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Slide Notes

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Psychology as a second language?

Published on Nov 19, 2015

Presented at the LOEX 2015 Annual Conference in Denver, Colorado.


Psychology as a second language?

What applied linguistics can teach us about scholarship as conversation
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Fiona Inglis

seneca college, Information Literacy Librarian
For many years, I was an English language instructor mainly for students who needed to improve their language skills before starting their program at a Canadian University. While I was doing this, I studied for an MA in Applied Linguistics and basically used my students as guinea pigs to test out various theories about how they learnt. This often involved me recording some kind of spoken interaction and closely analysing how certain features of the language were used. This is my discourse analyst past. I then began working in university writing and learning centres and found myself focusing more on the features of written language and learning more about writing pedagogy. During this time I also worked as a sessional faculty member teaching a composition course. Finally, I became a librarian and began to see more of the information –seeking side of a student’s life.

Autumn PIette

Seneca college, Information Literacy Technician
I’ve been at Seneca College for 15 years, the last 5 years in the role of information literacy technician. At Seneca an IL technician provides introductory and basic library instruction workshops to students and also assists the IL Librarian (in my case Fiona) with the delivery of more complex information literacy classes. I help develop research and informational tools in both print and online resources. I have a B.A. in history From Brock University and Library and Information Technician Diploma also from Seneca College.
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This might seem like a negative place to start, but I think that feelings of frustration can lead to great teaching and learning innovations.

Research papers (and other assignments) often make people feel this way.

Students are frustrated by the apparently arbitrary rules they have to follow.

Instructors are frustrated by the quality of the sources, writing and citation of the papers they have to mark.

Library staff are frustrated by only having an hour a semester to help and often being pushed into spending that time demonstrating search tools. We know that libraries need to be about more than just discovery, and that we need to ensure that students can actually use the resources that they find.
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Scholarship as conversation

I think that the concept of scholarship as a conversation can help here. I am going to assume that we have all at least glanced at the new framework document, so I am not going to spend too long going over it. What I am going to do is focus on a couple of the things we see in student papers that suggest that they are struggling with this concept.

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2015). Framework for information literacy in higher education. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/ilframework
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Misplaced focus

The first one is a misunderstanding of the reason why we refer to other scholars' work in our own academic writing. Students often focus on the need for "5 peer-reviewed scholarly articles" without considering what they need those articles to do in their paper. So long as they include 5, kind of on topic, the requirement has been met.
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"Learners... see themselves as contributors to scholarship rather than only consumers of it"

This statement from the framework can be basically summed up in this context as - Writing is creating not just copying. We see a lot of beginner writers who are afraid to add their own voice, or don't see how they, as a newcomer to the field, can possibly have anything to say.
If students understand the bigger picture of being part of a conversation, the need for those 5 peer-reviewed articles will become clearer.


If those five articles have been chosen fairly arbitrarily, trying to shoehorn them into the paper can be challenging. Paragraphs become a messy collection of direct quotes and close paraphrases, often called patchwriting. Again there is that issue of finding your voice.

"Not having a fluency in the language and process of a discipline disempowers [a learner's] ability to participate and engage".

I translate this to - You have to speak the language to join the community.
Conversations have rules and each community has their own variation on these rules. Familiarity with the modes of discourse used in their discipline can help students see how writing can be organized, and what it might be expected to look like. This does not have to be prescriptive. I suggest a more reflective/ awareness-raising approach.
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This approach to research and writing makes citation difficult. A common question at our reference desk is "Do I have to put a citation at the end of each sentence?".

This kind of writing may result in charges of plagiarism since paraphrases might be too close to the original and be flagged by anti-plagiarism software.
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"Providing attribution to relevant previous research is also an obligation of participation in the conversation. It enables the conversation to move forward and strengthens one's voice in the conversation"

One of my favourite parts of the new framework is this sentence clearly stating that citation is not just about plagiarism. Too much of higher education's focus is on punishment for plagiarism, and the real reason for citation can get lost. We need to show students that it is also a way to engage in an ongoing conversation and allow others to follow your path.
Understanding that citation is not just a trick designed to get you in trouble, can make using it much easier.

How do we approach teaching these concepts? How can students learn the rules of this conversation?
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Discourse analysis

Discourse analysis can help.
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Close analysis of a piece of writing to identify specific features and how they are used.

For the purposes of this workshop, we will be using the following definition.
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Untitled Slide

I’m going to go back to my language teaching days and show you how some of the texts I used then are relevant to our discussion today.

This book had a big influence on my approach to teaching, and I’m going to use a few quotes to show you what I mean.

"cultures use genre to accomplish their social interaction [so] discourse analysis provides a window on the values and priorities of the community that created them"

So we are going to start by thinking about genre and discourse communities. Wennerstrom states that [quote on slide]. To put this into our context - when students go to college and start studying a specific discipline, they are entering a new discourse community. Each community has specific forms or genres of written communication, e.g. the structure of a research paper, the way citations are used, even the way social media is used will be part of different genres within each community.
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Students can “learn to analyze the written discourse of the society around them and appropriate the results of their analysis for their own writing purposes”

Wennerstrom suggests that [quote on slide]. This allows the students to take on the role of discourse analyst and take control of their own learning. This can be a more empowering role than that of newcomer. Students can also question their discoveries and are not expected to unthinkingly adopt all the patterns that they see.
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your turn!

become a discourse analyst
So how does this work in practice? What are the steps for analysing something?
There aren't really any set steps, so what we are going to do are some activities to get you looking closely at an academic journal article.
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analyse a research paper

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scenario one

Scenario 1 – Become familiar with academic modes of discourse
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scenario two

Scenario 2 – Evaluate competing perspectives
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scenario three

Scenario 3 – Contribute to the conversation
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questions/ comments?

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