Louis Rogers, part of the writing team of the new Oxford EAP series, looks at the challenges and practicalities of teaching writing on an academic English (EAP) course. Louis hosted a webinar entitled ‘Approaches to Teaching Academic Writing‘ on the 26th and 28th September 2012.
Since the rise of the communicative approach, writing has probably been the skill given the least time in classroom. In many general English courses writing would often simply be a simple output task in the final rubric, or consigned to further practice in a writing bank at the back of the book. Arguably, this is changing today as more and more mainstream courses are starting to acknowledge and reflect the amount of communication that occurs in written form. However, when students and teachers move into an EAP environment they notice a number of changes in the approach to writing.
One of the most obvious changes people are confronted with, when moving from general English to Academic English context, is the dominant role that writing begins to play. My own personal shift as a teacher was from Business English to Academic English and the main difference that jumped out was the change in how writing is taught. Of course a variety of genres might be taught in Business English but the one that tends to dominate most classes and published materials is the writing of emails. In a Business English context the focus is very much on the end product and materials tend to focus on the use and manipulation of standard phrases that learners can recycle in their own emails. When writing is short and brief in nature then arguably the product approach meets the needs of learners best. Equally it could be said that learners, to a certain extent, apply parts of a process naturally in the planning and redrafting of their own work, however, in the classroom it is the product that is the focus above and beyond the process.
There are commonly claimed to be three main approaches to teaching writing; product, process and genre, which I will be giving more details about in the webinar. Academic writing tends to lean heavily on the process approach to writing, but to what extent does it need to use the ideas of a product and genre approach? So often when students are given feedback the focus is on the mark and the feedback is rarely used as part of the process in improving future writing. If students are so focused on grades and the final product how can we convince them of the benefits of the process approach to academic writing?
The upcoming webinar will focus on approaches to writing in EAP. The talk will look at the different approaches of product, process and genre and how the best features of each have been used in the Oxford EAP series.