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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Education (also CAGS)

Year Degree Awarded

2018

Month Degree Awarded

February

First Advisor

Professor Margaret Gebhard

Second Advisor

Professor Elizabeth McEneaney

Third Advisor

Professor Benjamin Bailey

Subject Categories

Teacher Education and Professional Development

Abstract

L2 teachers generally lack the ability to respond to student writing in productive ways, because L2 teacher education has typically not developed teachers’ understanding of how language works in constructing meaningful texts. To address the need for preparing teachers to give meaningful feedback, this study investigates the professional experiences of Asian English language teachers (ELTs) who participated in a professional development program informed by Halliday’s systemic functional linguistics (SFL). This program attempts to apprentice teachers to becoming critical text analysts who are able to analyze the linguistic features of their students’ emergent writing practices and provide informed feedback. The research question guiding this study is: How does coursework in SFL influence Asian ELTs’ approach to responding to student writing?

This study uses qualitative case study methods, and focuses on two specific time frames for data collection: 1) over 28 weeks (two semesters) of a SFL-based professional development course; 2) over ELTs’ teaching practicum conducted eight months after the completion of the course. Multiple types of data were collected, including the researcher’s fieldnotes, interviews, ELTs’ course assignments and written responses to student writing samples. The data were analyzed inductively, using multiple layers of coding, theme identification, and relational analysis.

The findings indicate that ELTs progressed from offering decontextualized reactions to lexical and syntactic issues (e.g., correcting errors, calling for a wider vocabulary) to providing feedback aimed at strengthening meaning in a text. Specifically, ELTs were able to identify students’ ineffectual register choices for constructing texts relevant to specific genres and writing tasks, and offer linguistically-precise guidance for improvement. However, since ELTs’ uptake of SFL was highly influenced by their exam-oriented, formalism-informed language education and socialization in Asia, they usually addressed the issue of genre stages in student writing prescriptively. They also emphasized students’ language choices in constructing content (ideational meaning) and managing information flow (textual meaning), while overlooking features of voice (interpersonal meaning) in student text.

The study contributes to research and practice of L2 writing teacher education by providing empirical information regarding the opportunities and challenges of using SFL to support Asian ELTs’ professional development in responding to student writing.

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