METACOGNITION: THE ACADEMIC WRITING CHALLENGE IN A RESEARCH-BASED LEARNING MASTER´S PROGRAM
In Ecuador, tertiary education institutions aim to be recognized as research universities, a top academic ranking in the country. In this context, the authorities of the university where this study was carried out realized that graduate students of a Master of Computer Science (MCS) program must be encouraged to do research. Coincidentally, the Research- Based Learning (RBL) paradigm fosters the development of research skills of the MCS participants. In formal learning environments, the RBL approach assures students exposure to all the stages of the research process in small scale. In this frame of reference, administrators had high expectations of the MCS students. However, English hegemony in research is an issue in the Ecuadorian Spanish academic context. Thus, in order to strengthen the MCS students’ written production, an English Academic Writing course was part of the MCS program. This research examined a challenging academic writing course which lasted one semester and consisted of 10 participants. Using the case study methodology, I basically observed metacognition in the MCS participants learning process and the development of critical thinking skills with different tools such as: recension, problem tree, high order questions from Bloom’s taxonomy. To assure validity of this study, I collected data from different sources such as observations, surveys and personal interviews with the participants. This research experience revealed key findings related to the constraints of this heterogeneous group of students such as: frustration and anxiety to cope with the writing demands of MCS professors. Also, some common writing style errors found in the written tasks were: capitalization, punctuation, translation, run-on sentences, lack of transition, spelling, parallelism, and word choice. Some grammar inaccuracies were: subject verb agreement, verb tense and unclear pronoun reference. Participants revealed their need for further preparation in academic writing as they considered the course timing was too short to meet their expectations. An urgent need for English academic writing courses was observed during this research. Thus, as a consequence of this demand, the university launched a communication initiative program which supported the creation of the English Academic Writing Center .