Monday, December 27, 2010

Two articles by Hyland

Hyland, K. (2007). Genre pedagogy: Language, literacy and L2 writing instruction. Journal of Second Language Writing, 16, 148-164.
Abstract: For teacher educators, genre-based pedagogies offer a valuable resource for assisting both pre- and in-service writing instructors to assist their students to produce effective and relevant texts. Instead of focusing on the process of composition, the content of texts, or the abstract prescriptions of disembodied grammars, genre pedagogies enable teachers to ground their courses in the texts that students will have to write in their target contexts,, thereby supporting learners to participate effectively in the world outside the ESL classroom. Genre theory and research thus give teacher educators a more central role in preparing individuals to teach second language writing and to confidently advise them on the development of curriculum materials and activities for writing classes. In this paper, I will briefly introduce the principles of genre-based language instruction and sketch some broad classroom models, looking at ESP and SFL approaches. I then explore what it means to implement genre teaching in more practical terms, setting out some key ways in which teachers can plan, sequence, support, and assess learning.

I think this is a nice article about genre and second language writing. It provides both the strengths of genre approaches and addresses some criticisms. For Hyland the main advantages of genre approach are

  1. it provides explicit instructions for students and tools for teachers
  2. it provides a systematic approach to teaching language and the contexts it is used
  3. it makes sure that the course objectives match the needs of the students
  4. it does not undermine the role of the teacher
  5. it is empowering because it focuses both on variation and systematicity in texts
  6. it may provide a critical lens to approach different discourses
  7. it may serve as a tool for raising awareness (p. 150)

I also like the specific suggestions Hyland makes about classroom practices from a genre perspective. Personally I have never received instruction in writing in English based on genre approach but I teach using a combination of genre and process approaches and I do believe that genre approach is a very useful one. What I especially like about the article is the part Hyland mentions assemblages of genres (p. 156). I have been reading about them and hope to write about some articles that focus on how genres work together.

Hyland, K. (2003) Genre-based pedagogies: A social response to process. Journal of Second Language Writing, 12, 17-29.

Abstract: Process theories have been extremely influential in the evolution of L2 writing instruction. Responding to purely formal views of writing, proponents borrowed the techniques and theories of cognitive psychology and L1 composition to refine the ways we understand and teach writing. While remaining the dominant pedagogical orthodoxy for over 30 years, however, process models have for some time found themselves under siege from more socially-oriented views of writing which reject their inherent liberal individualism. Instead, genre approaches see ways of writing as purposeful, socially situated responses to particular context and communities. In this paper, I discuss the importance of genre approaches to teaching L2 writing and how they complement process views by emphasizing the role of language in written communication.
Hyland begins with a critique of process-approaches to writing in this article and then summarizes the goal of genres pedagogies as

From a social perspective, a writer's choices are always context-dependent, motivated by variations in social activity, in writer-reader relations, and by constraints on the progress of the interaction. As a result, teachers cannot expect weak writers to improve simply by equipping them with the strategies of good writers. Not only are such strategies only part of the process, but they too are likely to vary with context. Instead, we need to explore ways of scaffolding students' learning and using knowledge of language to guie them towards a conscious understanding of target genres and the ways language creates meanings in context. (p. 21)

I do understand that genre approach is a reaction to process approach and thus has to settle scores with it but I wonder if replacing the cognitive with the social is the most productive way. As you already know I am a proponent of an ecological approach instead of a social one. The reason that I am not comfortable with the social turn is that: first, I do not think it is a good idea to dismiss the findings of cognitive approaches altogether, and second, I do not like the talk about context as if saying "it depends on the context" is informative in some way. I sometimes think just using the term context implies that that there is something independent from context and that there is only one context. The situated nature of events is an assumption or a starting point for me not a finding or an explanation. I like the way Latour addresses the issue of context but that has to wait for another entry. Despite my reservations about the "social take" I think this article is a great read. Personally I use a genre approach in my teaching and I am happy with the results. For the most part I agree with Hyland's arguments

To sum up, from a genre perspective writing is not an abstract activity, but a social practice. What is considered good writing, appropriate engagement, convincing argument, effective persuasion, and creative expression does not depend on mastery of universal processes, but varies from one community context to the next. By focusing on the literacy practices writers encounter at school, at wrok, and at university, genre pedagogies help them to distinguish differences and provide them with a means of conceptualising their varied experiential frameworks. Highlighting variability thus helps undermine a deficit view which sees writing difficulties as learner weaknesses and which misrepresents writing as a universal, naturalised and non-contestable way of participating in communities. (p. 25)

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