Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out


VIEWS: 397 PAGES: 236

									    Struggling to Write: Learner Identity and Agency

                     in a Pre-University Intensive

            English for Academic Purposes Program

     Submitted by Elizabeth Howell, to the University of Exeter as a

      dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Education in TESOL,

                                   October 2008

This dissertation is available for Library use on the understanding that it is copyright

  material and that no quotation from the thesis may be published without proper


  I certify that all material in this dissertation which is not my own work has been

 identified and that no material has previously been submitted and approved for the

                  award of a degree by this or any other University.

                 Signature: _____E.Howell____________________

This dissertation is dedicated to Mum for her inspiration, to Joe for his support, and to

        my students, without whom this study would not have been possible.

This small-scale ethnographic research study investigated student perceptions of social

identity and agency and the usefulness of the construct of the Community of Practice

for struggling writers in the context of a pre-university EAP program. The

appropriateness of socio-cultural theories in language teaching and learning today stems

from social constructivist and social interactionist theories of the role of language in the

discursive construction of society, knowledge and power. This study problematised

these constructs in the development of writing for learners in a pre-university Higher

Education context. Comparing data from focal students who were struggling with

writing and from students who were more successful, the biographies of struggling

students and their awareness of their futures, or imagined selves and communities,

revealed not only learning histories in which they had radically different identities as

learners and writers, but also a lack of clarity about their learning trajectory in the

writing program. There was no apparent lack of investment in learning among the focal

students, who identified themselves as weak writers, although there was frustration and

anger at their predicament. The data suggest that they did not identify with the learning

community at the start of the project, probably because they resisted belonging to a

community which labeled them as failures. During the study a variety of means were

used to elicit participants‟ perceptions of their status as novice writers and to support

their learning trajectory on an individual basis by elucidating the reasons for and

requirements of academic writing. By the end of the study the focal students had

developed more awareness of the subject positions the writing trajectory afforded them

and had chosen ways in which to continue along their learning path. The Community of

Practice appears to have potential as a means of supporting the roles of EAP students

and teachers as members of the academic community of practice.


I gratefully acknowledge the help of my tutors, Jill Cadorath and Sarah Rich, the advice

of my examiners, John Norrish and Susan Riley, and the support of Ed.D. TESOL

Dubai program leader Salah Troudi, as I struggled to write this dissertation.

My friends Helen Oliver and Heather Morrell provided unstinting academic support and

encouragement throughout the whole process, for which I am extremely thankful.

Discussions with the CAEL coordinators, Dianne Moffitt and Tina Peresson, with the

IELTS Coordinator, Mark Dawson-Smith, and with CAEL teachers, in particular

Cynthia Gale, Ruth Holmes, Maria Persson, Margaret Standing and Christina Gera,

provided helpful teacher voices during the data analysis process.

Thanks are also due to Brian Findsen, Lester Finch, Maureen Marra, Carol Tebbutt,

Angela Reid, Wendy Buchanan, Rebecca Vane and other colleagues who stood by me

and cheered me on through the long period of doctoral study.

                                              Table of Contents

Dedication ......................................................................................................................... 2

Abstract ............................................................................................................................. 3

Acknowledgements ........................................................................................................... 4

Table of Contents .............................................................................................................. 5

List of Tables................................................................................................................... 14

Chapter 1 ......................................................................................................................... 15

Introduction to the Research Study ................................................................................. 15

   1.1 Identity, Agency and Community in Critical Second Language Learning ......... 16

   1.2 Language Proficiency and Academic Literacy in Higher Education .................. 19

   1.3 Special Language Provision for Struggling Writers ........................................... 22

       1.3.1 Writing across the Curriculum and Content-Based Instruction ................... 22

       1.3.2 Diagnostic assessment and tutorial support ................................................. 24

       1.3.3 English for Academic Purposes programs ................................................... 25

   1.4 The Rationale for this Research Study ................................................................ 26

   1.5 The Focus of this Research Study ....................................................................... 27

   1.6 Personal Commitment to this Project .................................................................. 28

   1.7 The Significance of this Research Study ............................................................ 29

   1.8 Research Questions ............................................................................................. 30

   1.9 Conclusion .......................................................................................................... 33

Chapter Two .................................................................................................................... 34

Background to this Study ................................................................................................ 34

   2.1 The Research Context ......................................................................................... 34

       2.1.1 International students in Higher Education in New Zealand ....................... 34

       2.1.2 The acculturation of students from the Middle East in New Zealand.......... 34

   2.2 The Intensive English Language Program in this Study ..................................... 37

       2.2.1 Placement assessment of students ................................................................ 37

       2.2.2 Curriculum design in this English for Academic Purposes program ........... 38

       2.2.3 Teaching materials for English for Academic Purposes programs .............. 39

       2.2.4 Teaching writing in this English for Academic Purposes program ............. 40

   2.3 The Challenge of Writing in English .................................................................. 43

   2.4 Language Proficiency Assessment at Placement ................................................ 44

   2.5 Advising Students of their Diagnosis and Prognosis .......................................... 46

   2.6 The Research Study Focus in Context ................................................................ 48

Chapter Three .................................................................................................................. 51

Review of the Literature.................................................................................................. 51

   3.1 Literacy: a Complex Construct ........................................................................... 51

       3.1.1 Basic literacy or basic writing? .................................................................... 52

       3.1.2 Distinguishing critical literacy from critical thinking .................................. 53

       3.1.3 Distinguishing academic literacy from language proficiency measures ...... 54

       3.1.4 Developing academic literacy in a multiple literacy framework ................. 55

       3.1.5 The Arabic language: the challenge of writing ............................................ 57

   3.2 The Expository Essay in Writing Theory Development ..................................... 60

       3.2.1 The traditional-audiolingual paradigm of writing as form ........................... 61

       3.2.2 The psycholinguistic-communicative paradigm of writing as meaning ...... 61

  Situated cognition and communities: making meaning in context ....... 64

  Genre as social discourse ...................................................................... 65

       3.2.3 The socio-cultural paradigm of writing as identity construction ................. 66

  English for Academic Purposes in the socio-cultural paradigm ........... 67

  Discourse, disciplinary culture and boundaries .................................... 67

       3.2.4 The critical-discursive paradigm of writing as power.................................. 68

   3.3 The Expository Essay as a Heuristic for Teaching Academic English ............... 71

       3.3.1 Topic content for academic English courses ................................................ 71

       3.3.2 Lexical content in academic English courses............................................... 73

       3.3.3 Construction of meaning in essay tasks ....................................................... 75

       3.3.4 Teaching materials and methods for academic English ............................... 78

       3.3.5 Teacher feedback versus assessment of writing........................................... 81

   3.4 The Socio-Cultural Turn in Second Language Acquisition ................................ 84

       3.4.1 Focus on the learner: identity ...................................................................... 84

  Social psychology and identity ............................................................. 87

  The impact of teacher identity............................................................... 90

  Socio-cultural theory and identity ......................................................... 91

       Ecological linguistics and identity ....................................................... 92

  Critical Discourse and identity .............................................................. 94

       3.4.2 The agentive turn in social practice research ............................................... 96

  Psychological theories of agency as motivation ................................... 96

  Agency as investment in learning and access to resources ................... 98

  Agency in the writing classroom......................................................... 100

  Agency as desire and struggle ............................................................. 101

       3.4.3 The Community of Practice ....................................................................... 102

  Implementation and critique of the Community of Practice ............... 105

  Transfer of learning versus situated learning ...................................... 107

   3.5 Conclusion to the Review ................................................................................. 108

Chapter Four ................................................................................................................. 109

Research Methodology.................................................................................................. 109

   4.1 Research Stance, Ontology, Epistemology, Methodology................................ 109

   4.2 Research Context and Rationale ....................................................................... 111

   4.3 Research Participants ........................................................................................ 112

   4.4 Research Ethics ................................................................................................. 115

   4.5 Research Questions ........................................................................................... 116

   4.6 Research Methods ............................................................................................. 117

       4.6.1 Interviews ................................................................................................... 118

       4.6.2 Focus groups and group interviews ........................................................... 121

       4.6.3 Questionnaires ............................................................................................ 121

       4.6.4 Essays ......................................................................................................... 123

       4.6.5 Observation in teaching support classes and the self-access centre ........... 124

       4.6.6 Vocabulary tests ......................................................................................... 124

       4.6.7 Emails from former students ...................................................................... 125

   4.7 Procedure for Data Collection........................................................................... 125

   4.8 Data Analysis and Triangulation ....................................................................... 128

   4.9 Limitations of the Study .................................................................................... 129

Chapter Five .................................................................................................................. 130

Analysis and Discussion of the Data in Response to .................................................... 130

Research Question 1 ...................................................................................................... 130

   5.1 Quantitative Data obtained in Response to Research Question 1: What are

   struggling students‟ perceptions of their experiences of learning to write expository

   essays in this EAP program? ..................................................................................... 130

       5.1.1 Language skills questionnaire .................................................................... 130

       5.1.2 Writing Skills and Literacy Background Questionnaires........................... 132

  5.1.3 Nation‟s Vocabulary Level Test data ......................................................... 135

5.2 Interview Data in Response to Research Question 1 ........................................ 135

  5.2.1     Student perceptions of writing expository essays ..................................... 135 Spelling ............................................................................................... 135 Punctuation.......................................................................................... 136 Writing speed ...................................................................................... 137 Lack of vocabulary.............................................................................. 137 Optional or fixed essay topics ............................................................. 139 Essay structure .................................................................................... 139 Process writing – three drafts .............................................................. 140 Translation into first language while writing ...................................... 141

  5.2.2 Student perceptions of writing program structure ...................................... 141 Course content ..................................................................................... 141 Assessment with multiple trait descriptors ......................................... 142 Placement ............................................................................................ 142 Repeating courses on account of failure in writing ............................. 143 Recommendations concerning the program ........................................ 144

  5.2.3 Student perceptions of teaching ................................................................. 145

  5.2.4 Student awareness of their learning trajectories......................................... 146 Prior learning in English ..................................................................... 146 Investment in language learning ......................................................... 146 IELTS test perceptions and progress................................................... 147 Future goals in education .................................................................... 148

  5.2.5 Strategic awareness of learning .................................................................. 148 Learning strategies .............................................................................. 148

  Independent learning ........................................................................... 149

  Support groups .................................................................................... 150

  Graded readers .................................................................................... 150

   5.3 Essay Data: Comparing Writing in English and Arabic ................................... 151

   5.4 Observation Data from Class and Learning Resource Centre .......................... 152

       5.4.1 Handwriting and letter shapes .................................................................... 152

       5.4.2 Syllable formation and Arabic diacritical marks ....................................... 153

       5.4.3 Teacher and whiteboard focus in class ...................................................... 153

Chapter Six .................................................................................................................... 155

Analysis and Discussion of the Data in Response to Research Questions 2, 3 and 4 ... 155

       6.1 Forging New Identities.................................................................................. 155

           6.1.1 Identities as readers ................................................................................ 155

           6.1.2 Identities as writers ................................................................................ 157

       6.2 Fight, Flight or Change: Making Agentive Choices ..................................... 158

           6.2.1 Fight ....................................................................................................... 158

           6.2.2 Flight ...................................................................................................... 159

           6.2.3 Strategies for improving vocabulary and spelling ................................. 160

           6.2.4 Metacognitive awareness of essay writing ............................................. 161

           6.2.5 Motivation, investment, or desire in learning and success..................... 162

           6.2.6 Anxiety over writing assessment and the learning process .................... 163

   6.3 The Writing Program as a Community of Practice ........................................... 164

       6.3.1 The structure of a Community of Practice ................................................. 164

       6.3.2 Goals in a community of practice .............................................................. 165

       6.3.3 Reification and participation ...................................................................... 165

       6.3.4 Shared practice and boundaries with the target community ...................... 166

       6.3.5 Rules and power relations, roles and labelling in class .............................. 167

       6.3.6 Physical resources ...................................................................................... 169

       6.3.7 Symbolic resources .................................................................................... 170

   6.4 Conclusion to the Findings ............................................................................... 171

Chapter Seven ............................................................................................................... 172

Implications, Recommendations and Conclusions ....................................................... 172

   7.1 Implications of the Findings.............................................................................. 172

       7.1.1 Pedagogic perspectives of identity, agency and community ..................... 172

       7.1.2 Identity, agency, community and principled pedagogy ............................. 175

       7.1.3 Individual goal setting, investment, desire and motivation........................ 177

       7.1.4 Program weaknesses .................................................................................. 178

 Support for ideas and voice ................................................................. 178

 Teaching focus on handwriting, phonemes/graphemes ...................... 178

 Teaching and learning vocabulary ...................................................... 179

 Teaching and learning writing ............................................................ 180

 Writing assessment.............................................................................. 180

 Essay topics and peer and teacher feedback ....................................... 181

 Learning resource centre, library and online learning ........................ 182

   7.2 Recommendations ............................................................................................. 182

       7.2.1 Placement decisions ................................................................................... 182

       7.2.2 Reification and documentation .................................................................. 183

       7.2.3 Participation ............................................................................................... 183

       7.2.4 Learning from the past, adapting to the present ......................................... 184

       7.2.5 Teaching writing ........................................................................................ 184

       7.2.6 The division of labour ................................................................................ 185

   7.3 Conclusions ....................................................................................................... 186

Appendix A ................................................................................................................... 187

Individual interview schedule: ...................................................................................... 187

Focus group schedule: ................................................................................................... 187

Appendix B ................................................................................................................... 188

Sample focal student profile Bassem ............................................................................ 188

Appendix C ................................................................................................................... 195

Language Skills Questionnaire ..................................................................................... 195

Writing Skills Questionnaire ......................................................................................... 197

Literacy Background Questionnaire ............................................................................. 198

Appendix D ................................................................................................................... 199

Table 1 Language Skills Questionnaire Responses of All Students N=106 ............... 199

Table 2 Item 20: Number of students self-evaluating with writing problems ............ 200

Table 3 Item 20: Arabic speakers self-evaluating with writing problems .................. 200

Appendix E ................................................................................................................... 201

Table 4 Writing Skills Qu‟aire Responses of non-Arabic speakers N= 44 ................. 201

Table 5 Writing Skills Questionnaire Responses of Arabic speakers N=29 ................ 202

Table 6 Literacy Background Qu‟aire Responses of non-Arabic speakers N=44 ....... 203

Table 7 Literacy Background Qu‟aire Responses of Arabic speakers N=29 .............. 203

Appendix F .................................................................................................................... 204

Sample Essays from CAEL7 ......................................................................................... 204

       Essay # 3 (Focal student Bassem) ......................................................................... 204

       Essay # 1 (anonymous CAEL7 student) ............................................................... 205

       Essay # 4 (anonymous CAEL7 student) ............................................................... 207

Appendix G ................................................................................................................... 209

Process Essays by Focal Student Bassem CAEL5 ........................................................ 209

Draft 1 ........................................................................................................................... 209

Draft 2 ........................................................................................................................... 210

Draft 3 (As typed by Bassem) ....................................................................................... 211

Appendix H ................................................................................................................... 213

Written Communication Descriptors Student Version CAEL2-5 ................................. 213

Appendix I..................................................................................................................... 214

Writing Portfolio Marking Schedule ............................................................................. 214

Appendix J .................................................................................................................... 215

Invitation to join the study ............................................................................................ 215

Appendix K ................................................................................................................... 216

Consent Form ................................................................................................................ 216

Appendix L ................................................................................................................... 217

School of Education and Lifelong Learning ................................................................. 217

Certificate of ethical research approval......................................................................... 217

References ..................................................................................................................... 221

                               List of Tables

Table 1 Focal students                          114

Table 2 Current students                        114

Table 3 Former students                         114

Table 4 Data collection procedures              126

                            Chapter 1
                Introduction to the Research Study

Applied Linguistic (AL) and Second Language Acquisition (SLA) researchers using

multidisciplinary perspectives such as situated cognition, socio-cultural and social

interactionist theories of learning have suggested that the successful development of

writing in higher education (HE) results from a process of acculturation as a member of

a discourse community. Other researchers have utilized Lave and Wenger‟s (1991)

construct of the Community of Practice (CoP) to illustrate how power relations and

access to resources within a learning community can facilitate or hinder individuals‟

learning trajectories. In this ethnographic study of a small group of students who were

failing to achieve the expected writing targets in a pre-university English for Academic

Purposes (EAP) program I investigate the constructs of the social identity and agency of

learners within the construct of the CoP. By discussing with my research participants

their perceptions of their learning trajectories I hoped to learn how to remove

hindrances and increase affordances for learning to write in this pre-university EAP


In this introductory chapter I situate this small-scale ethnographic research study in the

context of broader access to HE and the challenge of academic literacy for second

language student writers of English. Many researchers have written of the need for

closer involvement of academic disciplinary communities with the literacy struggles of

language learners and their teachers. This study is locally bounded and its findings

cannot be generalized, but its implications may be of interest to teachers in other

intensive EAP writing programs set up to help students develop academic literacy.

1.1 Identity, Agency and Community in Critical Second Language Learning

It is axiomatic that learning entails individual long-term change, in behaviour, in

knowledge, in attitudes, or in aspirations (Kirkpatrick, 1996). Prior to the dawning of

the social constructivist paradigm in the 1990s, language learning theorists focussed on

how learning affects and is affected by the individual‟s behaviour, cognition, emotions,

motivation and self-concept. Current conceptions of how language, knowledge and

society are co-constituted have entailed a focus on the influence of society and social

groups on the individual. Extending Hymes‟ (1972) original consideration of social

context as influencing appropriate language choice, language learning success and

failure is now viewed through a social as well as a psychological lens. Critical theorists

believe power relations in society impact on the agency of individuals and influence the

success of their learning trajectories through time and in contextual space. Thus, social

structures, power relations and access to resources in society contribute to the formation

of language learners‟ identities and influence their agentive responses. Wenger‟s (1998)

model of the CoP is discussed in this study to test whether it could facilitate learning by

encouraging students to be meaning makers, thus reinforcing their identities as learners

and empowering their agentive responses to resist marginalization.

According to Vaughan and Hogg (2002, p.16), social psychologists have posited

theories of personality on a continuum from individualist, in which identity is

cognitively developed, to collectivist, in which identity is socially constructed. For

example, social identity theorists such as Tajfel and Turner (1979, as cited in Vaughan

and Hogg, 2002, p.298) suggest that membership of social categories, such as a religion,

or a sports club, not only provides members with a social identity but shapes their

behaviour and attitudes. On the other hand, Norton (1995) replaces identity with
subjectivity, a poststructuralist, postmodernist construct much theorized in the field of

cultural studies (Mansfield, 2000).

In light of this theoretical variation I follow Giddens (1991) who conceptualizes identity

as “the reflexive process of the self”, and suggests that personal and social identities are

interdependent. I theorise identity as socially constructed over time and in different

contexts on the trajectory of lifelong learning. However, following recent neurological

and physiological research into the influence of genetics and hormonal influences on

individuals from birth, such as the influence of testosterone on the preferred gaze of

neonates (Connellan, Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Batki & Ahluwalia, 2001), I posit an

initially biological, then cognitively and socially developed internal self, or self-

consciousness, which rejects or accepts options available as identities within contexts.

Social identity constructions are thus filtered in or out, or moderated by perception,

cognition and moral judgement as they are internalized as part of the individual‟s self-

concept. In different social contexts these accumulated identities are represented

selectively as necessary and appropriate, but to avoid the fragmentation of self, self-

consciousness retains control of a core, personal identity which can remain hidden to all

except intimates. (See further discussion in Chapter 3.)

In this theorization, the construct of voice is a type of identity socialized in literacy

practice and assumed when writing. Voice has been theorized in composition theory

(e.g. Elbow, 1999, 2000) and studied and debated more extensively in AL research in

recent years (e.g. Ivanic, 1998, Atkinson, 2000, Prior, 2001, Stapleton, 2002). Finding a

voice in which to express and support ideas is important in learning to write in EAP

programs, in my view, to prepare students for their role as agents of knowledge

construction in HE, but some EAP textbooks and teachers proscribe the expression of

voice in expository essay writing since they see the genre as academic and they equate

academic with the absence of voice. Hyland (2002c, p. 352) points out that “the

author‟s explicit appearance in a text, or its [sic] absence, works to create a plausible

academic identity, and a voice with which to present an argument”. So, EAP students

need to assume appropriate identities, or voices, in writing different genres. The first

genre usually encountered is the expository essay, the instrumental focus of this

research study. The appropriate expression of personal opinion in argument supported

by ideas and evidence is a writing goal for our EAP program, or CoP, as posited in this

research project.

Lave and Wenger‟s (1991) original CoP construct was revised by Wenger (1998) and

used to theorize the institutional management of knowledge (2002). According to

Wenger (2002, p.27) a CoP must have a specific domain of knowledge which defines a

set of issues and creates a sense of common identity within a community of people who

care about that domain and who practice it to be more effective within it. As he stresses

(2002, p.29), “learning is a matter of belonging as well as an intellectual process,

involving the heart as well as the head.” In this latest revision of the CoP the

similarities with a pre-university EAP program are easily identifiable. The enterprise of

learning English is achieved with peers and teachers, and meaning is jointly negotiated.

If members participate actively in the domain and achieve a sense of belonging, then

according to Wenger, they should learn. (See Chapter 3 for further discussion.)

However, other social factors, such as power relations and social distance in formal

classrooms, as well as individual psychological and linguistic factors might nevertheless

create conditions for failure for some students.

1.2 Language Proficiency and Academic Literacy in Higher Education

English-medium universities in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are

populated with increasing numbers of students from non-English-speaking backgrounds

(NESB) (Hyland, 2007, Hill, Storch & Lynch, 2000, Matsuda, 1999). To ensure that

NESB students are linguistically proficient, English-medium universities rely on high

stakes tests such as The International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

produced jointly by The University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, the British

Council and IELTS Australia. Yet HE teaching faculty complain that these gate-keeping

assessments are unsatisfactory, or the recommended entry requirements are not at a high

enough standard, since many students who have gained the requisite proficiency scores

appear to be linguistically under-prepared for academic study (Coley, 1999, McDowall

& Merrylees, 1998). Complaints have been directed in particular at NESB students‟

inadequate academic writing skills (Kam & Meinema, 2005). Surprisingly similar

concerns have also been expressed with regard to the writing inadequacies of English-

speaking background (ESB) students globally. For example, in the USA, Carroll (2002,

p.2) reports that successful high school students from traditional, middle class

backgrounds are expected “to write fluently on any topic”, and when they are unable to,

faculty accuse high schools of failing in their responsibilities. Carroll maintains these

accusations stem from “a misunderstanding of what constitutes „writing‟ in college”

(2002, p.2).

Carroll‟s claim seems surprising in the context of English as a first language (EL1)

where writing, or composition, has been a topic of educational research for at least 60

years. However, the studies have been inconclusive and the search for consensus on a

theory of writing continues urgently nowadays in English as a second language (ESL).

ESL writing research has intensified over the past 20 years, seeking answers to

pedagogic questions raised by the increased numbers of international students studying

in English in HE (Matsuda, 1999, Hyland, 2007). In both EL1 and ESL, writing has

become virtually synonymous with „literacy‟, a term preferred by postmodern

researchers since it evokes complex issues of language, academic pedagogy, power and

ideology, rather than simplistic notions of skill. Taylor, Ballard, Beasley, Bock, Clanchy

and Nightingale (1988) equate „skill‟ with a trainable performance and deplore its use to

describe so complex and varied a human endeavour as writing. In HE, writing has a

particularly important function both in the process of learning and to demonstrate the

product of learning and is almost inevitably linked with reading. Hence, while „literacy‟

refers to the basic ability to read and write for everyday, functional social purposes,

„academic literacy‟ refers to the ability to use written sources critically, i.e. to read texts

with understanding of their discursive role in society, but more importantly for students,

the ability to write appropriate texts in order to learn and succeed in HE.

Misunderstandings and accusations regarding EL1 undergraduate „illiteracy‟ are not

new. In Australia twenty years ago, Taylor et al. (1988) reported that literacy standards

in HE were frequently in the news, but that „literacy‟ was defined in a narrow,

mechanical way to refer to error free writing. Taylor et al. (1988, p. 4) point out that

there are different cultures and different literacies within the university. Ballard and

Clanchy explain that literacy in the university is cultural, with disciplinary sub-cultures,

so that “becoming literate involves becoming acculturated: learning to read and write

the culture” (1988, p.19). Taylor et al. (1988) thus endorse the socio-cultural linguistic

theories of writing development, which together with social constructivist, especially

Vygotskian, theories of learning have extended the cognitive psychological

developmental writing theories of the 1970s. As Carroll (2002) points out, composition

theorists today “draw on postmodernist views of knowledge and discourse as socially

constructed” (p.2). This awareness of the socially situated nature of writing and the

work of socio-linguists such as Gee and Street, over the past twenty years have not yet

halted the accusations directed at EL1 undergraduates‟ performance as writers and the

schools which prepare them for HE (Gee, 2000, Harklau, 2000, Street & Lefstein,


These accusations are less surprising when they are directed at students from „non-

traditional‟ milieux, such as first generation university students or NESB students

(Lillis, 2001), since several writers have discussed the linguistic challenges faced by

marginalized students in the past (e.g. Bock, 1988, Beasley, 1988). Now non-traditional

students include not only NESB international students, NESB immigrants, and also the

children of immigrants, who have entered an English-speaking country while of school

age and who may not be literate in their L1. The term Generation 1.5 (Harklau, 2003)

has been used to describe NESB students who leave secondary school with limited

literacy. Curry (2004) has described the lack of attention to the needs of ESL learners

in EL1 classes. Cummins (2000) steadfastly maintains his (1984, 1989) thesis that

Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) is required for ESL students to cope

with secondary school subjects. CALP, according to Cummins, takes at least five years‟

of study after ESL school students have gained Basic Interpersonal Communication

Skills (BICS). Bigelow and Tarone (2004) report similar findings that ESL children

“who were not literate in their L1 took 7-10 years to learn L2 literacy-related, context-

reduced and cognitively demanding academic language skills” (p.690).

These investigations into the transfer of literacy from L1 to L2 may appear irrelevant in

the EAP context when NESB students have a university degree in their L1, but there are

implications for EAP success if NESB students‟ L1 academic literacy is not fully

developed. IELTS Handbooks until 2004 suggested that three months‟ full-time study

in an English-speaking country were required for students to progress one IELTS

overall proficiency band. These recommendations have typically been used to design

intensive EAP programs, but there has been little discussion of the impact of limited L1

literacy (Green, 2007, p.305). Even if Cummins‟ recommendations for time to achieve

CALP are reduced for older, more cognitively mature learners (Brookfield, 2000, as

cited in Illeris, 2006, p.18), NESB students with low-level English proficiency and

limited L1 literacy may experience a long learning trajectory in an EAP program in

order to transform themselves into successful academic writers.

1.3 Special Language Provision for Struggling Writers

English-medium universities have set in place various solutions to improve the language

needs of students, heeding, perhaps, Taylor et al.‟s (1988, p.5) call for universities to

acknowledge that language lies at the heart of learning for all students. Some of these

solutions and their complicating factors are outlined below.

1.3.1 Writing across the Curriculum and Content-Based Instruction

In the USA the Writing across the Curriculum project (WAC) is a pedagogical

movement which seeks to include all university teachers in the development of

undergraduate writing skills by means of professional training and development

(Romberger, Wells & Driscoll, 2007). Since the 1950s the US undergraduate

curriculum has had credit-bearing first year English courses designed to facilitate the

transition in writing for ESB students from high school to college (Leki, 2007).

However, increases in numbers of domestic, immigrant and now international students

have overloaded teaching resources with the result that composition teachers are often

fresh graduates, underpaid and untenured with few benefits (Rilling, 2001). ESL

students in first year writing courses are assumed to have either achieved high school

graduation or to have satisfactorily completed an intensive English language program

(IEP). To relieve the pressure on teachers and improve the outcomes of WAC

programs, universities have also encouraged Writing in the Disciplines courses, i.e.

„writing intensive‟ courses, conducted by academic discipline faculty who espouse the

„Writing to Teach, Writing to Learn‟ slogan and who are willing to take on the task of

language in education (Leist, 2006).

Another solution popular in the USA and practised in different versions widely

elsewhere has been advocated by content-based instructional theorists like Snow and

Brinton (1997). These practitioner-researchers have illustrated different supplemental

language in education models inside universities, such as adjunct courses in which

“students attend an academic content course that is paired with an adjunct ESL skills

course” (Iancu, 1997, p.149). Like WAC, these integrated language and content study

solutions are attractive since they do not entail a braking effect on student progress

towards their academic goals and so should increase student motivation to participate in

them. Adjunct, sheltered, or team-taught content courses create a context similar to the

CoP in which students can begin to communicate as new members of their academic

disciplines with the status and agency of learners. However, Leki (2007) and Johns

(1997) report that students try to avoid taking compulsory writing classes, which

suggests that NESB students do not value, do not perceive a need for, or do not

understand the purpose of formal writing programs.

1.3.2 Diagnostic assessment and tutorial support

Another reaction to broader tertiary education access world-wide has been the

introduction of „unilateral‟ university assessments, often with a diagnostic function,

which act as additional gatekeepers. In some cases the internal assessment is a

supplementary diagnostic assessment administered after admission to university in order

to identify both ESB and NESB undergraduates who are at risk so as to provide them

with appropriate „just in time‟ literacy education. One such project is the Diagnostic

English Language Needs Assessment (DELNA) at the University of Auckland, New

Zealand (DELNA, 2003). This assessment consists of a screening test (a vocabulary

task and a speed-reading task) followed by a two hour reading, listening and writing

diagnostic test. The results indicate whether language support is required for students at

risk, recommended for students with borderline evaluations or not necessary for

students with satisfactory assessment outcomes (Read, 2008). As Read notes, one

important benefit of this strategy is that the university as a whole recognizes the

importance of literacy in their academic practice. However, individual contact has been

necessary to persuade students to participate in academic literacy tutorials.

So, although university administrators stress that diagnostic assessments such as

DELNA are not gate-keeping instruments, students may perceive them as yet another

unnecessary hurdle to jump before they are entitled to membership in the higher

education discipline of their choice. Moreover, Alderson (2005) has issued a caveat on

the diagnostic assessment of foreign language proficiency and its potential for

improving language teaching since both foreign and second language researchers “are
still grappling with the fundamental questions of how foreign and second language

proficiency develops” (2005, p.1). He points out that the under-theorised development

of language proficiency makes helping learners to progress something of a hit and miss

affair. In other words, identifying students at risk of failure in HE is pointless if there is

no sure way to improve their chances of success. There is, therefore, reason for caution

in introducing such measures if cognitive and personal maturation, socialization in

terms of experience in writing in a CoP, increased motivation or other affects could

improve novice NESB writers‟ performance satisfactorily.

1.3.3 English for Academic Purposes programs

Despite the climate of mistrust of IELTS results and misunderstanding of academic

literacy, most English-medium universities are financially constrained and keen to

admit higher fee-paying international students. For universities such as these in New

Zealand, a popular solution to improving and increasing low risk access to HE for

NESB students has been the establishment of university English centres which provide

English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programs. These programs may offer credit-

bearing courses within the university curriculum, or non-credit-bearing courses pre-

university admission, such as „pre-sessional‟ courses where students‟ proficiency is

„fine-tuned‟ in preparation for university study, or intensive programs which prepare

students for university admission requirements and offer a range of proficiency levels.

This research study concerns a pre-university intensive EAP program providing non-

credit courses.

In the intensive EAP program context, with students of different levels of language

proficiency, curriculum planners can design single purpose, hybrid or multi-purpose

programs (Deakin, 1996, as cited in Green, 2007). The goals may be to prepare
students for success in IELTS, to provide a pathway to HE directly from the EAP

program, or, via bridging programs, such as Foundation Studies programs. The

planning decision will usually be based on critical mass, i.e. whether there are sufficient

students to merit the creation of single purpose courses. In any case, the EAP pathway

offers students a developmental, teacher-supported option which should benefit them

more in the long run than studying for a „snapshot‟ high stakes proficiency test can. But

intensive EAP programs must be administered with high regard for ultimate

effectiveness in terms of undergraduate success if they are to avoid being tainted with

the negativity currently surrounding minimum proficiency test entry scores and

subsequent achievement in tertiary education. The limitations of the IELTS writing

tasks may not be apparent to students, but EAP teachers and program planners must be

aware of the disparity between the demands of academic literacy and IELTS writing

task requirements so as to prepare students for HE success (Moore and Morton, 2005,

Green, 2007, Hyland, 2007).

1.4 The Rationale for this Research Study

This research study follows the social turn in SLA identified by Trimbur (1994) in

eliciting student perceptions of their experiences of identity and agency as writers in a

pre-university intensive EAP program. Students completing the EAP program described

in this study should have satisfactory linguistic proficiency for study in HE, basic

academic study skills and some general academic content or even introductory

discipline knowledge, depending on their level of study. So the EAP program ought to

be perceived by students as a richer learning opportunity than the parallel IELTS

preparatory program. Ideally, students should see themselves as members of a CoP and

feel empowered by this EAP writing program. If they do not, and if the EAP program
does not facilitate success, students may choose to leave our University, take the IELTS

preparation program to try to achieve HE entry requirements (IELTS Overall 6.5), or

select the Foundation Studies pathway which is accessible with IELTS Overall Band

5.5. This research study is aimed at providing evidence-based recommendations to

increase student success in and thus improve our EAP program.

1.5 The Focus of this Research Study

Research studies concerning undergraduate and graduate writing within HE are quite

frequently reported in academic journals. Yet, pre-university intensive EAP programs

for students at low and intermediate levels of English proficiency figure infrequently in

research publications, perhaps because teachers on such programs are employed to

teach, not to conduct research. Intensive EAP programs are rich fields for research on

account of the breadth of the proficiency levels taught, the multilingual and socio-

cultural diversity of the students and their ambitious academic goals, or imagined

futures. This research study concerns one such program and its student writers, with a

particular focus on those who struggle to achieve the writing goals embodied in the

expository essay. The study frames the student focus within the construct of a CoP.

Leki (2000) proposed that further research into ESL writing should be undertaken with

student writers. Matsuda (1999, p.716) also pointed out that ESL writers should be

included in empirical research designs since (citing Prior, 1991, p.271) “[t]he different

language, cultural, and educational backgrounds that NNS bring to their courses raise

both theoretical and practical questions that deserve careful attention.” More recently,

Block (2007) has discussed empirical research linking ESL learning to identity,

published since Firth and Wagner‟s attempt to include the social identity of learners in
research (1997). Although the relevance of identity to L2 acquisition was contested by

Gass (1998), there has, as Block says, been a “boom in publications linking identity and

SLA” (2007). I attribute this not only to Firth and Wagner‟s influence, but also to

Norton‟s (1995) vivid account of her focal students‟ struggle to speak in their social

contexts, despite their personal investment (following Bourdieu, e.g.1990, p.87) in


Traditionally in SLA and AL, the psychological construct of motivation has been used

to account for human agency, i.e. the strength of individual intention to persist towards

the attainment of goals in different social contexts. This study does not assume that the

social construct of agency reduces the usefulness of the psychological construct of

motivation to account for behaviour. However, Norton (1995) construed motivation as

a static internal construct in comparison with the changing contextual influences and the

socio-cultural and longitudinal biographical factors impinging on the individual. The

scope of this study necessarily limits the data collected to the primary investigation of

the construct of social identity and agency with focal writers at different levels of

language proficiency, but discussion of motivation versus investment and agency is a

facet of the study, within the social framework of the CoP.

1.6 Personal Commitment to this Project

As a lifelong learner and a struggling academic writer I have an investment of the social

and symbolic kind in the issues of academic writing. As a novice researcher I am

investigating these issues as a means of improving my research skills. As a teacher and

teacher developer I am committed to helping both the students in my school and my

teacher colleagues. For the former, I wish students to feel confident and take pride in
the culture, language and identity they bring to their new context where I fear they may

be marginalized if they are labelled as failures in the stages of our program. For the

latter I seek to develop praxis, a blend of theory in practice which is less eclectic than

the approaches based on prior experience which teachers may currently favour. My

example as a lifelong learner will, I hope, inspire others younger than me to increase

their reflection on, understanding of, or empathy for individual students‟ learning

trajectories. Teachers may also opt to take up personal, participatory or action research

despite the pressures of time in a classroom teacher‟s life. This study brings to full

circle for me a lifetime spent teaching literacy and language. Theories have changed in

ESL, and I have struggled to change with them, but my prime concern has always been

for the learner in whose eyes I see myself reflected.

1.7 The Significance of this Research Study

The major impetus for this study was a desire to investigate a teaching/learning problem

concerning student writing. Norton‟s (1995) account of NESB Canadian immigrants‟

perceptions of social identity and agency as they sought to interact orally in social

contexts pushed me towards social learning theory as the potential source of a solution.

This small-scale ethnographic research study differs from other studies on the

development of academic writing in that the students are not yet admitted to the

university and are low-level proficiency NESB students writing expository essays. In

this study the social constructs of identity and agency are framed within a CoP, which I

problematise as a support to our learners. This study therefore tests three social learning

theory constructs in a fresh context: identity, agency and the CoP in an EAP writing


Other researchers have focussed on university students‟ identities as writers using a

similar sociolinguistic theoretical background; some have focussed on ESB

undergraduates (e.g. Carroll, 2002, Ivanic, 1998, Lillis, 2002), others on NESB

undergraduates and graduates (e.g. Casanave, 2003, Leki, 2007, Spack, 1988). Several

researchers have utilised Wenger‟s social learning theory and the construct of the CoP

with different learners: Toohey (1998) with primary school students, Morita (2004)

with Japanese ESL students, Eckert and McConnell-Ginet (1999) with Asian-American

teenagers, Flowerdew, J. (2000) with a Chinese doctoral candidate, Rich (2005) with

EFL Masters‟ students, Rea-Dickens, P. Kiely, R. and Yu, G. (2006) with successful

IELTS candidates in university and Tsui (2007) with a Chinese EFL teacher, but none

of these studies related to the writing challenges of pre-university, post-secondary

intensive EAP students. All the above researchers have called for more studies to

investigate how students perceive their positioning in HE and I attempt to do so in the

pre-university context, an equally challenging context of struggle, since the students

have a long learning trajectory ahead of them.

1.8 Research Questions

This study uses a grounded theory approach and a critical stance to investigate the

perceptions of students in pre-university intensive EAP programs whose voices are

rarely heard in the research literature. Access to HE has been widened but whichever

pathway NESB students choose they are faced with the assessment of the writing ability

considered essential to learning and success in HE. Whether NESB students aim for

minimum proficiency scores in the short term, or EAP and study skills in the long term,

there is still a writing hurdle to jump for access to HE. If ESB students struggle with

academic literacy, then how much harder is the struggle for NESB students?
I investigate in my teaching context the experience of our students by eliciting their

opinions with regard to the subject positions they are placed in by our teachers, our

teaching, our learning/writing tasks, i.e. the expository essay and our essay assessment

processes. I also seek to investigate whether students are metacognitively aware of the

learning process and of potentially helpful learning strategies, whether they feel they are

making choices, and whether they are aware of their consequences. As Moje and Lewis

(2007, p.24) put it: “What are the moments for agency, that is the strategic making and

remaking of self” experienced in our writing program?

Research Question 1: What are struggling students‟ perceptions of their experiences

      of learning to write expository essays in this EAP program?

Research Question 2: What impact do these perceptions have on struggling students‟

      social identity as writers in this EAP program?

Research Question 3: What impact do these perceptions have on struggling students‟

      sense of agency as writers in this EAP program?

Research Question 4: In light of the findings, how can the sociocultural constructs of

      identity and agency, within Wenger‟s (1998) framework of the CoP, improve

      learning to write in this EAP program?

RQ1 is intended to elicit how the focal students perceive the learning to write process.

Their perceptions of their experiences in developing essay writing skills, as challenges

or successes, can be compared with those of other students, present or past.

RQ2 is intended to investigate the focal students‟ developing sense of themselves along

their learning trajectory, including their learning histories, their current experiences and

their imagined futures. Our EAP program should support the students in our learning

community and should foster positive experiences, but power relations and access to

resources may affect students‟ identities and subject positions. The construct of identity

is complex and contested, but the focus in this study is on social identity, following

Giddens and Wenger.

RQ3 is intended to elicit how the focal students cope with the challenges they identify

in their essay writing development. I would like to know if struggling students feel they

are powerful agents in their own writing development, if they know how to get more

help, if they understand the challenges they face and if they know how to solve them.

I also wonder if students understand the role the essay writing program plays in terms of

their imagined futures as academic writers in the university. The role of the expository

essay in an EAP writing program inevitably comes into focus in this research study. I

discuss its history in writing theory and development, and explain the role I believe it

plays in developing writers within an intensive EAP program.

RQ4 Underlying these micro-sociolinguistic research questions is an enquiry into the

potential value of the framework of the CoP (Wenger, 1998) as a learning community.

As such the CoP could enrich students‟ understanding of our school as a professional

environment in which their learning needs are met, and could provide fresh impetus for

teachers and students to strive to improve their professional practice.

A meso-sociolinguistic outcome anticipated from this research is the identification of

defining moments within our professional practice for powerful identity creation or

suppression, and of available, or missed, opportunities to provide support for learner

agency. Such defining moments could be utilized in our program to improve the way in

which struggling writers are positioned locally in future. These insights could be shared

with others in similar contexts globally.

1.9 Conclusion

In this Chapter I have sought to explain the rationale, focus and significance of this

small-scale ethnographic study of learner identity and agency in an EAP program, from

the perspectives of socio-cultural linguistic research, quality of educational provision

and personal commitment to learners and learning. In Chapter Two I describe the

background and analyse the issues surrounding this study in the context of a large New

Zealand university. In Chapter Three I review the research literature concerning the

teaching and learning of academic writing and the social learning theory constructs of

identity, agency and the CoP. In Chapter Four I describe my research stance, questions

and methods. In Chapters Five and Six I analyse the data and discuss the findings,

while in Chapter Seven I consider the conclusions and implications resulting from the

findings and make recommendations for our EAP program and for further research.

                              Chapter Two
                         Background to this Study
2.1 The Research Context

2.1.1 International students in Higher Education in New Zealand

The university where this study took place is one of eight in New Zealand. There is

intense competition to recruit NESB students for HE in New Zealand (NZ) because

international tertiary student numbers have dropped dramatically overall since their

peak in 2002. However, just as the number of Asian students coming to NZ to study

decreased, the number of students from Saudi Arabia (SA) increased. This number has

doubled each year post 2001 according to the NZ Government (,

radically changing the demographics of the university language school in this study and

assisting its financial survival.

2.1.2 The acculturation of students from the Middle East in New Zealand

Students from the Middle East (ME) are not unknown in our school, but the large new

influx of scholarship students from SA has occasioned an increase in student support,

counseling and scholarship liaison in the university International Centre. In this

research study, the focal students are young men from SA who are studying abroad for

the first time. NZ is geographically isolated, so flights home are long and expensive.

The differences between collectivist and individualist cultures posited by Hofstede

(1986) may be useful in gauging the potential impact on students‟ reactions to this,

since students from „collectivist‟ cultures, such as the ME, who are accustomed to the

presence and the support of family, are likely to miss their family more than those from

equally remote but „individualist‟ cultures, such as Chile. Hofstede‟s dimension of

„individualism‟ in the Arab World (including SA) was low, whereas his „power

distance‟ (how influential is power in the society) measure was high, as was

„uncertainty avoidance‟ (how certain is the culture about truth). These two social (not

political) dimensions combined suggest that SA is a highly regulated society, with little

questioning of its controls (

Accommodation for international students in homestay families has advantages (e.g.

speaking English, building close relationships) and disadvantages (e.g. idiosyncrasies of

students and families). Some students prefer to rent accommodation together, which

provides no input to their language learning. As a result they use English only during

class time and lose the advantage of living in a second, rather than a foreign language

environment. This inevitably impacts on their language learning success. Brown (1980,

as cited in Brown, 2000, p.188) has proposed a culturally based critical period

hypothesis of adult L2 acquisition, based on Schumann‟s (1976, as cited in Brown,

2000, p.185) concept of „social distance‟ between cultures and the „optimal distance

model‟ proposed by Acton, (1979), who investigated EFL learners‟ perceptions of

social distance in the USA and their success at learning English. Brown‟s hypothesis is

that mastery of the L2 in the L2 culture occurs during the recovery stage of culture

shock; he further suggests that learners who delay mastering the language until after

they feel comfortable in the culture may not be able to avoid fossilized errors because

they have managed to survive in the new culture without achieving accuracy. This

hypothesis is intuitively attractive, and evidenced by some immigrant students‟

struggles in EAP classes.

Culture shock has been well documented as a socio-psychological state with identifiable

stages of progression such as the initial honeymoon stage, rejection, and ultimate

acceptance of the new environment (Brown, 2000, Pedersen, 1995, Ward, Bochner &

Furnham, 2001). In addition to the availability of student-counseling support during this

change process, NZ is a multicultural country and most international students can find

residents from their own ethnic group. For example, this university city has a mosque

and resident Muslims welcome visitors to Friday prayers. However, the frequent wet

weather, limited public transport, cold winter temperature and social customs are alien

to students from the ME (Oettli, 2004, as cited in Gera, 2007). For example, lunch

breaks in NZ are short, followed by the return to work, whereas in SA, a long, late lunch

is often followed with a nap. Such changes may be difficult to accept for some students

and may hinder their acculturation to life and study in NZ.

2.1.3 Language requirements for entry to Higher Education

In NZ the IELTS, Academic Module, Overall Band 6.5 with 6 in Writing is the

admission requirement for NESB undergraduates and postgraduates. Although IELTS

profile scores provide important information for university admissions officers, research

studies have shown that this information is not always understood or used. Kerstjens

and Nery‟s predictive validity study investigated the relationships between the IELTS

Overall Band score, IELTS profile scores and international student academic outcomes

of 113 first-year students pursuing academic or vocational programs in the Business

Faculty of one university (2000). IELTS had a statistically significant small to medium

predictive effect of academic success overall, and for the students in HE, but not for the

vocational students. Skills profile scores were not statistically significant for the whole

sample, except for Reading. However, the researchers suggest that the “magnitude of

the correlation” between IELTS Writing and academic performance in the vocational

group merits further investigation with a larger student sample. Two other findings

were the lack of familiarity of business teachers with the assessed language proficiency

of their students and that:

       socio-cultural and psychological factors such as learning and educational styles,

       social and cultural adjustments, motivation and maturity, financial and family

       pressures [...] have an influence on the academic outcomes of international

       students in their first semester of study (p.85).

This finding supports the validity of foregrounding the socio-cultural context in

investigating student perceptions of identity and agency and the perception that IELTS

provides a key to the door of HE but does not prepare students for academic study.

2.2 The Intensive English Language Program in this Study

2.2.1 Placement assessment of students

International students aged 16 and above who lack the requisite IELTS scores for

university entrance can study with the campus-located school in which I am a teacher,

professional developer, and an IELTS examiner. The school prepares students for entry

to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees with its full-time, fee-paying intensive EAP

program, called the Certificate of Attainment in English (CAEL). International students

are granted a visa for NZ provided they maintain their full time attendance record.

Students are placed into the eight levels of the EAP program by means of grammar,

listening, speaking and writing tests. The testing and orientation program takes a

working day and requires the assistance of a large number of teachers who are trained

for the speaking and writing assessments. Multiple-trait performance descriptors are

used to evaluate eight levels of speaking and writing. The writing descriptors for

CAEL2-5 (Student Version) are in Appendix H.

2.2.2 Curriculum design in this English for Academic Purposes program

Each twelve week full-time CAEL course has integrated skills classes for fifteen

morning hours a week, with additional writing and reading classes for CAEL levels one

to three (CAEL1-3) for eight afternoon hours a week and an option for additional

Listening and Speaking, Reading and Writing, or IELTS preparation classes for students

in CAEL4-8. Since the fall in numbers in 2002, students have been allowed to begin

courses every six weeks, rather than every twelve weeks. This necessitated a review of

the curriculum to allow for intake at the midpoint of a course. At higher levels,

CAEL5-8, where academic literacy is a teaching goal, this reorganisation was not

welcomed but was not difficult to effect as the syllabus is organised by genres. At lower

levels, CAEL1-4, the reorganisation was more challenging since the syllabus has a

sequential linguistic and literacy base. As a result of this change, students may begin

their program in the middle of a grammar-focussed course-book (New Headway), which

has caused some confusion to both students and teachers.

This EAP curriculum design has the theoretical underpinning of the Communicative

Language Teaching (CLT) approach. Designers who use this approach assume that

literate adult ESL learners will develop the four language skills at an approximately

equal rate of progression, although individuals may differ in their rate of acquisition

(informal, outside the classroom) and learning (formal, inside the classroom) (Krashen,

1982). Although Krashen (1982) proposed an initial silent period for beginner adults,

learners‟ readiness to speak has almost always been assumed in CLT curriculum design

given the global spread of English and the concomitant increase in most students‟
familiarity with the spoken language. As a result, ESL teachers and curriculum

designers are more accustomed to catering for „false beginners‟ rather than true

beginners who cannot speak, read, or write in English.

2.2.3 Teaching materials for English for Academic Purposes programs

Mainstream CLT course books such as New Headway or Cutting Edge, and teacher

training programs such as The University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate

Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) and the Diploma level

program by the same organisation (DELTA) endorse the „natural‟ sequence of skills

development. New language is introduced by means of listening, speaking, or reading

skills, supported minimally by writing, such as copying substitution tables or

completing gap-fill activities. Our school uses New Headway as the core teaching

material for both General and low-level EAP programs.

In our General English program, at lower levels of proficiency, there is minimal

reinforcement of the target language in student-produced written discourse. This is

typically the case in lower level CLT classes, which led to the formulation of the

TALO/TAVI dichotomy by Johns and Davies (1983). „Text as linguistic object‟

(TALO) refers to text produced to consolidate language presented and practised

orally/aurally through further practice in reading and writing. Such text is usually

simplified and artificial since it is contrived to contain the target forms practised

orally/aurally. There is a tendency, therefore, for course-book producers to „over stuff‟

the text with pre-presented forms. In our EAP program additional intensive and

extensive practice of both receptive and productive language skills is provided by means

of supplementary textbooks or locally produced materials, as there is a limited supply of

appropriate commercial material. Graded readers are available for extensive reading,
which seek to provide a „Text as vehicle for information‟ (TAVI) focus, but there is a

limit to the authenticity of texts written to provide comprehensible input (i+1) (Krashen,

1982) for low proficiency students.

2.2.4 Teaching writing in this English for Academic Purposes program

In order to ensure writing output, (as hypothesised by Swain 1995, output is as crucial

as input to language learning) students in CAEL1-5 are required to produce four to six

expository essays over 12 weeks. Both process and product writing approaches are

combined to ensure that student writing is supported but also „pushed‟. In the process

approach, the recursive process of essay writing is demonstrated: planning, writing,

revising, re-writing and editing. The teacher brainstorms the topic with the class to

generate/teach/practise appropriate lexis. The rhetorical structure, e.g.

comparison/contrast, is modelled and key grammatical structures are taught. Students

write their first draft in class time with a word and time limit appropriate to the level of

study, for example, 250 words in one hour for lower intermediate students. Students

can use dictionaries, grammar books and ask the teacher questions to facilitate their

writing. The first draft is evaluated by the teacher for task fulfilment and language then

returned to the student in the second writing lesson. Students should be familiar with the

Written Communication Descriptors (WCDs) so that they understand both how their

grades are allocated and how they can improve their work. Anonymous student errors

collated by the teacher are used as lesson input, peers evaluate and discuss drafts, then

students write up their second draft in class in one hour. This draft is evaluated and

corrected by the teacher, then returned for the third and final draft to be typed up in a

computer lab in one hour. The rationale of the process approach is to enable supported,

successful writing experiences in which students can produce accurate written

discourse, and internalise patterns of morphology, syntax and text/rhetorical structure

within the essay genre. (See Appendix I for the Writing Marking Schedule.)

The same rhetorical structure is practised a second time under „product‟ conditions with

a new topic, linked to the course‟s integrated skills input so that lexis is assumed to be

„known‟ or at least, familiar. In the product approach students are required to complete

the writing process (planning, writing, revising, editing) under timed conditions, in class

but individually and without dictionaries, grammar books or teacher support other than

initial brainstorming of the topic/writing task with the whole class. Planning frames are

provided for notes at this stage. In this way, IELTS test conditions for Task 2 essay

writing are modelled so that students who wish to attempt IELTS get feedback on their

writing proficiency. CAEL1-5 courses have a vertical and horizontal framework of

rhetorical structures, which are taught and practised in student-produced texts, and

recycled at higher levels with different topics, demanding a wider range of lexis.

Examples of rhetorical structures introduced at different levels are: CAEL1: description

and narrative, CAEL2: comparison and contrast, CAEL3: advantages and

disadvantages, CAEL4: cause and effect, CAEL5: argument/discuss. The word count

for essays varies from 200 in CAEL1, to 350 words in CAEL5.

In CAEL6-8, argument essays are required as timed writing products to ensure students

practise writing expository essays by hand but the main teaching/learning focus is on

writing secondary research essays and reports. These require analysis and synthesis of

authentic source materials on general academic topics, such as the environment, the

global economy, or advertising. In CAEL8, primary research articles on individually

selected topics are summarised and critiqued. Teachers have discussed individual topic

choice in CAEL7 but prefer to keep topics limited to try to avoid plagiarism. A teacher

with a class of 18 students (our school‟s maximum) would struggle to read the source

materials for potentially 18 different topics, so topics are provided. The topics of

secondary research essays are discussed, their rhetorical structure illustrated, some

sources are provided or suggested, and library tutorials are given to assist students in

finding authentic sources. Drafts are produced on the computer in the students‟ own

time under process conditions. The first draft is assessed for content, the second draft

for content and language and the final draft is completed after about four weeks of

recursive writing. Teacher conferencing, or face to face feedback, as well as written

feedback is provided. Thus, the secondary critical research essay typical of academic

writing is scaffolded in the upper levels of CAEL.

This blend of process and product approaches to writing is intended to provide both

supported writing, i.e. opportunities to learn, and assessed writing.   However, the fact

that grades are given in the process approach is an ongoing cause of concern to me.

Teachers and administrators believe that without assessment the process approach will

not be taken seriously. Indeed, students do try to avoid writing classes, but they also

call the draft lessons „tests‟. So I wonder if the grading which produces this negative

labelling is counter-productive. In addition, grading is another task for teachers who

could concentrate on providing more appropriate feedback. However, since the process

grades are inevitably higher than the product grades, the outcome in terms of grading

for students is positive. The question is whether grades contribute in any way to

improvement in writing.

2.3 The Challenge of Writing in English

I refer to the international students in this study as EAP learners rather than ESL, since

the focal students have spent less than a year in the ESL context, they intend to leave

after their study and are probably still influenced by the English as a Foreign Language

(EFL) background they have left. In Chapter 3 I discuss their L1, Arabic, briefly.

The CLT approach to teaching English propagated by teachers trained in Britain or on

British programs such as CELTA and/or DELTA and in Euro-centric course-books

appears to be based on the assumption that all learners use the Roman alphabet.

Although English spelling rules are often listed in appendices there is little

acknowledgement in course-books of the lack of fit in English between meaningful

sounds (phonemes) and written symbols (letters of the alphabet, or graphemes), a

phenomenon which can cause problems for both ESB and NESB beginning writers.

The most common feature of grapheme to phoneme mismatch introduced in mainstream

CLT textbooks is the triple variant in pronunciation of the „ed‟ and „s‟ morphemes. Yet

literacy researchers have labelled English as orthographically deep (Joshi & Aaron,

2006) compared with orthographically shallow languages such as Italian, in which

graphemes map fairly regularly onto phonemes and vice versa (Job, Peressotti, &

Mulatti, 2006, p.105). If little support for learners with Roman alphabetic first

languages is provided, then how much more difficult is the English writing system for

writers of Arabic, Greek or Russian as L1, who have different alphabets, or of Chinese

with their logographic writing system? If students need further support, teachers may

find some information in texts such as Swan and Smith (2001) or perhaps course books

specifically written (usually in L1) for particular linguistic groups. Whether all ESL

teachers can teach writing to true beginners (especially those with L1 basic literacy

needs) is open to question. Basic literacy may be taken for granted in CLT-based EAP

program design.

As described above (p.38), additional afternoon reading and writing classes are required

for CAEL1-3 students and are available for CAEL4-8 students who have literacy needs.

But this type of additive provision may not be taken up by those who need it, because

such classes are hard work after lunch. Some students prefer to attend afternoon

listening/speaking classes which are easier and more fun. Being absent from class is not

an option as student visa regulations stipulate daily attendance in class, but some SA

students frequently arrive late for class.

In other words, although this choice of afternoon class appears andragogically sound to

„Western‟ educators, the appropriate choice entails student awareness of their learning

needs and learner autonomy. A program requirement that all students are provided with

more support in the textual skills which are acknowledged by teachers to be more

challenging, might be more appropriate as it would serve student needs, rather than

„wants‟ (Vella, 2002, p.6). Globally, the growing need for basic literacy teaching in

English language schools for adults was illustrated in 2004 by the introduction of a

focus on literacy into the CELTA syllabus for teachers in initial training.

2.4 Language Proficiency Assessment at Placement

In 2007 a problem was identified by in our school. First, a growing number of students

were identified with weak writing skills at placement resulting in the creation of true,

rather than „false‟ beginner level classes. This coincided with a large increase in

enrolment of government scholarship students from SA, creating a new demographic in
most of our classes: a change from predominantly Asian to predominantly Arab

learners. After placement, CAEL1 teachers reported that several students had markedly

weak literacy skills in contrast to stronger oral and aural skills, i.e. a jagged profile of

skills (Green, 2007, p.57).

Placement decisions in our school are guided by written rather than spoken test

outcomes because writing is considered to be the most difficult skill to master. Student

performance in all skills is estimated to increase by one level per twelve week course.

The students of concern failed to pass writing progress and achievement tests. The

School‟s assessment policy requires a pass in three skills including writing at the end of

a course; students who fail a level must repeat the whole course, which has a severe

braking effect on their progress. However, the number of students required to repeat

courses prior to this had been very small, because the pass mark in the University is

50%, which is easy to achieve in language assessments. If students had repeated

courses, they had not been reported as problematic.

Also, previously, most students placed in low level classes on account of their weak

writing skills seemed to catch up quite quickly after the initial placement setback.

Moreover, severe or chronic discrepancies in the student profiles of skill proficiency

had either been rare, unnoticed, or unreported previously. Since Asian students are

often reported to be weak in oral/aural skills, any weak writers of Asian cultural and

linguistic origin might have demonstrated low proficiency in all skills, thus rendering

their profile normal or unremarkable to their teachers.

2.5 Advising Students of their Diagnosis and Prognosis

Student and teacher awareness of the philosophical and theoretical linguistic framework

of our EAP program is crucial to student success. For example, students arriving with a

one year language improvement clause in their scholarship to enable them to enter HE,

definitely need an extension if placed in CAEL1 initially, because the normal

expectation is to achieve four levels in one year, i.e. in 48 weeks of study. Such students

need at least 18 months to be able to enter Foundation Studies, and two years to enter

undergraduate study from CAEL7. Of course, an appropriate IELTS score allows

NESB students to enter as soon as it is earned. Like NESB international students, NESB

refugees who have been spared the IELTS General Training test required of other

NESB immigrants, may find themselves placed in low level classes. Refugees, like

scholarship students, are given limited language training funds and the NZ government

stipulates that if refugees fail a course level they must wait for a year before applying to

take more courses. If students are unaware of the long-term implications of their

placement, they are deprived of agency in my view.

The teachers reporting concerns during 2007 consistently identified the students with

major literacy problems as scholarship students from SA. Our teachers were more

familiar with Asian students‟ writing abilities than Arabic speakers‟ at that time. Prior

to 2007, a few Somali refugees in different levels of the EAP program had been referred

to me by teachers or student counsellors for remedial writing assistance. (I have taught

students at all levels of proficiency in the Arab world and ESB and NESB students with

literacy problems in London.) After individual assessment and guidance in phonics and

spelling rules, I had diagnosed the immigrants as semi-literate and encouraged them to

adopt strategies such as copying and reading more extensively, especially graded

readers, so that their writing and vocabulary acquisition would benefit from the

exposure to comprehensible input (Krashen, 1982). These students eventually left our

program because their admission to the University was likely to be a protracted

outcome, so students could not achieve their potential, as Cooke (2006) and Norton

(2006) report. This failure was attributed to the students‟ severe literacy challenges, but

is also due to the inadequacy of the School‟s literacy support, in my view.

The 2007 problem of a minority of students with much weaker literacy skills than

oral/aural skills was most problematic in the lower levels of our EAP writing curriculum

(CAEL1-4). Although the curriculum is overtly based on lock-step class teaching, the

process writing approach allows for individual writing as well as pair and group work in

class time as described above (2.2.4). In addition, in a weekly self-access period

students can work individually at skills or language they find challenging, either on

computers or with materials in our self-access resource centre. Grabe and Kaplan

(1996) provide a detailed ethnography of writing programs, in regard to which it

seemed the school had the right components in place to provide for student success. In

addition to the curriculum, teachers facilitate a student newspaper which creates a

purpose and an audience for freer writing. Most teachers and management were

satisfied with the overall progress of our students.

However, the newly identified problem, reminiscent to me of the previously identified

immigrant need for literacy, was a cause for concern. An experienced CAEL1 literacy

teacher discussed the issue with me. We felt our program was in need of adjustment,

but we needed evidence to counter the normative deficit stance, that the students were

responsible for their own failure. The obvious step was to investigate further, by asking

students for their ideas, though this enquiry had to be undertaken as personal research,

rather than institutional, to avoid creating the impression that our program was in any

way weak, or to blame for student failure. Although this was a concern to me, I do not

believe this political balancing act has affected the outcomes of my research project into

student perceptions of their experiences in our EAP writing program.

2.6 The Research Study Focus in Context

My research study on student perceptions of our EAP writing program focuses on issues

of social identity and human agency because I discovered with a short questionnaire at

the start of my investigation that almost all our students were worried about writing.

This both surprised and perplexed me. Writing is difficult, but I had anticipated that

students accepted this. Given my previous experience of administering and teaching

content-based EAP programs in health sciences in Kuwait, I suspected that motivation

might be a concern in the content-free context of low-level proficiency EAP. I also

wondered if anxiety was increased on account of the importance of writing success as

the entry key to HE, whether through the gateway of IELTS or the CAEL program.

However, my reading of the literature in critical AL, situated cognition and the social

turn of the last 20 years in AL research, prompted me to consider whether the students

experienced marginalization in our program. I reflected on the subject positions the

student writers were afforded in our EAP program with regard to the struggles the

majority said they were undergoing. Given the students‟ pre-university status, I

wondered whether the notion of the CoP would be helpful in asserting their legitimacy

as peripheral students in HE. If most students experienced writing as a site of struggle,

but they passed writing assessments, then failing students might feel marginalized as

their identity would be affected by negative labelling. With their social identity framed

as failures, their sense of agency in face of the writing challenge could be limited by

inadequate language, unsatisfactory writing strategies, and/or lack of metacognitive

awareness of what their writing problems were and how they could be solved.

I limited the scope of the research study‟s writing focus to expository essays, i.e. essays

based on personal experience rather than on written sources, for three reasons. First,

essays without source input are used at all levels in our EAP program to develop writing

skills and to demonstrate writing achievement in end of course and placement tests.

Second, essays based on prior knowledge and experience (“ideas and evidence”) are

assessed in Task 2 Writing in IELTS, the alternative route into HE. Third, handwritten,

short answer essays are used in examinations in some disciplines in the university,

although EAP students may not know this. The genre of expository essays may be

completely new to students from different linguistic backgrounds and cultural contexts,

making the task more challenging than perhaps teachers imagine.

From the teachers‟ perspective, it is important to note that in our EAP program teachers

teach all four language skills, not just writing. However, not all CLT teachers are

experienced EAP teachers. When student numbers rise, some CLT teachers may have

to begin teaching academic writing without prior teacher development. In the special

case of basic literacy, teaching materials are few and teaching experience in our school

is quite limited. From the administrator‟s perspective, assessment of writing is key to

progress through CAEL levels, so teachers experience pressure to ensure students pass

writing assessments. If students attend class sporadically, or are late, or miss writing

process drafts, they are blamed for their poor study attitudes. However, there may be

reasons, such as resistance, for this behaviour, which should be investigated.

In light of the above, I wondered if our essay teaching and assessment methods were

supportive enough for struggling students to create a sense of themselves as agentive

learners. This was the issue I sought to consider from the students‟ perspective. My

research questions (1.8) are intended to provide evidence to improve how our EAP

program facilitates learning to write for current and future students.

                             Chapter Three
                         Review of the Literature

In this chapter I first consider the construct of academic literacy, the ultimate goal of

EAP students. I then situate the expository essay in the history of EL1 and ESL writing

theory, and discuss issues concerning the essay as the teaching focus of the intensive

EAP writing program in this study. I also briefly consider the socio-linguistic

background of Arabic speaking learners in relation to writing. Next, I discuss socio-

cultural theories of learner identity and agency which suggest that NESB students‟

sense of self and how they position themselves as learners, or are positioned by others,

play a key part in their learning trajectory. Then, I discuss Wenger‟s (1998) social

learning theory which centres on the community of practice (CoP). Finally, I consider

how learning to write is situated in an intensive pre-university EAP program and how

perception of the EAP as a CoP might assist struggling writers.

3.1 Literacy: a Complex Construct

Since the 1990s, language theorists taking the „social turn‟ in linguistics (e.g. Gee,

1990, as cited in Street & Lefstein, 2007) have positioned literacy as a multiple,

culturally and socially mediated, contextually specific practice rather than a unitary,

fixed, autonomous, cognitive skill transferable from context to context. Johns chose

literacy as her “guiding term” for the discussion of academic writing because it is an

“inclusive concept [which] encompasses learning processes as well as products, form as

well as content, readers‟ as well as writers‟ roles and purposes” (1997, p.2). In this

section of the review I discuss literacy issues which pertain to this investigation of

beginning academic writing. In particular, I explore the links between the social and the

cognitive, following Atkinson, (2002), Bakhtin (1986) and Vygotsky, (1978).

However, at initial levels of proficiency in a second language, it is important to consider

the appropriateness of a term which may not differentiate between ESB and NESB

students and the challenges they face with academic writing.

3.1.1 Basic literacy or basic writing?

As discussed earlier (p.21), the Ll literacy background of NESB students is believed to

influence their ability to acculturate into academic literacy in English (Cummins, 2000).

This is intuitively attractive, but the research on literacy is contested. Street identified

two models of literacy: the autonomous and the ideological. These reflect different L1

perspectives. The first represents a „progressive‟ view of literacy as a driving force of

reason, civilization, individual liberty and social mobility. In this view, literacy has

positive consequences for individuals and nations in developing cognitive skills and

economic progress. The second model focuses on literacy as a culturally embedded,

social practice. Literacy and language theorists adhere to strong or weak versions of

these two models (1984, p.1, as cited in Street & Lefstein, 2007).

According to Leki, the traditional conception of literacy as an individual‟s “autonomous

cognitive capacity” emphasizes the distinction between “literate and oral cultures or

between literate, semi-literate and non-literate individuals” and thus creates a “great

divide” between them (2007, p.238). The deficit, logical, scientific and polarised view

of literacy has been refuted (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996, pp.14-15, Halliday, 1978, p.16) and

identified as an instrument of social control. As a result, the concept of multiple

literacies, i.e. writing for significant purposes in different contexts, has become popular,

with theorists pointing out the complex relationship between oracy and literacy, citing
the overlap in genres such as sermons or academic lectures (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996,

p.180). For many theorists, literacy includes reading, but writing is the focus here.

In practice, the difficulty of predicting literacy learning and the danger of categorizing

literacy learners are illustrated by Reid‟s (2005) description of NESB immigrants to the

USA as „ear‟ learners, who have acquired English aurally outside school, compared

with NESB international students, or „eye‟ learners, who have learned the language

formally from textbooks. The focal students in this study do not fit Reid‟s description

since they are struggling with written texts but have reasonable proficiency in the

spoken mode which most have learned in classrooms at home. The differences Reid

identified could be attributed to learners‟ preferred learning styles or perceptual

modalities (Oxford, 1990, Reid, 1995). Nor do the focal students in this study appear to

fit Cummins‟ theory, because they are literate in their L1, but struggling with EAP

writing. Further investigation of the complex construct of literacy is needed.

3.1.2 Distinguishing critical literacy from critical thinking

Following Freire (1970) and Fairclough (1989), emancipatory critical literacy requires

us to step outside our taken-for-granted stances and recognise how discourse naturalises

our attitudes. It is essentially ideological and committed to combating hegemony. This

critical literacy is different from logical, analytic, critical thinking, sometimes referred

to as a study skill. Both critical literacy and critical thinking are required if a student is

to use writing as a powerful tool in HE. However, in an EAP program, critical literacy

may be neglected in favour of a „pragmatic‟, technical, autonomous approach to

teaching and learning, especially for students at low levels of language proficiency.

3.1.3 Distinguishing academic literacy from language proficiency measures

Academic literacy concerns the ability to operate successfully in the cultures of HE

(Taylor et al., 1988). “To be literate in an academic sense, one should be able to

understand relationships within, between and among disciplines” (Kasper, 2002, p.1).

In NZ the IELTS Academic Module controls the access of NESB students to HE, yet

the IELTS Academic Module does not claim to assess academic literacy. Since it

assesses language skills with limited academic topic content, it reflects Street‟s

autonomous, rather than ideological model. The assumption is that the skills sampled

(performance) are representative of a broader proficiency (competence) which will

operate in authentic contexts of use.

Language testing theory is beginning to respond to issues of context (Cummins, 2002,

Shaw & Weir, 2007) but still gate-keeping examination systems control the construct

they profess to test (Johns, 1997, p.66). IELTS can have a negative washback effect on

EAP programs since the IELTS academic construct is limited but its name can affect

what happens in EAP classrooms (Fulcher, 1999, as cited in Green, 2007, p.54). In fact,

Coleman, Starfield and Hagan found that students usually know more about IELTS than

HE administrators (2003). Predictive validity studies of IELTS in HE contexts have so

far been inconclusive due in part to the complex variables impacting on student

academic performance in the HE context. For example, Allwright and Banarjee (1997,

as cited in Rea-Dickens et al., 20006) found that IELTS Overall Band of 7.0 was a

threshold score above which students were not likely to fail, but below which students‟

academic performance was not so predictable. These studies serve to remind us that

IELTS is intended to assess readiness for entry to HE, nothing more (Taylor, 2007).

The reliability of IELTS writing test marking is pursued rigorously with training and

moderation of assessors‟ use of performance criteria for evaluation. Nevertheless,

criteria for assessing academic writing may be helpful in increasing the reliability of

grading but may be invalid since such criteria are not able to “adequately account for

the success or non-success of students as they go about their actual work as writers

across the university” (Carroll, 2002, p.4). Weir (2005) has written of the consequential

validity of tests, i.e. their washback on teaching and impact on society. If the criteria for

passing the test link to external criteria such as the development of academic literacy,

then there will be positive washback. At the moment, this is uncertain for students

achieving IELTS 6 in Writing (Rea-Dickens, P., Kiely, R., & Yu, G., 2006).

3.1.4 Developing academic literacy in a multiple literacy framework

As discussed in Chapter 1, academic literacy is the subject of frequent debate because

of the different pathways into English-medium HE created by widening access and

participation campaigns, increased part-time and distance study options, especially at

postgraduate level, and the growth of flexible, often work-based learning. Teaching

large numbers makes new demands upon students and tutors; added to this are growing

numbers of NESB students (O‟Rourke, 2003, Lillis, 2001, Taylor et al., 1988). For

ESB students, it is debatable whether academic literacy should be taught or can only be

acquired developmentally as a process of enculturation. However, for NESB students,

there are clearly differences associated with their language proficiency level. As

Cummins has suggested, EAP students need to acquire social English, academic English

and then, to succeed in HE, academic literacy. Awareness of these essential, not

necessarily linear, steps should make the learning trajectory easier to grasp, and should

help inform the design of effective intensive EAP programs.
Lillis (2001) investigated academic literacy with ESB and NESB students struggling to

participate in HE in the UK, where the official ideology is that language is a transferable

skill, of relevance to work and the national economy (Dearing, 1997), in contrast to the

New Literacy Studies theory of language as social practice in which the user, the

context and language are inseparable. Other academic literacy teachers world-wide

report on the problem of teaching academic literacies with add-on, skills-based,

functional approaches which are compartmentalized rather than integrated into the

curriculum as social practice (Jacobs, 2004). They warn against reducing literacy

support to study skill units which “commodify tertiary literacy” and ignore “the

diversity of situated literacy practices” (Hirst, 2000).

Hirst and colleagues describe how they developed as a CoP while teaching a short

course on “apprenticeship in academic literacy” within a core subject called “Language

and Literacies”. They reflect on how they moved beyond “deficit views of individual

students towards a consideration of their own teaching practices and how they could

best help students expand their literate repertoires.” They conclude that educational

practices should “grow from an understanding of the importance of human

relationships”, contrasting their project with the “traditional solution …to rely on small

study skill units to provide generic support, in effect commodifying academic literacy”

(Hirst, Henderson, Allan, Bode & Kocatepe, 2004, p.19).

The commodification of language has been discussed by Halliday (1978, p.16),

Bourdieu (1977) and Norton (1995). In language teaching this perspective is

normative, since language is taught and assessed as the acquisition of skills and/or

knowledge, but if writing is positioned in a multi-literacies spectrum, or on a continuum

from an autonomous skill to a social practice, then NESB student needs are not simply

linguistic. They are social, since knowledge, like language and society, is a social

construct. They are also critical in my view, because students need to perceive the

power relations within the social construction of society, culture and knowledge.

Learners should also understand that writing is literacy‟s embodiment, the visible

product often judged unfairly by those, even in education, who do not fully understand

its complexity.

3.1.5 The Arabic language: the challenge of writing

Arabic is the focal students‟ first language. It has been described as diglossic

(Ferguson, 1959, 1996, as cited in Haeri, 2000), but since his original theory of High

and Low languages, i.e. Qu‟ranic versus vernacular, Arabic has been termed

heteroglossic: “Instead of a dichotomy, many characterized the existence of levels of

Classical Arabic as constituting a continuum with colloquial and Classical Arabic on

each end” (Abuhamdia, 1988, as cited in Haeri, 2000, p.66). Modern Standard Arabic

(MSA) is used by educated people, such as teachers in school, and in the media across

the Arab World. Vernacular languages are unique to each Arab nation, but allow

comprehension across nation states. Anyone speaking a vernacular can be recognised

as a particular national, but the Arabic writing system unifies national groups.

Arabic has syntactic features which make learning English a challenge, such as the lack

of an indefinite article, or the omission of the copula, but other features, especially in

the spoken language, facilitate acquisition. For example, the stress-timed nature of

utterances and intonation patterns are similar, although there are differences in patterns

of word stress. One major area of difference which concerns this study of writing is the
phonological system (Smith, 2001). Especially important is the number of vowel

sounds in English (20 single vowels and diphthongs) compared with only eight vowels

and diphthongs in Arabic. Encoding sounds into symbols in orthographically deep

English is far more complex then in Arabic, which has almost phonetic spelling. Added

to this complexity is the direction of writing in Arabic from right to left, and the

consequent challenge of letter formation in handwriting. There are no capital letters in

Arabic, but each letter has four different forms (initial, medial, final and alone), which

might make writing in English seem less of a challenge. However, punctuation in

Arabic differs from English, and connectors may be restricted to „and‟.

Since Arabic is an inflected language, as is English, differences in morphology and

syntax might not be expected to cause major problems. However, verb tenses, including

time, aspect and modals are different enough to be a challenge. Also, the definite article

occurs in Arabic in different contexts than in English, so can cause chronic interference.

In addition, the morphological units of words in Arabic are traditionally held to be a

three-consonantal root and a word pattern (Boudelaa & Marslen-Wilson, 2001). Unlike

in English, where morphologically complex items are strung together in a linear

manner, Arabic morphemic units are superimposed upon each other. Moreover, the

salience of the consonant roots and the fact that the short vowels are not written as

alphabetic letters, but as diacritical marks (which are not produced in MSA in the

media), could lead to difficulties in both reading and writing English in which each

syllable has a vowel sound, and at least one vowel letter. Spellcheck computer software

may not help when students fail to differentiate between interdiction and introduction.

Ryan (1997) discusses research which supports this notion and describes experiments to

discover if “Arabic speakers really are relying on a consonantal representation of

English words” (p.189).

AbiSamra (2003) performed a contrastive analysis of her Lebanese students‟ essay

writing in English and found they had difficulty with prepositions and definite articles,

their lexis was insufficient to convey nuances of meaning and syntax was transferred

from L1, such as the omission of auxiliary verbs to form questions or negatives.

Capitalization, punctuation and spelling were all problematic. In a large scale

contrastive study of Jordanian EAP students essay writing in English and Arabic,

Khuwaileh and Al Shoumali, (2000) found that Arabic students struggle with the

complexities of formal (MSA) Arabic writing as well as those of English. It could be

that learning English had caused some negative transfer for these students, but that is

not posited by the authors as a possibility.

Kharma and Hajjaj deplore the deterioration of written Arabic into „flowery‟ language

which they suggest is a literary style which transfers into learning English. Their

recommendations for teaching English are to model authentic English discourse and

motivate students to write for real-life purposes rather than writing compositions or

essays restricted to topics such as „money, accidents, health, newspapers, etc.‟ (1997,

p.186). What is certain is that writing in its first stages of development in any language

presents challenges of perception, cognition and automaticity of transfer from sound to

symbol. However, when teaching EAP we should recall that there are different identities

available to learners: “Students can become successful L2 users rather than forever

„failing‟ the native speaker target” (Cook, 1999, as cited in AbiSamra, 2003).

3.2 The Expository Essay in Writing Theory Development

“We can no longer take one approach to the teaching of ESL literacies” (Johns, 2005).

The history of ESL writing shows that different approaches have been tried, but whether

ESL pedagogy has been successful in inculcating academic literacy is debatable. Since

the 1950s theories of writing in EL1, or composition, in the USA, have been carried

over into ESL pedagogy and writing research, resulting in some blurring of their

boundaries (Matsuda, 1999, p.708). The growth in NESB student numbers in English-

medium education over the past 25 years has increased ESL writing research with

implications for EAP writing pedagogy. The key phases of development in ESL writing

theory and pedagogy have been described by Grabe and Kaplan (1996), Johns (1997),

Hyland (2002a), and Canagarajah (2002a) from a critical perspective. From these

studies it is possible to identify four different paradigms, each contributing to current

EAP writing pedagogy, which can be described as eclectic.

Candlin, like Matsuda (1999, 2003), warns against viewing the labels attached to

distinguishable phases in writing pedagogy as complete writing theories (Introduction to

Grabe & Kaplan, 1996, p.iv), but following Guba (1990), paradigm conveys the power

of the underlying philosophical tenets which link the perspectives on language, writing,

and pedagogy. Johns discusses three writing paradigms (1997, p.18) and Kroll (1991,

p.246) discusses paradigms of writing theory. Heeding Matsuda‟s warning not to

“oversimplify the multiplicity of perspectives that have always been present throughout

the 20th century” (2003, p.67), I seek to illustrate below the archetypically different

ways in which expository essay writing has been taught, is still taught today or could be

taught in the classrooms of tomorrow if fuller understanding of literacy is more widely


3.2.1 The traditional-audiolingual paradigm of writing as form

In paradigm one, which still persists for low-level learners, ESL writing is viewed as a

measurable behavioural psychomotor skill (in a positivist paradigm) in a descriptive

linguistic framework with a focus on grammatical form. For beginning ESL writers the

writing focus is lexico-grammar and syntax. Learners are typists encoding sounds into

symbols. Teaching techniques include gap-filling, copying, dictation, guided writing

using model and parallel sentences, paragraphs or essays.

During the 1960s when this paradigm was prime, English for Specific Purposes (ESP)

and its offshoot, EAP, differentiated itself as authentic language in context but with the

same focus on form (Swales, 1971, Ewer & Latorre, 1967, as cited in Mackay &

Mountford, 1978). In the mid-twentieth century composition, or essay writing, was the

established method for teaching both EL1 and advanced ESL writing (Grabe & Kaplan,

1996, pp.30-33, Johns, 1997, p.8). The remains of an Aristotelian rhetorical tradition,

traditional essay writing‟s focus on syntactic and rhetorical form was assumed to

develop naturally from speech as a result of feedback and correction of style, rather than

explicit teaching. Writing in this paradigm is proof of language knowledge.

3.2.2 The psycholinguistic-communicative paradigm of writing as meaning

In paradigm two writing is viewed as a cognitive process and lies within a post

positivist (modified positivist) paradigm. In the late 1970s and the 1980s the

development of language was regarded as an innate (Piagetian/Chomskyian)

psychological process internal to and activated by the individual in response to an

audience and a task. In this view, writing is a conduit for communication with the

outside social world, which both leads to and demonstrates learning. As such, critical

thinking improves the clarity of the channel. Writers are computers, generating

responses to tasks. The expository essay comes into its own in this paradigm.

This paradigm retained a descriptive linguistic perspective, but lexico-grammatical

structuralism was pragmatically enriched with the functions and notions of the

communicative competence construct (Canale & Swain, 1980). Hymes (1972),

Halliday and Hasan (1976), Hoey (1983), all contributed to the more detailed

description of written discourse in the context of social situation. Halliday‟s (1978)

systemic functional linguistics (SFL) and the newly extended functional communicative

grammar led pedagogic progress from teaching syntactic forms to teaching rhetorical

functions, e.g. compare and contrast. Hamp Lyons and Heasley‟s Study Writing (1987)

employs this analysis of rhetorical patterning in expository essay writing, or “text

processing” for teaching purposes (Johns, 1997, p.12).

A further pedagogic change was in the treatment of errors. Their analysis provided a

window into learners‟ interlanguage, i.e. the current stage of their cognitive linguistic

development (Pit Corder, 1981), but failure to develop the writing skill was still viewed

as symptomatic of a problem in and of the learner. During this period, ESL handbooks

such as Rivers and Temperley (1978) contained practical suggestions about writing

from the sound-symbol mismatch of English (“skill-getting”) to “expressive” writing or

composition (“skill-using”) (p.321). Essay planning in groups was recommended to

discourage students from translating their ideas. Similar recommendations from correct

letter formation, to writing essays considering audience (readership) and criteria for

assessment were made by Byrne (1976). Teachers were advised to provide a

communicative purpose for writing and were assisted with a helpful list of cohesive

devices drawn from Halliday and Hasan (1976, pp.122-127).

In EL1, Hayes and Flower‟s (1980, as cited in Bereiter and Scardamalia, 1987) goal-

oriented planning approach to composition was advanced by Bereiter and Scardamalia

(1987) who distinguished between „knowledge telling‟ and more mature „knowledge

transforming‟ through intentional writing and goal setting. Their „process approach‟ to

writing included cognitive strategies for “setting goals, formulating problems,

evaluating decisions, and planning in the light of prior goals and decisions” (pp.362-3),

which required the essay writer to apply a recursive instead of a linear (plan, write,

revise) approach. The process approach had a powerful impact on ESL essay writing.

Similarly, Elbow, a composition theorist, (1981, as cited in Atkinson, 2001) refocussed

style as voice, which has developed ultimately in ESL as the expression of personal

voice (opinion) in expository essays, and authorial voice (critique) in research reports

(Hyland & Tse, 2004). The notion of voice is currently widely debated, even contested,

by EL1 and ESL writing theorists (Prior, 2001), but in this study it must be restricted to

the two aspects mentioned above. It should be noted, however, that personal voice is

variable and should be flexible, as is identity, since it is neither unitary nor equates to

the person; identity is multiple, a site of struggle and change, and voice is its nuanced

expression (Hirvela & Belcher, 2001).

Johns‟ (1997, pp 17-18) Expressivist and Psycholinguistic-Cognitive approaches and

Hyland‟s (2002a, pp. 23-25) Expressivist and cognitive views fit into my paradigm two

since both focus on the writer making meaning for a reader. In free, creative writing,

the audience is first the writer/self, then the teacher or peers; in strategic process

writing, the intended audience is the teacher and peers, but first should be the

writer/self, reading recursively to revise written text. These advances contributed much

to ESL writing, but what Johns (1997) saw as a danger appears to have become a

reality: Process writing methods have been reified as the pedagogic canon by some

textbook writers and teachers. Discursive reality has positioned process writing as the

antithesis of the written products of the previous paradigm, whereas the two were never

and are still not diametrical opposites (Matsuda, 1999). In the ESL classroom today

both process and product coexist for different purposes: the first to teach, the second to

test writing. Yet, the orthodoxy established by process writing tasks in course-books

may result in teachers failing both to recognize the individual nature of writing and to

provide the feedback essential to its development. Situated cognition and communities: making meaning in context

In the late 1980s, the emphasis on cognition in educational research and teaching moved

from a mental individual to a social group focus within a culture of learning, or learning

community. The construct of situated cognition exemplified by Rogoff‟s study of

learning in apprenticeship situations (1985, as cited in van Lier, 2004) and Lave‟s

(1988) study of mathematics problem solving in authentic settings, was further

developed into the CoP by Lave and Wenger (1991). They also posited the construct of

legitimate peripheral participation (LPP) as a means of developing expertise in situated

learning, using case studies of the development of novice apprentices into experts.

Theories of learning as situated cognition coincided with an increased focus on social

interactionist and constructivist views on language and the production of discourse

within a community. In educational theory, community always connotes positively, but

it has various interpretations. According to Stern (1983), Gumperz (1968) redefined

Bloomfield‟s (1933) original conception of a speech community as a group sharing the

same „speech signals‟, which suggests a geographical group using the same language or

dialect, to a socio-linguistic group whose members communicate regularly with each

other but are not in the same location. The concept of discourse community was defined

by Swales (1990) as a professional community using language for specific

communicative events and purposes by means of texts which are recognizable within

the group, such as an academic community. These recognizable texts are genres. Genre as social discourse

Hyon (1996) describes three distinct schools of genre studies: the USA New Rhetoric,

EAP, and Hallidayan systemic functional linguistics (SFL). All three grew from an

initial focus on the lexical, syntactic and rhetorical description of discourse in different

contexts. New Rhetoric genre study arose out of an EL1 composition focus on

professional writing and the social purposes of oral and written discourse. EAP

developed its genre theory from Swales‟ focus on the language of academic disciplines,

such as Science and Technology, and professional contexts, such as business

communication. Halliday‟s SFL was extended into genre-based teaching and applied by

Paltridge (2004) in tertiary classrooms and Joyce (1992, as cited in Richards &

Nowicki, 1998) in adult ESL teaching. They have developed teaching materials which

treat genre as structural forms that effect goal-oriented social processes. Genre thus

exemplifies the social nature of language and meaning typical of the next paradigm.

3.2.3 The socio-cultural paradigm of writing as identity construction

In paradigm three writing emerges from the focus on communities as a social process

within a social interactionist and social constructivist paradigm influenced by the

theories of Vygotsky (1978). Language is conceived of as socially constructed,

culturally and socially mediated and literacies are considered to be multiple. In this

view, language, meaning and thought, like writing, learning and thinking are

dialogically intertwined. The focus on taxonomies of linguistic features begun in

paradigm two continued with computer-based corpora facilitating lexicography and

concordancing. The major new linguistic influence, however, was genre study which

encouraged writing teachers to expand the repertoire of writing task types. Halliday‟s

focus on language as a semiotic system elevated genre from an object of descriptive

study to the driver of discourse production. Strategy instruction became important in

this phase: communication strategies to improve interaction between writers or speakers

(Faerch & Kasper, 1983) and language learning strategies to increase the autonomy, or

agency, of learners (Oxford, 1990).

Teachers are mediators of different cultures of writing in the socio-cultural paradigm,

while EAP learners are meaning makers, fitting into HE culture. Writing teachers in

this paradigm prefer a „top-down‟, meaning-based, genre-focussed approach to the

„bottom-up‟ syntactic approach, but there is a danger that the focus on discourse may

once again essentialize form and reduce the pedagogic emphasis on the learner and

learning. Also, beginning writers may need a bottom-up approach.

                                                                                          66 English for Academic Purposes in the socio-cultural paradigm

EAP is redefined as an acculturation process in Johns‟ third, Socio-literate, approach to

L2 writing. Academic writing now includes meta-discourse elements such as

recapitulation, as in Tadros‟ (1989, as cited in Johns, 1997) metadiscursive taxonomy.

Such features assist academic writers in producing an appropriate academic voice. In

Johns‟ view (ibid, p.122) the expository essay causes problems for students because HE

writing tasks require input from data or secondary sources, rather than from prior

knowledge or opinion. However, rather than endorsing a disciplinary content approach

for EAP, she recommends using linguistics research tasks to simulate HE knowledge

construction (ibid, p.127). Her stance is pragmatic, accommodating students to the

discourse community, but she argues for literacy teachers to become mediators between

the discursive worlds of language programs and academic disciplines. Rather than

accepting a service position, ESL teachers should lead students and discipline teachers

into collaborative investigations of the nature of literacy in their disciplines. This is the

focus of Bhatia‟s third space: text, genre, then social context, an important theme

echoed by others who take a more critical approach to EAP (Benesch, 1996, Bhatia,

2008, Bruce, 1993, Leki, 2007, Rilling, 2001, Wallace, 2006). Discourse, disciplinary culture and boundaries

Leist is a Writing in the Disciplines practitioner who advocates writing as a teaching

and learning tool in HE since “The fostering of independent scholarship among students

should be among [professors‟] top priorities” (2006, p.1). Yet she believes that writing

is a technical skill best remediated by composition teachers in Writing Centres. This

view positions the English language teacher as a technician, and the disciplinary teacher

as a scholar, which sends confusing messages to students about writing in HE. As
Nightingale (1988, p.81) concluded: “When the essential relationship between literacy

and learning is acknowledged in the teaching methods of higher education, students

should be much more capable of meeting lecturers‟ expectations.” At the moment,

discourse accommodation is mostly in one direction only. This division of labour

between discipline and writing teachers is reflected internationally (e.g. Bruce, N.,

1993) and impacts on all teachers of writing, as does the issue of content or disciplinary

focus in teaching specific versus general EAP (Bruce, I., 2005). Disciplinary border

crossing would be more beneficial to teachers and students of writing especially in the

multi-literacies perspective.

3.2.4 The critical-discursive paradigm of writing as power

In paradigm four writing is acknowledged as a political process in a critical theory

paradigm (Guba, 1990, pp.17-30) following theorists like Fairclough (1989), Pennycook

(1999), Benesch (1996), Wallace (2006), and Norton (1995) who hold that writing is

ideological and therefore hegemonic. Academic discourse is positioned as the gate-

keeper to HE; ESB and NESB students must perceive the struggle to enter as collective

rather than personal and marginalising. Just as Pennycook asserts that EAP teachers

must pursue “a problematizing practice that questions the role of language or discourse

in social life” (1999, p.343), so critical theorists like Canagarajah (2002) and Hyland

(2002b) recommend that students investigate the power structures of language in HE.

Leki (2000, p.101) aligns herself with the „ideological turn‟ in writing research (Street,

1995). Writing in ESL has traditionally been secondary to oral skills, so ESL writing

teachers focus on error correction and technical skills, whereas EL1 composition

teachers focus on communication. This somewhat extreme view is reiterated by Leist
(2006), Matsuda, (2003) and Rilling (2001). Both groups serve different student

learning needs, but could no doubt learn from each other. EAP has attempted to counter

this tendency and serve student writing needs better through a focus on disciplinary

genre. In light of the taken-for-granted nature of ESL writing as a commodity, an

assessable product and a key transferable skill, Leki suggested further investigation of

writing was required in the areas of needs analysis, identity and longitudinal studies

(2000). My study takes up the challenge of identity research in a critical sociocultural


Leki‟s own longitudinal research study findings were that HE writing tasks required

students to display knowledge, practise the language of the discipline and acculturate to

the values of the discipline (2007, p.241-3). HE faculty often scaffolded tasks with

detailed guidelines and assessed writing leniently, focusing more on content than

linguistic accuracy. Like Leist (2006), faculty regarded the Writing Centre as a

mystical place where student grammar errors disappear (p.250). Students reported that

writing helped them understand a topic better, but supported writing (drafting) was

time-consuming and difficult for weak students, even though it raised grades (2007, pp

246-249). Inevitably NESB international undergraduates have little time to revise

drafts, but need to do so if they wish to obtain more than a passing grade. Although

writing tasks were demanding, students felt they learned from them and were not

unduly dismayed by the writing load. Leki notes:

      …a central finding for me was in effect the lack of importance of writing in these

      students‟ undergraduate lives relative to the rich blend of …learning

      experiences… that seduced away students‟ time and attention. …Ultimately their

      struggles, successes, and failures in their literacy work cannot be understood

      without reference to its social context” (Leki, 2007, p.259).

Looking back at their first year ESL and General Education (GE) courses, Leki‟s focal

students declared General Education writing assignments ineffective (p.237) because,

although they were intended to introduce students to domain knowledge in preparation

for disciplinary study, the tasks were disconnected from majors, excluded students‟

prior knowledge, provided no feedback on writing, or appeared purposeless. Key terms

such as “argument, structure, even narrative” (p.240) and criteria such as “well

organized” were not clarified for their disciplinary differences. This study skills

approach, described as “politically naïve and ultimately elitist” by Lea and Street

(1998), “blames the victim” for not understanding what has been inadvertently hidden

from them. However, students reported increased ability to write fluently and

copiously, no doubt as a result of “pushed output”, i.e. practice, as a result of

completing their assignments.

ESL writing courses gave students a chance to develop fluency, vocabulary (especially

“transition words” (p.283), grammatical accuracy and “text-organizing skill” but the

tasks were limited to “argumentative/persuasive essays” (p.252). Leki‟s main criticism

is that these require students to write about what they know, whereas in HE students

write about what they are studying (p. 252). This is a valid point, but EAP curricula at

higher levels of proficiency introduce writing to learn after learning to write. Of the

five knowledge bases universal to successful written communication (Beaufort, 2005, as

cited in Leki, 2007, p.284) writing classes can only teach writing process and rhetorical

knowledge, whereas disciplinary genre, subject matter and discourse community

knowledge are probably more appropriately acquired in the professional context. In

which case, the essay has value in a multi-level intensive EAP program, in my view.

3.3 The Expository Essay as a Heuristic for Teaching Academic English

The expository essay requires various rhetorical functions, such as argument,

explanation or suasion, depending on the task requirement. If the task is relevant to the

learners, then the expository essay is purposeful in its appropriateness for practising

linguistic form (morphology, syntax and rhetorical structure) at different levels of

proficiency, (the autonomous perspective on writing), and meaningful in its

appropriateness for conveying personal meaning (opinion) and propositional content

(ideas and evidence) in the context of a real-world task (the social perspective on

writing). In this section topics and lexical content in EAP courses are reviewed, then

essay tasks, teaching methods, materials and assessment procedures are discussed.

3.3.1 Topic content for academic English courses

As discussed above (p.68) in the developmental history of ESL writing and EAP

writing, disciplinary content versus general content has been a contentious issue. Spack

(1988, p.46) argued against using specialist discipline content in writing courses since

“writing tasks are fundamentally situated and multiple” and must be dealt with in

authentic academic contexts. ESL teachers have difficulty in evaluating and providing

feedback on poorly written papers in an unfamiliar disciplinary field because editing

involves conceptual revision rather than simple proof-reading. Johns (1997), Lillis

(2001), and Leki (2007) all emphasise the need for teachers marking student writing to

talk through meanings which students are trying to express, rather than assuming their

reformulation of student text is accurate. Reformulation is seen by some as modelling

disciplinary writing, but the issue of appropriation of student texts in reformulation has

been discussed by several researchers and is contested (Allwright, Woodley &

Allwright, 1988, Hall, 1995). Sensitivity in providing appropriate feedback on student

texts is clearly important; ignoring form and concentrating on meaning passes on the

message that form is not important, but over emphasis on form and neglect of meaning

treats writing as a technical skill, rather than as meaning making. Some educators have

come up with positive feedback practices such as focussing on strengths, rather than on

weaknesses (Beaman, 1998), but inevitably, writers must face up to and remedy their

weaknesses if they wish to take up powerful positions in their new discourse


Despite the concerns expressed, probably the best way to persuade students of the

existence of multiple literacies in HE is to be as specific as possible, encouraging

students to compare their disciplinary experiences of writing (Hyland, 2002b, p.393).

Amongst EAP teachers there is a range of disciplinary expertise, acquired either through

teaching English, or through changing career to English-teaching. Another problem

presents itself, however: At upper levels of language proficiency, such as in

undergraduate EAP programs, and with postgraduates, a disciplinary focus can be

beneficial, as in pre-sessional courses. At lower levels of language proficiency,

however, specific language teaching is challenging, and particularly so in EAP

programs which provide a service for more than one disciplinary faculty, where students

have a range of intended majors. General academic topics are therefore often preferred

(Bruce, 2005), with ethnography of writing the choice of Johns (1997) and Canagarajah

(2002), and team teaching the choice of others, such as Rilling (2001). Motivation can
become an issue, so students need to be kept informed of the program rationale, and if

possible, given opportunities to pursue discipline-oriented courses as options.

Language programs dedicated to a single discipline can successfully blend language

with experiential content knowledge in team teaching situations, and even in multi-

disciplinary situations, visiting lecturers can be invited, or students can audit lectures to

provide authentic experience of HE study.

3.3.2 Lexical content in academic English courses

Clearly, lexical fields are linked to disciplinary content at advanced proficiency levels.

However, at lower proficiency levels in an intensive pre-university EAP program, the

differences between CLT and EAP teachers can be as marked as those identified

between composition and ESL teachers in the USA (Bloch, 2001, Leki, 2000). CLT

teachers are trained to focus on accurate syntax and lexis in informal writing at lower

levels of proficiency, so in a multi-level IEP program CLT specialists could teach

Cummins‟ BICS at lower levels with integrated language skills to facilitate socialization

and EAP specialists could introduce CALP, perhaps separating the skills into reading

and writing, or listening and speaking. This type of dual, or specific, program would

help provide what the EAP student in an ESL context requires: to survive socially as

well as prepare for HE study. However, duality, or specialization, must not become

compartmentalization, because although language proficiency levels may be developing

progressively, the acquisition of these different types of language needs to be

simultaneous for adults, rather than sequential.

CLT‟s obvious strengths are the pragmatic focus on skills and language systems in

situational, thematic, or task-based contexts, but CLT course-books do not provide the

focus on genre, discourse and lexis appropriate to EAP contexts. For the EAP student

with a serious goal, i.e. to enter HE fast, EAP programs must both increase and broaden

the curriculum to enable students to achieve their goals. New Headway publishers have

recognized this and produced Academic English texts which can be used in parallel with

their CLT course-books. However, as Bakhtin, (1981, 1986) Sinclair (1981, as cited in

Hyland, 2005) and Hyland (2005) have shown, there is a dialogic and metadiscursive

link between talk and text. Communication is not simply referential, transactional or

propositional: It is interactional. In talk, the student can acquire language and

confidence in speaking and foster the personal voice which essay writing requires, on

the interactive plane. At higher levels of proficiency academic authorial voice can be

developed. However, students cannot operate metadiscursive systems satisfactorily, to

express ideas or critique those of others, if they have not mastered the verb tense

system, nor acquired sufficient, appropriate lexis with which to express nuanced

opinions and support their ideas. The autonomous and the ideological perspectives on

writing need to blend in CLT and EAP: They are not discrete.

Most lexical studies of EAP have focussed on reading comprehension, i.e. receptive

use. Xue and Nation (1983, as cited in Nation, 2001) created the University Word List

(UWL) from four previous word lists compiled without computer corpora. The UWL

list and Nation‟s Vocabulary Level tests provide useful checks on students‟ readiness

for academic study. However, Coxhead‟s new Academic Word List (AWL, 1998)

produced from an Academic Corpus of 3.5 million words from academic journals and

university textbooks, has replaced the UWL (Nation, 2001, p.178) and is already being

used to produce academic reading course-books (Inside Reading, 2009). According to

Coxhead (2000), the AWL can replace West‟s General Service List of 2000 most useful

(in terms of frequency and coverage) words in English (West, 1953).

In studies of levels of lexis used in graded readers, often linked to word families in the

General Service List, Hirsh and Nation (1992) suggested that for pleasurable extensive

reading 98-99% of words in a text should be known. Graded reader levels are limited to

the first 2000 frequent words, whereas for academic reading at 98% comprehension,

Nation has estimated that 8000 words are needed. Cripwell and Foley (1984) found that

EFL learners who had been studying for four or five years had low levels of reading

proficiency. Students who want to learn more lexis find the frequency lists of most

common words in COBUILD‟s Advanced Learner‟s Dictionary compelling on account

of the power of the first 1,800 words to cover 75% of general language use. The

productive use of lexis is obviously influenced by lexis available for comprehension but

inability to automatically encode phonemes into graphemes can make writing the lexis

available in speech a slow painful experience. Cobb and Horst (2001) developed a

concordancing project which aimed at increasing the mental lexicon for beginning EAP

readers in Oman, using Nation‟s Level Tests. Such work is encouraging.

3.3.3 Construction of meaning in essay tasks

EAP writing programs do not need to follow the paradigmatic progress described above,

from a focus on form, through meaning, to genre and power relations, to enable students

to construct a new identity as a writer. With sensitive encouragement from the teacher

and a focus on sharing writing with multi-lingual, multi-cultural peers so that the

construction of meaning is interactive, beginners who are literate in their own language

can be encouraged to take a leap into identity construction by writing descriptive essays

in which they express familiar ideas (my country, my home town, banal to the worldly-

wise, but novel to those who have never met people from other nations), in addition to

completing contextually authentic, low-level writing tasks, such as completing a driving

licence, or university sports club application. In other words, writing pedagogy need

not be merely a mechanical skill acquisition process, but also a dynamic social process

even at low levels. By encouraging students to find their own voices early in their

writing program, writing teaching can reveal where social power lies. The critical-

discursive paradigm connects words with the world in all possible modes, since

linguistic form reflects, mind, activity, affect, autobiography, culture, and society.

Nunan (1995) has referred to the need for learner-centredness in teaching to prepare

learners to make their own critical decisions in learning, which will make classrooms

centres of learning. Socio-cultural theory suggests that neither learning nor teaching

can be taken for granted in a normative process of skill acquisition.

Barnard and Campbell (2005) have explained their use of socio-cultural theory with the

intranet to encourage students to build meaning together by „discussing‟ essay topics

online, as „chat‟, prior to writing. This strategy is useful for three reasons: It utilises

students‟ oral strengths while encouraging them to share ideas in informal writing; it

allows for the exchange and appropriation of new vocabulary and accurate spelling of

lexis for the essay task by reading the texts of others; it increases confidence by not

being assessed. However, the tutor is available to offer support, provide guidance and

encourage students to construct their own personal meaning when they ultimately write

their essays. This technique might be more attractive to young male students than

sharing ideas in class prior to essay writing, because young students are thought to

enjoy using technology (Warschauer, 2002), and their „face‟ is not threatened as in class

discussion where their errors or silence are more noticeable (Goffman,1999).

The advantages of an expository essay-based focus on teaching writing in intensive

EAP programs are that the topics can be matched to students‟ growing lexico-

grammatical knowledge base, the topics the students write about can progress from

concrete to abstract, and the rhetorical patterns, which make up any genre students will

be exposed to in future, can be introduced slowly from easier to more complex. For

example, essays can begin with simple physical description of familiar entitities (e.g.

my family) to more complex and abstract descriptions of systems, (e.g. education in my

country), or recounts of simple experiences (e.g. my weekend) moving to more complex

narratives (e.g. my life); such topics may appear trivial, but may be novel to those

formulating their first analysis of their taken-for-granted home background. In essays

students can practise compare and contrast patterns with topics such as cars, homes, or

education systems; problem-solution patterns with every day issues (e.g. how to live on

a budget), or more abstract issues (e.g. traffic problems, pollution concerns). Such

essay tasks require students to reconceptualise everyday, lived experiences on the

reflective plane and then transfer them into the second language, English.

Paltridge (2004) has explained how SFL‟s text types, or rhetorical patterns, fit into

generic structure and provide useful tools for discourse construction, but the

authenticity of the expository essay in HE has often been questioned, as discussed

above (Leki, 2007, Johns, 1997). When Moore and Morton (2005, 2007) investigated

the authenticity of the expository essay (IELTS Writing Task Two) as used in HE they

found that lecturers surveyed were positive overall about the nature of the essay as
writing task and the language it would generate (2007, p.197). The essay was the most

common type of HE writing task, accounting for around 60% of tasks (p.216) and is

therefore “the pre-eminent written genre of university study” (p.235) although it often

required reading input as well as argument. HE essays were described in handouts

advising students to “argue for a particular position in relation to a given question or

proposition” (p.216). Comparing the type of rhetorical functions used in HE written

assignments and IELTS Task Two prompts, the authors found the latter were more

restricted in range of functions and often required hortatory rhetoric with deontic

modality (What should be done?), whereas in HE tasks rhetorical functions are more

often epistemic (What is the case?). Defending IELTS tasks (2007, p.482) Taylor

pointed out that the specimen tests used in the study differ from authentic tests, which

have a wider range of task types and rubrics Moreover, she stresses that IELTS tests

readiness to enter university study rather than academic literacy, so the task types do not

need to resemble those used in HE.

3.3.4 Teaching materials and methods for academic English

Although expository essays are not complex HE writing tasks using source materials or

primary data, they are a logical first step for students mastering syntax, morphology and

lexis (the technical aspects of language) in order to express opinion, state ideas and

provide evidence to support argument in appropriately structured text, in response to an

authentic, socially situated essay question. Expository essays thus scaffold secondary

research essays at higher levels of proficiency in the curriculum, as in the CAEL

program described in Chapter 2. However, adult students must be fully informed of the

teaching objectives and sequences, so that they can understand the progression of their

writing skills and participate in the making of meaning required. Teachers may become
so engaged in the detailed process and product procedures of writing that they forget the

broader program goals and how they relate to students‟ ultimate needs. Wenger‟s

(1998) focus on reification and participation is useful in this respect. Reification

includes the artifacts or documents of the community which guide its members in

successful participation (p.105) and help members to cross boundaries to other CoPs.

Kumaravadivelu maintains we are in a postmethod era in which attitudes, sensitivity to

learners and acceptance of change are preferred to any recommended method: “method

analysis shows how teaching is done by the book; teaching analysis shows how much is

done by the teacher” (Mackey, 1965, p.139, as cited in Kumaravadivelu, 2007, p p.xvii).

Expository essay writing in the general EAP curriculum at low levels of proficiency in

which CLT course-books are used, can be theorised as task based learning (TBL), with

socio-cultural topic enhancement. Various writers have described teaching the essay

genre with scaffolding and modeling in a process approach, (e.g. Cotterall & Cohen,

2003, Cope & Kalantzis, 1993, Feez, 2002). These practitioners draw on constructivist

theories, including Vygotsky‟s Zone of Proximal Development, which takes students

from working with the teacher to working alone, having appropriated the new skills

(1978). Of course, learning processes take time and recent studies have shown that

much more time than previously considered is needed for writing to develop (Elder &

O‟Loughlin, 2003).

Time is of the essence for both students and teachers of EAP, so wherever textbooks

can be found they are welcomed. Genre-based writing textbooks focussing on writing

academic research reports are too advanced for most students in a pre-university EAP

writing program (e.g. De Luca & Annals, 2006), as are those which prepare writers to

produce authentic research reports (e.g. Swales & Feak, 2000). There are important

metadiscursive differences between general academic textbooks and authentic research

reports in their epistemic approach to knowledge Hyland (2005). However, intermediate

level EAP texts which cite sources in academic expository texts from „generic‟

disciplines such as social psychology, or sociology can introduce students to

metadiscourse and academic lexis (e.g. the Academic Encounters series). Students can

paraphrase, summarise, and critique the texts and write expository essays on topics

which connect text content to students‟ lives. Writing expository essays encourages

students to voice their opinions and use their experience and prior knowledge to discuss

and argue. Essays also provide preparation for IELTS and, despite the critics (Leki,

2007, Johns, 1997) entail practice of the necessary, but normative critical (analytical)

thinking approach in structuring ideas into appropriate text. Essay practice increases the

speed and automaticity of writing, while lexical development is supported by reading

the textbook, then writing about the content and relating it to real life. This approach

takes into account the continuum from autonomous to ideological literacy.

The younger students are, the narrower is their experience of the world. EAP students

from other cultures find retrieving ideas from limited intrapersonal resources stress-

inducing. Students faced with new topics for each essay task can be overwhelmed, so

input which supplies vicarious experience of „being in the world‟ is essential. Similarly,

students who lack exposure to English will have neither the lexical, nor the syntactic

resources to produce fluent, meaningful text. Their products will be marked by stilted

lexis which lacks appropriate nuances. Our words are not our own, but borrowed, so

exposure to the words of others is essential for lexical resources to develop (Bakhtin,

1986). Thus, integrated language skills input from text and multimedia resources, is

essential for lexical development and increasing knowledge of the world, in preparation

for essay writing.

3.3.5 Teacher feedback versus assessment of writing

An EAP writing program should provide real life goals, make connections with HE

disciplinary content, provide writing experience, not just mechanical practice, and offer

relevant feedback on writing (Leki, 2003). Since feedback on writing improves texts

directly but writers only indirectly, much more time is required for developmental

learning than writing programs can usually offer. Discussion in staff rooms often

centres on the amount of writing which students should do, versus the amount of time it

takes to give feedback. Studies have shown that teacher feedback to individuals is

essential to writing development, but how to effect feedback in a meaningful manner is

not so clear (Grabe & Kaplan,1996, Hawthorne, 1998, Leki, 2003). Discussion focuses

on oral versus written feedback, teacher conferencing, the benefit to students of praise,

but also the problems students have in understanding teachers‟ written feedback

comments (Ferris, 1995). Teacher feedback conferences have been described as a site

of emergent agency, in which students changed negative stances, procrastination,

refusal and resistance to more agentive attitudes to tasks and writing in general (Strauss

& Xiang, 2006). Talking to the teacher as well as talking to peers should help develop a

sense of purposefulness and authentic meaning making in sharing opinions and building

knowledge, which then transfers to the written page. The focus on voice as writer‟s

stance, engagement and evaluation is essential in my view to persuading reluctant

writers of the power of writing:

      Metadiscourse is the cover term for the self-reflective expressions used to

      negotiate interactional meanings in a text, assisting the writer (or speaker) to
      express a viewpoint and engage with readers as members of a particular

      community (Hyland, 2005, p.37).

In intensive EAP programs the emphasis on assessment may focus narrowly on the

achievement of outcomes rather than on the process of learning. In competency-based

education, performance descriptors seek to clarify the pathways to learning destinations

but assessment methods can become the tail which wags the dog; instead of supporting

learning, they pressurize it and cause anxiety (Green, 2007). An undesired outcome of

such pressure can be failure to learn as a result of stress, which can develop into a

downward cycle of depression and lead to giving up the struggle to learn (Cheng,

Horwitz & Schallert, 1999). If success breeds success, the antithesis is also true.

Teachers can focus on the positives in a written script, not simply the negatives; writers

can use a self-administered check list to inculcate the criteria for written assessment.

Such methods are ways of softening the process of evaluation and treating it as an

essential, reflective, learning experience, rather than a bureaucratic, „busy-work‟ stage

of drafting, which is completed without full engagement in revising as a learning

experience. Finally, writing program time on task is not always sufficient for

individuals to achieve outcomes, so flexibility should be built into programs to allow for

„failure‟ in writing alone to be remediated or resolved as interim learning, without

holding back student progress and isolating them from their cohort.

3.3.6 Transfer of learning

The assumption in CLT and EAP of transferability of language skills from classroom to

real world contexts entails the autonomous, cognitive developmental approach to

literacy (Street, 1984). A meta analysis of transfer research focusing on „near‟ versus

„far‟ transfer of skills or knowledge, i.e. to similar or dissimilar environments, found

that “transfer is uncommon, but when it occurs at all it is between situations that are

highly similar” (Detterman, 1993, p.6, as cited in Leki, 2007, p.239). This finding

corresponds with Leki‟s (2007), since focal students valued ESL technical writing

skills, e.g. “sentence-level features, such as rule-governed grammar and mechanics, and

mundane text requirements, like the use of a particular documentation style”. Without

more detail, we cannot be sure that her students experienced writing genres suitable for

HE, but perhaps at that point in their learning trajectory, those technical skills were the

appropriate ones to engage with, learn and then transfer. Of course, transfer is not only

a measure of individual learning, but also of program evaluation. EAP curriculum

designers should aspire to transformation of learners as writers who can become

powerful critical literacy practitioners in different discourse communities (Benesch,

1999). A multi-literacies approach to EAP curriculum design thus seems to offer the

best chance of success in learning to write.

ESL writing theory has progressed historically from the simplistic pragmatic focus on

transferable skills in a cognitive linguistic paradigm, with a focus on lexico-

grammatical input to a genre-based focus on disciplinary culture. Insights from EL1

research have helped along the way, and now, the focus on literacy should be viewed as

crucial to both fields. Academic literacy is the lifeblood of HE, but EAP pedagogy is

still focussed at lower levels on compartmentalised autonomous language skill

development which does not transfer to HE. Despite the research, success is not

guaranteed for all learners with all writing teachers. My focus now turns to the role of

the individual and the community in EAP writing program design, to see if new hope

for success for all can be found there.

3.4 The Socio-Cultural Turn in Second Language Acquisition

Firth and Wagner (1997) met with strong opposition from Gass (1998) when they

proposed a more social orientation for SLA research and a broader identity for second

language learners. In contrast, their review (2007) was greeted with warmth because in

the interim the socio-cultural turn identified by Trimbur (1994) had taken off in AL.

Key ideas in this new focus on the influences of society, culture and history on learners

are the notions of learning as apprenticeship in a CoP, and the social construction of

identity and opportunities for agency which membership in social groupings affords. In

this section I state my theorisation of identity and agency, following Berger (1963),

Giddens (1991) and Wenger (1998), and other psychological (including social

psychology and social–cognition), socio-cultural and ecological theories of identity and

agency. Finally, I consider the social learning theory construct of the CoP as a

potentially useful generative context for the construction of learners‟ identity and


3.4.1 Focus on the learner: identity

Until the social turn in SLA and AL, researchers studying learner success or struggle

held what Atkinson (2002) calls the „lonely cactus‟, psychological view of the learner.

One of the best known early studies of „The good language learner‟ (Naiman, Frohlich,

Stern, & Todesco, 1978) was ground-breaking with its perspectives on individual

differences. Since then this work has continued, especially in motivation (e.g. Dornyei,

2005), learning styles and strategies (e.g. Oxford, 1990), and learner autonomy (e.g.

Benson & Voller, 1997), although not without debate about the appropriateness of these

traits in different socio-cultural contexts. The focus on the learner‟s internal traits,

characteristics or affects, individual cognition and psychological concepts of self, has

now been extended to consider how these individual traits have developed as a

consequence of interacting in society. The new foci on socio-cultural identity and

agency include how learners are influenced by positioning or framing by others in

dyads, groups or other microcontexts, or by large-scale social systems, such as schools,

or education systems, or macrocontexts. Following the socio-cultural theories of

Vygotsky (1978), learning is achieved first on the social then on the mental plane, with

the assistance of mediating adults and/or cultural artifacts. Following Lave and Wenger

(1991) and Wenger (1998, 2002) the success or otherwise of a learning activity in an

authentic context of situated practice contributes to changes in the learner‟s identity and


My theorization of learner identity is social constructivist, i.e. formed individually but

reciprocally in society, and sociocultural, i.e. influenced, if not constrained, by the

history and cultural development of society. Identity is a complex, shifting, multiple

entity, which, as I suggested in Chapter 1, has a controlling, judging, filtering

component embedded cognitively but constructed socially. This controlling entity is

the self, which is a site of struggle, experiencing anxiety, trust, confidence, pressure, as

it maintains the self-concept, including self-efficacy and self-esteem, or self-worth, and

holds the pieces of the self together. Clearly these are psychological concepts, but as

Vygotsky theorized, these aspects of the self have been formed on the first plane in

society through intermental processes and have become on the second plane intramental

processes (1978). Rejecting the duality of Enlightenment philosophers, following

Giddens‟ “reflexive project of the self” (1991) and taking into account my reading of

the literature reviewed in the following sections, I posit the social self as a composite of

two three dimensional axes in time and space, on which social events, practices and

vicarious experiences impinge and feed back to the self at the center of these axes. The

axes are not mutually exclusive or inclusive, nor are they continua, but

multidimensional dualities, just as the self is not separate, nor unitary, but multiple. The

self is more than the sum of its parts.

The first axis is that of identity and agency; the second is that of role and subjectivity.

Identity represents the historical self, on a trajectory through life and learning, moving

from the past and its „habitus‟ (“a system of predispositions” which generates well

adapted responses and is a product of an individual history, Bourdieu, 1990, pp.90-91),

acknowledging desires and imagined futures (Wenger, 1998). Its activator is agency,

without which identity is fixed: No progress can be made. Agency is the means for

change, the way towards the future. Subjectivity is the ideological identity constructed

by society and culture. Subjectivity is the self as “subject to, or subject of relations of

power within a particular site, community or society” (Norton, 1997, p.411), and works

in alliance with roles taken up voluntarily, or constrained by society, e.g. spouse, parent,

learner, teacher, to ensure duties and responsibilities within society and culture are


In my view, the self is composed of cognition and affect (emotions and morals) formed

during life in society from the early days of childhood, as a result of learning, loving

and experiencing moral education on the two social-experiential axes, identity/agency

and role/subjectivity. The social self is composed of identity and its counterpart

agency; the social self plays roles allocated by society and influenced by subject

positioning. In the case of international students the role and subject positioning in the

home country may be completely different from that of students in the foreign language

setting, and any deviation from the role will result in a negative positioning from those

around them. In such cases, students can adopt other roles which will afford them

different positioning. Agency, identity, subjectivity and role are thus interdependent.

The person manages this self in society through voice in talk and text. In the first

instance, speech constructs the persona and negotiates the trajectory of identity and

agency, together with the uptake of roles and the management of subjectivity. In talk, a

clear personal voice, “shaping at the point of utterance”, able to express opinions, use

interpersonal skills and present convincing arguments will facilitate a forward-moving

trajectory towards satisfactory goals and will restrict roles to those which position

subjectivity powerfully (Bakhtin, 1981, 1986). In text, an intertextual authorial voice

will achieve similar ends. In the case of an EAP student, achieving a personal voice in

talk should facilitate an authorial voice in text. Social psychology and identity

Psychology today exemplifies what Wenger (1998) terms constellations of practice.

Social psychology involves border crossing with related disciplines (e.g. sociology) and

subdisciplines (e.g. social anthropology). Whereas general psychology is “concerned

with explaining human behaviour in terms of processes that occur within the human

mind” and concentrates on the individual, social psychology seeks to explain “how the

thoughts, feelings and behaviours of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined

or implied presence of others‟ (Vaughan & Hogg, 2002, pp.2-3). Social psychology

concerns itself to a large extent with face to face interactions; the unit of analysis is the
individual within the group, and the scope of investigation is how individual human

interaction and human cognition influence „culture‟, or history in the present. However,

the notion that human interaction has emergent properties that influence people, i.e. a

collective self, has been studied under the banner of social identity theory. This section

introduces some psychological theories relevant to this study.

Identity formation in social psychology takes into account social as well as individual

developmental factors, dividing the field into social and personal identity. In studies of

personal identity, cognitive developmental stage models follow Piaget. In Erikson‟s

life-span development theory, for example, adolescence is a volatile period with

physical maturational changes influencing socio-emotional development up to the late

teens for some individuals, on account of the exploration of new roles, relationships and

statuses (1968, as cited in Santrock, 2001, p.85). In an EAP program there are many

learners aged 16 and above from multi-cultural backgrounds, who will experience this

socio-emotional development of self as more challenging in their solitary new life in a

foreign country. Compatriots may provide support during this turmoil, since ethnic

identity is socially derived but psychologically embedded in this perspective. However,

post-modernists posit the social construction of ethnicity, which suggests that some

compatriots may wish to build a new identity in a new country, using agency to

reconstruct their biography.

Self-esteem is synonymous with self-worth or self-image, and is part of self-concept,

reflecting an individual‟s overall confidence (Santrock, 2001, p.105). Struggling

students may experience low self-esteem as a consequence of lack of emotional support

and social approval, resulting in the individual‟s negative evaluation of the self-concept

(Rogers, 1961, as cited in Santrock, 2001, p.105). Research suggests four ways to

improve self-esteem: identify the causes, provide support, help students achieve and

develop coping skills (Santrock, 2001). These coping skills equate with an individual‟s

positive agentive responses.

Piaget‟s stage theory of cognitive development, Freud‟s psycho-analytic theory and

Mead‟s symbolic interactionist approach rest on the development of the sense of self

beginning from the differentiation of self and others (Giddens, 1991, pp. 30-37).

Distinguishing between the self as agent (I), or as acted upon (me), and positioned by

others is crucial to self-confidence; context is influential in how individuals continue

to develop this sense of self. Involvement with others, in the cultural process of

socialization both encourages and constrains the individual‟s sense of identity: “Both

individual and group identity are largely provided by social markers” (Giddens, 1997,

p.582). In a social group a marker of identity is naming, or labeling (Becker, 1963). In

an intensive EAP program the educational practice of placing students into proficiency

levels can have a positive or negative psychological effect. Naming and identity are

reciprocally determined, so labeling a student as a slow learner can influence his

learning. As labels change, so identity changes. Personality characteristics, which tend

to be dichotomous, are also subject to stereotyping and result in labeling of students,

e.g. extravert/introvert, good student/lazy student, silent/talkative,


According to Bandura‟s theory of reciprocal determinism (1982, 2000) even without

conscious attention or intention, one‟s actions affect others reciprocally setting in

motion a chain reaction with negative or positive outcomes. So, for example, if a

student comes late to class, the teacher‟s response can either alienate students or help

them understand why it is important to be in class on time. Thus, a teacher‟s

unexplained and apparently intransigent application of the lateness policy of the school

can undermine the relationship with a student. Hall‟s theory of high context ,

traditional, close-knit societies, versus low context, changing, independent cultures

(1976), offers explanations for SA students‟ dependency on the teacher and expectations

that NZ teachers will have closer, more sympathetic professional relationships with

them. The impact of teacher identity

Three major roles of teachers in classrooms have been identified: as source of

knowledge, a model of a learner and a representative of „education‟ or learning

(Bruner,1960, as cited in Travers, Elliott & Kratochwill, 1993). Thus, teachers‟ and

students‟ cognition, beliefs, perceptions, interpretations, anticipations and reflections, as

well as their temperament and mood are crucial to how they respond to each other. A

group can affect a teacher‟s behaviour, which in turn changes the group‟s behaviour,

sparking a chain of events which can become established patterns of conflictual

response (Bandura, 1986, as cited in Travers et al., 1993, p.137).

Since role usually refers to naturalised positions in society, the expectations of

behaviour of both teachers and students are culturally bound. (See Hall, 1976, above.)

Unanticipated behaviour is likely to be unwelcome; for example, male students from the

Arab world may arrive late but still greet peers loudly in accordance with their social

custom and habit, to the annoyance of the teacher whose class is disturbed. Goodlad‟s

(1984, as cited in Travers et al, 1993) findings from his study of US schools showed
that teachers feel most powerful in the classroom, where they are in control as the

authority figure so they are likely to make some response to unusual behavior.

Exposing a student to face-loss (Goffman, 1999) by chastising them in public is an

instance of how teachers‟ wielding of power can work against social harmony in the

class. Socio-cultural theory and identity

The „blossoming‟ of socio-cultural theory (SCT) in SLA has resulted from SCT of

mind, situated learning, post-structural theories and dialogism, according to Swain and

Deters (2007). SCT‟s dialectic relationship with social context, social purposes and

mediators stems from Vygotskian theory, which stresses the importance of mediation

(through agents and artifacts including language and the historical complexity of

learners) on learners‟ actions and motivation to learn. Situated learning entails a focus

on participation and constructing identities in new CoPs, (Lave & Wenger, 1991),

which suggests that learners must be able to access the resources of their target CoP so

as to engage in it as „accepted‟ newcomers. The CoP must involve the whole person‟s

socio-cultural history and enable activity which involves the “reconstruction of

identities”. Simultaneously, the admission of newcomers to the community entails its

reciprocal transformation. Non-participation suggests that “identities are constituted not

only by what we are but also by what we are not” (Wenger, 1998, p.164).

The post-structural perspective on meaning is created through discourse practices,

exemplified by Weedon (1997, as cited in Norton, 1995), the postructuralist feminist,

whose use of „subjectivity‟ to refer to identity emphasizes its contingent, continually

recreated nature. Norton‟s (1995) research investigates subjectivity and develops
Bourdieu‟s concept of cultural capital as investment in learning, which is active and

continually changing, replacing what she terms the „static‟ construct of learner

motivation. The socio-cultural turn recreates SLA as a highly complex activity, in

which “individuals are seen as agents operating with will and the struggle to develop

and maintain a single identity sits uneasily alongside the acceptance of multiple

identities” (Swain & Deters, 2007, p.831). Moreover, using Bakhtin‟s theory of

dialogism, to speak is to create oneself: “In dialogue, a person not only shows himself

outwardly, but he becomes for the first time what he is” (Bakhtin, 1984, p.252, as cited

in Swain & Deters, 2007). To write is to create oneself more durably and is more

challenging and therefore, stressful.   Ecological linguistics and identity

Ecological linguistics (EL) has relevance to this study of an EAP writing program

because of its focus on learning in social contexts and the importance of identity and

roles in the learner‟s transformation.

     The developmental importance of ecological transitions derives from the fact that

     they almost invariably involve a change in role, that is in the expectations for

     behaviour associated with particular positions in society. Roles have a magiclike

     power to alter how a person is treated, how she acts, what she does, and thereby

     even what she thinks and feels (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, as cited in Carroll, 2002).

Bronfenbrenner‟s ecological theory of child development takes place in five social

contexts: the home, school, the local neighbourhood, the broader culture, and the

sociohistorical conditions of development (Santrock, 2001, p. 83). Learning is regarded

as emerging, not in a linear way, but as part of a system, whose quality is important. EL

values and evaluates language learning from a contextual perspective: Activity is key,
with learners exercising their own voice, in activities which engage them emotionally.

This autonomy is dialogical in Bakhtin‟s sense (1981), i.e. socially produced in a CoP

(Lave & Wenger, 1991).

EL, like SCT, accepts that identity is created in relation with others, just as language is

created in relation with others, but in EL, physical, social or symbolic affordances are

available relations which allow or inhibit an action, in a social context which defines it.

Language is tied up with all of our sensory systems, our memories, and the stories we

construct to create and nurture our identity (2004, p.1). In this ecosystem learners act

autonomously in a more essential way than classroom independent learners, as in

Wenger‟s CoP:

       It means having the authorship of one‟s actions, having the voice that speaks

       one‟s words, and being emotionally connected to one‟s actions and speech,

       within one‟s community of practice (p.8, van Lier, 2004).

Van Lier blends this with Bakhtin‟s (1981) concept of enacting/embodying other‟s

speech, but appropriated and made our own.

The mind has traditionally been seen as internal, in a dichotomous Cartesian

relationship to the body. If, however, the mind, self and consciousness are social

constructs, then “learning consists of achieving more complex, more effective activity

in the world” (van Lier, 2004, p.123). This concept is firmly in the foreground of SCT

and EL. It does not preclude cognitive activity, but it moves the cognitive revolution

into a second phase, in which cognition and the social are linked by language as

discourse and a semiotic system. Identities can be more or less stable, or they can be

destroyed, or be sites of struggle and resistance if they are imposed. For the pragmatist

philosophers, Peirce, James, Dewey and Mead, “the self was a dialogical and social

construct” (van Lier, 2004, p.125). This conceptualisation is in keeping with the social

interactionist, constructivist SCT. Critical Discourse and identity

One of the major proponents of Critical Discourse Analysis, Fairclough, points out

      Even when people are most conscious of their own individuality and think

      themselves cut off from social influences – they still use language in ways which

      are subject to social convention” (1989, p.23).

Thus, in their writing, students are forced to follow conventions so as to assume an

identity as a member of the discourse community; NESB students are not fully aware of

these conventions and so must be supported in meaning making. Swales (1990, pp.24-

27, as cited in Johns, 1997, p.52) suggests that discourse communities must have genres

of their own, participatory mechanisms and some specific lexis. This is true, but

students are members of different discourse communities, within their L1 and their L2

groups, including family, friends, hobbies, sports, religious groups. Lave and Wenger

(1991, p.13, as cited in Johns 1997, p 52) suggest that in their future discipline, or CoP,

students will learn “how these involve language, practice, culture and a conceptual

universe, not just mountains of facts.” This is an important step in socio-cognitive

maturity, or enculturation.

According to Leki (2000, p.262) the social turn in AL research has been in process since

the 1980s when researchers began using Bakhtin‟s (1986) theories of language use and

learning as appropriation and transformation of the language of others. Socio-cultural

theorists also draw on Vygotsky‟s theory of language learning as a dialogic, face to face
interaction between a learner and a more experienced other who scaffolds skills

development (1978). These theories and those of Lave and Wenger are appropriate in

the enculturation of students into HE, i.e. from the periphery to the core of a community

of practice. In addition, these processes of learning with others entail “issues of

affiliation and belonging” (Pavlenko & Lantolf, 2000, as cited in van Lier, 2004, p.121).

The concept of voice as individual self-representation has been discussed (Elbow, 1999,

Prior, 2001) and studied in research on second language learning (Ivanic, 1998, Hirvela

& Belcher, 2001, Hyland, 2002c). Now research focussing on learner identity

investigates how individuals see themselves, not individually but in society, in

communities, in relationship with others. In educational contexts the teacher is a key

player in establishing which “institutional” identity categories are available to students.

Not much research has been done on students‟ attempts to create “comfortable subject

positions” in their new relationships, but this is an important issue where individuals

from salient student groups present with problems, as in this study.

Socio-academic relationships were crucial to Leki‟s learners‟ development in terms of

affordances, as were the socio-cultural relationships of Norton‟s focal students

(immigrants) in Canada (Leki, 2007). Both these groups eventually became more

powerful despite the continued power differential in some of their social contexts. The

individual is not an autonomously functioning subject. Students‟ individual “histories

are seen as hybrid” as a result of the voices that penetrate an individual‟s lived

experience, in Bakhtin‟s (1981) sense (Leki, 2007, p.275). Identity is not unitary, but

multiple, not static but a trajectory and learning to express oneself in writing is a major

step in self-development. Learning to write powerfully requires agency, but also

resources and support, or affordances.

3.4.2 The agentive turn in social practice research

Like identity, human agency has been the subject of many studies in the past three

decades, following social practice theorists such as Giddens and Bourdieu (Ahearn,

2001). Agency connects with the constructs of identity, causality, action and intention

as “the socioculturally mediated capacity to act” (Ahearn, 2001, p.112). Following are

some of the key theorizations of the concept, which complements identity in the

multiple dimensions posited in this research study. Psychological theories of agency as motivation

Theories of agency seek to answer why someone acts as they do. Theories of

motivation have been seen to be instrumental to human agency. They have ranged

historically from Skinner‟s (1971) behaviourist shaping theory in which motivation

results from positive reinforcement or reward, not from punishment. Negative

reinforcement refers to the removal of unwanted or adverse conditions, which functions

as a kind of reward, for example, allowing students to complete a fun task if they finish

their work early. Bandura‟s (1981, 1986) social cognitive learning theory relied on

behavioural models, or good examples, whether from the teacher or a peer. The

construct of reciprocal determinism combines both cognitive and behavioural

psychology since the students must know themselves as well as act. Self-knowledge

stems, as with Skinner, from previous successful performance; from the encouragement

of seeing others succeed (vicarious experience); from persuasion and from emotional

arousal – which can evoke negative or positive emotions. Bandura has recently

emphasized the role of self-efficacy in the interaction of these factors. He defines self-

efficacy as „the belief that one can master a situation and produce positive outcomes”

(2000, as cited in Santrock, 2001, p.256).

McClelland (1987, as cited in Travers et al. 1993, p.290) focused on needs achievement

in students; his theory stems from a motivational model of expectancy value, in which a

student‟s expectation of success and the „value‟ of the experience contribute to the

strength of the motive. Not all students have the same level of needs achievement and

increasing it necessitates raising students‟ desire to achieve. In schools, personal

investment in learning (Maehr, 1984, as cited in Travers et al. 1993, p.291) may be

frowned upon by peers, yet it is believed to be key to successful needs achievement. So,

sense of self or identity connects firmly with these ideas. In school, or with young,

relatively immature adults, collective identity can annul individual attempts to succeed,

according to group norms (Dornyei, 2001). These may stem from the classroom

experience, or as investigated in this study, failure to identify with the subject or

methods of study.

Whatever their motivational states or traits, students will either succeed or fail, and in

whichever case they will attribute their performance to a specific cause – ability, test

difficulty, effort, luck, illness, or teacher effect. Weiner (1980, 1990) posited that these

internal or external attributions of locus of control will influence future behaviour, so

identifying student attributions is key to helping them to change and to focus on self-

efficacy and personal judgements of capability, effort and attention to learning.

Csikszentmihalyi (1997) has contributed to motivation research the concept of flow, or

optimal experience, which is essentially based on one of the tenets proposed by Gardner

(1985): intrinsic motivation. In other words, when students are involved in something

which interests them, then they will lose all sense of time and simply focus on

completing the task. Thus, boredom, the nemesis of learning, is avoided.

However, one of the original motivation theorists, Maslow, posited the well-known

hierarchy of needs, (1987), of which, self-actualization is seen as the key to learning.

Closely related to this intrinsic drive to learn is Deci and Ryan‟s (2002) self-

determination theory: a general theory of human motivation which reflects an

individual‟s desire for autonomy, for competence and for relatedness, i.e. a mixture of

intrinsic and extrinsic motives. Other psychological theories of affect, such as anxiety,

attitude, curiosity, and learned helplessness have been the subject of research for

decades. These factors, whether permanent traits or temporary states, can contribute to

an individual‟s identity as a learner and support or destroy agentive responses. Agency as investment in learning and access to resources

Norton‟s immigrant language learners needed “access, investment, participation and

also the right to speak” (1995). According to Norton (1997), since identity is

constructed in different social contexts, rather than being central and essential to the

person, it is likely to be multiple, variable and may be a site of struggle. In contested

contexts the subject has agency to resist the positioning afforded. Since subjectivity is

open to change according to the desire of the subject, then subjects are able to learn to

reposition themselves. Instead of the traditional construct of motivation, which she

finds incapable of ambivalence, Norton substitutes Bourdieu‟s (1992) concept of

cultural capital, including symbolic and material capital, and his metaphor of investment

to account for the focal women‟s varying desires to communicate in different social
contexts for different purposes, However, investment is not commensurate with agency,

since wanting to do something does not entail knowing how to achieve it. Strategic

action must be added to investment of time and effort.

Dornyei denies (2005) that motivation is static or incapable of change according to

context; rather, it ebbs and flows within the learner. Williams and Burden (1997), for

example, identified three possible stages in motivation: deciding on, implementing and

sustaining motivation to study a language. Moreover, personality psychology‟s

constructs of possible and ideal selves form the theoretical basis for the L2 Motivational

Self System (Dornyei, 2005, p.94), a reconceptualization which stems in part from the

continuing misinterpretation of Gardner‟s (1985) three part (integrative orientation,

attitudes to the learning situation and motivation) motivation theory. The persistent use

of test batteries to measure motivation as the sum of integrative and instrumental

motivation has led to the maintenance of the model, and the perception of motivation as

fixed (Dornyei, 2005, p.70). The new focus on the „self system‟ has moved motivation

theory into SCT, with „integrativeness‟ as “some sort of a psychological and emotional

identification” with the „imagined community‟. This concept was utilised by Norton

(2001), but introduced by Wenger (1998, p.176): “My use of the concept of imagination

refers to a process of expanding our self by transcending our time and space and

creating new images of the world and ourselves.”

Despite learners‟ investment in learning, access to resources is not available readily in

the real world, given the multitude of investors competing in this large context. What is

important is that learners have a strong enough sense of self and agency to go out into

the world and make resources available to them, by joining clubs, for example. Within

a CoP, such as a language classroom, investment and resources should be

commensurate, and thus ensure that participation is enabled. Bourdieu‟s construct of

linguistic and cultural capital assumes differences in access to investments and suggests

differential investment may be made in learning. However, assuming a struggling

learner has not invested in learning is a facile response which does not take into account

the immigrant‟s, or international student‟s, identity conflict as an outcome of culture

and language shock (van Lier, 2004, p.121). Agency in the writing classroom

In SCT, learners‟ motivation is complex and changing, since a learner‟s history as well

as belief systems influence the “motivational trajectory” (Swain & Deters, 2007,

p.823). The role of the teacher in providing support, or teaching students how to

improve their agency is crucial, as mentioned above. Carroll, (2002, p.5) remarks that

composition teachers in her study viewed writing “through the wrong end of the

telescope” and so rejected work accepted in the disciplines because they preferred their

own criteria. As discussed earlier in this Chapter, HE and ESL teachers position

themselves at different ends of the content and accuracy continuum, the former

rewarding content higher than form, the latter valuing grammatical accuracy more than

appropriate handling of subject matter. Yet, social constructivist approaches to writing

emphasize that “writing is culturally embedded and socially constructed rather than

internally generated” (p.836). Thus, the teacher‟s role is to help students restructure

their knowledge, or transform themselves, ultimately into experts, rather than learners.

Learning through experience is likely to be the best way for students to improve their

sense of agency, so graded tasks which are certain to be successful should be provided.

However, as Leki (2003) notes, mechanical practice cannot replace authentic writing
experience. Feedback on student writing should also suggest ways in which

improvements can be made, and can include positive comments, not simply errors. The

importance of heuristics in individual agency cannot be overemphasised. Personal

guidelines for problem-solving or learning, based on prior knowledge, experience,

learning styles and preferred strategies are essential for students in English-medium

universities (Travers et al. 1993, p.272). Agency as desire and struggle

Examples of how agency can be denied by essayist discourse are provided by Lillis

(2001). Official discourse in HE in the UK maintains an ideology that academic

literacy is a transferable „study skill‟, which is a reductionist approach to a complex

issue. Lillis (2001) accuses HE in the UK of relying on teaching by implicit induction

with small tutorial groups and little explicit teaching. Advice on academic writing

which focuses on the meaning of wording in questions “works with a conduit view of

communication and a transparency notion of language”. The taken-for-granted nature of

a tutor‟s exhortation to “be specific” is explored as follows (p.57):

      Make clear links between claims and evidence

      Avoid vague wordings

      Check that references such as „this‟ are clear

      Make clear why a particular section was included

      Say why particular examples are used

      Make links between sections

      Say why particular punctuation was used

      Show that you understand key terms

      Show how you are using contested terms

      Link content with essay question

In addition to the implicit nature of the induction of essayist conventions, Lillis (2001,

p.57) warns that university tutors are not always clear in their own minds of what they

want from students in an essay, nor consistent in their evaluation of student writing.

Power is wielded by the monologic status of the communication between tutor and

students rather than the dialogic communication of equals. According to Lillis, the

conventions of essayist literacy practice indirectly restrict students‟ meaning making,

through their inexperience with academic addressivity (Lillis, 2001, p.106). In my

view, if EAP learners can be transformed in their basic writing experiences into

powerful agents of their own meaning, then they will develop confidently as they pass

into the authentic discourse community of HE. Acquiring new voices, new senses of

agency, and new identities is what learning is all about. Lillis‟ study highlights for me

the principle that language teaching has to move away from teaching form to facilitating


3.4.3 The Community of Practice

As discussed passim above, a CoP allows novices to perform activities, initially on the

periphery of the community, but moving gradually and centripetally to expert core

activities as they learn community practices; this process of initiation was termed LPP

(Lave & Wenger, 1991, p.53). In contrast to the cognitive psychologists‟ conception of

learning as purely mentalist and individual, or the anthropologists‟ perspective of

learning as an activity in a community, for situated cognitive theorists knowledge is

constituted through cognitive activity within social practice. Lave (1988) stressed that

there should be no dualism, as learning and activity are co-constitutive (Haneda, 2006,

p.808). Later Lave and Wenger, (1991, p.53, as cited in Haneda, 2006, p.808) claim
that “identity, knowing and social membership entail one another”. Wenger further

prioritises learning as social participation in which social learners construct identities

and make meaning. Participation is not only an action but a form of belonging to a

community. “Such participation shapes not only what we do, but also who we are and

how we interpret what we do (1998, p.4).

At this point, it is important to note the discussions regarding pedagogy versus

andragogy, and L1 versus L2 acculturation (Rogers & Illeris, 2003). When children are

learning their L1, the assumption is that the learning choices are more limited than in

the adult L2 learner‟s case. The implication is that children learn eagerly and willingly,

as do adults when they have freely made their learning choices. The case is more

complex in the case of young adults in an English language school who have made a

startlingly new learning choice for their society. First generation scholarship students

living in a new culture will experience culture shock and have few role models to

prepare themselves with. Thus the socio-cultural background impacts on them as much,

if not more than, the cognitive challenge which it supposedly mediates.

The key points of Wenger‟s (1998) fully developed social theory of learning as practice

in a community are that practice entails the creation of meaning, through the duality of

participation (committed action) and reification (documentation and transmission of

theory). As members of the CoP interact, taking into account their relative experience

and differing competence, their identities are transformed as learners, provided they are

fully engaged in the CoP, i.e. establish mutual relationships, are accountable for the

success of the CoP, ie. asssume responsibility, and they negotiate the repertoire of the

CoP, i.e. incorporate novelty as necessary. The trajectory of learning as practice is not

purely temporal, nor linear, nor fixed, but connects the past, the present and the future

(Wenger, 1998, p.154). Within the CoP there are different types of trajectories, such as

peripheral, insider, inbound, or outbound. Peers are models of what is possible,

expected or desirable within the CoP, thus allowing for imagined futures. Identity is

multiple and bound together in a „nexus‟ rather than fragmented. Yet reconciling

multiple identities requires more work than simply learning the rules. Reconciliation,

such as that experienced by an EAP student moving into HE, or an NESB student

arriving in the EAP classroom, may be the most significant challenge a learner

experiences. “Learners must often deal with conflicting forms of individuality and

competence as defined in different communities” (Wenger, 1998, p.160).

The CoP (1998) is exemplified within the claims processing department of an insurance

company, but Wenger also discusses in detail the CoP as a learning community. Instead

of a vague, fuzzy, romantic notion, the ideas translate readily into designing and

implementing curricula with a focus on authenticity in the world. The CoP (1991) has

been contested when transposed into formal learning contexts because Lave and

Wenger originally described it in case studies of apprentice tailors, and other vocations.

As such they did not include consideration of power relations or availability and access

to resources which may be lacking or disputed in formal learning contexts. As the

construct of the CoP has played an important part in correcting the previous focus on

learning as an individual, autonomous, cognitive developmental process, which in its

turn corrected the behavioural focus on learning, it is worth considering its

implementation in educational practice.

                                                                                        104 Implementation and critique of the Community of Practice

Linehan and McCarthy (2001) point out that familiarity with the metaphor of

community can serve to blur the concept and perhaps create a simplistic duality between

individual and community which is taken for granted. Their critique focuses on the

under-theorization of individual participation and relations building in the CoP in a

primary classroom, which I would venture to suggest is inappropriate, given the

differences between andragogy and pedagogy discussed briefly above. They suggest

that leaving the control mechanisms, i.e. the regulation of participatory practices,

unexamined means that the community of learners has “an illusory quality to it”

(Linehan & McCarthy, 2001, p.135), whereas the CoP framework allows for detailed

examination of alignment of practice and control mechanisms in situ. They also

investigate Walkerdine‟s (1997) criticism that the CoP may not account for the

“discursive processes of the production of practices and individuals, particularly in this

context [in relation] to the historical-discursive regulation of community” (2001, p.145).

In his 1998 revision, Wenger explains that active meaning making in the CoP results in

discourse production but he regards discourse not as a practice, but available material,

which is transferable: “resources that can be used in the context of various practices”

(p.129). EAP learners are thus able to create a new identity by learning a new discourse

„style‟ and cross into the new context of learning in HE, the new CoP.

Haneda (2006) warns that the concept “needs some analytical unpacking” and focuses

on the contextual differences between the 1991 CoP as an apprenticeship, in an informal

learning setting, compared with its uptake in formal, instructed learning situations.

Apprenticeship, in a mentoring relationship, is a form of teacher development today

which demonstrates the strength of merging cognition with action in context. But

Haneda queries the gaps in the theory with regard to the opportunities for participation,

the resources and the kind of identities which develop in three studies which use the


Eckert and McConnell-Ginet (1999) investigated Asian girls‟ construction of identities

through their language practices and shared values, and emphasised multiple

memberships, and relations which are face to face and “more diffuse” (Haneda, 2006,

p.809). Wenger‟s (1998) revision added a focus on multiple memberships and different

modes of participation; he also proposed that a CoP should involve “mutual

engagement, joint activity involving a collective process of negotiation and shared

repertoires” (p.137). Toohey (1998) applied the CoP construct to a group of primary

ESL Grade 1 school children in Canada focussing on the (lack of) opportunities for

participation with more experienced users of English, the learning trajectory and how

identities were constructed. Morita (2004) followed a group of Japanese college

students in Canada who constructed their “sense of self” differently within different

classes, as well as negotiating these selves differently from their peers, which one might

expect even in a so-called homogeneous group of students.

Haneda maintains that the concept of community is not analysed in detail in terms of

membership and members and possible ways of learning or participation are not

differentiated in Lave & Wenger‟s original study. Despite the fact that the 1998 study

stresses the need for negotiation of norms, use of resources and possible trajectories

Haneda feels that the CoP implies that newcomers will be homogeneous and have

similar learning trajectories. I feel this interpretation is not only rigid, but erroneous.

Even in professional life a group of people will not be identical and Lave and Wenger

admitted that the concept of CoP is “largely an intuitive notion” (1991, p.42). Nor is

Haneda satisfied that the issues of power and control are foregrounded. She cites

Kanno‟s (1999) warning against legitimatizing marginalised students in the ESL setting

in the name of LPP, especially since Toohey identified how limited the primary

children‟s exercise of agency was on account of teacher control, individualised learning

and stratification of membership. It is clear that ranking in schools labels children and

constructs some of them as deficient, but Wenger‟s revised construct foregrounds issues

of power (pp. 189-191), and of identity, as engagement, imagination and alignment, and

of agency as a member of the CoP , so that it is difficult to agree with Haneda‟s critique.

Haneda concludes that Toohey‟s study adds the importance of physical surroundings to

the construct of participation, whereas Morita‟s adds an affective aspect to participation.

Kanno (1999) points out that the concept of LPP applies only in a perfect world:

devaluing minority students‟ by labelling them according to their language proficiency

results in their marginalization. As is clear, it is necessary to problematise the

appropriateness of the CoP before applying it to an ESL context, as I do here. Transfer of learning versus situated learning

The transfer of learning is often taken for granted from school to real world contexts.

Debate about the transferability of learning and skills has led to interest in studies of

situated learning and situated cognition. The CoP is an informal site of learning in

which concerns about transfer are removed. Apprentices learn their trade by dint of

LPP, i.e. by moving from peripheral, elementary tasks to core, mastery tasks. In the

classroom there are different structures and relationships, which might not be so

permissive and might adversely affect the learning process. However, if the classroom

is the authentic context, as in an EAP program which precedes HE study, then the CoP

might provide the stimulus which changes school practice into professional practice. In

the CoP, language is a mediating tool, which facilitates the mediated learning process of

making meaning.

3.5 Conclusion to the Review

This literature review has situated essay writing within the construct of academic

literacy, which is complex. English-medium universities seek to ensure that incoming

students are equipped with appropriate literacies. Once teachers and students accept

that there are multiple components of literacy then the path can be cleared for teachers

who are able to model them, introduce them into discipline/subject curricula and

support individual students in their diverse areas of need. Similarly, identifying the

complexities of literacy should enable students to develop them independently.

Academic literacy should be the target of an EAP program with reciprocal reading as a

way of modeling writing and building vocabulary.

Johns (1997, p.xi) suggests that her key words for success in academic writing are

research, motivation and preparation. I endorse all these, but believe that identity and

agency must be added, since these bring in the socio-cultural focus crucial to social-

interactional learning in a new community of practice. For language learners the social

construction of identity and the exercise of personal agency are key in social learning

theory. The framework of a CoP appears to be a useful construct which may be

beneficial to teachers and designers of programs for struggling learners.

                              Chapter Four
                          Research Methodology
In this chapter I discuss the research paradigm and ideological stance of this study

which explores the perceptions of identity and agency of students struggling in an EAP

writing program and problematises the concept of the EAP program as a CoP (Lave &

Wenger, 1998). I describe my emic position and that of the other research participants

within the context and I present the research questions, describe the research methods

and data collection procedures and the ways in which the data were verified.

4.1 Research Stance, Ontology, Epistemology, Methodology

Following Guba (1990), a research paradigm entails a certain perspective on reality

(ontology), on knowledge or how reality can be known (epistemology) and on how we

can investigate reality and further that knowledge (methodology). According to Popper

(1969) a paradigm shift will occur when a theory has been falsified or disproved, and so

science advances progressively. On the other hand, according to Kuhn (1970) a

paradigm change will not occur until there is an irresistible push forward, i.e. an

accumulation of evidence of disproof; it is not easy to effect a paradigm change. As can

be seen in the theoretical discussions of research paradigms today, the turf wars are

often gladiatorial. In this study I venture into such an area, the battleground of the

socio-cultural constructivist versus the cognitive-psychological in the field of instructed

second language acquisition, i.e. how writing is acquired in formal classroom settings,

with implications for applied linguistics, or how writing is taught in second language


This small scale interpretive research study takes a critical stance, following

Pennycook‟s (1999) model for Critical Applied Linguistics, with a realist ontology, i.e.

a belief that the world exists and can therefore be changed, but with a social

constructionist epistemology, i.e. the world is constructed differently by different

societies and cultures, so an ethnographic methodology is called for, to investigate

research participants‟ perceptions of the world as they see it. As a teacher developer

with a pragmatic goal of solving a problem which concerns students and teachers, a

realist ontology is inescapable. My research study therefore approaches the problem as

if it exists, by asking how it is perceived by the stakeholders.

I believe that the world we live in is socially constructed by means of discourse in

interaction with others and we are thus reciprocally discursively co-constructed. The

study therefore seeks to identify the ways in which the individual members of this

socio-cultural group perceive themselves and their positioning as members in this

discursive society. The interpretive ethnographic methodology I use is guided by a

critical stance, i.e. a belief that language and power are co-constitutive. As a result

ideology is discursive. So it is necessary to try to identify through language the ways in

which all members of this local society have normalized their perceptions, their

attitudes and their behavior, with a view to revealing whether hegemony underlies the

problem. Once identified, the participants may be able to see solutions, or may learn to

live with more understanding of the world they have participated in creating. As

Foucault says, power lies in the interstices and is exercised, rather than possessed (Ahl,


Since this research is locally limited, the findings will not be generalisable. Similarly,

the interpretation of this qualitative data is subject to bias in two ways. First, in the

process of data collection, power relations between participants, desire to please, shame

in admitting inner feelings or desire to tell a convincing story, can lead to

misconceptions. In addition, assuming „honest‟ data have been obtained, the bias

inevitably present in the interpretation of data can lead to further misconceptions.

However, member checking, triangulation of data and a relationship which lasts over

more than one interview can verify data. In this way, the insights offered by “thick

description” (Geertz, as cited in Holliday, 2000) of this local context and these

participants‟ perceptions of their experiences may be of use to others in similar contexts


4.2 Research Context and Rationale

This eight month long small scale ethnographic research study concerns an English

language school in an English-medium university in an English-speaking country, its

staff and most importantly, its visiting international students. In a Foucaultian sense, a

language school is a social institution with overt and covert power roles which are

linguistically maintained and rules of behavior which are rigorously upheld. Clients

have invested money to spend time here, since it is believed that formal schooling

accelerates the process of second language learning for adults. In this new locus of

teaching, international students are required to attend school in order to maintain their

legal right to remain in the country. If they do not attend school they lose their student

visa and their right to stay in the country. In addition, four out of five of the focal

students in this language school are studying on scholarships from the Saudi Arabian

Government, so the rules of attendance are intensified by limits on time available for
language study prior to university entry. Thus there is more pressure than usual on

students to pass courses in order to meet language targets as quickly as possible and

enter HE.

Chapter 2 of this report describes in detail the intensive EAP pre-university program,

the writing program and the problem which arose when the school demographic

changed from predominantly Asian students to include a large minority of Arabic-

speaking students. Most of these students were on scholarships from their governments,

so when a large minority of them presented with particular problems with writing, I was

interested to investigate new reasons why this could be, other than the deficit rationale,

that they are weak and not working hard enough.

4.3 Research Participants

I am a teacher developer and a teacher at this school. I have been an IELTS writing

assessor for many years and have some previous practical experience of helping ESB

and NESB students at low levels of literacy in EFL (in the Middle East) and ESL (in

London) situations. In April 2007, eight months before this study began officially, I

taught a CAEL2 afternoon Listening and Speaking (L&S) class for three weeks with

one of this study‟s focal students (Atef) in it. I realized that he had been placed „low‟

on account of his writing, and wondered why he had chosen L&S for his afternoon

option, since he was the best speaker and listener in the class. Normally such students

catch up with their writing within one course, or two at most. So, I was surprised when

he presented as a struggling writer in December, 2007 with a group of struggling

writers which developed in the school. My work includes placement assessment,

achievement assessment in the CAEL writing program and the professional

development of writing teachers, so I am aware of the challenges the students might be
facing, as well as those of the teachers, and issues of writing program development,

implementation and evaluation.

All the learners in this study were NESB international students. The four main focal

students were young, Saudi Arabian (SA) males, with whom I had an extended

relationship as an advisor and teacher, who initially self-identified as struggling and

voluntarily participated in the project. I also include data from a fifth focal student

(Bilal, also SA) who left the program after one course, but whose low level proficiency

in writing contrasted with his fluency in speaking, epitomizes the challenge I was

investigating. See Table 1 below for details of the focal students, including the type and

amount of data collected, their CAEL level and study goal and a simple descriptor of

their learning trajectory.

Since the struggling focal students were in the minority in the school, I invited current

successful students (i.e. still in the school, but passing courses) as well as former

successful students (i.e. now admitted to HE) to become participants in the study so as

to compare their perceptions of experiences in the EAP writing program. They were not

a „control‟ group, but a source of comparable data. Now were they focal students,

because I only conducted one interview or had email correspondence with them.. The

perceptions of the experiences of these more successful students contributed to my

understanding of the issues surrounding writing success and helped me to interpret the

data provided by the struggling focal writers. The current students (Table 2 below)

were a group of five CAEL7 students progressing towards undergraduate degrees and

two Chinese students whom I knew originally as CAEL2 students. In this group, only

Fran is female. See Table 3 below for details of former students who included a group

of three Omani teachers undertaking doctoral study.

Table 1 Focal students

Pseudonym        Type & hours      CAEL Level          Study goal       Learning
Nationality      of data           completed                            trajectory
Bassem           Interviews        4, 5, 6, 7 (half)   Undergrad        Struggling but
SA               3 x 30”                                                made it to FS
Bilal            Interview         2 then left         Undergrad        Struggling but
SA               1 x 30”                                                new to CAEL
Essam            Interviews        4, 5                Master‟s         Struggling and
SA               Tutorials                                              aggressive
                 2 x 60”
Seif             Interviews        3, 4, 4, 5          undergrad        Desperate
SA               Tutorials                                              because
                 3 x 60”                                                repeating
Atef             Interviews        2, 3, 4, 5          undergrad        Depressed but
SA               2 x 30”                                                made it to FS

Table 2 Current students

Pseudonym        Type & hours      CAEL Level          Study goal       Learning
Nationality      of data           completed                            trajectory
Fran             Interview         2,3,4,5,6           undergrad        Steady
Chinese          1 x 30”                                                progress
Steve            Interview         2,3,4,5,IELTS       undergrad        Some
Chinese          1 x 30”                                                problems
CAEL7 focus      Tutorial/essays   2,3,4,5,6,7         Undergrad and    Steady
group SA         1 x 90”                               grad study       progress

Table 3 Former students

Pseudonym        Type & hours      CAEL Level          Current HE       Learning
Nationality      of data           completed           study level      trajectory
Khalida          Interview: 30”    2, 3, 4, 5, 6       Year 2           Now
Oman             Tutorials: 6‟                         Bachelor‟s       struggling
Fairouz          Interview: 30”    2, 3, 4, 5, 6       Year 2           Now coping
Oman                                                   Bachelor‟s
Yana             Interviewx 60”    3,4, FS             Year 1           Struggled
Taiwan           Emails
Freda            Emails            4, 5, 6, 7          Master‟s         Steady
Vietnam                                                Online study     progress
Omani focus      Interview         3,4,5,6,7           Doctoral study   Steady
group            1 x 30”                                                progress

I began this study with struggling writers of different nationalities, but the SA students

were in the majority and demonstrated the most marked discrepancy in productive

skills. So on account of constraints of time and space I limited the study.

4.4 Research Ethics

From the beginning of the project I was known to some focal students as a teacher, and

my position was privileged as a staff member at the school. I explained to each

participant that the purpose of this private, not institutional, research study was to find

out why students were struggling with writing and to help them if I could. The students

who participated agreed that students were struggling and were willing to help.

Participation in the study was at all times voluntary and could be discontinued at any

time if desired.

As I was no participant‟s main class teacher during the study and gave no grades for

writing, I had neither overt nor indirect power over the participants to exert their

compliance with the study. I had positive influence, however, since I offered tutorial

help with writing at each meeting. As a result some of my data include tutorial

discussion of writing and of particular essays or other activities which I introduced to

help the focal students. I was, therefore, a participant observer in the research process, a

role which is complex and plays a part in the construction of the discourse and thus of

the data. Through member checks of summaries of the interview data obtained I

expected to be able to remove any biases or other errors in my interpretation of the

discourse we co-constructed.

I obtained permission to use data collected for my study from each of the participants

and I took care to explain that I was trying to find out how different people solved the
writing problem, so that I could use the information to improve our teaching and our

program design. I promised confidentiality and anonymity with regard to data collection

and storage. I also told students they could read the transcript of our discussion and

make changes if they disagreed with how I had transposed our discussion from oral

interaction to written discourse. This is because in the process of writing up the data

bias may enter the most literal transcription of recorded utterances as a result of

misinterpreted suprasegmental features of speech. In addition, and most importantly,

the interaction is in a second, not first language, so misunderstanding is likely.

4.5 Research Questions

The research questions are discussed in Chapter 1 in more detail.

Research Question 1: What are struggling students‟ perceptions of their experiences

      of learning to write expository essays in this EAP program?

Research Question 2: What impact do these perceptions have on struggling students‟

      social identity as writers in this EAP program?

Research Question 3: What impact do these perceptions have on struggling students‟

      sense of agency as writers in this EAP program?

Research Question 4: In light of the findings, how can the sociocultural constructs of

      identity and agency, within Wenger‟s (1998) construct of the CoP, improve

      learning to write in this EAP program?

4.6 Research Methods

The participants‟ language level was potentially a constraint on obtaining data.

However, my focus was on students who were struggling with writing but with stronger

oral language proficiency so I anticipated basic communication would be possible. I

collected initial data in two short questionnaires given to all students in the school in

class, with teachers supporting their completion. A language skills questionnaire was

intended to identify the extent of the writing problem across the student cohort; a follow

up writing skills questionnaire was intended to elicit more information about the


I obtained the main spoken data in dyadic interviews, or in small groups of three, and

informal chats; I also conducted two focal group discussions. I was also able to observe

some of the focal students in a class where I assisted the class teacher on two occasions,

in the Self-Access Centre, and in a remedial class I taught for two months. I collected

some essay data from focal students to investigate their writing more closely. I also

obtained essay data from CAEL7 focal group students, so as to get individual input

from these more experienced students. I corresponded with two former students by

email to compare their experiences with the focal students.

In addition, I gave a vocabulary test to a group of 30 struggling students, which

captured some data which helped me to think about the problems the individual focal

students were facing. I did not include teachers in this study which focuses on student

voices, but three teachers in particular (CAEL1, CAEL4 and CAEL7) were particularly

helpful in discussing the students‟ challenges as they saw them. These discussions were

supported by input from other teachers occasionally.

4.6.1 Interviews

The main data collection method was the face to face, audio recorded interview.

Interviews were mainly with individuals, but sometimes also with pairs, and groups of

students. The bond of trust (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000) was based on the

common pursuit of identifying the challenges of the writing program. In each case I

audio recorded the interaction with the permission of the participants and transcribed it

later. I had the opportunity to interview most of the focal students at least twice, and

meet them in class or informally on several more occasions during the eight month data

collection process, but in all cases I had permission for anonymous reporting on the

data. I have described the participants with pseudonyms.

Although I had no idea what the students would tell me about the program, I wished to

focus participants on their experiences in the whole program, so I thought through the

issues in the program which might be of interest to participants. I then devised two

interview schedules: one for individuals and one for focus groups, which focused the

interaction directly on student experiences and their understanding of what the program

is. The reason for two different schedules is that in focus groups individuals might be

less willing to discuss biographical details. The schedules are therefore shorter and the

questions are more general. In all cases the semi-structured interview schedule was

loosely followed, as I chose to follow up leads offered in response to questions. I

prefaced each interview with an explanation of the project, i.e. that I wanted to help

struggling students with their writing and improve our writing program. In exchange

for the help students were giving me, I offered help in future, or gave it instantaneously

with a tutorial on writing.
The individual interview schedule is in Appendix A. The questions relate directly to

RQ1 and by extension to RQ 2 and RQ3, whereas RQ4 can only be answered by

considering all the data. The topics I hoped to explore were expressed in language

suitable for students to understand, e.g. I discussed vocabulary rather than lexis, essay

structure rather than rhetorical structure. Interview topics and their research question

connections included:

   a) The challenges of the writing program for individuals (RQ1)

   b) Comparisons of L1 writing, or L2 writing prior experience (RQ1, RQ2)

   c) Individuals‟ understanding of the program revealed in discussion of (a) and (b),

        e.g. the ease or difficulty of topics for essay writing, the challenge of learning

        grammar or vocabulary, problems with forming paragraphs (RQ2, RQ3)

   d) The appropriateness and sufficiency of teacher support during the writing

        teaching/learning process (RQ1, RQ2, RQ3)

   e) The value of teacher feedback orally and/or in writing (RQ2, RQ3)

   f)   Participants‟ evidence of confidence and independence in discussion (RQ2,


   g) Explanation of particular learning strategies used regularly/occasionally (RQ3)

This list of topics would require substantial time and effort from the participants to

complete in one meeting. Moreover, participants with lower levels of spoken

proficiency might not be able to respond, nor be willing to discuss these issues, or, they

might need time to reflect on the issues so as to recall their previous experiences. I

considered giving out the list of topics in advance, but then participants might be put off

and not wish to participate. If students were already struggling I did not want to create

extra pressure on their time and energy. So, I resolved to deal with whatever possible in

one meeting, as well as providing writing support if asked, so as to set the pattern of a

pleasant encounter. I hoped in this way that students would be willing to make an

appointment to follow up the discussion at least once more. (See Appendix B for a

sample focal student profile.)

Generally, meetings with individuals took place once a month. In exchange for

participants‟ time and effort I offered tutorial support, which was usually taken up. I

anticipated that some participants would experience the Hawthorne effect, i.e make

greater efforts to succeed in writing, even without tutorial support. The Hawthorne

effect was first documented, according to Dornyei (2005, p.235), in an electricity

company in Chicago, where research was being conducted. As a result of participating

in a research study, the experimental group makes greater efforts and achieves more

than before. In a controlled, positivist, research intervention, this can be

counterbalanced. This was not necessary in my interpretive study.

Block (2000) has discussed interviews as a source of research data and seems unaware

in his reporting of his participant that the experience of talking to a „prestigious‟ native

speaker is relatively rare for some learners, and is in itself “a social, interpersonal

encounter” (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000, p.279). The bond created during a series

of interviews can be strong and intimate and therefore researchers using this method

must commit themselves, in my opinion, to serious communication for longer than the

research study period. It seems to me that greeting a research participant who comes to

see the researcher with the news that the study was over, could appear unwelcoming and

suggests that the only reason to talk to students is to collect research data. In my case I

have maintained contact and discussion with participants as long and helpfully as


4.6.2 Focus groups and group interviews

Compared with interviews, focus groups are more difficult to manage on account of the

number of participants involved and the complexity of group dynamics, but easier to

handle because the participants will “spark off each other” (Wellington, 1996, p. x)

leaving the researcher/participant observer some space to listen, observe and think.

However, the schedule of questions has to be different since participants might not be

willing to expose their personal histories to their student peers. Since the two focus

groups were the CAEL7 class and the ex-CAEL doctoral students, their language level

allowed for discussion of the issues. (See focus group interview schedule in Appendix

A.) I also had opportunities to interview two or three students at a time, sometimes also

providing tutorial support. On these occasions I used questions from both schedules to

obtain a blend of individual and collective information as the students were friends.

4.6.3 Questionnaires

Questionnaires are difficult to design, have ethical considerations of invasion of privacy

and might provoke reactions if items are considered offensive. However, I needed to

collect background information about the whole cohort of CAEL students to use as

comparative data for the focal students. Pajares (2003) describes Bandura‟s (1995,

1997) guidelines on how self-efficacy beliefs can be measured. Pajares illustrates these

guidelines in the context of assessing the essay-writing self-efficacy of middle-school

students. As recommended, I designed „can do‟ statements to assess first, language

skills and then writing skills domains for students self-identifying as very weak in

writing. Responses to these questionnaires can be compared with students‟ ability to

write to see if the self-assessment is appropriate. (This was only my intention with the

focal students.) I designed two simple twenty item questionnaires with Likert rating

scale responses (1-4, to avoid a central scoring tendency) and open data response

opportunities. I also devised a shorter background questionnaire to accompany the

Writing Skills Questionnaire, which investigates the personal literacy experience of the

students and their culture. The questionnaires had to be short since I was using class

time to complete them. Both Questionnaires were given with teacher support to explain

vocabulary. The responses were anonymous, with options for naming, and voluntary,

despite being given in class. The CAEL level of the students was known, of course.

Only one student returned a paper which had obviously provoked resistance, since all

the responses were marked in the same column, thus appeared mechanical and

meaningless. No adverse outcomes from using the questionnaires in class were

reported; some teachers even enjoyed using them because they provoked discussion of

the program. Some students took the time to add comments which I recorded when I

tallied the data manually. I did not intend to perform statistical procedures with the

data. I simply needed a „snapshot‟ of how the majority of successful students were

progressing through the EAP writing program. (See Appendix C for the blank


The Language Skills Questionnaire has 20 items with „can do‟ statements about

proficiency in the four language skills which were intended to identify students who

self-evaluated with a discrepancy between written and spoken production, i.e. with

(severe) writing challenges rather than overall language proficiency weaknesses. 110

completed questionnaires were returned which enabled me to identify students who

might volunteer to participate in this study. (See Appendix D for results.)

The Writing Skills and Literacy Background Questionnaire had 20 items focused solely

on writing sub-skills, with eleven items about the personal literacy background. This

questionnaire was intended to broach issues which could be followed up in interviews.

As there was a general question about students‟ opinions about teaching in our program

I intended to give this questionnaire in a small focus group setting. However, the

absence of students on exceptional extended holiday travel over Christmas and Islamic

Eid Al Kabir in January 2008 prevented me meeting the self-identified students with “a

lot of” writing problems. So three months later, at the beginning of a new term when the

teacher question might be less provocative, because teachers were usually working with

a new class, I gave out 100 copies of the questionnaire. 80 were completed. (See

Appendix E for results.)

4.6.4 Essays

I asked the CAEL7 focus group students to write essays on the topic of writing in

English compared with writing in Arabic, but thought it would be an unwelcome task

since writing was their weakest skill. However, their teacher was interested in my

project and allowed the students to write in class. Thus, they provided me with

informative individual responses. I was thus able to evaluate their writing for myself.

(See Appendix F for sample CAEL7 essays.) Although I began this investigation with

students from Asia, on account of constraints of space and time I narrowed the focus of

the study to the students from SA. With the selected focal students who asked for
writing support I was able to see first, second and third essay drafts and estimate

whether their self-evaluation was appropriate or an over- or under-estimate of their

skills. This was useful, in case their perceptions were exaggerated by stress, rather than

identifiable struggles with writing. (See Appendix G for sample process writing draft


4.6.5 Observation in teaching support classes and the self-access centre

In July 2008 an institutional effort was made to help the struggling students who had

become noticeable in number. I gave a powerpoint presentation with handouts to 30

students struggling with writing who were identified by their teachers. After illustrating

the philosophy and rationale of our writing program, including the product versus the

process approach, and key issues in how writing develops, two „support‟ (rather than

remedial) classes were established, which met twice a week after regular class hours,

from 3.15 to 4.30 p.m., from July until Ramadan (September, 2008). Another initiative,

a Learning Resource Centre „drop in‟ writing teacher was also appointed to be available

to all students after class hours each day from 3.15- 4.30pm. I taught one of the classes

and became one of the „drop in‟ teachers. In this way my opportunities to meet with

students and observe their interactions with each other, their after-class study habits and

social behavior in „natural‟ study settings were increased. I was also able to observe the

use of learning resources and was able to assist students in their selection and use.

4.6.6 Vocabulary tests

During the presentation to students described above, I assessed the students‟ vocabulary

levels, using Nation‟s Vocabulary Levels Tests, 1000 and 2000 word levels (Nation,

2001). The first test has 40 statements, some with visuals, to which students respond

True, False, or I don‟t know. The 2000 word test has gaps in sentence contexts with the

first letter provided to trigger the item, which is more challenging. The aim was to

establish to what extent the writing skill discrepancy was due to lexical challenges. The

students who had been identified as at risk were from CAEL1 to CAEL5. It became

clear that some students in CAEL1 had no discrepancy in their skills but were true

beginners, who could neither speak nor write. Later I taught some of these struggling

writers, almost all of whom were from SA, but they were not my focal students.

4.6.7 Emails from former students

As I found the large number of students struggling with writing quite alarming, I

contacted two former Asian students who had started their EAP program in the lower

CAEL levels, and gone on to succeed, to ask them for feedback in retrospect on their

experiences. These exchanges helped me understand the challenges more.

4.7 Procedure for Data Collection

I started collecting data in December 2007 (Table 4 below) by giving the Language

Skills Questionnaire to students in all CAEL levels to investigate the extent of the

teacher perceived problem. The results indicated that almost all students in the cohort

believed they had some problems with writing. The scope of my study was therefore

widened to include CAEL students at any level of proficiency who self-evaluated their

writing as much weaker than their oral skills. This was done in order to be fair to all

students, to avoid marginalizing one group of students and to investigate the issues

more completely. It increased the challenge of the research, however, and created a

larger workload than planned, generated more data than required for this dissertation

and left me struggling to work, think and write.

Table 4 Data collection timetable and procedures

Date        Instrument           Participants      Data          Research issue
Dec. 07     Four skills          110 students in   Processed     How many students
            Questionnaire        CAEL1-7           by level and  self-evaluate as
                                                   totals.       weak in writing?
Jan – Feb   Pilot interviews     CAEL focal        Audio and     Initial perceptions of
2008        and tutorials        students          transcripts   struggle?
Feb         Focus group          Doctoral          Audio         To compare teachers
            discussion           students          transcript    on scholarship for
                                                                 postgrad. study.
March       Writing Skills       80 CAEL1-5        Processed     Check on
            Questionnaire        students and      by levels,    perceptions of
                                 focal students    ethnicity     writing development
                                                   and total     with student cohort
April,    Tutorials and          CAELfocal         Audio         Intensive discussion
May, June interviews             students          transcripts, of issues; found
                                 and ex-students   essays,       problems with
                                                   Qu‟aire       writing program
June        Focus group          CAEL7 group       Audio         Compare progress
            meeting                                transcript,   and trajectory; two
                                                   essays,       struggling despite
                                                                 CAEL level.
July        Writing              30 CAEL           Vocabulary Vocabulary and
            presentation with    students,         test results  spelling are serious
            Nation‟s             mainly Arab       for 30        problems. Two
            vocabulary tests     and male          students      classes formed.
July –      Observation of       Focal students    Notes,        Reveals challenges
Sept        students in class    and others who    essay         faced by many
            and self-access      need help         copies        students and their
            center.                                              coping strategies
Over the    Informal chats,      Focal students    Notes or      Getting sign off on
entire      questions, drop                        transcript if transcripts and
period      ins, emails                            possible      checking on

After collating the Language Skills Questionnaire data I sent a simple, individually

addressed written message to the twenty five students who self-evaluated as having a

severe writing skills problem, inviting them to come to see me to discuss their perceived

problems. During late December and January around a dozen students came to see me.

I explained that I was also a student: I, too, was worried about failing assessments.

However, as part of my studies I wanted to try to help them by talking to them about

their writing to identify the problem(s) they were experiencing and propose possible

solutions. If I could help them by giving them extra teaching support, I promised I

would. (See Appendix J for the letter of invitation to focal students and Appendix K for

the research consent form.)

During audio recorded or non-recorded interviews with participants I consciously

refrained from naming and discussing teachers, although teaching techniques were

discussed. I focused the participants on appraising the program and the learning process

it afforded them in their view. In our semi-structured discussions I wanted to focus on

the students as learners and how they understood the learning trajectory they were

undergoing. Inevitably, I was in charge of the discussions in the first interviews with

each person or group, though I did my best to encourage participants to follow their

own train of thought and establish their own priorities, especially in focus groups where

participants could listen to each other, which could trigger new directions for talking

and reflecting on writing experiences. On second and third meetings individual

participants took the lead in the conversations and made their own points more

powerfully. Some participants contacted me or dropped in to see me again.

During the eight months of data collection I helped individuals and groups with their

writing. This help took the shape of „talk about text‟ and the provision of additional

learning support such as vocabulary (frequency) information and lists of connectors, or

other syntax activities. In every situation I tried to become a listener, not a talker,

stressing that I needed students‟ help so as to see the situation from their point of view.

Students emailed me follow up information, or sent me additional questionnaires, and

wrote notes and essays for me and, of course, for their program. (See Appendix L for

the ethics form of approval.)

In July the school set up additional classes to solve the problem which had grown in

size and become an institutional issue of concern, so I taught several students newly

identified with problems. This fed into my developing intuitions on the data already

collected. Moreover, teachers frequently gave me information and discussed teaching

challenges with me. Thus, through member checks of interview data, observation of

students in class and resource centre settings, student essays, teacher conversations and

informal email communications with students, I was able to triangulate and thus verify

the “thick description” generated from the participant data. I maintained an audit trail in

my research diary and in computer records of data collected and transcribed. I filed

hard copies of all permission forms obtained and completed questionnaires.

4.8 Data Analysis and Triangulation

I collected, transcribed and analysed data from more participants than included in this

report. Not until writing up was I able to decide which focal students‟ voices best

illustrated the issues. The topics I recount in Chapter 5 have been voiced by many

students on more than one occasion. I have had discussions with three CAEL teachers

which helped me with my interpretation of the data without breaching confidentiality.

To identify topics emerging from the data, I used a recursive and iterative process. After

transcribing the recorded interviews and focal group discussions I manually coded the

transcripts with highlighters to indicate topics I identified as emerging from each
interaction. I used real names during this process and played the sound files often to

„realise‟ the impact of the data and to hear the nuances of the interaction over and over

again. I then checked the emerging issues against what I had anticipated might appear

and noted those anticipated topics that did not arise. I decided upon categories for these

topics only after many reviews of the discourse in tandem with my consideration of

other research and reflection on theory. Chapters Five and Six reveal my discursive

representation of the research experience (West, 2001, p.34, as cited in Holliday, 2007,


4.9 Limitations of the Study

First, I had intended this study to be multi-lingual and multi-cultural. I collected data

and had useful and interesting discussions with students and teachers which have

contributed to my thinking. Secondly, because of the time constraints under which this

study was conducted I was unable to pilot the questionnaires. Moreover, I was unable

to see the selected focal students as frequently as I would have liked. The data were

therefore collected in an opportunistic manner. Nevertheless, the study provided some

interesting perceptions and has already provoked some modifications to our program. I

have also helped a lot of students individually and have seen some remarkable changes.

On the other hand, I have not been able to reach a large minority of students who are

still unable to achieve their goals, for reasons I suggest in Chapter Seven. As a result, I

have the impression I have merely scratched the surface of the problem.

                     Chapter Five
   Analysis and Discussion of the Data in Response to
                 Research Question 1

In this Chapter I present the data collected in response to Research Question One, the

perceptions of student experiences in the EAP writing program. This RQ generates the

direct response data on which the indirect answers to the other RQs must be

constructed. The quantitative data obtained from questionnaires and tests which

illustrated the perceptions of the entire cohort of students and provided background

information on the writing problem are highlighted first. Then I discuss the qualitative

data captured in interviews, tutorials and focus groups, as well as essays and emails,

which relate to Research Question One. I establish five main categories which emerged

from the data using student voices to illustrate them: student perceptions of their

experiences of writing essays, of the writing program, of teaching, awareness of the

learning trajectory and of learning strategies. I produce the written data from essays and

emails verbatim and include any obvious errors in my transcriptions of oral data, so as

to provide a complete picture of the fluency and accuracy of each participant‟s oral


5.1 Quantitative Data obtained in Response to Research Question 1: What are

struggling students’ perceptions of their experiences of learning to write expository

essays in this EAP program?

5.1.1 Language skills questionnaire

As described in 4.6 above, the initial Language Skills Questionnaire given in December

2007 at the end of the academic year provided the number of students self-reporting as

struggling with writing. As discussed above, these numbers can only be approximations

for two reasons: first, responses to „can do‟ and attitude statements are subjective, so

self-reporting may be under- or over-estimated; second, some „at risk‟ students had left

early for vacation in their distant home countries. The questionnaire data provided a

useful estimate of the size of the student writing problem, nevertheless, and elicited an

important comment: a complaint from one student about the number of Arabic speakers

in CAEL1. The multi-cultural, multi-linguistic nature of the EAP classes had

undergone a drastic change, resulting in two almost monocultural, monolinguistic

classes: CAEL1 and CAEL2. (See p.200.)

Table 1 in Appendix D shows the responses for the twenty items for the total cohort

(n=106). Shown below are some items worthy of comment. Half of the cohort (54

students) were in CAEL1-3, the lowest levels. Although there are graded readers in the

Learning Resource Centre for each level, the large number of negative responses for

Item 7 suggests either that students do not read them or have difficulty reading them.

#  Do you agree with the following                #Yes, a     #Yes     #No,      #No, not
   statements about yourself?                     lot                  not       at all
   Tick the correct answer: √                                          much
7 I can read graded readers from the              17          51       34        2
   resource centre.
12 I can write a lot of words in English          14          47       41        4
   WITHOUT using a dictionary.
16 My teacher says my handwriting is easy         20          48       32        6
   to read.
20 I have some problems with writing in           24          46       29        9

Almost half the cohort responded negatively to Item 12. Again, this number

corresponds to the number of students in the lowest levels and „a lot of‟ is subjective,

but the responses suggest that students have difficulty with independent spelling of

lexis. Responses to Item 20 show that two thirds of the students believe they have
problems with writing. Tables 2 and 3 in Appendix D show the detailed data for Item 20

by CAEL level and by Arabic speakers versus other students. These tables (extracts

below) reveal the preponderance of Arabic speakers in CAEL1 (13/14) and CAEL2

(13/15) and that almost 50% of all students reporting „a lot of‟ or „some‟ problems were

Arabic speakers. It is clear that the number of Arabic speakers had overwhelmed the

usual cultural and linguistic mix of students in CAEL1-3.

CAEL           Returns      # ss with # a lot of          # some          # not many
Level                       problems problems             problems        problems
Total          110           98       24                  46              28

CAEL           Returns      # Arabic     # a lot of       # some          # not many
Level                       speakers     problems         problems        problems
Total          110          45           13               23              9

5.1.2 Writing Skills and Literacy Background Questionnaires

The objective of the Writing Skills Questionnaire given in April 2008 at the start of the

second term of the school year was to provide a description of the perceived writing

skills of the main cohort of students, against which to set the perceptions of the focal

students. The statements with Likert responses are subjective and include some attitude

items. (Item 20 in this Questionnaire is flawed, as it is factual, rather than an attitude or

opinion statement.)

Tables 4 and 5 in Appendix E show the Writing Skills Questionnaire responses

presented as data for all Arabic speakers and for other students. The complete data

collated by CAEL level (not included for want of space) showed the expected increase

in positive responses as students progressed through CAEL levels. This is a positive

indication that most students in the writing program are achieving their goals one term

after the struggle for many indicated in response to the Language Skills Questionnaire at

the end of December 2007.

Three items (shown below) generated responses of interest in the comparative data.

Item 2 suggests that around half of all students cannot write cursive script in English.

Item 6 elicits responses about the use of advanced connectors, such as „although‟;

Arabic speakers gave more negative responses than other students, but since more

Arabic speakers are in lower levels, this is not unexpected. However, Item 16 was more

strongly positive for other students than for Arabic speakers.

Writing Skills Questionnaire (% responses for non-Arabic speakers, N= 44)

     Do you agree with the following               Yes, a     Yes         No,     No, not
     statements about YOU?                         lot                    not     at all
     Tick one answer only: √                                              much
2    I can write cursive script clearly.           7          21          38      28

6    I know how to connect sentences together      2          59          30      5
     with words like although, if, unless, even
     though, as long as, provided that.
16   I think the program for teaching writing is   25         59          11      0
     good here.

Writing Skills Questionnaire (% responses of Arabic speakers, N=29

     Do you agree with the following statements          Yes,       Yes    No,        No,
     about YOU?                                          a lot             not        not at
     Tick one answer only: √                                               much       all
2    I can write cursive script clearly.                 7          21     38         28

6  I know how to connect sentences together with         0          28     45         24
   words like although, if, unless, even though, as
   long as, provided that.
16 I think the program for teaching writing is good      41         28     21         4

The Literacy Background Questionnaire responses (Tables 6 and 7 in Appendix E)

reveal that more Arabic-speakers than others responded negatively to Items 2, 3, 5 and

7. These data (extracts below) indicate that there is less of a history of personal reading

in the Arabic speakers‟ background. However, overall, there is a majority of positive

responses to this questionnaire, so the issue of cultural background effect on reading

habits is interesting but negligible. Item 10 in this Questionnaire is flawed, but teachers

interpreted it for the students in their classes, to mean a degree, or a diploma, and thus

provided a graded response. In this Questionnaire it was noticeable that students who

self-evaluated as having a lot of problems with writing wrote their own name (Abdl) or

the name of their first language inaccurately, using syllables without vowels, or with

phonetic (influenced by sound) vowels, rather than the correct spelling, e.g. Arbic,

Arubic, Arebic.

 Literacy background qu’aire (% responses for non-Arabic speakers, N=44)

    Do you agree with the following statements about           Yes,    Yes    No,      Not
    your background?                                           a lot          not      at
                                                                              much     all
2   In my country people enjoy reading books.                  25      34     18       0
3   In my country there are libraries in each town where       25      50     18       2
    people can borrow books.
5   In my secondary school, my teachers encouraged me          25      57     16       0
    to read books.
7   My mother (or father, or other family member) used         25      45     20       7
    to read me stories when I was a child.

Literacy background qu’aire (% responses for Arabic speakers, N=29)

    Do you agree with the following statements about           Yes,    Yes    No,      Not
    your background?                                           a lot          not      at
                                                                              much     all
2 In my country people enjoy reading books.                    14      58     24       4

3 In my country there are libraries in each town where         24      41     31       4
  people can borrow books.
5 In my secondary school, my teachers encouraged me            28      35     28       4
  to read books language.
7 My mother (or father, or other family member) used           10      48     31       10
  to read me stories when I was a child.

5.1.3 Nation’s Vocabulary Level Test data

The vocabulary test results show that the 30 teacher-identified CAEL1-5 students at risk

scored within the first 1000 Level of Nation‟s lists, which is disturbing. About half the

students tried the 2000 word test but very few words were spelled correctly;

recognisable attempts at supplying an appropriate word illustrate the spoken fluency but

written weaknesses of the students. None of the focal students took these tests, but this

could have been an interesting addition to their data.

5.2 Interview Data in Response to Research Question 1

The quotations (italicized) from the data are from the five focal students described in

Table 1 in Chapter 4 and from other current or former students. All names are

pseudonyms. The student voices are necessarily quoted selectively here but I have tried

to show the range of opinion expressed by more than one student. Errors heard in

speech are recorded verbatim because it is important to note that oral fluency and

accuracy were not always commensurate. Errors visible in writing are typed as such.

5.2.1    Student perceptions of writing expository essays

The most frequent opinions were expressed with regard to technical writing skills. Spelling

         My problem is spelling. Some words are very hard, especially silent letter. If I
        have silent letter it’s very terrible for me. How can I know if it’s a silent letter?
        (Bilal CAEL2)

        Spelling is very difficult in English. I have to practis who to spell words after I
        know it. (CAEL7 essay1)

       I think that the main advantage of writing in Arabic is that more than 99% of the
      words do not need to be memorized. We just need to write what we speak.
      (CAEL7 essay2)

As noted in 5.1.2 and 5.1.3 above spelling was a major problem for many students, even

those in CAEL7, as evidenced in the sample essays (Appendix F). In the case of the

focal Arabic-speakers and in the „support‟ group, their spelling ability was severely

affected by difficulty in perceiving the range of English vowel sounds (20 phonemes)

and their weak ability in phoneme to grapheme encoding. On the other hand, very few

students had problems with consonant sounds and their spellings. As discussed in 3.1.5,

the Arabic writing system could be a cause of extreme confusion for beginning writers

who have not gained automatic control of the much wider vowel range in English and

its mismatched graphic representation. Omitting vowels in students‟ names and in the

name of their language suggests, as discussed by Ryan, that the consonant structure of

words in Arabic exerts a strong influence on reading in English (1997, p.191) and as a

consequence also, in writing. Spelling problems are compounded by handwriting

problems, because students form letters in the right to left direction while attempting to

form words in the left to right orientation, as I observed in writing classes. Punctuation

   Some teacher, they care about apostrophe! I know it’s important but not very
   important like spelling. ... After one sentence I have comma, comma, comma. In
   Arabic we have comma. There is no full stop. (Bilal CAEL2)

As Bilal discovered, the comma is appropriate in Arabic at the end of a sentence, but not

in English. As I observed in class and tutorials, confusion about punctuation was

common and not only among Arabic speakers. As discussed in 3.1.5, since Arabic has

no capital letters there could be a problem of transfer, but Arabic has a much more
complex letter formation system in comparison with English, with initial, medial, final,

and individual shapes, which suggests that Arabic writers have sharp perceptual skills

which might transfer to English. From the research it is clear that this is a key issue. Writing speed

   Before I start here I couldn’t write more than 100 words in an hour. Now I can
   write 500 in an hour. (Doctoral focus group)

This facility in writing was a prodigious improvement and compares favourably with

Leki‟s finding in her five year longitudinal study (2007). This student had struggled

from CAEL4 through to CAEL7 in only one year, and then been admitted to his

doctoral program. Other students commented on not having enough time to write and

on being slow writers. The program requires all writing to be done in class, and even

process writing is done under limited time conditions. Product essays require 250

words in one hour, which is less demanding than Task 2 IELTS, where only 40 minutes

are allowed. Atef CAEL5 complained about the large word count for CAEL1-3 essays,

because of the limited knowledge base for beginner, elementary and lower intermediate

students. Nevertheless, he also recommended using a longer, portfolio type of essay,

using resources, with a partner, produced outside of class, which suggests he was

thinking altruistically and reflecting on his prior experience. Lack of vocabulary

   When I see the vocab it’s long, not my voice. When I say, I can write; what I can’t
   say, I can’t write (Seif CAEL4)

   I try every day to read, or catch, or study or catch a new word, but when I need to
   use, I forget the words. That’s my problem, in my mind. (Seif CAEL4)

   I get an idea in Arabic, the problem is the words, which is the best word I can put it
   into English. (Atef CAEL5)

Vocabulary was a major problem for all struggling students. Seif was clearly anxious

about his vocabulary struggle at the Intermediate level. CAEL4 is regarded as the „last

chance‟ for students to improve their grammar and basic lexis before moving into Upper

Intermediate with Academic Encounters. Seif’s quotes are apt in the context of the

phoneme/grapheme issues noted in spelling. His comment about the vocabulary being

„long‟ is intriguing and may refer to the difficulty of acquiring new lexis both in talk

and text.

In the support class I regularly checked pronunciation, especially word stress and

syllables in words, to employ exactly the strategy Seif is describing, which Rivers and

Temperley seem to dismiss: “The old saying, „If you can say it, you can write it,‟ is

simplistic in its concept of the communicative aspect of writing” (1978, p.263). In my

view, if students can neither say a word clearly, nor write it they do not „know‟ the

word, as learning lexis for productive use necessitates being able to both say and write


To give students a focus for their vocabulary development I encouraged them to use

frequency lists (from COBUILD Advanced Learners Dictionary, Nation, and West, as

discussed in Chapter 3) to check their vocabulary knowledge independently and to read

graded readers to expand their receptive skills. Monolingual dictionaries or thesauri

were not mentioned by the majority of participants as tools for vocabulary extension,

but every student appeared to have an electronic (bilingual) dictionary.

                                                                                           138 Optional or fixed essay topics

   Why can’t we know what we are going to write on? We have no chance to prepare.
   (Seif CAEL4)

   Don’t limit the topics. (Bassem CAEL5)

   If we had a range of topics at least we could prepare. (Atef CAEL5)

There was heated debate on this issue. Students wanted to be able to prepare their essay

topic vocabulary or have a choice of topic as they had done in their English classes in

SA, but the administration were afraid of students cheating, by memorising model

answers, if pre-selected topics were allowed and became familiar. The topics were

intended to be within the vocabulary range of their CAEL level and were supposed to fit

in with the themes of the course-book units. Focal students contested this and were

adamant that if topics matched their books (as in CAEL5) they would be able to write

better. In CAEL1-4 the topics do not match the content of New Headway exactly, but

are based on the principle of transfer of language from topic studied (in receptive skills,

and in a process draft essay) to a parallel topic in a new essay task as product essay.

For example, the advantages and disadvantages of invention x (e.g. TV) is written as a

process essay, whereas invention y (e.g. mobile phone) is tested as a product essay. Essay structure

   Compare and contrast, depends on the subject. It’s not difficult like cause and
   effect… We like disadvantages and advantages, it’s so easy (laughs). In level 5 I
   think it’s cause and effect, problem, solution and compare and contrast. (Atef

   From beginning I was in academic class and I did brainstorming, introduction,
   body, conclusion, so now I can’t do writing without that. (Fran CAEL6)

   The big difference when I study in Year 1, it was useful, but when I enter the second
   year, each school, they want like different structure – each discipline wants
   something different. The hardest one is the education school. … I have to give first
   the description of the concept…You have to use a lot of sources. (Khalida, Year 2
   Undergrad. ExCAEL6)

The topics of essay writing were of more concern than structure, on account of the

students‟ lack of lexical control. In contrast, the focal students were clear about the

rhetorical structures they were practising and the structure of the essay. Two students

suggested using a resource based project with linked discipline content earlier than in

CAEL6 and 7. (See Bassem, Appendix B, and Atef, p.137.) As the undergraduate

students reported, short answer essay questions are common in Year 1 HE studies but

later, sourced essays and reports are required, so the student suggestions are apt. Process writing – three drafts

   Yes, I can understand it. Yes, it’s boring, but it’s a nice idea for if I see my mistake
   and I wrote on computer and I know that. (Bilal CAEL 2)

   You know, this system of three drafts, it’s very useful. I can learn from my mistakes.
   (Doctoral focus group)

   But, three drafts it’s OK, but when we look for the mark of the teachers and we
   change all the structures, and we still find some mistakes… So…maybe the teacher
   don’t understand what we write, because the way of thinking is different, maybe
   Arabic thinking is different. (Doctoral focus group)

Although there are various opinions, the draft process appears to be seen as helping

students learn from their mistakes. There were teaching issues in the drafting process

which I discovered from the interviews, such as whether students could add ideas to the

first draft when revising for draft two. These were seen by the students as „rules‟ which

they took for granted, but of course, they are important learning/teaching concerns.

There was no mention of reading each other‟s drafts in a peer review process. The focal

students did not appear as anxious about grammar problems while writing as they were

by vocabulary, perhaps because of the relative complexity of Arabic grammar, “the

most difficult in the world” (CAEL7 Essay data).

                                                                                          140 Translation into first language while writing

   I think maybe Arabic speaking student translate and that’s completely different,
   maybe for student who are in low level, but student in level 6, 7 and 8, they can
   write. (Doctoral focus group)

   Before, I used to [think in Arabic] before, when I arrived here and write an essay
   about anything. (Seif, CAEL4)

From my observation of the slow pace of writing in classes and the unwillingness of

Arabic speakers to discuss in English as they write in CAEL4, I imagine translation is

going on, but students rarely admit to it. When bilingual electronic dictionaries are

being used, translation must be taking place. Clearly there is a need to boost productive

lexical levels so that the writing burden is relieved.

5.2.2 Student perceptions of writing program structure Course content

   I think writing program …is useful for student because I think the program focus on
   writing and I think some teachers use variety of strategies, like give feedback, like
   grammar, and give students chance to improve their writing. Also, they give them
   some exercises about grammar and that help students to improve their writing.
   (Doctoral focus group)

     It’s same, same level 3. (Essam, CAEL4)

These views are antithetical: the successful teacher group understood the program,

whereas Essam was puzzled by the repetition of the rhetorical patterns (advantages and

disadvantages, and comparison and contrast) not perceiving that they were „recycled‟ at

higher levels of the program with more abstract essay topics. In the experienced CAEL7

focus group, students were able to recite the patterns and explain why and how they had

been recycled. This group included focal student Bassem. Two more successful

students, Steve and Fran, also understood the cycle.

                                                                                        141 Assessment with multiple trait descriptors

   When we wrote simple, when they mark it, they give me maybe in the vocab 3. (Seif

   Why 5 here? (Essam CAEL4)

   I passed, but last time I got 3. (Seif CAEL4)

These students are discussing the writing descriptors for CAEL levels (Written

Communication Descriptors, WCDs, in Appendix H) and the Marking Schedule (in

Appendix I) which are used for evaluating writing. They do not understand that for a

CAEL4 student, gaining 3 for lexis is a fail score, while 5 is a high score and 4 is a

passing score. There was very little other comment on assessment, which suggests that

these students take assessment for granted, which disempowers them, because the low

marks gained were a cause for concern, as was the need to repeat a program if writing

assessment is failed. The most important issue is that the WCDs are intended as a

feedback instrument, a heuristic device, for students to take control of their own writing

development. This was not evidenced in the data, which is a major concern in terms of

the professional development of writing teachers. Placement

   First of all they should start from basic things. Like me, I started from Level 4.
   When I met my friend in Level 3 I felt I wanted to know more. (Doctoral focus

This student, like others, recognizes that being placed low enables a sound foundation to

be built in language. This group of students was not under time pressure from their

scholarship provider (Oman Ministry of Education).

   I think my substantial problem was organization. I can write, but I don’t know
   about paragraph, introduction and conclusion. I think if I knew that I would started
   in Level 5. (Level 7 focus group)
This is a concern, because the WCDs (Appendix G) are used to evaluate students‟

written performance on placement tests, which include a measure of essay structure. If

students are scoring high on other traits, (grammar, lexis and task fulfilment) at

placement but have not been taught how to structure an essay, then it seems unfair to

have to spend three months at a lower level to remediate what is a cultural (stylistic)

linguistic difference. Clearly this had happened to the student quoted below:

   I felt upset because most of my friends told me you are much better than level 4 and
   I believed that at this time, because maybe they judged me, …because I had many
   vocabulary, too much vocabulary, good vocabulary but bad writing. (Level 7 focus

The range of opinion on placement suggests that students are only affected adversely by

low placement decisions if they feel are unjustified. For some students, low placement

is an opportunity to learn more: Khalida and Fairouz, Year 2 undergraduates sponsored

by the Omani Ministry of Education, had asked to be placed lower when they began

CAEL to improve their language thoroughly. Repeating courses on account of failure in writing

   I had a dream. I lost everything. (Seif CAEL4)

   When I do the same thing it’s depressing. They system is not good…. They can
   move the student to more writing class so that he can develop his skills…(Seif

This is painful to read and surely more painful to experience. Failing was not questioned

by the students, in other words, they attributed the locus of control internally (,

Weiner) but the remediation method – repetition of the three month course – was

criticized because of the braking effect on student progress. For this reason, I believe,

the length of each course (12 weeks) became an issue for repeating students. There

appeared to be no understanding or acceptance of the rationale that only courses of such

a length could provide for substantial progress in four skills, and especially writing. As

discussed in Chapter 2, this time period was formerly the recommendation to candidates

from IELTS before retaking the examination. Recommendations concerning the program

   The afternoon program should focus on students’ special needs, like spelling or
   writing. (Doctoral focus group)

   It’s a good idea for all [low proficiency] students to start with General English and
   then shift to Academic. (Doctoral focus group)

   For the teacher, all the students want more information on how to study English, not
   just to read the book and follow the books. (Fran CAEL6)

   More time to practise the writing. I think it’s not enough writing practice for us.
   (Steve CAEL5)

   My friend, he’s a student in Auckland… their block is just two months and they give
   them each block a project of one thousand words, between two people. They give
   them the subject and they have to write about it, besides their test in the classroom.
   (Atef CAEL5)

The ex-CAEL doctoral group of tertiary teachers share Cummins‟ BICS/CALP

distinction, with ideas which make good sense, such as focussing on writing in the

afternoon program. Current student Steve had failed one CAEL course and moved over

to an IELTS class, so he could see the benefit of more writing practice. Current student

Fran seems to be interested in learning more strategies catering for individual

weaknesses rather than simply working through course material in a lockstep approach.

Other students preferred shorter courses, as discussed above, probably to lessen the

impact of repeating a course in case of failure.

5.2.3 Student perceptions of teaching

   She’s a smart teacher. She’s a professional. She showed me some strategies. (Bilal

   Teachers, some levels they taught us, they are very very good. They give us
   information, they give us strategies, they give us special attention. This help. It
   depends who taught us. (Doctoral focus group)

   And I think maybe, teacher, they don’t have experience about how they can teach
   writing. Not everyone can teach Arabic- I speak Arabic, I can write Arabic, but I
   can’t teach Arabic. Some teachers, it’s not their specialization about English to
   teach writing. (Doctoral focus group)

   When they put a question mark, they destroyed me. Yes, always. (Seif CAEL4)

   When I see some [teachers] discuss the assignment, they say “What do you mean by
   this?” (Essam CAEL4)

As well as these mixed perceptions of writing teachers‟ performance, the Writing Skills

Questionnaire data suggested that the Arabic speakers had more negative opinions about

the ability of teachers to teach academic writing. On the other hand, students identified

individuals as good teachers, (despite my caveats to avoid mentioning teachers‟ names)

and gave me tips on how teachers should handle their classes.

Feedback on writing is obviously a sensitive point: Teacher comments on writing can

seem like a personal attack rather than assistance. Bassem‟s essay feedback (discussed

in Appendix B and illustrated in Appendix G) exemplified how teachers‟ comments,

despite the best of intentions can show lack of clarity, and fail to help students express

personal voice in argument (cf Lillis, 2001, discussed in 4.2.4). As discussed in Chapter

3, expressing voice in essays is a first step in establishing authorial presence, and serves

a social purpose in writing, rather than a technical purpose, so is an important step in

developing writing for meaning making in HE.

5.2.4 Student awareness of their learning trajectories Prior learning in English

   We study English but they don’t care about English, We have speaking and some
   grammar. …In school, English, it’s not very hard. We had conversation. We had
   writing in the test. We have six story, and the teacher choose one so I should know
   all that story. … (Bilal CAEL 2)

   I thought my English was perfect. …We used to think English is only speaking. But
   when I got here I found my writing wasn’t good – academic. We just have, you
   know, topics, like camel, water, King Fahd. We could memorise it 100%. (Level 7
   focus group)

These two quotations suggest that there may be little focus on writing in the secondary

school English curriculum in SA, even in the private school which Bilal attended.

Texts are memorised and reproduced for writing tests, it seems. While this type of

writing task (3.2.1) serves a „practice‟ purpose in the development of automaticity in

technical writing skills such as spelling, punctuation and handwriting, the cognitive

trace of words memorised for impersonal tasks is superficial, whereas the making of

meaning for personal expression is believed to be deeper and less subject to oblivion, or

forgetting (3.2.2). Investment in language learning

   Actually I was upset [when placed in level 2] because I studied English since I was
   six years old. But I wasn’t a good student. I hated English actually. After I had my
   Diploma, I realized I made a mistake. I wasted all my time. (Doctoral focus group)

For struggling writers, realisations such as these come late, but the important thing for

such students is to recognise their location in time and space in their learning trajectory

and creation of their identity, so that they can start anew and make up for lost time. It

was obvious that many struggling students had not committed to, or in Wenger‟s (1998)

words, engaged with learning English, whether as a result of lack of awareness of what

needed to be done, or as an act of resistance to the impossible task some SA scholarship

students were faced with: Only one year was allowed for English language study to

prepare for degree level study, even when students were placed in CAEL2 on entry. The

Omani students appeared to have a more flexible arrangement which worked more

effectively for them, since they could begin to study at the appropriate level. IELTS test perceptions and progress

   Before I start here I got IELTS 5 in writing but two months ago I got 6.5 in writing.
   (Doctoral focus group)

   I had many shock in IELTS because sometimes I increased in one part, like
   speaking, then next time I did it, I get lower mark. First time I got 7 in speaking:
   next time I did it and I got 5.5 in speaking. First time I got 5 in writing; second time
   I increased in writing: I got 6. But still the same; both of them [overall] 5.5.
   (CAEL7 focus group)

Excellent progress in IELTS is frequently achieved in our school, but most of the

struggling students had not taken IELTS. Atef was delighted to achieve the IELTS 5.5

Overall score which allowed him into the Foundation Studies program. The vagaries of

test results encourage students to search for „easy‟ IELTS test centres, as Green (2007)

reports. Nevertheless, this student did not query his result as the query process is

expensive. He preferred to spend the money on re-taking the test.

                                                                                        147 Future goals in education

   I want to go to university and study public relations. (Bilal CAEL2)

   I want to study law, hopefully. (Atef CAEL5)

   I’m not think about future, about university – I’m think about now, I’m in the
   present now. I want to write a good English. If I’m writing good English that
   enough for me.. (Seif CAEL4)

As the Literacy Background Questionnaire shows, many of the students are working

towards entry to HE, and no one criticised the CAEL writing program‟s fit with HE or

the role of the expository essay therein. There was tacit acceptance that achieving good

essay writing is the key to HE. Bilal CAEL2 was a long way from his goal, but at least

he had one. Atef CAEL5 appears to acknowledge the long road of study ahead. Essam

CAEL4 wrote in an essay that he envisioned a “bright future”. As a potential master‟s

student he was committed to his goal, his imagined future, but the learning trajectory

puzzled him. Seif has postponed his imagined future to focus on the present task: a

good decision, but the imagined future and imagined self are essential motivators, or

agentive stances.

5.2.5 Strategic awareness of learning Learning strategies

   Actually, I know. The first thing, write a lot of word daily. And I read. What’s
   happen sometime if I read, silent letters. Like, I give you an example: enough. (Bilal
   CAEL 2)

   In my opinion, maybe write about any topic, free writing. We are tired, tired about
   this control. We have many handouts, we don’t have time to read, what can I do?
   …It’s about one and a half kilos.. I can’t put it in my mind.. (Seif CAEL4)

   Yes, too many handouts… I don’t have time to arrange this. (Essam CAEL4)

There appeared to be conflict amongst the SA students about how to cope with the

learning load. The independent learning strategies I recommended to acquire more

vocabulary were not followed up, perhaps because handouts are seen as useless

afterthoughts of the teacher. Only activities in a coursebook held weight for Essam and

Seif, which is understandable if they had previously experienced learning English as

being directed by a teacher following a course-book. Learner autonomy is a „Western‟

construct unfamiliar to collectivist cultures. However, I had suggested that students

work together and help each other with the vocabulary checking activities, but these

strategies were not taken up either. The very existence of the handouts as troublesome

filing tasks seemed to upset these focal students. Instead of seeing them as resources, or

affordances, as some students do, they saw them as hindrances. The quality of the

handouts could have caused this impression: black and white copies are not as attractive

as bright, glossy coursebooks. As Engestrom pointed out, the quality of the

environment learning system is important. Adult learners have their own preferences

and their own standards. (See discussion in Independent learning

   I learn two words every day for a month. But I don’t do it. I’m lazy. (Bassem CAEL

   I have my own book, Focus on Grammar, Focus on Spelling, Every day my self-
   access I want to do that, I need that, I show my teachers and I think that’s useful for
   me, but when they give us extra, Ok, Ok, Ok. (Seif CAEL4)

   If I have a private teacher he [sic] will correct me. (Essam CAEL4)

Bassem knew how to increase his vocabulary in theory, but was not able to carry it outt

in practice, perhaps because he became engaged with his own larger project: He

founded the support group for SA students described below. Seif was willing to put in
extra work, and had bought his own individual supplementary material, in addition to

going to the Learning Resource Centre. Andragogy seems to be an issue here: Seif

stresses that the teachers do not accept his own preference for materials, and they

continue to load him with their own choices. In fact, this is carried to an expensive

extreme by Essam who preferred to have a (male) private teacher than work alone.

Collective learning and reliance on a teacher seems to be the „habitus‟ (Bourdieu, 1990,

p.91) of these students. It is especially hard to acquire new learning methods when

success has not been experienced with them. Support groups

   I think it’s a really good idea to have a club to share the feeling here about New
   Zealand. … He’s the founder so he has to say that. I prefer to hide… I don’t need
   it…me too. (Level 7 focus group)

   In the club, there’s no academic person to do that, nobody to support us, just
   students, sharing their opinion. Just the Saudi Arabian students, the Saudi Club, not
   even the Government. (Seif CAEL4)

Bassem (CAEL 5) progressed to CAEL 7 and wrote in his focal student essay

(Appendix F) that he was researching how students can improve their reading and

writing. Others in CAEL7 did not seem to appreciate his efforts to encourage peers to

support each other, perhaps because some students prefer to remain anonymous and not

be identified as members of the Saudi club, i.e. to “pass”, as Canagarajah (2002) puts it.

However, Seif expresses the need for authoritative academic support, which I felt other

struggling students longed for Graded readers

   The simple books … You can say the children’s story. (Bilal CAEL2)

The childish impression afforded by low-level graded readers is hard to eradicate. As

the Language Skills Questionnaire (5.1.1) data show, a large minority of students either

cannot or do not read graded readers. The following conversation about reading texts in

the CAEL4 course book (New Headway Intermediate) illustrates these attitudes.

   Maybe in the whole level you can find about maybe six or seven parts of reading.
   So that is not enough. [But the teachers] they advise us to read stories and borrow
   some books where you can find the extra reading. (Seif CAEL4)

   They advise us to read them but sometimes when I go, I don’t know what is my
   level exactly. I need some adviser. (Essam CAEL4)

   But they told us you can use what you can understand. (Seif CAEL4)

This interaction between Seif and Essam is interesting since it sums up the dual

attitudes of students to graded readers and their dependent or independent strategies for

learning. Some students follow teachers‟ advice, while others do not because it is novel,

untried, untested and they do not believe it. Intrinsically there is an issue with the topic

content of graded readers at the lowest levels. They rarely engage students, and often

just one inappropriate text puts a student off „for life‟. Especially when students are not

accustomed to reading in the L1, the challenge of reading in the L1 is too huge to

undertake without modelling in class, and collaborative sharing of individual reading

experiences. Learning lists is not the best way to learn vocabulary, so students do have

to be introduced to vocabulary in context somehow.

5.3 Essay Data: Comparing Writing in English and Arabic

   The main similarity between them is the structure …introduction, body and
   conclusion. Another significant similarity is linking words. (CAEL7 Essay2)

Arabic-speaking students do not seem to have problems with the structure of an essay

but rather with the content, i.e. knowing what to say and having the vocabulary to

express their meaning. Style seems to be a concern, however:

   Another important difference between them is metaphors and parable. For instance,
   Arabic writers apply the metaphor and parable numerously when they write about
   political issue as example in order to protect themselves, because they can not write
   clearly and freely compared with English writers. (CAEL 7 Essay2)

In terms of cultural transfer, the „flowery‟ type of language used in Arabic writing

discussed by Kharma and Hajjaj (1997, in 3.1.5) is interpreted by the doctoral students

as a „way of thinking‟ rather than as a writing style.

   Even though I’m native speaker in Arabic language sometime I faced some
   problems while I’m reading or writing. I believe that if I’m good reader and writer
   in my own language, I will good too in other languages. (CAEL 7 Essay3)

   The CAEL7 essays made poignant reading since they revealed learning trajectories

   which had been long struggles. The last quotation illustrates what several focal

   students admitted: These young adults are not proficient at reading and writing in

   Arabic, so transfer, if it can occur, was unlikely. (See 3.1.5 for discussion of MSA.)

5.4 Observation Data from Class and Learning Resource Centre

5.4.1 Handwriting and letter shapes

In the support class I could observe how students wrote, placing their letters

haphazardly over and under the lines on lined paper. The students had great difficulty

in making clear letter shapes, and often had idiosyncratic letters in their script, such as

persisting in writing Y as a capital rather than a lower case letter. One interesting feature

was the student who drew a circle and put a line through the center of it, thus forming
both d and/or b at the same time. The direction of letter formation was often influenced

by the Arabic right to left orientation. Although Arabic is a flowing, cursive script,

with more detail than English, these handwriting skills were not transferred to English.

All the focal students used print, rather than cursive script. Support class students could

not read cursive script on the whiteboard when I demonstrated it (clearly) to them, so

presumably print is taught in schools, as the Writing Skills Questionnaire data also

suggest (Appendix E).

5.4.2 Syllable formation and Arabic diacritical marks

Support class students were not aware of syllable conventions in English in which there

is always a vowel in a syllable, e.g. CVC, or CVCC. In Arabic there are diacritical

marks rather than letters for short vowels. These diacritical marks can be left out in

informal writing, which creates visually what appear to be syllabic consonants. This

habit might have led students into spelling errors by leaving out the vowel in English

syllables in words such as Arbic, or it could be caused by not hearing the middle

syllable distinctly as the variation in the central vowel spellings Arubic and Arebic

suggest. (See 3.1.5.)

5.4.3 Teacher and whiteboard focus in class

In the additional support class provided twice weekly from June to September 2008, the

male students immediately rearranged the classroom from its usual mode of grouped

tables, to a horseshoe in which the focus could be on the teacher and whiteboard. Since

this was a remedial writing class, their expectations were (appropriately) that

information would flow from the teacher and could no doubt be copied from the board.

This behaviour suggests that the students „habitus‟ has not been changed from their

prior learning. Instead of following their own learning trajectory, they need guidance,

support and as the SA focal students recommended, control from the teacher. Atef

advised me: “The teacher should be firm but fair.” NZ teachers are more accustomed to

flexibility, but „laissez faire‟ teacher behaviour, the focal students suggest, will not be


                     Chapter Six
   Analysis and Discussion of the Data in Response to
             Research Questions 2, 3 and 4
The preceding analysis of the data of perceptions collected in response to RQ1 provided

by the five focal students and the more successful participants is now discussed with

regard to RQs 2, 3 and 4.

6.1 Forging New Identities

Research Question 2: What impact do these perceptions have on struggling

      students’ social identity as writers in this EAP program?

6.1.1 Identities as readers

As I talked to students about their lack of vocabulary I became more and more

concerned about the missing link with reading, since literacy entails dual, reciprocal

skills. If teachers do not recommend extensive reading in classes, then students will

have problems in acquiring sufficient vocabulary since course-books do not provide

enough input for prospective HE students. Seif CAEL4, a mature student from SA with

a first degree, remembered what his teacher had told him about additional reading. Seif

was not misplaced initially as his writing drafts showed, but had to repeat CAEL4 on

account of failure in the writing skill only. Despite his depression about his status he

was alert to the need to read to improve his writing. In his Writing Questionnaire

responses he indicated that he was fond of reading in Arabic, and his parents used to

read to him when he was a child and help him with school literacy. His identity as a

reader thus appears to be a transfer of identity into the second language.

The conversation extract cited above ( exemplifies Seif‟s self-possession and

grasp of the serious task in front of him. In spite of Essam‟s dismissive response to my

question, Seif calmly asserted his understanding and clear memory of what the teacher

had said about the need for extensive reading for pleasure at a comprehensible level, to

extend vocabulary and improve spelling. Despite his own despair, he took on the role

of wise counselor in the small tutorial group. His demeanor was usually calm, and he

had invested (financially) in the books which would help him in his private study. He

possessed a student grammar, a vocabulary practice book and an English-English

dictionary, a rarity in the student world of electronic dictionaries. In other words, he

had surrounded himself with his preferred resources, demonstrating a willingness to

engage in the task of learning. He was defeated by the rigid assessment system, it

seems, rather than his own lack of investment (personal time and energy) in learning.

Other students could remember teachers‟ advice to read more than the course-book, but

the uptake of the advice appeared limited amongst the five focal students. There may be

issues of topic content in this resistance because the graded readers are light reading in

the main, and may appear too easy to students who have not grasped the sub-purpose of

reading for pleasure, i.e. the internalizing of lexis and syntax. Some students intent on

university study may prefer to struggle with texts above their difficulty level which are

more interesting in content. This can be self-defeating, as Nation (1983) has shown that

reading with more than 10% of unknown words is cognitively challenging and defeats

comprehension (cf. Krashen‟s theory of comprehensible input). Fran was clear on the

need to read: She had progressed steadily but acquiring vocabulary still bothered her at

upper intermediate level.

6.1.2 Identities as writers

The role of an engaged, meaning-making student, aware of the task ahead and prepared

to invest time and effort (Bourdieu) was most often demonstrated by those who had

been successful students at home. Essam had a first degree, and was preparing for

master‟s level study. The doctoral focus group students were tertiary teachers

themselves, so had the most understanding of the aims of the program and the teaching

methods and techniques. As a result they tended to be positive about the program. Of

course, they had also succeeded in accessing HE, but some had had a long learning

trajectory. Fortunately, their Government (Oman) scholarship provider was tolerant of

the time they needed to spend on language courses before they embarked on doctoral

programs. Every teacher who taught this group commented on their easy fit with the

teacher expectation of student roles. This suggests that as teachers themselves, they

were able to fit the roles they were positioned in, and use them to their advantage. They

were also aware of learning as a change process and accepted their subject positioning


The CAEL7 focus group students were varied in their writing skills achievement and

their perception of success and satisfaction. Some were still struggling and rather

reluctant to say much in front of each other. However, their essays provided rich input

and allowed me to learn more about the individual impact of different past experiences,

present struggles and imagined futures (Appendix F).

It was most rewarding to see the change in students who admitted the „error‟ of their

previous ways. Bassem (Appendix B) wrily confessed to laziness, but expressed strong

new motivation: “I like English now, I start to like English, I want to master it.”

6.2 Fight, Flight or Change: Making Agentive Choices

Research Question 3: What impact do these perceptions have on struggling

      students’ sense of agency as writers in this EAP program?

6.2.1 Fight

My data collection had been underway for three months when I was called away on

School business for the month of March. I continued with data collection during April

and May, then had to work overseas again from mid-June to early July 2008. The

struggling student problem escalated during my second trip away, when the SA students

got together to help each other, demonstrating their collectivist social group identity by

complaining to their Embassy in Australia that they were not getting enough support for

learning. This was a surprise to me on my return, but not entirely unexpected, given the

pressure the growing group of struggling students were under to achieve linguistic

success fast.

I was pleased on checking my audio recordings and transcripts to confirm that I had

maintained my neutral institutional stance during interviews to ask students only about

themselves and to avoid being negative about the program. However, I had elicited

recommendations and I was also ultimately seeking to empower the students, so this

was a positive outcome in critical terms. As a result of this complaint the school took

affirmative action. We provided two additional „support‟ classes each week and

appointed a Learning Resource Centre daily „drop in‟ teacher for after class hours.

The students now had access to more resources, but taking advantage of them was

another issue. My focal students had by this time moved past the critical threshold of

CAEL4 into more patently academic English content of CAEL5. I continued to observe
them in the Learning Resource Centre, however, and to meet with them whenever I


6.2.2 Flight

Bassem and Atef wanted to get out of CAEL and into Foundation Studies (FS) as fast as

possible: Atef expressed dislike of the CAEL 9am to 3pm timetable, because it did not

fit with his habit of taking a nap after lunch. Bassem was bored with the content in

CAEL; having struggled into CAEL7, he left the course halfway. There is a student

myth that FS courses, where English is linked to elective topics such as statistics,

psychology and chemistry, are easy to pass, so there may be mixed motives here. These

focal students assumed that FS allowed more freedom of movement than CAEL, which

is true in terms of flexible timetabling of lectures and tutorials, but as my Year 2

undergraduates, Fairouz and Khalida, confirmed, the workload is heavier in FS than in


Very few students raised the issue of their target, English in the university, though

potential undergraduate science students mentioned that they would not need writing

unless they were doing research degrees. This confirms what Johns (1997) and Leki

(2002) discovered, that students do not value writing courses. However, as Moore and

Morton (2007) have shown, writing is used in science laboratory reports, so students

may be mistaken in neglecting language study. Nevertheless, attractive, relevant content

may well be a factor in creating student interest in language classes.

6.2.3 Strategies for improving vocabulary and spelling

Compared with the doctoral focus group and the CAEL 7 focus group, CAEL1-5 focal

students did not manifest detailed awareness of their writing proficiency other than the

major technical problems, vocabulary and spelling. Despite this awareness of their

weaknesses they appeared helpless with regard to using strategies for learning

vocabulary and improving spelling. It became clear that the strategy of extensive

reading, which exposes learners to more vocabulary and correct English spelling was

not widely recommended, or not strongly enough encouraged or supported. Those who

were unaware of the usefulness of reading were also unaware of where the graded

readers could be found and the range of readers available, as I discovered in observation

in the Learning Resource Centre (LRC).

The focal students whom I tutored and the support class students had very little

awareness of phoneme and grapheme matches or mismatches, which was one of the

major causes of their spelling weaknesses. Students in CAEL7 showed the same lack of

knowledge. Only one student, Seif, reported that his teacher used the phonemic chart in

class. Although the classrooms contain sets of dictionaries for use, the students I tutored

were also unfamiliar with using the phonemic key words in dictionaries to decipher the

pronunciation of new words and relate their pronunciation to their spelling. These

students were amazed and delighted at this new-found knowledge, though the continued

and consistent use of learning strategies is what counts.

A sense of frustration and despair may develop into learned helplessness in some

students, especially those used to teacher support, rather than learner independence. For

example, a CAEL3 female student who was attending my support class came over to me

in the LRC to express her anxiety about not being able to retain the vocabulary she was

studying in lists. She was extremely distressed, but I was able to show her the graded

readers and explain their role in reinforcing vocabulary in meaningful contexts in a

pleasant, relaxed way. She clearly needed constant encouragement and guidance, but

may not have found it in our individualistic environment.

The consistent complaint about problems with spelling and vocabulary speaks to the

need for professional development of teachers and the provision of materials to support

spelling development. There has been no demand for this previously since students

were mainly Asian, and they do not appear to have these problems, since they begin

writing the English alphabet from kindergarten, as Chinese and Taiwanese informants

relate. The CAEL1 teacher who had alerted me to the writing problem in her class is a

former primary school teacher and spelling expert. She had made various attempts to

alert management to the needs of students to no avail. The investment of a relatively

small amount of money and an adjustment of the program to assist these students might

have averted the group student complaint. The focal students had spent an average of

six months in our program, but all students, even those who had „succeeded‟ were

desperately anxious about spelling.

6.2.4 Metacognitive awareness of essay writing

Lower level focal students were aware of aspects of the writing program, such as the

structure of the essay, but did not perceive that the rhetorical patterns were recycled at

increasing difficulty levels in terms of topic and lexical field. These students spoke only

of problems with lexis, whereas as the focal students essays showed, their writing had

syntactical weaknesses as well, but voice (opinion) showed through the lexico-
grammatical errors like a light. There was no lack of ideas to support arguments, which

exemplifies the discrepancy of skills these students were struggling with. Focal

students in CAEL7 could describe writing and learning strategies which included

planning for essays, reading authentic disciplinary material, and learning specific

disciplinary vocabulary. These students were able to compare their facility in writing in

L1 versus their struggles with writing in English. It was clear that writing had been a

struggle for them in both languages, but they had the tenacity to keep going. In CAEL7

the teacher contributed largely to students‟ continued success by stressing the power of

ideas in HE, the need for argument in essay writing and giving them confidence.

6.2.5 Motivation, investment, or desire in learning and success

Seif had been angry and upset about repeating CAEL4 in our first meeting. However,

after three hours of tutorials with two peers, attendance at support classes and dropping

into the LRC more frequently where I observed him chatting to friends of other

nationalities, he appeared to settle down and began to play the CAEL game with quiet

confidence. He told me “It‟s OK; everything OK now.” This change in attitude may

have been because he saw that he was not alone in the struggle, he may have

appreciated the attention he was getting (the Hawthorne effect, 4.6.1), or he had

accepted that he was learning something he needed that would be useful. His

blossoming social relationships (which I observed in the LRC) may have contributed to

his self-confidence, as Leki (2007) suggested. He has moved into CAEL5 but for all the

Saudi scholarship students there is still time pressure from the Saudi Government to

complete their language studies within a year and move to their degree studies.

From the essay data of the participants where student voices could be heard it became

clear to me that students who had visibly agentive responses, such as studying harder, or

employing a private tutor, had grasped the implications of their new lives in NZ and

their new roles as students. They spoke of homesickness, of lack of comfort, of

loneliness and lack of support, but the “bright future” their Government had offered

them with a scholarship was something to hold on to.

6.2.6 Anxiety over writing assessment and the learning process

The perceived random nature of test essay topics which are not directly linked into

textbook study, alienated several of the focal students, probably as a consequence of

their prior experience of memorizing for tests in the school curriculum at home. The

issue of content in an EAP program is important and contested, as discussed in Chapter

3 (Spack, 1998, Leki, 2002, Johns, 1997, Canagarajah, 2002). Negative reaction to

general social topics in assessment tasks suggests that students feel the range is so wide

that they cannot hope to learn enough vocabulary to succeed. This is the situation with

IELTS, so it makes sense to try for IELTS as early as possible if CAEL achievement

tests appear equally challenging. Obviously some compromise should be considered by

program administration to make the CAEL program more attractive and effective.

However, there was definitely some confusion in student perceptions of writing as a

process versus writing as a product. Students referred to the first draft as “test 1” and

the second draft as “test 2”. Two students told me that teachers were not allowed to

write up group brain-storming ideas on the whiteboard. This was difficult for me to

grasp. In Chapter 2 I have described the procedures for process writing. I assumed there

was an issue of terminology which students did not understand. Unfortunately it
transpired that two revisions had been made to the program while I was overseas. An

alteration to the WCDs for CAEL1-4 increased the focus on the accuracy of grammar

and lexis, to weight them more heavily against the input to ideas and voice which came

from the whole group. Another change was aimed in the same well-intended direction:

to prevent students from writing essays with only ideas copied from the board. I was

able to raise these issues with management and reverse the changes, but I wondered if

these revisions, which made writing evaluation more stringent, had contributed to the

students‟ sense of unfair play and led to their official complaint.

6.3 The Writing Program as a Community of Practice

Research Question 4: In light of the findings, how can the sociocultural constructs

       of identity and agency, within Wenger’s (1998) construct of the CoP, improve

       learning to write in this EAP program?

6.3.1 The structure of a Community of Practice

According to Wenger (2002) and Holmes and Meyerhoff (1999) there are three essential

criteria for a CoP: a common goal, a community and shared practice, which the EAP

has.   In Lave and Wenger‟s original conception (1981) the structure of the CoP must

allow for members to move from the periphery to the core, or allow members to stay on

the periphery if they wish. In the case of the EAP community, peripheral participation

is essentially preliminary to moving to the core, since remaining on the periphery

presupposes marginalization. The students‟ goals are the same, and if they are able to

work together collaboratively and cooperatively, or even competitively, as in

professional practice, this would improve their learning experience, in my view.

6.3.2 Goals in a community of practice

The Writing Skills Questionnaire data show that students at different CAEL levels were

aware of the linguistic and rhetorical content of their writing program. I did not include

the focal student responses in the collation of responses so that I could evaluate their

responses against the background of the total population and their particular CAEL

level population. In the focal student interviews it became apparent that even students

in the lower levels of proficiency were aware of limited aspects of the writing program:

sentences, paragraphs, the essay and its structure, introduction, body and conclusion.

6.3.3 Reification and participation

Not all focal students had been given WCDs because teachers believe the Marking

Schedule (Appendix I) contains the same information. In a limited sense it does,

because it is the descriptor of the current expected level of performance. However, the

complete set of WCDs is essential to students‟ understanding of the ways in which they

are assessed and the overall plan of the writing program. Since the WCDs are similar in

their multiple-trait scaling to IELTS descriptors they provide for increased

understanding of how our program theorises writing. The motivational effect of this

awareness is difficult to measure, but the intonation patterns of focal students who had

not received the WCDs revealed regret, annoyance and even anger at this lack of

information, which suggests that they wish to take charge of their learning and

understand their assessment. They identify themselves as adults, as learners and they

wish to make meaning and succeed.

My small empricial research study using Feuerstein‟s Mediation Theory in the UAE

(1999) revealed the same collective and individual student desire to know more about
how they are assessed. Teachers and management need to understand more fully the

agentive role of knowledge management in student learning: Learners have the right to

understand their program (Benesch, 1999). Although course documents are always

provided, the extension of these to include how assessment is to occur in a course is

essential. Teachers may need more support in understanding the role of this type of

documentation, or reification (Wenger, 1998) in adult learning in conjunction with


6.3.4 Shared practice and boundaries with the target community

As discussed briefly in Chapter 1, the WAC approaches combine disciplinary content in

different ways but the EAP curriculum in this pre-university context is based on general

EAP materials. Focal and background students identified the lack of connection

between essay topic content in CAEL 1-4 and the content of the core text New Headway

as one of the essay writing challenges. In this rhetorically structured, task-based,

process and product oriented EAP writing syllabus, teachers introduce patterns which

undergraduates Fairouz and Khalida affirmed were useful and important in short answer

examination essays in HE. CAEL students in the “cage” (CAEL5 Bassem) may not

recognize the usefulness of these patterns because they are practised with unpredictable

topics. CAEL 5-7 short essay topics are linked to the EAP textbooks and were not

mentioned as a problem by focal students. In fact, the CAEL 5 textbook (Academic

Encounters, Life in Society) was praised for its usefulness and appropriateness. As

discussed in Chapter 3, this textbook illustrates the citation of sources and uses

intermediate level sociology texts which connect to students‟ lives.

Cummins‟ BICS/CALP distinction has been found by Young (1999) to be useful since

it focuses program planners on the need for students to begin to find an authorial voice
in expository writing on social topics before moving to academic topics. Everyday

topics such as traffic congestion, the price of fuel, or pollution in the environment,

provide issues on which our students are likely to have an opinion and which can

accustom our students to supporting their opinions with evidence. However, adult

students need clear input and guidance from their teacher, using the syllabus documents,

in order to perceive the relevance of essays and their topic content and so encourage

investment of time and energy in them. Not much negative data emerged on current

essay topics, other than a desire for choice and clearer links to topics taught in the

course, so that students could prepare for them, with the addition or substitution of

portfolio projects for essays.

6.3.5 Rules and power relations, roles and labelling in class

It was evident from the observation data in the classroom that these students are used to

and still prefer the teacher to be the centre of attention. Although these students

accepted group or pair work, the role of the teacher is customary and requisite to their

learning. Focal students credited the presence of other international students as an

advantage to their study in the EAP, but the teacher was there as arbiter and rule giver,

and full attention on the teacher was essential to them. Acceptance of other students as

support or help as in the CLT classroom is novel for students from a teacher-centred

background, but Bassem created a new identity as founder of the Saudi Club,

illustrating that change in identity as a proactive individual by exercising agency is

possible. Extending that social identity to engagement with writing could be the next

move on his learning trajectory.

The Anglo-American or “western” approach to learning is individualistic and valorizes

independent learning. However, in the Saudi focal student interviews more than one

student claimed “I am lazy” and one advised me to tell the teachers “We like teachers to

joke but be serious and strict.” Perhaps this was the reason why the extra support class

was variably successful, if success is measured in terms of attendance, which was

erratic. However, in my initial presentation to 30 struggling students I had stressed the

importance of independent learning as the solution to their individual needs. So if

students felt they had exhausted the need for the class and could help themselves to

learn, then it was natural that they would no longer attend. In fact, increased attendance

in the LRC after class hours showed struggling students began to acquire the habit of

self-reliance, agency and independent learning.

Failing a course because of writing and having to repeat it, impact on students in more

ways than delay. Being labeled a failure, or a repeater, means that students lose their

place in their study cohort: The support of the group is gone. Bassem declared: “I

have to catch up. The problem… they now university students.” Repeaters have to

make new friends in the class, which they may not want to do as they may regard their

new group as an out-group. They also may be prey to loss of self-esteem, and worse,

feelings of anguish, inability to cope compared with previous success, especially when

they have already got a degree. Hence Seif‟s lament: “I have lost everything.”

School staff, including reception and academic counselors, and their attitude and

behavior towards students will affect how they feel and behave in the school and in

class. Failure to relate to students as individuals and fully satisfy their learning needs is

certain to create problems. The teacher may subconsciously use labels and apply

dispositional stereotypes to students which discourage further investigation of the

causes of „deviant‟ behaviour such as unwillingness to participate in pair work, arriving

late or absence from class, not handing in home work on time. These are lessons from

andragogy, as well as from sociocultural theory.

Culture gaps can occur unwittingly: teachers may not be culturally sensitive to the

importance to students of their social roles in other contexts, which apply in all contexts

in the student‟s home culture. One teacher was bemused when a student chided for

lateness objected strongly: “I am a married man”. As a married Saudi man the student

expected his teacher to know that he had to deliver his wife to class before he could take

his place. Different expectations of role lead to unhappiness on both sides and

contribute, no doubt, to the complaint “My teacher doesn‟t like me.” Students from

Middle Eastern cultures seem to perceive the close relationship between teacher and

student as personal and expect all teachers to be sympathetic. However, some teachers

in NZ see the relationship with students as professional, and prefer to maintain social

distance (Schumann), particularly when they have up to 18 students in an EAP writing

class. The data support Hofstede‟s (1986) suggestion that students from more collective

cultures such as SA might be dismayed by the distant professional attitudes of teachers

from the individualistic NZ culture (See Chapters 2 and 3.)

6.3.6 Physical resources

The wealth of materials for self-access use in the LRC is available to all, but the habit of

using the LRC was not popular with the focal students. The Literacy Background

Questionnaire data showed that a large minority of the surveyed CAEL population

never read graded readers and the daily newspaper, two of the many pedagogic and

authentic media resources available for students use. None of the focal students said
they read them regularly. However, after discussing the need for support class and other

students to spend at least two hours per day doing homework, students such as Seif

began to go to the LRC. The notion of providing a „drop in‟ teacher after 3pm each day

was helpful to several students who took advantage of the facility. The notion of using

a library independently is important for students who have experienced a different

educational environment and it is crucial in terms of preparation for HE. As a drop in

teacher I was able to observe the dedication of some students regularly working

together, socializing, selecting and using multimedia materials. By the end of the

project, I found even the most recalcitrant of struggling students translating vocabulary

in the LRC during Ramadan, the most difficult time for study. I was delighted to find

him suitable practice materials and explain their use and where the answer keys could

be found.

6.3.7 Symbolic resources

Access to other speakers was a hindrance to learning for Norton‟s (1995) immigrant

adults. Similarly, Linehan and Mc Carthy (2001) critiqued the CoP (1991) for its

apparent neglect of unequal access for young primary students, while Toohey (1998)

and Kanno (1999) were concerned about ESL learners access to „experts‟ (native

speaker children) in formal settings. In the formal setting of a writing program, as

discussed above, physical resources abound, but feedback systems are essential to

successful learning. In the data collected with regard to writing correction systems the

students surveyed appeared satisfied with written feedback and felt able to approach the

teacher for help. An issue which became clear by its absence in the data was the role of

the teacher in conferencing, i.e. in providing face to face feedback on writing. Students

overall did not appear to have sufficient or seek more frequent access to teachers.
Research (Strauss and Xiang, 2006) shows that this contact can be a major motivational

factor. Focal students expressed their appreciation of conferencing input with me and

other teachers they identified as „good teachers‟: “She give me what I need.” The

personal touch is essential, but not always available when students most need it.

6.4 Conclusion to the Findings

Data from struggling writers in interviews corroborate the perceptions of data from

questionnaire responses and essays about writing program experiences. Students‟

language proficiency affects their understanding of writing. For all students grammar,

lexis and spelling were still areas of struggle. The students understood essay structure

and the importance of the introduction, body and conclusion. They also learned that

different types of essay were required and could cite the rhetorical patterns they had

learned. However, they had not grasped the power of meaning making and the

disciplinary role of writing in HE, as the goals of the EAP writing program were not

apparent to them, which was not their fault. A personal and group EAP writer identity

was lacking and with it the necessary agentive responses to challenges in the program.

The growth in complexity of identities and parallel increase in successful agentive

responses was obvious from the responses of the successful focal group students and the

undergraduate students, which were still developing when this study drew to a close. (I

have not lost touch with these students and am still helping them as a tutor.)

                      Chapter Seven
     Implications, Recommendations and Conclusions

      Pedagogy is never innocent. It is a medium that carries its own message.

      (Bruner, 1996, p.63, cited in Canagarajah, 2007, p.1)

In this chapter I discuss the implications of the findings, make recommendations for our

EAP writing program and draw conclusions in light of perspectives from socio-cultural

and critical language pedagogy.

7.1 Implications of the Findings

7.1.1 Pedagogic perspectives of identity, agency and community

This research study problematised the usefulness of social theories of identity, agency

and the Community of Practice to help struggling writers succeed in the context of a

pre-university EAP program. The appropriateness of socio-cultural theories in language

teaching and learning today stems from the social constructivist and social interactionist

theories of the role of language in the discursive construction of society, knowledge and

power. Theories of writing development in second language learning have moved over

the last 40 years from a discrete focus on form and function to a discourse orientation;

in the context of HE disciplinary discourse communities specify the genres and content

relevant to the creation and dissemination of knowledge. My study differed from other

studies in academic literacy using these social learning constructs in that it

problematised their role in the development of writing for learners in a pre-university

HE context. In an EAP context, where learners are not yet admitted to HE, the

construct of a Community of Practice appears more tenuous and might be equated more
simply with a learning community or discourse community. However, the social

construct of professional practice is powerful, in my view, since it encourages learners

to envision their futures in HE and after HE as professionals more clearly, to evaluate

discrepancies between their current status and their goals, and to manage their learning

trajectory by becoming the learners they need to be to succeed. Alternatively, students

can redesign their futures to fit more appropriately with their imagined selves (Wenger,


Comparing data from the focal students who were struggling with writing and data from

students who had succeeded in progressing into HE, or who were on the threshold of

HE, it became clear that EAP students who had severe weaknesses in writing but

strengths in oral skills, had experienced gaps in their learning histories in basic writing

skills, in exposure to written discourse through extensive reading and in writing to

express personal meaning. The biographies of these students and their awareness of

their futures, or imagined communities, revealed not only gaps in their learning histories

but also a lack of clarity about their future learning trajectories. As a result, the

identities of the struggling writers were inconsistent with success and their agentive

responses were weak.

There was no apparent lack of investment in learning (Norton, 1997, Bourdieu, 1991) or

motivation to learn among the focal students who participated in the study, although

there was frustration and anger at their predicament, which they could not understand

and which did not align with their desire to learn. This incomprehension limited their

agency and positioned them as strugglers. As a result they blamed the EAP program,

whereas teachers tended to attribute blame to the learners, because they were inattentive

in class, failed to complete homework, or were frequently late or absent from class, thus

missing input to learning and assessment of writing. This failure on the part of the focal

students to play their expected role as students suggests that they resisted the subject

positions this role placed them in. The focal students correctly identifed themselves as

seriously weak writers but the data suggested that they did not identify themselves with

a learning community at the start of the project, probably because they resisted

belonging to a community which labeled them as failures. The lowest proficiency level

focal writer left the program after three months which suggests lack of alignment of

identity with agency and subject positioning. If Bilal had been able to take up his

expected role as a beginning writer, despite his justified sense of self as fluent speaker

(as a result of extensive world travel and lengthy residence overseas), then he might

have been able to make new meaning in our community of practice, and create a

transformed identity for himself.

During the study a variety of means were used to elucidate for participants the reason

for and requirements of writing in HE, to elicit their perceptions of their status as novice

writers and to support their learning trajectory on an individual basis. These

interventions included their voluntary participation in attending a power point

presentation and taking an academic vocabulary test, completing questionnaires and

taking part in discussions about individual writing histories and challenges to their

learning trajectory, attending additional writing support classes and taking advantage of

tutorial support for independent study in the LRC after class each week day. As a result

of taking up some or all of these measures, by the end of the project the remaining four

focal students appeared to realize that they were part of a community which no longer

ignored them, developed more awareness of what their writing trajectory should be and

began to move more confidently along it, making individual, independent choices about

their learning trajectories if they were ready to do so. Since writing progress occurs in a

developmental process, students should be able to seek support for as long as it takes

them to transform themselves. Two students continued with CAEL, making those

adjustments, while two participants left CAEL for FS, where they would need to

transform themselves again, take up new roles and eventually through making meaning

in the new CoP, assume new identities of success. The alternative is marginalization, as

Bilal perhaps realised.

The plight of these struggling students could be theorized as resulting from culture

shock, or the clash of collectivist, teacher-centred, and individualist, independent learner

cultures, or as social distance, or personality traits. These internal, individual,

stereotypical theories place the onus on the individual to change to fit the context with

the support of counselling. The difference with theorising identity, agency, role and

subjectivity as contributing factors to learning success is that the focus turns from the

individual to the community, from individual to collective responsibility for learning,

with an increased focus on the context of practice. This perspective has increased my

understanding of and concern for struggling learners. It has also taught me more about

the threats of rigorous assessment and inflexible administrative procedures to student


7.1.2 Identity, agency, community and principled pedagogy

Johns (1997, p.xi) suggests that for student success in academic writing:

   In our classes we need to motivate students to be literacy researchers, open to and

   prepared for the many social and linguistic forces that may influence their literate


I endorse the spirit of these principles if the literacy research is conducted within

students‟ imagined disciplinary communities. The danger of such recommendations is

that language study becomes its own goal, which appears to be the status quo in EAP

programs. If language and learning are intertwined, the introduction of students‟

disciplinary content is essential to the face validity of EAP courses and will serve the

same goal, to prepare students to construct knowledge within their future discipline.

For beginning writers the design of a successful learning trajectory requires sensitive,

critical framing. The findings from this study suggest that helping students to form a

strong sense of learner identity and agency in a community of educational practice must

be foregrounded. These concepts could lead to the construction of a critical discursive

focus in writing which could empower students in their new CoP. Essential to an

understanding of multiple identities is the biography of the individual which can help

account for the student‟s current strengths and weaknesses in language proficiency.

Equally important is awareness of future goals and an understanding of the future

importance, impact and extension of the discursive role of writing in what can only be

limited exposure to expository essay writing within this preparatory EAP context.

In this study, it seemed that the majority of learners have problems with writing but

those who had the most began to struggle and appeared to lose self-confidence along

with the loss of group membership after falling behind in writing achievement. Instead

of joining readily in the support classes, many resisted this new labelling, or positioning

as „remedial‟ and avoided taking action. Eventually, this lack of agentive capacity

intensified into despair at the size of the task confronting them: Several of the 30

strugglers identified in June have left CAEL but are hoping to enter HE by gaining the

requisite IELTS scores after studying in their home country.

7.1.3 Individual goal setting, investment, desire and motivation

EAP students need to know that IELTS is only the key to the door to HE and that, as

Carroll (2002) points out, writing development as academic literacy proceeds

idiosyncratically and over time. Moreover, as Johns accepts (1997, p.153) EAP

programs cannot prepare students for everything in academia. So the use of expository

essay writing as a heuristic device and preparation for academic literacy is appropriate

and achievable, especially at lower levels of an EAP program. However, students need

more understanding of the program, especially its goals, the incremental/developmental

nature of the program, the role of the essay and voice and their relevance to HE.

Norton (1995, 1997) introduced Bourdieu‟s concept of investment instead of motivation

to her research study on the grounds that the psychological construct is unitary and

unchanging. Dornyei (2005) has contested this view since motivation research has

developed since Gardner‟s misinterpreted theory of integrative motivation was posited.

Many studies suggest that motivation changes with time and in context, so that the

substitution of one word for another appears to be semantic. On the one hand,

„investment‟ suggests a commitment of energy and time to the learning task which

motivation drives and which is essential for success in writing development. On the

other, „investment‟ connotes ambiguously with the „banking‟ model of learning, i.e.

learning by transmission, as well as with symbolic capital. I remain uncertain about its

value in teaching, learning or teacher development instead of motivation. What is clear
to me is that motivation, investment or desire, without strategic agency will not lead to

success in learning.

7.1.4 Program weaknesses Support for ideas and voice

The findings provided evidence of gaps in what had appeared to be a theoretically sound

writing program, as well as areas for improvement in light of social learning theory. In

the revised WCDs the increased focus on accuracy to the detriment of content in an

essay, and the teaching restriction on assisting students with the development of ideas in

appropriate lexis, were retrograde steps which have been reversed. There appears to be

a need for more teacher support for talk about writing to foster the creation of a personal

voice and a more powerful sense of agency in writing. This should lead into the

development of a more subtly nuanced authorial voice when students are required to

critique other writers in HE. Teaching focus on handwriting, phonemes/graphemes

Struggling writers at different levels of language proficiency in this Arabic speaking

group all suffered with severe spelling problems. Many teachers are not sufficiently

aware of elementary literacy to be able to assist students with forming letters in the

appropriate way, joining letters so that there is right to left flow, writing print versus

cursive script, and identifying spelling regularities and exceptions, but there is an

increasing number of texts and guides for students and teachers in these areas. A danger

when teaching low level skills is that teachers treat students as children because they

cannot form letters well. This can be remedied by getting teachers or other students
with Roman alphabet writing systems to write words in Arabic, Russian, Greek or

Chinese on the whiteboard under the direction of their students. The lesson is visibly

amusing and the point made: Motor skills are difficult to acquire, take a lot of practice, a

keen perceptual approach and a good deal of motivation to struggle through to

automaticity of code-breaking (reading) and code-making (writing). The content of the

words used to illustrate spelling regularities can be related to topics suitable for students

in the class, rather than those found in primary school spelling primers. Teaching and learning vocabulary

Learner corpora and frequency lists provide useful support to teachers, and students can

choose the lexical fields they wish to learn. COBUILD‟s Advanced Learners‟

Dictionary frequency band information, West‟s General Service List, Nation‟s Levels

and University Word list or Coxhead‟s Academic Word list , all have overlap which

can be confidence building for students since they reduce the impression that the

amount of vocabulary required is limitless. The online tests provided by Nation and his

colleagues can be accessed by individuals as well as introduced by teachers. In the

developmental process of word acquisition insistence on accuracy must be balanced

with growth in range: Lexis cannot be satisfactorily learned from lists, although these

are reassuring and helpful to students who are inclined to rules and taxonomies, but

should be retrieved from meaningful context while reading and used in writing for

personal, appropriate meaning making in discourse.

The importance of reading quantities of text from the beginning of lower levels of

proficiency in EAP programs cannot be stressed enough. Admittedly materials at the

level of the learner are required but where they exist, as in our program, then for
teachers and students to fail to implement a reading program supplementary to the

course book is neglect of the most serious degree. Waiting to remediate reading/writing

at basic literacy levels until a gap is detected between oral and writing skills is too late,

as is failing to notice that a student is not forming letters fluently or accurately until the

final achievement test. Feedback from placement testing must be given to class teachers

so that they can identify student learning needs from the first class meeting. Teaching and learning writing

The major weakness in the writing program seems to be a lack of time on key areas

such as vocabulary development and essay drafting. Sharing drafts with peers does not

seem to be common practice, though the process approach depends on such discussion

and feedback. As a result it appears that writing is a lonely event, even though it takes

place socially. Students may be reluctant to work together and may prefer to talk to the

teacher about their writing, but they can and do get help and ideas from each other if

they are encouraged to do so (as I observed). Since social constructionist practice in

learning is new to students, a developmental approach is required to changing learning

behaviours: modeling, encouraging, persisting with new behaviours, explaining

rationales to break down resistance. Writing assessment

There are important issues in developmental writing assessment using multiple trait

outcomes descriptors. If these are used as proficiency measures rather than

achievement measures to evaluate and guide writing development, then their washback

is negative. In our EAP program it is possible to pass writing if ideas are present and

intelligible in the student‟s script because the university pass criterion is 50%. Students

who understand the ways in which the criteria can be met, and how grading scales are

applied to these descriptors will be more able to exercise agency. If students are failing

writing with this lenient policy, then there must be different approaches to remediation

other than the current practice of: repeating a whole program.. Flexible assessment

policies and targeted remediation rather than repeating courses would assist the

development of learners, taking account of their developing identity as writers. Essay topics and peer and teacher feedback

The data showed that students cannot understand the fear that teachers and

administration have of students preparing model answers or plagiarising when they are

allowed to select their own topics. Students expressed the opinion that a closer fit of

topic to course material would increase their confidence in approaching assessment

tasks and could increase their motivation to learn a narrower and therefore more

achievable range of lexis. Relevance of topics is essential to learning in the EAP

context and students should be allowed a voice in the negotiation of these, rather than

having a topic imposed which they cannot understand. Face validity has been

considered the most relevant validity and it applies to learning as well as testing.

Beaufort (2005, as cited in Leki 2007) suggests five universal writing subskills:

discourse community knowledge; subject matter knowledge; genre knowledge;

rhetorical knowledge; writing process knowledge. Only the last two are possible

without input from „receiving‟ disciplines, so team teaching or input from the

disciplines would be ideal ways in which to improve a writing program. . This may be

difficult to put in place, but at the very least, as Strauss and Xiang describe, the locus of

emergent agency is teacher conferencing with individuals. Only in this way can
teachers target students‟ needs and focus learning in their ZPD (Barnard & Campbell,

2007). Learning resource centre, library and online learning

EAP students at all levels should tour library facilities and be introduced to their

potential faculty librarian for specialist and general library catalogue training, electronic

data base searching, and practice in locating books on shelves, to encourage

identification with the University and see the scope of the resources for academic

literacy. Students could be exposed to handbooks for academic writing so that they can

develop a realistic perspective on what future demands will be made of them. Tutorials

from librarians and library handouts would also provide authentic and confirmatory

input on what futures lie in store for successful CAEL students.

The learning resource centre might then appear accessible and inviting, a playground

for the brain, instead of a prison for the body. Online learning is a resource which has

been neglected recently in our school and which I was not able to introduce in this

study. We must all make greater use of the technology which Warschauer (2002) has

suggested is more appealing to younger students in the twenty first century.

7.2 Recommendations

7.2.1 Placement decisions

One recommendation for administrators in charge of EAP programs is that students

with a jagged profile of skills at placement must be counseled individually on admission

so that they understand their placement, how they can ensure success in the program,
and are aware of the effects of failure. Administrators must be aware of the socio-

psychological impact on students of repeating a course, which includes not merely a

delay in terms of time, but loss of colleagues and loss of self-esteem. An alternative to

repeating a course would seem an obvious improvement to repeating a course where

students fail in only one skill. In this study, the support writing course helped some

students adopt more agentive stances, and the availability of a „drop in‟ teacher in the

LRC is an ongoing quality improvement to the whole program.

7.2.2 Reification and documentation

Another recommendation for administrators is that students in a preparatory EAP course

are not yet HE students but they should be enabled to imagine the community they seek

to enter more clearly and should understand in more detail the program they are in. In a

school which has options for entry to HE, the differences between the programs should

be explained so that students understand what the options entail; i.e. IELTS is merely a

key to the gate of HE study, while Foundation Studies provides content useful for

science students, but not necessarily for arts students, who would benefit from CAEL,

as the Year 2 HE undergraduates informed me.

7.2.3 Participation

A recommendation to teachers and administrators is that a sense of community should

be built within the classroom, the school and the wider university since the relationships

students are able to make are important. Boundaries between in-group (EAP) and out-

group (HE) can be broken down by establishing socioacademic relationships between

those who have made it through and those who are still struggling. Graduates (alumni)

and undergraduates could be invited to discuss issues and challenges ahead, and offer

advice. Similarly, within EAP levels, CAEL5-7 students could mentor or peer tutor

CAEL1-4 students who seem far from their target community, as suggested by Johns

(1997, p.116). Border crossing can thus be facilitated.

7.2.4 Learning from the past, adapting to the present

A second recommendation for teachers is a critical issue which other researchers have

proposed: Classrooms should not be clinical environments in which language only is

discussed. Instead of general topics which fail to engage students, the topic potentially

most engaging to them should be introduced: themselves. In my study it was clear that

students are not used to reflecting on writing, nor to having their opinions solicited. This

topic is the stuff of EAP life: Students need to be encouraged to compare their L1s, their

past L1 writing programs and previous learning experiences with each other. In this

way, Lave and Wenger‟s CoP apprenticeship may be approached: students in an EAP

community are in training to be members of the HE community, so increasing

awareness of where they are now, where they have been and where they are going in

their learning trajectory should help to improve the process, as I believe my study

showed. The responsibility for learning lies with the learner, but this task cannot be

taken up unless teachers raise learners‟ awareness of that responsibility.

7.2.5 Teaching writing

Carroll (2002) explained that writing development as academic literacy proceeds

idiosyncratically and over time; Johns (1997, p.153) agrees that EAP programs cannot

prepare students for everything in academia. Having established the overall program

goals, a needs analysis discussion would be beneficial for all students to self-evaluate

their prior knowledge and experience in writing in L1 and L2, perhaps using

questionnaires such as those in this study. In this way teachers could move out of lock-

step whole class teaching as necessary to cater for individual needs and ensure that

students are helped along their individual learning trajectory. Learning contracts could

be drawn up with students filling in the details of how they see their individual targets

along the continuum of the class syllabus each time they begin a new course. At higher

levels in CAEL teachers must go beyond the expository essay and model the messy

process of knowledge acquisition, i.e. of writing a secondary research paper.

7.2.6 The division of labour

At the level of the university following Johns, (1997, p. 154) attempts should be made

to ensure all faculty are aware of the complexity of multiple literacies, so that language

units are not marginalized and our students are supported. It is unfortunate that the

most important work of a university, the advancement of literacies within communities

of practice, is often marginalized. Rather than contributing to this marginalization, EAP

teachers can – and should – promote a more sophisticated understanding of literacies on

our campuses, and, while doing so, motivate our students to undertake difficult

academic work. Wenger‟s notion of a constellation of practices can be useful here to

encourage a vision of HE as an academic community of practice in which different

disciplines are linked by the mediating tool of language. The lifeblood of HE should be

generated in the CoP of EAP.

7.3 Conclusions

This research study is about literacy at the micro-level of individuals. „Unpacking‟ the

concept of literacy, explaining the learning trajectory, clarifying imagined futures and

empowering students to attain new identities in learning can help students. However,

time to achieve new identities and understanding of the learning trajectory is also

needed at the macro-level of scholarship providers. Students should not be recruited to

English-medium study with time limits and forced to work under pressure to achieve

impossible targets. At the meso-level of analysis, in a CoP the professional expertise of

those providing the program must be used to protect clients taking the program. There

is no magic wand of literacy, nor a magic bullet which speeds up learning. Students on

scholarships should have documented information to give to their scholarship provider

on the estimated length of the preparatory language program. Basic English literacy

may become part of the selection process for scholarship holders before they travel


Benesch, (1999) has presented an analysis of students‟ rights for clear assignments,

comprehensible lectures, and class discussion. EAP programs apply a socio-cultural

framework to discourse from a top-down approach so as to identify and teach different

types of discourse used in education contexts (Swales, 1990). This is not enough. When

students are able to participate fully in authentic situated learning, then a CoP can be

seen in action. EAP programs need to link into the wider university, the constellations

of academic practice, to increase membership of the HE CoP. EAP students are adults

and their investment in learning will be greater the more informed they are of their

imagined futures and the nature of their learning trajectories.

                              Appendix A
                      Individual interview schedule:
1. In your questionnaire you said you had a lot of problems with writing. Why do you

think writing is difficult for you?

2. How does writing make you feel? Do you think you will pass writing in this course?

3. Has our program helped you to develop your writing, do you think? How?

4. How does our program compare with how you learned English before? Did you

write a lot when you studied English back home?

5. Do you do anything yourself to improve your writing? What?

6. How can we help you to improve your writing? What should we change?

Questions 1-4 relate to RQ1 and RQ2 because the perceptions of experiences in the

writing program overlap with the construct of identity. Questions 5- 6 relate to RQ3

which concerns agentive responses to challenges in writing. The focus group questions

are intended for higher level groups and are only indirectly related to the RQs.

                            Focus group schedule:
    1.   Did you feel you were on a learning pathway towards writing in the university

         in our program?

    2.   Did you understand the differences in writing goals between our courses as you

         took them?

    3. Do you understand how our program develops writing now?

    4. Can you compare the writing program here with your previous studies,

         highlighting advantages and disadvantages of our program?

    5. Can you suggest ways in which we could improve our program?

    6.   Is there anything else you would like to tell me?

                          Appendix B
               Sample focal student profile Bassem
Male, Saudi Arabian, early twenties, outgoing, confident in appearance. In his response

to Item 19 in the Writing Skills Questionnaire he said he found NZ people helpful but

he was not living in a homestay.


He is the first child in the family to go to university. According to B his family were

not supportive of his education when he was a child. They were not interested in how

he was doing, but now they want him to study overseas and get a degree. He is the

youngest of five boys and four girls. His older brother came with him to study but has

now gone home.

Study progress

He came to NZ to study in February 2006 . He was placed in CAEL 2. After moving to

CAEL 3, then CAEL 4 in three 12 week terms he went home for 6 months in December

2006 to negotiate a government scholarship. He came back to NZ in July 2007. In

January 2008 he was in CAEL 5. At our first meeting he explained that although he

had passed the achievement test for CAEL 4 in 2006, after the placement test in 2007 he

was again placed in CAEL 4. He was not unhappy about this, but he said he „forgot‟. I

know that the school became more rigorous at placement with writing skills during his

absence, which is why he was placed lower than he expected.

Although B is motivated to study, learning English ONLY has started to depress him: “I

feel bored sometime”. He used figurative language: “I feel swimming and going

nowhere.” The language used and the sentiment expressed are typical of students at a

plateau stage, but the need for content is interesting, and suggests the imagined

community he may have expected in studying overseas. After one year of English
study, it is natural that he should expect something more motivating than general topics.

He wants to be an computer engineer.

As a result of his boredom in CAEL 5, he wants to enter Foundation Studies in

February, i.e. six weeks from the interview date. If he gains IELTS 5 in writing, he will

be allowed to leave our CAEL program. He took IELTS in 2006 and scored 4.5 overall,

W4, S5, R4 L4.5 = 17.5 = 4.5.

Attitudes to study

B has experienced several different teachers given the length of his study program. He

prefers teachers who are kind, humorous, fair and able to manage the class as well as

teach the subject. He likes teachers who point out the rules gently: “She say, good

afternoon B, when I‟m late.

We discussed the IELTS targets and strategies to improve his skills. He did not have

any ideas about improving his skills; he did not use the LRC independently, because he

felt he needed some control, or direction there. He expressed the opinion that “some

teachers are good, some not”. He named two good teachers and his views coincided

with mine. As a teacher developer I am familiar with individual teacher‟s qualifications

and experience. He feels some teachers do not help students enough with their writing.

He is aware of the pass levels in English and believes they are low (50%). He thinks

standards are not high enough. He was not aware of the descriptors, although they had

been in use since 2005; in other words, no teacher had made our writing

evaluation/feedback system clear to him during his fifteen months of study. He likes
the process writing approach, three drafts written in class with teacher feedback: “you

learn by your mistake, very useful”.

I advised him to use Murphy‟s English Grammar in Use and showed him how it works

(rules, exercise, answer key). I explained the frequency vocabulary lists in COBUILD

and gave him a copy of the vocabulary in Frequency Bands 5 and 4 for him to work

with by asking himself three questions of each word in the lists:

   1) Do I know this word?

   2) Can I define it?

   3) Can I spell it?

I told him to come and see me again if he needed help or wanted to talk.

Questionnaire data

On the Language Skills Questionnaire, he self-evaluated as weak in speaking, listening

and reading, although he was positive about writing texts and emails, sentences,

paragraphs and essays with a dictionary. He regarded his handwriting as very poor and

he felt he had a lot of problems with writing in English.

On the Literacy Background Questionnaire he expressed the belief that people in his

country did not read enjoy reading much, although there are libraries and bookshops in

his town. He confirmed his earlier oral statement about lack of familial or educational

support for L1 reading and school work. He does not have a degree in his first

language, but he would like to graduate in English in computer engineering.

In the Writing Skills Questionnaire he stated that he can print clearly but not use cursive

script. Although he was in CAEL 5 he did not feel confident using subordinating

conjunctions such as although, if unless, as long as, provided that. He expressed the

opinion that teachers in our school can teach speaking and listening well but not reading

and writing. He confessed that he did not do much reading or homework after class,

though he believed the writing program was good. He did not believe our standards

were high, or that he was making progress.

Writing Samples (in Appendix G)

His essay writing samples confirm his self-evaluation that he can organize meaning into

sentences, paragraphs and essays appropriately for basic rhetorical essay patterns such

as cause and effect, or advantages and disadvantages. His planning was obviously

minimal, however, which became a serious weakness in CAEL5, where argument

essays require clear expression of viewpoint and authorial voice in response to

questions such as “To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?”

In the essay he showed me he had not been able to argue his point for one side strongly,

but had provided a balanced view, using advantages/disadvantages rhetorical structure.

This is probably because this pattern is new and he has not perceived the need to adopt a

clear position on one side or the other. Teacher comments were intended to be helpful,

but when an essay requires a „voice‟ it is not helpful to be told “avoid using personal

pronouns in academic writing”. Also, “you need to refer to xxx” is not directive enough

for a student who is seeking to express an opinion on one side of an argument for the

first time. “What do you think about this?” might have generated a clearer response. It

is obvious that B did not consult with his teacher to try to get his viewpoint clearer. At

the end of Draft 3 the teacher wrote: “You need to show your view: Is there a xxxx?”

This directive comment came too late to help B in this essay.

B‟s writing is weak in verb tenses and forms such as the gerund, infinitive or participles.

His lexis is appropriate but there is at least one major spelling error on each line, e.g.

“wondreful experience”, “Moreover, they will learn to mange their money and time…” ,

“Also they are translation the programs to many languages.” These errors create an

uneven impression of his language proficiency and make his writing difficult to

decipher on the first draft where there are clusters of error, e.g. “As a result of this

many teenagers influnce on western and take some new cultures.” There is a tendency

towards „dyslexic‟ error, e.g „chande‟ for change, „persently‟ for presently, „parnets‟ for

partners, “attrctive‟ for attractive, which is noticeable trait in students studying in

CAEL1-4. The reasons for this are discussed in Chapter 3.

Hence, although he is in CAEL5, his writing is assessed as closer to CAEL4, i.e. barely

passing with 52% in the process approach and in the product essay (timed writing, one

draft) he scored only 46%. With such a performance it was likely that B would fail

writing and have to repeat the course.

CAEL 7 focus group member

I next saw B in CAEL7 in June 2008. He had not achieved the IELTS score he needed

but he had completed CAEL6 and was now half way through CAEL7. In the interim

six months from our first interview he had founded a club to help his fellow countrymen

in social ways, but also with peer support for English. I found this entirely appropriate

and congratulated him on his proactivity. He seemed happy and at ease with this small

group of peers who were all older and several were already degree holders, aiming at

second degrees in NZ.

Interview September 2008: Progress

I was able to interview B nine months after our first interview. He did not complete

CAEL 7, leaving it soon after the focus group interview; nor did he gain the requisite

IELTS scores but was allowed to enter Foundation on the basis of his completion of

CAEL courses. Foundation Studies is a year long program which he hopes to complete

in time to enter an undergraduate program in February 2009. It was Ramadan but his

sunny personality revealed no strain and he participated happily in the interview.

He admitted his weaknesses were still vocabulary and grammar, especially passive

voice in writing, but he was happy with his speaking, which was evidently much

improved in terms of accuracy from the January interview. He had taken IELTS for the

second time, gaining Band 5 Overall, but W4, S6.5, R4 and L5=19.5.

On this occasion he could name some strategies for improving his vocabulary: “I think

if I read a lot of books and if I memorise at least two vocabulary a day, at the end of the

month I will have a lot of vocabulary.” His problem was apparent to him too: “But

actually I‟m lazy for doing that. That my fault.” His goals were now clear, though: “I

didn‟t master the English, yes, but I can speak and I can do whatever I want, but still not

master…” but “I like English …I start to like English so I want to master English.”


His reflection on the CAEL experience revealed “advantages and disadvantages” to the

program. He aptly pointed to the opportunity to meet and speak with students in the

university as an advantage, though the impoverished status of the school had entailed

teachers and students moving classroom almost each week, which he (and other

students) bitterly resented.

B volunteered suggestions which he had thought about: “I think it‟s a good way to

students who are going to study in the university, to have one class a week with

lecturers in the university – so that they can know the gaps between here and there. So

it‟s a really really good idea. At least one class a week.”

He continued with a suggestion which management have tried to put into effect as yet

unsuccessfully: “Especially students who are in a high level and students who are going

to study in management or engineering if there is any possibility to get them a course in

their discipline… which links…”

In response to how useful the frequency list had been, B told me: “I found the list of

frequent words useful, but honestly I didn‟t study all of it. Some of them I didn‟t

recognize. Not all of them easy.”

These comments speak to the need for CAEL programs to include content which is

useful, and therefore motivating. The investment which students might make in

obviously useful materials would most probably be greater than that they are prepared

to put into learning academic word lists.

                          Appendix C
                   Language Skills Questionnaire
    Do you agree with the following statements Yes, a   Yes No, not   No, not
    about yourself? Tick the correct answer: √ lot          much      at all
1   I can speak English in class with my teacher
    and friends
2   I can speak English with new people in formal
    situations, e.g. a job interview.
3   I can make oral presentations in class.

4   I can listen to English and take notes from
5   I can watch TV and films in English.

6   I can read a newspaper in English.

7   I can read graded readers from the resource
8   I can read my English course book.

9  I can make notes in English from textbooks
   for study purposes.
10 I can text messages in English to friends.

11 I can email/chat online in English.

12 I can write a lot of words in English
   WITHOUT using a dictionary.
13 I can write sentences in English using a
14 I can write paragraphs in English using a
15 I can write essays in English using a
16 My teacher says my handwriting is easy to
17 I can use Microsoft Word grammar checker to
   correct my English writing.
18 I can use Microsoft Word Spell Checker to
   correct my English writing.
19 I can type English with 10 fingers.

20 I have some problems with writing in English.

Please complete the information below if you want to.

1. My name is ______________________________

2. My English class level is _____________________

3. My first language is ___________________________

4. I have studied at The University of Waikato Language Institute for

__________________ years/months/weeks.

5. I have studied in other countries before.            Yes/No.

  (If yes, where did you study? _______________)

6. This information can be used for research.


Please contact Liz Howell ( if you have any questions about
this survey.

Thank you for your help.

                      Writing Skills Questionnaire
     Do you agree with the following statements             Yes,    Yes No, not   No,
     about YOU?                                             a lot       much      not at
     Tick one answer only: √                                                      all
1    I can print upper and lower case letters clearly.

2    I can write cursive script clearly.

3    I can punctuate a sentence accurately.

4    I know how to connect sentences together with
     words like and, but, so, because.
5    I know how to connect sentences together with
     words like when, after, before, while, as, as soon
     as, by the time that.
6    I know how to connect sentences together with
     words like although, if, unless, even though, as
     long as, provided that.
7    I know how to connect sentences together with
     words like who, which, whom, whose, that.
8    I use a dictionary to check my spelling when I
     write my first draft of essays.
9    I use a dictionary to check spelling when I write
     the second draft of essays.
10   I understand the corrections my teacher gives me
     on my writing.
11   I ask my teacher for help when I don‟t
     understand her feedback/corrections.
12   I have a writing descriptor for my level which my
     teacher gave me.
13   I do English homework or I read something in
     English every day after class.
14   I think the teachers at this school teach English
     speaking and listening well.
15   I think the teachers at this school teach English
     reading and writing well.
16   I think the program for teaching writing is good
17   I think the standard of tests at this school is high
     (compared with IELTS).
18   I think I am making good progress in learning
     English overall.
19   I think New Zealand people are helpful.

20 I live in an English-speaking homestay family.

               Literacy Background Questionnaire
    Do you agree with the following statements        Yes, a Yes No, not   No,
    about your background?                            lot        much      not at
    Tick one answer: √                                                     all
1   In my country people enjoy reading
    newspapers and magazines.
2   In my country people enjoy reading books.

3   In my country there are libraries in each town
    where people can borrow books.
4   In my country there are book shops where
    people buy books on many subjects.
5   In my secondary school, my teachers
    encouraged me to read books in my first
6   In my country people usually have a book case
    in their homes where they keep the books they
7   My mother (or father, or other family member)
    used to read me stories when I was a child.
8   My mother (or father, or other family member)
    used to help me read and write when I was at
9   I enjoy reading and writing in my first

10 I have a university degree in my first language.
11 I want to get a university degree in English.

1. My name is ___________________________ (optional)

2. I come from _______________________

3. My CAEL class level is     ________________________

4. I have taken IELTS and I scored Overall _____________

___________ S_____________ R_______________ W_________

                      Appendix D
    Table 1 Language Skills Questionnaire Responses of
                  All Students N=106
CAEL1-7 responses N=106. (CAEL1-3=N=51 CAEL4-7=N=55)
   Do you agree with the following             Yes, a Yes    No,    No, not
   statements about yourself?                  lot           not    at all
   Tick the correct answer: √                                much
1 I can speak English in class with my teacher 41     51     14     0
   and friends
2 I can speak English with new people in       8      53     33     11
   formal situations, e.g. a job interview.
3 I can make oral presentations in class.      12     60     25     5

4    I can listen to English and take notes from   12   54   35     0
5    I can watch TV and films in English.          25   44   28     9

6    I can read a newspaper in English.            7    35   43     18

7    I can read graded readers from the resource   17   51   34     2
8    I can read my English course book.            44   53   8      0

9  I can make notes in English from textbooks      18   58   24     0
   for study purposes.
10 I can text messages in English to friends.      40   47   15     4
11 I can email/chat online in English.             28   43   28     5

12 I can write a lot of words in English           14   47   41     4
   WITHOUT using a dictionary.
13 I can write sentences in English using a        39   47   16     4
14 I can write paragraphs in English using a       34   53   15     3
15 I can write essays in English using a           32   52   18     3
16 My teacher says my handwriting is easy to       20   48   32     6
17 I can use Microsoft Word grammar checker        26   50   19     6
   to correct my English writing.
18 I can use Microsoft Word Spell Checker to       32   53   17     3
   correct my English writing.
19 I can type English with 10 fingers.             27   31   32     16

20 I have some problems with writing in            24   46   29     9

    Table 2 Item 20: Number of students self-evaluating
                  with writing problems
CAEL       Returns   # ss w   # a lot of     # some     # not many
Level                problems problems       problems   problems
1          14        14       7              5          2

2          15        13         1            9          3

3          25        23         7            9          7

4          40        39         8            18         13

5           8        6          1            2          3

6          6         1          0            1/6        0

7          2         2          0            2/2        0

Total      110       98         24           46         28

Table 3 Item 20: Arabic speakers self-evaluating with
                 writing problems
CAEL       Returns   # Arabic   # a lot of   # some     # not many
 Level               speakers   problems     problems   problems
1          14        13         6            5          2

2          15        13         3            8          2

3          25        5          2            2          1

4          40        10         1            5          4

5           8        2          1            1          0

6          6         1          0            1          0

7          2         1          0            1          0

Total      110       45         13           23         9

                      Appendix E
     Table 4 Writing Skills Qu’aire Responses of non-
                 Arabic speakers N= 44
     Do you agree with the following statements        %        %     % No,   %No,
     about YOU?                                        Yes, a   Yes   not     not at
     Tick one answer only: √                           lot            much    all
1    I can print upper and lower case letters          32       45    16      0
2    I can write cursive script clearly.               9        39    36      11
3    I can punctuate a sentence accurately.            11       57    27      0
4    I know how to connect sentences together          25       68     5      2
     with words like and, but, so, because.
5    I know how to connect sentences together          7        70    16      2
     with words like when, after, before, while, as,
     as soon as, by the time that.
6    I know how to connect sentences together          2        59    30      5
     with words like although, if, unless, even
     though, as long as, provided that.
7    I know how to connect sentences together          11       64    14      2
     with words like who, which, whom, whose,
8    I use a dictionary to check my spelling when      25       48    18      7
     I write my first draft of essays.
9    I use a dictionary to check spelling when I       13       43    36      5
     write the second draft of essays.
10   I understand the corrections my teacher gives     15       64    14      2
     me on my writing.
11   I ask my teacher for help when I don‟t            27       59    9       0
     understand her feedback/corrections.
12   I have a writing descriptor for my level          18       7     11      5
     which my teacher gave me.
13   I do English homework or I read something         18       57    26      2
     in English every day after class.
14   I think the teachers at this school teach         41       52    0       0
     English speaking and listening well.
15   I think the teachers at this school teach         32       61    5       0
     English reading and writing well.
16   I think the program for teaching writing is       25       59    11      0
     good here.
17   I think the standard of tests at this school is   20       45    15      5
     high (compared with IELTS).
18   I think I am making good progress in              13       64    11      2
     learning English overall.
19   I think New Zealand people are helpful.           30       57    9       0
20   I live in an English-speaking homestay            30       20    14      32

     Table 5 Writing Skills Questionnaire Responses of
                  Arabic speakers N=29
     Do you agree with the following                   %Yes,   %Yes %No,   %No,
     statements about YOU?                             a lot        not    not at
     Tick one answer only: √                                        much   all
1    I can print upper and lower case letters          45      38   7      4
2    I can write cursive script clearly.               7       21   38     28
3    I can punctuate a sentence accurately.            4       52   28     0
4    I know how to connect sentences together          21      72   0      0
     with words like and, but, so, because.
5    I know how to connect sentences together          21      48   31     4
     with words like when, after, before, while,
     as, as soon as, by the time that.
6    I know how to connect sentences together          0       28   45     24
     with words like although, if, unless, even
     though, as long as, provided that.
7    I know how to connect sentences together          17      48   28     4
     with words like who, which, whom, whose,
8    I use a dictionary to check my spelling           24      31   21     17
     when I write my first draft of essays.
9    I use a dictionary to check spelling when I       17      52   14     14
     write the second draft of essays.
10   I understand the corrections my teacher           31      45   21     0
     gives me on my writing.
11   I ask my teacher for help when I don‟t            28      62   4      7
     understand her feedback/corrections.
12   I have a writing descriptor for my level          24      38   7      17
     which my teacher gave me.
13   I do English homework or I read something         35      38   21     4
     in English every day after class.
14   I think the teachers at this school teach         48      24   14     4
     English speaking and listening well.
15   I think the teachers at this school teach         45      24   17     0
     English reading and writing well.
16   I think the program for teaching writing is       41      28   21     4
     good here.
17   I think the standard of tests at this school is   10      35   17     4
     high (compared with IELTS).
18   I think I am making good progress in              21      35   17     4
     learning English overall.
19   I think New Zealand people are helpful.           24      48   24     4
20   I live in an English-speaking homestay            14      21   14     45

  Table 6 Literacy Background Qu’aire Responses of
              non-Arabic speakers N=44
   Do you agree with the following statements         %, a   %Yes % not    % not
   about your background?                             lot         much     at all
1 In my country people enjoy reading                  48     45   5        0
   newspapers and magazines.
2 In my country people enjoy reading books.           25     34   18       0
3 In my country there are libraries in each town      25     50   18       2
   where people can borrow books.
4 In my country there are book shops where            61     34   2        0
   people buy books on many subjects.
5 In my secondary school, my teachers                 25     57   16       0
   encouraged me to read books.
6 In my country people usually have a book case       30     32   14       0
   in their homes for the books they buy.
7 My mother (or father, or other family member)       25     45   20       7
   used to read me stories when I was a child.
8 My mother (or father, or other family member)       23     50   23       0
   used to help me read and write.
9 I enjoy reading and writing in my first             23     48   16       7
10 I have a university degree in my first language.   23     32   11       27
11 I want to get a university degree in English.      36     40   5        16

  Table 7 Literacy Background Qu’aire Responses of
                Arabic speakers N=29
   Do you agree with the following statements         %a     %Yes % not   % not
   about your background?                             lot         much    at all
1 In my country people enjoy reading                  41     52   7        0
   newspapers and magazines.
2 In my country people enjoy reading books.           14     58   24      4
3 In my country there are libraries in each town      24     41   31      4
   where people can borrow books.
4 In my country there are book shops where            52     41   0       0
   people buy books on many subjects.
5 In my secondary school, my teachers                 28     35   28      4
   encouraged me to read books.
6 In my country people usually have a book case       21     52   17      4
   in their homes for the books they buy.
7 My mother (or father, or other family member)       10     48   31      10
   used to read me stories when I was a child.
8 My mother (or father, or other family member)       48     41   10      0
   used to help me read and write.
9 I enjoy reading and writing in my first             52     35   14      0
10 I have a university degree in my first language.   38     17   10      28
11 I want to get a university degree in English.      62     31   4       4
                             Appendix F
                      Sample Essays from CAEL7

      The handwritten essays have been typed but errors remain as in original.

      Writing which is crossed out but still decipherable has been included in square

       brackets, since it indicates that reflection and proof reading have occurred.

      Spelling, punctuation, lexis and syntax errors are underlined.

      Arrows indicate omissions of the copula (be), and the indefinite article (a/an),

       which do not occur in Arabic.

      These essays were elicited as data for the research topic, so ideas which

       contribute to the issues of identity and agency are bolded.

Topic: Compare the experience of being a writer using Arabic with the experience

                              of being an English author.

Essay # 3 (Focal student Bassem)

Day by day I grow up in this beautiful life. I have learned several things in my life

such as How can I behave, talk, respect, worship and study. Through my life I have

studied arabic subjects. In this essay I will write about my experience in arabic and

English languages in term of reading and writing. What are some differences and

similarties between them?

I grew up in ^Arabic environment and I learnt in arabic school as well so my

language of course is arabic. Arabic language is not that easy to learn because there

are many accents, complicate grammars and thousands of vocabularies. It is also

really difficult for foreign people to study it.

Even though, I’m^ native speaker in Arabic language some time I faced some

problems while I’m reading or writing. I believe that If I’m ^ good reader and writer

in my own language, I will ^ good too in other languages. Unfortantely I have not

studied English well sinec intermediate school because our system and teacher was

not sufficient to provide to our students. Therefore, I considered that I started studied

exactly english in New Zealand. My reading and writing^ still not good enough

because I did not use read and write in Arabic and I think that is the main reason

that I affect me.

Today, I’m really struggle to improve my reading and writing in both languages so

I’m doing some research in How students improve their reading and writing to help

me first and help other students who face same my problem. I have learn important

point in New Zealand to improve reading and writing. If need to improve your

writing read a lots a lots a lots.

Essay # 1 (anonymous CAEL7 student)

I started to study Arabic when I was five years old. I learnt to know the [basick]

basiks about writing and reading in Arabic language. In high school many

teachers admired my writing and said that I have a special style of using and

describing [think] things. Therefore, I use to write for the school laibrary every week.

I think the main adventage of writing in Arabic is that more than 99% of the words

do not need to be memorized. We just need to write what we speak.

In Saudi Arabia, students start studying English in middle school. Personaly, I

have found that learning English is lovely. I started from A, b, c. I started only

with grammar simple [sent] words like car and father or mother. The next step is

writing about topics. I remember that the first writing topic for me was about camel.

In fact, I did not learn any thing about topic sentences, Introduction, conclusion.

We just memoris the whole [essay] topic. Because I love learning English, I have

known many vocabulary but it is very hard to write all of them. Spelling is very

difficult in English. [There are no rules fo] I have to practis who to spell words after

I know it.

When I graduated from high school, I studied English for one year. I learned a lot

about grammar and [spe] vocabulary. I studied writing and I wrote many topics,

such as my city. My teacher liked my writing because he said it is very good to

write fastly. However, it ^still very different from studying English in New


In New Zealand, I started to study at the language institute from level four. I got a

good mark for speaking, grammar and listining. I remember that I wrote a lot in

the writing test but without any orgnization. [The te} I think if I know the writing

[basiks such as] essay’s rules, I will start from level five. In level 4, I shocked when I

did the first essay draft. My mark was bad because I did not know anything about

how to write an [accadimic] academic essay. In new Zealand, writing an essay is

completely differen than in Saudi Arabia. I think it is hard to [explain] write our

idea in English because there are many things can stop me like grammar, spelling,

paragraph unity, clear ideas, avoid complex sentence. Also, every collage wants

students to write about what style they want them to do.

To be conclued that writing in Arabic is much easier than in English. Because in

Arabic I can write what I speak. In Saudi Arabia, I did not learn who to write an

essay. Arabic students always lose marks when they write in English because of the

spelling difficulty. [Writing in English needs a long] Arabic students need a long

process to develop their writing. In my opinion, many Arabic students have

struggled when they study English because their background [in] about English

language is weak.

Essay # 4 (anonymous CAEL7 student)

When I was at school I used to write in Arabic. It was easy for me eventhough no one

of my teachers taught me anay instructure. I was writing in my way and what I

feel and I got a good marks because I used good expression. I think I was a good

reader at the time. I red a huge amount of books. I remember they gave me many

presents from school as a good reader. Therefor, my reading improved my writing in

Arabic. I think both Arabic and English have some instructuor. We usually start

with introduction then body phragraph and conclusion. However, I think body

pragraph in Arabic more flixable, whare we can include many different ideas.

Furthermore in Arabic people use more metaphor than English. In Arabic people can

say some idea in one pharagraph by different expressions, while in English people

should avoid repeat themselves.

Although I spent a long time to study how to write in Arabic, but I think , nowadys,

it ^much easier for me to write in English than Arabic because I have a clear idea

how should I write. While still I have no Idea if the are any specific structure how to

write a paragraph in Arabic.

Research writing is another difference between Arabic and English. In Arabic

students can use others words if they reference it, while in English they care more

about plagriasim. I remember when I wrote my master research it was in 2001 I used

other aurthors words and I refered it, however. I think it also unexeptabel in Arabic

but teachers don’t car too much about it like English teachers, how believe using

others word kind of crime.

To sum up, For me writing in English ^much easier and clear than Arabic

especially with teachers who care about ideas more than complicate sentanc. I prefer

to write sample and clear sentanc, which can reflect my thinking in short way.

Notice the errors in vowel letters, where the greatest discrepancies occur between

graphemes and phonemes in English. In Arabic, there is no phonetic equivalent of p,

so when a complicated word like paragraph is written in several ways, it may be

because the student cannot say the word clearly and so cannot recall how to write it

                         Appendix G
       Process Essays by Focal Student Bassem CAEL5
       Handwritten Drafts 1 and 2 have been typed but errors remain as in original.

       Unlike in CAEL7, there are no signs of reflection and proof reading with

        changes in script.

       Spelling, lexis and syntax errors are underlined.

       Arrows indicate omissions of the copula (be), and the indefinite article (a/an),

        which do not occur in Arabic.

Essay Task (#5 of 6 tasks over a 12 week course of study)

         As a result of improved communication systems, there is now a universal,

         youth global culture, evident in the areas of music, fashion and clothes,

         entertainment and food. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this


                                        Draft 1

        Persently, technology is an important part on our life. It could be said that

commucation system has changed completely our life particulur in new generation.

This topic will explain some points about the result of communication system.

        First of all, communication systems play an important part on our life.

Therefore, many young people influnce on media, For example, behaviour chande,

the way of think and lose culture. Moreover, one wonderful thing of communication

is that make the globle to small twon. As a result of this, many teenagers influnce

on western and take some affects new cultures. Internet and television are example

for new technology. Big number of youth have changed their life by using internet.

We believe that internet and TV are common way to influnce young people and

breing some new habit to them.

       The communication system has changed many positive things to people.

Million and Million of people can not live without communication system. Because

lot of people cannot live without it, there are several advantages such as easy to talk,

send text and find infromation. In additions, it is easy to use to old and young can


       To conclude, I mostly agree with this statement. Although there are many

youth influnce on communication systems such as lifestyle, bevaviour and the way

of thinking. There ^still many advantages such as help people to communicate

other, Find information and do some business.

                                      Draft 2
       Persently, technology is an important part in our life. It could be said that

communication systems have changed our ways of life completely particularly in

new generations. This topic will explain some points about the result of

communication systems regard to youth global culture.

       Teacher comment: You need to refer to the question.

       First of all, communication systems play an important part in our life.

Therefore, many young people are influence by the media for example, behaviour

change, the way of thinking and losing culture. Moreover, one wonderful thing of

communication is that it has changed the world to globalization. As a result of this,

lots of teenagers are influence by multiplied cultures especially western cultures.

The internet and television are examples of new technology. There is a big number of
youths have changed their life by using the internet. People believe that the internet

and TV are common ways of influence young people and bring some new habits to


        The communication systems has supported many positive things to people.

Millions and Millions of people cannot live without communication systems. There

are several advantages such as it is easy to talk, send text or mail and find

information. In addition, it is easy for the old and the young people to use it.

        To conclude, I mostly agree with this statement technology has affect many

youths. Although there are many young people have influence by communication

systems such as lifestyle, behaviour and the way of thinking, there are still many

advantages such as helping people to communicate other, looking upinformation

and doing some business.

Teacher comment: (with arrow to last paragraph: This needs to relate to the question

- is there a global youth culture or not?)

Good writing, but you still haven’t answered the question. You don’t need to

simply discuss the advantages of communication – you need to talk about whether

there is one single youth culture around the world (which has appeared as a result of

improved technology).

                     Draft 3 (As typed by Bassem)

Presently, technology is an important part in our life, it could be said that

communication systems have changed our ways of life completely particularly in new

generations. This topic will explain some points about the result of communication

systems regard to youth global culture.

First of all, communication systems play an important part in our life. Therefore, many

young people are influencing by the media for example, changing behaviour, changing

thinking and losing culture. Moreover, one wonderful thing of communication is that it

has changed the world to globalization. As a result of this, lots of teenagers are

influence by mix of cultures especially western cultures. The internet and television are

examples of new technology. There is a big number of youths who have changed their

life by using the internet. People believe that the internet and T.V. are common ways of

influencing young people and bringing some new habits to them.

The communication systems have supported many positive things to people. Millions

and millions of people cannot live without communication systems. There are several

advantages such as it is easy to talk, send text or mail and find information. In addition,

it is easy for the old and the young people to use.

To conclude, I mostly agree with this statement that technology has affected many

youths so this mean there is a global youth culture. Although there are many young

people have influence by communication systems such as life style, behaviour and the

way of thinking, there are still many advantages such as helping people to communicate

other, looking up information and doing some business.

Teacher comment: Better , but you still haven’t answered the question. You’ve

shown that new technology can influence young people, and that there are positive

aspects of the communication systems, but you need to show your view: Is there a

youth global culture or not?

                  Appendix H
 Written Communication Descriptors Student Version

Level   Task Fulfilment               Communicative                   Grammar                    Vocabulary
         Main requirements of       A clear progression of      Uses a range of           Uses a range of
          the task are carried        ideas can be seen.           complex (with              vocabulary appropriate
          out.                        Ideas are organised         subordinate                for tasks.
         Information from            appropriately into           clauses) sentences.       Uses specialized
          (course) reading,           paragraphs.                 Simple and                 vocabulary related to
          listening and notes        Topic statements are         compound                   course topics.
 5        can be seen.                clear and adequately         sentences mostly          Attempts less common
         Main ideas are              supported with               correct.                   vocabulary but
          supported by detail,        examples.                   Uses a range of            accuracy may be
          examples, or               A range of linking           tenses and verb            faulty.
          personal experience         words and phrases are        forms appropriately.      Errors in word
         There may be                used appropriately.         Punctuation and            formation can still be
          irrelevant detail.         Referencing may not          use of articles and        seen.
                                      always be clear or           prepositions may          Few spelling errors.
                                      accurate                     still be faulty.
          Main requirements         Organisation of ideas       Writes mostly             Range of vocabulary
           of the level 4 task        is clear and easy to         longer and more            is good enough for
           are completed.             follow.                      complex sentences.         tasks and less
          Information and           Paragraphs deal with        Can use different          common vocabulary
           ideas appropriate          one topic.                   sentence forms but         may be seen.
  4        to the level 4 task       A limited range of           errors still              Correct word forms
           are presented.             linking words are used       noticeable.                and spelling across
          Main ideas and             within each paragraph       Level 4 verbs and          level 4 range.
           supporting details         to connect ideas.            tenses are formed
           and examples are          Transitional signals are     correctly (active vs
           supplied.                  used to indicate             passive,
                                      sequence of                  conditionals).
           Main requirements        Ideas are well              Simple sentences          Correct word forms
           of the level 3 task        organized but the            correct. Writes            and spelling across
           are completed.             information may not be       longer sentences           level 3 range.
          Information and            completely clear.            with fewer errors.        Errors in word choice,
           ideas appropriate         Paragraphing is used        Writes some                form and spelling may
  3        to the level 3 task        to organize ideas.           complex sentences          still be noticeable.
           are presented.            Topics of paragraphs         (conditional /relative
          Sufficient                 can be recognized.           clauses/comparison
           information and           Level 3 linking words        ) but a lot of errors
           ideas are supplied.        and phrases (listing,        possible.
                                      comparison, contrast)       Level 3 verbs and
                                      are used.                    tenses are formed
          Main requirements         Ideas are mostly well-      Simple sentences          Correct word forms
           of the level 2 task        organised in                 mostly correct.            and spelling across
           are completed.             sentences and               Writes longer              level 2 (familiar)
          Information and            paragraphs                   sentences but still a      range.
  2        ideas appropriate to      Simple linking words         lot of errors.            Still errors in unfamiliar
           the level 2 task are       (and, but, so etc) are      Level 2 verbs and          word forms and
           presented.                 used often as well as        tenses are formed          spelling.
          Sufficient                 some others (e.g.            correctly
           information and            because )
           ideas are supplied.       Uses pronouns and
                                      nouns in sentences.
          Main requirements         Order of ideas clear        Subject and verb          Correct word forms
           of the level 1 task       Knows that ideas have        agree                      and spelling across
           are completed.             to be grouped               Mainly simple              level 1 (familiar) range.
          Information and           Uses correct                 sentences and a           Range of vocabulary
  1        ideas appropriate to       paragraph format             few longer                 small.
           the level 1 task are       (indenting /spacing)         sentences                 Basic errors in spelling
           presented.                Uses nouns/pronouns         Level 1 verbs and          of unfamiliar words
          Sufficient                 at beginning of              tenses are formed          make writing hard to
           information and            sentences                    correctly                  read
           ideas are supplied

                           Appendix I
               Writing Portfolio Marking Schedule
           (with Task Fulfilment removed, which has now been reinstated)

                              Grammatical Range &            Lexical Range &
Communicative Quality
                                  Accuracy                      Accuracy

 Easy to read / Clear          Sentences complete          Appropriate range of
     handwriting                Simple sentences               vocabulary
 Paragraphs indented                accurate
       /spaced                  Longer sentences          Correct words chosen
 Ideas well-organised,                                      Word class correct
    easy to follow             Verb forms correct
                              Subject & verb agree          Spelling accurate
    Ideas grouped             Correct tenses chosen
    appropriately                Tenses formed
 Topics of paragraphs               correctly
                              Articles used correctly
 Use of linking words
                               Prepositions correct
 Use of pronouns and
   reference words             Word order correct

  Correct punctuation

                                                           1st       2nd        Final
          CQ       GR        LR       Total*              Draft     Draft       Copy    Total
                                                         (75 %)    (20 %)       (5 %)
Draft 1

Draft 2

                               Appendix J
                       Invitation to join the study
To:   CAEL Teachers

From: Liz Howell

On:   14 December 2007

Dear CAEL Teachers, [personalised with name of teacher]

Thank you for conducting the Language Skills Survey this week

From the outcomes I would like to interview the following students who self-identified

as having a lot of problems with writing. I am leaving copies of the attached note about

interviewing them between 9 and 16 January on your desk for you to pass on to them

next week. If there are absentees who can do the survey, that would be great. I am

leaving spare copies on your desks too.

[ Name of student to be given the note below.]

Thanks for your help and have a great holiday!

14 December 2007

Dear student [personalised with name]

From your survey it appears you have a lot of problems with writing.

I would like to talk to you between 9 and 16 January 2008 if you have time.

Please send me an email if you can come and see me in my office next year.

My email address is

Have a good holiday.

Happy New Year


                                               Appendix K
                                              Consent Form
I have been fully informed about the aims and purposes of the project.

I understand that:

               there is no compulsion for me to participate in this research project and, if I
               do choose to participate, I may at any stage withdraw my participation

               I have the right to refuse permission for the publication of any information
               about me

               any information which I give will be used solely for the purposes of this
               research project, which may include publications

               If applicable, the information which I give may be shared between any of the
               other researcher(s) participating in this project in an anonymised form

               all information I give will be treated as confidential

               the researcher(s) will make every effort to preserve my anonymity

(Signature of participant )                                                                              (Date)

(Printed name of participant)

One copy of this form will be kept by the participant; a second copy will be kept by the

Contact phone number of researcher(s):……………………………………..

If you have any concerns about the project that you would like to discuss, please
Data Protection Act: The University of Exeter is a data collector and is registered with the Office of the Data Protection
Commissioner as required to do under the Data Protection Act 1998. The information you provide will be used for
research purposes and will be processed in accordance with the University’s registration and current data protection
legislation. Data will be confidential to the researcher(s) and will not be disclosed to any unauthorised third parties
without further agreement by the participant. Reports based on the data will be in anonymised form.

                                   Appendix L
                       STUDENT HIGHER-LEVEL RESEARCH

          School of Education and Lifelong Learning

             Certificate of ethical research approval

Your name: Elizabeth Howell

Your student no: 009901392

Degree/Programme of Study: Ed.D. TESOL

Project Supervisor(s): Dr B.J. Cadorath, Ms S. Rich

Title of your project: Struggling to write: Identity and agency of learners in an

intensive pre-university EAP program.

Brief description of your research project: Interpretive ethnographic linguistic

research into the perceptions of post-secondary international and immigrant, non-

English speaking background students who are having difficulties in achieving writing

success. Writing success is crucial to these students‟ access to tertiary education in an

English-medium university in New Zealand. They are currently studying in the

University‟s language school. They are asked (indirectly) to reflect on their perceptions

of their status and sense of agency as struggling students with regard to the power

relations in the writing program learning experience and their access to resources. I

problematise the applicability of the construct of a community of practice (Lave and

Wenger, 1991) within this formal educational context, taking a critical applied

linguistics stance.

Give details of the participants in this research (giving ages of any children and/or

young people involved): Male and female visiting international students and resident

immigrants to New Zealand who are registered as English language students at the

University of Waikato Pathways College, Hamilton, New Zealand. Students are fee-

paying. All are aged over 16 years minimum and the oldest students are in their

thirties. The research has no impact on their study program directly although the

opportunity to discuss their status with a teacher at length may be indirectly helpful to

them and the opportunity to take part in additional free classes should be beneficial to


Give details regarding the ethical issues of informed consent, anonymity and

confidentiality (with special reference to any children or those with special needs)

Students participating in the project are volunteers. I have explained the research

project to them and they have signed consent forms allowing the information collected

to be used in my dissertation. Participants will not be identified and information is

confidential. Only information relevant to the research questions will be used. The data

file is kept securely.

Give details of the methods to be used for data collection and analysis and how you

would ensure they do not cause any harm, detriment or unreasonable stress:

Data collection methods include two short questionnaires, interviews with me, focus

group discussions, photocopies of essays written for the English study program, essays

written for me on the subject of learning to write in English and natural observation

notes made by me of students participating in classes taught by me, or of students

participating in independent study while I am on duty in the Learning Resource Centre

which is part of our school. Participants have produced all data either in the course of

normal classes as a class requirement or have met with me after class hours privately, or

have taken part in additional English classes provided free of charge to support their

perceived writing weaknesses and taught by me . Data analysis is performed by me

alone and does not impinge on the students in any way, other than as suggested above

that there may be a positive effect on student learning resulting from the increase in

individual attention given to their learning challenges.

Give details of any other ethical issues which may arise from this project (e.g.

secure storage of videos/recorded interviews/photos/completed questionnaires or

special arrangements made for participants with special needs etc.):

Interviews are usually recorded and if not, notes are made during the interview. After

the interviews, the recording and notes are transcribed and the recording/notes deleted

after confirmation of the accuracy of the transcript with the interviewee. The transcripts

are coded to maintain anonymity of the participants. Records of data are kept securely

and are available only to me. Participants have been given access to their own data

record which may include questionnaires and essays and have agreed that the content

can be used.

Give details of any exceptional factors, which may raise ethical issues (e.g.
potential political or ideological conflicts which may pose danger or harm to

There is no power relationship involved which can affect participants‟ status. Students

are pursuing their normal course of study, augmented if they wish by the additional

study opportunity in free classes.

I hereby certify that I will abide by the details given above and that I undertake in

my dissertation to respect the dignity and privacy of those participating in this


I confirm that if my research should change radically, I will complete a further


        Signed:…E. Howell…………………date:………10-3-2008………………..

This project has been approved for the period: March 2008 until: September 2008

By J. Cadorath……………………….…date:15 March 2008……………………………

SELL unique approval reference:……D/08/09/6………………

Signed:………Salah Troudi………2/11/2008……………………..

Chair of the School’s Ethics Committee

AbiSamra, N. (2003). An analysis of errors in Arabic speakers‟ English writings.
      Paper submitted to the American University of Beirut, SLA course. Retrieved on
      March 6, 2008 from

Ahearn, L.M. (2001). Language and agency. Annual Review of Anthropology, 30,

Ahl, H. (2008). Motivation theory as power in disguise. In A. Fejes & K. Nicoll
       (Eds.), Foucault and lifelong learning: Governing the subject (pp.151-159).
       London: Routledge.

Alderson, J.C. (2005). Diagnosing foreign language proficiency: The interface
       between learning and assessment. London: Continuum.

Allwright, R.L., Woodley, M.P., & Allwright, J.M. (1988). Investigating reformulation
       as a practical strategy for teaching academic writing. Applied Linguistics, 5(2),

Atkinson, D. (2000). On Peter Elbow‟s response to „Individualism, academic writing,
       and ESL writers,‟ by Vai Ramanathan and Dwight Atkinson. Journal of Second
       Language Writing, 9, 71-76.

Atkinson, D. (2001). Reflections and refractions on the JSLW special issue on voice.
       Journal of Second Language Writing, 10, 107-124.

Atkinson, D. (2002). Toward a sociocognitive approach to second language
       acquisition. The Modern Language Journal, 86, 525-545.

Bakhtin, M. (1981). The dialogic imagination: Four essays by M.M. Bakhtin. Austin:
       University of Texas Press.

Bakhtin, M. (1986). The problem of speech genres. In C. Emerson & M. Holquist
       (Eds.), Speech genres and other late essays (V. McGee, Trans.), Austin:
       University of Texas Press.

Ballard, B., & Clanchy, J. (1988). Literacy in the university: An „anthropological‟
       approach. In G.Taylor, B. Ballard, V. Beasley, H. Bock, J. Clanchy, & P.
       Nightingale, (Eds.), Literacy by degrees (pp.7-23). Milton Keynes: OUP.

Barnard, R., & Campbell, L. (2005). Socio-cultural theory and the teaching of process
       writing: The scaffolding of learning in a university context. The TESOLANZ
       Journal, 13, 76-88.

Beaman, R. (1998). The unquiet, even loud, andragogy! Alternative assessments for
     adult learners. Innovative Higher Education, 23, 1, 47-59.

Beasley, V. (1988). Developing academic literacy: The Flinders Experience. In
       G.Taylor, B. Ballard, V. Beasley, H. Bock, J. Clanchy, & P. Nightingale, (Eds.),
       Literacy by degrees (pp.42-52). Milton Keynes: OUP.

Beaufort, A. (2005, June). Do writing skills transcend cultures? A look at writing
      expertise. Paper presented at the meeting of the European Association for the
      Teaching of Academic Writing, Athens, Greece.

Becker, H. (1963). Outsiders. New York: Free Press.

Benesch, S. (1996). Needs analysis and curriculum development in EAP: An example
      of a critical approach. TESOL Quarterly, 30, 723-738.

Benesch, S. (1999). Rights analysis: Studying power relations in an academic setting.
      English for specific purposes, 18, 313-327.

Benson, P. & Voller, P. (Eds.). (1997). Autonomy and independence in language
      learning. London: Longman.

Berger, P. (1963). Invitation to sociology: A humanistic perspective. London: Penguin.

Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (1987). The psychology of written communication.
       New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Berkenkotter, C. (1984). Student writers and their sense of authority over texts.
      College Composition and Communication, 35, 312-319.

Bhatia, V.K. (2008). Genre analysis, ESP and professional practice. English for
        Specific Purposes, 27, 161-174.

Bigelow, M., & Tarone, E. (2004). The role of literacy level in second language
      acquisition: Doesn‟t who we study determine what we know? TESOL
      Quarterly, 38, 689-699.

Bloch, J. (2001). The implications of scholarship in TESL/TEFL for Writing across the
       Curriculum theory, practice and program design. Across the Disciplines:
       Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Language, Learning and Academic Writing.
       Retrieved April, 10, 2008, from

Block, D. (2000). Problematizing interview data: Voices in the mind‟s machine.
       TESOL Quarterly, 34, 757-763.

Block, D. (2007). The rise of identity in SLA research, post Firth and Wagner (1997).
       The Modern Language Journal, 91, 863-876.

Bloom, L.Z., Daiker, D.A., & White, E.M. (Eds.) (2003). Composition studies in the
      new millennium: Rereading the past, rewriting the future. Carbondale:
      Southern Illinois University Press.

Bock, H.K. (1988). Academic literacy: Starting point or goal? In G. Taylor, B.
      Ballard, V. Beasley, H. Bock, J. Clanchy, & P. Nightingale (Eds.), Literacy by
      degrees (pp.24-41). Milton Keynes: OUP.

Boudelaa, S. & Marslen-Wilson,W.D. (2001). Morphological units in the Arabic
      mental lexicon. Cognition, 81, 65-92.

Bourdieu, P. (Trans. Adamson, M.). (1990). In other words: Essays towards reflexive
       sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Bourdieu, P. & Wacquant, L.J.D. (1992). An invitation to reflexive sociology.
       Cambridge, UK : Polity Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1999). Language and symbolic power. In A. Jaworski & N. Coupland
       (Eds.), The Discourse Reader (pp. 502-513). London: Routledge.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by
      nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Brown, H.D. (2000). Principles of language learning and teaching. White Plains, NJ:
      Addison Wesley Longman.

Brown, K. & Hood, S. (2002). Academic Encounters: Life in society. Reading, study
      skills and writing. Cambridge: CUP.

Bruce, I. (2005). Syllabus design for general EAP writing courses : A cognitive
       approach. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 4, 239-256.

Bruce, N. (1993). Towards a „Metalingua Franca‟? Hong Kong Papers in Linguistics
       & Language Teaching, 16, 63-84.

Byrne, D. (1979). Teaching writing skills. Harlow: Longman.

Canagarajah, A.S. (2002a). Critical Academic Writing and Multilingual Students. Ann
      Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

Canagarajah, A.S. (2002b). Multilingual writers and the academic community: towards
      a critical relationship. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 1, 29-44.

Canagarajah, A.S. (2007), Editorial, TESOL Quarterly, 41, 1.

Canale, M. & Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to
       second language teaching and testing. Applied Linguistics, 1, 1-47.

Carroll, L. A. (2002). Rehearsing new roles: How college students develop as writers.
        Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Casanave, C.P. (2003). Looking ahead to more socio-politically-oriented case study
      research in L2 writing scholarship (But should it be called “post-process”?)
      Journal of Second Language Writing, 12, 85-102.

Cheng, Y, Horwitz, E.K. & Schallert, D.L. (1999). Language anxiety: Differentiating
       writing and speaking components. Language Learning, 49, 417-446

Cobb, T. & Horst, M. (2001). Reading academic English: Carrying learners across the
       lexical threshold. In J. Flowerdew & M. Peacock, (Eds.), Research
       perspectives on English for Academic Purposes (pp.315-329). Cambridge: CUP.

Cohen, L., Manion, L & Morrison, K. (2000). Research methods in education.
       London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Coleman, D., Starfield, S., & Hagan, A. (2003). Stakeholder perceptions of the IELTS
      test in three countries. IELTS Research Reports, 5, 159-235. Canberra: IELTS

Coley, M. (1999). The English language entry requirements of Australian universities
       for students of non-English speaking background. Higher Education Research
       & Development, 18, 7-17.

Connellan, J., Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Batki, A., & Ahluwalia, J. (2001).
      Sex differences in human neonatal social perception. Infant Behavior and
      Development, 23, 113-118.

Cooke, M. (2006). “When I wake up I dream of electricity.” The lives, aspirations and
       needs of adult ESOL learners. Linguistics and Education, 17, 56-73.

Cook, V.J. (1992). Evidence for multicompetence. Language Learning, 42, 557-591.

Cope, B. & Kalantzis, M. (1993). The powers of literacy: A genre approach to
       teaching writing. London: The Falmer Press.

Cotterall, S. & Cohen, R. (2003). Scaffolding for second language writers: producing
       an academic essay. ELT Journal, 57(2), 158-166.

Coxhead, A. (1998). An academic word list (English Language Institute Occasional
      Publication No. 18). Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University of

Coxhead, A. (2000). A new academic word list. TESOL Quarterly, 34, 213-238.

Cripwell, K., & Foley, J. (1984). The grading of extensive readers. World Language
      English, 3, 168-173.

Crotty, M. (1998). The pain of a paradigm shift: mature female students entering
        tertiary education. Paper presented at the annual Conference of the Australian
        Association for Research in Education.

Cummins, J. (1984). Bilingualism and special education: Issues in assessment and
     pedagogy. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters.

Cummins, J. (1989). Empowering minority students. Sacramento: California
     Association for Bilingual Education.

Cummins, J. (1996). Negotiating identities: Education for empowerment in a diverse
     society. Los Angeles: California Association for Bilingual Education.

Cummins, J. (2000). Language, power and pedagogy: Bilingual children in the
     crossfire. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Curry, J.M. (2004). UCLA Community College Review: Academic literacy for
       English language learners. Community College Review 32(2) Retrieved
       February 8, 2008 from

Dearing, R. (1997). Higher Education in the Learning Society. Report of the National
       Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (The Dearing Report). London:
       HMSO. Retrieved April 11, 2008 from

DELNA. (2003). About DELNA. Retrieved February 25, 2008, from

De Luca, R. & Annals, A. (2006). Writing that works: A guide for tertiary students.
      New Zealand: Pearson Education.

Detterman, D. (1993). The case for the prosecution: Transfer as an epiphenomenon. In
       D. Detterman & R. Sternberg (Eds.), Transfer on trial: Intelligence, cognition,
       and instruction (pp.1-24). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy in education: An introduction to the philosophy of
      education. New York: Macmillan.

Dornyei, Z. (2001). Teaching and researching motivation. Harlow: Pearson Education.

Dornyei, Z. (2005). The psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in
      second language acquisition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Eckert, P. & McConnell-Ginet, S. (1999). New generalizations and explanations in
        language and gender research. Language in Society, 28,185-210.

Elbow, P. (1999). Individualism and the teaching of writing: Response to Vai
       Ramanathan and Dwight Atkinson. Journal of Second Language Writing, 8,

Elbow, P. (2000). Everyone can write: Essays toward a hopeful theory of writing and
       teaching writing. Cary, NC,USA: OUP. Retrieved August 13, 2008, from

Elder, C., & O‟Loughlin, K. (2003). Investigating the relationship between intensive
        English language study and band score gain on IELTS. IELTS Research
        Reports, 4, 207-254. Canberra: IELTS, Australia.

Faerch, C., & Kasper, G. (1983). (Eds.) Strategies in interlanguage
       communication. Harlow, Essex: Longman.

Feez, S. (2002). Heritage and innovation in second language education. In A. Johns,
       (Ed.), Genre in the classroom: Multiple perspectives (pp.47-68). Mahwah:
       Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Ferris, D. (1995). Student reactions to teacher response in multiple-draft
        composition classrooms. TESOL Quarterly, 29, 33-53.

Fairclough, N. (1989). Language and power. London: Longman.

Firth, A. & Wagner, J. (1997). On discourse, communication, and (some) fundamental
        concepts in SLA research. Modern Language Journal, 81, 285-300

Flowerdew, J.. (2000). Discourse community, legitimate peripheral participation, and
      the nonnative-English-speaking scholar. TESOL Quarterly, 34, 127-150.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Fotos, S., & Nassaji, H. (Eds.). 2007. Form-focused instruction and teacher
        education: Studies in honour of Rod Ellis. Oxford: OUP.

Gass, S.M. (1998). Apples and oranges: Or, why apples are not oranges and don‟t
       need to be. Modern Language Journal, 88, 587-602.

Gee, J.P. (1990). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses. London:

Gee, J.P. (1992). The social mind: Language, ideology and social practice. New
       York: Bergin and Garvey.

Gee, J.P. (2000) The New Literacy Studies: from „socially situated‟ to the work of the
       social. In D. Barton, M. Hamilton & R. Ivanic (Eds.), Situated literacies:
       reading and writing in context (pp. 180-196). London: Routledge.

Gera, C. (2007). Culture shock and Saudi Arabian ESL learners studying at the
       University of Waikato Language Institute. Unpublished master‟s dissertation,
       The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.

Giddens, A. (1997). Sociology. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity: Self and society in the late modern
      age. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

Goffman, E. (1999). On face-work: An analysis of ritual elements in social interaction.
      In A. Jaworski & N. Coupland (Eds.) The discourse reader (pp..306-320)
      London: Routledge.

Goodman, S., Lillis, T., Maybin, J., & Mercer, N. (Eds.). (2003). Language, literacy
     and education: A reader. Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books.

Grabe, W. & Kaplan, R.B. (1996) Theory and practice of writing. New York: Addison
       Wesley Longman.

Green, A. (2007). IELTS washback in context: Preparation for academic writing in
       higher education. Cambridge, UK: CUP.

Guba, E.G. (1990). The alternative paradigm dialog. In E.G.Guba, Ed. The paradigm
       dialog. Newbury Park, CA:Sage.

Haeri, N. (2000). Form and ideology: Arabic sociolinguistics and beyond. Annual
       Review of Anthropology, 29, 61-87.

Hall, C. (1995). Comments on Joy Reid‟s „responding to ESL students‟ texts: The
       myths of appropriation‟. TESOL Quarterly, 29, 159-166.

Hall, E. (1976). Beyond Culture. New York: Doubleday.

Halliday, M.A.K. (1978). Language as social semiotic. London: Edward Arnold.

Halliday, M.A.K. & Hasan, R. (1976). Cohesion in English. London: Longman.

Hamp-Lyons, E. & Heasley, B. (1987). Study writing: A course in written English for
     academic and professional purposes. Cambridge: CUP.

Haneda, M. (2006). Classrooms as communities of practice: A reevaluation. TESOL
      Quarterly, 40, 807-817.

Harklau, L. (2000). From the “good kids” to the “worst”: Representations of English
       language learners across educational settings. TESOL Quarterly, 34, 35-67.

Harklau, L. (2003). L2 writing by „Generation 1.5 students‟: Recent research and
       pedagogical trends. In Changing currents in second language writing research:
       A colloquium. Journal of Second Language Writing, 12, 151-179.

Hawthorne, J.L. (1998). Student perceptions of the value of WAC. Language &
      Learning across the Disciplines, 3, 1, 41-63. Retrieved on January 8, from

Hill, K., Storch, N., & Lynch, B. (2000). A comparison of IELTS and TOEFL as
        predictors of academic success. The University of Melbourne. IELTS Research
        Reports 2000.,3, pp. 52-63.

Hirsh, D., & Nation, I.S.P. (1992). What vocabulary size is needed to read
       unsimplified texts for pleasure? Reading in a Foreign Language, 8, 689-696.

Hirst, E. W. (2000). Engaging heterogeneity: Tertiary literacy in new times.
        Retrieved on May 5, 2006 from

Hirst, E., Henderson, R. Allan, M. Bode, J. & Kocatepe, M. (2004). Repositioning
        Academic Literacy: charting the emergence of a community of practice.
        Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 27(1), 66-80.

Hirvela, A., & Belcher, D. (2001). Coming back to voice: The multiple voices and
       identities of mature multilingual writers. Journal of Second Language Writing,
       10, 83-106.
Hoey, M. (1983). On the surface of discourse. London: George Allen & Unwin.

Hofstede, G. (1986). Cultural differences in teaching and learning. International
       Journal of Intercultural Relations, 10, 301-320.

Hofstede, G. (n.d.) Cultural dimensions. Retrieved June, 13, 2009 from

Holmes, J. & Meyerhoff, M. (1999). The community of practice: Theories and
      methodologies in language and gender research. Language in Society, 18, 173-

Holliday, A. (2000, 2nd ed. 2007). Doing and writing qualitative research. London:

Howell, E. (1999) Feuerstein‟s Mediation Theory. Unpublished research paper for
      Ed.D. TESOL Exeter University, UK.

Hutchinson T. & Waters, A. (1987). English for Specific Purposes: A learning-centred
       approach. Glasgow: CUP.

Hyland, K. (2002a). Teaching and researching writing. Harlow: Pearson Education.

Hyland, K. (2002b). Specificity revisited: How far should we go now? English for
      Specific Purposes, 21, 385-395.

Hyland, K. (2002c). Options of identity in academic writing. ELT Journal, 56, 351-

Hyland, K. (2003). Genre-based pedagogies: A social response to process. Journal of
      Second Language Writing, 12, 17-29.

Hyland, K. (2005). Metadiscourse: Exploring interaction in writing. London:

Hyland, K. (2007). Genre pedagogy: Language, literacy and L2 writing instruction.
      Journal of Second Language Writing. 16, 148-164.

Hyland, K., & Tse, P. (2004). Metadiscourse in academic writing: A reappraisal.
      Applied Linguistics, 25, 156-177.

Hymes, D. (1972). On communicative competence. In J. Pride & J. Holmes (Eds.),
      Sociolinguistics: Selected readings. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Hyon, S. (1996). Genre in three traditions: Implications for ESL. TESOL Quarterly,
       30, 693-722.

Iancu, M. (1997). Adapting the adjunct model. In M.A. Snow & D.M. Brinton, (Eds.),
       The content-based classroom (pp.149-157). White Plains, NJ: Addison Wesley

Illeris, K. (2006). What is special about adult learning? In P. Sutherland & J.
         Crowther (Eds.), Lifelong learning: Concepts and contexts (pp.15-23). London:
         Routledge, Taylor & Francis.

Ivanic, R. (1998). Writing and identity: The discoursal construction of identity in
        academic writing. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Jacobs, C. (2004). Creating discursive spaces: The integration of academic literacies
       within subject areas. The Eleventh International Literacy and Education
       Research Network Conference on Learning Today.

James, M.A. (2006). Teaching for transfer in ELT. ELT Journal, 60 (2), 151-159.

Job, R., Peressotti, F., & Mulatti, C. (2006). The acquisition of literacy in Italian. In
        R.M. Joshi, & P.G. Aaron (Eds.), Handbook of orthography and literacy (pp.
        105-120). Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Johns, A.M. (1986). Coherence and academic writing: Some definitions and
       suggestions for teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 20, 247-265.

Johns, A.M. (1997). Text, role and context: Developing academic literacies. New
       York: CUP.

Johns, A.M. (2005). The linguistically diverse student. Across the Disciplines:
       Interdisciplinary perspectives on language, learning and academic writing.
       Retrieved April, 10, 2008, from

Johns, T.F., & Davies, F. (1983). Text as a vehicle for information: The classroom use
       of written texts in teaching reading in a foreign language. Reading in a Foreign
       Language. 1, 1-19.

Joshi, R.M., & Aaron, P.G. (Eds.). (2006). Handbook of orthography and literacy.
        Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Kam, A., & Meinema, Y. (2005). Teaching academic writing to international students
      in an interdisciplinary writing context: A pedagogical rough guide. Across the
      Disciplines: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Language, Learning, and
      Academic Writing. Retrieved on February 25, 2008, from

Kanno, Y. (1999). Comments on Kelleen Toohey‟s „Breaking them up, taking them
      away: ESL students in Grade 1: The use of the Community of Practice
      perspective in language minority research. TESOL Quarterly, 33, 126-132.

Kasper, L.F. (2002). Literacy for College ESL Students. The Internet TESL Journal,
       Vol. 8, 6. //

Kerstjens, M., & Nery, C. (2000). Predictive validity in the IELTS Test: A Study of
       the relationship between IELTS scores and students‟ subsequent academic
       performance. Centre for English Language Learning, RMIT University. IELTS
       Research Reports 2000, 3, 85-108.

Kharma, N. & Hajjaj, A. (1997). Errors in English among Arabic speakers: Analysis
      and remedy. Beirut: Librairie du Liban.

Khuwaileh, A.A. & AlShoumali, A. (2000). Writing errors: A study of the writing
     ability of Arab learners of academic English and Arabic at university.
     Language, Culture and Curriculum, 13(2), 174-183.

Kirkpatrick, D.L. (1996). Evaluating training programs: The four levels. San
       Francisco, CA: Berret-Koehler.

Krashen, S.D. (1984). Writing: Research, theory, and applications. Oxford:

Krashen, S.D.. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition.
      Oxford: Pergamon.

Kroll, B. (1991). Teaching writing in the ESL context. In M. Celce-Murcia, (Ed.),
       Teaching English as a second or foreign language (pp. 245-263). New York:
       Heinle & Heinle.

Kuhn, T.S. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of
      Chicago Press.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2005). Understanding language teaching: From method to
      postmethod. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Lantolf, J.P., & Johnson, K.E. (2007). Extending Firth and Wagner‟s (1997)
       ontological perspective to L2 classroom praxis and teacher education, The
       Modern Language Journal, 91, 877-892.

Lave, J. (1988). Cognition in practice: Mind, mathematics, and culture in everyday
       life. Cambridge, England: CUP.

Lave, J. (1993). The practice of learning. In S. Chaiklin & J. Lave, (Eds.),
       Understanding practice: Perspectives on activity and context (pp.3-32).
       Cambridge, England: CUP.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation.
       Cambridge, England: CUP.

Lea, M.R. & Stierer, B. (Eds.). (2000). Student writing in higher education: New
      contexts. Buckingham, UK: SRHE & Open University.

Lea, M.R. & Street, B. V. (2000). Student writing and staff feedback in Higher
      Education: An academic literacies approach. In M.R. Lea & B. Stierer (Eds.),
      Student writing in higher education: New contexts (pp.32-46). Buckingham,
      UK: SRHE & Open University.

Leist, S.M. (2006). Writing to teach, writing to learn in higher education. Lanham,
        Maryland: University Press of America.

Leist, S.M. (2006). Writing to teach, writing to learn in higher education. Lanham,
        Maryland: University Press of America.

Leki, I. (2000). Writing, literacy, and applied linguistics. Annual Review of Applied
        Linguistics, 20, 99-115.

Leki, I. (2003). Research insights on second language writing instruction. ERIC
        Digest EDO-FL-03-06

Leki, I. (2007). Undergraduates in a second language: Challenges and complexities
        of academic literacy development. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Linehan C., & McCarthy, J. (2001). Reviewing the “Community of Practice”
      metaphor: An analysis of control relations in a primary school classroom.
      Mind, Culture, and Activity, 8 (2) 129-147.

Lewis, C., Enciso, P., & Moje, E.B. (Eds.). (2007). Reframing socio-cultural research
       on literacy: Identity, agency and power. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum

Lillis, T.M. (2001). Student writing: Access, regulation, desire. New York:

Mackay, R. & Mountford, A. (Eds.). (1978). English for specific purposes: A
      learning-centred approach. Glasgow: CUP.

Mansfield, N. (2000). Subjectivity. Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin.

Matsuda, P.K. (1999). Composition studies and ESL writing: A disciplinary division
      of labour. College Composition and Communication, 50, 699-721.

Matsuda, P.K. (2003). Process and post-process: A discursive history. Journal of
      Second Language Writing, 12, 65-83.

McDowell, C., & Merrylees, B. (1998) Survey of receiving institutions‟ use and
     attitude to IELTS. IELTS Research Reports, Vol. 1, 116-139.

Moje, E.B. & Lewis, C. (2007). Examining opportunities to learn literacy: The role of
       critical socio-cultural literacy research. In C. Lewis, P. Enciso, & E.B. Moje,
       (Eds.), Reframing socio-cultural research on literacy: Identity, agency and
       power. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Moore, T. & Morton, J. (2005). Dimensions of difference: A comparison of
      university writing and IELTS writing. Journal of English for Academic
      Purposes, 4, 43-66.

Moore, T. & Morton, J. (2007). Authenticity in the IELTS Academic Module Writing
      test: A comparative study of Task 2 items and university assignments. In L.
      Taylor, & P. Falvey, (Eds.), IELTS collected papers: Research in speaking and
      writing assessment (pp. 197-248). Cambridge, UK: CUP.

Morita, N. (2004). Negotiating participation and identity in second language academic
       communities. TESOL Quarterly, 38, 573-603.

Naiman, K., Frohlich, M., Stern, H.H. & Todesco, A. (1978). The good language
      learner. Research in Education Series.

Nation, I.S.P. (1983). Testing and teaching vocabulary. Guidelines, 5, 12-25.

Nation, I.S.P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge, UK:CUP.

Nightingale, P. (1988). Language and learning: A bibliographical essay. In G. Taylor,
       B. Ballard, V. Beasley, H. Bock, J. Clanchy, & P. Nightingale, P. (Eds.),
       Literacy by degrees (pp.65-81). Milton Keynes: OUP.

Norton, B. (1995). Social identity, investment and language learning. TESOL
       Quarterly, 29, 9-31.

Norton, B. (1997). Language, identity, and the ownership of English. TESOL
       Quarterly, 31, 409-429.

Norton, B. (2006). Not an afterthought: Authoring a text in adult ESOL. Linguistics
       and Education. 17, 91-96.

Nunan, D. (1995). Closing the gap between learning and instruction. TESOL
      Quarterly, 29, 133-158.

Oxford, R.L. (1990). Language learning strategies: What every teacher should know.
      Boston, Mass.: Heinle & Heinle.

O‟Rourke, R. 2003. „Academic literacy: raising the profile, researching the practice.‟
      Learning and Teaching Bulletin, Learning Development Unit, The University of
      Leeds, UK.

Pajares, F. (2003). Self-efficacy beliefs, motivation, and achievement in writing: A
       review of the literature. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 19, 139-158.

Paltridge, B. (2004). Approaches to teaching second language writing. 17th
        Educational Conference, Adelaide, Australia.

Pedersen, P. (1995). The five stages of culture shock: Critical incidents around the
       world. Westport, Conn: Greenwood.

Pennycook, A. (1999). Critical approaches to TESOL. TESOL Quarterly, 33, 329-

Perkins, D.N., & Salomon, G. (1988). Teaching for transfer. Educational Leadership,
       46, 22-32.

Pit Corder, S. (1981). Error analysis and interlanguage. Oxford: OUP.

Popper, K. (1968). The logic of scientific discovery. New York: Harper & Row.

Prior, P. (2001). Voices in text, mind, and society: Sociohistoric accounts of discourse
        acquisition and use. Journal of Second Language Writing, 10, 55-81.

Raimes, A. (1983 ). Anguish as a second language: Remedies for composition
      teachers. In A. Freedman, I. Pringle & J. Yalden (Eds.), Learning to Write:
      First Language/Second Language (pp. 258-272). Harlow, Essex: Longman.

Ravelli, L.J., & Ellis, R.A. (Eds.). (2005). Analysing academic writing:
       Contextualised frameworks. London: Continuum.

Rea-Dickens, P., Kiely, R., & Yu, G. (2006). Student identity, learning and
      progression: The affective and academic impact of IELTS on „successful‟
      candidates. IELTS Research Reports, 7, 59-122

Read, J. (2008). Identifying academic language needs through diagnostic assessment.
       Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 7, 180-190.

Reid, J. M. (1995). Learning styles in the ESL/EFL classroom. Boston: Heinle &

Reid, J.M. (2005). „Ear‟ learners and error in US college writing. In Kaplan, R.B. &
        Bruthiaux, P. (Eds.), Directions in applied linguistics: Essays in honour of
        Robert B. Kaplan (pp.117-130). New York: Multilingual Matters.

Rich, S. (2005). Linguistically and culturally diverse students‟ perceptions of
       successful classroom practices in a UK graduate program. Across the
       Disciplines: Interdisciplinary perspectives on language, learning and academic
       writing. Retrieved January 7, 2008, from

Richards, D. & Nowicki, U. (1998). In search of a viable learning theory to support
       genre-based teaching to adult migrants. Prospect, 13, 40-52.

Rilling, S. (2001). Implications for TESL scholarship for WAC. [Opening statement].
        Retrieved April 10, 2008, from

Rivers, W. & Temperley, M.S. (1978). A practical guide to the teaching of English as
        a second or foreign language. New York: OUP.

Rogers, A. & Illeris, K. (2003). How do adults learn? Adults Learning, 15, 24-27.

Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking. New York: OUP

Rogoff, B., Matusov, E., & White, C. (1996). Models of teaching and learning:
       Participation in a community of learners. In D. Olson & N. Torrance (Eds.), The
       handbook of education and human development: New models of learning,
       teaching and schooling (pp.388-415). Cambridge, England: Blackwell.

Romberger, J., Wells, J., & Driscoll, D.L. (2007). Writing across the curriculum: An
     introduction. Retrieved February 25, 2008 from
Ryan, A. (1997). Learning the orthographical form of L2 vocabulary – a receptive and
       a productive process. In N. Schmitt & M. McCarthy (Eds.), Vocabulary:
       Description, acquisition and pedagogy (pp.181-198). Cambridge: CUP.

Santrock, J.W. (2001). Educational psychology. NY: McGraw Hill.

Seal, B. (1997). Academic encounters: Human behaviour. Reading, study skills, and
       writing. Cambridge: CUP.

Smith, B. (2001). Arabic speakers. In M.Swan & B. Smith, (Eds.), Learner English
       (pp.195-213). Cambridge: CUP.

Shaw, S.D., & Weir, C.J. (2007). Examining writing: Research and practice in
       assessing second language writing. Cambridge: CUP.

Snow, M.A., & Brinton, D.M. (Eds.). (1997). The content-based classroom:
      Perspectives on integrating language and content. New York: Longman.

Spack, R. (1988). Initiating ESL students into the academic discourse community:
       How far should we go? TESOL Quarterly, 22, 29-51.

Stapleton, P. (2002). Critiquing voice as a viable pedagogical tool in L2 writing:
       Returning to the spotlight of ideas. Journal of Second Language Writing, 11,

Stern, H.H. (1983). Fundamental concepts of language teaching. Oxford:OUP.

Strauss, S., & Xiang, X. (2006). The writing conference as a locus of emergent agency.
       Written Communication, 23, 355-396.

Street, B.V. (1995). Social literacies: Critical approaches to literacy in development,
        ethonography, and education. London: Longman.

Street, B.V. & Lefstein, A. (2007). Literacy: An advanced resource book. Abingdon,
        UK: Routledge.

Swain, M. (1995). Three functions of output in second language learning. In G.Cook
       & B. Seidlhofer (Eds.), Principles and practice in applied linguistics (pp.125-
       144.) Oxford: OUP.

Swain, M., & Deters, P. (2007). “New” mainstream SLA theory: Expanded and
       enriched. The Modern Language Journal, 91, 820-836.

Swales, J. (1971). Writing scientific English. London: Thomas Nelson.

Swales, J. (1990). Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings.
       Cambridge: CUP.

Swales, J.M. & Feak, C.B. (2000). English in today’s research world: A writing guide.
       The University of Michigan, USA.

Swale, J. & Mustafa, H. (Eds.). (1983). English for Specific Purposes in the Arab
       World. Birmingham, UK: The University of Aston Language Studies Unit.

Swan, M., & Smith, B. (Eds.). (2001). Learner English: A teacher’s guide to
      interference and other problems. Cambridge: CUP.

Taylor, L. (2007). The impact of the joint-funded research studies on the IELTS
       Writing Module. In L. Taylor, & P. Falvey, (Eds.). IELTS collected papers:
       Research in speaking and writing assessment (pp.479-492). Cambridge, UK:

Taylor, G., Ballard, B., Beasley, V., Bock, H., Clanchy, J., & Nightingale, P. (Eds.),
       Literacy by degrees. Milton Keynes: OUP.

Taylor, L., & Falvey, P. (Eds.). (2007). IELTS collected papers: Research in
       speaking and writing assessment. Cambridge, UK: CUP.

Tickoo, M.L. (Ed.). (1995). Reading and writing: Theory into practice. Singapore:
       Sherson Publishing House.

Toohey, K. (1998). “Breaking them up, taking them away”: ESL students in Grade 1.
      TESOL Quarterly, 32, 61-84.

Travers, J.F., Elliott P., & Kratochwill, I. (1993). Educational psychology: Effective
       teaching, effective learning. Iowa: Brown and Benchmark.

Trimbur, J. (1994). Taking the social turn: Teaching writing post-process. College
      Composition and Communication, 45, 108-118.

Tsui, A.B.M. (2007). Complexities of identity formation: A narrative inquiry of an
       EFL teacher. TESOL Quarterly, 41, 657-680.

Van Lier, L. (2004). The ecology and semiotics of language learning: A socio-cultural
      perspective. Norwell, MA: Kluwer Academic.

Vaughan, G.M., & Hogg, M.A. (2002). Introduction to social psychology. (3rd. Ed.)
      Australia: Pearson Education.

Vella, J. (2002). Learning to listen, learning to teach: The power of dialogue in
        educating adults. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological
      processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wallace, C. (2006). The text, dead or alive: Expanding textual repertoires in the adult
      ESOL classroom. Linguistics and Education 17, 74-90.

Ward, C., Bochner, S., & Furnham, A. (2001). The psychology of culture shock.
      Philadelphia: Routledge.

Warschauer, M. (2002). Networking into academic discourse. Journal of English for
      Academic Purposes, 1, 45-48.
Weir, C J. (2005). Language testing and validation: An evidence-based approach.
       Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan.

Wellington, J.J. (1996). Methods and issues in educational research. Sheffield, UK:
       University of Sheffield.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity.
      Cambridge: CUP.

Wenger, E. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing
      knowledge. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

West, M. (1953). A General Service List of English words. London: Longman.

Williams, M. & Burden, R. (1997). Psychology for language teachers. Cambridge:

Young, R. (1999). Socio-cultural approaches to SLA. Annual Review of Applied
      Linguistics, 19, 105-132.

Zamel, V. (1976). Teaching composition in the ESL classroom: What can we learn
       from research in the teaching of English. TESOL Quarterly, 10, 67-76.

Zwier, L.J. (2009). Inside Reading 2: The academic word list in context. Oxford:


To top