Kairos 17.3


There are four takeaways we would like to share with you — valuable lessons we have learned since the Writing Hub launched in 2011.

We have learned that a writing program must reflect its national and cultural context and actual needs on the ground rather than an individual's theoretical stance. Since some Writing Hub staff were educated in the United States, the transfer of the rhetorical model has sometimes been difficult in a vastly different university system, where there is no common core. Moreover, since the best rhetoric and composition textbooks are published in the United States, it has been challenging to use local examples of writing that are more meaningful to Australian students. The longitudinal study was designed to ascertain the needs of Australian students and to respond to these needs through Writing Hub services and curriculum.

We have learned that particular theories of writing (in our case, rhetoric) cannot be expected to replace local accepted methods of inquiry and processes of writing instruction. Instead, careful research should be done to determine needs on the ground, so as to establish an integrative approach with other theories and practitioners, to establish a genuinely collaborative approach to writing across the university.

We have learned that theories of writing instruction that initially may seem to work in opposition to rhetoric can actually be employed to devise complementary practices. The predominant theory of writing at the University of Sydney is functional grammar or Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL). Rather than replacing these theories and approaches with rhetoric, we seek instead to develop a complementary approach so students can be exposed to the best of both theories. We have found, for example, that SFL, in conjunction with rhetoric, is particularly useful to students whose first language is not English.

We have learned that a cross-cultural approach supports multimodal practice. Just as there are multiple modes for teaching delivery and student engagement, the diversity and multivocalities in the cross-cultural classroom offer richer pathways to discovery and critical thinking. Our goal is to offer a range of teaching styles and contexts for a range of student interests, learning needs, and backgrounds.


Please visit the University of Sydney Writing Hub website for more information on our program, and see the references page for our citations.