Learning from lecturers: What disciplinary practice can teach us about ‘good’ student writing

Leedham, Maria (2015). Learning from lecturers: What disciplinary practice can teach us about ‘good’ student writing. In: Lillis, Theresa; Harrington, Kathy; Lea, Mary and Mitchell, Sally eds. Working with Academic Literacies: Case Studies Towards Transformative Practice. Perspectives on writing. Fort Collins, Colorado: The WAC Clearinghouse and Parlor Press, pp. 163–174.

URL: http://wac.colostate.edu/books/lillis/chapter12.pd...


This study brings together the methodology of corpus linguistics and the framing of academic literacies in an exploration of Chinese and British students’ undergraduate assignments in UK universities. I consider how student writing, particularly that of non-native speakers (NNSs),1 is traditionally framed as deficient writing within corpus linguistics, and discuss how an academic literacies approach challenges this assumption.

One finding revealed through the analysis is the Chinese students’ significantly higher use of tables, figures, images (collectively termed “visuals”), formulae and writing in lists, in comparison with the British students’ writing, and the chapter provides data on this from Economics, Biology, and Engineering. Detailed exploration of individual assignments in Engineering together with interview data from lecturers in the three disciplines suggests that high use of visuals, formulae, and lists rather than writing mainly in connected prose is a different, yet equally acceptable, means of producing successful assignments. This is in marked contrast to the usual focus within English for Academic Purposes (EAP) classes on traditional essays written in continuous prose. In this paper I argue that writing teachers could usefully draw on an academic literacies approach as a way to expand their ideas of what constitutes “good” student writing and to transform their pedagogical practice in a way that recognizes student diversity rather than deficit.

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