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Monday, 17 April 2017

Investigating the learning transfer of genre features and conceptual knowledge from an academic literacy course to business studies: Exploring the potential of dynamic assessment

This is an article based on my doctoral study. It was published in print in January 2017.

Shrestha, Prithvi N. (2017). Investigating the learning transfer of genre features and conceptual knowledge from an academic literacy course to business studies: Exploring the potential of dynamic assessment. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 25 pp. 1–17.

The abstract and the conclusion are below to sum up what the paper is about. The full article can be accessed via The Open University repository here. Due to copyright restrictions, you need to request a copy following the instructions provided there.


Abstract


Academic literacy courses aim to enable higher education students to participate in their chosen academic fields as fully as possible. However, the extent to which these students transfer the academic skills taught in these courses to their chosen disciplines is still under-researched. This article reports on a study that investigated the potential of dynamic assessment (an assessment approach that blends instruction into assessment) in the transfer of genre features and conceptual knowledge among undergraduate business studies students in a UK public university. The data includes three students’ written assignments (N = nine), interviews (N = three) and business studies tutor (N = three) feedback. Drawing on Vygotskian sociocultural theory of learning and a genre theory based on Systemic Functional Linguistics, the data were analysed. The findings suggest that dynamic assessment may contribute to the transfer of genre features and conceptual knowledge to a new assessment context. Implications of this for academic literacy instruction and assessment design are presented.


Conclusion



The goal of this paper was to explore the value of DA in transferring students' academic writing skills and conceptual knowledge from one AL assessment task to a new context of undergraduate business studies. For this purpose, DA was operationalised as a method of instruction and assessment. SFL genre theory was applied to examine the independent learner performance regarding the case study analysis genre schema, macro-Themes and hyper-Themes which were identified as problematic in DA1. Additionally, the students' capacity to make ideational meaning was tracked through their DA and TA texts. Feuerstein's (Feuerstein et al., 2002) notion of far transferwas applied to examine the aforementioned aspects in the
student assessment texts. 
The findings suggest that DA may contribute to the transfer of learning. In this study, the transfer of using generic stages, macro-Themes and hyper-Themes, and conceptual knowledge of these and business studies concepts appeared to take place in the TA texts albeit differently for each of the three participants. They seemed to be able to transfer genre features, or show their awareness as in Cheng (2007), and conceptual knowledge to their TA although one student, Natasha, appeared to be the most successful. These students' (except Natasha) reconstrual of their conceptual knowledge was not as successful as their academic writing skills (i.e., genre, macro-Themes and hyper-Themes). This suggests that writing and conceptual development is a lengthy process that may benefit from a greater amount of mediation, learner motivation and commitment.
Additionally, various other factors may have influenced these studentstransfer of learning such as time and business module materials.
This paper contributes to the growing body of AL research that uses SFL and sociocultural theory as frameworks. However, in terms of studies on learning transfer in the field of AL, these two frameworks do not seem to have been employed together despite them being robust tools. Future studies in learning transfer in AL may find them valuable tools.
As this study is limited to three students only, a larger study may be built on this one in order to evaluate DA's contribution to students' ability to transfer genre features and conceptual knowledge to their chosen disciplinary areas. The same methodology used in this study may also be deployed for ESP programme evaluation which seems to be under-researched
(Tsou & Chen, 2014).

References

Cheng, A. (2007). Transferring generic features and recontextualizing genre awareness: Understanding writing performance in the ESP genre-based literacy framework. English for Specific Purposes, 26(3), 287e307. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.esp.2006.12.002.
Feuerstein, R., Falik, L. H., Rand, Y., & Feuerstein, R. S. (2002). The dynamic assessment of cognitive modifiability: The learning propensity assessment device: Theory, instruments and techniques (Revised ed.). Jerusalem: ICELP Press.
Tsou, W., & Chen, F. (2014). ESP program evaluation framework: Description and application to a Taiwanese university ESP program. English for SpecifiPurposes, 33, 39e53. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.esp.2013.07.008.

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