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An investigation into genre-based content and collaborative pedagogy in a Japanese tertiary teaching context

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posted on 2024-05-14, 04:10 authored by Morgan, EM

This thesis considers a qualitative investigation into the content and pedagogy of a short-term English writing intervention in a Japanese tertiary institution. Grounded in Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), sociocultural and genre theory, a ten-week teaching intervention was designed with two aims: to provide students with key skills which may be useful to them in their short- and longer-term English writing goals, such as taking the IELTS writing test (short term) and studying in English-medium universities (long term); and to support students to improve their skills and perceptions of collaborative, student-centred learning. To achieve the first aim regarding content, a genre-based design was implemented, teaching the structure of two high-value and related persuasive genres, and incorporating relevant language features from across all three of the metafunctions of meaning from SFL theory (here called a multimetafunctional program). The frequency and use of these language features and genre structure before and following teaching was analysed qualitatively. Additionally, a dual assessment was conducted, using an SFL-based tool and the IELTS assessment rubric, to assess the overall quality of student essays, and to consider whether and how certain language features and genre structure impacted approximate IELTS grading and overall grading. Overall, students' essay quality improved according to both measures. The dual assessment method offered insights into language features and genre structure which the IELTS rubric alone could not provide. The second focus of the project was pedagogy. To teach the multimetafunctional program, and to provide students with additional skills in collaboration and student-centred learning which would be of use to them in wider English contexts, the teaching intervention was designed using the Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework (GRRF), which incorporates well-scaffolded opportunities for whole-class and small-group collaboration, and which offers a clear model for teachers to gradually release responsibility for learning to students over time. The attitudes of students and teacher towards this collaborative approach were collected through Teacher Logs and student survey responses and analysed qualitatively. While the students at first found the whole-class collaborative activities to be difficult, over time, students became more familiar and comfortable with the activity. They also noted that they found the whole-class work to be of value for their language learning, a belief echoed by the teacher. Students also appreciated the small-group opportunities for collaboration, with their attitudes growing more positive over time. The teacher's scaffolding and relationship building were noted as contributing factors and students recognised several benefits to the collaborative work. Overall, this project offers insights into the benefits of the use of the GRRF for tertiary English language teaching in a new context, namely Asia, for student cohorts accustomed to teacher-centred educational contexts. It confirms the benefits to learning of the Joint Construction or Guided Instruction activity, in which the teacher facilitates students' joint construction of texts following explicit instruction. These benefits are highlighted and investigated in detail for the first time amongst the tertiary EFL student cohort. The study also supports the teaching of related genres and their contexts together through a multimetafunctional, genre-based approach. Additionally, this project may be the first to demonstrate the effectiveness of a dual assessment model in identifying key language areas for improvement, which is of value to students and teachers in achieving teaching and learning goals.

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School of Education

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