Author Topic: Writing Anxiety  (Read 2073 times)

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Offline mhenehan

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Writing Anxiety
« on: May 05, 2017, 02:50:51 PM »
Learning about writing from writers
Background:  Dana Ferris visited our class at the University of Illinois, and she spoke about the fact that when academics submit articles that are peer reviewed, they need to submit with their revisions a response as to why they did or did not do what the reviewers said.  This was in the context of explaining to both students and prospective teachers that this is nerve-wracking and anxiety-producing even for seasoned professionals working in their own language.  This makes me think that the more ways we can make writing less stressful the better, and that language learners can learn about this process from other writers. 
Topic:  Dealing with Anxiety in Second Language Learning:  There is plenty of research on language learner anxiety, but much of it is aimed at informing teachers about it and about how to deal with it.  Elaine Horwitz suggested shifting more to the perspective of the student and devised questionnaires that elicit information from the student.  I am suggesting something more metacognitive in that students learn about anxiety the same way teachers do, by reading research about it. 
Level:  This is aimed at college students and graduate students who are enrolled in regular substantive courses and taking an ESL course such as English for Academic Purposes. 
Unit:  Addressing learner anxiety when writing could be a two- or three-day unit.  Treating the same topic for other skills could be additional units, or could be folded into other topics and tasks.
The general goal is to gain insights and develop strategies regarding language learner anxiety. The goal for this unit would be for the student to learn about language learner anxiety from sources outside themselves and their teachers and apply something about another’s writing that will help him with some of the stress and anxiety he experiences while writing English. 
The objective or product is a piece of writing about writing.  The student will show in a short essay what he has learned about another person’s writing anxiety and how it can apply to himself. 
Lesson plan:  Day One
The objective is to successfully contact and interview a faculty member, to elicit from that person some information or insights into the emotional component of writing, and find ways to apply those insights to oneself.
Presentation:  The teacher talks about anxiety in general and how it affects everyone.  Language learner anxiety is more specific and more threatening (which Horwitz and many others explain), but writing anxiety is also significant, even in the L1.  We do not have the phrase “writer’s block” for nothing.
 (In class, homework, whatever the teacher decides)  Students read about language learner anxiety, for instance an article or excerpt of Elaine Horwitz’s work.
Horwitz, E. (2001). Language anxiety and achievement. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 21, 112-126.
Horwitz, E.K., Michael Horwitz, and Joann Cope (1986) Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety. The Modern Language Journal 70 ii.  Table 1 p. 129 in this article lists questions students are asked in order to measure anxiety, which measures the student perspective (which Horwitz stresses), but the target audience of the research is teachers.  By reading the research themselves, they learn how constructs are measured, they look at the problem from the outside rather than from the point of view of their own anxiety, and of course they engage in some theoretical thinking.
Instructions:
1)  Think about how you feel about writing.  How do you feel when you receive an assignment, when you start writing, when you proofread what you wrote?  All writers, even professionals working in their own first languages have some stress over writing. 
2)  Choose one of your professors, but not your advisor or someone you already know well.  If you have a prof for whom English is a second language, that might be good for insights.  However, native English speakers will also be able to talk to you about stress in writing, even if at a different level.  Google the person, or look up the person’s university profile to find out just a little about her research.  Ask him or her if you can come to office hours to ask some questions about his own experience in learning how to write academic material.  This should be separate from other discussions about your assignments in the class.  It is probably a little annoying for profs to have a stranger come to their office on an interview assignment for another class, but meeting with one’s own professors is easier than many students think.  Two little known facts: a) Students do not take enough advantage of office hours, and your prof may be more available than you thought.  b) Telling a prof that you would like to know more about her research and writing is pretty likely to be a door opener.  Tell the professor that your ESL instructor suggested this as a way of learning more about how academics deal with stress or anxiety in the writing process.  Ask about what it is like to write up your own research and submit it for publication.  Is it anxiety-producing?  What are the most useful processes or strategies for overcoming that?
3)  After the interview write up what the person actually said first.  Then think about how it might apply to yourself.  Of course, it is easier for a native speaker, but some of the emotions experienced are the same.
Day Two
Discuss and compare notes with other students.
Day Three
Essay due on what he has learned about another person’s writing anxiety and how it can apply to himself. 
« Last Edit: May 05, 2017, 02:51:52 PM by mhenehan »
Marie Henehan