SAAWR: An online tutorial on writing research proposals
The proposed project aims at contributing to the growing body of research on technology-enhanced self-regulated language learning (Figura & Jarvis, 2007; Lai & Gu, 2011; Yildirim, 2008; Zhao, 2003), with a focus on Russian EFL (English as a foreign language) learners’ academic writing skills. It sets out to explore some of the common challenges of academic writing with regard to producing research proposals and to design a CALL (computer assisted language learning) tutor to address some of these challenges. We began our investigation with identifying salient problem areas that would emerge from students’ authentic academic writing samples--their research proposals produced as part of a core writing requirement in the final year of studies at HSE. Our preliminary findings indicated that writing the proposals in line with international and ‘local’ standards of expository academic prose (Swales & Feak, 2004) presents a problem for many Russian EFL learners. Apart from the challenges of structuring the text within the traditional sections of a standard research article (“Abstract,” “Introduction,” “Methods,” “Results,” etc.), specific problem areas pertaining to academic vocabulary use, the use of grammar for research writing, as well as academic discourse, have surfaced.
To address some of the concerns emerging from the preliminary data analysis, the current project focuses on addressing Russian EFL students’ challenges with structuring the different sections of a research proposal and using academic vocabulary and grammar efficiently. We draw on the recent developments in CALL methodology and instructional design to further our understanding of which features of CALL programs and technology-based instructional approaches are relevant to the study and can be adopted to meet this project’s aims. A taxonomy of Russian learner errors as specific to research proposals has been developed to inform our decisions about the selection and design of the online tutor’s content. Data were gathered on the efficiency of using the tutor to support HSE students’ autonomous learning practices with regard to academic writing. Based on the results of this tutor's pilot testing among Russian EFL learners and English language instructors (2016), pedagogical implications for employing technology-based approaches to teaching academic writing have been drawn.