An investigation into the use of genre theory as an approach to teaching writing at Park High School in Durban.
The transition to democracy in South Africa has resulted in systemic efforts to ensure equality education for all. However, despite such endeavours to address inequities, inequalities still remain regarding not only resources but also classroom pedagogies. One aspect of classroom pedagogy is the teaching of writing. The writing proficiency of mainly non-mother tongue learners seldom surpasses that of mother tongue speakers of English. Writing is seldom explicitly taught. Moreover, factual texts are almost never taught in schools although they are one of the most powerful genres in society. Systemic transformation in South Africa is often driven by global trends that focus on functional literacy. The Outcomes Based Curriculum is such an initiative with its emphasis on skills, values, critical thinking, and learner centeredness. The current process writing approach in our schools, within the framework of Outcomes Based Education, does not address the needs of all learners. The focus on grammar, correctness, and creative outpourings of self -reflective essays, advantages the learner familiar with the cultural heritage discourse. It disempowers those who are from different cultural or linguistic backgrounds. Writing is a social practice, and in order to write effectively learners have to uncover the generic conventions that configure different genres. In schools this translates into an explicit pedagogy of writing underpinned by theory. This thesis attempts to seek an alternate approach to the teaching of writing in a multicultural classroom, using the genre approach. The research was collaboratively planned and implemented as an action research intervention, at a multicultural school in Durban. The aims were to change learner attitudes to writing, use genre theory to teach learners explicitly about linguistic and generic conventions, produce a factual group text, and to transform my own practice. The first part of the thesis describes the rationale for the research within the context of transformation, issues of democracy education, and multiculturalism as a challenge to educators teaching English primary language. The second part examines the theories that inform this research especially genre theory, critical language awareness, functional grammar, and critical literacy. The implementation of the project in carefully planned and explicit stages is the subject of the third part of the thesis. It also describes how field notes, questionnaires, and the leaflets were used for data collection in the field of research. The fourth section addresses the action research intervention at Park High within a ten-day cycle, together with an integrated analysis of data collected and the findings. The final section of the thesis examines the limitations of the project together with recommendations for improved practice in the writing classroom. The findings indicate that learners value explicit pedagogies and that learning about generic conventions improves confidence and competence. The findings further suggest that learning about genres and generic conventions is a lengthy and difficult process. However, this process has the potential to transform implied pedagogies for both mother tongue and non-mother tongue learners in a post-apartheid society.