Monday, October 16, 2017

TESOL MTh Academic Writing Event 2017

Meet our speakers

Title of session:
Practical strategies for IELTS Test takers

Essential IELTS  tips and information for success in the test. Find out more about the right techniques to improve your candidates’ band scores.

About Cliff:  
 Academic Manager, British Council, Greece

Title of session:
Computer Mediated text based Communication and Argumentation 

An essential aspect of academic writing is arguing and discussing. Argumentation has multiple dimensions; dialectical, interactive, rhetorical, epistemological, and conceptual. This interactive talk focuses on illustrating how the inherent characteristics of text-based Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) can help learners become aware of the dialectic and interactive nature of argumentation, develop argumentation skills and eventually competence in academic discourse. It also looks at considerations regarding the design, development, and running CMC text-based discussion tasks.

About Foteini: Academic Director of the English and English Language Teaching Department at New York College, Thessaloniki Campus.
Foteini holds a Master’s degree in Educational technology and TESOL from the University of Manchester, UK and an RSA dip. awarded by Cambridge UCLES. She is a lecturer in Linguistics, Methodology & Practice of Language Teaching, and Language Teaching: Design and Practice at the BA (Hons) English and English Language Teaching Programme of the University of Greenwich offered at New York College. She has a very long experience as an EFL and ESP teacher and has been teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) for 10 years in higher education both in Greece and in the UK (University of Kingston and University of Middlesex).

Title of session:
Teaching Academic Writing: Genre Analysis and Critical Language Awareness.

The purpose of this talk is to examine ways in which genre analysis can be used in the classroom to effectively teach academic writing. We shall discuss how teachers can help enhance their students’ critical language awareness; enabling them to understand why genres have certain conventions and which purposes they and their language serve for relevant discourse communities. Finally, we shall attempt to dispel some myths prevalent in popular discourse (and in some education circles) on “good” and “bad” English from a sociolinguistic perspective. 

About Christopher: Teaching and research fellow, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Teacher, Yes English Language Center

INTERVIEW with Foteini Malkogeorgou

1. Could you tell us more about you and your professional background?
I have worked as an EFL and ESP teacher for over 20 years and the last seven years, I have been teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) in multicultural environments in higher education in the UK. I am currently the Academic Director of the English Language Department at New York College, Thessaloniki and Local Manager of the BA (Hons) English Language and English Language Teaching programme of the University of Greenwich offered at NYC. I am also a lecturer in Linguistics, Methodology of English Language Teaching, and Language Teaching Practice and Design at levels 4,5,6 and supervise dissertations at the same programme. My interest in pedagogy and enhancing students’ higher order learning and autonomy through technology led me to my MA in Educational Technology and TESOL with a main research focus on Computer Mediated Communication and blending learning modes. My second research interest for several years now has been in second language acquisition in early childhood and bilingualism. My love for children inspired me to found the ‘Young Learners Project’ a pilot volunteer project that offers language education to vulnerable and disadvantage children. This would not have been possible without the enthusiasm and support of the students and graduates of the BA programme ‘English Language and English Language Teaching’.  

2. What should participants expect from your session?
My session focuses on how the dialectical and interactive nature of argumentation can be comprehended and developed through asynchronous text-based computer mediated communication (i.e. forums).  It looks at how the inherit characteristics of the tool can become pedagogically valuable with the informed design, managing, and running of CMC collaborative tasks. My session focuses on both background theory and practical applications.  

3. What are the main areas of Academic Writing you're interested in?
Because of my work as a lecturer in higher education and an EAP instructor, I have been involved and interested in all aspects of academic writing and also the design of EAP syllabi and materials. My particular interest however, has been in exploring how students can develop constructive interaction with the different perspectives of a theme and with their reader, and develop their critical thinking skills. 

4. What do you believe educators should be aware of when teaching Academic Writing? 
Academic writing is multifaceted in nature and very difficult to talk about in a few lines and in a generic manner. I will however, try to focus on some issues that need attention. First, we must not forget that we are addressing academic writing in a second or foreign language (L2) and students who may not have reached a required level to deal with its linguistic demands. This adds an additional challenge to both the teacher and the learner. Besides the linguistic aspect, there are also key skills involved which need to be developed such as researching, summarizing and synthesising, critical thinking, and metacognitive skills (i.e. planning, monitoring, evaluating). All these become a greater challenge when the cultural and/or educational background of the students does not support such skills. For instance, Chinese students are greatly challenged when they are required to acknowledge their sources, to paraphrase, or be critical and this is due to the distinctions of Western and Chinese philosophies which form different learning habits, study strategies, and beliefs about knowledge and authority. There are significant differences even among European countries, for instance, students with a Greek educational background find it difficult to write a thesis led essay. Another challenge is that academic writing includes many genres. Students are asked to write different kinds of texts depending on the context, discipline, field and level of study. These may be essays, case-studies, reflective diaries, book reviews, posters, research proposals, literature reviews. Becoming aware of the genres and their differences is necessary in order to accomplish their communicative functions.
One key aspect of academic writing is argumentation especially its interactive and dialectical dimensions. First, it is important for the students to understand the differences between discursive and descriptive writing. A very common misconception about ‘argument’ is that it is often seen as synonymous to merely presenting the advantages and disadvantages of a theme. Second, it is essential to know how to build an argument. This can be achieved through synthesising existing literature or/and research, presenting evidence to back up claims or points of views, interacting with the different perspectives of the question and with the reader and establishing the writer’s ‘voice’. These are very complex tasks which require skills that need a lot of practice and time develop. 
Understanding and adopting academic register is another challenge. It involves achieving the appropriate formality, sentence structure, terminology, lexis, and the personal voice. For example, academic writing has a highly nominal style; use of nouns rather than verbs. It also requires a cautious or tentative manner when reporting results or reaching conclusions, this is often called ‘hedging’. Another issue is referencing. In academic writing, sources need to be acknowledged. Students often cannot understand the purpose of referencing. It is important therefore, to help them to genuinely comprehend the reasons for acknowledging their sources. 
Finally, educators need to make decisions about how to help learners develop all these skills. Several approaches have been developed for teaching academic writing. There is the ‘product approach’ which involves learners studying a model text discussing and analysing its linguistic features, register, organization etc., the ‘process approach’ which focuses on the stages of writing; brainstorming ideas, researching,  group discussions, planning, pre-writing, editing etc. There is also the ‘task –based approach’ where ‘task’ is a piece of work which requires a process to be followed in order to achieve a particular goal and feeds in a larger task or project. 
There are so many aspects and considerations that teaching academic writing involves. It is not enough to know ‘what’ to teach but also ‘how’ to create those learning conditions to benefit learners. I do believe that teaching places high demands on educators who love their work. I also believe that our decisions should be informed; based on pedagogical approaches to learning, second language acquisition research and second language pedagogy.

INTERVIEW with Christopher Lees

1. Could you tell us more about you and your professional background?
I am a sociolinguist with a particular interest in digital language practices, language ideology, and matters concerning language and identity. I was born and raised in the West Midlands (UK) and read for a BA in Modern Languages (German and Modern Greek) at the University of Birmingham. During my studies, I developed a special interest for Modern Greek and decided to move to Greece to continue my studies at postgraduate level. I completed an MA in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics at the Faculty of Philology in Athens, where I received a scholarship from the Sashakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (Sylff) to write my Masters dissertation on racist discourse in the Greek press during the economic crisis. Immediately after graduating, I was offered a position as researcher on a funded research project by the Greek Ministry of Education and European Structural and Investment Funds, where I analysed the language practices of young people on Facebook and demonstrated how my findings could be applied to language teaching in Greek schools. At the same time, I pursued doctoral studies in youth language on Facebook, for which I was awarded a scholarship from the Greek State Scholarships Foundation (IKY). During my time in Greece I have worked as a language teacher, translator, and teaching fellow and researcher at several Greek universities, where I have taught a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses. I have also presented my work at both national and international conferences, and have published, both in Greek and English, on topics including politeness in Greek spoken language, the use of diminutive and augmentative suffixes as a means of indexing intimacy and solidarity in online discourse, the sociolinguistic implications of different alphabet use in online communication, and racism in the Greek press.

2. What should participants expect from your session?
Academic writing is an extremely broad area which takes the form of many genres and text types. It would therefore be impossible to go into even the most basic of details on everything that we know about the topic in just 45 minutes. Since the majority of conference attendees are educators in secondary and language schools, I think it makes sense to focus on aspects of academic writing which are most relevant to them: formal essay writing. In reality, essay writing is the first type of academic writing pupils come into contact with. Although it is much simpler and more condensed than the type of academic work they will be required to produce at university level, both its organisation and style of language resemble the macro and micro-structures of academic papers. In this sense, essay writing is a valuable opportunity for educators to prepare their pupils for the demands of academic work, provided that is the direction they wish to go in of course, and for the pupils to familiarise themselves with the type of written work they will need to produce later on in life. However, as anyone involved with adult or university education knows, it is very often the case that pupils eighteen and above lack even the most basic academic writing skills. The reason for this is usually that pupils were not adequately taught to write in an academic way during their school years, both in their mother tongue and second/foreign language. As Macken-Horarick notes in connection with the Australian education system, up until the late 1980s emphasis was placed on pupils writing according to their own experience, essentially in a narrative style, which of course was not appropriate for essays and academic papers. It was later found that a genre-based approach to teaching, which exposed pupils to the prototypical features of various academic genres, enabled them to recognise texts from different academic disciplines and, by extension, to produce their own. What I intend to show in this session is how educators can use a genre-based approach to enhance pupils’ critical awareness of the different conventions and norms that exist depending on the topic they are to write on and the audience to which the text is for. I shall also draw attention to the prescriptive view of language often adopted in Greek secondary education regarding the importance of “high-register” writing and how this, as opposed to helping students, actually distorts the reality of language use. As such, I shall argue for a more inclusive approach to English teaching, where many varieties and genres of language are used and discussed in class, thus enhancing pupils’ awareness and comprehension of language in use.  

3. What are the main areas of Academic Writing you're interested in? 
On a theoretical level, I am interested in the socio-cultural aspects of Genre Analysis. In other words, I am interested in how the production of a text interacts with its communicative functions, as well as the social and professional spaces in which it finds itself, according to discipline in the case of academic writing. In terms of how theory can be applied to practice, I am interested in how academic writing can be taught in secondary education, both in pupils’ first and second language. 

4. What do you believe educators should be aware of when teaching Academic Writing? 
I think educators need to avoid the approach, where they stand at the front of the classroom and simply tell pupils “how it is” regarding language. Instead, it would be more beneficial to the pupils if they were allowed to “discover” the generic and socio-cultural conventions of academic writing themselves. This can be done by exposing pupils to a variety of academic genres and text types, which can be discussed in class and assimilated by using a variety of activities to help put the findings in context. This is where the teacher really comes in, assuming the role of “facilitator” as opposed to disseminator of “correct” knowledge. It is also important for educators to avoid labels such as “correct” and “better” language. Instead, emphasis should be placed on the communicative and social purposes of different varieties of language as they appear in various instances of communication. In the case of academic writing, this means writing to inform members of a specific discourse community. However, under no circumstances does this mean that other types of language use are inferior and this is something we should all be trying to get across in our classrooms. 

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