Big ideas & sharp focus: Researching and developing students' academic writing across the disciplines
This paper reflects on the influence of Halliday's work in the way three educators conceive and conduct their teaching of English for academic purposes in various degree courses at the same university in Australia. Several 'big ideas' from Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) are considered within the general aim of helping students master the specific forms of writing used to assess their learning. Each vignette of teaching practice focuses on an aspect of literacy and language that has proven difficult for the students. Each also draws on SFL to identify the nature of the problem and design a teaching intervention, to enable students to improve their academic writing and learning. The point of departure in each case is a specific assignment that students need to write, which is described as a genre, as defined through careful linguistic analysis. Attention to linguistic detail in specific forms of communication is presented as an effective form of learning support in tertiary education, especially for students making a major transition into new ways of working in specific disciplinary contexts. The fundamental value of SFL is recognised for its capacity to define both what and how to teach, whenever there is need to pay close attention to students' language development.