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Integrating Writing Strategies in EFL/ESL University Contexts: A Writing-Across-the-Curriculum Approach


reviewed by Yanjiang Teng & Dongbo Zhang - March 10, 2016

coverTitle: Integrating Writing Strategies in EFL/ESL University Contexts: A Writing-Across-the-Curriculum Approach
Author(s): Jennifer Lynn Craig
Publisher: Routledge, New York
ISBN: 0415896711, Pages: 208, Year: 2012
Search for book at Amazon.com


Because of the influx of international students in American and English speaking universities and the continued promotion of English higher education in non-English speaking countries, teachers need to ensure that students are proficient in English professional writing and communication. These types of challenges call for a teaching approach that can break disciplinary boundaries between EFL/ESL teachers (English as a Foreign/English as a Second Language), writing teachers, and faculty. Jennifer Lynn Craig’s book Integrating Writing Strategies in EFL/ESL University Contexts: A Writing-Across-the-Curriculum Approach responds to these demands by combining the practical strategies of the writing-across-the-curriculum (WAC) pedagogy into a comprehensive volume to guide the cultivation of advanced writing and oral presentation skills among EFL/ESL learners in an academic context.


Craig believes that EFL/ESL writing professionals are traditionally not well prepared for teaching writing related to disciplinary knowledge, while faculty members know little about EFL/ESL teaching practice. There exists a “myth of transience” (Rose, 1985) due to a lack of conversation and collaboration between EFL/ESL teachers and faculty. This book offers valuable strategies and resources based on Craig’s extensive experience teaching and consulting on EFL/ESL writing. It is appropriate for both EFL/ESL teachers and faculty and can be easily adapted to address diverse teaching situations and student needs. This book is oriented toward practice as stated in its preface and all of the WAC strategies are well tested and based on successful practices.


Integrating Writing Strategies consists of four parts and 15 chapters. The introduction provides an overview of the EFL/ESL writing profession at the tertiary level and emphasizes the necessity of writing across cross-disciplinary curriculum. Part One lays the conceptual foundation for the whole book through a review of studies on WAC and description of its main features in practice. Craig highlights two perspectives on WAC including Writing to Learn, which focuses on the process of writing and the development of critical thinking skills, and Learning to Write, which focuses on the product of writing for academic purposes. Part Two is the core of the book and offers a variety of practical WAC strategies in the EFL/ESL classroom. These strategies cover teaching oral presentations, using informative visuals, allowing students to work in small groups, writing in large classes, designing and assessing writing and oral presentation assignments, providing support through writing conferences and digital technologies, and dealing with errors in writing.


In addition to the previously mentioned strategies, Craig also notes that good writing cannot be achieved in just one semester, and thus support should be developed that involves everyone in the academic context. To this end Part Three addresses how institutional or university resources could be developed to support student writing and faculty development (e.g., writing centers, curriculum based peer tutors, and teaching and learning centers for faculty) and how collaboration could be forged between EFL/ESL writing teachers and faculty. For example, in Chapter Fourteen, four collaboration models are noted with their respective benefits and challenges: integration, coordination, consultation, and adaptation. Craig also contends that teacher exploration of new forms of pedagogy is fundamental to the success of the WAC approach to EFL/ESL writing. Part Four is thus devoted to the importance of professional development and teacher-based research.


Craig’s approach carefully considers the diverse backgrounds and needs of readers and WAC teachers and is among the many notable features of Integrating Writing Strategies in EFL/ESL University Contexts. Craig notes that L2 (second language) teachers and writers are a diverse group with varied linguistic, cultural, and disciplinary backgrounds. It is a strategic choice that the book adopts a non-prescriptive approach and highlights both the importance and necessity of readers adapting the WAC pedagogy to address different contexts of EFL/ESL writing instruction rather than using it as a closed and rigid set of strategies. It is commendable that the author includes examples and vignettes of faculty from diverse disciplines and EFL/ESL contexts in applying the WAC pedagogy to support student writing and oral presentations. These vignettes serve as an additional resource to expand understanding of WAC and guide use of WAC strategies in teaching contexts.


Another distinctive feature of the book is that Craig regards oral presentations and visuals as integral components of WAC in EFL/ESL classrooms. Readers might initially be confused that a book on writing places an emphasis on other modalities of communication. However, as the author convincingly argues, faculty members often ask students to give oral presentations as course assignments. In addition, “through the use of visuals, the teacher can affirm that writing and critical thinking skills have been strengthened” (p. 61). There is thus no reason that WAC teachers should ignore the development of student oral presentation skills and abilities to create, read, analyze, and present on visuals, which are inherent to multimodal communication in the modern world (Kress, 2010).


Overall, Integrated Writing Strategies in EFL/ESL University Contexts is a valuable resource for both EFL/ESL teachers and faculty in diverse academic contexts of English language education. The language of the book is accessible and the examples and vignettes of WAC applications are illuminating. On the other hand, the book’s appeal would probably be greater if the following issues had been addressed with more depth. Despite Craig’s effort to move across disciplinary boundaries in the WAC approach to EFL/ESL writing, WAC strategies seem to be presented largely in the context of EFL/ESL classrooms from the perspective of EFL/ESL teachers with limited voice of faculty incorporated. Most of the teaching vignettes are also presented in an affirmative tone as though the focal WAC strategies could be easily implemented with guaranteed success, which may not necessarily be the case. Novice teachers or those new to the WAC approach may wish to learn from stories revealing the challenges WAC teachers experienced, why those difficulties arose, and how they were resolved. As an extension of this concern, the vignettes of WAC applications seem to exclusively focus on teacher ideas. They would perhaps be more interesting to read if student experiences had been incorporated. In addition, despite the author’s attempt to emphasize professional development and teacher led research, Chapter Fifteen has only about three pages on this topic. Readers wanting specific guidance on conducting teacher led research, such as collaborative action research between EFL/ESL and faculty through the Consultation Model, would need to refer to other resources. Finally, although Craig notes cultural influence on writing, including citation of works and plagiarism (e.g., Haynes & Introna, 2005), how this issue could be appropriately addressed by teachers as part of the WAC pedagogy remains unclear.


References


Hayes, N., & Introna, L. D. (2005). Cultural values, plagiarism, and fairness: When plagiarism gets in the ways of learning. Ethics & Behavior, 15(3), 213–231.


Kress, G. (2010). Multimodality: A social semiotic approach to contemporary communication. New York, NY: Routledge.


Rose, M. (1985). When a writer can’t write: Studies in writer’s block and other composing-process problems. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.




Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: March 10, 2016
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 19570, Date Accessed: 12/4/2021 12:04:03 AM

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About the Author
  • Yanjiang Teng
    Michigan State University
    E-mail Author
    YANJIANG TENG is a PhD candidate in Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Education at Michigan State University. His research interests are literacy, second language acquisition, and teacher education. He is currently working on a project on the relationship between teacher belief and teaching practice from the perspective of classroom interactions. He has published articles on second language teacher preparation.
  • Dongbo Zhang
    Michigan State University
    E-mail Author
    DONGBO ZHANG holds a PhD in Second Language Acquisition from Carnegie Mellon University. He is an Assistant Professor of second language education at Michigan State University, and a former English lecturer at a university in China. He is interested in second language reading, biliteracy, and language teacher education. His publications on these topics have appeared in Applied Linguistics, Modern Language Journal, among others.
 
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