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Íkala, Revista de Lenguaje y Cultura

Print version ISSN 0123-3432

Íkala vol.14 no.21 Medellín Jan./Apr. 2009

 

ARTÍCULOS DE INVESTIGACIÓN

 

Exploring Academic Writing and Voice in ESL Writing*1

 

Exploración de la escritura académica y de la voz en la escritura en ESL

 

 

Doris Correa**
** Doris Correa graduated from the School of Languages at Universidad de Antioquia in 1990. She has a graduate degree in Foreign language Teaching from Universidad de Antioquia. She also has a Master of Education and a Doctorate of Education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is now a lecturer and a member of the Grupo de Investigación Acción y Evaluación en Lenguas Extranjeras (GIAE) at Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia. E-mail: dcorrea0813@gmail.com

 

 


ABSTRACT

This literature review explores two basic questions: First, why have English as a Second Language (ESL)/English as a Foreign Language (EFL) academic writing courses not been able to significantly help ESL/EFL students meet the academic writing demands of their university courses? Second, how can ESL/EFL writing instructors better help these students succeed in their undergraduate courses? To respond to these questions, the author reviews how notions of academic writing, text, and voice have changed over time, and how these changes have influenced (ESL) and (EFL) writing approaches and methodologies. The author also presents some of the critiques that scholars have posed regarding each of these notions, approaches and methodologies, and draws some conclusions based on these critiques.

Key words: academic writing approaches, pre-process approaches, process approaches, post-process approaches, ESL writing, ESL writing methodologies.


RESUMEN

Este artículo responde básicamente dos preguntas: 1) ¿Por qué los cursos de escritura académica no han podido ayudar, de manera significativa, a los estudiantes de inglés como segunda lengua (ESL) y como lengua extranjera (EFL), a cumplir las demandas de escritura de los cursos que deben tomar como parte de su plan de estudios de pregrado? 2) ¿Cómo pueden los profesores de ESL y EFL ayudar a estos estudiantes a tener éxito en tales cursos?

Para responder a estas preguntas, la autora hace una revisión de los cambios que, a través del tiempo, han tenido nociones como escritura académica, texto y voz, y cómo ellos han influido en los métodos de enseñanza de ESL y EFL. La autora también presenta algunas críticas que los expertos en el área han formulado con respecto a cada una de estas nociones y metodologías, y saca algunas conclusiones, basada en estas críticas.

Palabras clave: métodos de escritura académica, métodos de escritura preproceso, métodos de escritura proceso, métodos de escritura postproceso, escritura en inglés como segunda lengua, metodologías de escritura en inglés como segunda lengua


RÉSUMÉ

Dans cet article, l'on répond essentiellement à deux questions: Pourquoi les cours d'écriture académique n'ont-ils pas pu aider de manière efficace les étudiants en ESL (Anglais Seconde Langue) et en EFL (Anglais Langue Étrangère) à atteindre les niveaux de compétence en écriture requis par le programme universitaire? De quelle manière les professeurs d'écriture académique pourraient-ils aider les étudiants avec plus d'efficacité afin que ces derniers connaissent la réussite dans leurs cours?

Pour répondre à ces questions, nous faisons un révision des changements des notions d'écriture académique, de texte et de discours, pour déterminer ensuite leur influence sur les méthodes d'enseignement de l'anglais seconde langue ou de l'anglais langue étrangère. Nous tirons enfin quelques conclusions basées sur ces critiques.

Mots-clés : méthodes d'écriture académique, approches d'écriture pré-processuelles, approches d'écriture processuelles, approches d'écriture post-processuelles, écrire en anglais seconde langue, approches pour écrire en anglais seconde langue, méthodologies pour écrire en anglais seconde langue


 

 

1. INTRODUCTION

For years, English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) university instructors have complained that students come to college unprepared to meet the academic writing demands of content courses (Benesch, 1993 & 2001; Schleppegrell, 2004; Spack, 1988 & 1993; Zamel, 1995). To respond to this issue, universities have taken a series of steps, including the design and implementation of a series of English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) writing courses (Matsuda, 1999; Matsuda 2006). In these courses, ESL/EFL faculty have tried different approaches to the teaching of writing, ranging from product (Johns, 1997; Silva, 1990; Silva & Matsuda, 2002; Zamel, 1993, 1997) to process (Atkinson, 2003; Bizzell, 1986; Faigley, 1986; Inghilleri, 1989; Matsuda, 2003), and to genre-based (Berkenkoter & Huckin, 1993; Cope & Kalantzis,1993; Freedman, 1993; Freedman & Medway, 1994; Hyland, 2003 & 2004; Martin and Rothery, 1989; Paltridge, 2001; Ramanathan & Kaplan, 2000).

In spite of these efforts, both ESL and EFL students continue to struggle with writing academic papers (Benesch, 2001; Canagarajah, 2002; Raimes, 1991) and in particular with the adoption of an academic voice (Atkinson, 2001; Ivani, 1998; Ivani & Camps, 2001; Lillis, 2001; Raimes & Zamel, 1997; Ramanathan & Kaplan, 1996; Scollon, 1994 &1995). As a consequence, many of these students fail to get good grades in their class papers or even pass to content courses (Lillis, 2001). Furthermore, some end up dropping out of the university, convinced that they are not intelligent or capable enough to succeed in academic settings, when in fact they do not possess the linguistic resources to draw on in the writing of their academic papers (Lillis, 2001).

The above situation begs two major questions: why have ESL/EFL academic writing courses not been able to significantly help these students meet the academic writing demands of their undergraduate courses? And, how could both ESL/EFL writing and content instructors better help these students succeed in these courses?

To respond to the first question, I summarize the mains views and approaches that have gained popularity in the field of ESL/EFL writing as well as the main critiques of these approaches. I do this following Trimbur (1994), Matsuda (2003), and Atkinson's (2003) classification of ESL/EFL writing approaches into three main eras—pre-process, process, and post- process.

To respond to the second question, I return to the theories presented in the first three parts and draw some conclusions based on these theories. Conclusions offered in this section include the need for a change of views of writers, academic writing, texts and voice, as well as a change in the role of the writing and content instructors. Conclusions also suggest the need for both ESL/EFL writing and content instructors to make a concerted effort to attain both the pedagogical and the meta-cognitive knowledge that is needed to effectively help students with the writing of their academic texts.

 

2. THE PRE-PROCESS ERA

The pre-process era in ESL/EFL writing is said to have started in the 1960s when ESL instructors, preoccupied with the audio-lingual approach's neglect for writing, decided to incorporate grammar in their teaching through a variety of activities (Leki, 1992 and Susser, 1994 in Matsuda, 2003, p.75). Raimes, in her landmark article, Out of the Woods: Emerging Traditions in the Teaching of Writing, locates the beginning of this focus on form in the year 1966 when the TESOL organization was first founded. To her, it was then that ESL/EFL writing stopped being used merely to ''reinforce oral patterns of the language'' and started to take the form of sentence drills, fill-in-the-blank exercises, substitutions, transformations, completions, and manipulation of given sentences and written passages (1991, p. 408).

2.1 Pre-process Views of Writers, Academic Writing, Texts, and Voice

In the pre-process era, writers were conceived basically as ''passive recipients of expert knowledge and direction'' whose meanings, motivations and voices were not important (Johns, 1997, p.7). Therefore, they were not expected to examine the function of the structures they use, their roles as writers, or other factors that influence text production, such as topic, context and audience. Instead, they were asked to imitate and practice sentence patterns and structures that are considered correct (Johns, 1997, p.8).

Academic writing was not considered a process, as many scholars came to see it in the 1980's (Berlin, 1988; and Bizzell, 1986; Faigley, 1986; Johns, 1997; Silva, 1990). Nor was it perceived as a social practice that varies from one context to another, according to situation, purpose and audience, as many scholars see it nowadays (Butt, Fahey, Feez, Spinks & Yallop, 2003; Cope & Kalantzis, 1993; Knapp & Watkins, 2005; Paltridge, 2001). Rather, it was considered ''a skill (...) a matter of using correct syntax, spelling, punctuation to produce accurate and correct, perfect sentences, paragraphs and essays which fit prescribed patterns'' (Silva & Matsuda, 2002, p. 260).

Furthermore, academic texts were not considered the creative expressions of the self, as they came to be viewed in the process era (Reid, 1993, p. 38). Nor were they conceived as ''genres'' with specific social functions and organization, both of which are determined by audience and context, as they were perceived in the post-process era (Callaghan, Knapp & Noble, 1993; Kalantzis & Cope, 1993; Kress, 1993). Rather, academic texts were viewed as ''jars, with predefined configurations into which content is poured'' (Johns, 1997, p. 8); or, as Silva suggests, ''a collection of increasingly complex discourse structures (e.g., sentences, paragraphs, sections) each embedded in the next larger form'' (1990, p.14). Finally, in the pre-process era, instructors are ''authorities or fact dispensers'' (Johns, 1997, p.9). As such, academic writing instructors were not considered ''coaches [or] facilitators who assist students in finding their own meanings,'' as they later came to be known (Johns, 1997, p.9). Hence, teachers were not preoccupied with students' opinions about the texts they read, nor were they concerned with allowing students to choose the topics they will write about or encouraging them to express their own voices (Matsuda, 2003, p.67). Instead, instructors were concerned with students' mastery of grammar facts and discourse modes (Johns, 1997, p.8).

2.2 Pre-process Approaches and Methodologies

Pre-process views of writers, academic writing, texts, and voice inspired a series of approaches and methodologies, many of which are still ''alive and well'' and continue to be used in ESL/EFL writing classrooms (Cope & Kalantzis, 1993, p.5). According to Matsuda, pre-process approaches and methodologies comprise all of the teacher-centered writing pedagogies that were in vogue in the decades before the advent of process approaches in the 1960s (2003, p.67). These approaches are characterized by a strong emphasis on grammar and structure and a disregard for the writer's personal goals, purposes and voice (Johns, 1997, p.8). Although they have received other names such as Traditional Approaches (Johns, 1997), and Controlled Composition (Silva, 1990; Silva & Matsuda, 2002), they are now gathered under the name Current-Traditional Approach or Rhetoric (Johns, 1997; Matsuda, 2003).

Citing Young (1978), Matsuda describes Current-Traditional Rhetoric as ''the emphasis on the composed product rather than the composing process; the analysis of discourse into words, sentences, and paragraphs; the strong concern with usage (syntax, spelling, punctuation) and with style (economy, clarity, emphasis); and so on'' (2003, p.70). Johns describes it as a series of approaches that focus on ''the teacher-directed study of grammar and vocabulary and the student production of perfect English sentences and discourses'' (1997, p.6). As such, these approaches are characterized by memorization of spelling lists, filling in exercises, as well as rote learning of grammatical rules (Cope & Kalantzis, 1993, p.44).

Pre-process instructors insist that students produce perfect sentences before they are allowed to read or write longer texts, such as paragraphs or essays (Johns, 1997, p.7). To prepare students for the production of these ''perfectly structured, error-free texts'' instructors prepare oral drills and exercises in which students have to copy and memorize the grammatical forms that they will later be expected to produce (Johns, 1997, p.7). They also ask students to categorize texts into ''rhetorical modes.'' These modes include illustration, exemplification, comparison, contrast, partition, classification, definition, and causal analysis paragraphs (Silva, 1990, pp.14-15). Once these texts have been categorized, instructors ask students ''to practice these modes by imitating their forms, much as students in grammar-based classes practice correct forms at the sentence level'' (Johns, 1997, p.7). Students substitute, transform, expand, and complete model passages and then try to write similar texts (Silva, 1990). Since the interest is on the product, not on the process, these texts are usually handed in to instructors without undergoing any revisions (Matsuda, 2003, p.67). Instructors then mark them according to their compliance with the conventions of ''standard English'' (Cope & Kalantzis, 1993, p.44).

2.3 Critiques to Pre-process Views and Approaches

Critiques to pre-process views and approaches have been presented since the 1960s and continue to be seen in the work of many ESL and EFL writing scholars. A first set of these critiques has focused on the approaches' treatment of grammar and the conventions for writing texts as universal when in reality these vary from culture to culture (Fox, 1994; Kaplan, 1966; Land & Whitley, 1989). A second set of critiques has to do with the ''linearity'' and ''prescriptivism'' of the approaches (Cope & Kalantzis, 1993; Silva, 1990) and their emphasis on form (Bizzell, 1986; Johns, 1997; Silva, 1990). The last set of critiques has to do with the approach's treatment of the writer, the instructor (Cope & Kalantzis, 1993; Johns, 1997), and the reader (Johns, 1997; Reid, 1993).

In regard to the first set of critiques, Kaplan, for example, contends that different cultures use different composing conventions, grammatical features, and strategies for text organization. Therefore, instructors cannot assume writers have background knowledge of these topics (1966, p.408). Following Kaplan (1966), Land and Whitley propose that instructors go beyond the teaching of grammar structures and delve into how students organize texts in their own language. To Land and Whitley, ESL/EFL instructors should become familiar with the rhetorical traditions students bring with them (1989: p.290) and broaden their concept of what constitutes good work (1989, p.291). Instructors need to allow students to bring ''their own storehouses of experiences'' into the process of writing (1989, p.286), since asking them to follow English rhetorical conventions without questioning them not only constitutes ''colonization,'' but also contributes to ''the death of our culture,'' (1989, p.289).

Concerning pre-process approaches' focus on form, Bizzell, for example, claims this focus negates the existence of the writers and their purposes, motivations, opinions and individual histories, thus putting them in a peripheral place in the classroom, instead of at the center. In addition, it does not seem to remediate any of the problems of students who continue to bring essays full of errors (1986, p.52). Echoing Bizzell (1986), Johns (1997) critiques the approaches' exclusive focus on drills, correction and form. To her, this focus puts aside other aspects of writing such as function, writer and reader's roles, context, and topic (1997, p. 8).

Bizzell (1986) and Johns' (1997) critique of pre-process approaches is directly linked to Silva's (1990) complaint about the linearity and prescriptivism of the approaches. To Silva, these phenomena discourage creative thinking and writing. In addition, they provide students with a wrong impression of written ideas, since such ideas are presented as ''finished products,'' not as processes that need refinement and rethinking (Silva, 1990, p.15). Like Silva (1990), Cope & Kalantzis critique the way these approaches structure knowledge into ''rigid and dictatorial syllabi and dogmatic textbooks,'' and the way they ''favor deductive reasoning and put epistemological truths as the point of departure'' (1993, p.18).

In relation to the final critique, the treatment of the reader, the writer and the instructor, Johns suggests that in giving a central role to the instructor, pre-process approaches neglect the individual reader and writer, and their meanings, motivations, and voices (1997, p.8). Cope and Kalantzis go further, claiming that these approaches assimilate students, teach them cultural and linguistic uniformity, and fail those who do not meet up with expectations of uniformity (Cope & Kalantzis, 1993, p.18). Reid, on the other hand, contends the approaches promote a linear transmission model of reading in which information is transferred directly to the ''passive receptive reader,'' not to an active reader that creates his/her own meaning as s/he reads the text (1993, p.37). Following the same line of thought, Johns complains these approaches promote one single interpretation of texts and vocabulary words (1997, p.6), as well as lack of consideration for the readers' roles (1997, p.8).

 

3. THE PROCESS ERA

According to Matsuda (2003), process approaches did not gain popularity in EFL writing research and scholarship until the late 1970s. This popularity was due to Zamel's (1976) publication of her landmark article Teaching Composition in the ESL Classroom: What We Can Learn from the Research in the Teaching of English (p.76). The approaches emerged as a reaction to the dominance of a product-centered pedagogy or Current Traditional Rhetoric (Matsuda, 2003) and were founded on the critiques of traditional curriculum advanced by John Dewey in the United States and Maria Montessori in Italy at the turn of the twentieth century (Kalantzis & Cope, 1993, p.45).

According to Bizzell, these approaches had several purposes: (a) protecting students from the academy's oppressive requirements (1986, p.54); (b) liberating students from the ''verbose, indirect, and impersonal'' academic expository prose of academic settings (p.59); and (c) helping students from ''less privileged social groups who had trouble mastering academic writing—so as to give them equal access to the knowledge generated and maintained by the academy'' (p.60). Hence, the approaches emphasized individual motivation, personal freedom, self-expression, and learner responsibility (Hyland, 2003, p.19). This emphasis, according to Matsuda (2003), led the field toward a paradigm shift, revolutionizing the teaching of composition and providing a renewed sense of respectability for the profession (p.67).

3.1. Process Views of Writers, Academic Writing, Texts, and Voice

In the process era, writers started to be conceptualized not as ''passive recipients of expert knowledge and direction,'' as they were in the pre-process era (Johns, 1997, p.7). Instead, they were seen as individuals who have their own voices, ideas and opinions, who were capable of making their own decisions about writing, and who had something important to say (Matsuda, 2003, p.67). As such, their job was to express the meanings that the reader would later have to interpret (Silva & Matsuda, 2002, p.261) and to find their own voices by listening to themselves (Kalantzis & Cope, 1993, p.54). Since writers were perceived as possessing their own ''personal, authentic writing styles'' (Bizzell, 1986, p.53), their voices were also viewed as ''personal'' and ''unique'' (Johns, 1997, p.9). In addition, writers were viewed as ''clear, overt, expressive, assertive, confident and aggressive'' (Ramanathan & Atkinson, 1999, p.48).

Writing, on the other hand, was not viewed as a matter of learning and correctly applying conventions. Rather, it was seen as an individual, varied and staged process in which students have to plan, revise, rethink, and finally edit what they want to express (Johns, 1997, p13). This process, which is essentially learnt, not taught (Hyland, 2003, p. 18) has been characterized by some as a ''non-linear, exploratory, and generative process through which writers discover and reformulate their ideas as they attempt to approximate meaning'' (Hyland, 2003, p.18 citing Zamel, 1983). Others have described it as an individual, problem-solving (Hyland, 2003), complex, recursive, and creative process (Silva & Matsuda, 2002) wherein students engage in self-discovery with the help of peers and instructor (Kalantzis & Cope, 1993, p.54 citing Murray, 1982).

Under this approach, academic texts were not perceived as ''perfect, formally organized language patterns and discourses'' as they were in the pre-process era (Johns, 1997, p.7). Rather, in the process era, texts were viewed as personal, creative pieces (Reid, 1993, p.38), which come to light after a long process of outlining, drafting, revising and editing (Silva, 1990, p.15), and which express the students' ''own meanings and purposes'' (Johns, 1997, p.13). They were conceptualized as vehicles for ''self discovery'' and the development of a ''unique personal voice'' (Johns, 1997, p.9). In that sense, all texts were viewed as ''genuine and meaningful'' (Reid, 1993, p.38 citing Peyton & Reed, 1991).

3.2. Process Approaches and Methodologies

All of the above views of writers, academic writing, texts and voice gave rise to a series of approaches and methodologies that ''have moved the field of ESL writing from isolated text forms to collaborative workshop environments within which students, with ample time and minimal interference can work through their composing processes'' (Johns, 1997, p. 11 citing Silva, 1990). These approaches comprise both expressivist and cognitive pedagogies (Matsuda, 2003, p.73). Expressivist pedagogies include expressive writing (Faigley, 1986; Johns, 1997) and whole language (Freeman & Freeman, 1992; Johns, 1997). Cognitive pedagogies refer mainly to process writing (Delpit, 1988; Kalantzis & Cope, 1993; Silva, 1990; Silva & Matsuda, 2002).

Although all of these pedagogies or approaches vary in focus, they are similar in many ways. First, in most of these classrooms, instructors are seen as ''co-learners'' or ''collaborators'' whose job is to ''attempt to relinquish authority in order to empower students'' (Trimbur, 1994, p.110). They are also considered ''facilitators'' who give students space to voice their own interests in their own discourse (Cope & Kalantzis, 1993, p.5). As such, they allow students to choose their own topics (Matsuda, 2003, p.67) and ask students to work in pairs or groups while they move around attending to students' questions and providing assistance (Johns, 1997, p.12). Since instructors believe that students have something important to say, they use student writing as the primary text of the course (Matsuda, 2003, p.67) and help students discover ''their own meanings through writing'' (Johns, 1997, p.9). They also encourage creativity and the development of a narrative voice (Reid, 1993, p.38), and provide opportunities for both peer and instructor feedback (Matsuda, 2003, p.67). Finally, process instructors take it upon themselves to help students develop appropriate writing strategies for getting started, writing, revising and editing (Silva & Matsuda, 2002, p.261), and they take time to read students' papers and respond to their ideas in writing (Reid, 1993, p.38).

3.3 Critiques to Process Views and Approaches

Critiques to process approaches consider several aspects, including their implicitness (Cope & Kalantzis, 1993; Delpit, 1988; Hyland, 2003; Inghilleri, 1989), their lack of attention to form, and the type of voice they promote (Ramanathan & Kaplan, 1996). Critiques also discuss the individualist ideology the approaches both stem from and help to promote (Hyland, 2003; Pennycook, 1998; Ramanathan & Atkinson, 1999), the role of the instructor (Kalantzis & Cope, 1993), and the way the approaches blur differences between written and spoken language (Kalantzis & Cope, 1993).

In regard to the implicitness of the approach, Delpit (1988) states that this implicitness discriminates against minority students, especially African American children who, not having had the same educational opportunities as white middle class children, are not as familiar with the conventions for writing academic papers as most mainstream students. To solve this problem, Delpit proposes two major steps: (a) explicit teaching of the ''codes'' used by the culture in power as well as of ''the arbitrariness of those codes'' and ''the power relationships they represent''(p.296), and (b) helping students understand the value of the code they already possess (p.293).

Like Delpit (1988), Inghilleri (1989) also complains about the implicitness of process pedagogies. To her, implicitness is ''particularly challenging for non-mainstream students whose notions of appropriate rhetorical forms and discourse strategies are incompatible with those of the school'' (p.391). To her, instructors should ''help students retain, not sacrifice the critical and creative abilities which they bring to the classrooms, while learning a system of meanings which may be culturally opposed to their own'' (Inghilleri, 1989, p. 407). Also following Delpit (1988), Kalantzis & Cope (1993) argue that process approaches, or ''progressivist curriculum,'' as they call it (p.57), disadvantages students who ''need to be told the things that privileged students would be able to find out for themselves'' (p.57). Finally, Hyland (2003) contends that process approaches fail to reveal why students need to make certain linguistic and rhetorical choices. They also neglect to explore the different purposes people have when they write or the different ways in which people use language in different contexts. Failure to address all of these aspects is disadvantageous to students, who never realize the importance of taking these aspects into account. Furthermore, it is disadvantageous to instructors, who do not have any basis for their recommendations when advising students about their writing (p.19).

Johns (1997) considers that this lack of attention to form also puts students at a disadvantage since it only prepares them to operate within one type of context, when students actually are constantly moving within different contexts. Although in some of these contexts it will not be necessary that they attend to issues of grammar and form (e.g., process classrooms), in other contexts (e.g., examinations), students do need to be able to attend to issues of form and consider the social context for writing (p. 10).

In relation to the type of individual voice that process approaches promote, Ramanathan & Kaplan (1996) find that this voice is highly ''decontextualized'',i.e., it is not directed towards any particular audience from any particular discipline (p.29). Therefore, even after a lot of writing practice, students may have a hard time writing disciplinary pieces for their content courses. To address this problem, the authors proposed that writing instructors take a more ''discipline-oriented approach'' to the teaching of English writing (p.22). To Ramanathan and Atkinson (1999), when ESL/EFL writing instructors demand that students use this voice, they are not only participating in an ideology of individualism but promoting a view of texts as ''their author's personal property'' and contributing to the view that ''helping oneself to a text without permission from the author amounts to stealing'' (p.62). At the same time, Ramanathan and Atkinson say instructors are marginalizing students from other cultures who may find the concept of personal voice quite foreign and difficult or inappropriate (p.54), and basically demanding that they ''become someone else'' (p.56).

Agreeing with the authors cited above, Pennycook (1998) has argued that process notions of individual creativity and voice run against postmodern views of language, discourse, and subjectivity, according to which ''text is a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash'' (Pennycook, 1998, p.273 citing Barthes, 1977). Hence, according to Pennycook, instructors should revise practices of asking undergraduates to write using ''their own words'' while at the same time insisting that they use ''a fixed canon of terminology to go with it.'' To him, practices such as this create confusion in ESL students and put them in a position of not knowing what to do (p.276).

Regarding the anti-authoritarian role that process approaches claim to give to instructors, Kalantzis and Cope (1993), citing Delpit (1988), argue that such progressivism is a ''cultural hoax'' (p.57) since there are a series of tasks students must do even if they do not want to do them. These tasks include choosing their own topics, drafting, conferencing, re-drafting and taking control of their writing (p.58). According to Kalantzis and Cope, progressivist anti-authoritarianism is also way of ''deskilling the teacher'' while claiming to do the opposite, since teachers have to give up their active informing role for that of waiter who ''caters'' to all learning styles (Kalantzis & Cope, 1993, p.59 citing Goodman, 1986).

Finally, Kalantzis and Cope critique process approaches for blurring differences between written and spoken language (1993). To them, written language is very different from oral language: ''it does different things, in different social contexts, for different social purposes, and uses a very different kind of linguistic technology'' (p.61). Process theorists' disregard for these differences, along with their neglect for factual genres, only disadvantages students, Kalantzis and Cope say, since it deprives them from learning the language of schooling and ''the hows and whys of the dominant culture'' (p. 62).

 

4. THE POST-PROCESS ERA

According to Matsuda (2003), the term ''post-process pedagogy'' first appeared when Trimbur (1994) used the term to refer to that time during the 1980s in which writing instructors, not agreeing with the expressivist orientations of most process-era instructors, took a ''social turn'' in their teaching of English writing (p.73). That is to say, instructors began to see ''literacy as an ideological arena and composing as an ideological activity by which writers position and reposition themselves in relation to their own and others' subjectivities, discourses, practices, and institutions'' (Matsuda, 2003, p.73 citing Trimbur, 1994, p. 109). In the same year, the term was used in the title of an article by Anthony Paré that was published in English Quarterly. Like Trimbur (1994), Paré (1994) used the term to refer to the view of ''writing as a social act'' and to contrast it with the cognitive view of writing that had dominated the field for so many years (Matsuda, 2003, p.73).

The term was taken up again many years later by Atkinson, Hyland, Matsuda and others in the Journal of Second Language Writing's 2003 special issue on post-process approaches. In this issue,Hyland (2003) describes post-process as an era that includes ''everything that follows, historically speaking, the period of ESL/EFL writing instruction and research that focused primarily on writing as a cognitive or internal, multi-staged process, and in which by far the major dynamic of learning was through doing, with the teacher taking a background role'' (p.10).

4.1 Post-process Views of Writers, Academic Writing, Texts, and Voice

In the post-process era, writers are not conceptualized as those individuals who possess their own voices, ideas and opinions, as they were considered in the process era (Matsuda, 2003, p.67). The reason for this view is that in the post-process era voice is not viewed as ''personal'' and ''unique,'' as it was thought of then (Johns, 1997, p.9). In this era, voice, at least initially, is not considered our own. Rather, it is seen as ''filled with echoes and reverberations of other's utterances'' (Bakhtin, 1986, p.91) and ''populated with the social intentions of others'' (Bakhtin, 1981, p.300). This quality voices have of drawing from other people's voices (Bakhtin) or texts (Fairclough) is what Bakhtin (1981 & 1986) calls ''double-voicedness,'' and what Fairclough (1992), Bloome & Egan-Robertson (1993), and Bloome et al. (2005) call ''intertextuality.'' But voices are not only viewed as intertextual or double-voiced. They are also perceived ''social (...) historical (...) political'' (Kamberelis & Scott, 2004, p.247) and ''ideological'' (Kamberelis & Scott, 2004, citing Bakhtin, 1981, p. 211). This is to say that texts carry within them many of the meanings and intentions they have collected through the years they have been in use.

In addition, successful writers are not perceived as those who possess a ''personal, authentic writing style'' (Bizzell, 1986, p.53) as they were considered in the process era. Rather, successful writers are seen as those individuals who are capable of analyzing the writing style of the members of the ''discourse community'' (Hyland, 2003; Swales, 1990) for which they are writing and of modifying their way of writing based on this style (Schleppegrell, 2004). According to this view, successful writers are able to do this due to their own affiliation to multiple discourses communities (Canagarajah, 2002), and to the text analysis work that they do with instructors in their classrooms.

Academic writing, on the other hand, is neither viewed as the mechanical activity it was in the pre-process era, nor as the introspective activity it was in the process era. Rather, it is conceived as a social practice that varies from one context to another (e.g., a company and a university), from one community to another (e.g., the community of friends and the community of people studying education), and from one situation to another (e.g., the political sociology class and the urban sociology class) (Hyland, 2004). It ''refers to the organization, selection, and display of knowledge consistent with the practices of a disciplinary community'' (Bloome, Powers, Christian, Otto, & Shuart-Faris, 2005, p.53).

Finally, academic texts are not viewed as mere ''collections of increasingly complex discourse structures,'' as they were conceived in the pre-process era (Silva, 1990, p.14). Nor are they conceptualized as vehicles for ''self discovery'' and the development of a ''unique personal voice'' (Johns, 1997, p.9). Academic texts are perceived as utterances or speech genres (Bakhtin, 1986, p.78), the content and form of which are determined not only by the context and the situation but also by purpose or function (Butt, Fahey, Feez, Spinks, Yallop, 2003) and by the discourse communities in which they will be used and judged. Benesch (2001), citing Mauranen (1993), claims ''genres go beyond texts to take social purposes into account, including ways members of discourse communities are guided by shared rhetorical purposes when they speak and write'' (p.18).

4.2 Post-process Approaches and Methodologies

As is the case with pre-process and process, post-process views of writers, academic writing, texts and voice have made room for a series of approaches and methodologies among which are English for Academic Purpose (EAP) and the genre-based pedagogies that have been proposed by Australians scholars in the last forty years (Hyland, 2003). According to Bizzell (1986), these approaches emerged as a reaction to the non-academic orientation of process approaches. It was a way ''to serve the needs of the students who were having trouble mastering academic writing—so as to give them equal access to the knowledge generated and maintained by the academy'' (p.60).

EAP Approaches

EAP approaches include English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) (Canagarajah, 2002). ESP scholars ''are interested in genre as a tool for analyzing and teaching the spoken and written language required of non-native speakers in academic and professional settings'' (Hyon, 1996, p.695). Underlying this approach is the assumption that ''each discipline uses and writes the English language differently, for different purposes, about different things, in different formats'' (Ramanathan & Kaplan, 1996, p.129). There is also the assumption that non-native speakers of English need to ''master the functions and linguistic conventions of texts that they need to read and write in their disciplines and professions'' (Hyon, 1996, p.698). To achieve these goals, ESP instructors place emphasis on ''teaching students the formal, staged qualities of genres so that they can recognize these features in the texts that they read and use them in the texts that they write'' (Hyon, 1996, p.701). They also help students ''become successful readers and writers of academic and workplace texts'' (Hyon, 1996, p.700). In their view, if instructors are to meet their students' needs, they must deal with subject specific matters (Dudley-Evans & St. John, 1998, p.51). Faithful to their beliefs, these scholars have created a series of courses in which students and instructors help students develop genre awareness through description, classification, and analysis of texts so that students can adjust themselves to the demands of various discourse communities (Hyon, 1996, p.702-703).

Similar to ESP, WAC instructors see writing as discipline-specific. Their goal is to provide students with assistance with the difficulties they encounter in the writing of their disciplinary texts (Benesch 2001, p.15 citing John & Dudley Evans, 1980). However, they do not teach English for special purposes, such as Writing for Nursing. Instead, they teach courses in which students are provided help with the genres they are studying in their content classes. They ''attend the lecture class with which their ESL course is paired, adapt their curriculum to that of the content class, and ensure that the material is comprehensible to the ESL students'' (Benesch, 1992, p.1).

Australian Genre-based Approaches

Australian genre-based approaches are based on Halliday's (1978) Systemic Functional Linguistics. In the United States, these approaches have been referred to as the Sydney School (Hyon, 1996). Similar to ESP, scholars from this school are interested in genre instruction. Hyland, (2003) citing Christie & Martin (1997), describes this school as one that ''stresses the purposeful, interactive, and sequential character of different genres and the ways language is systematically linked to context through patterns of lexico-grammatical and rhetorical features'' (p.21).

Also, as in ESP, Australian genre theorists are very concerned with developing teaching models for students. As such, they have proposed several instructional models for implementing genre-based pedagogy. These models include those proposed by Callaghan, Knapp & Noble (1993), Cope & Kalantzis (1993), Knapp & Watkins (2005), Kress (1993), and Martin & Rothery (1989). Common to all of these models is a representation of the curriculum as a cycle composed of different stages. Although these stages differ from model to model, they all include some type of exploration of students' background knowledge and analysis of sample texts at the textual, grammatical, and lexical levels. They also include an exploration of the topic and familiarization with context and audience and a step-by-step writing of a text that resembles the model both in textual structure and lexico-grammatical features. Finally, they all promote the development of multiple drafts with the help of peers and the instructor and the proofreading, editing, and publishing of text (Cope & Kalantzis, 1993).

The approach differs from ESP in several respects. First, it is more concerned with text forms, with issues of power and domination, and with reaching minority and non-mainstream groups who have had less exposure to such texts than mainstream students (Hyon, 1996, p.701). To Australian genre theorists, genre teaching is a ''pedagogical and political project,'' and teaching students about genres and language is an ''ideological matter of social justice'' (p.701). Hence, one of the main roles of the instructor is to help students understand ''the ways of using language that are expected at school'' and the linguistic resources available to them (Schleppegrell, 2004, p. 17).

Although some people see Australian genre theories as a movement ''back to basics,'' genre-based scholars see these as a ''fundamentally new educational paradigm (...) quite different from that of traditional grammar'' (Cope & Kalantzis, 1993, p.1). This paradigm is based on the belief that the ''language of schooling'' registers is significantly different from ''everyday language,'' and it is their responsibility as instructors to make these differences explicit (Schleppegrell, 2004, p.74). One way to make these differences explicit is by familiarizing students with the genres of schooling, i.e., recounts, narratives, procedures, reports, accounts, explanations, and expositions (p.85). Another way is by raising students' awareness about the specific ways in which academic texts are organized so that students can make appropriate linguistic choices (p.45). However, in order to take these and other suggestions made by genre theories into account, instructors need a great deal of knowledge of linguistics and the linguistic basis of what they are teaching. They also need to be aware of the difficulties students experience with the language of schooling (p.164).

4.3. Critiques to Post-process Views and Approaches

Both EAP approaches and Australian genre-based approaches have been widely critiqued. Keeping the division made in the previous section between the two sets of approaches, the following section first presents some of the critiques made by scholars in the field of ESL/EFL to EAP approaches and then some of the critiques made to Australian genre-based approaches.

Critiques to EAP

Critiques to EAP approaches relate to two main features of the approaches: their lack of critical stance (Benesch, 2001; Canagarajah, 2002; Zamel, 1993 & 1997) and their ''uni-directionality'' (Canagarajah, 2002; Zamel, 1993 & 1997). In regard to the first aspect, Benesch (2001), for example, claims EAP approaches greatly ignore power issues and encourage students to fulfill target expectations ''without questioning the inequities they might perpetuate or engender'' (Benesch, 2001, p.3 citing Benesch, 1993). She believes instructors need to involve students in what she calls ''critical needs analysis''and ''rights analysis.'' Critical needs analysis ''includes an examination of who sets the goals, why they are formulated, whose interests are served by them, and whether they should be challenged (p.43). On the other hand, rights analysis ''aims to draw students' attention to issues of power and the fact that that it is possible to raise questions about classes and assignments'' (Dudley-Evans in Benesch, 2001). Canagarajah (2002), on the other hand, suggests that students be asked to ''engage with the academy'' instead of being asked to ''adapt'' to it (p.41). Similarly, Zamel (1993) citing Sommer (1992) urges us ''to encourage and empower students not to serve the academy and accommodate it, ...but rather to write essays that will challenge the academy'' (p.196).

In terms of the uni-directionality of the approach, both Canagarajah (2002) and Zamel (1993, 1997) agree that instead of trying to erase, transform or replace the discourses students bring to school from their previous affiliations to other discourse communities, scholars should open up to these discourses and learn from them. To achieve this goal, Zamel (1997) proposed what she has called a model of ''transculturation.'' Canagarajah (2002) describes this model as one in which students are ''able to mix (...) their vernacular discourses with textual conventions from dominant communities to produce such novel and creative writing'' (p.38).

Critiques to Australian Genre-based Approaches

Critiques to Australian genre-based approaches have focused on their lack of critical stance, their lack of usefulness, their focus on form, and the way they present genres and communities. Among the scholars that have critiqued genre approaches for their lack of critical stance is Luke (1996). According to the author, studying genres by making explicit their codes, patterns and conventions is not enough. If instructors want students to be able to use their writing to acquire economic and social power, they need to situate, critique, interrogate, and transform these texts, their discourses, and their institutional sites (p.334). Instructors need to move from discussions of the text to discussions about the social identities, power relations, discourses registers, and knowledges that are being promoted in each site (p.333).

Critiques of genre approaches for their lack of usefulness in helping ESL/EFL students improve their reading and writing come from New Rhetoric scholars, such as Berkenkoter & Huckin (1993) and Freedman & Medway (1994). These scholars believe that genre knowledge cannot be explicitly taught. It is acquired through enculturation into the ways of speaking or writing in particular disciplinary communities (Hyon, 1996, p.709). Other scholars such as Freedman (1993) believe that genre teaching ''may be useful for students whose learning style is appropriate, but it is generally 'unnecessary' and can even dangerous if the instructor has inaccurate knowledge of the target genres'' (Hyon, 1996, p. 709 citing Freedman, 1993). To Freedman (1993) ''much of genre knowledge can be acquired tacitly, as students are exposed to genres in their course readings and given contexts that lead them to write in appropriate text types'' (Hyon, 1996, p.709).

One scholar who has vehemently critiqued genre approaches, as proposed by Martin (1989) and his followers, for their focus on form is Kress (1993). Kress believes that some of these approaches and models put too much emphasis on classifying textual forms and not enough emphasis on how to use certain kinds of texts for certain social purposes. To him, instead of focusing on the texts themselves, instructors should focus on ''what texts do and how they do it.'' This implies turning student and instructors' attention to the different functions performed by a text and the language that is used to perform those functions (p.22).

Finally, three scholars who have critiqued genre approaches for the way they present genres and communities are Canagarajah (2002) and Ramanathan & Kaplan (2000). These authors insist that genres be presented as ''changing,'' ''dynamic,'' and ''evolving'' in nature (Ramanathan & Kaplan, 2000, p.181) rather than unchanging and homogenous (Canagarajah, 2002, p.37). Canagarajah (2002), in particular, finds fault in the homogenous way communities have been presented by genre scholars when in fact they are ''hybrid spaces, characterized by a heterogeneous set of values and discourses'' whose members can hold diverse values and ideologies and enjoy membership into multiple communities (Canagarajah, 2002, p.31). Ramanathan & Kaplan (2000) emphasize the changing and evolving nature of genres. To them, genres change for different purposes: (a) to meet the growing and changing socio-cognitive needs of discourse communities, (b) to meet the needs of changing technology, and (c) to adapt to changes in ideology and worldviews in discourse communities. They also change as individual writers take liberties with textual conventions. Therefore, instructors need to sensitize students to these changes, not package them as if they were something fixed (p.180).

Finally, Hyland (2004) states text types (e.g., narratives, reports, explanations) are not structured in the same way, nor do they fulfill the same purposes in all of the disciplines; likewise, they do not include the same genres or have the same lexical, grammatical, and syntactical features. To him, even if two text types (e.g., research papers and essays) were written in a similar way in two disciplines (e.g., child development, community health), the situation would be different, as would the expectations for how to structure the text, what purpose to meet, and what kind of audience to address. Finally, the stance and the lexical, grammatical and textual features would also change. Therefore, when instructors teach genres/text types, they cannot make assumptions regarding any of the above features and instead need to examine each of them in light of the particular situation, purpose, and audience.

 

5. CONCLUSIONS

In sum, ESL/EFL scholars have been very actively trying to help students cope with the demands of their undergraduate courses. They have not only modified their views about writers, academic writing, texts and voice, but have also modified their approach to writing and the methodologies they use. No longer concerned only with issues of form, ESL/EFL writing scholars are now concerned with issues of access and social justice as well (Cope & Kalantzis, 1993).

In spite of these efforts, it is worrisome that undergraduate writing courses have not been able to significantly help ESL/EFL students meet the academic writing demands of their undergraduate courses. An explanation for this failure to help has been provided by genre theorists who have made instructors aware of three things: first, the lack of situatedness with which instructors have been approaching writing; second, the important role that context, purpose, and audience have played in writing exercises; and third, the political nature of academic writing.

In terms of the first aspect, courses designed by pre-process theorists present a view of writing as a series of rules that writers need to memorize and apply regardless of the situation, the purpose of the text, and the audience for whom they are writing. However, as genre theorists have pointed out, texts are organized in specific ways and hold different grammar features depending on a series of factors: (a) the purpose, (b) the discipline in which they are taught, (c) the expectations of instructors in particular classrooms and contexts, and (d) the mode (Schleppegrell, 2004). The teaching of writing through rote learning and memorization renders students incapable of attending to all of these factors and, therefore, makes them more vulnerable to criticisms about their writing.

Students who are taught through process writing approaches are not better equipped than pre-process students to attend to variations in purpose, context, situation, and audience. They are used to producing creative pieces in which self-expression plays an important role. However, they may not know how to write academic texts, such as reports, expositions, and analytic essays, all of which require that students not only display knowledge in a different way but also take a much more authoritative stance (Schleppegrell, 2004, p.118). Likewise they are not prepared to analyze how these texts are different across contexts, situations, purposes, and audiences.

As a consequence, students do not know how to respond to content instructors when they demand that students produce disciplinary pieces such as those mentioned above. Only students who have been taught to assess purpose, situation, and audience before beginning to write are able to write these disciplinary pieces. They not only spend a significant amount of time looking for different sources of information about the topic, but they also try to familiarize themselves with the way people in that discipline write before they attempt to write the text themselves. Next, they analyze the textual organization of some sample texts and become familiar with the grammar structures and the language used. Then and only then do they start the process of writing their academic pieces (Martin & Rothery, 1989).

In terms of the political nature of academic writing, it was genre theorists who first treated the teaching of ESL writing as a ''political project'' (Kress, 1993, p.28). Up to the 1990's, when these approaches first started to become popular in ESL/EFL writing, writing had been a matter of either ''doing the academy'' (e.g., pre-process approaches) or ''going against it'' (e.g., process approaches). With the appearance of genre theories, writing became a matter of learning about ''the culture of power'' (Delpit, 1988, p.296) so that people who had never dreamt of being able to be part of certain academic communities could finally imagine being part of them (Anderson, 1991; Norton, 2001).

However, as was seen in the above review, genre approaches as proposed by Australian genre scholars are far from perfect. They have many faults among which stand out the uncritical way in which many genre instructors implement them and their sometimes extreme focus on form. The question then remains, how can ESL/EFL writing instructors better help ESL/EFL students succeed in their undergraduate courses? It seems as though the best way to help these students is by taking a more situated approach to writing in which, instead of providing rules for organizing texts, paragraphs, and sentences, instructors teach students to be clear about situation, purpose, and audience. Also, instead of having students write only reflective pieces, instructors should teach them to first analyze the type of writing they are being asked to produce and the conventions by which their audience organizes and presents these types of texts. However, this sort of work is not easy. It requires that both writing and content instructors change their views of writers, academic writing, texts, voice, and their own roles as instructors. It also demands that instructors make a concerted effort to attain both the pedagogical and the meta-knowledge needed to effectively help students write academic texts.

First, instructors need to move away from a view of writers as ''passive recipients'' of knowledge and direction (Johns, 1997, p.7) and start seeing them as active participants in the construction of knowledge. Also, instructors need to shift their view of writing as fixed and unchangeable across contexts and situations to a view of writing as a disciplinary, contextual, dialogic, situated, and purpose-driven activity. Furthermore, instructors need to stop asking students to use their ''own voice'' and start cultivating an awareness of the multi-voiced nature of texts, so that instead of trying to avoid other voices, students can search for creative ways of including them in their texts. Finally, instructors need to avoid portraying texts as collections of sentences and start promoting a view of texts as genres that meet multiple social purposes, depending on situation, purpose and audience.

Until both EFL/ESL writing and content instructors are able to change their views of writing text and voice, efforts to help EFL/ ESL students with their academic writing will continue to fail. Students will continue to be incapable of analyzing how they need to modify their voices for different purposes, situations and audiences, as well as making lexical, grammatical and textual choices based on this information. They will remain unaware of how the voices of others can help them make their arguments stronger. Also, they will continue to be oblivious to the incredible power voices and disciplinary conventions have to position them negatively or positively to their audiences. Furthermore, ESL/EFL licensure programs will continue to graduate EFL/ESL instructors who cannot help their students develop a view of writing, texts, and voice that is different from the one held by pre-process and process scholars. In addition, students will continue to enter and leave the university unprepared to meet the demands of content courses.

Second, if both writing and content instructors are to participate in the effort of training students in disciplinary forms of writing, thinking, and doing, instructors need to start by seeing it as part of their responsibility. Traditionally, undergraduate students are expected to know how to write their disciplinary papers. However, if instructors look carefully at the writing instruction that students receive in high school, instructors will see that even though most students spend a considerable amount of time writing in specific disciplines, few students can, for example, state how people in each of these disciplines cite. Nor can they tell what genres and text types are the most commonly used in each of the disciplines they studied in high school, or how the structure of these texts is different from that of other texts in other disciplines.

Finally, both writing and content instructors need to attain the requisite meta-knowledge and pedagogical knowledge to be able to train students in a disciplinary way of writing, thinking, and communicating in their disciplines. Instructors need to be clear about what kind of resources they may draw upon when they write (e.g., which Internet sources, which databases, which journals). Also, they need to be aware of what particular steps they should follow when looking for sources (e.g., go to a particular database, or libraries, go to a particular section in the library) and what kind of sources are preferable (e.g., National Institute for Public Health as opposed to Medline), depending on the context situation, purpose, and audience. In addition, instructors need to be able to discuss with students which particular genres and text types are most highly valued in their disciplines and why. In addition, they need to know the agreed ways in which members of their discourse community structure both their texts and the voices that are included in those texts. Finally, instructors should be able to discuss the conventions that members of their discourse communities use for documenting sources and the purpose and value of those conventions.

Once instructors have explicit knowledge of the ways in which members of their discourse communities search, use, and document the voices of others in their texts, they can start focusing on their pedagogical knowledge. Specifically, they need to know how to help students find reliable disciplinary sources at libraries, in catalogues, on databases, and on the Internet. Also, they need to be able to tell students how to decide if a source is reliable or not, how to distinguish a primary from a secondary source, and how to actually incorporate those sources in their texts. Next, instructors need to be able to familiarize students with disciplinary conventions for citing different kinds of sources, the multiple functions of cites and the multiple ways they can position themselves through the voice choices they make. In addition, they need to know ways to assess students' texts that are less about ''this is what you did wrong and this is why,'' and more about ''this is how you could improve you paper and your citations for this type of audience'' and ''this is what you might want to think about if you want to take this paper to a different audience.''

Finally, content instructors need to know how they can make the writing experience less about schooling (e.g., writing papers for the instructor for no other purpose than getting a good grade) and more about doing what members in their community do when they write(e.g., engage in conversations with other members of the community about issues that concern all of us and to which they may feel they have something to contribute). This way, students can start seeing themselves as academics and envisioning other audiences for their papers. They can also have a chance of experiencing for themselves the process of modifying their papers for other audiences, of going through multiple drafts and revisions, and of having to revisit sources and their documentation multiple times.

 

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* Recibido: 11-08-08
Aceptado: 12-01-09

 

 

NOTES

1 Este texto es producto de la investigación ''Traducción literaria en Revista Universidad de Antioquia, Número y El Malpensante (1996-2006)'', proyecto registrado en el Comité para el Desarrollo de la Investigación (CODI) de la Universidad de Antioquia. Código de inscripción 471. Fecha de inicio: 1 de diciembre de 2006. Fecha de terminación: 20 de febrero de 2009.

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