Eszter Szenes

  • Associate Lecturer, Learning Centre
    PhD candidate, Department of Linguistics (Sydney), MA Applied Linguistics, TESOL (Budapest, Hungary)

Eszter is an Associate Lecturer at the Learning Centre, and a final-year PhD candidate at the Department of Linguistics, University of Sydney. Prior to joining the Learning Centre in 2013, she was a lecturer and tutor at the Department of Linguistics and Business Programs Unit (former Faculty of Economics and Business) at the University of Sydney for 5 years. She earned a Master of English Language and Literature (Applied Linguistics specialization) from Eotvos Lorand University, School of English and American Studies, and TESOL from Eotvos Lorand University, Faculty of Education and Psychology, Budapest, Hungary in 2005.


  • Szenes, E., Tilakaratna, N. & Maton, K. (in press, accepted Jan 2014) The knowledge practices of ‘critical thinking’, in Davies, M. & Barnett, R. (Eds.). Critical Thinking in Higher Education, London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Mahboob, A. & Szenes. E. (2010). Construing meaning in World Englishes. In A. Kirkpatrick (Ed.). The Routledge Handbook of World Englishes (pp. 580-598). London, New York: Routledge.
  • Mahboob, A. & Szenes, E. (2010). Linguicism and racism in assessment practices in higher education. Linguistics and the Human Sciences. 325-354. London: Equinox.
  • Szenes, E. (2006). A kommunikáció tan'tása az angol nyelvi órákon. (Teaching communication in the English language classroom.) Új Pedagógiai Szemle (New Pedagogical Review), Budapest: Országos Közoktatási Intézet (OKI National Institute for Public Education: Available at: in Hungarian

Conference Presentations

  • Stevenson, M., James, B., Kim, M., Szenes, E. & Harvey, A. (2014) Moving between practice, theory and reflection: First year education students becoming reflective practitioners. Paper presented at SIG Conference on Writing Research, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
  • Szenes, E. & Tilakaratna, N. (2013). Critical thinking and employment readiness: The role of semantic waves in preparing students for life after university, Paper presented at the 11th Biennial Conference of the Association for Academic Language and Learning, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.
  • Szenes, E. (2011). Moving beyond the 'band-aid' approach: Recontextualized marking tools in academic literacy support. Paper presented at the 38th International Systemic Functional Congress (ISFC), Lisbon, Portugal.
  • Szenes, E. (2010). Linguistically informed assessment: An aid to the development of embedding academic literacy. Paper presented at the 37th International Systemic Functional Congress (ISFC), Vancouver, BC, Canada.
  • Mahboob, A. & Szenes, E. (2009). World Englishes and Higher Education. Paper co-presented with Dr Ahmar Mahboob at the 15th Conference of the International Association for World Englishes (IAWE), Cebu City, The Philippines.
  • Szenes, E. (2009). Exploring the Relationship between Linguistic Proficiency and Academic Success. Paper presented at the 3rd International Free Linguistics Conference (FLC),The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Higher Degree Research

Working title of PhD Thesis:

The language of academic success in business: Towards embedding academic literacy support


The use of 'real-life' tasks such as professional reports to assess students’ ability to transfer their knowledge beyond the immediate educational context has been gaining popularity in recent years in business higher education. For instance, at a metropolitan Australian university the major assessment task – a 3500-word Country Report – of an interdisciplinary unit, Business in the Global Environment, is intended to prepare students for the skills of 'problem-solving', 'decision-making' and professional report writing in international business environments. However, as the large number of students failing this major assignment indicates, few students possess the sophisticated linguistic resources necessary to build the genre complex and persuasive rhetoric this high-stakes task demands. This thesis aims to examine the basis of achievement in high scoring students' reports and show that the genres that make up the genre complex of the Country Report are a reflection of the different fields successful students need to navigate between in the discipline of international business.

Aims of the research project:

The research draws on genre theory from Systemic Functional Linguistics to understand the nature of the genre complex of the Country Report and to explore what resources are at stake in managing this 'mega-genre'. Drawing on the discourse semantic systems of Periodicity, Conjunction, Identification, Ideation and Appraisal (Martin, 1992; Martin & Rose, 2007; Martin & White, 2005) the thesis will show how linguistic resources are marshalled to charge various factors of the external business environment as opportunities or risks for investment to arrive at a final recommendation and how they interact to form arguments in the unfolding rhetoric. The study also draws on Legitimation Code Theory to map the semantic profiles of student texts and to understand the basis for legitimation of knowledge claims."

Unfunded research project:

'Knowledge Practices of Critical Thinking in Applied Disciplines' (ongoing)

Project team:

Eszter Szenes, USYD Learning Centre
Namali Tilakaratna, USYD Department of Linguistics
A/Prof Karl Maton, USYD Department of Sociology and Social Policy


- to explore the knowledge practices of critical thinking and reflection in applied disciplines

- to map the organising principles of undergraduate student texts in social work and business

- to explore the linguistic resources through which skilful writers construe a sense of belonging in their professional communities of practice

- to contribute to academic literacy support programs designed by the Learning Centre at the University of Sydney


The application of 'real-life' or authentic tasks to assess tertiary students' critical thinking skills has been gaining popularity in recent years, especially in applied disciplines such as Social Work and Business. The concepts of 'critical thinking', 'critical analysis' and 'critical reflection' are among the desirable generic and graduate attributes of Australian university graduates and often defined as intended learning outcomes in the Education & Social Work Faculties and Business Schools. While these ideas are often associated with the skill of problem-solving and the preparation of university students for future research-, theory- and evidence-based praxis, they often remain vague in both pedagogy and assessment practices.

This interdisciplinary research draws on two principal frameworks. Legitimation Code Theory (Maton, 2013, 2014), a widely-used approach to studying knowledge practices, is drawn on to explore the organising principles constituting successful ‘critical thinking’ in applied disciplines by mapping the ‘semantic profiles’ of undergraduate student texts. Systemic Functional Linguistics (Halliday, 1978, 1984; Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004) is then used to make visible the linguistic resources by which skilful writers in Social Work and Business achieve these knowledge practices. This research has potential pedagogical implications for academic literacy support programs in higher education aimed at (1) demystifying 'critical thinking' by identifying its constituent features in practical terms, and (2) preparing students for professional communication in their fields of study.


- The results of this ongoing project have been presented at
(1) the fortnightly LCT–SFL Roundtable (USYD, May 2013) and
(2) the biennial Association for Academic Language and Learning Conference (RMIT, Melbourne, November 2013).

- A book chapter (co-authored by the three project members) titled 'The knowledge practices of critical thinking’ in Davies, M. and Barnett, R. (eds), Critical Thinking in Higher Education. London: Palgrave Macmillan is in press.

- A book chapter (authored by A/Prof Karl Maton), titled 'Building powerful knowledge: The significance of semantic waves', includes discussion of this research, and will appear in Rata, E. & Barrett, B. (eds), Knowledge and the Future of Curriculum: International studies in social realism. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

- The results of this research have helped inform the design of an intervention and the development of learning and teaching resources and tutor training for the Bridging sociocultural Incongruity in the undergraduate Education Curriculum (BIEC), a funded Widening Participation project to embed Critical Thinking into a first-year core unit in Education (EDUF1019) at the University of Sydney (Stevenson, James & Kim, 2013).

- The results of this research helped inform the Central Program Workshop Development at the Learning Centre, University of Sydney. A new four-hour workshop, Critical reflection in the Social and Health Sciences, is now offered to assist undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students with reflective assignments, highly valued in applied disciplines such as social work, nursing, education, marketing, business or accounting. This workshop makes visible the text structure and linguistic resources necessary to describe, critically respond to and reflect on a critical incident or a real life scenario, and explain a personal or professional experience from a theoretical perspective in order to demonstrate critical reflection and transform disciplinary knowledge. Steps of scaffolding students’ learning include:

(1) modeling and deconstructing the appropriate generic structure;

(2) teaching 'semantic waves' and 'weaving' explicitly to model how successful writers navigate between and transform different types of knowledge and link personal and professional experience to the relevant theoretical concepts and frameworks of their discipline; and

(3) explicit teaching of the necessary linguistic resources to construct and evaluate arguments and recommendations, use evidence and demonstrate transformation.


  • University of Sydney International Postgraduate Award (July 2008 - January 2012)

Professional Memberships

  • Linguistics and Society Centre, Faculty of Arts, Monash University
    Association of Academic Language and Learning (AALL).
  • Reviewer for the international, peer-reviewed journal Linguistics and the Human Sciences.