Teaching English for Academic Purposes: Analysing Marking Descriptors
Marking Descriptors – Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies
The first marking descriptors document under consideration comes from the University of Warwick’s Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies. In this document, requirements for students’ academic writing proficiency are established (Marking descriptors n.d.). There are six ranks of marks in the descriptor: zero, fail, first, lower second, upper second, and. These ranks are further sub-divided into zero, low fail, fail, high fail (sub Honours), low 3rd, mid 3rd, high 3rd, low 2.2, mid 2.2, high 2.2, low 2.1, mid 2.1, high 2.1, low 1st, lower mid-1st, upper mid-1st, high 1st, and excellent 1st (Marking descriptors n.d.). The detailed ranking scheme employed in the descriptor is particularly useful since it enables a more precise evaluation of each student’s work depending on their academic achievement. The skills necessary for gaining the highest number of points are linked to excellent knowledge of the subject, including “exceptional insight” (Marking descriptors n.d., p. 4). Also, such factors as eloquence and scholarly organization are considered as crucial.
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The descriptors emphasize the significance of such skills as presenting persuasive arguments, an engaged response, and integration. Scholars frequently analyze these factors in their studies. For instance, Young (2013) mentions that showing competence in interacting with others is highly significant for academic English course students. Hirvela and Du (2014) remark that students should be able to work with scholarly literature and interpret the data from it correctly. Haneda (2014) emphasizes the need to develop the abilities of problem-solving and developing ideas. When investigating analytical approaches used in academic writing, Basturkmen and von Randow (2014) agree that the knowledge of these skills is crucial for successful course completion. Thus, marking descriptors under consideration include the aspects that professionals regard as vital for students taking an academic English course.
King’s College London (KCL) English Learning Centre (ELC) Writing Band Descriptors
The second analyzed a set of marking descriptors that have been issued by King’s College London. The document comprises the following ranks of marks: outstanding, excellent, very good, food, satisfactory, basic, and fail (KCL ELC writing band descriptors n.d.). The score is determined based on such factors as task fulfillment, critical analysis, coherence and cohesion, style and lexis, grammatical range and accuracy, and academic conventions (KCL ELC writing band descriptors n.d.). Each of these factors, which are reflected in the scholarly literature on the issue, plays a crucial role in mastering academic English.
One of the major requirements mentioned in the marking descriptors is the control of lexical features. This qualification is considered as important by scholars investigating the issues of teaching and learning English for academic purposes and leads to the conclusion that the descriptors are formulated thoughtfully, and their fulfillment can enable students to reach the highest level of knowledge. In their analysis of academic writing assessments, Gebril and Plakans (2016) admit the outstanding role of lexical diversity in this process. Indeed, scholars note that lexical measures are tools that can help identify the quality of students’ writing, as well as their vocabulary knowledge (Gebril & Plakans 2016). Cai (2016) also emphasizes the significance of a sophisticated control of lexical features. Thus, including this requirement in marking descriptors was a wise decision.
Apart from lexis, the criteria in the descriptors involve such elements as cohesion, organization, and logical progression. According to Salter-Dvorak (2016), the ability to build arguments and express one’s opinions is one of the core skills that should be developed during an academic English course. Helmer (2013) remarks that teaching English for academic purposes requires an excellent organization. Thus, the criteria mentioned in the KCL ELC writing band descriptors are crucial for the development of students’ skills and mastery of academic English.
Basturkmen, H & von Randow, J 2014, ‘Guiding the reader (or not) to re-create coherence: observations on postgraduate student writing in an academic argumentative writing task’, Journal of English for Academic Purposes, vol. 14, pp. 14-22.
Cai, J(L) 2016, ‘An exploratory study on an integrated genre-based approach for the instruction of academic lexical phrases’, Journal of English for Academic Purposes, vol. 24, pp. 58-74.
Gebril, A & Plakans, L 2016, ‘Source-based tasks in academic writing assessment: lexical diversity, textual borrowing and proficiency’, Journal of English for Academic Purposes, vol. 24, pp. 78-88.
Haneda, M 2014, ‘From academic language to academic communication: building on English learners’ resources’, Linguistics and Education, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 126-135.
Helmer, KA 2013, ‘Critical English for academic purposes: building on learner, teacher, and program strengths’, Journal of English for Academic Purposes, vol. 12, no.4, pp. 273-287.
Hirvela, A & Du, Q 2013, ‘”Why am I paraphrasing?”: undergraduate ESL writers’ engagement with source-based academic writing and reading’, Journal of English for Academic Purposes, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 87-98.
KCL ELC writing band descriptors n.d., Web.
Marking descriptors – Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies n.d., Web.
Salter-Dvorak, H 2016, ‘Learning to argue in EAP: evaluating a curriculum innovation from the inside’, Journal of English for Academic Purposes, vol. 22, pp. 19-31.
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Young, RF 2013, ‘Learning to talk the talk and walk the walk: interactional competence in academic spoken English’, Ibérica, vol. 25, pp. 15-38.