Rachel LaMance Abstracts

Rachel LaMance

Ph.D. Candidate

Second Language Acquisition & Teaching GIDP

 

Teachers of English Speakers of Other Languages Convention 2019

Atlanta, Georgia

February 14-16, 2019

 

Adapting to academic discourses is a complex and sometimes challenging process for university students (Duff, 2010). Given that academic discourse communities are heterogeneous (Ivanič, 1998; Lillis, 2003), students must learn multiple discourses during university. Complicating the development process is equally heterogeneous student populations. The inherent heterogeneity of both disciplines and students can lead to significant variation in experiences of students. Previous research has followed individual students or small cohorts throughout their university careers, tracing their unique academic literacy trajectories (e.g., Casanave, 2002; Chiseri‐Strater, 1991; Leki, 2007; Spack, 1997). These studies have revealed the dependence of academic writing expectations on context, as well as the extension of “literacy” beyond reading and writing, but they have not sought to simultaneously examine the experiences of international and domestic students.    Adopting an Academic Literacies framework (Lea & Street, 1998, 2006), this project follows, over the course of a year, five U.S. undergraduates, including both global L2 English users (from international backgrounds) and local L2 English users (from the U.S.). Through monthly interviews and analysis of rhetorical features of written coursework, such as source incorporation, this research examines the interplay of text and context in academic settings. This dual focus on writing and the circumstances surrounding its creation provides insight into how students adapt to diverse contexts and how their writing and identities evolve. Findings show the ways in which students adapt to and resist the academic environment linguistically, rhetorically, and socially, making space to express themselves through assignments.    This session will help ESL and writing instructors better understand our students’ multifaceted, multicultural lives and how their experiences outside our classrooms affect their performance inside our classrooms. It will also engage the audience in a discussion of the role of explicit instruction in facilitating student completion of assignments. 

 

Abstract for Lay Audience
When students enter the university environment, they must learn to navigate a variety of communities.  This can be a difficult learning process since each community has different practices, expectations, ways of seeing the world, and ways of using language. For example, a biology professor will see the world a bit differently from an English composition instructor, and they will also expect different behaviors from students. Making the process even more complicated is the differences in student populations. Each student comes to the university with different educational and cultural backgrounds as well as different ways of perceiving the world. Given the differences among communities and students, each individual will follow their own unique trajectory of developing academic literacy, broadly defined as the set of skills and competences students need to survive and thrive in an academic environment. Previous research has followed individuals or small groups of students to better understand what academic literacy is like for them and what helps or hinders the development of academic literacy. These studies  have revealed that “literacy” goes far beyond the traditional definition of reading and writing, as there  are many other skills students need to develop, such as understanding instructor expectations,  interpreting assignment instructions, and negotiating group work. This previous research has also shown how much expectations and performance depend on the specific context of academic communities. For example, critical thinking in a physics course might look very different from critical thinking in a philosophy course. While existing research has examined undergraduates, graduates, American students, international students, and students of other countries, they have not simultaneously explored the academic literacy development of domestic and international students in a U.S. university.
This project follows, over the course of a year, five U.S. undergraduates, all of whom are multilingual and speak English as a second language. The group includes both students from international backgrounds and students raised in the U.S. I conduct monthly interviews with each student and collect their written coursework. Analysis of both data sources helps me better understand the relationship between texts the students produce and the context in which the texts were produced. Focusing on writing and context at the same time provides insight into how students adapt to diverse contexts and how their writing and identities evolve over time and according to context. Findings show the ways in which students adapt to and resist the academic environment in multiple ways in order to express themselves through written assignments.   
This session will help English as a second language and writing instructors better understand our students’ multifaceted, multicultural lives and how their experiences outside our classrooms affect their performance inside our classrooms.

Last updated 4 Jun 2019