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A concept-based approach to writing instruction from the abstract concept to the concrete performance /

by Ferreira, Marilia Mendes.

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation investigates the development of theoretical thinking, writing improvement and the meaning-making process of ESL freshman composition students in a North-American university and reports an innovative ESL writing course which combined a systemic-functional linguistics view of genre and an activity-based pedagogy entitled “the movement from the abstract to the concrete”. The course designed for this dissertation aimed to develop students’ theoretical thinking through a theoretical conceptualization of genre, to improve their writing and to promote their meaning-making processes. The course comprised of three units that taught the genres of announcements, cover letters and argumentative texts to 14 ESL students, who were mainly from Asia and from Central America. To investigate their development of theoretical thinking, students’ models of genre, their answers to problem-solving tasks, and their answers to the problem situation question of the course were analyzed. Out of the 14 students who had their theoretical thinking investigated, 6 students had their pre-tests and post-tests on cover letters and argumentative texts analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively. The qualitative analysis focused on the moves performed by the students while the quantitative analysis ran the Wilcoxon Ranks Test in the scores assigned by raters to the tests. The meaningmaking process of the 14 students were grasped by the content analysis of the logs they kept during the course. The instructor asked them to comment about what they learned and their impressions about the course. iv The analyses of the data indicate that: a) students thought mainly empirically and occasionally revealed some signs of theoretical thinking; b) the students significantly improved in writing cover letters but not argumentative texts; c) overall students improved in some aspect or another in both genres but most of them did not abandon the five-paragraph format; d) most of the students did not actively engage in making sense of the course and when they did so, their perceptions were highly affected by their past educational experiences. This dissertation highlights the need for education to focus more on the development of theoretical thinking and to engage students in more meaningful meaningmaking processes, where they could engage actively in dealing with the dialectical relationship of personal senses and external meanings. This study also offers insights to the following areas: genre-based instruction, the application of the ‘movement from the abstract to the concrete’, and to writing assessment. This study also suggests potential contributions of sociocultural/activity theories to Applied Linguistics.
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School:Pennsylvania State University

School Location:USA - Pennsylvania

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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