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Dual Enculturation: A Comparison of Five L2 Students Writing for One General Education Course



Dual Enculturation: A Comparison of Five L2 Students Writing for One General Education Course by Kara Elise Otto

This dissertation investigates five international undergraduate students writing two papers for a single disciplinary course. The course is dually classified as meeting a pre-major requirement and a general education writing requirement. Disciplinary contexts classified as general education often involve resistant students whom identify with other disciplines, but are forced into enrollment by institutional requirement. This means students must adopt sometimes-contrasting thinking and writing perspectives. In the case of large courses featuring competitive assessment, this may become especially problematic – particularly for non-native speakers of English – because rationales for disciplinary distinction may be even more obscured by other academic, institutional, linguistic, or cultural concerns. Courses of this type tend not to be researched in prior studies of second language writing.

This dissertation relies upon qualitative methods of data collection – particularly text- based interviewing - in asking: (1) How do L2 international students interpret and approach writing assignments in a general education, social science course? (2) What strategies and resources do they use in the writing process, and where do they come from? These questions are important because they lend heterogeneity to populations of international students increasing on U.S. college campuses, and because they may debunk tendencies to group students as more similar then they actually may be – particularly in disciplinary contexts where instructors lack expertise in both writing instruction and L2 student writing.

Furthermore, studies of L2 students engaged in disciplinary writing lag behind those investigating general composition classrooms, and studies that do investigate L2 students in disciplinary situations tend not to focus upon several writers in the same course. Researchers further tend to make use of their own subjects. Finally, the field of second language writing is new, developing theoretically, and still influenced by its parent fields. As such, studies tend to under-theorize and there is a need for theoretical development from within the field.

Findings from this study garner support for the use of sociohistoric theory as an emergent, analytical tool capable of explaining L2 writers’ diverse practices in disciplinary contexts; however, in stemming from this analytical frame, this study provides a new theoretical explanation called dual enculturation. This term bridges key empirical priorities for two separate but related parent fields of second language writing: composition and applied linguistics. Importantly, this term derives from students’ perspectives - whether accurate or not - that they somehow struggled additionally with assigned writing tasks because of their NNES status. Students’ reports indicated that they managed additional writing difficulties, which they presumed were otherwise absent in the experiences of their NES peers enrolled in the same course. Dual enculturation represents writing tensions reported across the five international students. Students believed that their written texts could not focus exclusively upon competence in social science writing. Instead, students reported an additional and sometimes conflicting responsibility to demonstrate competence in academic writing as a separate but equally important discipline, and one they equated with knowledge of the L2 language and culture. Finally, additional findings point toward the nature of feedback absorption as systemically acquired, rather than within a local or immediate writing context teachers might assume.

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