The impact of time allowances in an EAP reading-to-write argumentative essay assessment
AuthorsBruce, Emma Louise
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AbstractThe aim of this study is to investigate the impact of time allowances on students’ source use, composing behaviour and performance, in a second language reading-to-write assessment context. Set within a language centre in a large Hong Kong university, this mixed-methods study incorporates quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative aspect focuses on an analysis of essay scores and lengths as well as reference types and uses, while the qualitative aspect incorporates retrospective questionnaires and discourse-based interviews to gain an understanding of students’ intentions, views and approach to composing. The synthesis of the countable data with students’ personal insights facilitated an understanding of the ways in which differences in source use and composing behaviour in the timed and extended conditions affected performance. The findings show that the majority of students preferred the extended condition as they valued the time to read the sources, think and reflect in a relaxed environment. Conversely, some students felt the time pressure elicited a heightened cognitive state, which enhanced their performance. Students tended to write over multiple sessions, engage more with the source texts and adopt a more recursive approach in the extended condition. In contrast, when composing under time pressure, students tended to reduce their engagement with the source texts in order to complete their essay. This rush to write the essay resulted in different reading strategies and a more knowledge-telling approach to composing. When students were given more time to write, mean word counts and mean essay scores were significantly higher. The top-performing students seemed to benefit most from the extra time. These writers experienced the biggest positive difference in essay length and scores, and displayed more instances of source-text use, but perhaps surprisingly they were more likely to embed their understanding of what they read into their own text without referencing the source material. The data suggest that, for higher-achieving students, the extra time resulted in an increased interaction with the source texts, which allowed them to take a more expert persona in their writing, impressing raters and leading to higher overall scores. The results have important implications for language teachers and test developers in EAP programmes. In particular, they demonstrate the paradox of implementing reading-to-write task types in an attempt to simulate the target language use context while failing to take account of the time required to engage in the appropriate academic literacy skills. Importantly, EAP curriculum and assessment designers should recognise that genuine academic writing requires time for students to engage with sources, to reflect and to construct new knowledge. This study suggests that essays produced in timed and extended conditions are two different manifestations of the dynamic reading-to-write construct and that, if both types of writing are indeed demanded in the wider university, EAP programmes should support students in acquiring the most appropriate and effective skills for achieving success in both contexts.
CitationBruce, E.L. (2020) 'The impact of time allowances in an EAP reading-to-write argumentative essay assessment'. PhD thesis. University of Bedfordshire.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted to the University of Bedfordshire, in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
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