (not for ESL graduate students looking for help with their program!).
You can find all the PowerPoints and handouts from my sessions at TESOL 2013 in Dallas here. To recap, they were:
Teaching the Genres of Graduate Writing
with Christine Feak, University of Michigan
Writing is both essential and challenge for graduate students. This hands-on workshop demonstrates a toolbox of techniques for teaching the genres of graduate writing. Learn how your students can identify and analyze genres, build a mini corpus, and benefit from collaborative writing. Adaptations for participants’ teaching contexts will be discussed. (PowerPoint and references)
Grammar Choices that Matter in Academic Writing
Introducing my textbook, Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers (University of Michigan Press, 2012). You can read more about the book here.
Roundtable Discussion: Supporting ESL Graduate Students
Notes from the discussion will be published here soon. We had a great discussion with colleagues from around the country and as far away as Ukraine. If you’d like to be part of the ongoing conversation about supporting (ESL) graduate students, please contact me; I’m going to set up a listserv.
My essay reviewing Yasuko Kanno and Linda Harklau’s 2012 book, Linguistic Minority Students Go to College has just been published in the open-access online journal, Education Review. The essay is called “Language Is Not the Only Barrier (Unless It Is),” and in it, I praise the book for breaking new ground in studying immigrant students’ access to and experiences in higher education, while politely (I hope!) critiquing some of the chapters for undervaluing the role of language in the success of non-mainstream students. I also discuss policies implemented by academic English programs such as the one described at the pseudonymous “Northern Green University” (and yes I did figure out the real identity, yes it only took a few minutes on Google, and no I’m going to tell!) and disagee that NGU’s program is typical of other university ESL programs. Nonetheless, the book is well worth reading, and I hope I’ve done justice to it.
Caplan, Nigel A. (2013, January 9). Language Is Not the Only Barrier (Unless It Is): An Essay Review ofLinguistic Minority Students Go to College by Kanno, Yasuko & Harklau, Linda (Eds.) Education Review, Vol. 16 No. 1