Genre in the Classroom: Multiple Perspectives
Ann Johns (Editor) (2002)
Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers
Pp. i + 349 pages
ISBN 0-8058-3074-X (paperback)
US $32.50 paperback, US $79.95 hardback
Genre as a means for analyzing text has become a means for better pragmatic and linguistic understanding of texts. It also supplies possible pedagogical applications. This collection devoted to genre pedagogy adds to pedagogical thinking because it stretches notions of what can be done in the reading and writing classroom. It provides several approaches to developing genre pedagogy. In that sense, it is a book by practitioners for practitioners providing a principled link between research and practice.
Genre in the Classroom is organized into seven sections: The Sydney School, Related Approaches, English for Specific Purposes, Bridging Text and Context, The New Rhetoric, Pedagogical Quandaries, and Conclusion and Responses. The sections discuss two different developmental strands of genre use: linguistic foregrounding and contextual grounding.
In Part I, the Sydney school, two articles describe the development of genre pedagogy in Australia. Mary Macken-Horarik portrays the use of the genre in a secondary school science class through teaching the language of genre based on the systemic work of Michael Halliday in the first chapter. This chapter details the application of a contextual framework for teaching writing across the curriculum. In it Macken-Horarik describes the planning, implementation, and assessment involved in developing a science lesson and relates this process to other ways of developing lessons through teaching the systemic functional metalanguage as a means to make the lessons applicable to other literacy situations.
Susan Feez's chapter acquaints readers with the Sydney school development of genre pedagogy. She describes the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP). Her recounting takes the reader through a historical review of methodology employed in the AMEP to illustrate how the use of genre pedagogy answered the needs of students and teachers. This approach is described in more detail at the curriculum level and syllabus level. At the syllabus level, teachers take students through the steps of building the context, modeling, deconstructing the text, constructing texts together to independently producing their own texts. In Australia genre pedagogy is used at the elementary and secondary levels to prepare learners for their future literacy encounters.
In part two, Related Approaches, Brian Paltridge and John Flowerdew describe two approaches to incorporating genre into their pedagogies. Paltridge begins with distinctions between genre and text type. He argues that making genre transparent to the students through their research and analysis provides the tools for further growth as readers and writers in academic settings. Flowerdew describes a more linguistic approach of unwrapping the writing of definitions in scientific studies. He argues for a moderately prescriptive approach to expose students to the context of their setting and to provide tools for moving through the different genres of the setting.
Part three examines two different classes, a literature review in a doctoral research paper writing class and an ESL reading class, in what John M. Swales and Stephanie Lindemann call the genre of practitioner papers. Swales and Lindemann's chapter describes the teaching of the literature review for a research paper and dissertation. The authors provide a guide for genre analysis by showing how they build awareness of the genre through activities that involve students in writing a brief literature review. Activities include students discussing and analyzing the decision-making processes they use in their construction of a literature review. Their goal is for the students to transfer the knowledge gained through this activity to writing in their disciplines.
Sunny Hyon describes a reading course using genre-based pedagogy. The course involved the teaching of four genres to a class of mostly graduate students. The primary goal was to raise consciousness of the genre through examining the form and functions of the different genres under examination. While the approach did yield greater structural awareness of texts which enabled students to become more proficient readers in using text structure, it was not fully satisfactory in building reading proficiency leading the author to suggest teaching less genres so more attention can be given to content and language.
The next section, Bridging Text and Context, consists of two studies that compare teaching approaches. Terrance T. T. Pang's article, examines two approaches to teaching genre in teaching a film review while Betty Samrag describes the writing assignments for two courses taught in environmental science. Pang's study compares the teaching of the film review in two classes. In one class, the film review was taught through a contextual approach of exploring the context of the film review. After analyzing film reviews and movie guides, students wrote a film review. The textual group studied the schematic structure and grammar of film reviews through examining some reviews. When the classes were compared on the basis of a writing questionnaire and the film reviews, both groups made considerable progress in writing though the textual approach seemed to be more helpful for the students with initially low scores.
Samarag's study examined the effects of task contexts on student genre development. A class in Wildlife Behavior and a class in Resource Policy are compared. The task demands of the Wildlife Behavior classes shaped papers that resulted mostly in the students displaying knowledge type of paper; in contrast, the Resource Policy task which replicated a workplace context of making a recommendation to a government official for a line of action resulted in many papers that closely fit the demands of a policy line recommendation memo instead of an academic paper.
The New Rhetoric section explores applications of research and theory from first language writing. Both chapters focus on writing and consider how the situated writing tasks shape the final product. Christine Adam and Natasha Artemeva show how to use writing instruction as a means of introducing learners to the academic community. They describe a content-base course based on language learning, a subject that both students and teacher have expertise in. This content enables the teacher to respond knowledgeably to the students content as well as their writing.
In the second chapter in this section, Richard Coe proposes some principles of genre theory. He emphasizes the social aspect of the genre both in how the texts are situated and how the genre relates to group membership or exclusion. He proceeds to elucidate the application of these principles through describing an innovative series of assignments that engage students in writing a political brief. In writing these briefs, students analyze the audience and responses in order to revise the brief to make them effective consensus building persuasive texts.
Pedagogical Quandaries is the theme for part six. Virginia Guleff argues that pre-writing strategies, especially in textbooks, have become codified into standard practices. She presents a different approach based on learners developing a greater awareness of genre and transferable analytical skills. In her chapter, she describes block classes where a sociology class and a writing class are linked. The linked classes work together on constructing an ethnographic paper. In the writing class, learners observe and record information about the sociology class and compile the data. To meet the challenge the students face of translating data into text, she exposes the students to a model of a similar type of writing and leads the students through considering how the expert reported the data he collected. Through this process of compilation and analysis, students learn analytical pre-writing strategies. This pre-writing approach takes students away from what have become standard pre-writing techniques toward a context responsive approach.
But what if your academic papers do not fit into neat categories that have the moves and common patterns that make genre pedagogy seem so applicable asks Dudley-Evans. He discusses two types of writing at length: the 2,000 to 3,000 word essay which seems to vary widely depending on topic, task, and discipline, and the use of sources. The first part of the approach is to focus on linguistic aspects of the essay that comprise its style such as use of formal verbs, avoiding colloquial expressions, and not using contractions. When dealing with using sources, his approach involves a detailed examination of how sources are reported and incorporated in the writing the students will need to do in their disciplines.
Johns argues that students come to classes with genre theories, but the genre theories are too simple to match the realities of academic texts. Furthermore, genres are constantly undergoing changes. Therefore, she presents an approach for destabilizing the students' genre knowledge in order to make their understanding of the genres more sophisticated. This approach like many in the book seeks to avoid simple cookie cutter approaches to teaching reading and writing.
The final section of the book begins with a review article by William Grabe that argues for two macro genres: narrative and exposition. He reviews research from cultural psychology, learning theory, educational psychology, cognitive psychology, educational literacy, and corpus linguists to show the importance of these genres for learning from text. His article is followed by responses from three genre practitioners. J. R. Martin challenges his two macro-genres on the basis that while they may provide a continuum for many types of texts, they do not cover all the uses of language. In particular, he specifies genres of spoken language use. Vijay Bhatia notes that Grabe's classifications are based on evidence that is outside of genre theory. She proposes three categories of genre: generic value, a category that is free of contextual constraints; genre colony which is not tightly connected to socially recognizable situations; and a third category, generic constructs, which are connected to specific and identifiable constructs. Finally, Berkenkotter points out that Grabe's categorization makes a division that her research reveals to be artificial since the two genres may be found within a single text. However, she praises Grabe for going outside of a single field in his review thus providing different perspectives that reflect the complexity of genre study and the task of teaching genre by avoiding prescriptions and templates.
Several themes emerge in the book. The importance of contextualizing instruction is evident as the different writers present the challenges and demands on their students subsequent to the courses their English courses. Related to this idea is the importance of fitting the genre pedagogy to the teachers' situations. Thus the Sydney school focuses on a general approach to genre pedagogy to prepare elementary learners for the genres that will be integral to their future studies. The advanced classes of academic or English for specific purpose classes require more specificity in describing or analyzing genre. Finally, chapter after chapter emphasizes that teachers avoid the use of templates in teaching genre since genres tend to change as they are used.
This book brings together important chapters in expanding the pedagogical use of genres in literacy. Characteristic of this expansion is shift from the linguistic and research orientation of understanding and using moves within a single genre to an emphasis on situated learning. The goal of genre pedagogy at this point can be said to be to help students develop needed analytical skills to understand and produce the genre or genres being studied. This will prepare them for the different genre constructions they will encounter or need to use.
This book is a valuable addition to understanding genre theory and applications in the classroom. It is a practitioner's book with the strength of experience and practicality informing the chapters. Most literacy teachers will find something of value in the book as will new teachers seeking to connect theory with practice. It is an admirably practical book connecting theory and practice.
John M. Graney
Santa Fe Community College
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