Diagnostic assessment of discourse competence in EFL learners’ academic writing in university study

Yumin WANG

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses

Abstract

Diagnostic assessment (DA) has its objective in generating fine-grained diagnostic profiles for effective treatment or intervention. Most existing DA studies on English academic writing focus on developing diagnostic tools to identify problems or difficulties within written texts. Rarely are there studies that design and implement a treatment or intervention phrase following the diagnosis. Moreover, despite of its importance, few studies have examined the construct of discourse competence. This thesis project, therefore, firstly diagnosed EFL learners’ development of discourse competence (DC) as indicated by their academic writing in university, and then based on the diagnostic results, designed and implemented an intervention study.

The project involved six Chinese EFL learners studying in a university in Hong Kong, nine individuals studying in mainland, and their 277 peers pursuing their first degree in an international degree program based on a comprehensive university in mainland China. In both contexts, the participants need to write academic assignments in English. Methodologically, the project adopted a mixed-method approach and was conducted via four inter-linked studies, namely, a text analysis study, a comparative multiple-case studies, a survey, and an intervention study. The diagnosis phrase, consisting of text analysis, multiple case study and a survey, examined student writers’ textual features, composing strategies, and academic writing knowledge status. The intervention phrase was designed to resolve students’ problems and difficulties identified in the first phase.

The results showed that the cyclical diagnostic assessment procedure was effective in identifying specific lacks, problems and difficulties in learners’ written products, composing process and knowledge status, and the diagnosis could inform the design of intervention measures in teaching and learning of EFL academic writing. Specifically, contextuality was found to be a critical element for ensuring effective treatment following diagnosis. To secure quality diagnosis, however, proper teacher training or professional development program should be in place. The fine-grained rubric developed and validated in this project to assess text features at the discourse level would be useful for this endeavor. The rubric could also be employed by EFL writers for self-diagnosis. Furthermore, the project also developed a set of discipline-situated metacognitive intervention strategies that teachers could use to improve students’ development of DC in academic writing. These outcomes of the project could enrich current understanding of construct specificity in diagnostic assessment.

Overall, through investigating discourse competence, an under-researched construct within the area of language assessment, and combining the diagnosis with an intervention study, this thesis project shed new lights on the design, development and implementation of diagnostic assessment tools in English for Academic writing purposes classrooms. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
Supervisors/Advisors
  • XIE, Qin 謝琴, Supervisor
  • CHEUNG, Hin Tat 張顯達, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Diagnostic assessment
  • Discourse competence
  • Academic writing
  • EFL learners
  • University study
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ph.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2021.

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Diagnostic assessment of discourse competence in EFL learners’ academic writing in university study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.