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Abstract

This presentation draws on data from a four-year longitudinal study of undergraduate literacy development at an English-medium university in Qatar. While previous studies have documented literacy development at the primary and secondary school levels (Christie & Derewianka, 2010, Coffin, 2006) and much has been researched about the nature of writing genres at the graduate and professional levels (Hyland, 2009, Swales, 1990, 2004), there is a limited body of research on writing at the undergraduate level (Ravelli & Ellis, 2005). The limited work at this level has been either largely qualitative (Leki, 2007, Sternglass, 1997) or primarily text-based (Byrnes, 2010, Colombi, 2002, Nessi, 2009, 2011, North, 2005, Woodward-Kron, 2002, 2005, 2008). Recently, drawing on systemic functional linguistics (SFL) and genre pedagogy, the work of Dreyfus (2013), and Humphrey and Hao (2013) has begun to shed light on the nature of disciplinary writing and writing development at the undergraduate level. However, there is much to learn about the nature of undergraduate writing. This study aims to contribute to this area by examining faculty expectations, student trajectories, and development from a text-based and ethnographic approach. This presentation reports on different trajectories of academic literacy development by presenting four case studies of multilingual students at an English-medium university in the Middle East. While there have been several studies that have looked at the developmental literacy trajectories of undergraduate students (Leki, 2007, Sternglass, 1997, Zamel, 2004) using case studies, they have not closely and systematically examined writing development from a text-based approach. This paper aims to contribute to the growing interest in understanding the nature of undergraduate writing, especially among multilingual students, by using detailed case studies and analysis of student writing longitudinally. The presenters will describe the college experiences of four students and present longitudinal analysis of their writing over four years in the disciplines of business administration and information systems. The findings suggest that students enter the university with differing pre-college experiences that shape their college experiences and impact their rate of development. While personal, social, and academic development is documented in all cases, there are differences between those who came in with a strong academic background in English and those that had limited experiences with English academic reading and writing. Using the tools of Systemic Functional Linguistics (Halliday, 1984), the text analysis of student writing shows development as their writing progressively becomes more academic (with increasing use of nominalizations and abstractions), analytical (with increasing use of evaluations), and better organized, with differences among the four case studies. Overall, the findings suggest that while weaker students do improve their literacy skills while in college, many still graduate with inconsistencies and infelicities in their writing. Documenting the literacy development of university students in Qatar is pivotal as Qatar continues to invest in English-medium education to build its human capital. This project aims to generate insights for curricular planning and assessment in Qatar and a basis for research on academic literacy development that will be of interest to scholars internationally.

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/content/papers/10.5339/qfarf.2013.SSHO-09
2013-11-20
2020-09-29
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