LINGUIST List 31.1992

Wed Jun 17 2020

Review: Applied Linguistics: Seloni, Henderson Lee (2019)

Editor for this issue: Jeremy Coburn <jecoburnlinguistlist.org>



Date: 25-Apr-2020
From: Dung Tran <davy.tranmy.utsa.edu>
Subject: Second Language Writing Instruction in Global Contexts
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Book announced at https://linguistlist.org/issues/31/31-171.html

EDITOR: Lisya Seloni
EDITOR: Sarah Henderson Lee
TITLE: Second Language Writing Instruction in Global Contexts
SUBTITLE: English Language Teacher Preparation and Development
SERIES TITLE: New Perspectives on Language and Education
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2019

REVIEWER: Dung My Tran, University of Texas at San Antonio

SUMMARY

The book “Second Language Writing Instruction in Global Contexts: English Language Teacher Preparation and Development” edited by Lisya Seloni and Sarah Henderson Lee talks about the education of teachers who will teach English writing skill in non-English speaking countries. It is composed of 14 chapters, each of which is a study that investigates an aspect related to the training of writing teachers in various countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America.

Chapter 1 is written by Alan Hirvela, who focuses on the adaptive expertise of writing teachers. When it comes to expertise, teachers are usually judged based on the rigid novice-expert dichotomy. Therefore, Alan introduces the framework named adaptive expertise, which distinguishes adaptive and routine writing teachers. While routine teachers only perform the same skills and learn to be automatic, adaptive teachers are more flexible and creative in coping with different situations and teaching contexts. Alan asserts that courses that train writing teachers should help them change from being routine to adaptive in their teaching of the English writing skill.

In Chapter 2, Icy Lee presents her research on the development of feedback literacy of two writing teachers in Hong Kong. Literature has shown that writing teachers have a limited understanding of feedback; thus, courses that help them to obtain feedback literacy are necessary. Icy organized such a course in Hong Kong and studied her two students named Joyce and Susan. She found that the course had a positive impact on them. Specifically, although teaching writing in Hong Kong meant having to comply with rigid conventions, such as using unfocused written corrective feedback, the feedback literacy course helped them realize that those conventions did not necessarily benefit students.

Chapter 3 written by Zhiwei Wu and Xiaoye You presents a study on how writing teachers in China used local resources to improve their teaching. Via interviews with seven teachers at three institutions in China, it was concluded that six of them taught writing the way they had been taught by their own writing teachers. Teachers also used four types of local resources including workshops and National Excellent Courses, and sometimes utilized journal articles or academic conferences. They first evaluated their teaching situations such as students’ proficiency levels and expectations to define problems in their classrooms. After that, they used four resources to understand how those problems were solved and selected appropriate ways to deal with them.

In Chapter 4, Keiko Hirose and Chris Harwood detail three factors that influence the English writing instruction in Japan, including the course of study proposed by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, university entrance English exams and local constraints on the English writing instruction. Specifically, the updated course of study and new university entrance exams required thorough training of writing teachers and this could provide teachers with opportunities to develop professionally. Moreover, local constraints such as big class sizes resulted in a heavy workload for writing teachers in teaching writing and the use of outdated grammar-translation method demotivated students in learning to write in English.

Chapter 5 written by Sarah J. McCarthey reports her qualitative study on how teachers were trained to teach English writing at primary and secondary schools in Singapore. Results indicated that factors that influenced the training in teaching writing were the way languages were used in Singapore, the national curriculum, classroom-related problems and the exam-driven culture of Singapore. Specifically, students were not fluent in either their foreign language, English or their mother tongue, Chinese, which made it difficult to teach them English writing. Besides, although the national curriculum of Singapore was supposed to be efficient, it was in fact highly standardized and required ineffective writing pedagogy including the use of templates. This prevented teachers from teaching writing successfully in the classrooms. Furthermore, Singaporean students tended to be obedient and passive, so they did not feel comfortable writing genres such as argumentative essays, which caused much difficulty to writing teachers. Finally, the Singaporean education system was considerably exam-focused so writing was simply taught so students could pass the writing tests. That entailed teaching the format of the writing test so there was not time to practice other kinds of writing, which limited the advancement of students’ writing proficiency.

In Chapter 6, Tanita Saenkhum reports her qualitative study that examined teachers’ writing instruction and preparedness in primary and secondary schools in Thailand. It was concluded that teachers considered grammar and vocabulary vital in improving students’ writing ability. Moreover, some teachers taught various steps of writing such as brainstorming, writing multiple drafts and peer-reviewing, which was praise-worthy. Unfortunately, although all the teachers in the study had at least a bachelor’s degree in teaching English, none of them had any particular training in teaching English writing.

Chapter 7 written by Sarah Henderson Lee and Shyam B. Pandey provides information on English writing instruction in Nepal regarding their preparedness and development, pedagogical difficulties, teaching resources and support systems. First, teachers and teacher trainers in Nepal indicated that they were not prepared to teach English writing in the classroom. For example, they were taught theories related to writing at university, but could not apply them in their classrooms. Also, many teachers showed dissatisfaction with the professional development sessions that emphasized oral skills and disregarded writing skills. Next, some pedagogical difficulties were that the teachers themselves did not write in English and students had low motivation to learn to write. Finally, teachers had limited access to teaching materials and technology, as well as very few teachers were supported by mentors who could provide guidance in teaching English writing.

In Chapter 8, Thomas D. Mitchell and Silva Pessoa detail the improvement of a design professor who wanted to improve the guidelines of his writing assignments at a university in Qatar. In fact, the professor did not have a proficient English writing skill to clarify his expectations for his assignments. With the assistance of Thomas and Silva, he could finally write clear assignment guidelines. He said that the collaboration was helpful. He also learnt that instead of writing short guidelines, longer and more detailed ones could help him convey his expectations more effectively to his students.

Chapter 9 written by Aylin Unaldi, Lysya Seloni, Sebnem Yalcin and Nur Yigitoglu Aptoula reports a survey study in Turkey. The study examined a program that trained Turkish teachers to teach English writing and explored their opinions on and experiences with writing. Results showed that the program was designed to include reading tasks to provide meanings or contents to the writing tasks. Instructors of the program also gave considerable feedback to teachers so they could boost their writing competency. Regarding teachers’ opinions on and experiences with writing, many teachers learnt English extensively before joining the program, used English frequently to communicate in videogames, read websites, talk with international friends and travel abroad. Nevertheless, only around half of the teachers thought positively of writing in English.

In Chapter 10, Alev Ozbilgin-Gezgin and Betil Eroz report their study on experiences and beliefs of teacher students in writing courses and the way those courses were taught in a university in Northern Cyprus. It was concluded that teachers thought positively of the courses because they helped them know what good writing entailed and how to organize their writing. Those courses also gave teachers the chance to practice academic and personal writing, which motivated them to keep writing. Regarding the teaching methodology of the course, instructors paid individual attention to the teachers and encouraged them to write a journal so they could feel more confident in writing English. They also used pre-writing activities, peer feedback, teacher feedback and writing rubrics to help teachers develop their writing proficiency.

Chapter 11, written by Lourdes Cerezo, Belen Gonzalez-Cruz and Jose Angel Mercader, presents their study that investigated the role of English writing in the Spanish education system. Results indicated that English writing was not of much concern in the education of teacher candidates who would teach at primary schools. Furthermore, not a lot of degree programs included a course that showed teachers how to teach English writing properly. The study included a questionnaire and the answers to it revealed that most teachers had not attended any course on English writing pedagogy. Additionally, many teachers learnt to teach writing on their own through teaching their own writing classes, reading online materials, following guidelines of Cambridge or Oxford and consulting their colleagues. Finally, almost all teachers believed that it would be useful for them to be trained to teach English writing.

In Chapter 12, Dario Luis Banegas, Marianela Herrera, Cristina Nieva, Luisina Doronuk and Yanina Salgueiro present their study on pre-service teachers’ perceptions of writing in an online program in Argentina as well as their motivation and identity associated with English writing. It was found that pre-service teachers appreciated joining the program as it could help them to be effective teachers in the future. Furthermore, they were highly motivated to study in the program because they wanted to improve their English proficiency so they could be competent teachers in the future and could engage in the professional community.

Chapter 13 written by Solange Aranha and Luciana C. de Oliveira investigates whether teacher training and language courses in Brazil included courses that instructed teachers to teach English writing. Results revealed that writing teacher education did not receive much attention in universities in Brazil. Even in programs that trained teachers to teach English writing, much theory on how to teach were mentioned but not many chances to practice teaching were provided.

In Chapter 14, Melinda Reichelt addresses how contextual elements influence English writing instruction in various countries in the world. First, local practices and perceptions of writing can affect the instruction of English writing. For example, in Poland and Japan, writing in Polish or Japanese does not get much attention so it is difficult to teach students to write in English. Moreover, some cultures such as Turkey resist the teaching of English writing, as the teachers do not like the fact that English writing conventions conflict with Turkish writing styles. Second, whether resources are available can affect English writing instruction. For instance, many countries lack qualified English teachers and not many teachers are trained in teaching English writing. Third, the status of English in different countries can affect English writing instruction. In Jordan, English has become a medium of teaching in many universities so English writing instruction has become important. In contrast, Iran does not value the status of English, so it is challenging to teach English writing at school. Finally, the purpose of writing in English can influence students’ motivation in classrooms. For instance, students in Ukraine consider English writing essential for their future career so they are devoted to learning to write in English. On the other hand, in countries where the English education is test-oriented, writing is usually taught in a way that helps students to pass the test.

EVALUATION

The book “Second Language Writing Instruction in Global Contexts: English Language Teacher Preparation and Development” has many strengths. First, it is remarkably informative. The book includes studies of English writing education in various parts of the world, which broadens my understanding. It also makes me realize that English writing education does not get much attention in many countries and this is discouraging. However, many researchers in this book have proposed suggestions to deal with this issue so hopefully the English writing education will be improved in the future. Second, the book includes studies that research various topics using different frameworks of adaptive expertise, written corrective feedback, motivation and identity. These studies also use a variety of data collection instruments such as questionnaires, interviews and document analysis, which expand my knowledge of how to conduct qualitative research. Finally, the book focuses on the English writing education in non-English speaking countries. This significantly contributes to the field of researching English writing education as the majority of studies on this topic are conducted in English speaking countries. In other words, this book helps the readers view English writing education and instruction from a different perspective and understand the differences between teaching English writing in English speaking and non-English speaking countries.

This book, however, has one minor weakness. Although it succeeds in providing the big picture of English writing education in the world, it does not address specific classroom issues such as what kinds of instructions EFL teachers use when teaching English writing and whether they encounter any difficulties. I’m also interested in knowing how EFL teachers instruct writing conventions of English, which can differ significantly from the those of their first languages.

Despite the weakness, the book is significantly useful as it provides much information on the education of English writing teachers in non-English speaking countries. It is also suitable for a variety of readers including students, teachers and researchers interested in knowing more about the topic.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Dung (Davy) Tran is currently a first-year doctoral student in the PhD program of Culture, Literacy and Language at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She is also a graduate research assistant and the coordinator of 2 English programs in the Department of Bicultural Bilingual Studies, UTSA. Her research interests are language assessment and second language writing.



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