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The study takes an ethnographic approach comprising the observation of eight English writing classes at a sub-vented (that is, government-subsidised) Hong Kong university, interviews with four English teachers on site (three bilingual Cantonese-background speakers, and one expatriate English-background speaker), and analyses of students’ marked writing assignments. This triangulation of qualitative data is developed into a case study situated where the researcher is also a member of the English teaching staff.
The study draws on Ivanic’s (2004) discourses of writing framework, which explores beliefs about writing, beliefs about learning to write, approaches to the teaching of writing, and assessment criteria that are associated with each discourse of writing. In this regard, Ivanic (2004) notes that “the personal approach of most teachers is eclectic ... incorporating two or more approaches ...” (pp. 226-227). The mapping exercise conducted in the data analysis of the current research has revealed that there is a disjuncture between the teachers’ theoretical beliefs and their teaching practice. What influences teachers’ pedagogical decisions is primarily the consideration of contextual elements such as institutional expectations, students’ language abilities and motivation, the syllabus and assessment requirements.
This thesis argues that the contextual and personal dimensions play an important role in teachers’ decision making. This has implications for future research in three aspects. First, there are further needs to conduct more detailed classroom-based and interview-oriented studies to explore the lived lives of writing teachers in Hong Kong higher education. Second, as three of the four participating teachers are Chinese-speaking, expert but non-native speakers of English, in contrast to most research conducted with native speakers of English, portraits of these participants’ teaching lives and pedagogical choices may lead to findings which add to the body of knowledge regarding teachers’ decision making. Third, the current project has suggested the need to develop, implement and further research professional development initiatives for writing teachers. In this respect, this study has acknowledged the need for teacher educators, when designing teacher professional development programmes, to adopt a holistic approach in teacher professional development, covering every aspect of becoming a successful teacher, and to draw upon the wealth of experience and reflection which teachers themselves bring to their practice.