The Effect of System-Nested, Genre-Oriented, Structurally-Mediated Writing Instruction on Academic Writing Motivation of Iranian EFL Learners

Document Type: Original Article

Authors

1 Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Department of English Language, Faculty of Humanity and Social Sciences, Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran

2 Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Department of English Language, Faculty of Humanity and Social Sciences, Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran.

3 Department of English Language, Garmsar Branch, Islamic Azad University, Iran.

Abstract

The present study set out to investigate the effect of a newly-developed model of writing instruction in comparison with Swalesian genre approach, and the traditionally-favored product-oriented approach on Academic Writing Motivation of Iranian EFL learners. The devised model was called System-Nested, Genre-Oriented, Structurally-Mediated Model of Writing Instruction. Next, with a quasi-experimental design, three groups of learners received writing instruction via traditionally-favored product-oriented approach (N = 8), Swales’ genre-based approach (N = 8), and the newly-developed model (N = 7). The participants received an academic writing motivation questionnaire prior and subsequent to their treatments as pretest and posttest. The results of ANCOVA revealed that the participants in the newly developed model group outperformed the other two groups on the posttest of writing motivation. Additionally, the learners in the Swalesian genre approach group performed significantly better than those in the product-oriented approach group. Language teachers are encouraged to incorporate the system-nested, genre-oriented, structurally-mediated model of writing instruction or other genre-based models to improve learners’ academic writing motivation.

Keywords

Main Subjects


Introduction

Motivation plays a vital role in learning a foreign language and it is an imperative component of successful language acquisition (Dörnyei, 2001a; Kikuchi, 2009). Likewise, Dörnyei (1994) maintains that motivation has a marked effect on learning different language skills and components. Writing in general and academic writing in particular are considered to be the main language skills and have been the focus of many recent studies (Al-Khatib, 2017; Alipanahi, 2015; Bonyadi, 2014; Kennelly, 2017; khodabakhshzadeh & Samadi, 2018; Lai, 2015; Melissourgoua & Frantzi, 2015; Nova, 2018; Tabatabaei & Radi, 2012). Writing is one of the most complex language skills as it makes a great amount of cognitive demands on the writer (Rivard & Straw, 2000). This holds true even when first language (L1) writing is the focus and practicing writing in a foreign language context can be even more challenging and complicated (Paltridge, 1993). According to Nova (2018), general writing in a foreign language is a challenge for EFL learners let alone academic writing.  Thus, instructors should make attempts to improve the motivation of the learners to assist them in becoming more efficient and effective academic writers. Writing motivation is regarded as an important aspect of the writing process and has been explored in numerous studies (Aryanika, 2016; Chuikova, 2015; Lin, Cheng, & Lin, 2014; Rafii, 2017; Troia, Harbaugh, Shankland, Wolbers, & Lawrence, 2013).

To enhance motivation, as Noels (2001) maintains, three psychological needs must be addressed: “(1) a sense of competency achieved through seeking out and overcoming challenges; (2) autonomy; (3) relatedness – being connected to and esteemed by others belonging to a larger social whole” (p. 54). Richards (1993) consider personal causation, interest and enjoyment as key constituents of motivation. Oldfather and West (1999) also maintain that to motivate learners, they must be provided with “ample opportunities for social interaction and self-expression” (p. 16).

Considering all the above-mentioned factors which contribute to the generation and enhancement of motivation, the authors of the present study believe that a system-nested model of writing instruction which aims to familiarize the EFL student-writers with generic decisions and structural choices system experts make, can significantly influence learners’ degree of motivation. In what follows, first the components of the developed model is going to be introduced briefly, and then the procedure of its application will be presented.

Writing in any activity system is shaped and also shapes the system and contributes to its development (Russell, 2009). Writing has a vital role in and among the various systems of activity (Russell, 1995); however, its true contextualized nature has not been fully appreciated and addressed by educational experts, curriculum developers, syllabus designers, and writing instructors in the Iranian context of English Language Teaching (ELT). To practice writing in a contextualized mode, one of the possible options which can be adopted is Genre-Based Instruction (GBI) (Hyland, 2007).

Once a literary construct, genre is nowadays regarded as a voguish framework to analyze the formal as well as functional properties of non-literary discourse (Hyon, 1996). Genre, today, is one of the most important and most influential concepts in language education which has resulted in a radical paradigm shift in the realms of language and literacy studies (Johns, 2002). In view of its complexity and fast-growing nature, genre can mean differently to different people, or different people might build different understandings of it (Hyon, 1996). Searching the literature in the domain of genre-analytic studies reveals that three broad approaches to genre have been adopted, and each of these research traditions has trodden a disparate theoretical and pedagogical path (Hyon, 1996; Johns, 2002):

  • · Sydney School in Australia: Systemic Functional Linguistics
  • · North American Composition Context: New Rhetoric, and
  • · English for Specific Purposes

What creates the core of unity among these three approaches is that they all reject the conceptions of language and language instruction as a purely behavioral and psycholinguistic process (Gebhard & Harman, 2011). However, the difference among these three approaches can be ascribed to three different reasons: First, the educational context in which they have been applied, second, their intellectual roots, and third, the weight they give to either text or context (Hyland, 2004).

The Australian model of genre arose out of a mainstream theory of linguistics called Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) developed by Michael Halliday (Halliday, 1994; Halliday & Hasan, 1989) and is consistent with its theoretical framework. SFL, principally, enquires into motivated associations between language and its functions within social contexts (Hyon, 1996). In this school of linguistics, the form of language is believed to be shaped through three key components of any social context including field (the activity going on), tenor (the relationships between participants), and mode (the channel of communication), and these three elements jointly build the register of language (Halliday, 1994; Halliday & Hasan, 1989).

Another genre model which appeared in mid 80s is the New Rhetoric (NR). The roots of NR can be traced back to the works and ideas of Bakhtin (1986) and the post-structural conceptions of language and also the works of linguistic anthropologists like Heath (1983). Although this perspective on genre considerably differs from SFL, it sheds some light on some appealing issues for instructors regarding the practical classroom application of genre pedagogies. SFL and New Rhetoric (NR) both bear the importance of context and the social nature of genres in mind; however, what distinguishes NR from SFL is its adherence to Bakhtin’s notion of dialogism (Hyland, 2004). In this view, genre is rendered as a “flexible, plastic, and free” (Bakhtin, 1986, p. 79) process, which, to some extent, enjoys regularities and conventions. Adopting such a perspective, advocates of NR emphasize the dynamic quality of genres and consider them as “stabilized-for-now” forms of action (Martin, 1994, p. 24). In other words, genres might develop and exhibit variations in response to the actions they are required to accomplish under various conditions (Miller, 1994).

One more genre model which has emerged in line with the developments in the field of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) is the ESP model of Genre. The target population of ESP genre analysis is different from the SFL and NR. ESP tackles genres “as a tool for understanding and teaching the kinds of writing required of non-native speakers in academic and professional contexts” (Hyland, 2004, p. 43). Developing functional competence in a range of written genres seems to be a grave concern for EFL/ESL learners since such competence increases their chances of accessing job opportunities, positive identities and life choices. In pursuit of such aims, “ESP investigates the structures and meanings of texts, the demands placed on academic or workplace contexts on communicative behaviors, and the pedagogic practices by which these behaviors can be developed” (Hyland, 2004, p. 43). ESP genre analysis, therefore, investigates writing instruction from a cross-cultural perspective which is often missed by SFL and NR theorists and practitioners.

What seems to be shared by the three camps of genre analysis (i.e., Systemic Functional Linguistics, New Rhetoric, and English for Specific Purposes) is the idea of “embeddedness” or “situatedness” of language. That is to say, language is rhetorically/functionally/contextually motivated, and this “motivatedness” is what connects text to context. Context itself has both a broad and a narrow definition. In its broad sense, context is defined in sociocultural and historical terms.  Its narrow sense, however, considers only the immediate context devoid of its wider sociocultural/historical scope (Halliday, 1978).

As a more versatile theory, activity theory can tangibly present context and its elements and depict a detailed picture of the context as a dynamic process in which language/writing is employed as a tool to set the social activity in motion (R. Engeström, 2005; Leont’ev, 2001; Luria, 2005). Given the presumption of the theory that activities are embedded in socio-historical and cultural networks of which specific settings and people’s motives are parts, it has been considered quite comprehensive and effective to instigate heuristic whacks in pedagogical settings (Cole & Engeström, 1993).

As the following figure shows (Figure 1.), the proposed model is made up of five components, which are distinct theoretically. However, in practice, it is not possible to distinguish them. The first component (i.e., context and its ingredients) is considered as the foundation for other components.

Activity System as Context

 

Social Genres:

Swales (1990):

Academic/Professional Genres:

ü Research Articles and its Components

ü Review Papers and its Components

ü Grant Proposals and its Components, etc.

Martin (1984):

Everyday Social Genres

ü Letters

ü Greeting Cards

ü News Program Stories

ü Wedding, Graduation or Special Event Invitation, etc.

 

Social Genre/Cognitive Genre Categorization

Bruce’s (2008) Classification

Cognitive genres:

Eclectic Cognitive Genres:

ü Report

ü Recount

ü Narrative

ü Procedure

ü Explanation

ü Argument

ü Response

ü Discussion

 

Inter-Clausal Relations

Nicholas (1994):

Rhetorical Relation Types:

Causal

Additive

Elaborative

ü Enablement

ü Solution

ü Condition

ü Motivation

ü Purpose

ü Justify

ü Evidence

ü Cause

ü Concession

ü Sequence

ü Joint

ü Antithesis

ü Contrast

ü Elaboration

ü Circumstance

ü Background

ü Interpretation

ü Enablement

ü Summary

ü restatement

 

Intra-Clausal Constructions
(Verb Frames & Modulation)

Lotfipour-Saedi (2016):

Thematic Structures:

 

Verb Frames:

Modulators:

Other Constructions:

VF1: X V C

Verbal Modulators

Reporting

VF2:X V

Time and Aspect as Modulators

Negation and Question Markers

VF3:X V Y

Mood or Modal Modulators

Adverbials

VF4: X V Y Z

Passive Voice as Modulator

Etc.

VF5:X V Y C

First Verb in Double-Verb Construction as Modulator

 

VF6:X V Y VC

Fronting as Modulator

 

 

Extraposition as Modulator

 

 

Tag Question as Modulator

 

 

Phrases and Words Acting as Modulators

 

 

 
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1. The Proposed Model

In this model, “Activity Theory” is believed to be a theory which can provide a thorough account of context (Engeström, 1991; Leont’ev, 1978), with activity system as its unit of analysis, which is described as any human interaction which is continuous, object oriented, historically conditioned, dialectically organized, and tool-mediated (Russell, 1995). This system consists of seven inter-connected components, yielding a conceptual map where the complexities of contexts can be adequately represented.

Activity theory as a framework to study ‘whyness’ of an action was first developed by Leont’ev (1978). Having its origins rooted in Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory of learning, which emphasizes the social nature of cognition, this theory adopts a social approach to learning in which the significance of collaborative engagement in activities is brought to the fore. What Vygotsky inaugurated was a model representing how subjects conjointly cooperate towards a goal using mediational tools. Leont’ev, a disciple of Vygotsky, expanded upon his ideas by introducing a new concept called “object of activity” (p. 62). For him, the direction followed in any activity is conditioned by its object. In other words, the very existence of an activity is believed to be contingent on its particular object within a particular situation to which it attempts to respond. Michael Cole and Yrjo Engestrom, two prolific scholars in the realm of activity theory, have expounded how the use of systems can create an in-depth understanding of activity: analyzing a system “provides a conceptual map to the major loci among which human cognition is distributed”, and demonstrates that besides subjects there exist other people who must be taken into account “as constituents of human activity systems” (p. 8). Despite their outward stability, a more rigorous scrutiny of such systems reveals constant transitions and reorganizations within and among them, which is indicative of their built-in dynamicity. What Cole and Engeström (1993) rightly contend as a conclusion to their scholarly discussion is that “activity systems are best viewed as complex formations in which equilibrium is an exception and tensions, disturbances, and local innovations are the rule and the engine of change” (p. 8). Following Cole and Engestrom, Russell (1995) defines activity system as “any ongoing, object directed, historically conditioned, dialectically structured, tool-mediated human interaction” (p. 510). Conventionally, an activity system is made up of the following components (See Figure 2):

 

Figure 2. Adapted from Cole and Engeström (1993, p. 37) Model of an Activity System

As it is visually represented in Figure 2., “activity is communal, constrained by rules and divisions of labor, directed toward outcomes, and mediated by tools” (Kain & Wardle, 2005, p. 120).

In the system-based view of context advocated here, there seems to be no limit to the scope context can cover. It enjoys the three features of dynamicity, continuity and adaptability. Contextual knowledge is not restricted to one locus. It is rather believed that context is dealt out among the agents participating in the system. In this perspective, context is believed to be a negotiated concept which can be collectively constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed. However, expert agents, occupying a wide range of positions, seem to be the crowned heads of the system in that their views, beliefs, and context interpretations are mindfully emulated by others acting/working in their related domains. However, context dynamicity acts as an impediment on the way preventing arrivistes from blindly imitating what is taken to be conventionally approved since conventions are on the move changing in response to the system needs and goals. System-based view of context seems to be both integrative and interactional. It is claimed to be integrative since it integrates intrinsic and extrinsic elements to deliver a comprehensive picture of context, and it is said to be interactional as context is presumed to be the outcome of the dynamic interactions between intrinsic and extrinsic elements.

In a system-based context, autonomy is claimed to be a relative concept in that nothing in a system does exist in a vacuum. In any given system, there exist many factors (both intrinsic and extrinsic) whose dynamic relations and interactions can affect any tools and objects used/produced in that system. Context, therefore, is a relational phenomenon resulting from the interplay between and among a multitude of human and non-human elements. In a nutshell, context is claimed to be the outcome of co-being, and co-becoming of a horde of intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

However, context is considered as an important but inadequate component in a genre model should such a model provide an exhaustive account of genre. To improve the model, linguistic/formal characteristics of a genre need to be taken into account as well. Thus, in the proposed model, efforts are made to indicate how activity system/context, genre, and text can be meaningfully inter-connected by incorporating some genre and linguistic theories into the model.

In stage one, social genre/cognitive genre classification proposed by Bruce (2008) is incorporated as it is viewed as one of the most inclusive classifications developed so far. Martin’s (1987, 1992), and Swales’ (1990) genre approaches are drawn on for purposes of characterizing social genres. Yet, cognitive genres are described by adopting an eclectic genre taxonomy which consists of eight genre types (report, recount, narrative, procedure, explanation, argument, response, and discussion). They are defined and described with respect to their commonly-repeated rhetorical pattering. The major rationale to adopt both social and cognitive genres in the proposed model emanates from the belief that student-writers can better know how a text is communicatively produced as long as they are provided with an opportunity to consciously attend to both genres simultaneously as inclusive parts of a textual phenomenon.

Following the genre stage, learners have to be helped to learn the rhetorical connections between sentences in a paragraph as a macro-structure in a text. To account for these rhetorical connections, Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST) is included into the model. The adoption of RST is aimed at explaining how text coherence can be discoursally accomplished. This theory clearly sheds light on the issue of text coherence by characterizing texts as hierarchically connected structures, with each of them having a role or function to carry out with respect to other text parts (Taboada & Mann, 2006).

For pedagogical purposes, the proposed model was extended even further by adding another component to it. The added component aimed to effectively describe how T-unit constructions are informationally organized in a text. To this end, Lotfipour-Saedi’s (2016) discoursal approach was used, based on which the types and textual forms used within the boundary of text-contained T-units are functionally taken into account. T-unit, according to Lotfipour-Saedi (2015),

refers to the piece of text occurring between two full-stops. It normally contains one finite verb, having superordinate relationship with any other possible finite verbs which may exist in the unit. It may also carry more than one finite verb having coordinating relationship with one another. A text, which represents an underlying discourse, is characterized to be made up of a set of hierarchically organized theme-rheme units (cf. Candlin & Lotfipour-Saedi, 1983). But this hierarchy should be linearly presented in the actual surface text. T-units play a crucial role in linearizing this hierarchy” (p. 5).

In the studies conducted in the realm of discourse analysis, the ultimate goal is to disinter the discoursal value of disparate textual choices. In other words, discourse analysts spare no effort to discover how textual forms “contribute to the overall function of a text as an interface between the discourse producer and discourse receiver” (Lotfipour-Saedi, 2015, p. 5). This being the case, exploring the organizational properties of a T-unit in order to uncover the discoursal function of its embedded textual choices is presumed to be of considerable significance.

In this discoursal approach, the functional configuration of a T-unit is to be explained, and T-unit configuration, as stated by Lotfipour-Saedi (2015), refers to the “decisions concerning what to be included within the boundaries of a T-unit, and all the variations in such decisions, which are motivated by the factors in the context of situation …” (p. 5).
T-units, therefore, are described in terms of how they can vary from each other within the boundary of a text. Such variations, called “aspects”, include “length or number of words, number of clauses and the type of relationship among them, whether super-ordinating or coordinating one (hypotactic or paratactic), lexical density, use of connections, etc.” (Lotfipour-Saedi, 2015, p. 5). These aspects are thoroughly discussed in Lotfipour-Saedi (2015).

In his discoursal approach, Lotfipour-Saedi (2016), classified all English verbs into six verb frames (VFs) each of which is described in terms of the number and types of components (subject, object, complement) it can possess. The VFs are as follows:

(VF1)     X         V         C

               e.g. John is a teacher.

(VF2)     X         V

               e.g. John arrived.

(VF3)     X         V         Y

               e.g. John ate and apple.

(VF4)       X       V         Y         Z

               e.g. John gave Marry a book.

(VF5)     X         V         Y         C

               e.g. John put the book on the table.

(VF6)     X         V         Y         VC

               e.g. John had his car repaired.

In the VFs above:

‘C’ stands for ‘complement’ which can be a noun, an adjective, or a prepositional phrase functioning as an adverbial.

‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ stand for ‘subject’, ‘direct object’ and ‘indirect object’.

Verbs used in VF6 fall under four types represented by verbs ‘allow’, ‘let’, ‘see’ and ‘have’, and

‘VC’ stands for ‘verbal complement’ < a verb completing the meaning of the main verb in the same VF >, which assumes the form of ‘to + infinitive’, ‘infinitive without to’, ‘present participle’, and ‘past participle’ respectively.

Lotfipour-Saedi believes that whenever a sentence is formulated, the producer takes position towards the VF or the message he/she produces. The producer’s position or viewpoint towards a VF creates a new layer of sentence meaning which he calls “verbal-modulator” (VM) (Lotfipour-Saedi, 2016). This dimension of language function is discussed under several headings by different scholars: hedging, meta-text, and meta-discourse (Crismore, 1987), interpersonal function (Halliday, 1970), and meta-textual and meta-discoursal strategies (Lotfipour-Saedi, 2005). To enrich his discoursal approach, Lotfipour-Saedi (2016) introduced various types of verbal modulators writers opt for to show their sense of obligation and inclination. The list of what he considered as verbal modulator is given in the table below:

 

 

 

 

 

Table 1. List of Modulators adapted from Lotfipour-Saedi (2016)

Modulators:

ü Verbal Modulators

ü Time and Aspect as Modulators

ü Mood or Modal Modulators

ü Passive Voice as Modulator

ü First Verb in Double-Verb Construction as Modulator

ü Fronting as Modulator

ü Extraposition as Modulator

ü Tag Question as Modulator

ü Phrases and Words Acting as Modulators

 

To enrich his model, he also provided detailed explanation of some other constructions (e.g. reporting, negation and question makers, adverbials, etc.). All these constructions were functionally explicated so that they are perceived as functional units in the linear formulation of the underlying discourse process.

The authors of the paper, following Lotfipour-Saedi, believe that, consciously attending to the structural configurations of T-units as functional units in a text, can raise learners’ awareness of the rhetorical arrangement of English sentence writing. This awareness will expectedly be applied into practice by the learners when they get engaged in the process of text production.

The authors of the present article believe that the proposed model can be pedagogically more successful than the other models so far employed in the writing programs in Iran. And one reason behind this success is claimed to be due to the enhancement of motivation this model brings about. This claim, however, needs to be experimentally confirmed. To do so, it was applied to one of the writing classes in which MA students of TEFL participated in order to learn how to write an academic paper. In the rest of this paper, the procedure of instruction, data collection, and the results will be reported. After developing the model, the purpose of the present study was to answer the following research questions:

RQ1: Does the employment of the newly-developed genre model have any statistically significant effect on the writing motivation of EFL learners in Iran compared with the control group?

RQ2: Does the employment of Swalesian genre-based instruction have any statistically significant effect on the writing motivation of EFL learners in Iran compared with the control group?

RQ3: Is there any significant difference between the effects of the newly-developed genre model and Swalesian genre-based instruction on writing motivation of EFL learners in Iran?

 

Methodology

Participants

The sample of this study consisted of twenty-five Iranian graduates who hold MA in TEFL from Islamic Azad University, Sanandaj Branch. Both male and female participants participated in the study, with their ages ranging from 25 to 33. These participants were selected randomly, using Morgan’s formula with confidence level of 95%. Following the administration of a test of homogeneity (OPT), along with the application of the stem and leaf plot, the analysis of scores yielded two outliers. The other 23 participants were randomly categorized into the following three groups: Control (N = 8), Treatment 1 (N = 8) and Treatment 2 (N = 7).

The control group was taught, using conventional product-oriented method; Treatment 1 group was taught by adopting Swalesian approach while the participants in Treatment 2 group were taught, using the developed model of writing instruction.

 

Instruments

To collect the required data for conducting different stages of the research, two instruments were used: (a) Oxford Placement Test, and (b) Writing motivation questionnaire. Moreover, a set of heuristic questions and tasks based on the content of instruction were presented to participants of the Treatment 2 group to be completed at different stages of the treatment.

 

Oxford Placement Test (OPT)

Oxford Placement Test (Allen, 2004) was administered to make sure that the group selected for the study was relatively homogeneous regarding L2 proficiency to remove any possible effects higher levels of proficiency might have on the students’ motivation. It included 200 items, measuring the skills of listening, grammar, vocabulary and reading.

 

Academic Writing Motivation Questionnaire (AWMQ) (Payne, 2012)

To test how the newly-developed model affects participants’ academic writing motivation, Payne’s (2012) Academic Writing Motivation Questionnaire (AWMQ) was employed. Cronbach's alpha, a coefficient of reliability, was used to measure the internal consistency of the Academic Writing Motivation Questionnaire by Payne (2012). The reliability analysis yielded a coefficient alpha of .95, which is considered excellent. This questionnaire was administered to the three groups as pretest and posttest prior and subsequent to the treatments.

 

Heuristic Questions

In different stages of instruction, learners were given some questions which intended to trigger negotiated responses. For instance, while addressing the issue of system as context, the following questions were posed:

  • · What sort of activity is TESOL? (ACTIVITY)
  • · Who is involved in carrying out TESOL? (SUBJECTS)
  • · By what means are the subjects carrying out TESOL? (TOOLS)
  • · Why is TESOL taking place? (OBJECT)
  • · What is the desired outcome of TESOL? (OUTCOME)
  • · Are there any disciplinary norms, rules and regulations governing the performance of TESOL? (RULES)
  • · What is the environment in which TESOL is being carried out? (COMMUNITY)
  • · Who is responsible for what, when carrying out TESOL, and how are the roles organized? (DIVISION OF LABOR)

 

Treatment Group One

While no particular instructional model was used in the control group, in Treatment 1 group, the authors attempted to follow the dominant genre pedagogy favored in the literature, i.e. Swales’ genre approach. To this aim, in this group, the participants received explicit genre-instruction and students were exposed to different samples of the introduction of research papers and their respective moves in an explicit manner. The teaching cycle comprised of three stages: (1) The instructor modeled the text (i.e., an article introduction). The schematic structure (i.e., Create a Research Space (CARS) model) (Swales, 1990), and linguistic features of the text (i.e., lexico-grammatical features such as verb tenses, discourse markers, etc.) were described through analyzing authentic samples in the class. Enough oral descriptions of such features were provided to direct the participant’s attention to the generic and linguistic features of the sample texts. To do so, the moves of the introduction section of research articles were put on the board and the instructor described and explained each move via providing examples. Following that, the learners were given the introduction section of a research article and asked to identify the moves. Finally, their identified moves were checked as a class. Then, students were asked to follow the schematic structure they observed in the sample introductions and to collaboratively rewrite the introductions.

 

Treatment Group Two

As for Treatment 2 Group, the teacher first required the students to write the introduction section of the article they intended to extract from their theses. This was needed for the following stages of the instruction. Afterwards, he embarked on teaching by asking some exploratory questions regarding the idea of activity system (e.g., What sort of activity is TESOL? What is the desired outcome of TESOL?). This part was aimed at pushing for students’ heuristic curiosity to figure out what they needed to search for in the sessions to come. The participants’ responses were carefully read and discussed in the class. This provided a chance for the observation of the issue from various perspectives, resulting in the achievement of a much broader and more thorough understanding of the system. The participants were also asked to find more informed responses to the questions, using the following ways:

  • · Conducting interview with experienced/informed subjects,
  • · Reading relevant books, handbooks and articles,
  • · Joining on-line discussion groups,
  • · Contacting the system members who have contributed to the system' achievement of aims.

To keep the discussions going, an online Telegram group was formed by the instructor which according to Oldfather and West (1999) can increase chances of interaction and self-expression. A week later, the second class session was held, with all the course members actively sharing their findings in the online group during that week. At the same time, the discussions continued on-line, yielding some conclusions such as the following:

(1) TESOL is considered as a general area of study and research and is aimed at finding efficient ways to facilitate L2 learning and teaching,

(2) As a broad field of study and research, TESOL can be improved through the contribution of a multitude of people.

In the next session, the instructor gave a lecture on the facilitating role context familiarity can have in helping learners to write more effectively. Through his lecture, the instructor sought to concisely and comprehensively describe the components of an activity system (e.g. tools, participants, regulations, community, labor divisions, object, and aims) (see Engeström, 1999 for further information). The teacher related these components to students’ role in determining the success of a text both as an outcome and a tool in the system. In the final part of the session, the participants showed what part of the lecture was most appealing to them and how it contributed to their becoming better writers. Their statements and opinions revealed a higher degree of consciousness and competency which according to Noels (2001) leads to the motivation enhancement.

Moreover, the students were asked to read 3 articles which they had used as references in their theses. The students were asked to show if they were able to trace anything in the articles related to the enquiries already posed regarding TESOL. For more assistance, students were provided with a set of questions in order to help them read the sample articles more attentively. Some examples include:

  • · What is the purpose of the article?
  • · Can you find a pattern in the arrangement of the sections?
  • · If yes, why do you think such a pattern should be followed and repeated?

The observation of the class showed that the students were enthusiastically discussing the questions online during the days of the week, with frequent references made to the activity system in their discussions. These discussions resulted in some informed conclusions such as the following:

(a) An article is likely to set one or a limited number of purposes, all of which are well-established within TESOL. These purposes are also in keeping with the purposes set in the activity system of TESOL, (b) Overall, each article is made up of five to nine sections: Abstract, Introduction, Methodology, Results, Discussion, (Conclusion), (Implications), References, and (Appendices). The sections in parentheses were reported to be optional, (c) The analysis of the articles showed that all of them stick to somewhat the same arrangement despite some variations. This pattern is considered as a rule conventionally determined by expert subjects in the system, (d) In the introduction section, it is possible to figure out the whole plot as well as the aim of the article. It seems that its main purpose is twofold: to situate the research in an established territory and to clearly state the problem.

To this purpose, the learners had the chance to become more conscious regarding the processes and motivations behind a text. In the next session, the instructor started the class by encouraging the students to listen to and discuss their responses and conclusions. Moreover, the students were requested to read the introduction they delivered. They needed to see if they could find the same information they had received from the articles they read. They humorously criticized their own pieces of writing. It was very amusing to find how the texts deviated from the samples they read before. This activity paved the way for the instruction of the CARS (Create a Research Space) model proposed by Swales (1990).

After expounding on Swales’ analytical moves and steps, the students were provided with an analyzed introduction as a sample. Afterwards, they were required to identify the moves and steps in one of the article introductions they had read before. During the next session of the class, each participant was given 10 minutes to discuss their findings.  For homework assignment, the students were asked to rewrite the introductions they wrote the first session adopting the pattern they thought would accomplish their purpose best. In the next session, the students all had their revised introductions. They spent forty minutes on checking how and why they had modified the pattern of their previous introductions. But, these students were not completely satisfied with the results. The teacher sought to discover the reasons behind students’ discontent. The reason was discovered to be that the students felt their re-written introductions still had discontinuity despite the changes made.

The issue of coherence was found to be a big concern for the students. This was addressed in the proposed model by referring to RST relational structures. The teacher tried to smoothly transit to what RST has to offer with respect to the issue of coherence. Eight sessions were devoted to teaching rhetorically-motivated relational patterns as well as how they could facilitate the development of a more coherent text. What participants finally presented as a revised version of their written introduction was very satisfactory given the extent to which their rhetorical consciousness had influenced the quality of their texts.

The treatment went on in order to raise the subjects’ consciousness with respect to intra-sentential structures (see Lotfipour-Saedi, 2006 for elaborate details). Along with the students, the teacher analyzed some sentences through adopting Lotfipour-Saedi’s (2016) discoursal approach. All students received instruction on the basic verb frames through various examples and were assigned tasks to figure out basic sentence components. They had to underline the basic elements of the sentences in the introduction part of at least one of the articles they had already read. This procedure continued for four sessions. The students practiced noun groups, modifiers, quantifiers, and so forth. However, what seemed to be of utmost interest was the issue of modulators.

The instructor briefed the learners that their attitude and stance toward audience or content can influence how the messages are textually materialized. For example, the verbal modulators are never arbitrarily chosen. The participants were given several examples (i.e., the results of the study seem to indicate that …, While this sounds to be obvious, etc.). They were asked to look for several verbal modulators in the introduction part of the articles they had referred to in their theses. They also had to explain the reasons for the authors’ selection of verbal modulators. They analyzed one article in the class in groups, followed by their discussions about the reasons. As an assignment, they had to give a report of what they found in the texts about verbal modulators.

Following the four sessions, the students were requested to re-write their introductions. However, this time they had to focus on intra-sentential structures, such as basic verb frames as well as their imbedded modulators and constructions (e.g. reporting, adverbials, negation, etc.). They had to deal with the complexity of the sentences as well as the use of modulations. A sample was completed in the class as a model to follow. In the next session, the instructor collected students’ rewritten introductions and two of them were analyzed and discussed in the class based on Lotfipour-Saedi’s T-unit components (Lotfipour-Saedi, 2016).

In the class, the students discussed their changes and the reasons for those changes. One of the considerable improvements in the re-written introductions was the students’ conscious employment of modulators. The use of more complex sentence structures in which adverbials were deliberately incorporated was another change. Given that it was the last session of the class, the students were asked to review all the points they had so far learned in the course and prepare a finalized version of their written introductions the following day. At the end of the treatment the participants in the three groups took the academic writing motivation questionnaire as posttest.

 

 

 

Results

Reliability of the Writing Motivation Questionnaire

On both pre-test and post-test, the Academic Writing Motivation Questionnaire (Payne, 2012) was found to be highly reliable (37 items; α = .82 and α = .87 respectively) (Table 2).

Table 2. Cronbach Alpha – Academic Writing Motivation Pre-Test – Post-Test

Tests

Cronbach's Alpha

Cronbach's Alpha Based on Standardized Items

N of Items

Pretest

.822

.876

37

Posttest

.879

.901

37

 

Answering the First Research Question

The first research question of the current study sought to explore if the employment of the newly-developed genre model has any statistically significant effect on the academic writing motivation of EFL learners in Iran compared with the control group. To investigate this research question, an ANCOVA was run on the pretest and posttest scores of the control and the newly-developed model group.

Initially, the assumptions of ANCOVA had to be checked. As represented in Levene’s Test Table 3, (F (1,13) = .426, p = .525). The p-value (p > .05) indicates that the assumption of homogeneity of variances as a pre-condition to run ANCOVA is met.

Table 3. Levene’s Test of Equality of Variance

Dependent Variable: A_W_M_Post

F

df1

df2

Sig.

.426

1

13

.525

 

As Table 4 indicates, the second assumption (i.e. homogeneity of regression) is also met since the p-value for Groups × Pre-Test is .35 (F (1,11) = .942, p = .35) which is statistically non-significant.

Table 4. Homogeneity of Regression – Control and Treatment 2 – AWM Pre-Test – Post-Test

Dependent Variable: A_W_M_Post

Source

Type III Sum of Squares

df

Mean Square

F

Sig.

Groups * A_W_M_Pre

2.638

1

2.638

.942

.353

Error

30.802

11

2.800

 

 

 

As shown in Table 5, the mean value from the Control group (M = 65.25, SD =15.48) to Treatment 2 group (M = 91.57, SD = 16.03) rises on AWM post-test.

 

Table 5. Descriptives – Control and Treatment 2 – AWM Pre-Test – Post-Test

Dependent Variable: A_W_M_Post

Groups

Mean

Std. Deviation

N

Control

65.25

15.480

8

Treatment 2

91.57

16.030

7

Total

77.53

20.364

15

 

In Table 6, it can be observed that by groups, i.e. Control versus Treatment 2, the
p-value is .00 (F (1,12) = 321.137, p = .00) and since it is smaller than .05 (p ˂ .05), it is considered to be statistically significant; that is, the treatment has made a statistically significant difference in Treatment 2 group. In Table 5, the Partial Eta Squared value equals .964 (ηp2 = .964), which indicates that membership in Treatment 2 group explains about 9% of the movement.

Table 6. ANCOVA – Control and Treatment 2 – AWM Pre-Test – Post-Test

Tests of Between-Subjects Effects

Dependent Variable: A_W_M_Post

Source

Type III Sum of Squares

df

Mean Square

F

Sig.

Partial Eta Squared

Corrected Model

5772.293a

2

2886.147

1035.692

.000

.994

Intercept

47.334

1

47.334

16.986

.001

.586

A_W_M_Pre

3185.774

1

3185.774

1143.213

.000

.990

Groups

894.907

1

894.907

321.137

.000

.964

Error

33.440

12

2.787

 

 

 

Total

95977.000

15

 

 

 

 

Corrected Total

5805.733

14

 

 

 

 

a. R Squared = .994 (Adjusted R Squared = .993)

 

Answering the Second Research Question

The second research question of the present study sought to probe if the employment of Swalesian genre-based instruction has any statistically significant effect on the writing motivation of EFL learners in Iran compared with the control group.

As represented in Levene’s Test Table below (7), (F (1,14) = 2.86, p = .113). The
p-value (p > .05) indicates that the assumption of homogeneity of variances as a pre-condition to run ANCOVA is met.

Table 7. Levene’s Test of Equality of Variance

Dependent Variable: A_W_M_Post

F

df1

df2

Sig.

2.861

1

14

.113

The second assumption is known as the homogeneity of regression. As it is represented in Table 8, the p-value for Groups × Pre-Test is .12 (F (1,12) = 6.506, p = .12) which is statistically non-significant. This indicates that the homogeneity of regression condition is also met.

Table 8. Homogeneity of Regression – Control and Treatment 1 – AWM Pre-Test – Post-Test

Tests of Between-Subjects Effects

Dependent Variable: A_W_M_Post

Source

Type III Sum of Squares

df

Mean Square

F

Sig.

Groups * A_W_M_Pre

6.506

1

6.506

2.809

.120

Error

27.794

12

2.316

 

 

 

Now, ANCOVA can be run. As can be seen in Table 9, the mean value from the Control group (M = 65.25, SD = 15.48) to Treatment 1 group (M = 70.88, SD = 16.76) rises on AWM post-test.

Table 9. Descriptives – Control and Treatment 1 – AWM Pre-Test – Post-Test

Descriptive Statistics

Dependent Variable:   A_W_M_Post

Groups

Mean

Std. Deviation

N

Control

65.25

15.480

8

Treatment 1

70.88

16.763

8

Total

68.06

15.855

16

 

In Table 10, it can be observed that by group, i.e. Control versus Treatment 1, the
p-value is .00 (F (1,13) = 47.96, p = .00) and since it is smaller than 0.05 (p ˂ .05), it is considered to be statistically significant; that is, the treatment has made a statistically significant difference in Treatment 1 group. In the same row of Table 9, the Partial Eta Squared value equals 0.787 (ηp2 = .787), which indicates that membership in Treatment 1 group explains about 8% of the movement.

Table 10. ANCOVA – Control and Treatment 1 – Pre-Test – Post-Test

Tests of Between-Subjects Effects

Dependent Variable: A_W_M_Post

Source

Type III Sum of Squares

df

Mean Square

F

Sig.

Partial Eta Squared

Corrected Model

3736.637a

2

1868.319

708.104

.000

.991

Intercept

3.882

1

3.882

1.471

.247

.102

A_W_M_Pre

3610.075

1

3610.075

1368.240

.000

.991

Groups

126.563

1

126.563

47.968

.000

.787

Error

34.300

13

2.638

 

 

 

Total

77891.000

16

 

 

 

 

Corrected Total

3770.938

15

 

 

 

 

 

Answering the Third Research Question

The third research question of the present study sought to discover if there is any significant difference between the effects of the newly-developed genre model and Swalesian genre-based instruction on writing motivation of EFL learners in Iran.

As represented in Levene’s Test Table 11, (F (1,13) = 1.10, p = .313). The p-value
(p > .05) indicates that the assumption of homogeneity of variances as a pre-condition to run ANCOVA is met.

Table 11. Levene’s Test of Equality of Variance

Dependent Variable: A_W_M_Post

F

df1

df2

Sig.

1.102

1

13

.313

 

The second assumption is known as the homogeneity of regression. As it is represented in Table 12 below, the p-value for Groups × Pre-Test is .48 (F (1,11) = .517, p = .48) which is statistically non-significant. This indicates that the homogeneity of regression condition is also met.

Table 12. Homogeneity of Regression – Treatment 1 and Treatment 2 – AWM Pre-Test – Post-Test

Tests of Between-Subjects Effects

Dependent Variable: A_W_M_Post

Source

Type III Sum of Squares

df

Mean Square

F

Sig.

Groups * A_W_M_Pre

.642

1

.642

.517

.487

Error

13.664

11

1.242

 

 

 

Now, ANCOVA can be run. As can be seen in Table 13, the mean value from Treatment 1 group (M = 70.88, SD = 16.76) to Treatment 2 group (M = 91.57, SD = 16.03) rises on the post-test.

Table 13. Descriptives – Treatment 1 and Treatment 2 – AWM Pre-Test – Post-Test

Descriptive Statistics

Dependent Variable: A_W_M_Post

Groups

Mean

Std. Deviation

N

Treatment 1

70.88

16.763

8

Treatment 2

91.57

16.030

7

Total

80.53

19.101

15

 

In Table 14, it can be observed that by group, i.e. Treatment 1 versus Treatment 2, the p-value is .00 (F (1,12) = 295.409, p = .00) and since it is smaller than 0.05 (p ˂ .05), it is considered to be statistically significant; that is, the treatment has made a statistically significant difference in Treatment 2 group. In the same row of Table 13, the Partial Eta Squared value equals .961 (ηp2 = .961), which indicates that membership in Treatment 2 explains about 10 % of the movement.

Table 14. ANCOVA – Treatment 1 and Treatment 2 – AWM Pre-Test – Post-Test

Tests of Between-Subjects Effects

Dependent Variable: A_W_M_Post

Source

Type III Sum of Squares

df

Mean Square

F

Sig.

Partial Eta Squared

Corrected Model

5093.427a

2

2546.714

2136.179

.000

.997

Intercept

42.187

1

42.187

35.387

.000

.747

A_W_M_Pre

3494.283

1

3494.283

2930.999

.000

.996

Groups

352.181

1

352.181

295.409

.000

.961

Error

14.306

12

1.192

 

 

 

Total

102392.000

15

 

 

 

 

Corrected Total

5107.733

14

 

 

 

 

a. R Squared = .997 (Adjusted R Squared = .997)

 

The statistical findings above bear witness to the fact that both treatment groups have outperformed the Control group and Treatment 2 group has outperformed Treatment 1 group. Therefore, the third null-hypothesis is rejected. In the profile plot below (Figure 3), it is clearly revealed that in Treatment 2 group, as we move from AWM pre-test to AWM post-test, there seems to be a substantial improvement. The same pattern holds for Treatment 1 group; however, the less steep slope of the line in indicative of the fact that the improvement in Treatment 1 group has not been as much as Treatment 2 group, as it was statistically vindicated in the foregoing pages of the current chapter. The downward inclination of the line representing the Control group, contrary to the other two groups, is indicative of the negative effect the traditional approach has had. This was statistically vindicated too.

 

Figure 3. Academic Writing Motivation (AWM) Pre-, Post-Test Plot

Discussion

The present study set out to investigate the effects of system-nested, genre-oriented, structurally-mediated writing instruction on Academic Writing Motivation. More specifically, the study aimed at probing if the employment of the newly-developed genre model has any statistically significant effect on the academic writing motivation of EFL learners in Iran compared with the control group. Moreover, the study sought to explore if the employment of Swalesian genre-based instruction has any statistically significant effect on the academic writing motivation of EFL learners in Iran compared with the control group. Finally, the study sought to discover if there is any significant difference between the effects of the newly-developed genre model and Swalesian genre-based instruction on academic writing motivation of EFL learners in Iran. The results of statistical analyses indicated that the newly-developed model significantly improved the participants’ academic writing motivation. Likewise, the Swalesian genre-based instruction group significantly affected the participants’ academic writing motivation. Moreover, the newly-developed model was significantly more effective compared to Swalesian genre-based instruction group in terms of academic writing motivation.

The results of the present study concerning the effectiveness of the newly-developed model on the writing motivation of the learners are partially in line with Dörnyei and Ushioda (2011). They maintain that instructional methods can affect motivation. Based on the statistical results of our study, it follows that the employment of the proposed model can influence the teaching and learning process positively. In fact, the success of this model emanates from its emphasis on meaningfulness/purposefulness of the activities performed inside the class. This purposefulness can be one of the reasons as why the newly developed model was more effective than the other two types of instruction. As Melendy (2008) holds motivation is more easily initiated when an individual is oriented towards achieving a goal . In a similar vein, Dörnyei (2001b) also views purpose as the main element which motivates individuals. The findings of this research is also comparable to that of Chen and Flowerdew (2018) in which student-writers were led towards the identification of linguistic realizations of discipline-specific discourse strategies through practical activities and interactive discussions. The participants in the study displayed favorable attitude and evident enthusiasm for the approach adopted by the researchers. The findings of this research is also in line with the findings of Han & Hiver’s (2018) study. In their study, they concluded that genre-based L2 writing instruction leads to positive motivational changes in L2 learners.

Furthermore, the positive results can be due to the increased consciousness of the students regarding the typical stages as well as the characteristics of the genres being taught. Such consciousness is assumed to help students to create texts which are perceived by students as well-formed and appropriate. The model proposed in this study contributes multiple distinctive features which enable student writers to write more effectively and thus develop their writing motivation. The most prominent characteristic is the incorporation of a useful, multi-layered, multi-component, and comprehensive framework. Such a framework allows for the effective exploration, definition, comprehension, and deployment of the issue of context throughout the course of instruction. Embedded in such a framework, it seems that student writers are actively involved in the process of learning in general and writing in particular.

Since the purpose is set as being system-driven, learners’ main mission during the course and even beyond it is to gain knowledge of what the system requires, how it operates, and what purposes it seeks to accomplish. The more they are assimilated in the system, the more they will find the task of writing exciting and meaningful and the more motivated they will be. Perceiving the system as a purposeful unit of activity, students take on a broadened perspective which provides them with the resources needed to examine their actions, with their choices made in the context of that system effectively. Such a context-rich frame of mind provides the students with a chance to leave no stone unturned, enabling them to extract or even, occasionally, assign meaning/purpose to the textual options and preferences. This may be the rationale for the students’ serious commitment to what they needed to perform during the course.

Moreover, this contextually-fertilized situation can pave the way for meaningful instruction. In the later stages of the teaching, which involved the exploration, discussion and teaching of generic patterns, rhetorical constructions, and T-unit configurations, no harmful confusion could be perceived. This indicates how system familiarity can bring efficacy to writing pedagogy. All units of discourse ranging from the biggest unit of discourse (i.e. text) to the smallest one (i.e. clause) as well as the textual decisions and choices are rendered and perceived as being functionally/rhetorically/schematically motivated. Seemingly, it accounts for why learners seem to be more focused and committed to the assignments. This attentiveness, in turn, contributes to more effective instruction and learning as less time and energy are needed to draw the learners’ attention to the formal/structural/organizational features of the genre they want to learn.

Such a focus on various characteristics of the text can raise learners’ consciousness about form and function. This kind of increased consciousness is viewed in the proposed model to be the prerequisite for the occurrence of learning in the other stages. It should be noted that as learners educated in a system-nested, genre-oriented, structurally-mediated writing pedagogy tend to have higher degrees of consciousness, proficiency, and motivation, it is more likely that they make continuous efforts to further improve their social skills in that very system.

 

Conclusion

The instruction of the writing skill based on the system-nested, genre-oriented, structurally mediated model can have multiple  advantages compared to the other two approaches to writing pedagogy: 1) it provides both teachers and learners with a chance to gain a profound understanding of the context where learners are supposed to do writing; 2) it enables both teachers and learners to focus on larger language units; 3) organizational patterns and elements of written discourse are meaningfully focused on; and 4) linguistic components are viewed as functioning characteristics of a larger unit of discourse, avoiding atomistic handling of language teaching. These all lead to a heightened level of motivation among learners since using this model, students achieve a sense of competency through seeking and solving effective challenges. They also enjoy substantial autonomy throughout the course. In this model, learners are afforded with ample opportunities to interact with others, hence constructing a new individual identity which is also collectively defined. This identity gives them a sense of self-worth which, according to Oldfather and West (1999), results in the enhancement of motivation. Nested in a system of relevant activity, such a model secures an atmosphere of joy and interest, which are considered to be crucial factors in strengthening motivation (Richards, 1993).

In the quantitative stage of the present study, the practical application of the proposed model was delimited to one of the writing instruction domains, preferably that of universities. This one-domain application cannot render enough documentation to validate the model. For the model to be further validated, more research studies are required in various domains. The model proposed in this research seems to serve various purposes, hence multifunctional. The potential applications it can have are as follows: 1) This model might be found effective in teaching the skill of reading as well, especially in the domains of ESP, EAP and EOP; 2) It can be used to do genre analysis of various text types/genres; 3) The results of the analyses can be used to design genre-based, rhetoric-based, and even form-based functional tasks which can be used to design syllabi and write textbooks; 4) Comparative genre analysis of various genres/text types can be carried out; 5) The issues of text complexity and text difficulty can take on a new aspect if defined in terms of this model; and 6) If the model is proved to be pedagogically effective, it can be resorted to in teacher-training courses. Then, its effect on teachers’ perspectives and instructional preferences/strategies can be explored through observation and interview.

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