Teaching English second language (L2) writing differs from teaching other language skills in two ways. First, even as late as the 1970s, L2 writing was not viewed as a language skill to be taught to learners. Instead, it was used as a support skill in language learning to, for example, practise handwriting, write answers to grammar and reading exercises, and write dictation. In fact, while graduate programmes in TESOL regularly offered courses in other skill areas, virtually no coursework was available in teaching L2 writing. Second, as the theory and practice of L2 composition teaching gradually developed, it followed the path of US native English speaker (NES) composition theory. Only recently has English L2 composition theory and pedagogy begun to offer English first language (L1) researchers and teachers insights and pedagogical practices (Silva et al. 1997). This chapter focuses mainly on L2 academic writing, although broader issues are also highlighted.
In the 1970s many English L2 language programme writing classes were, in reality, grammar courses. Students copied sentences or short pieces of discourse, making discrete changes in person or tense. The teaching philosophy grew directly out of the audiolingual method: students were taught incrementally, error was prevented and accuracy was expected to arise out of practice with structures. In the early 1980s, as teachers became more aware of current practices in NES composition, there was a shift from strictly controlled writing to guided writing: writing was limited to structuring sentences, often in direct answers to questions, or by combining sentences – the result of which looked like a short piece of discourse.