Revolution Lullabye

June 12, 2013

Lawrick, Students in the First-Year ESL Program: Revisiting the Notion of ‘Traditional’ ESL

Lawrick, Elena. “Students in the First-Year ESL Program: Revisiting the Notion of ‘Traditional’ ESL.” Writing Program Administration 36.2 (Spring 2013): 27-58.

Through a study that involved surveying students who were enrolled in Purdue University’s ESL Writing Program, Lawrick argues that there is not a homogeneous profile for ESL students at American universities. Lawrick argues that writing program policies and the pedagogical practices used in the ESL writing classroom need to be updated to account for the variety of language backgrounds, English instruction, and composition instruction of ESL students.

Lawrick’s study, which is based on a nine-item questionnarie given to the students in 13 sections of Purdue University’s ESL first-year writing course, shows that most students enrolled in Purdue’s ESL program are international ESL students and that these students have had previous instruction in both English langauge and in composition in their own first languages. Often, ESL courses are designed as a first introduction to both English and composition, and Lawrick’s study shows that instructors and designers of these courses need to find better ways to account for the experiences and knowledge international ESL students bring to the course.

Lawrick’s survey also shows that many international ESL students are reluctant to take a first-year writing course designed for ESL students in their first semester because of the pressure to keep up their grades and adjust to life in the US.  Lawrick recommends delaying the first-year writing requirements for international ESL students to the second semester so that these students have a chance to adjust to their university studies before taking on the required first-year writing class.

Notable Notes

good literature view/discussion of the rise of the domestic ESL student, patterns and trends in global English

detailed data analysis of the level of English instruction and preparation in writing skills among international ESL students from different countries

Quotable Quotes

“…the ESL Writing Program has to maintain a delicate balance between the need to provide a supportive learning environment and the need to challenge students to develop their writing proficiency to a level allowing for their competent performance in content college courses” (54).

“In addition to ideological adjustments, it is essential to develop pedagogical approaches and assessment practices that provide a challenging yet supportive learning environment for international undergraduate writers by integrating – rather than denying – their previous backgrounds in English and composition” (54).

“In a U.S. FYC course, such students need to be taught how to adjust their linguistic and rhetorical repertoires to Standard American English, rather than to learn them from scratch” (50).

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