Higher education institutions (HEI) in the US have experienced sustained growth in the numbers of new international undergraduate students on their campuses over the past several years (Institute of International Education, 2014b). Many of these students are non-native English speakers (NNES) who, despite having high English language proficiency, often face challenges as they adjust to a new academic community (Anderson, Isensee, Martin, Godfrey, & O'Brien, 2012; Leki, 2007; Robertson, Line, Jones, & Thomas, 2000; Spack, 1997; Zamel & Spack, 2004). These challenges extend beyond language and include difficulty in adjusting to new academic discourse practices that are often tacit and deeply cultural. While most HEI campuses offer support to NNES international students in their initial adjustment, many of these resources are brief or optional. However, a possible resource in facilitating the adjustment to being a university student in the US is the first-year writing (FYW) course, which originated in the nineteenth century to help address linguistic and cultural differences among students (Knoblauch & Matsuda, 2008). Yet, little is known about what actually happens in FYW courses, and no study has closely examined the FYW for NNES course as a site of academic discourse socialization for NNES international students. This study aimed to fill this gap. Situated in a language socialization (LS) framework, this dissertation research employed ethnographic and discourse analytic methods to collect and analyze data (e.g., classroom observations, audio/video recordings of class sessions, semi-structured interviews with five focal students and the instructor, class documents, and student work) and understand how through language, the instructor socialized students to use language and thus, also develop sociocultural competence and understanding. Prior research on academic discourse socialization among NNES students has tended to employ a narrow understanding of discourse and focused primarily on academic speaking and writing. However, by employing a broader understanding of academic discourse to include ways of thinking and being, findings from this study highlight the dual role of this FYW for NNES course in socializing students into valued academic discourse practices about writing and also about being a student in their new academic environment. Findings also demonstrate how the instructor socialized students, ultimately offering them access to their new academic environment, by making values and practices overt, by inviting and immersing students into ways of thinking and being, and honoring her students' academic and literacy backgrounds. Findings also demonstrated student agency in enacting or resisting valued US academic discourse practices. Insights from this study illustrate the benefits of employing a broader understanding of academic discourse in language socialization research. By not limiting my understanding of academic discourse to speaking and writing, as many LS studies have, this study revealed ways in which this FYW for NNES course was about so much more than academic writing. It also illuminates the potential role that FYW for NNES courses could serve in not only socializing students into valued academic writing practices but also into broader academic discourse practices and values related to being good students in the US.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2015. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Kendall King. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 185 pages.
Becoming a Writer, Becoming a Student: The Pedagogy of Academic Discourse Socialization in a First-Year Writing Course for Non-Native English Speakers.
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