I specialised in linguistics and education studies. Before joining HKUST, I taught language and teacher education courses at various other higher education institutions. At HKUST, I teach EAP/ESP courses to undergraduate and postgraduate students. I also teach on the MA program in International Language Education. My teaching interests include discipline-specific language instruction and materials development, and I have co-developed task-based materials for a suite of courses for senior year engineering students majoring in different engineering disciplines. My academic interests are technical communication and academic writing, areas in which I have published. I am an invited reviewer for journal manuscripts. My previous projects included publishing two practice books on writing skills for upper secondary school students, and co-leading a UGC-funded project on Mastering the Technical Vocabulary of STEM. A forthcoming publication explores the role of classroom instruction in analytical writing performance.

Professional Interests

  • Academic writing
  • Genres in higher education
  • Language pedagogy
  • Academic and specialized vocabulary
  • Materials development


2023 Journal Publication

Cross-faculty cooperation in an ESP course: issues arising in the COVID pandemic

Carmichael, Sarah; Wu, Kam Yin; Au, Chui Han Anita

Source: Scholarship of Teaching in Language Education (STiLE), v. 1, (1), June 2023, article number 12
DOI: 10.59936/stile.v1i1.76
2022 Journal Publication

Syntactic complexity and writing quality in students' technical writing

Lee, Yuen Yee; Wu, Kam Yin; Lee, Ping Chung Eric

Source: ThaiTESOL Journal, v. 35, (2), October 2022, p. 22-35

Syntactic complexity is a crucial aspect of linguistic proficiency and thus understanding and supporting such development in learners is a keen concern for language teachers. Research conducted has shown growing sophistication of noun phrase structures by writers of different abilities in academic writing (Biber & Gray, 2010; Liu & Li, 2016; Parkinson & Musgrave, 2014). In comparison, relatively less is known about the development of syntactic sophistication among student technical writers. Adopting a discipline-specific approach, this study compared the complexity of noun phrase structures in student texts of three performance levels from high, mid and low. The data taken from 45 technical reports of university engineering students were analyzed quantitatively using automatic syntactic analyzers and qualitatively by manual coding and text examination. The results show that noun phrase complexity is a differentiating factor for different performance levels with the stronger texts exemplifying more varied modifying structures and in greater numbers. Complex and lengthy structures, such as multiple use of prepositional phrases and combined use of other modifiers such as -ed or -ing clauses, are common in postmodification, whereas premodifying structures are simpler in structure and shorter. The study also explored the contribution of complex noun phrases to expression of meaning, showing that complex syntactic structures are commonly used to perform a diverse range of language functions essential to technical communication, such as explaining a scientific mechanism. The close connection between syntactic complexity and expression of meaning suggests that structures for pre- and postmodification should be learned as a meaning-making resource.

2022 Book Review

Grammar: A Linguist’s Guide for Language Teachers [Book Review]

Wu, Kam Yin

Source: JALT Journal, v. 44, (1), May 2022, p. 198-201
DOI: 10.37546/JALTJJ44.1
2022 Conference Paper / Presentation

Syntactic complexity and writing quality in students’ technical writing

Lee, Joyce Yuen Yee; Wu, Kam Yin

Location: Khon Kaen, Thailand
2021 Journal Publication

Exploring the effect of task-based language teaching on students’ analytical writing

Wu, Kam Yin

Source: International Journal of English for Specific Purposes, v. 1, (1), November 2021, p. 93-110

Although analysis is an essential skill for academic success, many students find it difficult to write analytically. Some resources exist that explain the features of an analytical text, but few resources have been translated into materials that teachers can use straightaway in the classroom, making their evaluation an underexplored area. This classroom-based study aimed to answer a research question: To what extent is task-based language teaching of analytical reports reflected in students’ assignments? Six units of task-based teaching materials were developed for an undergraduate technical communication course, which was taught to an intact class of 18 engineering students. The students then wrote an individual report analyzing a real world engineering ethical case. All the assignments were collected and analyzed, drawing on a genre analysis framework that examines macro level features (e.g. generic structure) and micro level features (e.g. vocabulary and grammar). Results show that the classroom instruction and materials had a positive impact on students’ performance. Most of them were able to structure their reports effectively, using the essential moves and steps and incorporating key lexical items (e.g. vocabulary of causation) and grammatical features (e.g. conditional sentences). A few students did not follow the template, choosing to take the notion of genre more flexibly. Teaching implications are explained.

2021 Conference Paper / Presentation

Developing materials for learning STEM vocabulary

Wu, Kam Yin

Location: Online
2021 Conference Paper / Presentation

Remote teaching during the pandemic: The case of an ESP course for engineering students

Au, Anita C.H.; Wu, Kam Yin; Carmichael, Sarah

Location: The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
2019 Conference Paper / Presentation

Developing Digital Resources to Support the Learning and Use of Technical Vocabulary

Wu, Kam Yin; Ng, Irene Wai Yee

Location: The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

A wide range of resources have been developed to support the learning of high frequency words and academic vocabulary. In contrast, technical vocabulary, which can account for as much as 30% of the words in a technical text (Chung & Nation, 2004), has received less attention from language practitioners so far. Our project aims at developing resources to assist science and engineering undergraduate students in the learning and use of technical vocabulary. This presentation will discuss data collected by survey and focus groups and explain the principles of resource development. Sample learning objects will be demonstrated

2018 Journal Publication

Impacts of Discipline-specific Language Instruction on the Academic Writing of Civil Engineering Students

Wu, Kam Yin; Carmichael, Sarah

Source: Asian Journal of Applied Linguistics, v. 5, (1), 2018, p. 19-35

This paper examines the impact of discipline-specific language instruction on student writing in an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course offered to civil engineering undergraduate students at a university in Hong Kong. Textual analysis of student scripts and student interviews were used to investigate the effectiveness of the course in helping students to write better Introduction and Literature Review sections for their Final Year Project reports. The great majority of students were able to produce effective texts which conform to the discourse conventions of academic writing in civil engineering. However it is difficult to separate the impact of language instruction on student writing from other influential factors. Two major pedagogical implications are drawn: the need for more scaffolding of input tasks and for more teaching of academic reading skills. © 2018, The Asian Journal of Applied Linguistics.

2017 Journal Publication

Teaching Analytical Writing: A Scaffolded Approach

Wu, Kam Yin

Source: International House Journal, v. 43, November 2017, p. 28-30

Students at different levels of education are often required to write analytically. At middle or high school, they may need to write (for example) an analysis of the causes of an accident. At university, they may need to write analytical essays to examine the relationship between two concepts or ideas. However, many students find writing analytically a daunting task. They tend to be more familiar with descriptive writing, having learned how to write stories for many years, and may be at a loss about what to do when they are asked to produce a familiar text type. Some weaker students may even fail the task simply because they lack the necessary writing skills. To help them solve this problem, I have developed some tasks which aim to prepare students to write an analytical report about a disaster. I have used the materials with my university classes, with positive response. I will now describe the procedure for each task and outline the rationale for the design.

2015 Conference Paper / Presentation

Language curriculum design for engineering students: How specific can it be?

Carmichael, Sarah; Wu, Kam Yin; Lee, Yuen Yee

Location: Hong Kong

The final stage of curriculum innovation for the four year degree program at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology was the development of specialized department-based English courses for senior undergraduate students in the School of Engineering. These students are in their fourth year of study and have built up considerable subject expertise. The Center for Language Education has developed four such courses for Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Industrial Engineering and Civil Engineering. All these courses include an academic component, preparing students to write and present on their Final Year Project, as well as a professional communication component, but all have to be tailored to the specific academic requirements of the department, and cater for differing professional contexts after graduation. We report on some of the issuesinvolved and the challengesfaced, in designing specialized courses, using authentic materials, to meet specific purposes. Questions which arose included: how specific should the materials be given that within the same department, academic projects may be extremely varied? How should we handle professional communication, given that students may enter a variety of occupations after graduation? Our resolution of such issues may be applicable to curriculum developers facing similar challenges in other institutions.

2013 Journal Publication

Designing and Evaluating a Genre-based Technical Communication Course Incorporating a Task-based Model of Instruction

Carmichael, Sarah; Wu, Kam Yin; Lee, Yuen Yee Joyce

Source: Hong Kong Journal of Applied Linguistics, v. 14, (2), March 2013, p. 20-44

The universal introduction of a four-year curriculum for undergraduates in Hong Kong has necessitated the development of new types of courses that build on general EAP training in preparing students progressively for the specific language demands of their discipline. This important work has attracted much attention, but reports on the conceptualization of the new courses and their effectiveness have only begun to emerge. This paper discusses how a new genre-based technical communication course at HKUST aims to enable novice engineering students to function effectively in their academic studies through the adoption of a task-based learning framework which exposes students to a careful selection of genres and lexico-grammatical features. The course was piloted with 230 students, and an evaluation study was conducted using triangulated data from course surveys, focus group discussions, and textual analysis of students’ writing. Preliminary results suggest that the course has helped students to acquire the skills for writing a technical description using an appropriate writing style. Students have also learned to use technical words in contextually meaningfully ways. However, they were less successful in writing the introduction to a technical report. These findings are discussed in relation to the students’ prior learning experiences.

2013 Journal Publication

hJam: Attachment Transmission in WLANs

Wu, Kaishun; Li, Haochao; Wang, Lu; Yi, Youwen; Liu, Yunhuai; Chen, Dihu; Luo, Xiaonan; Zhang, Qian; Ni, Lionel Ming-Shuan

Source: IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing, v. 12, (12), 2013, article number 6302135, p. 2334-2345
DOI: 10.1109/TMC.2012.194

Effective coordination can dramatically reduce radio interference and avoid packet collisions for multistation wireless local area networks (WLANs). Coordination itself needs consume communication resource and thus competes with data transmission for the limited wireless radio resources. In traditional approaches, control frames and data packets are transmitted in an alternate manner, which brings a great deal of coordination overhead. In this paper, we propose a new communication model where the control frames can be \