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Title: Using metaphorical conceptualisation to construct and develop ESL students' writing : an exploratory study
Author: Wan, Wan
ISNI:       0000 0004 2721 2548
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2012
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It has become reasonably common in applied linguistics and teacher training research, to investigate language teachers’ and learners’ understandings of teaching and/or learning through metaphor analysis, based on the idea that identifying and discussing metaphors can bring implicit assumptions to the surface, encourage personal reflection, and as a result provide some insight into individuals’ perspectives on given topics; however, very few studies to date have begun to examine participants’ specific language skills, such as academic writing. In the light of this, the present study adopted an exploratory stance, exploring seven Chinese MA students’ conceptualisations of academic writing, particularly the required writing assignments/essays that they had to complete in an academic year, by means of analysing metaphors they created in the ‘X is Y’ format (e.g., “writing is…because…”). By examining individual students’ metaphorical conceptualisations of writing over three academic terms during a year-long MA programme, the hope was that the results could not only shed light on how students developed their writing, focussing primarily on changes in their conceptualisations of writing, but also look to see whether such changes would lead to adjustments in their writing practices. In addition, given the fact that few metaphor researchers have argued for the investigation of metaphor-based interaction in class, the study was thus to explore the impact on sharing individual personal metaphors of writing on participants’ conceptualisations of their writing practices. Methodologically, the study also examined the validity of the ‘X is Y’ metaphor elicitation task, by investigating the linguistic contexts where various kinds of task difficulty/failure occurred and offering possible solutions. The present study adopted a phenomenological and qualitative approach and involved two phases: a methodological preliminary study and a main study. The purpose of the preliminary study was to investigate how participants responded to a range of writing-related prompts requesting explanations for task difficulty/failure, so that the task format which led to the most successful answers could be adopted in the main study. The main study was conducted in a context of nine academic writing workshops over three academic terms, where seven Chinese MA students were asked to (1) provide metaphors of their writing via a prompt in “academic writing is…because…” format and (2) share with their classmates metaphors in relation to personal writing experiences. To reduce the incidence of unsuccessful answers to the metaphor elicitation tasks, all participants in Term 1 were also asked to attend a ‘Learning to Use Metaphor’ training programme in the form of four ready-made graduate lectures. Six conclusions were drawn on the basis of the findings from both preliminary study and the main study: (1) metaphors were used to convey multiple aspects of students’ conceptualisations of writing; (2) sharing and discussing personal metaphors helped participants improve their writing; (3) participants demonstrated varying degrees of change in their conceptualisations of academic writing; (4) participants became more sensitised to metaphor, and to thinking critically about it; (5) the use of a metaphor elicitation technique to examine informants’ conceptualisations was not methodologically transparent and (6) training both about metaphor and in using it were important.
Supervisor: Low, Graham ; Hardman, Frank Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available