Academic Writing Across Languages, Disciplines and Cultures: A Symposium



Academic Writing Across Languages, Disciplines and Cultures: A Symposium

November 12, 2021

Report on the Symposium


Myles Chilton, 

Department of English Language and Literature, Nihon University


 On Friday, November 12, the symposium “Academic Writing Across Languages, Disciplines and Cultures” was held online (via Zoom) from 14:00 to about 17:30. The event was organized by Professors Chilton and Kanda (Department of English Language and Literature), and Associate Professors Lavelle and Watari (Department of General Studies). Sponsorship and additional support was provided by the Japanese Studies Teaching Materials and ICT Teaching Methods for Internationalization at the College of Humanities and Sciences, Nihon University, under the auspices of the Research Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nihon University, as well as the Global Research and Education Center and the International Exchange Committee.

 The purpose of the symposium was to bring together speakers from a variety of academic backgrounds and research specializations to discuss the modalities and possible future directions of academic writing courses and writing centers, and to explore different ways of teaching and supporting student writing, both at the CHS and similar institutions.

 The event began with opening remarks (in English) by Professor Yukari Tanaka of the Department of Japanese Language and Literature, College of Humanities and Sciences, and Chair of the Global Research and Education Center. Professor Chilton then took over as moderator. 

 The symposium was divided into two sessions. The first was a plenary session, entitled “Writing Centers, Pedagogy, and Purpose.” The first speaker was Dr. L. Ashley Squires, Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities and Languages, and Director of the Writing and Communication Center at the New Economic School in Moscow, Russia. In her talk “Establishing a Peer Tutoring Program in Russia: Barriers and Breakthroughs,” Professor Squires outlined the challenges involved in establishing and running Russia’s only peer tutoring writing program. 



 The second speaker was Dr. Shawn Higgins, Academic Coordinator for the Bridge Program at Temple University Japan. His presentation, “Rubrics, Assessment, and Power Differentials in Grading Practices,” discussed how to use of rubrics in writing assignments, and how these can give students ownership over their own grading.

 Sunghee Ahn was the third speaker. Ahn-sensei is Assistant Professor and Director of First Year Writing Program at Temple University Japan. She reflected on her experience as a teacher of first-year writing in her presentation “Implementing Critical Thinking in the First-Year Writing Classroom,” arguing the need for transferring critical thinking skills to diverse writing and life situations. 



 The fourth speaker, Assistant Professor Dr. Isabelle Lavelle, one of the College of Humanities and Science’s new academic writing faculty in the Department of General Studies, presented “Teaching Academic Writing in a Second Language: Cross-cultural Challenges and Potentials,” describing the challenges of working with students from diverse backgrounds, and of teaching academic writing as a non-native speaker of English in a globalized setting.



 The final plenary speaker was Diego Oliveira, Assistant Professor in the College of International Relations at Nihon University. His talk, “Five Writing Center Tutorial Strategies for Novice Tutors,” outlined how novice tutors can learn to negotiate what student writers want for their papers, the audience of the writing piece, and the tutor’s position as a consultant, somewhere between a teacher and a colleague.

 The second session was a roundtable discussion entitled “The Futures of Academic Writing,” featuring the following five discussants: Dr. Chilton (who also chaired the discussion), Dr. Kanda, Hironori Watari (Associate Professor, Department of General Studies), Dr. Wakako Kobayashi (Associate Professor, Department of General Studies), and Rhett Schools (English Fellow, U.S. State Department/Georgetown University). The discussion topics included the relationship between teaching reading and writing, the challenges faced by literature teachers who are not specialists in writing, how to train writing tutors, and the main considerations of students and teachers in the establishment of writing programs and centers.

 At its peak, attendance was 35 people, including faculty from CHS, TUJ, and other overseas schools, as well as graduate and undergraduate students from CHS and TUJ.