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TEFL Masterclass – Academic Writing

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Neil Harris – Teacher Trainer & Director of Marketing @ CELT Language School.

Neil Harris started his career in ELT in 1993 after completing a CTEFLA with IH London. He quickly realized that language learning and teaching was his true passion. Neil has worked in a variety of roles in the UK and Italy, including as a teacher, Senior Teacher, EAP Lecturer, DoS, Teacher Trainer, Business Development Manager, and Director of Marketing. Currently, Neil focuses on developing online ESP medical English and teacher development programmes in his role in agent-based marketing and course development.

What you will learn

For too long, academic writing has been seen as an intimidating activity both for students and their teachers alike.

The purpose of this workshop is to introduce what I have called the five pillars of academic writing and to show that many of the activities used in the academic writing classroom are in fact similar to the ones used in General English classes.

By focusing on appropriate language development, the use of scaffolding, an awareness of patterns of analysis/rhetorical functions, the process of writing and academic conventions, we can provide our students with much of what is required to become more confident writers for academic purposes.

Workshop Summary

Introduction to Academic Writing Masterclass

Neil Harris introduces a Masterclass aimed at educators and professionals interested in academic writing. Harris outlines the session’s goal to provide practical insights for a smooth transition into academic writing. The class is designed to address common challenges, offering strategies to reduce student anxiety and build confidence in academic writing through a structured approach known as the “five pillars of academic writing.”

Addressing Student Anxiety and Skill Development

Harris highlights the unwarranted negative perception of academic writing, identifying student anxiety rooted in unfamiliarity and fear of judgement as major obstacles. He proposes a solution-oriented approach focusing on systematic skill development, including planning, drafting, and revising techniques. This method aims to bolster student confidence and demystify the academic writing process, making it accessible and less daunting for both novices and seasoned writers.

Fundamentals of Academic Writing

The Masterclass emphasises the importance of starting academic writing education at the basic level, focusing on language development and the introduction of discourse features for coherent writing. Harris advocates for scaffolding—providing step-by-step support to help students progress from constructing simple sentences to composing complex essays. This pedagogical strategy ensures gradual skill enhancement, tailored to students’ proficiency levels, facilitating their journey towards mastering academic writing.

Genre Conventions and Patterns of Analysis

Harris further delves into the significance of understanding genre conventions and exploring patterns of analysis within academic writing. By familiarising students with structural elements common to essays, reports, and dissertations, educators can guide them in organising their thoughts and structuring their work effectively. Additionally, integrating reading and writing skills to identify and apply structural patterns, such as cause and effect or problem and solution, is crucial for developing students’ analytical capabilities and preparing them for various writing tasks.

Academic Integrity and Conclusion

The final segments of the Masterclass underscore the importance of adhering to academic conventions, particularly regarding citation and plagiarism. Harris presents activities aimed at teaching correct citation practices and fostering an understanding of academic language, ensuring students can engage with academic discourse ethically and confidently. Conclusively, Harris advocates for a comprehensive, scaffolded approach to academic writing education, emphasising the need for a blend of language development, awareness of genre-specific conventions, and process writing to fully equip students for the challenges of academic writing.

Reflective Questions

Have a quick think about the reflective questions below in order to get the most out of the workshop:

  1. What kind of writing teacher do you consider yourself to be: General English, EAP, ESP.
  2. Do you feel as a result of this masterclass that there is a significant difference between teaching writing for general purposes and for academic purposes?
  3. How important is process writing in developing good academic writing skills?
  • Bailey, S. (2017). Academic writing: A handbook for international students. Routledge.
  • Library. University of Leeds. (2021). Academic writing. Available at:
  • Sowton, C. (2012). 50 steps to improve your academic writing. Garnet Education.
  • White, R. & Arndt, V. (1991). Process writing. Longman, London. 

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