Learning the rules to play the game: Genre-based pedagogy and learner autonomy
In recent years in second language (L2) studies there has been growing interest in the role that texts play in L2 development. Traced back in large part to the New London Group’s (1996) call for increased pedagogical attention to the multiple media and modalities that language users now must mediate in order to communicate meaningfully, this “literacy turn” in the profession has resulted in both an expanding understanding of texts as well as an increased focus on fundamental aspects of textual analysis (e.g., context, author, audience, purpose, structure). One way to approach texts that has garnered attention is to view them as genres, defined here as staged, purposeful, culturally situated communicative events. Approaching texts as genres has the potential to establish a pedagogical framework for identifying many features of textuality that then can be scaffolded to support L2 development. In genre-based pedagogy, for example, learners are guided to identify a text’s purpose, its intended audience, ideological stance, and linguistic features and then to appropriate these textual properties for reproducing their own version of the genre. However, because of genres’ identifiable textual characteristics, there is the concern that a genre-based approach that emphasizes generic conventions has the potential to limit learner agency and autonomy; as learners follow the rules to reproduce a particular genre, their voice and creativity remain secondary. This presentation will respond to this potential tension by proposing genre-based pedagogy not as an “either-or” proposition, but rather as an approach in which learner autonomy can actually be fostered through attention to conventionalized language use in genre. Specifically, results from a longitudinal case study of L2 writing will be presented to highlight the creative latitude granted to and pursued by learners within a genre-based pedagogical approach. Because discussions about creativity in L2 studies invariably raise questions about authenticity, agency, and accuracy, the assessment of L2 learner creativity will also be addressed.
Hiram H. Maxim (Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin) is Professor in the German Studies Department and a Core Faculty Member in the Linguistics Program at Emory University. His research interests lie in the general area of instructed adult second language acquisition with specific interest in the relationship between second language reading and writing and curricular approaches that facilitate that intersection. His work has appeared in Modern Language Journal, Foreign Language Annals, Die Unterrichtspraxis, and ADFL Bulletin and in various edited volumes. He co-edited with Heather Willis Allen the 2013 AAUSC volume on foreign language graduate student education (Cengage, 2013) and co-authored with Heidi Byrnes and John Norris the monograph Realizing Advanced Foreign Language Writing Development in Collegiate Education:Curricular Design, Pedagogy, Assessment (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). Twice his scholarship has been recognized for distinction by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.