July 23, 2009 by Willy Cardoso
(This post is an attempt to review one of the three most interesting presentations given in the 7th CTJ Seminar in Brasília, and also to document some insights I’ve had so far at this event)
Paper: EFL VERSUS L1 WRITING INSTRUCTION: CONVERGENCES AND DIVERGENCES
Speaker: Isabella Villas Boas
Since Casa Thomas Jefferson in Brasília and its seminar were unbeknownst to me until I received their call for papers, I could only figure out they had presentations such as this one I’m writing about, when I received the program and started to carefully select the talks I would attend. The title of this particular one was what instantaneously caught my attention, for its being something more academic-like, which is what I miss in the mainstream TEFL events in São Paulo. I then referred to the abstract of this paper, and guess what? It was a report of a doctoral dissertation, carried out in 2006 with Universidade de Brasília (UnB). And to make it even more compelling, Isabela – who is the General Academic Coordinator with Casa, as they call it here – also has outstanding experience as a TEFL speaker. There was nothing I could do rather than attend, and make an effort to apprehend a subject that, in my opinion, could’ve been put in a whole-morning session! After all, I found the subject matter of great importance to a reappraisal of our educational standards. Isabela also unfolded it in a smooth non-exhausting fashion, making it accessible to those less accustomed to academic presentations, such as myself.
I’d love to address better what I’ve seen, but I still have to take a better look at the references cited. Summing it up though, it was a description of a research aimed at documenting and analyzing intermediate-level learners writing development in a genre-based, social-interactional and process-oriented approach, and comparing it to these learners’ writing instruction in their native language (Portuguese). One of the conclusions drawn from this thesis is that, even though the National Curriculum describes comprehensively the methodology for the teaching of writing, little is effectively done in the classrooms of primary education to make learners write better. The ones who demonstrated a better textual competence were the ones who were motivated and aided by an EFL institution.
The first thing that struck me as the session ended was that this is a crying shame if you stop to consider that only very few privileged youngsters have access to private instruction in an EFL school, which means, our educational system and its agents are far behind in providing what an individual needs in order to help this very country thrive. It’s not really of me to be expostulating about the so-called ‘system’, but this is the feeling that this presentation left me with. What I know is that there is no amount of soy and sugar, soccer and carnival, that will make up for poorly educated citizens.
Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. I’m totally with him, and I’m sure those guys at CTJ sympathize with it too. The things I’ve been learning here are certainly making me a better educator, and that will hopefully trickle down to the ones that rely on me for being better teachers or learners, and that motivates the heck out of me!