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Worlds Apart? International Students, Source-Based Writing, and Faculty Development Across the Curriculum


This study examined how English as a Second Language (ESL) and Writing program faculty at a professional liberal arts college partnered with faculty across the curriculum to help international students learn to write from sources and avoid unintentional plagiarism. Eight participants joined a series of action research professional development workshops. In these workshops, faculty focused on defining plagiarism in both academic and professional settings, designing culturally inclusive assignments, reviewing multilingual student writing, and talking to international students about plagiarism. By the time workshops concluded, participants had synthesized their work into a toolkit of best practices for addressing source-based writing in discipline-specific ways.

Data collection relied on faculty (transcripts of interviews and workshops, reflective journals, syllabi, and other academic documents) and student sources (samples or drafts of assignments submitted in writing-intensive classes). Data analysis adopted a descriptive approach to investigating participants’ lived experiences in teaching international students about academic honesty and ethical use of sources. Participants felt they made progress in developing nuanced vocabulary to distinguish appropriate (effective) from inappropriate (ineffective) borrowing, in understanding institutional processes and pressures that helped or hindered their work with international students.

Participants reported changing their pedagogy and assuming further responsibility for addressing source-based writing with international in appropriate and discipline-specific ways. They also recognized their work was far from done. Improving communication and shared governance, increasing accountability systems, and centralizing institutional research efforts all emerged as priorities. So did providing training for adjunct instructors. Workshop faculty were proud of what they achieved, but doubted if their efforts would be recognized or reciprocated by colleagues, international students, or the institution.

The findings of this study suggest that professional liberal arts schools have much to gain from collaborative, action research-based professional development. Learning community workshops can be a force for positive pedagogical change. But such change will not take place overnight. Overseas enrollment in U.S. institutions of higher education continues to grow and diversify. Small, tuition-driven universities should embrace action research as a viable method of faculty development and a valuable means for fostering international student retention and achievement.

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