In support of tertiary student writing

Margaret† Allan and Elizabeth Hirst

James Cook University, Australia


There is a considerable body of literature concerning tertiary literacy support for students of English as a second/foreign language. However, there is also a growing need for support in this area among many mother tongue students. The paper will report on a project which has the aim of raising studentsí awareness of the demands of university literacy and of academic writing as a discipline-specific genre. We describe the planning and implementation of the pilot stage which was undertaken within a school of education with a cohort consisting largely of students with English as a first language.

As a first step, a diagnostic tool was developed for the analysis of macrostructure and content organisation as well as rhetorical/relational intersentential analysis of student texts. The project then focused on building a set of pedagogic tools to mirror these levels of analysis. For this we drew on examples from previous student essays as a basis for language awareness tasks, supported by editing exercises which involved rewriting problematic examples. The aim is to develop students' explicit knowledge about the requirements of academic essay writing with a goal of increased autonomy through developing the ability to edit their own work.

The paper reports on outcomes of the piloting stage with a small group of first year undergraduate students accepted into an Education degree starting in 2000. The cohort self-selected by responding to an approach made to students at the lower end of the university entrance level in that year's intake. The paper describes main problems identified using the diagnostic tool, and goes on to discuss some of the pedagogic tools which have been, or are being, developed as a result of the diagnostic exercise. Possibilities for translating the pedagogic tools into web-based materials will also be outlined.