Plenary Talk NFEAP 2021: Setting the stage(s) for research writing - Actors, audiences, and learning the craft
Other conference contribution, 2021
The stage is an apt metaphor for how the EAP community has come to understand research-based writing: scholarly writers are actors, performing genres to disciplinary audiences who have expectations based on familiarity with those genres and the recurrent rhetorical contexts in which they operate. Research writing is of course a textual practice, but it is also inherently social, with both cognitive and affective dimensions. As such, another intriguing facet of stage and its relationship to genre is the series of stages of writer development – how the writer acquires the ability to perform and have agency across rhetorically recurrent situations. The aim of our talk today is to bring new insights to our understanding of these “stages” by presenting a data set derived from a metacognitive scaffolding task completed by a group of doctoral students in the sciences. The task was designed to foreground primarily social facets of writing: writing as genre performance on a specific stage, for a specific audience and as a form of situated, purposeful communication against the backdrop of the current knowledge within a field. Further, the task foregrounded writing as a form of development towards a self-directed, agentive and possibly creative adaptation of one’s authorial choices. On the basis of this new data and our previous research, we present three main arguments: first, we show that a straightforward disciplinary framing of research-based writing is not reflective of the hybridised, fluid and multidisciplinary audiences that our students write for; second, given their complex writing contexts, we argue that students need support in recognising this complexity and in developing rhetorical adroitness in order to write effectively; and third, we call for deeper engagement with well-established theories of learning such as self-regulation and metacognition so that EAP teachers and researchers can design tasks that investigate and promote student learning, and that encompass the social, cognitive and affective dimensions of genre performance.