Evaluating student learning in a university-level EAP unit on writing using sources
Abstract There has been extensive discussion of the difficulties experienced by tertiary students when writing using sources in both first- and second-language (L1, L2) writing literature; however, few studies have reported on instructional interventions that aim to assist students to master this complex academic literacy. The action research study described in this paper recruited 78 undergraduate students from six strands of credit-bearing L2 writing courses. A pre-unit quiz and guided writing task ascertained participants’ current level of skill and knowledge. After 8 hours of instruction and practice on technical and discourse skill components, students completed a post-unit task and wrote reflective comments. Out-of-class assignments were also submitted for analysis. Findings showed a significant improvement in students’ declarative knowledge, and in the rule-governed aspects of the skill. Instances of direct copying from the sources decreased in post-tasks and assignments. While there was a modest overall improvement across the cohort, students were clearly not yet proficient, particularly in the more sophisticated and subtle aspects of writing using sources. They had difficulties comprehending complexities in texts, summarising propositional content accurately, and integrating citations with their own voices and positions. This paper discusses implications for teachers, and the desirability of establishing a body of practice-oriented research.