Training Multilingual Writing Strategies in Higher Education

Multilingual Approaches to Writing-to-learn in Discipline-specific Courses

by Ina Alexandra Machura (Author)
©2022 Thesis 352 Pages
Series: Textproduktion und Medium, Volume 20


This book provides a research-driven discussion of how the epistemic potential of multilingual writing strategies can be conceptualized, investigated, and leveraged in higher education. Research results are reported from an intervention study in two discipline-specific, writing-intensive HE content courses. The study triangulates survey data with think-aloud & screen-recording data and with product data in a pre/post design. Based on the research findings, the book details a multilingual teaching framework in which a translanguaging approach is enhanced with instructional practices from translation training.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgment
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of tables
  • List of abbreviations
  • 1 Introduction and objectives
  • 2 Writing as an epistemic tool
  • 2.1 Remarks: Researching writing as an epistemic tool
  • 2.1.1 Example: Reporting Wiley and Voss (1999)
  • 2.1.2 Example: Feedback and assessment in research designs
  • 2.2 Similarities between writing and learning
  • 2.3 Writing in accordance with genre conventions
  • 2.4 Writing as problem-solving
  • 2.5 Writing as discovery
  • 2.6 Writing as a tool for fostering metacognitive awareness
  • 2.7 Empirical assessment of possible writing activities
  • 2.7.1 Guided freewriting assignments
  • 2.7.2 Types of source-based writing assignments
  • 2.8 Relevant factors in writing instruction
  • 2.8.1 Type of learning goal and of learning outcome assessment
  • 2.8.2 Institutional factors
  • 2.8.3 Prior knowledge
  • 2.8.4 Beliefs and attitudes
  • 2.8.5 Familiarity with the task environment
  • 2.9 Summary
  • 3 Modelling writing and writing skills acquisition
  • 3.1 Models of writing
  • 3.1.1 Hayes (2012)
  • 3.1.2 Leijten et al. (2014)
  • 3.1.3 Göpferich (2008b, 2015a)
  • 3.2 Classifying sub-processes of writing in think-aloud protocols
  • 3.3 Models of writing skills acquisition
  • 3.3.1 The five-stage model by Bereiter (1980)
  • 3.3.2 McCutchen’s capacity theory of writing (2000)
  • 3.3.3 Stages in cognitive development: Kellogg (2008)
  • 3.4 Models of academic writing skills acquisition
  • 3.4.1 Pohl (2010)
  • 3.4.2 Steinhoff (2007)
  • 4 The multilingual mind
  • 4.1 Terminological clarification
  • 4.2 Modeling multilingualism
  • 4.2.1 Theories of multicompetence
  • 4.2.2 Modelling multilingualism from a social justice perspective
  • 4.2.3 Differentiating between native and learner varieties
  • 5 Developing writing skills in the multilingual mind
  • 5.1 Foreign-language processing interference with cognitive processes
  • 5.1.1 FL proficiency and FL type
  • 5.1.2 Language-switching habits and translation skills
  • 5.1.3 Task complexity and sub-process of writing
  • 6 Empirical investigation
  • 6.1 Survey development
  • 6.1.1 Statistical analysis
  • 6.2 Course design and multilingual practices
  • 6.3 Writing assignments and experimental design
  • 6.3.1 Writing fellows and feedback
  • 6.4 Recorded writing sessions
  • 6.4.1 Justification for think-aloud design
  • 6.5 The course participants
  • 6.6 Data analysis
  • 6.6.1 Assessment of text quality
  • 6.6.2 Analysis of the participants’ think-aloud protocols
  • 6.6.3 Determining language usage
  • 7 Results
  • 7.1 Process data
  • 7.2 Survey data
  • 7.3 Relationships between language use and text quality
  • 7.4 Possible groupings
  • 7.5 Case studies
  • 7.5.1 Multilingual group: SD62
  • 7.5.2 Multilingual group: ES02
  • 7.5.3 Multilingual group: EV72
  • 7.5.4 Multilingual group: NK20
  • 7.6 Summary
  • 8 Discussion
  • 8.1 Findings
  • 8.1.1 Process data
  • 8.1.2 Survey data
  • 8.1.3 Text quality
  • 8.1.4 Possible groupings
  • 8.1.5 Case studies
  • 8.2 Additional pedagogical remarks
  • 8.2.1 Comprehension or production problems
  • 8.2.2 Resorting to dictionaries and additional resources
  • 8.3 Methodological considerations
  • 8.3.1 Possible additions to the data set
  • 8.3.2 Possible alternatives for data analysis
  • 9 Teaching recommendations and conclusion
  • References
  • Index
  • Series index

List of figures

Figure 1:Hayes & Flower writing process model (1980; re-printed in Hayes, 2012, p. 370)

Figure 2:The revised writing model from Hayes (2012, p. 371)

Figure 3:The model of professional writing, Leijten et al. (2014, p. 324)

Figure 4:Writing process model (Göpferich, 2015a, p. 129; see also 2008b)

Figure 5:Subcomponents of speaking about writing (Gorzelsky et al., 2016, p. 226)

Figure 6:Five stages of writing development according to Bereiter (1980, p. 80)

Figure 7:Model of progression in writing skills development (Kellogg, 2008, p. 4)

Figure 8:Foci in academic writing skills development (Pohl, 2010, p. 488)

Figure 9:Steinhoff’s model of academic writing skills development (2007, p. 138)

Figure 10:Translingual practice 01 in Canagarajah (2011, p. 12)

Figure 11:Translingual practice 02 in Canagarajah (2011, p. 12)

Figure 12:The integration continuum in multicompetence (Cook, 2002, p. 11)

Figure 13:Model of translation competence (Göpferich, 2009, p. 21)

Figure 14:Distribution of sub-processes in the pre-semester writing session (n = 28)

Figure 15:Distribution of sub-processes in the post-semester writing session (n = 28)

Figure 16:Distribution of languages in text-focused sub-processes (PRE)

Figure 17:Distribution of languages in text-distant sub-processes (PRE)

Figure 18:Distribution of languages in text-focused sub-processes (POST)

Figure 19:Distribution of languages in text-distant sub-processes (POST)

Figure 20: HJ03 postsem 00:38:00 in line with Manchón et al. (2000, p. 14)

List of tables

Table 1:Studies distinguishing between low- and high-engagement attitudes

Table 2:Parameters for situating writing research projects (Prior & Thorne, 2014, pp. 36–37)

Table 3:Internal consistency of five survey components

Table 4:Texts chosen for recorded writing sessions

Table 5:Parameters without significant differences between the course groups

Table 6:Differences between multilingual and monolingual group

Table 7:Idea collection for Costa et al. (2014)

Table 8:Idea collection for Lemhöfer et al. (2004)

Table 9:Acceptable levels of Cohen’s kappa

Table 10:Cohen’s kappa obtained after two rounds of training

Table 11:Cohen’s kappa for rater pairs

Table 12:Rater agreement in percentage

Table 13:Sub-processes of source-based writing

Table 14:No difference groups in TAP experience

Table 15:Language distribution in the courses prior to the semester (n=28)

Table 16:Language distribution in the courses after the semester (n = 28)

Table 17:Distribution of languages in sub-processes of source-based writing (PRE)

Table 18:Distribution of languages in sub-processes of source-based writing (POST)

Table 19:Comparison of FL use between the groups, pre/post (n = 28)

Table 20:Types of language mixing prior to the semester (n = 28)

Table 21:Language use during online search processes, pre/post (n=28)

Table 22:Distribution of attitudes towards multilingual writing strategies (n = 56)

Table 23:Distribution of L1 self-efficacy scores (n = 56)

Table 24:Distribution of FL self-efficacy scores (n = 56)

Table 25:Distribution of ‘relevance of writing’ scores (n = 56)

Table 26:Distribution of ‘writing as learning’ scores (n = 56)

Table 27:Changes in beliefs and attitudes (n = 56)

Table 28:Changes in text quality (strict assessment, n = 56)

←15 | 16→

Table 29:Changes in text quality (lenient assessment, n = 56)

Table 30:Participants ordered by change in L1 usage

Table 31:Change in L1 use and in FL text quality, strict assessment (n = 28)

Table 32:Change in L1 use and in FL text quality, lenient assessment (n = 28)

Table 33:Students grouped by FL use (pre) with survey responses

Table 34:Students grouped by FL use (pre) with FL text quality

Table 35:Students grouped by FL use (post) with FL text quality

Table 36:Students grouped by FL use (post) with survey responses

Table 37:Grouped by change in FL use, survey change, L1 change, process change

Table 38:Students grouped by pre-MWA, with L1 usage per sub-process

Table 39:Students grouped by post-MWA, with L1 usage per sub-process

Table 40:Students grouped by MWA change, with changes in attitudes & behavior

Table 41:Students grouped by pre-MWA, with sub-processes of writing

Table 42:Students grouped by post-MWA, with sub-processes of writing

Table 43:Case studies

Table 44:FL use in monolingual course higher than in multilingual course (pre/post)

List of abbreviations


English as a Foreign Language


English-Medium Instruction


English as a Second Language


Foreign Language, please see L2


Grade point average


Information and Communication Technologies


Dominant Language


Non-dominant Language or Foreign Language, please see FL


Learning to Write


Attitudes towards multilingual writing strategies: score


Relevance of writing: score


Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics


Think-aloud Protocol


Writing Across the Curriculum


Writing Beliefs Inventory


Writing in the Disciplines


Using writing for learning: score


Writing to Learn Content


Writing to Learn


Writing to Learn Languages

←18 | 19→

1 Introduction and objectives

Linguists such as Halliday (1975, p. 3) have established the view that knowledge acquisition in any given discipline in education is tied closely to learners’ ability to understand and produce the texts that constitute a discipline’s knowledge base. In the German-speaking educational context, this receptive and productive text-based ability has been termed Textkompetenz and, importantly, encompasses not only substantial reading skills, but multifaceted abilities that allow learners to

read texts independently, relate what they [the readers] have read to their prior knowledge, and to make use of the information and insights gleaned through reading for subsequent reflecting, communicating, and taking action. Text competence also includes the skills necessary to produce texts for specific readers in order to communicate ideas, evaluations, and intentions in a comprehensible and appropriate manner. (Portmann-Tselikas, 2005, pp. 1–2; my own translation from German into English)1

If learners do not develop the ability to process and produce the discipline-specific texts constituting a given knowledge domain to a sufficient degree, the learners’ knowledge acquisition and socialization into the knowledge community in question may be delayed or even hindered. Halliday (1975) asserts that “educational failure is largely linguistic failure” (1975, p. 3; emphasis in the original). It is the objective of the present project to investigate how such failure can be prevented in the particular context of tertiary education by fostering students’ academic writing competence in both, their dominant (L1) and foreign languages (FL), especially, though not exclusively, English as a foreign language (EFL).2

The present study is concerned with determining whether German university students producing EFL academic texts should be encouraged to resort to ←19 | 20→bi- and/or multilingual writing strategies in order to circumvent cognitive overload during their EFL academic writing processes. Avoiding cognitive overload may be of particular importance in the context of academic writing, since specifically the “knowledge-constituting” (Galbraith, 1999, p. 140) or “epistemic” (Bereiter, 1980, p. 88; see also Göpferich, 2015a, p. 211, 2015b) function of writing (see Bazerman, 2009; Carter, 2007) may help students establish coherence and connections in their ideas and their knowledge base, recognize and correct misunderstandings during learning processes, identify and close gaps in their understanding, and develop new ideas (see also the pilot study in Machura 2021, p. 115; for detailed discussions, see Göpferich 2015a, 2015b, 2016, 2017a, p. 403). When students progress through the stages of writing skills development in general and of academic writing knowledge development in particular in a FL, the risk of cognitive overload may be exacerbated, as challenges in FL writing compete for working memory capacity with the cognitive demands of academic writing and of writing-to-learn (as demonstrated in Silva, 1992; Sasaki, 2000; Scott & José de la Fuente, 2008), with this competition increasing the likelihood of cognitive overload. In order to facilitate the allotment of cognitive resources for students during FL writing processes, educators may instruct and encourage students to employ their native and/or dominant language(s) for specific sub-processes of writing during their FL academic reading and writing processes (for detailed discussions, see Göpferich 2015a, 2015b, 2016, 2017a, p. 416; Otheguy et al., 2015). Resorting to bi- and/or multilingual writing strategies may help students produce FL text of higher quality than they would during solely monolingual FL writing processes (as documented in Wang & Wen, 2002; Woodall, 2002) since the students might use their native and/or dominant language for monitoring and backtracking.3 Also, educators have suggested that switching between languages in educational settings may prevent superficial processing of information and support deeper cognitive processing strategies (for detailed arguments, see Lewis et al., 2013; Baker, 2004). Moreover, social justice positions have been brought forward arguing that educational environments which allow students to express and take pride in their bi- or multilingual identities are more conducive to academic success than educational environments that impose monolingual norms (for detailed arguments, see Gentil, 2018; García, 2015).

Thus, the present study is focused on an EFL context in European tertiary education in which students were given the opportunity to familiarize themselves ←20 | 21→with bilingual writing strategies of different kinds. In the specific case of current European higher education, students are expected to study and to acquire academic writing knowledge not only in their native and/or dominant language, but also in foreign languages, mostly English (see Göpferich, 2015a, 2015b, p. 14, 2017b; Göpferich† et al., 2019; Wächter & Maiworm, 2015; DAAD). As indicated above, having to write and think academically in a FL might lead to cognitive overload during the writing processes, in which case the students might not have enough cognitive resources at their disposal to make use of the epistemic function of academic writing (for empirical accounts, see Silva, 1992; Sasaki, 2000; Scott & José de la Fuente, 2008). Cognitive overload might be prevented or remedied by instructing students to employ their native and/or dominant language for specific sub-processes of writing during their FL academic reading and writing processes (see Göpferich 2015a, p. 222, 2015b, 2016, 2017a; Otheguy et al., 2015). Scholars such as Göpferich (2017a) and Otheguy et al. (2015) argue that freeing students from the obligation to think and write only in their FL will allow the students to make better use of their cognitive capacities and to focus on, for instance, understanding the textual material in source-based writing tasks.

However, a factor determining the effort that students will make to (a) acquire academic writing knowledge, and (b) employ their native and/or dominant language during their FL writing processes appears to be the students’ motivation (see Ajzen, 2011; Baaijen et al., 2014; Buehl & Alexander, 2005; Paas et al., 2005; White & Bruning, 2005). Students’ motivation towards the acquisition of FL academic writing knowledge and towards the usage of their native and/or dominant language in their FL writing processes appears to depend on the beliefs and attitudes that students bring to the writing tasks at hand. In turn, these beliefs and attitudes, e.g., concerning the acquisition of FL academic writing knowledge, are said to arise mostly out of three components, namely (a) whether students associate a positive affect with the acquisition of FL academic writing knowledge, (b) whether students believe that they are actually capable of acquiring or improving their FL academic writing knowledge, and (c) whether students believe that the acquisition of FL academic writing knowledge is actually relevant for their professional success (see Baaijen et al., 2014; Buehl & Alexander, 2005; Paas et al., 2005; White & Bruning, 2005). When it comes to the usage of the native and/or dominant language in FL academic writing processes, the same logic applies: students need to feel generally well-disposed towards using their native and/or dominant language in their FL writing processes, they need to believe that they can actually accomplish this native and/or dominant language use successfully, and they need to see benefits in the use of the native and/or dominant language during FL writing processes. In cases ←21 | 22→where either the positive affect, the trust in one’s own current or future abilities, and the expectation of benefits of a certain behavior are lacking, specific measures of instruction may be applied as remedies.

In the present study, the participants attended a 14-week university course in ‘Psycholinguistics’, held at the English Department of a German university. Prior to and after the course, students were asked to complete an academic source-based FL writing task and their writing processes were recorded. During these recorded writing processes, students were asked to spontaneously verbalize absolutely everything that came to their minds while reading and writing, in whichever language it came to their minds. The process recordings comprise screen-capture and audio files of the participants’ utterances. Additionally, the students’ attitudes and beliefs towards academic writing, both in their FL and in their native and/or dominant language, as well as towards native and/or dominant language usage in FL writing processes, were assessed with a beliefs-and-attitudes survey prior to and after the course. The course in ‘Psycholinguistics’ was held two times, in two subsequent university semesters. In the first round, the course structure involved extensive multilingual practices so that the students would have the opportunity to test whether employing the native and/or dominant language component of their linguistic repertoire would help them in their FL reading and writing processes. In the second round, established for a control group, the course was taught in an English-medium instruction (EMI) (see Doiz et al., 2011; see also Göpferich† et al., 2019, p. 117) paradigm exclusively, with no instruction in or encouragement of native and/or dominant language use. With the exception of the integration of multilingual practices into the course design, the course structure and material were identical in both rounds. The data collection process resulted in three data sets per course: (1) the beliefs-and-attitudes survey, prior to and after the course, in combination with a meta-cognitive commentary written by each student at the end of the course, (2) the recorded writing sessions, prior to and after the course, and (3) the EFL academic texts students produced in the recorded writing sessions. The course involving multilingual practices was completed by twenty-three students. The course taught in an exclusively EMI framework was completed by thirty-three students.

The research questions formulated for the present study were the following:

RQ 1: If the participants resort to their native and/or dominant language (L1) during their FL academic writing processes, then how is L1 usage distributed across different sub-processes of source-based academic writing?


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (April)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2022. 352 pp., 16 fig. col., 16 fig. b/w, 32 tables.

Biographical notes

Ina Alexandra Machura (Author)

Ina Alexandra Machura is a post-doctoral researcher focusing on the relationships between multilingual writing knowledge and the epistemic potential of multilingual & multimodal writing. She also publishes on writing beyond the university and work-integrated learning. She teaches discipline-specific courses in English/German Linguistics. Additionally, she co-creates writing-intensive courses in the social and life sciences.


Title: Training Multilingual Writing Strategies in Higher Education
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354 pages