Date of Award
Master of Arts
Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
The ability to write in a second language is one of the major skills required in academic settings. However, research about the effectiveness of academic programs on second language writing in long term perspective is rather scarce and the findings are mixed (e.g. Archibald, 2001; Elder & O’Loughlin, 2003; Hu, 2007; Knoch et al., 2014, 2015; Storch 2007). The present study aimed to contribute further empirical evidence about the effectiveness of academic training on the development of the writing skills of Vietnamese second language learners enrolled in an undergraduate English program. The investigation was designed in view of the L2 writing standards set by the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) and in reference to the specificities of the Vietnamese English language educational system. The sample involved a total of 90 participants, 30 from each of the following CEFR English language proficiency levels: B1, B2, and C1. The instrument was modeled after the IELTS Academic Module Writing Task 2 which requires test-takers to write a minimum of 250-word essay on a given prompt. The participants’ essays were scored by two independent raters following the IELTS Writing Task 2 Band Descriptors. The data was analyzed through 5 one-way ANOVAs, which aimed to compare the three levels of proficiency, B1, B2, and C1, on their overall writing scores, and on each of the two macro (Task Response and Cohesion and Coherence) and micro sills (Lexical Resources and Grammatical Range and Accuracy) The results revealed two main trends. First, it was found that the writing skills of Vietnamese L2 learners of English have shown a significant improvement in the course of their study, across proficiency levels. Second, the development was of a bigger magnitude between levels B1 and B2 and on a smaller scale between levels B2 and C1. The latter trend appears more meaningful when juxtaposed with the expected IELTS writing band score ranges for each of the three CEFR levels investigated in the present study. Specifically, the obtained scores matched the CEFR standards at level B2, but were above the expected minimum score for level B1 and below the minimum expected score for level C1. These findings carry valuable implications for the specific Vietnamese educational context, highlighting both the strengths and lacks of the English language writing curriculum. They pinpoint issues related to the placement of students in CEFR levels without specific empirical data as well as raise questions about the time, effort, and teaching practices necessary to secure learners’ progress from lower to higher proficiency, particularly after level B1. Another contribution of the study is that it examined developments in L2 academic writing both on the macro and micro level, and has, thus, offered a more comprehensive picture of the different components of the writing skill and their development through a course of study. In contrast, existing research has either looked at the writing skill in a holistic way or focused on one or some of its elements, but has rarely approached writing as a balanced composite of macro and micro skills.
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