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Introduction Controversies in Second Language Writing: Dilemmas and Decisions in Research and Instruction (henceforth Controversies) is a book designed to help L2 writing teachers make informed decisions in their writing classes and build a knowledge base for conducting research on L2 writing . It is not a “how-to-teach” book but a book about thinking, reading, and reflecting. In both the broad field of education and the specific field of second language education, there is great interest in how novice and experienced teachers make decisions in their classrooms . This question can be approached in many ways, and in this book I focus on just one of these: that of how teachers in L2 writing can be helped to make reasoned decisions by understanding some of the key issues and conflicting opinions about L2 writing research and pedagogy. By reviewing some of the controversies that have influenced how we conceptualize and teach writing to multilingual learners in school contexts, I hope in this book to help current and future L2 writing teachers make informed decisions in their own ESL/ EFL classrooms. The controversies pertain to both L1 and L2 writing and include questions about the incompatibility of fluency and accuracy , the contrastive rhetoric debate, the process-product debate, ways to assess improvement, the purpose and value of different kinds of feedback and error correction on writing, the argument about the value of explicit teaching of genres versus situated practice, issues of audience and plagiarism, and the dilemma of helping marginalized or disempowered writers accommodate or resist the way language is used in dominant cultures. Many of these debates among writing scholars remain unresolved or unresolvable. Still, because they deal with issues that L2 writing instructors face on a daily basis, novices as well as seasoned professionals in both foreign and second language settings must act on them in some way. Reviewing the scholarly arguments will help teachers take a reasoned position on them within the realities of their own classrooms and in light of their own underlying beliefs and assumptions about teaching and learning. The discussions in this book, in short, are intended to help writing teachers become both more knowledgeable and more reflective about the decisions they make in their teaching as well as more aware of their agency as decision makers in their own settings. The stance I take in this book is that some of the debates that have characterized our field set up false dichotomies but that they should not be dismissed for this reason. The processproduct debate is a clear example of such a false dichotomy that still merits thoughtful discussion by L2 writing teachers. There can be no product without a process for getting there, and there can be no process without some kind of resulting product, even if that product is a shopping list or an application form. Teachers, therefore, in good conscience, cannot ignore either but can choose to focus more on one than the other for pedagogical purposes (or may be forced to do so by curricular mandates) and can help students understand that the two sides of this particular coin cannot be separated. Reviewing this particular debate will also help teachers recognize that other aspects of writing, such as social and political factors, complicate the apparent dichotomy of process and product (see the 2003 special issue of the Journal of Second Language Writing [12(1)], “L2 Writing in the Post-process Era”). Another example comes from genre studies and contrastive rhetoric. Here arguments persist about whether genres are most usefully seen as primarily formal and textual regularities that are specific to particular cultures or as social and disciplinary phenomena enacted in texts and whether students benefit from explicit teaching of genres as opposed to learning them in situ. 2 Controversies in Second Language Writing The picture is not black-and-white, nor is the argument fully resolvable, given the legitimacy of multiple views and goals. A third example of false dichotomies can be seen in the debate between pragmatist and critical approaches to EAP (English for Academic Purposes). This debate pits teachers who believe their main job is to teach L2 students functional writing skills against those who hope to encourage students to develop a critical awareness of the political and ideological aspects of their writing tasks and possibly contribute to social change. Other controversies in the field have been similarly falsely dichotomized, giving novice teachers in particular the message that they should make either-or decisions in their teaching, that...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780472029815
Related ISBN
9780472089796
MARC Record
OCLC
844924476
Pages
264
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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