Understanding academic writing practices in Malaysian university classrooms

Che Mat, Nur (2020) Understanding academic writing practices in Malaysian university classrooms. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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My study seeks to understand students’ experiences of academic practices in the higher education context in Malaysia. Adopting an ethnographic case study approach, I explore undergraduate students’ academic writing practices, their second language (L2) writing approaches and the challenges they encounter when writing in the university. As an insider researcher, I collected data over an academic semester in a public university in Malaysia through semi structured interviews, classroom observations, audio recording of the interviews and documentary analysis. My research participants were ten university students from three different disciplines and three academic writing teachers participating in the mandatory academic writing courses.

Applying a framework based on conceptual debates and insights from Academic Literacies (AcLits) and approaches grounded in Sociocultural Theory, I explore how student writers conceptualize two transitions in terms of academic writing practices: from writing at school to writing at university and from English as a second language (ESL) to English used as medium of instruction (EMI). I also examine how student writers shape power relations, authority and identities in relation to writing in the new discourse community where group work is the main writing modality in academic writing courses. Significantly, the dilemma of power relations between less proficient and better writer has an impact of power relations on student writing. In identifying and working towards common goals in the university writing classrooms, the hierarchic power relationships were backgrounded. Here, student writers demonstrated individual motivation, self-expression and responsibility.

The findings show that in a university context where English is used as medium of instruction, student writers navigate the new writing context by bringing in their past writing experience from school. Student writers grapple with the question, how do you write in the university, firstly by making sense of their existing skills and strategies they bring from their school experience, using these to ‘cross the bridge’ to academic writing in the university. As student writers make sense of what is academic writing or writing in the university, the transition also involves a change in writing identity. My findings show that as novice writers improve by modelling the successful characteristics of other group members who they view as better writers, their identity as L2 writer undergoes a change.

The study also shows tensions in the feedback processes between both student writers and their academic writing teachers and between peers, and how power relations and authority are involved in learning to write in the university context. In this, my study contributes to extending insights not only on how undergraduate students address the transition from school to university but also, given the increasing dominance of English in academia, the transition from ESL to EMI.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Education and Lifelong Learning
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2020 09:09
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2020 09:09
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/77862


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