Handbook of Writing Research

By Charles A. Macarthur; Steve Graham et al. | Go to book overview
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Chapter 23
Multilingual Writing in Preschool through 12th Grade
The Last 15 Years

Jill Fitzgerald

Multilingual writing is a "hot" topic these days in bilingual, foreign language, Englishlanguage learner (ELL), and applied linguistics fields. Textbooks and concept pieces abound, and theories of multilingual writing processes have emerged and are debated. Historically, interest in multilingual writing has been rooted in the study of college and adult students. But what research has been done on multilingual writing for preschooland school-age students? What issues have been addressed, and how thick is the evidence to support various contentions and theoretical positions about multilingual writing?

These are the major questions I address in this chapter by comprehensively examining published preschool through 12th-grade research conducted from 1988 through 2003. I use the terms "multilingual writing" and "second-language writing" to mean ability or competency in process or product, to whatever extent, in writing in two or more languages (cf. Buckwalter & Lo, 2002; Dworin, 1998).

Several features of the collected research made synthesis of the research findings difficult. There was a tendency toward low levels of research rigor, and coverage of a wide range of research issues, many of which were narrow in scope, resulted in topic clusters that were not deeply researched. Although I have tried to push toward synthesis where possible, on the whole, this chapter stands more as a compendium of studies and my critique of that body of work.

Methods for the Review

The following databases were searched: ERIC (for published research only), PsychInfo, and all bibliographies provided in Journal of Second Language Research (a regular feature of the journal). As articles and books were retrieved and read, reference lists contained in them were scanned for additional pieces. Keywords used in database searches were: English-as-a-second-language writing, L2 composition, bilingual writing, L2 writing, foreign-language writing, English-as-asecond-language composition, bilingual composition, foreign-language composition, L2 composition, Latino writing/composition, Hispanic writing/composition, and Spanish writing/composition.

Very few criteria were applied for inclusion in this review. Research purpose or question had to be stated or easily inferred; data on writing had to have been collected; participants had to be of preschool through 12th-grade age; the study had to have undergone editorial or peer review and been "published" (which excluded technical reports,


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