How many words must we have? Threshold crossing into an academic disciplinary voice in the UAE. In K. Jiang, J. Don & L. Buckingham (Eds.), EAP and growing interdisciplinary research: discourse, literacy and pedagogy (pp. xx). Routledge/Springer/Palgrave Macmillan.

michelle Bedeker, Amina Gaye

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract

When students enter higher education, they are not only confronted with making sense of content but also of the ways that language functions as a meaning-making resource to transmit disciplinary knowledge. There has been a growing body of research that calls for a shift from general skilled-based literacies towards an explicit focus on subject-disciplines and their associated epistemological literacies (Hyland, 2017; Tribble, 2017). In this paper, we argue that developing an academic disciplinary voice involves the crossing of Threshold Concepts (TC), which are the 'conceptual gateways or portals that lead to a previously inaccessible and initially perhaps troublesome way of thinking about something' (Meyer & Land, 2005, p.373). When English as Medium of Instruction (EMI) is a foreign language for students, it becomes imperative to develop their metalanguage to assist them in crossing threshold concepts because they are, "learning a language, learning through language, learning about language" (Halliday, 1993, p. 113). In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), health sciences' students' English language proficiency is consistently under pressure when writing assignments and tests. Thus, they are often framed in deficit discourses associated with being underachievers, unmotivated or lacking an academic voice. This paper addresses this issue and focuses on low-proficiency EFL students who display little motivation when they enter a compulsory one year General Requirements Department (GRD) program. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to highlight how two lecturers, one specializing in English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and the other in Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) genre-based pedagogies were able to induct Emirati health sciences students (nursing, pharmacy, physiotherapy and radiology) into academic writing discourses associated with their career programs. First, we share the ways that our different theoretical entry points facilitated students' threshold concept crossing related to doing systematic literature reviews, developing PICOT questions and participating in scholarly academic conventions. Then, we illustrate the stages of a SFL Teaching-to-Learning Cycle (TLC) (Brisk, 2015) combined with ESP rhetorical or contextual clues (Tribble, 2017) that provided scaffolds during student threshold crossings which we considered as '…transformative [and] irreversible (unlikely to be forgotten)…'. Through the threshold crossing frame, we intend to highlight the ways that SFL and EAP pedagogy not only exposed students to the knowledge of their disciplines but, more importantly, how they became aware of the ways that language constructs such knowledge (Meyer & Land, 2005, Shanahan & Meyer, 2006). This study followed a qualitative method to shed light on the TLC stages, the tasks that students participated in and the extent that academic voice or threshold concepts were crossed. The findings show that a combined ESP/EAP, SFL genre-based pedagogy hold relevance for pedagogy and interdisciplinary approaches in this health sciences domain.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication EAP and growing interdisciplinary research: discourse, literacy and pedagogy
EditorsK Jiang, J Don, L Buckingham
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter10
Publication statusIn preparation - 2021

Keywords

  • Threshhold concepts
  • English for Specific Purposes
  • Systemic Functional Linguistics
  • Academic writing
  • disciplinary voice
  • genre-based pedagogy
  • health sciences

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