Natalia Fedorova Natalia Fedorova, manager at the HSE Academic Writing Center, has over 15 years of experience in teaching English in a variety of contexts. She holds a degree in English Philology, Trinity CertTESOL (Trinity College London), CPE, and FTBE (Pearson). Her professional interests include EAP, ESP, teacher training, and project management in education.
Catering to academics’ needs: Writing center-based research
Every educator has to target course content and materials at the learners he/she is working with. An effective way to cater to learners’ needs is to design course syllabi and materials based on research and student profiling. At the HSE Academic Writing Center (AWC), we work with researchers and faculty members and have to consider academics’ special educational needs. This is a target audience characterized by abundant learning experience and a high level of autonomy. I would like to give an overview of various surveys regularly carried out by the AWC team and focus on a survey on academics’ autonomy as regards writing in English. The rationale for the survey was to identify aspects of writing which pose a challenge and in which academics need assistance. 118 faculty members, who had previously attended workshops and courses at the AWC, completed an online questionnaire. They self-evaluated their level of English proficiency, their independence in writing, and various writing and learning skills. The findings confirmed that academics indeed are highly autonomous in writing. However, they also revealed that academics are not confident of being able to work on specific writing skills without guidance. The study results added to our understanding of target learners’ needs and provided a foundation for developing scaffolded self-study materials that would allow learners to master strategies and hone essential skills in research writing independently. During the talk, I will outline the study’s findings, demonstrate how these findings were reflected in the self-study materials we created, and share the feedback on the materials we received from our clients. I would like to invite colleagues to reflect on the benefits and challenges of designing materials to meet learners’ special needs and discuss approaches to encouraging autonomous learning.