Developing Academic writing in intercultural university settings: KEY FEATURES, efficiency AND CHALLENGES

UDC 378.14.017

N.B. Samoilenko

Sevastopol State University (Sevastopol)


Developing Academic writing in intercultural university settings: KEY FEATURES, efficiency AND CHALLENGES

Анотація: У статті представлено навчально-методичне забезпечення для формування міжкультурної компетентності в процесі навчання академічному письму; описано приклади завдань з навчального посібника; доведено эфективність такого курсу, що впроваджується в Севастопольскому Державному Університеті, Севастополь, Крим.

Ключові слова: EAP, ESP, EFL, матеріали посібника, зміст, формування міжкультурної компетентності, стратегії навчання письму, спеціаліст гуманітарного профілю, гуманітарно-педагогічний інститут.

Аннотация: В статье представлено учебно-методическое обеспечение для формирования межкультурной компетенции специалиста гуманитарного профиля в процессе обучения академическому письму; описаны примеры заданий из учебного пособия; доказано эффективность такого курса, внедряемого в Севастопольском Государственном Университете, Севастополь, Крым.

Ключевые слова: EAP, ESP, EFL, материалы учебника, содержание, формирование межкультурной компетенции, стратегии обучения письму,  специалист гуманитарного профиля, гуманитарно-педагогический институт.

Annоtation. The paper introduces the course book materials for developing students’ humanities intercultural competence in the process of academic writing teaching, describes the task examples from the text book; it is proved the efficiency and challenges of such a course introduced at Sevastopol State University, Sevastopol, Crimea.

Keywords: EAP, ESP, EFL, the course book materials, contents, developing of intercultural competence, writing strategies, specialist of humanities, Institute of Humanities and Pedagogy.

Introduction. Today’s learners have to navigate the world of work, study, and travel among people of diverse language backgrounds and unfamiliar cultures. Language and intercultural communication skills are considered to be basic skills in our globalizing world. So cultural awareness is also a crucial 21st century skill. Being aware of other cultures and how they influence what people say, do or write is a key factor of critical literacy.

Nowdays, the concept English for Academic Purposes (EAP) has been the major driver for the changes in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) programme at Sevastopol State University (SSU), Pedagogical Institution of Humanities (PIH), which is one of the institutions of the SSU. Some successful steps have been made in our university towards incorporating academic writing into general English for Specific Purposes (ESP) courses.

Former Sevastopol Municipal University for Humanities (SMUH), which was a regional scientific and educational complex, carried out trainings for future specialists on educational levels «Bachelor», «Specialist» in 3 different areas: pedagogy , psychology, philology.

At present, the main fields and activities of the Sevastopol State University (SSU), Pedagogical Institution of Humanities (PIH), are multifaceted and include educational, methodological and scientific activities, as well as international cooperation. Our university offers academic programs at all levels including undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate ones.

The University has always put the importance of shaping intercultural communication with a global extension of education at the forefront and support conducting various international educational and scientific programs.

Aim of the article. Introduction of the course book materials for developing students’ humanities intercultural competence in the process of academic writing teaching, description of the task examples from the text book.

Theoretical background. The language teaching profession’s interest in cross-cultural communication has increased during the past few decades. According to Kramsch (1995), this development is due to political, educational, and ideological factors (Kramsch, 1995) [3; 6].

Further exploration of this aspect may be found in many sources. Intercultural communication has been described by a number of language educators, including Chen, Guo-Ming & Starosta, William J. (2005), Stella Ting-Tomey (1999), Cooper, P. J., Calloway-Thomas, C., & Simonds, C. J. (2007), William B. Gudykunst (2003), Guo-Ming Chen and William Starosta (2005) [4; 7; 8].

The primary characteristics of intercultural communication are summarized by James Neuliep. He provides a clear contextual circular model for examining communication within cultural, micro-cultural, environmental, socio-relational, perceptual contexts, and verbal and nonverbal codes, applies the model to the development and maintenance of intercultural relationships, the management of intercultural conflict, intercultural management, intercultural adaptation, culture shock, and intercultural competence [6].

Our research describes an attempt to shift the accent to academic writing in an EL textbook for students. The purpose is to show how general EL course can be taught alongside English academic writing, the place of academic writing in the whole system of textbook materials and show how other tasks contribute to understanding academic writing conventions and developing academic writing skills [6].

The development of English academic writing courses in the universities is a new tendency. The courses are designed to prepare students for careers as international professionals by focusing on the cultural factors that influence communication in international/intercultural relations as well as the rules that proscribe and prescribe behavior.

The students were being asked to publish during their graduate studies, in many cases, especially in the sciences, the need for writing in English for international journals became apparent.

Yakhontova T. V. states that it is generally known that English is now the world language of various spheres of life. To learn how to efficiently write in English means to get excellent opportunities of expressing one’s thoughts and ideas in this dominant language and of becoming able to communicate with colleagues and friends throughout the world. The teachers of universities interested in introducing and teaching writing courses can receive appropriate training during interactive workshops, long-distance courses and summer schools; they can be offered syllabi of writing courses for their institutions, various printed materials and more specific help and advice either in person or via the Internet. In all these activities, the emphasis is on the training of effective approaches to writing suitable for the educational and cultural context [2].

Currently there are many different programs throughout the country. There are MA writing programs, PhD programs in various disciplines, and the addition of a writing component to reading comprehension courses, which are required at the undergraduate level. However, there are no real standards, no common goals. Most writing instructors come from other fields and have had little training in the teaching of academic writing [1].

The Master first year syllabus has the following main features: it places project work at the centre of the learning; it equips the trainees with the full range of skills necessary for writing the graduation paper; it completes the preparation of the trainees to function as autonomous language learners in their future education and careers; it caters for the needs of both future practitioners and researchers.

The Master first syllabus strives to enable the trainees to approach the most relevant processes of social development, signification and identity formation of the foreign culture(s), so that by communicating about them, they can learn about and compare these processes with what they know of their own, and possibly other, culture(s).

By the end of Master Year 2, trainees will be able to: read a wide range of written materials, including manuals, specialised articles and literary writing, and evaluate them critically for further use in their teaching and research work; make presentations using appropriate register devices and logical structure, highlighting significant points; produce different types of academic writing, including articles, complex reports, summaries, reviews and reports on professional issues, project proposals and research papers; make independent and effective use of all available reference resources and sources to complete their course, research and project papers; acquire trans-cultural values as a result of cross-cultural comparison of different languages and cultures.

We present the course “Teaching Professionalism and Intercultural Communication”, an advanced course for Master students with a strong language background. The course is based on lecturing, reading materials and practical classes. Its objective is to teach the students how to use their knowledge of teaching foreign languages in a professional environment abroad and adapt to intercultural environments at foreign universities.

The course topics are: Educational (teaching) Professions and Ethics; Study Opportunities (education abroad, international students in the USA, Europe, international exams, international teaching education); Research Opportunities (teaching research, teaching writing and citations, teaching resource databases, reviews and bibliography, publications); career opportunities (teaching jobs and internships, teachers’ professional associations, applications, statements of purpose, resumes); Opportunities for International Cooperation (globalization of the teaching profession, teachers’ conferences and workshops) [8].

The course emphasizes culture and explore how culture both influences and reflects communication dynamics. Culture is understood to incorporate regional background, values, world views and associated thought processes; religion, gender, age, status, and social perception; language, and nonverbal communication, among other elements.

Students are expected to demonstrate a critical and informed awareness of cultural content, identity, and relational/procedural issues in their country through class presentations, discussions, and a long paper.The rationale for the course is that, in the current environment, cross-cultural (or intercultural) communication is inevitable. Without an understanding of the cultural communication imperatives, it is very difficult, if not impossible in some cases, to understand, work with, manage, or influence individuals from another culture. The course involves some theory and proven models, but primarily focuses on practical applications and case studies. We explore how to communicate effectively in a multicultural environment, and how to manage and resolve cross-cultural conflicts. There are seven course objectives:

  1. Understanding the role of communication in culture.
  2. Recognizing cultural variability.
  3. Familiarizing students with the communication norms, rituals and prescribed/proscribed behaviors of other cultures.
  4. Learning about the major barriers to intercultural communication, adjustment to other cultures, and culture shock.
  5. Learning how differences in intercultural communication manifest themselves in different professional settings.
  6. How culture influences perception and thus the organization of the psyche.
  7. Increasing sensitivity to our own cultural background and its impact on how the students communicate, work and interact with people from other cultures.

Students read material, attend class, complete assignments, and participate in class discussions and cases. Students demonstrate their understanding of cross-cultural communication through a presentation, a final exam and a final paper. Students or teams report on specific articles or topics. The final paper is an intercultural communication study of a selected region, country, or culture.

The activities in the workshops help the students develop themselves as participants of international programs or as international students, and an improvement in the quality of their overall writing was also perceived by the participants themselves.

There are some tasks from the text book:

1) Topic: Teacher Professional Development: It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process.

Task 1. Watch video about the Teaching Knowledge Test (TKT) program and finish the sentences:

  1. The Teaching Knowledge Test (TKT) is a test of_________________.
  2. It focuses on different teaching ______________________.
  3. TKT aims to test candidates’ knowledge of concepts related to language, language use and the background to and practice of _______________.
  4. TKT aims to provide an easily accessible test about teaching English to speakers of other languages, which is prepared and delivered to international standards, and could be used by candidates to access further training and enhance ___________________.
  5. TKT is for pre-service teachers and for experienced teachers, for teachers of primary, secondary and ______________________.
  6. This flexible and accessible award will help the teachers to understand: different methodologies for teaching; the ‘language of teaching’; the ways in which resources can be used; the key aspects of lesson planning; ______________.
  7. There is no Pass/Fail. Every candidate receives ____________________.
  8. TKT has______________________. Each module consists of a test of ____________, lasting 80 minutes, which require you to select the correct answer and mark this _________________.

Answers: professional knowledge for English language teachers, teaching methods, lesson planning, resources and classroom management, language teaching and learning; career opportunities, adult learners, classroom management methods for different needs, receives a certificate for each module taken, three core module, 80 objective questions, a computerised answer sheet.

Task 2. Choose the appropriate rules for writing applications.


Does Don’t’s
  1. Submit application materials by the deadlines!
  2. Contact the university without using your full name. An email with just a first name, a nickname or no name does not allow a university to check your records and find out if your application has arrived.
  3. Ask for basic information easily found on a school’s website.
  4. Make sure the data provided on all university forms is identical. When names and addresses are translated into roman letters, make sure they are spelled the same way Students should always use their full name and all information should match that given when taking standardized tests.
  5. Get foreign language documents translated into English and certified. Submit both the original document and the certified English translation with your application.
  6. Include all your activities – sports, clubs, volunteer opportunities, employment, etc.
  7. Briefly explain any award that is not intuitive. How is an admissions counselor supposed to know what “Recipient of the EFA Award” means?
  8. Send copies of every award or certificate you have received. Your accomplishments should be noted in the application. A list of awards is better than many sheets of paper.
  9. Spell the institution’s name wrong. Is it college or University? If adapting the same essay to different schools, don’t forget to change the name of the institution each
  10. Plagiarize or use someone else’s language. It is easy to tell when the feel of the one essay varies from the others. Do, however, have an English teacher/counselor review your applications essay(s) for grammatical errors.

Task 3. Writing. There are 2 parts of the statement of purpose.

  1. a) Fill in the gaps.

Statement of purpose (example)


  1. love messages
  2. interaction of Marcians
  3. much opportunities
  4. had frightened me
  5. applied to
  6. looking for
  7. using methods
  8. surprises
  9. the group work
  10. “spectacles with pink glasses”
  11. ability to teach
  12. gained a lot of self-confidence
  13. Courses of Foreign Languages
  14. connected with
  15. much opportunities


I was born in a small town where weren’t _____not for the study neither for the work. Pedagogical and technical institutes located there didn’t attract me because they didn’t offer the major that I dreamed for. I _____one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Ukraine and was admitted to the department of French & English philology and teaching.

I studied theory of teaching, translation and large pool of other things that I believed necessary _____of my future students (their attention was considered, of course). But when I had the first practical training at secondary school, I understood that I had been wearing ____. Nobody was interested in French literature and though the pupils tried to seem attentive, some of them were doing mathematics or physics home tasks, some of them writing ______, all others were drawing or sleeping with open eyes. The following days brought other unpleasant ______: I discovered that pupils never read the literature that they should. When we had a lesson _______the novel of famous French author A. De Saint-Exuperi “The Human Planet”, one guy composed his own story about________, with Human beings on the Earth. I felt the total disappointment with my knowledge of pedagogy and ___________.

Due to globalization, presentations in English are becoming more and more common in academic and professional life, which makes it necessary for students to develop their presentation skills. For the final stage of the project, students should be introduced to the features of a good presentation, including how to begin and end, include and refer to visuals, and use signposting, which is informing the audience about the main points you will cover and then referring to those points during the presentation. (Online presentations can be watched at: This website features accomplished and often famous speakers who talk about a variety of topics such as culture, science, business, and global issues.)

Conclusion. As there were no courses in academic writing, PhD advisors were expected to teach their students how to write in English, how to publish, and how to enter the international scientific community.

Didactics materials, which were used for developing intercultural competence of students of humanities, were designed in accordance with principles, substantial for intercultural communication in a professional environment and were components on the basis of which the successive developing intercultural competence was carried out.

Preliminary results of introducing the new program are presented. It is necessary to discuss some considerations as to the prospects of teaching academic writing, which are potentially applicable to similar intercultural and educational situations.

For this reason there is a necessity of implementation in the system of pedagogical education the special integrated courses and developing of the educational literature which would combine achievements of philosophical, psychology-pedagogical lingo cultural disciplines for improving the preparation of students for intercultural communication.

The main goal of the future projects is to improve the present system of education of the residents and students by creating a Master program in “Foreign Languages and Intercultural communication teaching”, revising relevant curricula, existing relevant modules of teaching courses and approximating them to the European educational standards, developing and implementing training and retraining programs.


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  2. Яхонтова Т.В. Основи англомовного наукового письма : навч. посібник для студентів, аспірантів і науковців / Т.В. Яхонтова – [2-ге вид., стер.]. – Львів : ПАІС, 2003. – 220 с.
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  4. Gudykunst W.В. Communicating with Strangers / W.B. Gudykunst,
    Y. Kim. – Boston, 1997. – 444 p.
  5. Knapp Karlfried. Intercultural Communication in EESE [Електронний ресурс] / Karlfried Knapp. – Режим доступу : vakken/bci/programma/intercult.html.
  6. Samojlenko N.B. Building bridges on the web: using the Internet for cultural studies / N.B. Samojlenko // Scientific Letters of Academic Society of Michal Baludansky. – Slovakia, 2013. – Vol. 1. – №. 1. – S. 82-84.
  7. Samojlenko N.B. Development and implementation of curricula for bilingual education in Ukraine / B. Samojlenko // Nauka i Studia .– 2013. – NR15 (83). – S. 33-42.
  8. Samojlenko N.B. Using the Internet for cultural studies /B. Samojlenko // Science, Technology and Higher Education [Text] : materials of the II international research and practice conference, Vol. II, Westwood, April 17th, 2013 / publishing office Accent Graphics communications – Westwood – Canada, 2013. – 720 s. – S. 626-629.


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