About the Academic Writing Service and Studie- och Språkverkstaden
The Academic Writing Service is the English-language service offered by Studie- och språkverkstaden (The Language and Study Centre). We provide study skills and academic writing support for all students at Stockholm University. Our mission is to make it possible for as many students as possible to complete their studies independently and achieve good results, regardless of their background or circumstances. We are active in developing our pedagogical approaches, which all have the student placed firmly at their centre.
Our mission is to ensure that students with diverse backgrounds and circumstances are able to complete their studies and achieve good results. We do this by:
- Offering one-on-one student consultations, as well as talks, seminars and web-based resources on topics such as academic writing, study skills and oral presentations. These services are offered in both English and Swedish.
- Supporting the work of the university’s academic departments with initiatives promoting the improvement of academic reading, writing and study skills.
- Contributing our perspectives and competence to long-term partnerships with other university services and departments in order to promote the development of generic attributes. We work together with study and careers counsellors, the Student Union, Student Health, Special Pedagogical Support, the Stockholm University Library, the Centre for the Advancement of University Teaching and Språkstudion, in order to give students the best possible support.
- Actively developing our pedagogical approaches, drawing on our discipline-specific competence.
The Academic Writing Service and Studie- och språkverkstaden are a part of Student Services.
Our staff are experienced educators with special knowledge of general and academic English and Swedish, English and Swedish as other languages, teaching methods, information and communications technologies, and special-needs education.
Research and best practice
Research and best practice
We aim to base our work on research and best practice, and we develop our practice continually by drawing on research and promoting collegial learning. Examples of the results of this approach are given below.
An important starting point for us is to meet students where they are. We also work with the assumption that all students have the potential to learn and develop.
The framework for individual consultations
Rather than help students with any specific text, the aim of a writing consultation is to help students develop writing skills they can make use of throughout their studies. Our focus is therefore on helping students to learn independently. Students are expected to play an active role in consultations and to work independently on their text between and after consultations.
We take Per Lauvås and Gunnar Handals (1998) definition of constructive criticism as a starting point for our consultations:
- Make the positive features of the text visible.
- Point out what is worth keeping.
- Make clear what is unclear.
- Give some direction to work with the unfinished parts of the text.
- Help give the writer the desire and energy to complete their work.
To set the scene for a productive dialogue we always begin our consultations with a discussion of the students’ needs (see Winder, Kathpalia & Koos, 2016). We ask questions such as:
- What can I help you with today?
- Where are you in your writing process?
- What do you want to get out of today’s consultation?
- What works well with your writing at the moment?
- What are the greatest challenges for your writing?
- What do you need to do to be able to move forward?
At the end of the consultation we want to create space for questions and make sure that any remaining doubts are addressed. In this way the work can be given some direction and the student can be given desire and energy to complete the remaining work (see Thonus, 2016). The end of the consultation is often initiated by asking the student to explain what they have gotten from the conversation so far. It is then possible to open up the dialogue with new questions and discuss the students’ next steps in their writing task. These questions include:
- Can you sum up what we have spoken about so far?
- What have you gotten from our conversation so far?
- Have any questions come up while we have been talking?`
- What can you do now that will have the greatest impact on the final product?
- Are there any obstacles to completing your work successfully?
- What is most interesting for you to work on?
- Is it OK for me to make some suggestions based on what we have spoken about today?
- When we finish the consultation, how are you going to continue your work on the text?
- What have you learned today?
Consultations on study skills
Consultations on study skills take a different form to writing consultations. Our goal is to help the student become more independent, experience a greater sense of control over their studies and develop more effective study skills, however it is often difficult to achieve these outcomes in the space of one consultation. In each study skills consultation we therefore aim to help the student take a step towards these goals, working from their current situation and circumstances.
To create the context for a productive dialogue we want to above all understand the student’s current situation at the beginning of the discussion. Towards the middle and end of the consultation, we then aim to activate the student’s ability to find their own solutions to the challenges they face. Our study skills consultations draw on coaching methods such as the GROW model and cognitive coaching (as described in Berg, 2007). Typical questions we pose are:
- What do you want to get out of our conversation today?
- How are your studies going at the moment?
- What are the reasons for this particular problem or challenge?
- What are your options for changing the situation?
- Which course of action are you going to choose?
When we give advice we try to offer the student a range of strategies to choose from, rather than advocating any specific strategy. Whenever possible, we offer digital or printed resources that the student can refer to and work with after their visit. These resources are available online (in Swedish) at su.se/sprakverkstaden/tips.
We use cognitive and motivational scaffolding in our consultations, together with explicit instruction (see Mackiewicz & Thompson, 2014). This scaffolding aids in the development of the student's writing and study skills, and helps strengthen the student’s self-efficacy. Our choice of instruction or cognitive or motivational scaffolding varies according to the situation, but we nearly always make use of all three strategies in a consultation.
We often use metalanguage to talk about texts and writing. In doing so, we hope to make more features of writing visible for the students. In a writing consultation we might, for example, use the text triangle (Løkensgard Hoel, 2010) to point to the different levels of a text and indicate which level the consultation will focus on. We often try to raise the discussion from the local to the global level, however when the student indicates that they would like to discuss their text at the local level, we also respect their choice. As well as language to describe grammatical features of the text, we use metalanguage to describe structure, organisation and the writing process.
Examples of metalanguage we use in presentations and consultations:
organisation, thesis statement, coherence, signposting, paragraph structure, topic sentences, transition signals, cohesion, redundancy, third person, active voice, hedging, boosting, precision
Peer observation is part of our systematic approach to ensuring the quality of our work. Rather than evaluate the consultation, the aim of an observation is give the person being observed the opportunity to reflect on their practice with the help of a colleague. After the observation, the observer and the person being observed have a 30-minute conversation about the consultation.
Variation theory as support for teaching design
Variation theory suggests that we learn by distinguishing how the object of learning differs from something else, rather than looking at similarities (Marton, 2015). In our teaching, we often point to difference and contrast, rather than solely referring to examples of successful student work. In the case of academic writing, we aim to both demonstrate how academic writing differs from other forms of writing, and give students good examples of academic writing.
Here is some of the literature we have drawn on to develop our practice:
- Ask, S. (2007). Vägar till ett akademiskt skriftspråk (PhD dissertation). Växjö University Press, Växjö. Hämtad från http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:vxu:diva-1276.
- Blåsjö, M. (2004). Studenters skrivande i två kunskapsbyggande miljöer (PhD dissertation). Stockholm. Hämtad från http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:su:diva-265
- Berg, M.E. (2007). Coaching – att hjälpa ledare och medarbetare att lyckas. Lund: Studentlitteratur.
- Carlgren, I. (2015). Kunskapskulturer och undervisningspraktiker. Göteborg: Daidalos
- Bjernhager, L., & Grönvall Fransson, C. (2018). Studieverkstäder vid svenska lärosäten 2017: en kartläggning (Hämtat från webbplatsen för Sveriges språkverkstäder: https://padlet.com/natverket/nfts).
- Grönvall, Camilla (2015). Skrivhandledning och akademiskt skrivande: Språkdebatt och forskningslucka. KAPET, 11(1), 60-71.
- Hyland, T. (2010). Reflections on Teaching Referencing: What Four Case Studies Can Tell us About Developing Effective Teaching Strategies. TESL Canada Journal, 27(2), s. 51-67.
- Lennartson-Hokkanen, I. (2016). Organisation, attityder, lärandepotential: Ett skrivpedagogiskt samarbete mellan en akademisk utbildning och en språkverkstad (Doktorsavhandling).Stockholm: Institutionen för svenska och flerspråkighet, Stockholms universitet. Hämtad från http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:su:diva-134828.
- Løkensgard Hoel, T. (2010). Skriva på universitet och högskolor. Lund: Studentlitteratur.
- Nuthall, G. (2001). The cultural myths and realities of teaching and learning. New Zealand annual review of education. Hämtat från: https://www.teachertoolkit.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Graham_Nuthall_2001.pdf
- Mackiewicz, J., & Thompson, I. (2014). Instruction, cognitive scaffolding, and motivational scaffolding in writing center tutoring. Composition Studies, 42(1), 54-78.
- Marton, F. (2015). Necessary Conditions of Learning. New York: Routledge
- Pang, M. F. & Ling, L. M. (2010). Learning Study: helping teachers to use theory, develop professionally, and produce new knowledge to be shared. Instructional Science, 40(3), s. 589-606.
- Runesson, R. (2017). Variationsteori som redskap för att analysera lärande och designa undervisning. I Carlgren, I. (red), Undervisningsutvecklande forskning. Exemplet Learning study. Malmö: Gleerups.
- Thonus, Therese. (2016). Time to say goodbye: Writing center consultation closings. Linguistics and Education, 33, 40-55.
- Timperley, H. (2013). Det professionella lärandets inneboende kraft.Lund: Studentlitteratur.
- Tväråna, M. (2013). Hur kan den tysta lärarkunskapen utnyttjas för bättre undervisning om styckeindelning i engelska? Forskning om undervisning och lärande, 10, s. 50-63.
- Winder, R., Kathpalia, S. S., & Koo, S. L. (2016). Writing centre tutoring sessions: addressing students’ concerns. Educational Studies42(4), 323-339. doi: 10.1080/03055698.2016.1193476.
- Yeats, R., Reddy, P., Wheeler, A. and Murray, J. (2010) What a difference a writing centre makes: A small scale study. Education + Training, 52(6/7), 499–507. doi: 10.1108/00400911011068450.
For colleagues from other Swedish writing centres
Swedish writing centres are currently undergoing a process of professionalisation. At Studie- och språkverkstaden we want to contribute to this professionalization by sharing our knowledge openly and transparently. We hope to make an active contribution to the development of Sweden’s writing centres. Our profession is important and necessary!
Under the section ‘Research and best practice’ on this page, we list the resources and working methods that have been successful for us. We believe that we have a great deal to learn from each other and we welcome all forms of knowledge exchange. If you would like to know more about our practice, please visit us or come and speak to us at conferences. You can find our contact details below.
Studenthuset, Universitetsvägen 2B, level 1, rooms 155-160
Our shortened web addresses
Studie- och språkverkstaden SU
Egil Yencken (Academic Writing Service)
Josefin Hellman (Group leader)
Last updated: September 8, 2019
Source: Student Services