English Argumentative Writing in Norwegian Lower Secondary School : Are year 10 lower secondary students sufficiently prepared for L2 argumentative writing in upper secondary?
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This thesis studies English language argumentative writing instruction in Norwegian lower secondary schools with an eye towards evaluating year 10 students’ academic preparation for argumentative writing in upper secondary. Argumentation is a key skill for academic success and is an important skill for civic life in a democracy. While research is scarce on the topic of academic and argumentative writing in upper secondary school, it is even scarcer in lower secondary. Because of this, the present study is one of the first studies examining argumentative writing proficiency at the lower level. In order to examine the situation in lower secondary, a corpus analysis and a mixed methods research consisting of a survey and four follow-up semi-structured interviews were employed. The corpus consisted of 13 essays written by year 10 lower secondary students. The corpus analysis alone aimed to assess the degree to which students were mastering the skills they will need in upper secondary. To achieve this, a set of criteria for the advanced argumentative essay was developed. A term developed solely for this thesis, the advanced argumentative essay describes a text type students in lower secondary need to master in order to be regarded as “prepared” for argumentative writing in upper secondary. In addition, the survey and the interviews aimed to elicit teachers’ writing instruction and attitudes in order to provide insight and an opportunity to discuss why or why not year 10 students are prepared for argumentative writing in upper secondary. The results from the corpus analysis show that year 10 students are not prepared for argumentative writing in upper secondary. The corpus analysis revealed that students struggle with organizing arguments and creating argument coherence. In addition, all essays portray highly expressive and informal language, and instead of referring to external sources, use emotionally based or anecdotal evidence to support claims. The findings from the mixed method research show that the majority of the teachers’ regard “structure” as the most important element in argumentative writing and reported of a highly frequent use of the five-paragraph essay in their instruction. This supports the findings of Horverak (2015a) and McIntosh (2017) and suggests that teachers may focus more on overall structure than on argument quality. The findings also suggest that there is a narrative culture in lower secondary school, especially at the beginning of students’ learning course. Though there also seems to be a capable focus on argumentation, the findings reflect that how often argumentative writing is incorporated into teachers’ instruction is highly individual. It is also unclear how frequently III the argumentative essay text type is integrated into lower secondary English instruction. However, the findings from the interviews suggested that there is a more prominent focus on the argumentative essay in year 10. Interestingly, some of the informants in the interviews reported of having received insufficient training in argumentative writing in higher education.
Master's thesis education EN502 - University of Agder 2018