Achieving competence in academic English
: a study in the teaching of the writing of exposition to pre-tertiary Indonesian students in Australia using a genre based approach

  • Suzanne Maud Harris

    Student thesis: Other thesis - CDU


    The study attempts to address the issue of difficulties experienced by Indonesian students learning to write academic English for tertiary studies in Australia. The main aim of the study was to develop a modest program for teaching academic English. The approach adopted drew upon systemic functional linguistics and followed the genre based approach as outlined in the teaching/learning cycle suggested in the Disadvantaged Schools Program (DSP) Sydney materials (Callaghan and Rothery 1988:39). Our program was designed specifically to teach the exposition genre, ie argument from one point of view only.

    A further aim was to seek to test in some measure, the suitability or effectiveness of that program for use with Indonesian pre-tertiary students. This was done by using the program in a limited number of tutorial sessions with two Indonesian secondary school graduates. They were at the time studying English language in Australia in preparation for university entrance. Their final texts, wriuen at the conclusion of the tutorial sessions, were compared with others written before or soon after the commencement of the sessions. The latter were part of their homework for their regular class teachers. The aim of this comparison was to indicate areas in which considerable improvement had been made.

    It was realised that a certain amount of improvement could be expected quite apart from teaching provided in the tutorial sessions. Such improvement would result from the time factor as well as from the influence of teaching in the students' regular course of study. Nevertheless, it is argued that the specific approach used was a major contributing factor to the considerable improvement shown. Some conclusions have been drawn concerning areas in which such improvement was evident.

    Firstly, it is clear that both students have gained good control of the schematic structure of exposition. Both their final texts present very well ordered introductions, with clear orientation to topic, thesis statement and preview. Most of the arguments are logically ordered and a restatement provided.

    Secondly, the final texts display knowledge of the field. This marks considerable improvement on the earlier texts. It also reflects the emphasis given to this aspect during tutorial sessions.

    Thirdly, considerable improvement in control of certain aspects of grammar is noticeable. These are Reference, Theme/Rheme progression and Conjunction. Clearly, students' exposure to good models of the genre had considerable effect on their final texts. This applied to field knowledge as well as to grammatical features.

    The overall conclusion is that the genre based approach is very effective for teaching academic English to Indonesian students.

    Date of Award1993
    Original languageEnglish

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