Chapter 1: The Problem and its Setting Introduction Generation 1.5 students, students from non-English speaking cultures who have been long-term immigrants or life-long residents of the United States, often have difficulty in academic writing even though they may be culturally assimilated and orally fluent in English. Their strong oral background but weak literacy skills present a series of unique challenges to the students themselves, English as a Second Language (ESL) instructors, and first language (L1) composition instructors. First, Generation 1.5 students‘ oral proficiency may blind the students, as well as the people who want to help them, to the disconnect between their oral proficiency and their writing abilities. Complicating Generation 1.5 students‘ situation further, L1 composition instructors may not know how to approach Generation 1.5 students‘ grammatical and lexical problems. In turn, ESL instructors may have difficulty helping these students develop grammatical accuracy because these students lack a background in formal grammatical concepts, and in fact, do not approach language accuracy from a formal grammatical perspective. An overarching instructional challenge results: What instructional mode should be used with these students that teaches both the language and vocabulary skills they need while recalling that their educational background and experience in American schools is very much like that of their monolingual English-speaking counterparts? Moreover, do these Generation 1.5 students truly require special instruction, or will they acquire the writing skills they need, through an acculturation to academic literacy that all undergraduates go through during their four years in college?
To address Generation 1.5 students‘ need for greater grammatical and rhetorical accuracy in their academic writing, Christine Holten, from University of California Los Angeles‘ Department of Applied Linguistics and TESL, spearheaded an effort to design a writing class that would address the specific academic writing needs of these students: English Composition 2i. The curriculum for the course focuses on the grammatical and rhetorical structures that Generation 1.5 students typically find difficult, while capitalizing on their proficiency and their cultural background in monolingual English speaking U.S. schools. The course is taught by instructors with ESL training and gives students extra class time beyond that which is found in a traditional Writing Programs composition class. After successfully completing English Composition 2i, Generation 1.5 students should be more proficient and accurate college level writers who have a larger sense of the language issues in their writing. The aim of this study is to examine the development of Generation 1.5 students‘ academic writing skills over their experience at a four-year university. By comparing current writing samples with one from the time of their admission into UCLA, the researcher hoped to discover whether there are changes in these students‘ academic writing, and what the characteristics of the grammatical and rhetorical changes are. Moreover, this study investigated the factors that the students believe made a difference in the development of their academic writing skills. With an understanding of the nature of the changes in their academic writing and of their own reflection on their progress as academic writers, recommendations can be made as to how best to assist future Generation 1.5 students in attaining academic writing proficiency.
Research Questions This study investigated the following research questions: 1. To what extent and in what ways did the academic writing (e.g., organization, content, and language control) of Generation 1.5 students from the Fall 2001 English Composition 2i class develop from Fall 2001 to the present, as based upon a pre-university writing sample, a current writing sample, and samples of their written work from...
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