AALL (Vic) Seminar 2010 (Deakin University) NOTES

AALL Vic Seminar

Dr. Barbara Kamler, Emeritus Professor
Barbara Kamler, Emeritus Professor, presented “Academic writing as text work/ identity work.”
The presentation is not available; however, for those interested to read more, Dr. Kamler suggests the latest chapter she has written with Pat Thomson on research as writing and as text work identity work:

Thomson, P. and Kamler B. (2010). It’s been said before and we’ll say it again- research is writing. In P. Thomson and M. Walker (eds) The Routledge Doctoral Student’s Companion. London and New York: Routledge, 149-160.

Each participant could attend two sessions; each session was based on a selected article. Key points from the sessions are outlined below:

1. Writer Identity

Abasi, AR, Akbari, N, & Graves, B 2006, ‘Discourse appropriation, construction of identities, and the complex issue of plagiarism: ESL students writing in graduate school’, Journal of Second Language Writing, vol. 15, no.2, pp. 102-117

•Identity is part of our social classification. We have multiple identities: gender identity, student identity, lecturer identity and we all enact these roles Some identities we don’t feel comfortable with, some identities are forced upon us, some we are excluded from; or some we may not be aware of.

•To what extent can ss control their identity? Is there an interpersonal level of identity that is not always worked out? Do ss take on an interdisciplinary identity? Is it a process of losing identity-the interplay of letting go of one identity and adopting another

•Does the reader (lecturer ‘marker’) play a role in ss identity that is created? (ss align themselves and write with Lecturer’s expectations in mind. )

•SS are being taught the discourse of their discipline, so reflect that identity, at the same time they are expected/ enact the ss identity for their lecturers.

•Do ss take on an Anglo-celtic identity? (eg ss from particular cultural backgrounds unwilling to criticize their lecturers because it is impolite in their culture. Do we ask ss to give up/replace this orientation? How difficult/easy is this to do? Is there a limit to what we can expect if ss are to work in an Anglo-centric environment. Some ss resist discourse practices of the host community.

•Is there a distinction between identity and language skills: are they separate? Writing is also limited to educational background. Ss have to have the skills and capacities for critiquing-often experience in the language is lacking. We have post graduate ss with very basic skills English language skills.

•Ss want and need access to future discourse communities-they see it as an investment for the future-students want membership to empower them with a discourse of a particular community.

•What is the LLA role with regard to these identity issues?
At present our role is about ‘knocking something into shape by tomorrow’, ‘patch it’ ‘bandaid-it. We need to work with faculties. LLAs need to be aware of their roles and responsibility to impart information to international ss about identity, so that ss have some control. If we don’t, then their identities will be of ‘failed ss’

Our job is to ‘unpack’ plagiarism-‘you’re not a bad person’. We need to encourage ss to articulate understanding of text and what they’re trying to say-leading to some sense or meaning, rather than just aping the established voices.

Do we need to allow space for ss to challenge certain discourses? Do we need to be more open or accepting of their discourses i.e. why don’t we allow ss to write according to their own cultural orientation? But how can we be aware of all the different discourse communities?

2. Process vs genre

Applebee, AN 2000, ‘Alternative models of writing development ‘, excerpt from a chapter in R Indrisano & JR Squire (eds.), Writing: Research/Theory/Practice, Newark, DE. Access at http://cela.albany.edu/publication/article/writing.htm

Participants shared practice experiences of teaching writing. For some, process was the main focus, particularly for those teaching ESL. The argument was that understanding the process of writing, was a ‘transferable skill’ that helped (TAFE) ESL students when they progressed on to university studies. There was a feeling that the ‘structures’ presented by Barbara Kamler had critical thinking behind them, so the getting the student to think about what they wanted to say, and the structures within a particular. genre eg. academic writing, go hand-in-hand.

Some discussion to clarify what were these two approaches, process and genre, and were they necessarily separate or were they complementary. There was a view that this dichotomy was had been displaced by the notion of ‘discourse communities’ which is based on the notion that people write within a discourse community and that within this there are certain patterns, conventions etc., so to participate, writers need an awareness & understanding of these features. Broad discussion on various types of writing eg. reflective, journaling etc.

3. Supporting the writing of transition students

Star, C & McDonald, J 2007, ‘Embedding successful pedagogical practices: Assessment strategies for a large, diverse, first-year cohort’, International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 18-30.

The outcomes of embedding in this trial are impressive: fewer fails and a decrease in students sent to Academic disciplinary committees.

Themes discussed: embedding, transition, scaffolding assessment, the importance of do-able tasks and feedback.

•Embedding is a powerful way of ensuring all students are supported in their learning and moves away from notions of remediation. As our student cohorts change, it is becoming an important way of addressing student needs.

•The notion of universal design for education is a powerful concept, which fits with Equity policies (and may be an argument for increasing funding, if we have access to Equity data to help build our case).

•Several people shared their experiences. Tania (LaTrobe) talked about a team of academics, LAS advisers and Library who have met monthly over three years to develop the ‘Survival Guide for Biology’ workbook being used throughout the course to scaffold learning. Students analyse an exemplar report, do a peer review activity and get feedback.

•Student mentors, who are closer to new students in their awareness of what it means to learn at university (cf Vygotsky’s ‘Zone of Proximal Development’) are another way of shifting how we support learning. Quoting Sally Kift: ‘It’s just in time and just about me’.

•How can we do this in a sustainable way? Institutional support is essential. Some projects have drawn on Teaching and Learning Grants to seed new initiatives.

•while embedding addresses issues that could help all students do better, and is economically sensible as well, there will still be students who need individual support.

3. Supporting assignment writing

Nicol, DJ & Macfarlane-Dick, D 2006, ‘Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice’, Studies in Higher Education, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 199 – 218.

Listed below are some of the key points that emerged from our discussion on what can be done – and is being done – so that students are better equipped to handle written assessment tasks.

•Ensure that the mark for the first assessment task has a low weighting. Also, allowing students to submit a draft for comment can enhance their learning.

•Provide early and formative feedback. Having a mechanism that requires students to discuss and reflect on their work and act on feedback improves their learning.

•Consider using a range of feedback techniques – tutor feedback, peer feedback, self-assessment, two-stage assignments.

•Involving language & learning staff and librarians in units is beneficial for student learning and can save time in the long run.

•Providing good feedback involves outlaying money for the training of markers and paying for the time taken to mark and comment on students’ work.

•While embedding addresses issues that could help all students do better, and is economically sensible as well, there will still be students who need individual support.

4.Supporting research writing

Aitchison, C 2009, ‘Writing groups for doctoral education’, Studies in Higher Education, vol. 34, no. 8, pp. 905-916.

Importance of writing groups:
a.Embed reading skills
b.Reflects an individual’s work
c.Provides for self-evaluation
d.Helps articulate what is in the paper

How are they run?
a.Faculty based
b.2 hour sessions per week
c.Students stay in same group
d.Have template for peer review –some stock phrases
e.Normally start from second year .

Strategies for running writing groups.
a.Video chats
c.Online classes
d.Face to face classroom sessions

Contacts for those wish to know more
a.Guido Ernst –Melbourne Uni. Email: Ernst@unimelb.edu.au
b.Michael Mifsud – Victoria Uni. Email: mifsud@vu.edu.au
c.Martin Andrew –Swinburne Uni. Email: mbandrew@swin.edu.au
d.Scott McDonald –RMIT. Email: Scott.McDonald@rmit.edu.au

The afternoon session comprised staff and students from RMIT, the University of Melbourne and Victoria University, who discussed their experiences with mentoring programs and answered audience questions.

Staff panel
Alison Brown —RMIT
Guido Ernst –University of Melbourne
Gill Best—Victoria University

Student panel (Senior mentors from Victoria University)
Luke Radjovic
James Jensen.