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An exploration of the voices of a new university curriculum in Hong Kong: implications for the teaching of English for academic purposes
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 14:33 authored by Miranda Legg
Wide-ranging curriculum reform in Hong Kong has resulted in one large-scale, research-led, English as a medium of instruction university implementing a new Core Curriculum. This curriculum is currently taken by all first and second-year students, regardless of their chosen major. This research aims to identify the academic English language demands this new Curriculum places on students, in order to provide focused EAP support. A mixed method, multi-perspectival methodology was used. Firstly, the institutional voice was explored through an analysis of institutionally-endorsed course descriptions. The assessed voice was explored through a discourse analysis of 13 A-grade argumentative essays using tools from Systemic Functional Linguistics. Thirdly, the voice of experience was explored through the analysis of two case studies documenting two first-year students’ experience of acculturation as they negotiated the new Curriculum. The analysis of the institutional voice found that certain types of learning experiences and knowledge (e.g. the expression of a critical voice) were valued by the institution. The analysis of the assessed voice found that patterns of Periodicity (e.g. the construction of conceptual taxonomies), Engagement (e.g. patterns of alignment between reader and writer) and Attitude (e.g. discipline-specific patterns of evaluation) were found to combine to express an academic voice. Overall, three voices were identified in the essays – a Student, Science and Humanities Voice. Finally, the analysis of the voice of experience found that students struggled with certain aspects of academic writing and as a result, they needed to turn to an ‘underground’ network for help. This research makes a unique contribution to an understanding of institutional values, how these values are instantiated in assessed texts and how students experience these institutional values while completing gate-keeping assessments. Through a combination of all perspectives, an understanding of what language support should be given to students to help them learn effectively is gained.