Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cultural Issues in Writing Instruction: Purpose, Style, Product

Did you know:
  • the dominant style of academic writing in US universities is based on beliefs and assumptions that are derived from western—US—culture?
  • the common method of thinking & writing is considered the most sophisticated and intelligent by only a small percentage of the world’s people?
  • difficulties in producing ‘acceptable’ writing can stem from cultural variation?
Factors that impact the way people express themselves include:
  • social relations.
  • identity.
  • negotiation of social roles.
Possible indicators that cultural differences may be involved include:
  • persistent writing difficulties despite continual and/or repeated instructions from instructor.
  • a mismatch between the extent of difficulty with a writing task and the student’s educational and experiential level.
Cultural differences may include:
  • attitudes towards and value on directness vs. indirectness.
  • attitudes towards and value on connectedness and individuality.
  • attitudes towards and value on ‘analysis’ and ‘originality.’
  • perceptions of politeness.
  • ways of demonstrating respect.
  • ways of offering criticism.
When working with students outside mainstream academic culture consider:
  • avoiding making assumptions about what writing ‘does.’
  • assuring a common understanding of the goal of writing assignment.
  • working towards a common understanding of ‘analysis.’
  • working towards a common understanding of ‘original.’
  • supplying examples of ‘A’ level writing assignments.
  • clarifying view of audience (reader) needs.
  • understanding the writer’s frustrations.

From Helen Fox’s Listening to the World: Cultural Issues in Academic Writing. NCTE, 1994.

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