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Genre-based Pedagogy For Learning And Teaching Eap Writing

Date : 13/05/2015

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Uploaded by : Kaiyin
Uploaded on : 13/05/2015
Subject : English

Genre-based pedagogy for learning and teaching EAP writing


In the research of academic writing, the ultimate goal goes for students' control over their writing. As a nonnative-speaker international student, I am studying in a British university for the MA degree. And it is my first time to encounter academic writing and it has played havoc with my traditional writing style and has overturned my entrenched view toward writing. In this essay, thus, I will focus on the written works of overseas students studying at postgraduate level in different faculties in British universities. And importance will be attached to the academic writing in Genre/EAP (English for academic purposes) and the corresponding genre analysis which is believed as a powerful tool to help advanced nonnative-speaker students to explore connections between linguistic features and text types, between forms and functions in their professional community (Hyland, 2004, pp. 10-11).

Based on the context of teaching nontraditional students academic writing in higher education, there are four issues to be examined in sequence. Firstly, genre itself has been divergently interpreted by different academic traditions (e.g. EAP, SFL-systemic functional linguistics and RGS-Rhetorical genre studies), which could also be reflected in the numerous approaches to genre analysis. Notwithstanding the disputable and slippery notion of genre, I will mainly unravel the concept of genre in EAP strand. Secondly, underpinned by current theory and research, the importance of genre-based approach will be highlighted in order to introduce genres with which students are unfamiliar and to promote their genre awareness in EAP writing. Thirdly, I will go on to outline the fundamental principles of genre-based language instruction and sketch the generic models for genre analysis. Lastly, despite the emphasis on the assistance and implementation of genre-based pedagogy in EAP writing, it should be an obligation for teachers and students being aware of its potential limitations.

1. THE CONCEPTION OF GENRE Genre, closely associated with text type (Paltridge, 1996), is presented by community members as a form of social or rhetorical action which determines register, lexis, grammar and phonology (Martin 1992) and is 'used to achieve particular purposes, written for a particular audience and employed in a particular context' (Hyland, 2007a, p. 49). Building on Halliday and Hasan (1985), Swales (1990) attempts to shed light on the relationship between communicative context, discourse community and genre so as to give pedagogical implication on the account of language use in specific social settings. `A genre comprises a class of communicative events, the members of which share some set of communicative purposes. These purposes are recognised by the expert members of the parent discourse community, and thereby constitute the rationale for the genre. This rationale shapes the schematic structure of the discourse and influences and constrains choice of content and style. Communicative purpose is both a privileged criterion and one that operates to keep the scope of a genre as here conceived narrowly focused on comparable rhetorical action. In addition to purpose, exemplars of a genre exhibit various patterns of similarity in terms of structure, style, content and intended audience. If all high probability expectations are realised, the exemplar will be viewed as prototypical by the parent discourse community' (Swales, 1990, p. 58).

Even though genre is an elusive term, the centre of genre, as can be seen, anchors to the idea of communicative purpose (Swales, 1990). The purpose is the rationale of a genre and determines the way the genre is structured and the choice of the content and style (Hyland, 2002). Genre is not fixed nor stagnant instead it links the past and the present. It not only shows regard for tradition, but pays homage to innovation as well. It places individuals in a wider framework and assists them to actualise their communicative purposes (Swales, 1998).


A professional genre is a representative form of text belonging to established members of an individual discourse community because members of a specific profession share common purposes of communication (Flowerdew, 1993) and are believed to have a better understanding of the genre than outsiders (Bhatia, 2004). It is therefore, these genres that must be introduced to students from professional settings. Given that exigency of increasing genre awareness, genre analysis, having aligned itself with higher-level organization and structure of written texts (Flowerdew, 1993), should be laid stress on.

The emergence of genre-based pedagogy is widely acknowledged as helping nonnative speakers of English master the functions and linguistic conventions of texts as well as helping recognise the formal staged qualities of genres that they are going to read and write in their disciplines and professions (Bhatia, 1993; Christie, 1991; Flowered, 1993; Swales, 1990)

Paltridge (2001) and Hyland (2004) have mentioned a number of advantages of genre-based teaching. Firstly, Bhatia (2002) suggests that as well as developing linguistic and communicative competence, genre-based teaching reinforces writers' acquisition of more generic competence. For example, in an explicit genre-based approach, learners are able to respond to new and recurring genres. Moreover, they are more likely to be aware of culture-bound and context-sensitive interpretations and applications of varied genres because genres' sociocultural essence is highly valued. Thirdly, the inclusive property of genre-based writing instruction allows for an overarching framework encompassing grammar, vocabulary, functions and notions, tasks, situation types and content areas. Lastly, taking account of students' needs, teachers using a genre-based approach provide resources for them to scaffold their learning and creativity.


According to Hyland (2002), focus of approaches to genre analysis ranges from text structure, sociocultural factors, and practices of writers to expectations of readers. ESP, however, tends to adopt a rather eclectic set of pedagogies, consisting of needs analysis, contextual analysis, and genre descri ption (Johns, 1997). Moreover, being linguistic-oriented is one of the most prominent attributes of EAP writing. In the light of ESP view, performing a genre incorporates both its schematic structure, or staging, on one hand, and the specific form-function correlations of each stage, on the other (Flowerdew, 2013). In the following section, I will set out to induce some of the well-constructed pedagogical instructions commensurate with rhetorical and linguistic features and needs analysis.

3.1 Rhetorical-oriented features

Swales (1981) previously aimed for helping students effectively communicate within the confines and constrains of the models he has built by means of requiring them to follow the linguistic conventions in their own texts and thus, saw himself as a prescri ptive teacher. It may appear not to be a satisfactory manoeuvre but it is essential to make the structures and features of the text explicit, given that mastery of genres does not develop naturally and it needs intervention through introducing and analysing models (Hagan, 1993).

Swales and Feak (1994), for example, provide models of rhetorical forms, such as problem-solution and data commentary, as well as language analysis tasks to help nontraditional students master discourse conventions in their profession. Swales (1990) also discusses classroom tasks and activities for teaching the structure of research article (RA) introductions, including marking up texts with coloured pens and reconstructing the proper order of a jumbled introduction.

Besides the activities Swales (1990) puts, there are some other useful and specific activities created by Flowerdew (1993, p.310) to teach students how to complete and elaborate their texts' structure. The activities are as follows: 1. flow-chart analysis of structural formula, highlighting possible variations 2. analysis of structural formula using colour coding 3. matching of possible utterances to structural slots in structural formula 4. paraphrasing-students provide alternative encodings for structural formula 5. gap filling of structural slots 6. role-play focusing on variation of field/tenor/mode

However, the most well-established learning and teaching strategy customised for genre structure is move analysis. To induct genre effectively, Henry and Rosenberry (2001, p. 155) note that holistic knowledge of a genre needs 'to be supplemented by a knowledge of the specific language associated with each move'. Similarly, Dudley-Evans (1995) considers rhetorical moves as a built-in part of a genre used to teach novice writers to produce successful texts in that particular genre.' CARS (create a research space) structure by Swales (1990, p.141) should be the best-known model for generic staging, which he posits for academic research article introductions. The model comprises three predominant moves and their subordinate steps. Move 1: Establishing a territory Move 2: Establishing a niche Move 3: Occupying the niche

Establishing a territory indicates that researchers first identify the field where their contribution is made with literature or summary of previous research. Then a gap in the existing work is presumed after the review of relevant works. The gap is expected to be new and innovative. Finally, researchers attempt to summarise how they will fill this gap.

These moves and steps however are prototype and subject to individual instances rather than governed by fixed rules. Elements in this prototypical schematic structure are not all obligatory nor do they occur in the given sequence, and they may be repeated, omitted or recursive (Swales, 1990). Aligning with Swales, Flowerdew (2013) points out that there is no one-to-one relation between moves and realised patterns. Nevertheless, conventionalised realisations are exhibited in the various communicative functions of a genre, and in turn, genres are recognised as such realisations by the specialised discourse community.

In favour of linguistic structures and forms, it is arguably concerned that genre analysis in terms of EAP furnishes nonnative students with the linguistic and rhetorical tools needed to handle tasks. However, it should be noted that instead of being too overtly prescri ptive in the application of genre-based descri ption, teachers should be able to make a range of possibilities expressing moves and other components comprised of a genre (Dudley-Evans, 1997). Similarly, Swales (1990, p.213) puts forward a 'consciousness-raising' instruction, familiarising students with genre and its generic features, raising consciousness vis-à-vis the social and lexicogrammatical dimensions of the genre, providing hands-on practice in producing the genre and provoking critical reflection on the whole process.

3.2. Linguistic-oriented nature

Bhatia (1993) suggests that to link the properties of form and function in texts is important to help students better comprehend the reasons and ways of linguistic conversion applied to particular rhetorical effects.

As a result of the growing focus on instruction of academic writing for L2 adult leaners who are preparing for degree study in an English-medium college or university, numerous research has provided insights into language of academic discourse by means of demonstration of vocabulary and grammar associates with particular genres (Biber & Conrad, 1999, 2004; Coxhead, 2000). For example, researchers have shown that although academic prose is more noun-centric, such writing consist of not simply nouns but a variety of other grammatical features (e.g. collocations) expected by members of that discourse community (Biber et al., 2004; Henry & Roseberry, 2001; Swales, 1990). The view of clustering grammar by functional purposes gives rise to the attempt to help students handle a set of characteristic vocabulary and grammar within the context of creating appropriately worded academic prose (Coxhead and Byrd, 2007).

Concordancing, a computer-based tools for analysing samples, correspondingly, could be tailor-made to help learners investigate how words are sometimes associated with different meanings and uses in different genres (Hyland, 2004). For instance, concordance results are useful for seeing the preferred patterns of the usage of a word; the differences between words that students often confused; the most appropriate words to use; semantic prosody or the connotative meanings a word acquires because its regular association with other words; how words link their meaning to the surrounding text.

Inspired by Flowerdew (1993) and Coxhead and Byrd (2007), I come up with some suggestions for EAP teachers to hand on the use of concordance to students to see the different features of vocabulary and grammar. To begin with, learners are provided with a corpus made up from instances of a particular genre or, for comparative purposes, two corpora made up of different genres and asked to look for particular generic features. The choice of the number of corpora is depend on the contexualised purposes.

Given a corpus or a pair of corpora, learners, with guidance, can seek out particular features of a word or a formulaic sequence as well as its grammatical frameworks. Coxhead and Byrd (2007, p.141) recommend that if the concordance is for a particular word, such questions could be asked to guide students: 1. If the word is a noun, what verbs and adjectives commonly occur with it? 2. If the word is a verb, what nouns and adverbs commonly occur with it? 3. Are there any lexicogrammatical patterns of the word that stand out in the data? For example, if the word is a verb, what follows it: an infinitive, a that- clause, or some particular selection of prepositions?

The result of concordance more often shows expressions of certainty than those with doubt, which can help student writers not only make use of the words and collocations in their own writing but to use it in expected and effective ways in their own disciplines (Hyland 2004).

3.3. Needs analysis

Genres are more complicated than it seems since they are dynamic and dependent on the development and exploitation of their expert users (Flowerdew, 2013). Stubbs (1996, p.23) holds that linguistics is best understood as an applied social science whose language 'should be studied in attested, authentic instances of use', based on the understanding that 'language in use involves both routine and creation, and that language transmits culture'. These principles have been drawn on by EAP to attempt to build a practical response to student needs. Thus, to encapsulate the sociological features of teaching approaches in EAP, I will commence with student needs analysis.

Needs analysis expresses the concept that literacy acquisition occurs in context and it is in the context that techniques and skills are to be used (Long, 2006). Other than classroom instruction, students rely on their existing knowledge and previous experience to understand and write a particular genre (Hyland, 2007b). Effective teaching in a genre-based course, therefore, should recognise students' wants, prior learning, and current proficiencies.

Typically, needs analysis could further break down to situation analysis (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998) and means analysis (Holliday, 1994). A situation analysis requires a student's profile involving current proficiencies, perceptions, and ambitions. It is more related to communication needs than learning needs and refers to linguistic skills and knowledge students need to perform competently in their future roles. A means analysis, from a different view, considers teachers, methods, materials, facilities, and relationship of the course to its immediate environment.

Approaches to genre pedagogy in EAP are generically more linguistic-oriented (Flowerdew, 2013), but it does not mean that EAP writing is not sociological. As Bazerman (1997, p.19) eloquently reminds us: Genres are not just forms. Genres are forms of life, ways of being. They are frames for social action. They are environments for learning. They are locations within which meaning is constructed. Genres shape the thoughts we form and the communications by which we interact. Genres are the familiar places we go to create intelligible communicative action with each other and the guideposts we use to explore the unfamiliar.

In a nutshell, no matter what are the orientations, according to Hyland (2004, p. 195), language is a pivot in analysing the features of writing and is the way in creating social contexts. All approaches, ultimately, are for the same purpose of enriching a model of language use that encompasses social, cultural, and institutional explanation; that links language to contexts; and that has practical implications for teachers to deal with conventionalised aspects of texts.


Genre approaches, overall, have provided an effective writing pedagogy for nonnative EAP students from higher education. It makes explicit what is to be learnt-the rhetorical and linguistic features of a particular genre; it provides a coherent framework for studying both language and contexts, move analysis in RA, for example; it ensures that course objectives are derived from students' needs, that is, needs analysis; it creates the resources such as concordance for students to understand valued discourses. However, when EAP teachers are taking the advantages of the genre-based pedagogical instruction, they should, at the same time, be conscious of its limitations.

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