Quantitative evaluation of a subject-specific essay-writing intervention

19 Jul 2010

Discipline- and genre-specific approaches in language teaching have gained much support in recent years. However, few studies have thus far evaluated the effect of courses resulting from narrow-angled approaches. This article reports on the evaluation of a 14-week essay-writing module for second-year students of history. The aim of the evaluation was to measure the effect of the intervention both through analytic scoring of pre- and post-test essays, and gauging students’ opinions by means of a survey at the conclusion of the module. The main finding, supported by statistical analyses, was that students’ writing abilities improved significantly between the pre- and post-test. The overall improvement was roughly equal on the three primary dimensions measured by the analytic assessment tool: ‘Handling of source materials’ (18%), ‘Structure and development’ (18%) and ‘Language and style’ (19%). According to an attitude survey conducted at the conclusion of the intervention students were generally positive about the effect of the intervention on their academic writing abilities. They showed appreciation for all the ‘signature’ features of a genre-focused approach, and their responses seem to refute the criticism that genre approaches promote transmission pedagogy.