Examining Progress in Academic Writing Skills

by SoTL Blog Facilitators


One of the central tenets for SoTL is that teaching and learning needs to be examined to determine the quality of pedagogical content and delivery. This process is iterative, and sets an educator on a trajectory of constant reformulation (O’Brien, 2008).

Traditionally, research into academic writing has involved the investigation of student errors. However, recent work has indicated an interest in writing as a social activity. Similarly, other aspects such as rhetorical strategies and structure have become equally important.

Recent studies on academic writing in the higher education setting have found that student learning is evidenced not only through discrete items (e.g., grammar forms), but also through other qualitative characteristics such as creativity and coherence, as well as students’ learning experience – an important principle of SoTL, wherein students are involved in the process of improving pedagogy (see Felten, 2013). The assessment of students’ writing, thus, has taken a more holistic approach. This has resulted in the use of a genre approach in writing instruction and the value of recognizing personal milestones in developing one’s writing skills.

Studies by Cheng (2008; 2011), Li and Vandermensbrugghe (2011), Myhill, Jones, Lines, and Watson (2012), and Lee and Murray (2015), show how grammar, genre, and students’ writing experience are crucial aspects which instructors need to consider in guiding their students to develop academic writing skills. A common theme found in these studies is that learning is an individualized construct where students make decisions regarding writing strategies applicable to their academic needs.


In the context of CELC, especially with the interest in SoTL, how would one go about evidencing students’ progress in academic writing? Please feel free to share!



Cheng, A. (2008). Individualized engagement with genre in academic literacy tasks. English for Specific Purposes, 27, 387-411.

Cheng, A. (2011). Language features as the pathways to genre: Students’ attention to non-prototypical features and its implications. Journal of Second Language Writing20, 69-82.

Felten, P. (2013). Principles of good practice in SoTL. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 1(1), 121-125.

Lee, A., & Murray, R. (2015). Supervising writing: Helping postgraduate students develop as researchers. Innovations in Education and Teaching International52(5), 558-570.

Myhill, D. A., Jones, S. M., Lines, H., & Watson, A. (2012). Re-thinking grammar: the impact of embedded grammar teaching on students’ writing and students’ metalinguistic understanding. Research Papers in Education27(2), 139-166.

O’Brien, M. (2008). Navigating the SoTL landscape: A compass, map and some tools for getting started. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning2(2), 1-20.

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