Volume 12 Number 2
June 2008 Click here for the pdf.
Special Issue on Technology and Learning to Write

ABSTRACTS

MORE THAN A LINGUISTIC REFERENCE: THE INFLUENCE OF CORPUS TECHNOLOGY ON L2 ACADEMIC WRITING
Hyunsook Yoon
Dongguk University, Korea

This paper reports on a qualitative study that investigated the changes in students’ writing process associated with corpus use over an extended period of time. The primary purpose of this study was to examine how corpus technology affects students’ development of competence as second language (L2) writers. The research was mainly based on case studies with six L2 writers in an English for Academic Purposes writing course. The findings revealed that corpus use not only had an immediate effect by helping the students solve immediate writing/language problems, but also promoted their perceptions of lexico-grammar and language awareness. Once the corpus approach was introduced to the writing process, the students assumed more responsibility for their writing and became more independent writers, and their confidence in writing increased. This studyidentified a wide variety of individual experiences and learning contexts that were involved in deciding the levels of the students’ willingness and success in using corpora. This paper also discusses the distinctive contributions of general corpora to English for Academic Purposes and the importance of lexical and grammatical aspects in L2 writing pedagogy.
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ASYNCHRONOUS FORUMS IN EAP: ASSESSMENT ISSUES
Sara Kol and Miriam Schcolnik
Tel Aviv University

This paper reports on a pilot and a subsequent study that focused on the assessment of student writing in asynchronous text-stimulated forum discussions. The study, which was conducted in advanced English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses, aimed at determining suitable assessment criteria for written academic discussions. In addition, the study tapped student attitudes toward forums, checked the effect of forum participation on student writing, and characterized the text-stimulated forum discussions.

Based on a content analysis of the pilot data, the constructs of reflection and interaction were selected as assessment criteria to be evaluated in the main study. These criteria were found to be usable but insufficient for student assessment in the EAP courses. A questionnaire showed that the student attitudes were positive and that most students felt that their writing improved, even though an analysis of language complexity showed no significant improvement. A qualitative analysis of the transcripts revealed deep student involvement with the content and with their peers as well as an academic register interspersed with conversational interactions.
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RAISING STUDENTS' AWARENESS OF CROSS-CULTURAL CONTRASTIVE RHETORIC IN ENGLISH WRITING VIA AN E-LEARNING COURSE
Minjie Xing, University of Manchester
Jinghui Wang, Harbin Institute of Technology
Kenneth Spencer, University of Hull

This study investigated the potential impact of e-learning on raising overseas students' cultural awareness and explored the possibility of creating an interactive learning environment for them to improve their English academic writing. The study was based on a comparison of Chinese and English rhetoric in academic writing, including a comparison of Chinese students' writings in Chinese with native English speakers' writings in English and Chinese students' writings in English with the help of an e-course and Chinese students' writings in English without the help of an e-course. Five features of contrastive rhetoric were used as criteria for the comparison. The experimental results show that the group using the e-course was successful in learning about defined aspects of English rhetoric in academic writing, reaching a level of performance that  equalled that of native English speakers. Data analysis also revealed that e-learning resources helped students to compare rhetorical styles across cultures and that the interactive learning environment was effective in improving overseas students' English academic writing.
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BEYOND THE DESIGN OF AUTOMATED WRITING EVALUATION: PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICES AND PERCEIVED LEARNING EFFECTIVENESS IN EFL WRITING CLASSES
Chi-Fen Emily Chen and Wei-Yuan Eugene Cheng
National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology, Taiwan

Automated writing evaluation (AWE) software is designed to provide instant computer-generated scores for a submitted essay along with diagnostic feedback. Most studies on AWE have been conducted on psychometric evaluations of its validity; however, studies on how effectively AWE is used in writing classes as a pedagogical tool are limited. This study employs a naturalistic classroom-based approach to explore the interaction between how an AWE program, MY Access!, was implemented in three different ways in three EFL college writing classes in Taiwanand how students perceived its effectiveness in improving writing. The findings show that, although the implementation of AWE was not in general perceived very positively by the three classes, it was perceived comparatively more favorably when the program was used to facilitate students’ early drafting and revising process, followed by human feedback from both the teacher and peers during the later process. This study also reveals that the autonomous use of AWE as a surrogate writing coach with minimal human facilitation caused frustration to students and limited their learning of writing. In addition, teachers’ attitudes toward AWE use and their technology-use skills, as well as students’ learner characteristics and goals for learning to write, may also play vital roles in determining the effectiveness of AWE. With limitations inherent in the design of AWE technology, language teachers need to be more critically aware that the implementation of AWE requires well thought-out pedagogical designs and thorough considerations for its relevance to the objectives of the learning of writing.
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