22 SES 10 C, Paper Session
How can university lecturers translate the principles of Academic Literacies (AcLits) into pedagogical practice? Existing research demonstrates the benefits of integrating academic writing into all university courses, rather than teaching writing in independent centers or modules (Dysthe, 2003; Elton, 2010; French, 2018; Hansen & Adams, 2010; Lea, 2004; Lea & Street, 1998, 2006). AcLits scholars contend that lecturers should incorporate academic writing into coursework because writing standards are socially negotiated and discipline-specific (Lea and Street 1998). The inextricable links between writing and learning disciplinary content make it challenging to teach writing across the curriculum (e.g., Elton, 2010; French, 2018; Lea, 2004; Lea & Street, 1998; 2006). Thus, if students in higher education are to become knowledgeable, engaged academic writers, they must learn writing practices through explicit, purposeful instruction embedded in their coursework (Dysthe 2003; French 2018; Ingle 2016; Wingate 2006).
Yet integrating AcLits into disciplinary courses often presents lecturers with formidable challenges. Since the literature is student-focused (see Lillis & Scott, 2007), little guidance is provided in how lecturers can translate AcLits into pedagogical practice (see Wingate, Andon, & Cogo, 2011). Relatedly, the research that includes the experiences of lecturers is predominantly conducted by writing and language specialists (e.g., Jonsmoen and Greek 2017; Lea and Street 1998), and education researchers (e.g., Bergman 2016, 2014) rather than lecturers. The positionality of AcLits researchers obscures lecturers’ lived experiences. Moreover, since most AcLits research is conducted in the UK (Canton, Govan, and Zahn 2018; Wingate & Tribble, 2012), it does not and, arguably, cannot elucidate how AcLits is understood and employed in other contexts (Bergman 2016; 2014). In the absence of research written by lecturers across disciplines and contexts, it is challenging to translate the principles of AcLits into a pedagogy of practice, leaving lecturers uncertain and ambivalent about incorporating AcLits into their courses (Bergman, 2014; 2016).
To address these challenges, we— a teaching team in International Relations (IR) at a Swedish university— reflect on how we progressively embedded AcLits in a bachelor’s level course with up to 150 students per term from 2010–2019. In doing so, we demonstrate how we altered and applied AcLits to our context and circumstances. Specifically, we illustrate how we used formative feedback, peer assessment, and reflective journaling to teach IR through academic writing. Besides our own experience as lecturers and course coordinators, we reflect on the feedback we received from students and discuss how we used that feedback in an evolving course design.
The article thus makes three interrelated contributions: First, we open up our classroom doors to provide a lecturers’ perspective of ActLits as pedagogical practice. This answers an on-going call in the literature to translate the principles of AcLits into practical approaches to teaching and learning. Second, we illustrate how writing instruction can support, rather than distract from teaching an introductory, disciplinary course with high enrollment and diverse student needs. In other words, we aver that lecturers should consider writing instruction as a complement rather than an addition to already challenging, time-intensive course responsibilities. Third, we offer the best practices we developed over nine years of embedding AcLits into our course as a ‘thinking tool’ (Dysthe 2003, 152) to develop pedagogical practices across contexts and disciplines. Admittedly, the knowledge and experience described in this paper are context-specific; however, we hope it motivates other lecturers to contribute to on-going discussions of pedagogical practice in the AcLits literature.
How, then, can university lecturers incorporate writing instruction into disciplinary courses? We answer this question by reflecting on how we translated the AcLits approach to teaching practice. While this article does not present a one-size-fits-all pedagogy of practice, it provides an inside view of an evolving pedagogical design developed by a teaching team working in a bachelor’s level IR course at a Swedish university. The article results from an extensive process of collaborative reflection, inspired by reflective practice (see Pereira 1999). Like Lea and Street, who conducted ‘ethnographic-style research’ (1998, p. 160), we do not claim to have fulfilled the rigorous protocols of reflective practice described by Pereira (1999, p. 342). Instead, we employed a looser, more collaborative framework of reflection on our teaching practices, course modules, and our students’ evaluations of those practices and modules. Specifically, we considered how we found and understood AcLits as social scientists with no training in literacy, linguistics, or writing pedagogies. We also reflected on our best practices and unresolved challenges of integrating AcLits into a bachelor’s level IR course over nine years. Concurrently, we reviewed course materials, including course plans, reports, and guides. We additionally analyzed student course evaluations and reflective journal entries written from 2010 to 2018. After noting themes and typical student appraisals, we selected formative feedback, peer assessment, and reflective journaling as the three features of our course design that students found most valuable and effective in learning IR through academic writing. We began our analytical process in 2018, while three of us were still teaching the IR course under investigation. During this process, we were mindful of our teaching practices and how our students received them. We also asked questions of ourselves and our students about our pedagogical practices and the principles that underscored those practices. Thus, we wrote the article while teaching the course and looking back on how our practices developed over time, an approach that encapsulated both ‘reflection-in-practice’ and ‘reflection-on-practice’ (see Pereira, 1999). We followed the ethical guidelines outlined by the Swedish Research Council (2017). To mitigate harm to our students, we do not quote any sensitive or personal material. We do, however, quote anonymized student course evaluations where all identifying details were irrevocably removed when students completed the evaluation online. When we quote this material, we do not state the year or language in which the evaluation was completed, further obscuring students’ identities.
We outline the BA-level course where we used Academic Literacies to teach international relations from 2010-2019. We reflect on why we decided to embed AcLits into the course, how we accessed and understood the approach, as well as how students responded to our evolving design. Next, we describe how we translated the epistemological principles of AcLits into pedagogical practice through formative feedback, peer assessment, and reflective journaling. In the first module, we require students to draft and submit an essay, receive feedback on that essay from classmates and lecturers, and use that feedback to develop and extend the essay. Relatedly, in the peer assessment module, we have students work in small groups to read and provide their classmates with feedback on essay drafts. Finally, in the reflective journaling module, students correspond with a writing coach about their strengths, weaknesses, and needs as academic writers. We contend that these modules achieve two goals. First, they help us provide instruction that meets students' diverse and individual needs. Second, these modules provide students with the skills and scaffolding they need to engage with IR through writing. We then look beyond the details of course modules to identify and reflect on the three guiding principles we cultivated in teaching practice: empathetic, explicit, and reflective instruction. We believe lecturers such as ourselves can use these principles, and the course modules that inspired them, to embed AcLits into their courses. We conclude by reflecting on two unresolved challenges we encountered throughout course development. These challenges speak to the quality and consistency of the writing support students receive from classmates and lecturers, serving as a jumping-off point for future research.
Bergman, Lotta. 2014. ‘The Research Circle as a Resource in Challenging Academics’ Perceptions of How to Support Students’ Literacy Development in Higher Education.’ The Canadian Journal of Action Research 15 (1): 3–21. https://doi.org/10.33524/cjar.v15i2.137. ———. 2016. ‘Supporting Academic Literacies: University Teachers in Collaboration for Change’. Teaching in Higher Education 21 (5): 516–31. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2016.1160220. Canton, Ursula, Michelle Govan, and Daniela Zahn. 2018. ‘Rethinking Academic Literacies. A Conceptual Development Based on Teaching Practice’. Teaching in Higher Education 23 (6): 668–84. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2017.1414783. Dysthe, Olga. 2003. ‘Writing at Norwegian Universities in an International Perspective: From Indirect Strategies of Strengthening Writing to the “Quality Reform”’. In Teaching Academic Writing in European Higher Education, edited by Lennart Björk, Gerd Bräuer, Lotte Rienecker, and Peter Stray Jörgensen, 151–64. New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Elton, Lewis. 2010. ‘Academic Writing and Tacit Knowledge’. Teaching in Higher Education 15 (2): 151–60. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562511003619979. French, Amanda. 2018. ‘“Fail Better”: Reconsidering the Role of Struggle and Failure in Academic Writing Development in Higher Education’. Innovations in Education and Teaching International 55 (4): 408–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/14703297.2016.1251848. Lea, Mary R. 2004. ‘Academic Literacies: A Pedagogy for Course Design’. Studies in Higher Education 29 (6): 739–56. https://doi.org/10.1080/0307507042000287230. Lea, Mary R., and Brian V. Street. 1998. ‘Student Writing in Higher Education: An Academic Literacies Approach’. Studies in Higher Education 23 (2): 157–72. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079812331380364. Lillis, Theresa, Kathy Harrington, Mary Lea, and Sally Mitchell, eds. 2015. Working with Academic Literacies: Case Studies towards Transformative Practice. Fort Collins: Parlor Press. Lillis, Theresa, and Mary Scott. 2007. ‘Defining Academic Literacies Research: Issues of Epistemology, Ideology and Strategy’. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice 4 (1): 5–32. https://doi.org/10.1558/japl.v4i1.5. Pereira, Márcia A. 1999. ‘My Reflective Practice as Research’. Teaching in Higher Education 4 (3): 339–54. https://doi.org/10.1080/1356251990040303. Wingate, Ursula, Nick Andon, and Alessia Cogo. 2011. ‘Embedding Academic Writing Instruction into Subject Teaching: A Case Study’. Active Learning in Higher Education 12 (1): 69–81. https://doi.org/10.1177/1469787410387814. Wingate, Ursula, and Christopher Tribble. 2012. ‘The Best of Both Worlds? Towards an English for Academic Purposes/Academic Literacies Writing Pedagogy’. Studies in Higher Education 37 (4): 481–95. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2010.525630.
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