Learning to construct argumentative writing in academic English
: a study in the teaching of the writing of discussion to ESL students in senior high school in Australia using a genre based approach

  • Inger Margrethe Hallenstein

    Student thesis: Coursework Masters - CDU


    The study sought to address the difficulties faced by ESL students studying academic English for the purpose of passing the Matriculation examination and gaining entrance to tertiary studies in Australia. 

    The main objective of the study was to develop a modest teaching program. The method adopted drew upon Systemic Functional Linguistics and followed the genre based approach outlined in teaching/learning cycle suggested in the Disadvantaged Schools Program (DSP) Sydney Materials (Callaghan & Rothery 1988:39). The program was designed specifically to teach the discussion genre, ie, arguing an issue from more than one point of view. 

    A further objective was to attempt to test the suitability of that program for use as part of the Northern Territory accredited course English as a Second Language Stage 1, with a group of overseas and Australian year 11 ESL students at St. John's College. This was done by using the program with the group, as a component of the course. The written work of two students from the group was selected for the purpose. Their final texts, written at the conclusion of the program were compared with their texts, written before the program. It is argued that considerable improvement occurred as a result of the method used. Some conclusions have been made in regard to the success of the application of the program. 

    Firstly, the comparison shows that the students gained a better control of the schematic structure of the discussion genre. Both final texts open with a clear statement of issue and an orientation towards the arguments. While the argumentation itself is not entirely successful, the arguments are signalled as elements of the schematic structure. Both texts equally contain a recommendation. 

    Secondly, both texts show considerable improvement with respect to some areas of the grammar; in particularly in relation to conjunction. One of the texts furthermore shows marked improvement in the control of tenor. 

    Thirdly, it is felt that a more extensive improvement would have been possible if more time had been spent on the preparation of the field. It is evident that adequate field knowledge is a necessity for a successful outcome of the teaching cycle. 

    It is the general conclusion that the genre based approach offers an effective method for teaching academic English to senior ESL students.
    Date of AwardJun 1994
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorPeter Wignell (Supervisor)

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