Learning and assessing for future imagined communities: Academic writing texts within portfolios

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Romova, Zina
Andrew, Martin B.
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Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
academic writing
adult learners
qualitative research
Romova, Z., & Andrew, M. (2010). Learning and assessing for future imagined communities: Academic writing texts within portfolios. In Proceedings of the 2010 Tertiary Writing Network Colloquium. Available from http://twn-nz.ning.com/forum/topics/twn-colloquium-2010
How can first year, tertiary-level EAL academic writing programmes for adult learners use both portfolio assessment and emerging understandings about the importance of discourse community and imagined communities to target participant needs? This paper considers the value of portfolios as sites for practising membership of future imagined communities (Anderson, 1983; Kanno & Norton, 2003). Portfolios can achieve this through reproducing texts similar to the authentic artefacts of those discourse communities (Flowerdew, 2000; Hyland, 2003, 2005). Teaching and learning via portfolio involves multi-drafting, where learners reflect on the learning of a text type characteristic of students’ future imagined communities. We begin with Hamp-Lyons and Condon’s belief (2000) that portfolios “critically engage students and teachers in continual discussion, analysis and evaluation of their processes and progress as writers, as reflected in multiple written products” (p.15) and outline a situated pedagogical approach, where students report on their improvement across three portfolio drafts and assess their learning reflectively. This approach is compatible with established research into the value of genre as a way of socialising learners to future discourse communities. A multicultural group of 41 learners enrolled in the degree-level course Academic Writing (AW) at a tertiary institution in New Zealand took part in a study reflecting on this approach to building awareness of one’s own writing. Focus group interviews with a researcher at the final stage of the programme provided qualitative data, transcribed and analysed using textual analysis methods (Ryan and Bernard, 2003). One of the key benefits identified was that the chance to produce and reproduce texts perceived as useful to the students’ immediate futures was reflected in the overall value of the portfolio-focussed academic writing programme.
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Zina Romova and Martin Andrew
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