Abstracts for Invited Sessions

Keynote Abstracts

Paul Kei Matsuda, Arizona State University, USA

"English for shifting purposes: Academic writing in the new global higher education"

The purpose of this plenary talk is to reexamine some of the foundational assumptions in academic writing instruction in the context of various societal changes that affect institutions of higher education. One of the major contributions of English for Specific Purposes (ESP), of which English for Academic Purposes (EAP) is a subset, is the importance of needs analysis in establishing the goals and objectives of language and writing instruction. Yet, needs analyses are often conceptualized at the micro level—i.e., particular courses, programs, disciplines or genres—rather than at the macro level—i.e., the role of higher education in the larger society. As a result, some of the foundational assumptions remain unexamined. In this presentation, I will show how conceptions of academic writing has shifted in response to various historical shifts in U.S. higher education—from the rise of research universities at the turn of the 20th century and the advent of open admissions in the 1970s to the privatization and globalization of higher education in the early 21st century. I will then discuss the ongoing tension between so-called general and academic writing at various levels—not only in general education writing courses but also at master’s and even doctoral levels—as institutions of higher education shift into new roles in today’s global economy.

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Rosa Manchón, University of Murcia, Spain

“The linguistic component of L2 written literacy in academic settings: Advancing research agendas on the interaction between writing and language”

Numerous foreign language writers all over the world are required to use English as the academic lingua franca. These multilingual contexts of use include not only those associated with international academic exchanges through writing (most notably, dissemination of research and international publishing), but also a range of educational and professional situations in which academic texts written in English are a requirement in one’s own country of origin. In Spain, for instance, there is a growing tendency to request and/or advise the use of English when completing competitive postdoc grant applications and when applying for competitive research projects and some faculty positions. Similarly, in many Spanish universities students in all disciplines receive a bonus if they defend their end of degree and MA theses in English. These initiatives, however, are not always coupled with parallel institutional, educational policies aimed at helping these multilingual users to acquire the kind of complex and demanding literacy that such uses of English entail. Rather, multilingual writers’ use of English for academic purposes is often tested but seldom taught, a most relevant educational issue with crucial ethical implications. In addition, at the level of research, many open questions exist regarding how these diverse groups of multilingual users learn to write for academic purposes in the various languages that form their linguistic repertoire, or about the true nature of the relationship between language and writing in their multilingual learning and writing experience.

In this presentation, and based on the analysis of the situation in various foreign language settings (mainly Europe), I intend to offer a description of a range of contexts and situations in which the use of English as the academic lingua franca is a requirement, paying attention to how L2 writing for academic purposes is learned, taught, implemented, and assessed. My ultimate aim, however, will be to go one step further and explore ways of advancing research agendas. I will do so by directing the spot light only on the role of language in the acquisition of L2 written literacy for academic purposes. My analysis will include what I shall claim to be central theoretical, educational, and ideological/ethical concerns in this relationship, especially when approached from the perspective of multicompetence. To this end, I will review past achievements in these domains and I will offer a forward-looking account of key questions in need of further theoretical and empirical attention on the connection between language and writing in multilingual writing. Centrally, I will argue, future research agendas ought to include items related to the way in which the “multi” in mutilingual writing is developed, negotiated, and exercised in diverse contexts and situations by equally diverse groups of multilingual users of English for academic purposes.

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Ken Hyland, University of Hong Kong, China

“Learning to write for academic purposes: Specificity and second language writing”

The massive expansion of English as the academic lingua franca has meant that many students around the world are now studying their subjects in a second language. This is the case in Hong Kong where Higher Education has been conducted in English since early in colonial times while students mainly receive their secondary education in Chinese medium schools. In 2012 we were given an opportunity to reimagine the kind of English we taught when the city totally reformed its educational system by removing a year from students’ school experience and adding it to their time at university. At Hong Kong University we took this opportunity to completely redesign our courses, dropping the professional courses we offered to each faculty to focus on “English in the Discipline”.  This recognizes that learning to write at university involves acquiring a new and challenging literacy rather than topping up generic writing skills learnt at school. Because the conventions of academic communication differ considerably across disciplines, identifying the particular language features, discourse practices, and communicative skills of target groups becomes central to teaching English in universities.  Teachers therefore had to become researchers of the genres they were to teach and to devise courses around the principle of ‘specificity’.

In this presentation I talk a little about this process and how we provided a curriculum structure which built 30 English in the discipline courses on a new common first year English for General Academic Purposes course for 3000 students. Mainly, however, I will discuss the principles of disciplinary specific language on which it is based. To do this I will provide evidence which draws on my research into how features of academic writing vary across fields, how academics in construct different disciplinary-based identities, how tutors have different perceptions and expectations about student writing, and how the assessment tasks they assign differ considerably across fields. Overall, the presentation highlights the disciplinary-specific nature of writing and argues for targeting teaching to best support L2 students towards control of the discourses that disciplinary insiders are likely to find effective.  The approach recognises that the writing L2 learners are asked to produce at university represents a range of genres, contexts, epistemologies and interpersonal expectations and that offering the most specific learning experience we can is the most appropriate starting point for instruction.

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Plenary Abstracts

Jennifer Hammond, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

“‘Literate talk’ and its role in supporting EAL students’ academic writing”

Students for whom English is an additional language (EAL students) face a substantial challenge in learning to write for academic purposes in the context of mainstream schooling. As students work their way through school, they need to engage with the specific register and genre demands of academic literacy in discipline-specific areas. They also need to develop insights into the increasingly abstract and metaphorical language of academic written texts where information and arguments are organised in ways that differ from spoken language (Christie & Martin, 2007). While many students from English-speaking backgrounds also require support in their development of academic writing, the difference is that English-speaking-background students are able to build on a familiar oral language while EAL students are not.

In this paper I argue that the notion of ‘literate talk’ (Gibbons, 2009) can assist teachers to support EAL students’ developing abilities with academic writing. Literate talk refers to the kind of talk that is typical in discussion of academic concepts. It differs from everyday talk in that it reflects the vocabulary choices, grammatical structures, and patterns of discourse organisation that enable discussion of increasingly complex educational concepts – patterns of language and are also typically part of academic written texts. Support to develop ‘literate talk’ can therefore provide a bridge between students’ everyday oral language and their academic writing.

In the paper, I present data from a mainstream school science program where classroom tasks were selected and sequenced to bridge between students’ existing everyday understandings and more scientific and educational understandings of curriculum concepts, and also between students’ everyday language and more technical and abstract ways of talking, reading and writing about such concepts. I draw on aspects of systemic linguistic (Halliday, 1978; Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004), and particularly on the notion of mode (Halliday, 1989; Gibbons, 2006) to highlight the relation between different types of classroom tasks and the language demands and learning opportunities they pose for students. I argue that the explicit teaching of and about language within the context of the science program, and the deliberate emphasis on ‘literate talk’, supported students to appropriate patterns of vocabulary and grammar relevant to discussion of discipline specific educational concepts. I also argue that such talk provided a strong basis for students to understand and engage with the distinctive patterns of text structure, cohesion and grammar that are central to academic writing within the discipline of science.

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Sara Cushing Weigle, Georgia State University, USA

“Automated scoring and feedback on second language writing: Is what we can count all that counts?”

Recent advances in natural language process and corpus linguistics have allowed scholars to gain important insights into the textual features of writing in different genres and at different levels of proficiency (e.g., Crossley, Salsbury, & McNamara, 2011; Weigle & Friginal, 2015). These advances have also allowed for the development of tools for automatic scoring of writing tests and feedback on second language writing such as e-rater, developed by Educational Testing Service and used as one of two raters on the TOEFL test (Enright & Quinlan, 2010).  Many of these products are commercial tools; thus, their claims of success must be carefully scrutinized (Chapelle& Chung, 2010). Furthermore, these commercial products are often limited in their ability to account for some of the features of L2 writing that are important to teachers, students, and test raters (Weigle, 2013), as they rely primarily on counting syntactic structures (e.g., mean length of clause, T-units) and lexical features (e.g., word frequency, N-grams). On the other hand, we are beginning to see the development of automated writing analysis systems created for classroom use by scholars who have a more pedagogical focus (e.g., Cotos, 2014).  In this presentation I will describe the state of the art in automated scoring, feedback, and analysis tools, particularly as they apply to second language writing. I will discuss features of proprietary tools such as e-rater and also introduce participants to some writing analysis tools that are freely available online.  I conclude my talk with some cautions about adopting and interpreting information from online writing analysis tools and automated scoring and feedback systems as well as some recommendation for further development in these areas.

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Rosemary Wette, Auckland University, New Zealand

“Developing skill in source text use by L2 undergraduate writers”

The ability to write using sources is fundamental to success in academic studies in most disciplines. However, this sophisticated skill can present many challenges for novice writers, especially those from non-English speaking (L2) backgrounds. Writing using sources is a multidimensional skill with technical, linguistic, rhetorical, disciplinary, and cultural components that also incorporates issues of authorial identity, stance, and the writer’s engagement with readers and the disciplinary community (Hyland, 2000). The number of skill components in which students need to develop proficiency is daunting. They include accessing, evaluating and comprehending source texts, selecting relevant information, comparing multiple sources and developing own ideas, reconceptualising source content, using sources as evidence or authoritative support, and integrating sources with students’ own propositions. More advanced writers need to develop an awareness of the persuasive nature of academic writing, which involves projecting a personal voice and stance in order to engage with readers and the disciplinary community. Throughout this process, students need to balance the obligation to cite legitimately from authoritative texts with the requirement that their choices do not excessively rely on source material (Shi, 2010). 

Early research on writing using sources tended to be problem-oriented, focusing heavily on plagiarism, or “transgressive intertextuality” (e.g. Howard, 1995; Currie, 1998).  More recently, however, attention has turned to instructional strategies for assisting novice writers to develop competence (e.g. Wette, 2010). In this presentation, I discuss the findings of a number of recent empirical studies I have conducted that examine students’ level of ability at different stages of undergraduate study in their chosen disciplinary areas, as well as eliciting interview statements from students about their source use and the skill components they find particularly challenging. I draw on these studies to propose a developmental sequence for writing using sources. Beginning with the technical and rule-governed components that are acquired relatively easily, this sequence will describe stages of skill development for undergraduate writers, and indicate which aspects will probably not be fully mastered until students’ carry out their own postgraduate research. I hope that this analysis will provide confirmation for EAP writing teachers about appropriate expectations to have for students at different levels, and help them to avoid either taking a simplistic view of a complex skill, or setting unrealistic goals. I conclude the presentation by suggesting a number of instructional strategies that may be useful for developing entry-level, novice and advanced undergraduate students’ skill in writing using sources.

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Tony Silva, Purdue University, USA

“Developing a principled yet flexible ESL writing program for a diverse population of matriculated undergraduate international students at a large research university in the United States”

Currently, roughly 900,000 international students attend colleges and universities in the United States. Purdue University enrolls about 10,000 international students, nearly 5,300 of whom are undergraduates. These students come from more than 90 countries and study in dozens of programs across 11 different colleges. All of these students are required to take a first year writing course. Some take the mainstream course, which is designed for native speakers of English, but most take the ESL option—ENGL 10600-I: First Year Composition for International Students. For 25 years (1991-2015), I was responsible for ENGL 10600-I—primarily for designing and developing its curriculum and teaching materials and for hiring, mentoring, and supervising its teaching staff.

My challenge was how to devise a suitable course for a very diverse population of students in terms of nationality, native language, level of English proficiency, and area of study. Also, I felt that this course should thoroughly address the rhetorical, linguistic, and strategic dimensions of writing. Early on I hoped that I could find a textbook that would fit the bill, but soon, after trying and rejecting several, I resigned myself to the fact that I would need to design, develop, and implement a curriculum of my own that would both meet the needs of the students and achieve my objectives. I needed a plan that was principled (that is, one that addressed rhetorical, linguistic, and strategic issues in a substantive way) but flexible enough to accommodate the differences of a very homogenous student population. Developing such a curriculum in this context is the issue I will address in this presentation.

Luckily, I happened across a short article in TESOL Journal (1991/1992) written by Ilona Leki, entitled Building expertise through sequenced writing assignments. Leki proposed a curriculum that went beyond simply personal writing yet recognized that first year college students were not yet members of their academic discourse communities, and thus could not be expected to produce authentic scholarly prose. This curriculum would have students write for the entire term on one topic of their choice—a topic they found stimulating and in which they had some knowledge and a personal investment. Students would then write on this topic from a number of perspectives (that is, in a number of genres). The plan was for students to practice the writing skills they would need at the university while becoming “experts” on their chosen subjects (that is, deepening and expanding their knowledge) thus giving students a sense of continuity and purpose. Here was a concept that would give me both the substance and the flexibility I sought.

My presentation will focus on how Leki’s ideas were put into practice over time in the context of ENGL 10600-I and how the course evolved. Issues discussed will include the course’s theoretical and instructional orientation; policies and logistics; instructor selection, mentoring, evaluation, and supervision; and classroom procedures, including such areas as topic choice and negotiation, assignment specification, planning, revising, editing, response to multiple drafts, group and individual conferencing, peer and teacher feedback, evaluation, and grading criteria. I believe that this account of my experience at Purdue could prove useful for others facing similar issues in comparable educational contexts.

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Neomy Storch, Melbourne University, Australia

“Implementing and assessing collaborative writing activities”

One of the issues facing second language (L2) writing teachers is the choice of classroom activities that will encourage learners to focus on language use and on how to express their ideas clearly and coherently. One such activity is collaborative writing.  In this paper I argue that this activity can provide an ideal opportunity for learning, but only if it is carefully designed and implemented. Thus the main focus of this paper is on the factors that need to be taken into consideration when designing and implementing collaborative writing activities.

Collaborative writing is an activity which involves the co-authoring of a text by two or more authors and where all co-authors share responsibility for the creation of the entire text (Storch, 2013). The activity requires verbal interaction (between the co-authors) and language production (speech and writing) and thus accords with what major cognitive and sociocultural theories identify as fundamental for second language (L2) learning.

Research on learners’ interaction as they complete collaborative writing tasks has shown that these activities provide opportunities for learning. Drawing on data from studies I have conducted with L2 learners in different contexts (e.g. Storch, 2002; Storch & Aldosari, 2013; Storch & Wigglesworth, 2007) I demonstrate that, when L2 learners engage in collaborative writing activities, they deliberate about how to express ideas. These vocalised deliberations, termed ‘languaging’ by Swain (2010), encourage learners to give and receive peer feedback and to pool their linguistic resources.  I also demonstrate that in such joint writing activities learners are exposed to different ideas and any ensuing debates may force them to construct a more coherent formulation of their ideas. This empirical evidence suggests that collaborative writing activities can potentially provide L2 learners with two kinds of learning opportunities: opportunities for language learning and opportunities for learning to write in the L2 (Manchón, 2011).

However, simply assigning students to produce a text jointly will not necessarily result in a successful learning activity. In this paper, I focus on three key design and implementation decisions.  I consider the choice of writing task, the optimal grouping of students, and whether and how these activities should be assessed. I argue that in making these decisions teachers need to take into consideration not only their learners’ L2 proficiency but also their main pedagogical goal, whether it is to promote language learning or learning to write in the L2.

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Christine M. Tardy, University of Arizona, USA

“The challenge of genre in the classroom: What do L2 writing teachers need to know?”

Although scholarship in second language writing has shown increased interest in the role that genre plays in written communication, there has still been very little research into the kind of knowledge that L2 writing teachers should have in order to successfully address genre in the classroom. Teacher knowledge of genre and genre pedagogy is important because of the often-described danger that genres may inadvertently be taught as prescriptive formulas or templates rather than as socially preferred, “stabilized-for-now” responses. Addressing genres can be even more challenging in the contexts of undergraduate writing because the range of genres that students will encounter is wide and relatively unpredictable. In this context, as Johns (2008) has argued, “genre awareness” may be a more suitable goal than a focus on learning features of specific target genres. Teaching genre awareness, however, requires a relatively sophisticated understanding of genre on the part of instructors. What do teachers need to know in order to effectively address genre in the L2 undergraduate writing classroom? What are some of the challenges that they face?

Despite a lack of systematic research into teachers’ knowledge of and experiences with genre in the classroom, there is some evidence that teachers find it challenging to implement a genre approach that is not overly prescriptive or rigid (see, for example, Johns, 2011, and Kay & Dudley-Evans, 1997). Fortunately, we do now have a growing body of work that describes principles of genre-based pedagogy, including the teaching of genre awareness, for teachers (e.g., Devitt, 2004; Hyland, 2004, 2007; Johns, 2011;Paltridge, 2003). I will draw on this existing scholarship (primarily from ESP and rhetorical genre studies) and on my own in-progress research to describe ways that teacher educators can support pre-service and in-service teachers in addressing genre in the second language writing classroom. I will first discuss some of the obstacles that teachers might face, including teachers’ own familiarity with genre theory, students’ language proficiency, and alignment with program goals. I will then outline some specific aspects of genre theory, tools for genre analysis, and principles and practices of genre-based pedagogy that are especially relevant and useful for teachers of L2 undergraduate writing.

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Brian Paltridge, University of Sydney, Australia

“Context and the teaching of academic writing: Bringing together theory and practice”

People working in the area of academic literacies (Street 2010) have argued that learning to write in the academy involves acquiring a repertoire of linguistic practices which are based on complex sets of discourses, identities, and values. These practices, however, vary according to context, culture and genre. It is clear, then, that not all information that is required for understanding academic texts can be derived from the text itself. There is the need to go 'beyond the text' in order to explore the social and cultural context in which texts occur as well as to explore insiders' views on texts in order to make descriptions of them pedagogically most useful.

Johns (1997) recognizes the difficulty this presents for students by suggesting that we train our students to ‘act as researchers’ as a way of helping them write texts that consider the institutional and audience expectations of their area/s of study and the ‘ways of knowing’, ‘ways of doing’ and ‘ways of writing’ that are particular to particular academic disciplines. Students can be trained, Johns argues, to unpack the knowledge and skills that are necessary for membership of their academic community. We should give students, she argues, the skills to ask questions of the texts they are required to produce, of the context in which the texts are located, and of the people who will be reading and judging the effectiveness of the texts. As Johns (2008) observes:

if [students] don’t study textual variety and disciplinary ideologies that infuse genres, they can, and do, fall on their faces when they attempt to read and produce texts in their classrooms.

The key, then, is “how a newcomer to the academic community goes about learning its sociocultural practices” (Macbeth 2006: 181) and how we might help students do this.

This presentation discusses ways in which these issues have been addressed in writing courses at the University of Sydney. In these courses, students examine tasks they have been assigned in their disciplinary classes in terms of the values and expectations that underlie the tasks. They then discuss what they have learnt in relation to theories of genre, audience and discourse communities, and how these relate to the writing practices and expectations of the disciplines in which they are studying.

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John Bitchener, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand

“Learning to write an effective argument at the doctoral level”

Effective argumentation can be a challenge for both L1 and L2 students writing the various chapters or part-genres of a doctoral thesis/dissertation. This is not altogether surprising for a number of reasons. Firstly, the type of argument typically expected by supervisors and examiners in the various part-genres is not always consciously understood by students even though they may have read a number of theses in their discipline area as they develop a research proposal. In particular, many will not have reflected on the fact that the focus and rhetorical structure of an argument can vary from part-genre to part-genre, in accordance with different social purposes/functions (Paltridge & Starfield, 2007). Consider, for instance, the complex argument structure of literature reviews compared with the more typically linear, chronological structuring of methodology chapters. On the other hand, even though some students will have had seminars, workshops or course-work papers on thesis/dissertation writing and been exposed to differences in argumentation for different chapters of a thesis/dissertation, they may not have engaged with such instruction in an applied manner. Because they may not have been required to write up an extensive and well justified account of research activity (explaining what they did and why they did it), they may encounter difficulties determining the content and structure that are relevant and appropriate for an effective argument at doctoral level (Bitchener, Basturkmen & East, 2010).  This issue can sometimes be difficult for supervisors to address, especially if they have a tacit understanding of what is expected but an inability to explicitly articulate what they and examiners expect (Basturkmen, East & Bitchener, 2014). Fortunately, resources are available to help both students and supervisors but these are not always consulted. A growing literature on the typical discourse moves that researchers across a wide range of disciplines have identified as typical or preferred options has been published both as research articles and as guidebooks (Bitchener, 2010). Although this genre-based literature is written in a manner that should be accessible for teachers, supervisors and learning-support instructors or advisors, it may not always provide sufficient scaffolding for students presenting an argument within a particular discourse move. Consider, for example, the complexities involved in presenting a carefully reasoned argument for a literature review discourse move such as ‘a critical presentation of knowledge claims and statements about theories, beliefs, and constructs’.

In order to shed some light on how this issue may be addressed, this presentation will consider some pedagogical approaches that have been successfully employed to write an effective argument for one literature review thematic unit. The illustrative unit will focus on a currently popular research question in second language/writing literature: Can written corrective feedback be expected to facilitate L2 development? I will begin the session with a statement and definition of the issue (i.e. the writing of an effective argument), an outline of research evidence on the extent of the issue at doctoral level, and a brief consideration of the theoretical basis of the approach to be described. Attention will then be given to a description and illustration of the approaches that have been successfully employed to help L2 writers overcome the issues they may encounter. The presentation will conclude with recommendations for a wider application of the approaches at both undergraduate and graduate levels (including study for pre-thesis/dissertation doctoral course-work papers).

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Dana Ferris, University of California, Davis, USA

“Facilitating L2 writers’ academic language development”

Researchers and teacher educators who focus on the “language” aspect of second language (L2) writing tend to place heavy emphasis on the problem of error in student writing and whether/how best to treat it pedagogically (see, e.g., Ferris, 2011).  The issue of corrective feedback (CF) on L2 writing has been highly controversial over its history and has been extensively researched over the past 20 years in particular.  This body of recent work has yielded valuable new insights on the “big question” (Ferris, 2004)—whether teachers should provide CF to student writers—and especially about specific ways to approach CF (e.g., focused vs. unfocused feedback, explicit metalinguistic information vs. unlabeled corrections, the differing roles of indirect and direct CF; for reviews of these points, see van Beuningen et al., 2012; Bitchener, 2008; Bitchener& Ferris, 2012; Ferris, 2010).

Nonetheless, it could be argued that the study of CF, while useful, has not gone far enough in promoting linguistic competence for L2 writers.  The “treatment of error” is in essence reactive:  It addresses what students can (or cannot) already produce in their L2 writing.  However, even if L2 writers can progress to the point of producing texts that are close to error-free (or at least devoid of truly serious errors that impede reader comprehension), studies have shown that L2 writers’ text may be lexically and syntactically underdeveloped (too simple) compared to the writing of their peers, often unfairly portraying them to academic readers as lacking in sophistication or strong thinking skills (see, e.g., Hinkel, 2002; Hyland, 2002;Silva, 1993).  

What is needed, therefore, in addition to helping L2 writers develop strategies to cope with error, is a proactive approach to helping students acquire complex language suitable for writing for academic and professional purposes.  Such advanced linguistic competence should help them meet the expectations of varying audiences and appropriately write in different genres and registers to fulfill their own rhetorical and communicative goals.  This plenary presentation focuses on the what and the how of academic language development for L2 writers.  Building on insights from Systemic Functional Linguistics, research on academic genres, and findings from corpus linguistics, we will look at how teachers can select lexical and syntactic structures on which to focus with their students.  We will further discuss ways in which teachers can effectively teach those structures, going beyond lists or decontextualized formal grammar lessons to present academic language for both receptive (reading/listening) and productive (writing/formal speaking) purposes.  The goal of this presentation is that teachers will walk away with practical strategies for addressing language with their L2 writers in ways that are authentic and fully integrated with other class goals and activities. 

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Icy Lee, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

“Working hard or working smart: Comprehensive versus focused written corrective feedback in L2 classrooms”

Learning to write for academic purposes entails an understanding of grammar and vocabulary and the development of linguistic accuracy in writing. Responding to student written errors is therefore considered an important aspect of L2 writing teachers’ work. In some contexts, including Hong Kong, teachers respond to all errors meticulously, trying to catch every single error for students. Such an approach to written corrective feedback (WCF) is comprehensive but unfocused, oftentimes resulting in papers inundated with the red ink. When teachers give WCF in a comprehensive manner, they easily burn out and have little time left to respond to other important dimensions of writing. Students, on the other hand, feel discouraged and confused by the unfocused WCF they receive.

Despite the lack of empirical evidence in support of comprehensive WCF, it remains the most prevalent approach in a number of L2 contexts. Comprehensive WCF, however, can lead to “information overload” (Bitchener, 2008, p.109), and it can be discouraging and demotivating for students (Hyland & Hyland, 2006). Aviable alternative is focused WCF – that is, teachers respond to errors selectively. The theoretical reason behind focused WCF is that learners are more prone to noticing and understanding the feedback when a limited number of error types is targeted (Ellis et al. 2008). Ferris (2002) suggests that responding to recurrent patterns of errors in a selective manner, especially rule-governed items, is more beneficial than responding to errors comprehensively. The studies by Bitchener (2008, 2012), Bitchener and Knoch (2008, 2009, 2010) and Sheen (2007), which involve feedback on one linguistic domain, have demonstrated the effectiveness of focused WCF in improving students’ written accuracy. Research by Sheen et al. (2009), which investigates the relative effectiveness of focused and unfocused WCF, suggests that the former is more effective than the latter. Those who are critical of focused WCF, however, argue that such an approach fails to meet the needs of students who want to know all the errors they have made in writing, calling for a more authentic approach to WCF that focuses on “the accuracy of all aspects of writing, simultaneously” (Hartshorn et al., 2010, p.89). Bitchener and Ferris (2012) suggest that, for some situations, a combination of comprehensive and focused WCF may be desirable, but teachers have to factor their students’ needs and proficiency levels into their decision-making.

In light of the respective benefits/limitations of comprehensive and focused WCF, should L2 teachers work hard to mark all written errors (i.e. comprehensive WCF), or should they work smart and respond to selected errors (i.e. focused WCF)? This hands-on, practice-focused session aims to engage participants in a critical examination of the pros and cons of comprehensive and focused WCF, as well as a discussion of ways to implement comprehensive and/or focused WCF across different L2 contexts. Principles of error selection for focused WCF and ways to combine comprehensive and focused WCF to assist the learning-to-write process will be discussed.

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