Novosibirsk State Pedagogical University Bulletin, 2018, No.6, pp.201-215
372.811 + 811.111

An empirical investigation on undergraduate students’ writing skills in a foreign language as a social practice within a non-linguistic university

Smirnova N. V. 1 (St.Petersburg, Russian Federation), Bagramova N. V. 2 (St.Petersburg, Russian Federation)
1 National research university "Higher school of economics - St. Petersburg"
2 Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia

Introduction. This study represents the first stage in a larger study where we address the problem of teaching writing in a foreign language as a social practice within changing higher education context in Russia. The aim of the study is to identify core values and levels of motivation, self-regulation and self-reflection skills, as well as core writing skills, which together characterize writing as a type of social practice, with first-year undergraduate students at a non-linguistic university.
Materials and Methods. The study is based on activity theory and the communicative approach to foreign language acquisition as well as on the ideas from the field of Sociolinguistics. Three empirical instruments have been developed: a self-evaluation questionnaire (students’ values and incentives for writing), a self-evaluation questionnaire (self-regulation and self-reflection on writing), and a written test.
Results. The authors have studied the notion of writing as a social practice and defined its values and meaning, motivation, cognition and behavior aspects in order to develop the empirical tools for the study. Drawing on the questionnaire and written test data sets, we have revealed the absence of core values and motivation, which influence how an author represents his/her identity in a written text during the process of meaning making. A low level of self-regulation and self-reflection within a text production cycle among the students have also been revealed. The written test data indicate that even if students meet grammar and vocabulary accuracy criteria, they still have poor skills of reasoning and applying counter arguments, structuring the text as a single unity at micro and macro levels, using cohesion devices and expressing the their stance according to the field of knowledge.
Conclusions. The authors conclude that first-year students at a non-linguistic university fail to demonstrate the core values, motivation, self-regulation and self-reflection as well as academic writing skills, which characterize writing as a type of social practice, based on certain values and meaning making process, motivation, cognition and behavior.


Foreign language writing; Social practice; Academic writing; Writer’s identity; Values; Critical thinking; Written speech motivation; Self-regulation; Self-reflection; Novice writer.

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Date of the publication 31.12.2018