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The Power of Writing, the Writing of Power: Approaches to Adult ESOL Writing Instruction

Auerbach, Elsa
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation: 
Associate Professor in the English Department and the Applied Linguistics Program at the University of Massachusetts/Boston
Resource Type: 
Number of Pages: 
Product Type: 
Target Audience: 

The author presents five current approaches to teaching second language writing, the theoretical perspectives on which they are based, their implications for practice, and the messages they send learners. These five approaches are:

  • behavioral and functional
  • cognitive
  • socio-cultural practices
  • genre
  • critical

The author concludes the article with a series of important questions that cut across the approaches and five points which highlight good practice for ESOL writing instruction. The article serves as an introduction to various approaches to current ESOL writing instruction. This piece could be used to discuss and broaden teachers' views of writing instruction.

What the Experts Say: 

Summary of Basic Skills Reviewer Comments:

Auerbach describes five approaches for adult ESOL writing instruction. The author briefly provides the theoretical basis for the arguments supporting each approach without bias. The instructional methods appear to be supported by descriptive research. This is a well-written short paper with an excellent list of references for further reading in each approach. This resource would be of value to those interested in providing writing instruction to or conducting research with ESOL adult learners. The manuscript would be an appropriate introductory reading in both undergraduate and graduate study. The paper provides some interesting contrasts in instructional delivery for this population of adult learners with implications for further examination in the context of quasi-experimental or experimental research.

This may be valuable to the field. However, it is very general. Not one of the approaches is described in enough details so that a reader with little knowledge about the teaching of writing would be able to use any one of them. It might be that the piece allows very traditional teachers to see other options for teaching writing.

Summary of ELA Reviewer Comments:

This article has great value as a resource for adult education practitioners who want to understand the political dimensions of adult ESOL writing instruction. It provides a very brief summation of the various approaches for writing instruction and good background. The area of writing has been neglected therefore it is nice to have something included in the collection, even if it is short. This resource moves away from the focus on grammar and punctuation and on to meaning as the most important element. Furthermore, it draws attention to how writing has different purposes, dependent on the learner and the context. A combination of the approaches described here would be the most effective for teaching writing.

Readers should not forget to look further to some areas that are not included-writing as it relates to both oral and written language (i.e., the speaking, reading, writing connection), writing for specific purposes and the role of context, and writing in the workplace fit in.

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