Yes, Brenton. I am in a position to influence those who prepare these
provincial tests. Hence, my need to accumulate as much data as possible for
my argument. Also, I need to prove to myself that my views. which come from
working with students system, is supported by eduational research.
Thank you muchly for the offer, but at this time I do not need printed
proov. I just need to have clear reasons for suggesting that this item be
dropped from the provincial testing. I am dealing with reasonable,
concerned educators who will listen to reason and your e-mail has given some
very clear reasons to revisit this test item and I thank you very much for
----- Original Message -----
From: "Brenton D. Faber" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, August 14, 2000 10:53 AM
Subject: Re: Sentence combining (long/mundane)
> Sure, sentence combining as a rote exercise has little if any
> value -- but Hongxing is right that academic (or any form of
> complex) discourse rarely comes naturally. Rather than simply
> deride people who seem to be looking for ways to teach this
> we should be able to offer some constructive advice.
> Susan--are you in a position where you can suggest alternative
> exercises or problems? As mundane as these disussions can get,
> they ultimately have more relevance for policy and for what
> happens in the general public.
> Could you note that the exercises seem to address important
> issues (summary, taxonomy, coherence, and relevance)
> but that "sentence combining" as an exercise has not
> been proven to teach these skills for 3 reasons:
> 1. It does not address concision
> Christopher Turk in "Do You Write Impressively?" _Bulletin of
> the British Ecological Society_ 9(3): 5-10 (1978) found that
> concision was not only linked to ease of reading and
> appropriate style but that scientific writers with a more
> concise style were perceived to be "more competent" than those
> with a wordy style. (See Huckin and Olsen _Technical Writing
> and Professional Communication_ (p. 478-479). Simply combining
> information does not teach students to be precise or thoughtful
> writers. In fact, it encourages wordiness and sloppy organization
> because it does not allow a writer to use punctuation, bullets,
> lists, numbering sequences, etc. -- characteristics of
> excellent scientific writing.
> 2. Sentence combining does not teach appropriate taxonomy.
> Successful Academic writing uses sophisticated ways to
> order its information. Linguists often talk about
> "given and new" structures (Gillian Brown and George Yule,
> _Discourse Analysis_ p.153-155) and characteristically,
> writers will order given information before introducing
> new information. Since all of the information in
> sentence combining is "new" the exercise is artificial
> and does not test the ways a student would actually
> order information. In addition, the exercise is
> too broad and unfocused to specify parallel text
> structures, light vs. heavy noun phrases, and because
> the writers can not include "new ideas" they will be
> dissuaded from introducing conjunctions, signal words,
> or other forms of cohesion -- the very things the
> exercises seem to want to test.
> In addition, because the exercise is devoid of context
> the writer is unable to accurately judge the most
> appropriate organizing structure.
> 3. There is no audience focus
> Combining teaches writers to inflate their prose rather
> than write for the needs of a specific audience. The
> questions do not even include the audience the writer
> is addressing.
> Other than abandoning the entire test (probably not an
> option) as an alternative I'd suggest:
> 1. Take a random scattering of data and organize it
> for three different audiences.
> 2. Edit existing paragraphs/sentences.
> I hope this helps. If you need more info on other references
> (time is an issue) please let me know, or perhaps others
> on the list could help. As well, I could photocopy
> stuff if you need it.
> good luck,
> Brenton Faber
> Clarkson University
> [log in to unmask]
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To leave the list, send a SIGNOFF CASLL command to
[log in to unmask] or, if you experience difficulties,
write to Russ Hunt at [log in to unmask]
For the list archives and information about the organization,
the annual conference, and publications, go to the Inkshed Web site at