Center for Academic Writing

Genre Approaches to Teaching

Genre approaches to teaching writing, which developed most significantly in the early 1990s with the works of Swales and Johns, moved away from the process approach to writing to focus on a social-constructionist view of writing as a discourse shaped by the members of a given discourse community. There are preferred genres within each discipline, the conventions of which are familiar to members of the discipline. The role of the writing teacher is to facilitate the entry of the junior researcher into the community by familiarizing her with the concerns of audience, purpose, role and context that determine the features of discourse.

The Center for Academic Writing (CAW) has embraced genre theory from the early stages and has worked in collaboration with faculty in different disciplines to identify preferred educational and academic genres and their features so as to prepare students effectively both for their work at CEU and their careers beyond. An alumni survey carried out on a single CEU MA cohort 18 months after graduation suggested that some 70% of respondents were able to apply aspects of their writing training at CEU to subsequent academic, professional or policy careers.

CAW instructor Robin Bellers has co-published research on the use of genre approaches in the classroom with Lawrence Smith, a former member of the CAW. Robin has also co-presented with colleague Eszter Timár at conferences on this topic. Réka Futász has investigated the comparative differences between Hungarian and continental writing traditions in the context of the research article. Eszter Timár has presented on genre-based writing approaches for subject specialists.

The CAW has provided outreach courses in PhD writing using genre approaches for the Max Planck Institute in Freiburg (Andrea Kirchknopf) and Halle (Eszter Timár), and also for the universities of Amsterdam (Robin Bellers) and Szeged (John Harbord).


Writing across the Curriculum/Writing in the Disciplines

Though originating in the 1970s, the field of WAC/WID has developed and consolidated extensively in the last 20 years. Perhaps most relevant here is the work of David Russell and others in framing the structure and context of writing support provision and the alliance between this and the discipline itself. In the US, there has been a movement away from "first-year composition" towards writing support and ultimately to "writing-intensive courses"  which has been accompanied by shifting roles and changing interaction of writing teachers and faculty in the disciplines.

The CAW has been a participant in the dialogue about the suitability of translating models directly from the US to the CEE context and the need for greater writing support in the CEU context. Research by John Harbord has suggested that the introduction of the writing intensive model as such would not be effective in the CEE context. Instead our collaboration with faculty through dialogue to ensure team support for good academic writing has proved effective.

Eszter Timár and John Harbord have been active in training faculty from the region in the fields of environmental science and social sciences, respectively, in the use of writing as an effective assessment and learning tool.

Tutoring Models

The traditional non-directive approach to writing tutoring has been questioned in recent years, notably by scholars such as Irene Clarke, who argue that directive comments are frequently used in academic feedback, are often well taken by writers and may form a part of tutoring techniques. Formalizing and theorizing the practice of the CAW in consultations within a genre framework, John Harbord has published on the adaptability or otherwise of US tutoring models to the European graduate context.

The Internationalization of Composition

One of the most interesting and underdeveloped areas of research and debate developing now is the internationalization of composition. One example of this trend is the recent official shift in titles: the US National Writing Centers Association has become the International WCA, while the organization “Writing across the Curriculum” (WAC) has changed its name to International WAC. These changes intensify the debate about the interaction between English as the global language of academe and local academic writing in other languages. While authors such as Canagarajah, Phillipson and Skutnabb Kangas have criticized the linguistic imperialist model of English, others such as Donahue and Gannett are investigating the diversity of global practices in academic writing and what the US can learn from other contexts.

On this topic, Réka Futász has presented recently on English as a Lingua Franca in the Humanities in Hungary, and John Harbord has published on the development of writing initiatives in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, showing how the nature of the stakeholders in initiating writing has in many cases crowded out possibilities of teaching writing in the students’ first language and made writing a part of English as a foreign language. Many of the local initiatives to develop writing courses for social scientists in the region have been thanks to the assistance of members of the CAW or CEU alumni adapting the CAW course to their local context or language.