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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Why we teach “ESL” Writing: A Socio-Historic Discussion of an Undergraduate ESL Program
by Leonard, Duane Eric Paul, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2011, 352; 3474416
Abstract (Summary)

Based on ethnographic data collection over a two-year span of three levels of freshman composition taught at the University of California (UC), Davis, this dissertation adds a structuration analysis of an ESL (English as a Second Language) writing program to the field of second language writing studies. Specifically, this dissertation discusses the following: (1) How did this university's Undergraduate ESL Writing Program happen institutionally and historically; (2) How do the three tiers of freshman writing (ESL, WKLD, UWP) represent underlying ideologies about "who is a student" at this institution; and, (3) How do students who are/were labeled ESL position themselves within this institution of higher learning?

The Undergraduate ESL Writing Program is the first of three freshman composition programs that ESL-labeled students must progress through to acquire their lower division writing requirement at UC Davis. The current curriculum behind the ESL and subsequent writing programs reflects socio-historic language attitudes and policies in California as well as of the institutionalization of standardized writing exams. These attitudes and policies do not value the multicultural and multilingual diversity these students add to the campus such that ESL students feel separate from the rest of the freshman population.

The data in the dissertation come from several types of qualitative data: (1) interviews of teachers, administrators, and ESL-labeled students; (2) historical web and institutional documents that document changes in attitudes and policy of writing at UC Davis and the University of California system; (3) detailed fieldnotes of classroom observations at all three levels of freshman composition; (4) collections of syllabi, course readers, and class handouts from all three levels of freshman composition; and, (5) my own teacher and researcher notes as participant-observer (instructor, colleague, observer, tutor) in this site over 4 years.

The study serves as a benchmark that solidifies the notion of second language writing acquisition as a developmental process that improves over time rather than a "remedial" issue that can be "fixed" in one to three terms of instruction. It demonstrates how all parts of an undergraduate ESL writing program, from student writing to curriculum, are inextricable from language policy and language attitudes, and it offers a socially embedded methodology with which to not only evaluate ESL programs but to also situate their practices within the larger "mainstream" practices of the institution. By juxtaposing the sociohistory of UC Davis' Undergraduate ESL Writing Program with the three levels of freshman composition ESL students must progress through and ESL students' attitudes towards this enforced academic trajectory, this dissertation questions who the institution actually values as a student in our writing classrooms.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Watson-Gegeo, Karen Ann
Commitee: Ramanathan, Vaidehi, Thaiss, Chris
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Linguistics
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 73/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, English as a Second Language, Education Policy
Keywords: ESL, ESL learner identity, ESL program socio-history, Language policy, Language socialization, Second language writing, Structuration
Publication Number: 3474416
ISBN: 978-1-124-90755-0
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