Journal of Second Language Writing


Volume 5 (1996)
[ No. 1 | No. 2 | No. 3 ]

Editorial Board
Table of Contents
Information for Authors
The JSLW Award
About the Editors
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| Comprehensive Abstracts |
| Vol. 1 (1992) | Vol. 2 (1993) | Vol. 3 (1994) | Vol. 4 (1995) |
| Vol. 5 (1996) | Vol. 6 (1997) | Vol. 7 (1998) | Vol. 8 (1999) |
| Vol. 9 (2000) | Vol. 10 (2001) | Vol. 11 (2002) | Vol. 12 (2003) |
| Vol. 13 (2004) | Vol. 14 (2005) |

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Volume 5, Number 1 (1996)

Chinese Students' Perceptions of ESL Peer Response Group Interaction 

Georgia State University

This study investigated Chinese students' interaction styles and reactions to one particular pedagogic technique: peer response groups in ESL composition classes. In a microethnographic study, three peer response groups in an advanced ESL composition class were videotaped for 6 consecutive weeks. After videotaping, the interviewers met with individual Chinese-speaking (n = 3) and Spanish-speaking (n = 2) group members. The Spanish-speaking students were interviewed in order to have a point of comparison. In each of the sessions, the interviewer and the student viewed the videotapes of the peer response group in which the student had participated and discussed the group's interactions. The interviews were audiotaped, and the tapes were transcribed. The transcripts from the interviews were examined recursively by the researchers; merging patterns or theses were noted; the data were analyzed again using these themes as coding categories; and the data were organized according to these codes. This analysis yielded a description of the key Informants' perceptions of their construction of peer response group interaction. The analysis indicated that the Chinese students' primary goal for the groups was social-to maintain group harmony-and that this goal affected the nature and types of interaction they allowed themselves in group discussions. The Chinese students were reluctant to initiate comments and, when they did, monitored themselves carefully so as not to precipitate conflict within the group. This self-monitoring led them to avoid criticism of peers' work and to avoid disagreeing with comments about peers' or their own writing.

Audience and Voice in Current L1 Composition Texts: Some Implications for ESL Student Writers

University of Alabama
University of Southern California

Many freshman writing programs use an inductive approach to writing instruction. Students are encouraged to discover form in the process of writing. This approach views the acquisition of writing skills as a tacit, unconscious process we find problematic for students whose first language is not English. Drawing from 10 widely used freshman writing textbooks, our study demonstrates the problem of implicitness which exists in regard to two notions central to writing instruction in the United States: "voice" and "audience." Both notions, as presented in these textbooks, are predicated on a set of assumptions that do not translate well in L2 classrooms because they draw heavily on shared cultural knowledge that is often inaccessible to non-native students. Our article calls attention to ways in which textbook presentations of these concepts disadvantage L2 student writers. We propose that a discipline-oriented approach to freshman composition will facilitate an easier grasp of these concepts. Such an approach will expose students to the particularities of specific disciplines and provide a more clearly defined discourse community within which to form their views and responses. Knowing for whom they write will create a clearer sense of audience for these students and enable them to present clearer and strongly individualized voices.

ESL Writing Assessment Prompts: How Students Choose

Michigan State University

This qualitative study examines how ESL students choose a prompt from several options on a timed-writing exam. This issue is worth investigating for several reasons: Little is known about the writing process on timed-writing tests; previous quantitative attempts to examine factors affecting student choice have been inconclusive; and opinions vary on whether or not students should be given a choice. Twenty-six students were observed taking a writing exam and were interviewed upon completion. We conclude that students spend little time making a decision; that several factors including their own background knowledge, question type, and specificity of the topic influence their decision; that attention to the time factor is an overriding consideration. 

Peer Revision in the L2 Classroom: Social-Cognitive Activities, Mediating Strategies, and Aspects of Social Behavior

Inter American University of Puerto Rico

Little is known about what actually happens when two L2 students are involved in peer revision of written texts. This article reports the results of a study conducted among Spanish-speaking students in Puerto Rico which sought to investigate (a) the kind of revision activities students engage in while working in pairs, (b) the strategies peers employ in order to facilitate the revision process, and (c) significant aspects of social behavior in dyadic peer revision. The participants were 54 intermediate ESL college students enrolled in a writing course. Interactions between pairs of students during two revision sessions were recorded and transcribed. Analysis of the transcripts yielded seven types of social-cognitive activities the students engaged in (reading, assessing, dealing with trouble sources, composing, writing comments, copying, and discussing task procedures), five different mediating strategies used to facilitate the revision process (employing symbols and external resources, using the L1, providing scaffolding, resorting to interlanguage knowledge, and vocalizing private speech), and four significant aspects of social behavior (management of authorial control, affectivity, collaboration, and adopting reader/writer roles). Results reveal an extremely complex interactive process as well as highlight the importance of activating and enhancing cognitive processes through social interaction in the L2 writing classroom.

Volume 5, Number 2 (1996)

ESL Students in First-Year Writing Courses: ESL Versus Mainstream Classes

Chinese University of Hong Kong

In first-year writing courses, ESL students are usually mainstreamed or placed in specially designated ESL classes. Although ESL writing specialists, backed by research into second language writing, strongly advocate the placement of ESL students in ESL classes, mainstreaming appears to be the norm. This article is based on a year-long study conducted at a medium-size university where ESL students have the option of mainstreaming or enrolling in ESL classes in first-year writing courses. The study describes the preferences of ESL students for ESL or mainstream classes, their performance on a holistically scored exit examination, and the reasons for the high rate of withdrawal of ESL students from mainstream classes. The study shows that the majority of ESL students preferred to enroll in ESL classes and performed better on the exit exam in these classes.

Verbal Reports of Japanese Novices' Research Writing Practices in English

Tokyo Institute of Technology

This article presents interview data from a group of Japanese novice researchers who were asked to comment on their writing practices in preparing their first scientific research articles to be published in English. The verbal reports and subsequent commentary and analysis provide insights into cross-cultural aspects of academic writing from a social-constructionist perspective under the headings: (a) the construction of NNS novices' research article drafts; (b) translation from L1 to L2; (c) revision in response to external critique and the concept of audience. To better understand the language and subculture of the scientific community, findings stress the importance for both EAP practitioners and for NNS novices of feeding relevant background literature from the fields of sociopragmatics and the sociology of science into advanced courses in English for Academic Purposes. 

U.S. Academic Readers, ESL Writers, and Second Sentences

University of Wyoming

Traditionally, ESL writing teachers have taught the concept of the topic sentence to introduce academic paragraphs. However, ESL students frequently develop paragraphs that do not fulfill the expectations of native English speaker (NES) readers proffered by the topic sentence. Recent writing-reading connection research suggests that different contextual and rhetorical schemata may result in ineffective ESL written communication. This article describes exploratory research focusing on the sentence that immediately follows the topic sentence in an American-English paragraph and seeks to answer the following: Can second sentences be (a) consistently predicted by experienced NES readers; (b) successfully predicted and written by inexperienced and/or experienced NES student writers; (c) successfully predicted and written by inexperienced ESL student writers? Results indicated that whereas NES inexperienced writers sometimes used unexpected, inappropriate second sentences, NESs were able to appropriately predict the "expected" second sentences nearly twice as often as ESL writers. Pedagogical implications are discussed.

Do English and ESL Faculty Differ in Evaluating the Essays of Native English-Speaking and ESL Students?

City University of New York-Kingsborough

This study investigates the degree to which differences exist in the rating of two NES and two ESL essays by 32 English and 30 ESL professors in the English Department of CUNY's Kingsborough campus. The two faculty groups were divided into subgroups, one rating the four essays holistically on a 1 to 6 scale and the other rating them on a 1 to 6 scale but in light of 10 specifically categorized features, 6 comprising rhetorical and 4 language features. The results indicated that in holistic evaluation, English and ESL faculty raters differed significantly, with English faculty assigning higher scores to all four essay samples. In analytic evaluation, the two groups did not evidence significant differences in rating the specifically categorized features. Raters with more years of experience in teaching and holistic evaluation tended to be more lenient in their holistic evaluation, whereas with respect to analytic evaluation, experience in the two areas was not an influencing factor. Also, in holistic evaluation, English faculty seemed to give greater weight to the overall content and quality of the rhetorical features in the writing samples than they did to language use.

Volume 5, Number 3 (1996)

Tutoring Second Language Text Revision: Does the Approach to Instruction or the Language of Communication Make a Difference?

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Carnegie Mellon University

This study describes the dynamics of problem solving through spoken discourse in one-to-one tutoring of second language writing, aiming to determine if these processes might vary according to the instructional approach or the language of communication utilized. We tutored 20 adult students of English as a second language (ESL) in 4 sessions of text revision on 4 similar compositions they had written, alternating these sessions between provision of (a) conventional error correction versus procedural facilitation and (b) use of the second language (English) or learners' mother tongues (Cantonese, Japanese, and Mandarin)-forming a 2 (Approach to tutoring) x 2 (Language of communication) factorial design. The discourse of tutoring seems to have been highly normative in this context, sequenced into transactions of problem identification, negotiation, and resolution that did not vary appreciably across any of the conditions for tutoring. Tutors' and students' cooperative efforts to solve problems in the students' draft compositions focused primarily on local levels of the compositions (i.e., grammar, word choice, spelling, punctuation), guided mainly by the tutors' decision making, in all of the experimental conditions. This finding parallels what has been found in most previous studies of text revision. However, individual tutors tended to differ from one another in the extent to which they solicited students' input to the discourse, suggesting this is an important factor to be considered in future studies of the impact of tutoring on ESL students' writing.

Explaining Hong Kong Students' Response to Process Writing: An Exploration of Causes and Outcomes

City University of Hong Kong

The purpose of this investigation was to evaluate student reactions to the attempt on the part of their English teacher, a native Cantonese speaker, to apply the innovation of process writing in 3 multiple-lesson units. Answers to a questionnaire revealed a variable reaction to the units across 8 classes of Cantonese-speaking secondary-school students. For two groups in academically achieving all-girl classes, the experience was judged as positive, for two in lower achieving mixed-gender classes as negative, and for the four other classes as mixed positive and negative. The teacher judged at the beginning of the project to hove had the most positive attitude toward process writing taught the students who evaluated the experience as most positive. The class that evaluated the experience as most negative had the teacher judged at the outset as having been most conflicted about process writing. There is evidence that in the two classes where the students had the most positive reaction the teacher made a fuller adoption of the process approach than in the two classes where students had the most negative reaction. In the former, the teacher integrated elements of process writing into an overall teaching routine, whereas in the latter, the focus was on traditional language exercise and grammatical accuracy, and process approach elements were not well integrated into the teacher's instruction. The results illustrate the complex pattern of cause-and-effect relationships existing between teachers' and students' attitudes and behaviors in the context of an innovation. They further demonstrate how an innovation can be reinterpreted when implemented in a new culture.

Issues in Using Multicultural Literature in College ESL Writing Classes

University of San Francisco

Multicultural literature, and multicultural textbooks, are increasingly used in college ESL writing classes. This is an appropriate and welcome development, but it is essential that such literature and texts be chosen and taught carefully and thoughtfully. ESL professionals need to define multiculturalism, and multicultural literature, as those terms apply in ESL education and particularly in the context of the writing class, and understand and prepare for the fact that some students as well as fellow academics find such concepts controversial. This article discusses the following related issues in the ESL context: the "canon wars," the purposes and benefits of teaching multicultural literature, possible pitfalls in emphasizing such literature with ESL students, the selection of textbooks with appropriate reading selections and editorial apparatus, and possible problems arising during such teaching.

Second Language Learners' Processes of L1 Writing, L2 Writing, and Translation from L1 into L2

Western Washington University

This study compares second language learners' L1 writing, L2 writing, and translation from L1 into L2, focusing on writing and translating processes, attention patterns, and quality of language use. Thinking aloud, 22 Japanese ESL students studying at a Canadian college performed 3 tasks individually. These think-aloud protocols were analyzed, supplemented by observational notes and interviews, and the writing samples were evaluated. The data were analyzed with attention to theories of composing processes (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1987), Schmidt's "conscious attention" (1990), and Swain's "i + 1 output" hypothesis (1985). It was found that (a) most students used a "what-next" approach both in the L1 and L2 writing tasks and a "sentence-by-sentence" approach in the translation task, (b) attention patterns in the L1 and L2 writing tasks were very similar, but quite different in the translation task. Attention to language use in the translation task was significantly higher than in the L1 and L2 writing tasks and, (c) scores on language use in the L1 and L2 writing tasks were similar, but scores on language use in the translation task were significantly better than in the L2 writing task.


On Second Language Writing