Wednesday, March 2, 2011

International Students and the Writing Demands at American Colleges

With the strong influx of international students attending America's colleges, as numerous scholars have pointed out, whether you're teaching writing-centered or writing-intensive classes, students whose native languages are not English will have different challenges than traditional American students who came to EIU from high schools or two-year colleges.

One very helpful and concise resource that gleans research related to English Language Learners (ELL) is "Working with ESL/ELL Students" provided by E. Shelley Reid at George Mason University.

The page refers to "writing teachers," but the information, recommendations, and strategies should translate to all instructors who have international students in their classes. In other words, if you're assigning writing and if you have international students in your courses, you might find this link helpful.

Some of the highlights, for me at least, are the following points:
  • Since international students come from cultures that might have distinctly different ways of organizing discourse compared to American culture (people who study this area call it "contrastive rhetoric" or "intercultural communication"), international students "may know that 'good writing' should be inferential rather than directive, be objective rather than personal, or include statements of the author's opinion/argument only after all evidence has been presented."
  • Because different cultures have various ways of working with sources, "students may bring different expectations about rules for acknowledging outside sources."
  • Some of the language challenges resulting from working in a new language may result in the fact that "students may transfer word order or cognates from their first language (L1) into their writing in English," and "students may use a 'translating' approach to writing that may slow them down, resulting in shorter essays."
  • In contrast to an approach that's used in writing centers worldwide, international students "[m]ay have difficulty using traditional editing skills to recognize and/or fix errors (e.g., won't "hear" all errors simply by reading aloud)."

And a really helpful portion of the Web page (toward the end) is the section titled "Rising Tide strategies," which provides recommendations that can help not only ELL students but all students.

I hope the link to Reid's page is useful, and if you have any comments or reactions to what's presented, we'd enjoy reading them.

No comments:

Post a Comment