Supporting genre instruction with an online academic writing tutor: Insights from novice L2 writers
This study examines the design and implementation of an online academic writing tutor offered to novice L2 writers. The tutor was designed to raise students’ genre awareness with regard to writing undergraduate research proposals, a largely underexplored genre. Two discipline-specific corpora of international research articles and student proposals were used to inform the design of the tutor and develop online materials. The tutor provides explicit guidance on the rhetorical organization of student proposals, extensive language support, various types of genre-based online activities, and a supplementary module on APA format references. Quantitative and qualitative data from 21 Russian EFL students and 10 in-service EAP teachers who pilot tested the tool showed that participants valued the online genre content for its usefulness and comprehensibility and rated highly the tool’s usability and pedagogical effectiveness. The tutor’s subsequent use by 38 novice EFL writers in an academic writing course suggests that students found it useful for promoting their genre awareness and related writing skills and appreciated the tool’s technological affordances as compared to print genre materials. Pedagogical considerations for designing and implementing online tools to support genre instruction are discussed.