Transfer from English for Academic Purposes to Disciplinary Modules

Monbec, Laetitia (2019). Transfer from English for Academic Purposes to Disciplinary Modules. EdD thesis The Open University.

Abstract

Transfer has been defined as learning in one context impacting performance in another context and is considered a priority aim for education. Transfer is critical for English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programmes in tertiary settings and yet it remains poorly understood. Research into EAP transfer rarely explores how transfer operates in various disciplinary contexts, and mostly focusses on students’ general perceptions of this transfer rather than on textual evidence. This study investigated transfer operated by twelve participants from a Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL)/Genre informed English for General Academic Purposes (EGAP) module to Life Science, Maths, Chemistry, and Engineering modules. The methods involved a triangulated perspective addressing students’ perception of transfer, textual evidence of transfer and the discipline lecturer’s evaluation of an assignment. Student texts from the EAP module and the discipline were analysed using a broad SFL framework; semi-structured interviews with the participants were conducted and analysed with a multi-framework approach, including Legitimation Code Theory and SFL. Results indicate that an SFL/Genre approach to EGAP course design impacts transfer positively by making linguistic resources visible to the students and enabling them to analyse and make appropriate language decisions in the new contexts of their discipline. Most participants applied their EAP knowledge judiciously in the disciplinary writing context. Results also reveal that not all knowledge was transferred equally; moreover, three of the twelve participants reported minimal transfer. Further analysis of the interview data showed that students’ dispositions towards knowledge in the EAP module may play a role in transfer. Beyond investigating transfer from an SFL/Genre EAP module, the thesis, therefore, also revisits the notion that motivation is an important factor in transfer and proposes a deeper orientation to disciplinary knowledge structures and the concept of affiliation as a more satisfactory explanation for a lack of transfer

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