Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Teaching for Transfer to First-Year L2 Writers

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Teaching for Transfer to First-Year L2 Writers

Article excerpt

Transferability is a key issue for both educators and learners because the goal of education is to help students apply learned knowledge to other situations beyond classrooms (Perkins & Salomon, 1992). Therefore, research on the transfer of learning, starting in the early 19th century, has been a central concern for scholars in the fields of experimental psychology and education (DePalma & Ringer, 2011). In the past decades, rhetoric and composition scholars have developed robust theoretical frameworks and conducted numerous studies on writing-related transfer involving various aspects such as learners, writing knowledge, and contexts. Most studies have focused on writing knowledge being transferred from first-year composition (FYC) courses to other disciplines or to workplaces (Beaufort, 2007; Clark & Hernandez, 2011; Driscoll, 2011; Nowacek, 2011; Robertson, Taczak, & Yancey, 2012; Rounsaville, 2012). Other research has examined the factors that affect writing transfer, including learners' personal connections, dispositions, motivations, metacognition, effective reflection, and social identity (Beaufort, 2007; Clark & Hernandez, 2011; Driscoll, 2011).

Research on English as a second language (L2) writers and their writing has been growing as more and more L2 students have enrolled in the United States. Varied terms such as L2, English as a second language (ESL), international students, and multilingual writers are used to refer to students whose first language is not English. In this article, I use L2 to refer to students who use English as a second language. Among the literature regarding L2 students, some studies have focused on how to improve L2 students' writing ability (DasBender, 2016; Habib, Hanan, & Mallett, 2015; Johns, 2011; Tardy, 2006, 2009). For example, in DasBender' study (2016), a group of L2 students who faced linguistic and rhetorical challenges were placed in a specially designed writing course so that they could have additional time to work on their writing skills. DasBender's study showed that metacognitive tasks, such as writing reflective essays, could help improve her L2 students' writing knowledge. Similarly, DasBender (2016) and Habib et al. (2015) were concerned about international students' writing development. They applied Tardy's (2009) model in their "bridge program" to assist multilingual graduate students in building genre knowledge and developing language proficiencies.

Other scholars have investigated L2 students' learning transfer (DePalma & Ringer, 2011; James, 2009; Leki, 2007). For instance, James (2009) examined a group of L2 students' learning transfer from an ESL writing course to an academic writing task and found that the strategy of looking for similarities between different writing tasks did not promote his participants' transferability to a significant extent. Like James (2009), Leki's (2007) study not only was concerned about L2 students' writing transfer but also their academic literacy development and their personal, social, and academic experiences at an American university. Leki (2007) explained that the L2 students applied the writing knowledge such as essay structure and invention that they learned from their ESL classes and first-year writing classes. However, these students did not apply genre knowledge in their wring for other courses because these ESL and first-year writing classes did not teach the same genres that student encountered in their disciplinary or workplace writing. L2 students' writing transfer is more difficult and complicated because it involves not only writing knowledge and genre knowledge, but also L2 students' "socioacademic relationships and the ideological assumptions" (Leki, 2007, p. 261) held in new academic communities.

Compared with studies on English as a first language (L1) students' transfer, a critical gap exists in studies concerning how L2 students-in particular, first-year L2 undergraduates at the universities in the U S-learn and build their writing knowledge and then transfer it to other disciplines or academic and professional settings. …

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