Enhancing the development of students’ disciplinary discourse and content learning in science and engineering through a focus on writing: a comparison between approaches at a Swedish and a UK university.
Paper in proceeding, 2017

An Erasmus funded collaboration between Chalmers University and Queen Mary University of London in 2016, involving a one‐week visit by Queen Mary disciplinary and Learning Development/Thinking Writing staff to Chalmers, enabled us to share practices and approaches in how we support the development of students’ disciplinary discourse in science and engineering. In Queen Mary, a funded project known as The Whole Programme Approach to Writing Development has been focusing on two degree programmes, Mechanical Engineering and Electronic Engineering and Computer Science. The objective of the project is to investigate writing development across the three years of the programmes and support innovations that build engineering discourse along a more coherent trajectory. At Chalmers, there is a long tradition of developing disciplinary discourse at the level of entire educational programmes. Given that many students start on a BSc‐programme and continue onto an associated MSc, the ‘programme’ at Chalmers allows for a five‐year sequenced progression for a majority of the students. There are also a number of students (25%) who enter at the level of the MSc and consequently experience less of the sequenced progression. Since the BSc section of the programmes is delivered in Swedish and the MSc is delivered in English, the whole programme approach at Chalmers also needs to negotiate issues of transferring from L1 to ESL or EFL. The different engineering programmes, therefore, exemplify different degrees of EMI and some provide more integrated disciplinary discourse development than others. The symposium will be organised in the form of a dialogue between the two universities to draw out significant parallels and differences, and how these have been addressed. The dialogue is framed by three interrelated conceptual configurations: disciplinary practices, contexts, and multimodal texts. Our engagement with these configurations is influenced by our educational philosophies or theories; the pedagogical approaches we encounter or use and find to be effective with specialists or students; and the multimodal artefacts and practices of students and specialists we encounter in the various programmes. Drawing on experience in our respective contexts and using joint concept mapping to visualise our activities, we will offer some of the approaches we have adopted (e.g. social semiotics; constructive alignment; research‐based learning, genre‐based writing instruction; writing‐to‐learn; and concept mapping) to explore how they are used in strategic mixes within the various programmes. In our practices, we find our focus shifting between the three configurations of practices, contexts and texts, sometimes emphasising artefacts, sometimes practices, sometimes students, sometimes specialists/lecturers, and sometimes the development of educational material and resources. We hope to be able to present the audience possible ways towards implementing a whole programme approach at their respective institutions. However, we also want to highlight the challenges we face and how we are currently addressing them. Discussion questions: How do your experiences of developing students’ disciplinary discourses and content learning compare with the ones you have heard about in the presentations? Do the three broad perspectives of practices, contexts, and texts and the theories and approaches referred to help in articulating your experience?


Andreas Eriksson

Chalmers, Applied Information Technology (Chalmers), Language and Communication

Magnus Gustafsson

Chalmers, Applied Information Technology (Chalmers), Language and Communication

Julian Ingle

James Donohue

9th Conference of the European Association for the Teaching of Academic Writing (EATAW),

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