The 'Build-Up' Approach to Academic Writing Skills Development: The Case for a Discipline-Driven Collaborative Design

O'Brien, Orna and Dowling-Hetherington, Linda (2013) The 'Build-Up' Approach to Academic Writing Skills Development: The Case for a Discipline-Driven Collaborative Design. AISHE-J: The All Ireland Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 5 (1). ISSN 2009-3160


The paper will discuss best practice for the design and delivery of support for academic writing skills development. The paper also presents a case study of such support on an undergraduate, part-time degree programme at University College Dublin (UCD). Elton (2010) suggests that the approach to academic writing be discipline dependent and neither specialists in academic writing nor practising academics in a discipline can separately provide students with the necessary support to develop the ability to write. Three models of academic skills support are provided in the literature; bolt-on, build-on and build-up. These models provide a useful framework for conceptualising the different approaches to skills development (academic writing in this case). The 'bolt on' approach describes institutions that provide additional sessions to address academic writing (Wingate, 2006). The 'build-in' approach is where the provision of such support is embedded into the curriculum and usually occurs early in a student's studies. Finally, the 'build-up' approach was first suggested by Author and Author (2007) and takes the build-up approach a step further. In this approach, institutions provide supports embedded in the delivery of the curriculum and allow students to 'build-up' their academic writing skills, not only upon programme commencement, but throughout the duration of their studies. The paper reasserts a greater likelihood of success in developing academic writing skills where interventions are embedded within a broader framework of student support. Through an ongoing collaboration between programme support and teaching staff, academic writing skills interventions can be scheduled in a progressive manner throughout a degree.

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