Dr Anna TSO Wing Bo (A&SS)
English academic writing skills are crucial for all university students, locally and worldwide. Students who are keen on academic writing are more likely to perform well in their studies and become high achievers in higher education. In Hong Kong, most tertiary institutions run compulsory English academic writing courses for Year1students. Unfortunately, English academic writing is often mistakenly viewed as a "transparent medium" (Lillis, 2006), or a set of core skills transferable to all contexts and all disciplines. Year after year, English academic writing, which should have been introduced as social and cultural practices, is unwittingly taught as generic study skills which are detached from authentic writing practices within different academic disciplines. While atomized skills -such as summarizing, mechanical drilling of grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.-are included in the syllabuses of most generic writing courses, domain-specific discourses and genre-based writing instruction are often left unexplored. One reason for this is that the one-size-fits-all course setting [the kind of setting used at the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK)] is not compatible with the contextualized teaching approach. Despite the best effort of course designers, one English writing course cannot include a wide variety of text types and discourses from all disciplines. Consequently, academic writing courses that employ the simplistic study-skills approach fail to enhance university students' competency in English academic literacy, in particular academic writing.
The mastery of English academic literacies means much more than sheer grammatical accuracy. As recent research has suggests, academic literacy is discipline-embedded and discourse-relevant (Hill, Tinker & Catterall, 2010; Kapp & Bangani, 2011). Also, academic writing is a socially situated activity (Russell et al, 2009) that involves meaning-making, identity forming, and power relations between writer and reader (Lea & Street, 1998). To help students improve their English academic writing, teachers of English academic writing need to have a better understanding of their students' literacy histories (Stein, 1998), literacy events and literacy practices (Barton, Hamilton, & Ivani?, 2000).Furthermore, universities have the responsibility to create the literacy environment to help their students gain better access to the discourse community (Ganobcsik-Williams, 2006). ESL learners should be given sufficient opportunities to develop their sociocultural sensitivity and reading and writing strategies for various written genres in their own field of study. The traditional English writing class setting should move beyond the grammatical and lexical deficit model. Also, different writing classes should be tailor-made for students coming from various disciplines.
With the aim of helping local English second language (ESL) learners to improve their academic writing, this research study will explore Hong Kong students' literacy background and actual experiences of developing English academic literacy, with a special focus on academic writing. Using a mixed research methodology (e.g. Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004), this project will first collect quantitative data through a questionnaire survey of approximately 200 students. Then, it will obtain qualitative data from students' written assignments, subject teachers and tutors' feedback, in-depth interviews and follow-up contacts with students taking ENGLA101F: University English Writing Skills (a 5-credit foundation level course) at the OUHK. The research project aims to investigate how local ESL students make sense of English academic writing practices. It will also identify the major issues and challenges Hong Kong students face as they engage in English academic writing in the first 18 months of their university studies. Recommendations for improving the English academic writing course will also be made.
Research Output and/or Accessible Raw Data
|• ||Chung, S. K. (2017). Computer-assisted Language Learning: Collocation Analysis and Learning in Corpora. The International Journal of Literacies, 24 (2), 33–44. Retrieved from https://cgscholar.com/bookstore/works/computerassisted-language-learning|
|• ||Tso, W. B. & Ho, S. Y. (2017). Teaching English Academic Writing in the Second Language Classroom and Beyond. Canadian Journal for Teacher Research, 5. Retrieved from http://www.teacherresearch.ca/blog/article/2017/05/28/325-teaching-english-academic-writing-in-the-second-language-classroom-and-beyond|
|• ||Tso, W. B. & Chung, S. K. (2017). Academic literacy development: University students’ perceptions and experiences of English academic writing in Southeast Asia. Pacific- Asian Education, 28, 51–61. Retrieved from http://pacificcircleconsortium.org/PAEJournal.html|
|• ||Tso, W. B., Ho, S. Y. & Chung, S. K. (2016). Academic Writing for Arts and Humanities Students. Singapore: McGraw-Hill Education. x + 161 pages. Retrieved from http://hub.hku.hk/handle/10722/224921|
|Refereed conference papers|
|• ||Tso, W. B. (2017). Chances and Challenges: Teaching Academic Writing to University Students in Hong Kong. Paper presented at the Pre-conference Convention of the International Conference on Education and Workforce Development’17, Higher Colleges of Technology - Abu Dhabi Women's College, Abu Dhabi, UAE, January 2017.|
|• ||Tso, W. B. (2017). A Case Study of Academic Literacy Development at The Open University of Hong Kong. Paper presented at the 11th International Symposium on Teaching English at Tertiary Level, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, December 2016.|
|• ||Tso, W. B. (2016). Issues in Teaching and Learning Academic Writing at University. Paper presented at the Canadian International Conference on Advances in Education, Teaching & Technology 2016, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada, July 2016.|
|• ||Tso, W. B. (2016). Academic Literacy Development at University: A Case Study in Hong Kong. Paper presented at the 2016 Learning Conference: Education in the Age of the Anthropocene, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, July 2016.|
|• ||Chung, S. K. (2016). Computer Assisted Language Learning: Collocation Analysis and Learning. Paper presented at the 2016 Learning Conference: Education in the Age of the Anthropocene, Teaching & Technology 2016, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, July 2016.|
|• ||Chung, S. K. (2016). Collocation Analysis of the Word ‘habit’: Corpus-based Approaches. Paper presented at the 2nd Conference on Digital Humanities: Digitization and Reconceptualization of the Humanities, The Open University of Hong Kong, July 2016.|