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ESL students in writing workshops for college composition courses

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Title:
ESL students in writing workshops for college composition courses
Creator:
Lockhart, Linda Louise
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English
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vi, 58 leaves : ; 29 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
English language -- Composition and exercises -- Cross-cultural studies ( lcsh )
English language -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers ( lcsh )
English language -- Composition and exercises ( fast )
English language -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers ( fast )
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Cross-cultural studies. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
Cross-cultural studies ( fast )

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Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 54-58).
General Note:
Department of English
Statement of Responsibility:
by Linda Louise Lockhart.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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Resource Identifier:
40274771 ( OCLC )
ocm40274771
Classification:
LD1190.L54 1998m .L63 ( lcc )

Full Text
ESL STUDENTS IN WRITING WORKSHOPS FOR
COLLEGE COMPOSITION COURSES
Linda Louise Lockhart
B. A., Metropolitan State College, 1992
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
by
English
1998


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Linda Louise Lockhart
has been approved
by
Date


Lockhart, Linda Louise (MA., English)
ESL Students in Writing Workshops for College Composition Courses
Thesis directed by Professor Joanne Addison
ABSTRACT
ESL students in college composition courses frequently have difficulty in
peer response writing workshops due to cultural issues, reading and writing
issues, and learning styles. Many of these issues-are rooted In communicative
competency, with problems involving grammatical, textual, illocutionary,-and
socolinguistic competency. ESL students need to be viewed as individuals who
may be becoming bicultural as well as-bilingual. Cultural and social Issues
affect these students so they may not be able to fully participate in the writing
workshops.
Studies with ESL students in workshops have been limited, as most
involve only ESL students in a classroom with no native speakers, ESL students
share a first language, or incorporate the use t)f specially designed tutoring
programs. These advantages are not found in regular college composition
classes. One of the major findings from these ESL studies, however,-reveals-a
preference for teacher feedback over peer feedback or self feedback.
With teacher feedback, ESL students-are-also asking for-help-with
grammar. They seem unable and unwilling to discuss or think about larger
issues such as organization, focus, ortievelopment until the grammar-problems
have been solved. This may indicate a need for instructors to provide feedback
for grammar so the students -can go on to other-issues.
Beyond grammar, contrastive, rhetoric attempts to explain differences
in cultural assumptions and development of rhetorical theory. Although a
culture's rhetoric can influence writing, culture shock and attitudes about
assimilation affect students also. The students need to understand the culture-
based relationship of reader and writer in order to properly workshop.
Workshops require communicative competence beyond many ESL
students. This competence takes more than a semester for students to acquire.


We must respond to their needs to try to help them, and set appropriate
expectations concerning their ability to participate in workshops at different
levels of communicative competence.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Signed
IV


COMTENTS
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION.....................................................1
Sociocultural Issues........................................7
Contrastive Rhetoric........................................7
Culture of the Classroom___________________________________9
Students as Readers in First and Second Languages...........13
Students as Writers in First and Second Languages...........15
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE.........................................19
Defining Culture.......................................... 20
Language/Culture Relationship...............................21
Cultural Experience Influences Perception...................25
Communicative Competence....................................28
ESL idles. -- -- -- -------------------------- ------- ~ ~ -............ 0
Culture of the Classroom....................................36
Individual and Collective Societies.........................37
Contrastive Rhetoric........................................39
Integrating Cultures_______________________________ 42
v


3. CONVERSING AND COLLABORATION
.47
4.
Teaching Collaboration...,
Reading-Writing Links....
Sociolinguistic Basis....
Contrastive Rhetoric....
Integrating Cultures....
LISTENING AND RESPONDING
__47
....52
....56
___57
...60
Culture of the Classroom
Reading and Writing....
Contrastive Rhetoric___
.63
64
,65
Workshops,
66


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
As a new freshman composition instructor, J was excited and nervous. I had
recently learned about the writing process and was anxious to apply my new
knowledge. All went well until my first writing workshop, when I Jbegan to notice
some problems with non-native speakers. These ESL students didn't participate in
the discussions, didnt bring papers to workshop, or didn't show up for class, J
observed one class where the writing workshop seemed to instantly segregate the
class into native and non-native speakers. J asked other instructors about
problems they were having with workshops. I attended special seminars and .
meetings about developing workshops, J found that methods developed for the
writing workshops are designed for native speakers or for ESL students who have
absorbed the culture of the American classroom. The ethers are left on the
sidelines, observers but not participants. Why? What is it about the workshop
part of the writing process that is so difficult for second-language learners? How
can we enable these ESL students to become involved in workshops? Is it possil
can't prove that workshops are impossible for all ESL students, but J can
understand why ESL students have so much trouble with them. Many of our ESL
students are not. ready for workshops, despite indications from studies and theories.
1


Tom Newkirk talks of the difference between research studies and real
teaching.
In the classes I read about, everything seems to work; student
writing is impressive, often deeply moving; the teacher seems
to have achieved full participation of all members of the class.
And what I find most difficult to believe, the teacher never shows
signs of despondency frustration, anger, impatience or
disappointment (23-24).
He suggests that we talk about these failures and frustrations; our silence cannot
. solve any problems. Only by facing these problems, analyzing them, and turning
them inside out can we find some truthful solutions to help our teaching. I have
found studies and theories which support the use of writing workshops with ESL
students, but the studies involve students who share a first language or are involved
in specialized programs, and the theories are not supported by practice in a regular
classroom.
I have listened to other composition teachers talk about how the ESL students
in their classrooms do not become involved with writing workshops. J have watched
my own workshops fall into inconsequential chattering, even with my guidance. I
am beginning to believe that workshops may not be the generic solution to student
writing problems. The workshops themselves can cause new problems,
particularly for ESL students. This is definitely an area which needs to be explored.
Workshops have traditionally been established with directions and
sometimes rubrics from the teacher. Founders of the writing-as-a-process
movement make the workshops sound so effortless the students edit each other's
work and everything functions smoothly (Atwell, Graves, and Murray,
particularly, seem to be able to easily foster critical thinking in workshops). Even
2


some ESL teachers have glowing reports of using workshops successfully (Nelson).
ESL students "can begin writing before they have complete control over the various
systems of the English language, such as its phonology, grammar, and spelling.
Studies of the written products of ESL students indicate that they are applying
whatever they know about English at that point in time" (Au 165).
But, what about Huan? Huan couldn't come to class on workshop days. He
could write well, but his verbal skills were weak. He passed the entry exam for
freshman cbmposition easily and attended class regularly until the first workshop.
After he had missed two workshops, I spoke to him. He explained that he had a tutor
at the writing center who helped him translate and with whom he discussed his
paper, but he was uncomfortable in class with mainly native speakers reading and
commenting on his paper. He also did not feel that he was competent to make
suggestions or recommendations for others. He had done well in Vietnam in English;
all tests were written. He was embarrassed about his speech. He was
uncomfortable with receiving or giving information to his peers.
What about Ivan? A Russian in this country three years, Ivan was willing
to listen to advice from native speakers and felt that he could help them with larger
issues organization and the need for more details, for instance, but not with the
fine points of grammar. He had never been particularly knowledgeable about
Russian grammar and was nonchalant about English grammar. He had problems
working with ESL students who had not been in the country long and who had not
developed the social skills of American classrooms, but was comfortable with native
3


speaker comments and those of £SL students who were more established in the
culture.
What about Mari? This young Chinese woman was so insecure about her
language skills that she refused to make any comments about any papers, including
her own. She was more secure just listening. She usually workshopped with the
most basic writers in the class, who concentrated on grammar, but she didn't
contribute to the groups except to hand her dictionary to a peer who needed it. She
said she felt uncomfortable criticizing others' work in class, but she was quite
animated in conferences with the teacher, with many questions and comments about
her papers.
These students had many problems with the American culture of the
classroom. "It is the teacher's responsibility to help facilitate successful peer
interactions. Teachers should model appropriate responses and provide instruction
in the requisite social skills" (Nelson, G. 26% Can we teach all the skills
necessary for ESL students in the culture of the American classroom?
Writing workshops in college composition classes are supposed to improve
critical thinking, organization, appropriateness of writing and usage; increase the
amount of revision; reduce apprehension; develop a sense of audience; reduce paper
grading; expose students to different writing styles; motivate revision; develop a
sense of community, and a discrimination about quality of feedback (Harris), These
are significant goals for one activity. These goals are so important that we need to
be able to involve all the students in the discourse community, the "Literacy Club"
(Smith). Successful writing workshops may not be possible with the ESL
4


students, even with careful planning and scaffolding activities so that students
understand more of the culture of the workshop classroom. As instructors, we do
not cast for these productions; we must work with the students who arrive in
class, already immersed in their characters. Some of our ESL students may not be
able to fully participate in writing workshops no matter what we do. This may be
based on Chomsky's theory of communicative competence, which is the ability "to
convey and interpret messages and to negotiate meanings interpersonally within
specific contexts" (Brown 227). This communciative competence, or language
Competence, can be broken down for analysis in several different ways, such as
grammatical competence, discourse competence, illocutionary competence, and
sociolinguistic competence (Brown). Grammatical competence is probably the base
of communicative competence, the ability to construct a sentence properly.
Discourse competence can be defined as the ability to string sentences together in a
way that makes sense. Illocutionary competence includes manipulative, heuristic
and imaginative functions of language and sociolinguistic competence includes
sensitivity to register and naturalness, cultural references and figures of speech
(Brown). Our ESL students have varied abilities in each of these competences.
Perhaps we should modify our own expectations along with our attempts to
enculturate the ESL students to our workshop classrooms.
Sociocultural Issues
In order to solve this problem we need to look first behind the scenes at the
possible causes of the problem. These students come from other cultures with
5


different educational expectations and goals, so cultural differences should be
recognized.
Contrastive Rhetoric
To teach writing teachers have assumptions about the definition of good
writing. Most students are unaware of these culturally based definitions, as they
are unaware of their personal cultural rhetorical style. This rhetorical
organization can also lie described as the textual competency of a student in the
communicative competency framework. Languages have different rhetorical
organizations.
English, for instance is a very structured language, where "generalizations
are supported by subtopics and specific explanations are directly related to the
main point under discussion" (Leki 94). The logical links between these topics,
subtopics and subordinate details are clearly indicated, directness is valued. We
tell the readers what we will talk about, talk about it, then tell the readers what we
have talked about. Digression from the topic is not encouraged.
Robert Kaplan studied six hundred second-language writers, concluding that
students from "different language backgrounds systematically developed their ideas
in writing in patterns different from those that would appear natural in English"
(90). Although his work has been criticized for its generalizations, others, such
as Leki, have studied other rhetorical styles and put students in ethnic group
compartments also. I
6


Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, and Spanish styles have been analyzed and each
has its own system for classification and its own definition of .good writing. In
Spanish, for instance, it is perfectly acceptable to digress into many different
topics so long as they vaguely relate to the main topic (Leki). A more direct
connection is necessary in English. In order for this knowledge to help in teaching,
both ESL students and native speakers need to leam something about these different
patterns to enable them to properly workshop together.
Workshops require communication which must be based on some common
ground of understanding. Workshop members need to share the communicative
knowledge of the definition of good writing and rhetorical construction in order to
participate in a productive workshop group.
Culture of the Classroom
Workshops are part of the culture of an American classroom; the ability to
understand this culture is based on the illocutionary and socioJinguistic competence
of the students. Sociocultural issues can effect student behavior and learning
ability. For instance, in Vietnamese classrooms students all talk at once, "laughing
or simultaneously responding either to the teacher or to each other" (Sullivan 32).
Students build upon each other's comments, overlapping speech even when only one
student had been called on. Vietnamese students are placed in groups when entering
a school and tend to stay in those same groups for years, studying, living and
playing together, even in colleges. This develops long term relationships with
other students. It is the student's responsibility to learn and the teacher's
7


responsibility to impart information, but sharing knowledge is an important part
of the classroom. To move from this active noisy classroom to a workshop situation
is quite a jump. Perhaps these activities share goals here community
collaborative learning but the methods of achievement are different. '
Other cultural changes face ESL students in our country or studying abroad.
ESL students come equipped with entire cultural heritages. Students in Nepal are
not used to responding except on written tests. Critical thinking skills (as we
define them) are not encouraged or taught Nepali students are most comfortable
with rote learning and memorization, as these are the skills necessary in their
school system. The idea of peer editing and advice is alien to them and they feel that
their peers dont really have the correct answers. Only the teacher has the
authority and the knowledge.
For ESL students studying here, everything is different. I had to explain
how to use an American bathroom to a male student of mine from Nepal. Common
expressions like "DO NOT COLLECT $200" are meaningless to ESL students. A
Nepali female student asked me for information about birth control. Our streets
are straight, have lanes and names and we drive on the wrong side. Our homes have
addresses with mail and newspapers delivered daily. The food is different. The
politics are different. Children are raised differently. Education is different.
Classrooms are different. Our jokes, human rights, economic reform, welfare,
accounting principles and practices, and use of anti-perspirants are all unfamiliar
to these students.
8


Many ESL students have talked with me about how tired they are of thinking
in English all of the time. One said he thought he had no mind left, as he was trying
so hard to think in English, erasing his native language from his mind. As a relief
for this stress and frequently for economic reasons, ESL students tend to socialize
and live with students with similar language backgrounds. This slows the process
of absorbing our culture, but also brings up cultural diversity issues. Each ESL
student has personal goals for English proficiency and acceptance of our culture. I
certainly can understand wanting to keep a cultural heritage while learning a new
culture, but how much gets lost in the process? Probably students who are
further along in acceptance of this culture are capable of meaningful interaction in
writing Workshops (Fox).
The culture of the classroom, particularly collaborative work, may be
unfamiliar to ESL students and as writers, as well as the directors of this
production, we need to understand the ESL audience. They may not understand the
nature of peer response and feel that groups need to be harmonious, that negative
comments can only hurt feelings, and suggestions can be insulting. For instance,
Chinese students' perceptions of writing workshops include a "perceived need for a
positive group climate" (Carson and Nelson 7). While native speakers in a class
may see the group work more as an effort to improve writing through cooperation,
the Chinese students can be constrained by their own sense of social goals, such as
group harmony, cooperation and polite behavior. This can create communication
problems such as: a reluctance to speak, particularly if someone might be hurt by
their comments; a reluctance to disagree, particularly if that might cause conflict;
9


and a reluctance to claim authority, particularly if they are not completely
knowledgeable (7-14). It is even difficult for some to agree with comments peers
make about texts. While students with some cultural backgrounds view workshops
at attempts to improve the texts, the Chinese tend to see workshops as attempts to
work together and get along.
Students as Readers in First and Second Languages
A student must not only write for a peer response workshop to work, but the
student must read also, so the writers need to have some understanding of the
reader as audience. As writing is culturally leased, so is reading. There are many
ways to read a text. Schema theory suggests that a text itself carries no meaning,
but only provides directions for listeners or readers as to how they can construct
meaning from their own background knowledge. "One of the most obvious reasons
why a particular content schema may fail to exist for a reader is that the schema is
culturally specific and is not part of a particular reader's cultural background"
(Long & Richards 223).
Language competence can interfere with reading performance, which is
based upon first language skills and development as well as second language
knowledge. Readers who can read with semantic ability in their native language
may still have to work on syntactic ability in a second language (Clark).
The reader and the text are involved in a transaction that involves
expectations, schema, arousal and fulfillment or frustration and revision to
construct a meaning for the reader. "From a to-and-fro interplay between reader,
10


text, and context emerges a synthesis or organization, more or less coherent and
complete" (Rosenblatt 1064). The reader must adopt a stance at some point on a
continuum between facts and feelings. The closer the contract between author and
reader, the more likely the reader will correctly interpret the writer's intentions.
This contract can consist of sharing a language, social and cultural group,
educational level or "membership in the same discourse community, such as
academic, athletic, Jiterary, scientific, or theological" (1077). The more aspects
are shared between reader and writer, the closer the interpretation will be. The
text is a production, generated to represent meaning, which is received through
reading, a process of constructing meaning through transactions with the text and
with the writer. This process is active and transactional.
Problems occur in writing workshops making this transactional process
work, with many of the problems stemming from the cultural issues. When
readers construct meaning from texts, they are creating their own mental texts,
which may not translate well between languages or between cultures. Then these
students have to talk about the texts and listen to feedback. Much of their ability to
do this (communicative competency) is based on their cultural identity and their
first language skills.
Students as Writers in First and Second Languages
ESL students in college composition classes have some experience in writing
in their native language. "When writing in English, some ESL students may apply
knowledge of their native language" (Au 165). The amount of knowledge that is
11


transferred to the target language has been debated, but at least some knowledge
comes through. Interdependence between languages has been demonstrated by many
studies. "Only students with relatively high levels of Spanish academic proficiency
on entry to the program develop high Jevels of English proficiency," according to a
study of Hispanic elementary students by Ramiriz in 1985 (Bialystok 74).
This interdependence is supported in a study focusing on cognitive process
and text production by A. Cumming. ESL adults' writing performance was assessed
on the relationship of writing expertise and second-language proficiency, which
accounted for most of the variance in the quality of ESL texts and writing behavior.
The relation of these findings to the interdependence hypothesis
is that writing expertise is common across languages but for
effective writing performance in an J_2 both expertise and
specific knowledge of the L2 are required. As expressed by
Cumming: 'the present research has identified the empirical
existence of certain cognitive abilities entailed in writing
expertise problem solving strategies, attention to complex
aspects of writing while making decisions, and the qualities
of content and discourse organization in compositions which
are not related directly to secondJanguage proficiency but
which appear integral, to effective performance in second
language writing' (83-84).
So, writing expertise transcends language barriers. With enough proficiency in a
second language, students who are good writers in their first language can be good
writers in a second language, based on all aspects of communicative competency. At
least some of our ESL students have the potential for good writing can we find the
methods for them to join the discourse community?
Teachers, teacher-researchers, sociolinguists and others have been trying
to come up with an answer to this question. For many researchers, the question can
be rephrased as: Does the academy have to change for the ESL students or do we
12


have to change the students? I believe the answer is both. As instructors, we need
to recognize that we Jive in a multi-cultural society now and some of our traditions
can be questioned in order to make a place for diverse cultural heritage. Making
allowances for differences in learning styles and rhetorical theories will serve all
students. We need to recognize the individual and attempt to maximize the potential
of each student, even if that means change.
On the other hand, ESL students need to accept some of our cultural
requirements in order to be successful in our society. In writing workshops,
instructors need to be flexible about structuring. ESL students are particularly
conscious of grammatical problems, so starting with grammar (in workshops or in
conferences) can relieve an ESL student immediately, so she can start thinking
about higher-order concerns such as organization and development. 1 realize that
researchers and writing process theory indicate that higher order concerns should
be covered first, but the students 1 have worked with prove otherwise. These ESL
students feel insecure about their second language and want to make sure they are
using the words and the punctuation properly in order to communicate meaning.
They have good ideas and they know that; they're just not sure they are
communicating these ideas in a proper format. I frequently ask these students to
rephrase parts of their work. If they can not do that, I try to make suggestions, in
question form, using their words. For instance, I say, "Do you mean or
____?" with the blanks being phrases or words. Sometimes I just show them how to
rewrite a sentence with the subject first. After this I can usually start talking
about organization, focus, and development and they smile and seem relaxed about
13


explaining their reasoning. The students must be made aware of their
responsibilities in workshop situations also, so that they can develop skills in
verbal communication which will help them elsewhere in the academy.
These students are similar to Mike Rose's students on the boundary. They
have not completely accepted or been accepted by the academy. Some compare
Afro-American student problems with ESL student problems, with validity
(McLeod). The academy needs to offer appropriate assistance to these students and
the students need to accept the invitation to the Literacy Club.
In order to properly evaluate our work in this area, we need to look at our
failures, not only our successes. Many of these students are highly intelligent,
accustomed to receiving high grades and success in their own language and country.
If we carefully analyze how and why we are failing to help these students attain
membership in the literacy club, we will help all students. I think it is important
to talk about methods which do work, but the applications for successes can be
limited to certain conditions. The applications for failure can be universal. We
need to face our problems and talk about them.
In Chapter Two, I will review the literature available on this subject, from
sociolinguistic theory to classroom studies. Chapter Three will explain more fully
my ideas of re-working the writing workshop for a more multi-cultural
experience for all students. Chapter Four will give a summary of my research and
my ideas and suggestions.
14


CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
We need a structure to build upon. The research focusing on this problem is
limited primarily .because many of the studies were more structured than possible
in an ordinary classroom, and the focus of the studies was workshops, not ESL
students. In some cases the focus was ESL students, .but not in workshops, or in
workshops with others who had the same first language. Others focus on individual
case studies which may not apply loan entire national or cultural heritage. Work
has been done on contrastive rhetoric, but much of that has been criticized as
making generalizations which may not apply to individual students. Cultural
analysis by sociolinguists seems to be helpful, as this uses information from many
disciplines, including sociology and psychology, to make generalizations. These
generalizations seem to view more of the whole picture of the realm of cultural
influences which may relate to individual students.
I will first discuss culture and cultural implications of learning reading and
writing in another language. Then J will review research studies made with ESL
students in workshop situations. Finally I will review suggested solutions by
others for reconciling cultural differences to achieve an effective learning
environment.
15


Defining Culture
In order to understand how students are affected by culture, we need to
define culture. Culture is a state of civilization where individuals acquire ability
to recognize generally accepted ideas and behaviors of a group. This can be seen in
the actual observable actions and events but is based on strucure and rules which
govern and explain these observable events. Other people's behavior can be
predicted or anticipated based on awareness of these behaviors and rules. Cognitive
and symbolic concepts jof culture are non-observable and internal to the individual.
"Symbolic definitions of culture focus neither on external events nor the internal
mechanisms for organizing per se, but rather on the meaning which results from
the dialectic process between the two" (G. Robinson 12). Actions and behaviors
are based on cultural knowledge, which supplies the rules of appropropriate
behavior, so that others in the culture understand. To Americans, "please" and
"thank you" are common expressions of polite behavior. To other cultures, such as
Nepali, these expressions are not common and their frequent use in English make
little sense to Nepalis. In conversations and workshops with students of other
cultures, awareness of cultural differences can be imperative and become a part of
communicative competence.
Language/Culture Relationship
Language and culture are intertwined. Cultural perceptions can be
influenced by language, as in the study of Papua New Guineans who had no dye or
word for magenta. Once the dye was introduced to the area, it was soon easily
16


distinguished from other hues and a color term was invented (Robinson). Culture
influences language, and language influences culture. Just learning a language does
not necessarily mean learning a culture, however. This is dependent on perception,
which is heavily influenced Jby familiarity with objects or events. Although the
importance of providing culturally familiar content to students is recognized most
ESL textbooks try to examine typically American context for learning (Robinson).
In the diverse classrooms of American higher education, it is unrealistic to believe
that we can provide a culturally familiar content base for every culture that is
represented but bridges between the cultures and languages need to be built -
scaffolding which supports the learning (Robinson). Learners do not necessarily
interpret material as the instructor intends. Students
"whose previous experience relates to a cultural context which
differs from that represented in instruction, may not perceive the
target stimuli as intended by the instructor or textbook writer. In
a film, learners from different cultures may not be seeing what
you expect them to see. Thereforer draw learner attention-to those
aspects or interpretations which -are intended goals of instruction, Jje
it a particular sound within a word or a particular category of
phenomena within a film, such as psychological themes, body
language as in greetings, cultural issues, etc." (18).
This has profound implications in a multi-cultural classroom, particularly
with workshops. We can also point out important elements of workshops, perhaps
through films or role-playing (Lawrence and Sommers). This sort of activity
could help the whole class in understanding the process and importance of peer
feedback and interaction.
The effectiveness of peer workshop groups can be influenced by another
sociological theory of field sensitive and field independence strategies, in that field
17


sensitive learning is more dependent on the teacher, where field independent
learning is more focused on the individual students. Field sensitive strategies of an
instructor include: modeling, expressing warmth, eliciting synthesis, devising
cooperative tasks and group projects, adapting to student experiences, using
student-developed materials, and rewarding in social, non-competive and varied
ways, not always verbal. Field independent strategies include: acting as a resource
person, expressing formality, focusing on details, assigning individual projects,
focusing on objective facts, use of standard materials, and rewarding in non-social,
individual and verbal ways (Robinson). Although there are too many complex
variables to catagorize any culture or classroom as purely field sensitive or field
independent, we need to be aware of our own crossing of the lines here. Many of our
strategies for teaching come from both sides. Much of our Western education
emphasizes field independence, such as analytical ability, but the workshop process
is more field sensitive group work, based on student material, which elicits
synthesis. This represents a shift of priorities, which may be part of the confusion
with writing workshops for all students, although effective workshops may also
help to develop both styles within the students. These strategies provide vehicles
for the transmission of cultural messages.
Cultural messages can be transmitted through language, emotion, sound and
rhythm, space, time, body movement and dance, touch, taste and food, and visual
adornment (Robinson). Children learn all these cultural ways and mannerisms
from the adults in the society from these transmissions. Many of the seven
intelligences (Gardner) seem to have some correlation to the ways that culture is
18


transmitted. Children learn culture using linguistic intelligence in learning
language and reading. They learn with logical-mathmatical intelligence when they
learn math and concepts of time. They learn with intra- and inter-personal
intelligence when they Jearn the appropriate emotional responses to situations.
They learn with musical intelligence when they learn sound and rhythm and the
musical heritage of the culture. They use spatial intelligence when learning about
their immediate physical neighborhood and when learning how far away to stand
when communicating with others. They use kinesthetic intelligence to learn body
movements and dance.
The seven intelligences and the field sensitive and field independent learning
styles of students have been used successfully in ESL classrooms (Christison,
Kinsella, Reid). Apparently, these theories of intelligence and learning styles
cross cultural barriers and apply to all .students. Now we need to work on an
increased awareness of cultural influences. In order to facilitate this cultural
growth, we need to understand our students' perception of the culture of the
classroom and the workshop situation.
Cultural Experience Influences Perception
People perceive others using three cues: the person, the behavior, and the
context or situation. There are physical cues, such as culturally defined ideas of
beauty like thin lips or thick lips, and behavioral cues, such as people's movement
like looking directly at the speaker or looking down as a sign of respect Responses
to the cues and the cues themselves can be based on emotions, which are more
19


difficult to analyze. Smiles can mean happiness, but for Japanese students, smiles
can also indicate embarrassment Schemas are the cognitive structures where
people try to interpret the cue information. Person schemas focus on the people
involved, such as professors = inteJIigence, where event schemas focus on an
expected sequence of events within a setting with expected roles from participants,
such as dinner parties. American dinner parties and Nepali dinner parties share
few traits except the actual eating of food. A positive perception of a person is based
on the familiarity of the receiver with the cues and schemas of that person
(Robinson). If we are aware of the multicultural schemas, we can become more
accepting of the differences.
Students need to be aware of the cultural differences also. A Japanese
student I tutored explained the situation of a businessman in Japan who did not
realize that his subordinates were saying "NO",when the Japanese said things like,
"We will investigate it positively and try to do our best for you," or "We will think
about it." Japanese people believe that saying no is rude.
Sociolinguists have studied the various ways of saying "no." Although some
elements of negation are shared by all cultures, such as silence, offering
alternatives, postponement and avoidance, the ways different cultures demonstrate
negation vary considerably. When the French say "merci" (thanks), it is a polite
refusal, where in .English, it implies "yes, thanks" (Rubin 12). Even the physical
movements for "no" vary across cultures. I had a Nepali student who moved her
head back and forth nearly every time 1 lectured. I would stop to see what she
20


disagreed with, as I assumed negation. She was merely indicating that she
understood and that I should go on. I was misinterpretinig her cultural schema.
In this manner, the Asians do notnven view their recent economic problems
the same way we do. "The problems were greatly exacerbated because no one would
admit there was a problem." Failure is considered a family matter, one must show
a good face to the world. "The lives of Asian people are dominated by a sense of
collectivism." For instance," In Asia, taxes are seen more as a redistribuion of
money to other parts of the family. The government is part of me, not Big Brother"
(Reuteman IG). Americans' interpretation of the Asian economy can be based on
inaccurate cultural schema.
Ethnographic studies attempt to analyze these cultural schemas. Having
experienced the culture and language Change herself, Danling Fu studied a Laotian
family with four adolescents who recently immigrated. She witnessed severe
culture shock in these children, with part wanting to belong to the new culture and
not knowing how, and part wanting to just be themselves. The three oldest children
were taught English with vocabulary lists and worksheets (grammar-translation),
but the youngest was taught with a more whole-language approach with more
authentic language. This child became the most proficient in English, although he
had never been educated in Laos. Fu is convinced that the whole-language approach
helped him the most, but seems to ignore the fact that he was young when exposed to
English, leaving open questions about critical period acquisition. Younger people
tend to leam languages better than older people, but motivation and personality
factors must be considered also (Bialystok and Hakuta). In our attempts to use
21


whole language techniques such as workshops to assist learning in our composition
courses, we do not get young children. We get young adults. We deal with people
who are stretched across two cultures, with part of a personality in the U.S., part
somewhere else, more like the older siblings. Fu's work indicates the need to
i
understand the cultural problems of these students. We must deal with the
motivation and personality factors of young adults attempting communicative
competence in a second language. We need to understand that their perception of
workshops may be culturally based.
For example, Chinese students' perception to writing workshops and
attitudes about group work include a "need for a positive group climate," and these
students were constrained by their own sense of social goals, such as group
harmony, cooperation and polite behavior (Carson and Nelson 7). Carson and
Nelson suggest more research of ESL students in writing workshops in order to
"develop a clear picture of the effectiveness of this pedagogical practice" (19). J
agree we need more research as workshops may be able to facilitate communicative
competence if properly managed.
Communicative Competence
A great deal of communicative competence is necessary for participation in a
workshop group. Communicative competence is the ability "to convey and
interpret messages and to negotiate meanings interpersonally within specific
contexts" (Brown 227). It can be broken down in many ways, including
grammatical competence, textual competence, sociolinguistic competence and
22


illocutionary competence. Many of our ESL students feel inadequate in their
grammatical competence, which we may be able to teach. Our students may be
aware of the other aspects of communicative competence, but lack the resources
(knowledge and vocabulary) to tell us where they need help.
To achieve communicative competence in language students must understand
the ways to say no, the ways to apologize, the ways to compliment, the ways to
argue. In order to workshop in a composition class, this communicative competence
is needed. Many of our students can pass English tests to get into our class, but do
not understand all the nuances required for regular communication here.
Argument, for example, is a structure we try to teach our students, so we
need to be aware of the cultural differences. "Japanese speakers structure
arguments to avoid direct refusal and direct confrontation" (Robinson 57). In our
culture, good writing (and argument)
"involves a multitude of values, skills, habits, and assumptions
about audience needs: it means setting down a clear, step-by-step,
transparently logical progression of jdeas; it means critically
examining a variety of ideas and opinions-and creating an-original
interpretation that shows, very explicitly and directly, the-
writer's point of view, It means using reference materials to
add evidence and authority to the writer's own argument, weaving
together material from a variety of sources into a pattern that
'makes sense' to the reader. It means attributing ideas to
individual authors with meticulous care. It means speaking with
a voice of authority, making judgments and recommendations and
coming to specific, 'reasoned' conclusions. It means valuing literal
meanings and precise definitions and explicit statements of cause
and effect. It means writing sparsely and directly, without
embellishments or digressions, beginning each paragraph or
section with a general analytical statement and following it with
pertinent example" (Fox xviii).
23


These are our culturally determined standards, not the world's. Fox worked
with highly intelligent, often published, graduate students from other countries and
cultures who had difficulties with writing in school here. Her students had trouble
with nearly every elerrient of our definition of good writing. Many felt they should
give the reader credit for the intelligence to make connections, many found our
direct phrasing too direct, as it was insulting to the reader. Many felt that more
examples, even not directly related, help to build the appropriate sense of scene.
Some had problems with the concept of original thinking and writing. These are
many of the same problems we see as composition teachers. .
ESL Studies
In a perfect world we could set up our classes so our students could be more
successful. We could set up tutoring programs in writing centers with small
groups of students meeting regularly with well-trained tutors who have the time to
document progress (Nelson, Reid and Powers). Even if we do not have the luxury of
tutors in our classrooms, the relationships between peers and the instructor and
the importance of the communicative process involved in workshops needs to be
explained in a classroom. These writing tutorial programs helped ESL students
with oral communication and gave them the language to talk about writing. Such a
structured small environment can rarely be developed in a regular classroom, but
the philosophies of the roles of the peers and the multiple audiences apply. The
recommendations to facilitate this concept include: "(a) assigning writing fora
variety of audiences, (b) teaching audience identification and analysis, and (c)
24


making grading criteria explicit" (Reid and Powers 26). If students understand
their responsibility in workshops, they can understand the philosophy of the
writing process and workshops.
Recorded workshops with second language learners sharing a first language
revealed seven social-cognitiye activities; reading, assessing, dealing with trouble
sources, composing, writing comments, copying, and discussing task procedures
(Villamil and De Guerrereo). Mediating strategies included using the LI, which can
only be used with students who all have the same first language, of course. In many
ways, that does change methods and procedure.
In my experience in Kathmandu, Nepal, workshops were conducted in
English and Nepali. If the students were speaking to me, they used English.
Otherwise, they would read aloud in English, but question or comment in Nepali.
There was a comfort level with the language balance they achieved. Some
interlanguage worked into discussions and most students were flexible in the use of
the two languages, switching from one to the other frequently, confusing the
instructor at times. Teaching in a classroom where all ESL students share a first
language changes the entire teaching technique, in that we leam to teach into that
interlanguage muddle, which the students may sort out in their first language. The
accuracy of the translation is constantly at risk and constantly negotiated.
In other recorded ESL workshops (Mendonca and Johnson), students used
questions, explanations, restatements, suggestions and grammar corrections in the
workshops. Some revisions on the drafts were suggested in the workshops, some
came directly from the writer, some of the suggested revisions from peers were not
25


used in later drafts. The students seemed to be able to differentiate quality feedback
and maintain ownership of the papers. These are important skills for our students.
Some of the students found the workshops beneficial, but several also revealed that
both the peers' and the teacher's feedback was important. The comments about
teacher feedback were noted, but not developed. In many cultures, the classroom
are more teacher-based than here (Rao) and these ESL students still need that
support to properly learn. Workshops can be helpful ways to engage students in the
learning process, hut ESL students particularly need feedback from the instructor
also.
Teacher feedback is important to students. When analyzed by culture
groups, some groups seemed to resist student-centered group work more than
others (Mangelsdoft). Asian students especially expressed completely negative
opinions about peer reviews. "Even students who had some positive reactions to
peer reviews showed a preference for teacher feedback" (281). Mangelsdorf
concluded that she would continue to use workshops, but that they need to be
"carefully organized in order to be successful" (281). Most students felt peer
response groups were beneficial, especially because of authentic audiences for
their work. However, teacher feedback was most preferred over peer feedback or
self feedback (Zhang). The students did not believe the peer groups had "helped
them to be responsible for their improvement, or to be confident in their ability to
critique a text" (Mangelsdoft 280), while the instructors felt this was one of the
most important benefits of group work. Peer feedback can be helpful for ESL
students, but they also need teacher feedback throughout the writing workshop
process.
26


Less proficient ESL students in workshop groups were observed by Gayle
Nelson and John Murphy. The organization development, irrelevancies, topic.
sentences, and cohesion were analyzed. The students could usually identify errors
and problems in these areas (91%), and sometimes found problems that raters
didn't identify, such as topic sentence problems. Although the study showed that
peer response groups could be helpful, social skills for groups need to be taught and
modeled by the teacher. These social skills are based on communicative competency
such as sociolinguistic competence and illocutionary competence, involving issues
like heuristic functions, manipulative functions and sensitivity to register and
cultural references. Some of this cannot be taught or modeled. Students must team
some of these communicative competency issues from experience.
Differences between workshops for native speakers and workshops for ESL
students revolve around communicative competency issues. English proficiency of
the students has an effect on workshops (Peyton, Jones, Vincent, and Greenblatt).
The ESL students were not like the native speakers, in that
Students may have had interrupted schooling, and their literacy levels
be far below their age and grade levels; their
backgrounds, experiences, and attitudes toward learning may not
match those of the school or of the teachers and students they are
interacting with or the texts they are reading; in addition, they
may have a fear of writing and be reluctant to write, stemming
from a sense of language deficiency (476).
The authors indicate that it should be easier for children to vocalize than to write,
but the young adults we work with seem hesitant about expressing ideas vocally as
well as in writing. Ideas which may have merit in a native language may become
trivialized when written in English because of limited English skills, so may be
27


abandoned. This can affect our perception of our students and their ability to
perform in a workshop situation. "Others are preoccupied with producing correct
English and will write only what they can write correctly" (477). This
preoccupation with correct English is the basis for my suggestion that we help with
the grammar first. For many of our ESL students, grammar is the first thing they
want to talk about and correct Until the grammar is acceptable, they do not want to
even think about organization or focus. The collaborative support group needs to be
able to respond to the needs of the writer and to recognize that response can come
from many audiences. Modeling by the teacher can teach students to value the
feedback they receive, but such collaborative learning is a cultural issue for many
students. Many of our students have never been involved with collaborative
learning before and it may conflict with cultural attitudes toward learning.
Culture of the Classroom
Chinese students have been taught English in China with traditional methods
of intensive reading, memorization and rote learning, emphasis on linguistic
details, translation as a teaching and learning strategy, and the authority of the
teacher shadowing the students' passive role (Rao). The culture of the American
classroom is student-centered, with a more communicative approach to learning.
Particularly in workshop situations, the instructor places responsibility on the
students for learning and communicating. The students must leam to talk with one
another and share knowledge for a successful workshop. Teachers need to reconcile j
the various ways of learning in order for these students to become involved. This
28


communicative approach can work if the teacher is sensitive to the needs and
learning styles of the students, and if the students are convinced of its usefulness.
"The teacher, however, must be organized and skillful in integrating the
communicative components with the components of the grammar translation
method" (Rao 469).
The integration of teaching methods may help students with their
communicative competency, but time-consuming scaffolding must occur. The
grammatical weaknesses tend to make our ESL students reluctant to speak out and
participate in workshops. Other aspects of communicative competency are more
directly related to culture.
Individual and Collective Societies
Some cultural differences are based on the nature of the societies the
students represent. Fox describes theses differences as individual and collective.
"The conventional wisdom about success and failure in the United States is a
personal, individualistic one. It says that a person's place in life Js a function of
the hard work and effort that person invests" (McLeod 79). Our attitudes about
plaguerism and argument are based on this individualism. We can lose students in
class and in workshops because of this cultural attitude. Our ideas about originality
are based on the individual, and our sense of plaguerism reflects this attitude.
"Now I would say that what happened two thousand years ago was original and is
still original. I mean some ideas are not new. They're ancient. They still have the
original meaning. They are still the original statement. They are original words.
29


Original as they were created" (student quoted in Fox 46). This concept of
originality does not fit in academic writing in the U.S., but defines originality in
Sri Lanka, creating problems for instructors as well as workshop groups. If the
basic philosophy behind the definition of a word can vary this much, we need to be
f
particularly clear in instructions and guidelines.
For instance in a collectivist culture, "when a famous person speaks that
person speaks for everyone, in a way. When a filmmaker makes a movie, or when
someone speaks a a public assembly, they are saying what the whole society
believes. .Public figures really can speak for everyone, in solidarity" (Fox 31).
This affects writing, particularly with citing sources and making generalizations.
Clear guidelines should be given to students pertaining to plaguerism and citing
sources prior to workshop situations.
For many of our ESL students, "what's important is seeing, feeling, and
being situated in the web of relationships that surround and permeate the subject"
(Fox 28) instead of the connecting of ideas and support necessary for academic
writing in English. ESL student papers are frequently difficult to follow because of
the digressions, so other academic standards, such as focus, must be emphasized in
instructions for workshop groups. There is so much variety in ESL writing, it is
difficult to analyze all of the implications.
Contrastive Rhetoric
Work in contrastive rhetoric suggests that there is cultural variation in the
emphasis placed on criteria for editing versus planning and drafting. For instance,
30


Purves and Hawisher argues that there is a relative low emphasis on organization
in Chile and on style and tone in the Netherlands. In New Zealand and Sweden,
teachers appear to emphasize process more than other countries, but in Sweden
more of this emphasis concerns choice of topic than in the case of New Zealand.
Purves and Purves saw the need for more information on how and where individuals
learn what constitutes good or appropriate writing in a culture (McLeod).
Vietnamese children write stories which appear less goal-oriented and
focused on plot than traditional English stories, emphasizing relationships between
characters and dialogue instead. Arabic children, on the other hand, provide more
information about scene than native writers (McLaughlin in McLeod).
Kaplan believed that first and second language writers differ in what they
believe to be shared knowledge between reader and writer and that they differ in
strategies to develop and focus on a, topic (McLaughlin in McLeod). This difference
can create misinterpretations in workshop situations.. The assumptions of
knowledge of second language readers and writers are influenced by their first
language's rhetorical communicative competency.
Learning how to write in a second language involves much more than
learning how to avoid interference from the first language. Rather than looking for
influences from the first language or culture, much of current research examines
what it means to write in a second language. For instance, ESL writers chose
hierarchical structuring as a preference for prewriting techniques, instead of
systematic heuristics, which depend on linguistic abilities, or open-ended
exploratory writing, which provides little structure (McLaughlin in McLeod).
31


"More highly developed linguistic abilities in the language in which they are
writing allow for more diverse strategies. Less developed Jinguisitic abilities
restrict the strategies writers are likely to use" (McLaughlin in McLeod 189).
The students who have developed more in all forms of communicative compentence,
have more strategies are available to them.
ESL researchers have tended to focus on one group or another to analyze
communication. Eastern Europeans (Lewkowicz), Chinese, and Asians have also
been analyzed for differences in grammatical problems, cultural differences, and
learning styles. All border residents of the academic community, ESL students can
be separated by language or country of origin and border students can be separated
by language or ethnic group, but there are some dangers in too much close
analyzation, in that an isolated group's problems may not apply to another group.
On the other hand, too much grouping can minimize individual differences.
Students' degree of enculturation and their willingness to enculturate accounts for
the degree of success they find.
"Communication and understanding can break down (or fail to
develop in the first place) on many levels. Failure to understand
someone elses language is an obvious example; failure to
understand language nuances and shades of meaning also occurs,
such as when a Latino envisions 'la familia' as including extended
family members, translates this into the word 'family,' and is
understood by a non-Latino to mean the nuclear family. People
also commonly misread the behavior of others. For example,
non-Black teachers often read active behavior of African American
children as defiant and aggressive rather than as enthusiastic and
participatory; non-Indian teachers often misinterpret Indian
children as withdrawn and uncommunicative due to a lack of
understanding of Indian communication processes" (Tharp in McLeod 109).
32


Diverse experiences and viewpoints can lead to misunderstanding. Our ESL
students have insecurities about their second language, both oral and written, and
writing workshops emphasize these forms of communication. These students need
assistance in coping with the misunderstandings that occur and need experience in
communication giving them confidence and the keys to the Literacy Club.
Integrating Cultures
Teachers have tried to change ESL student behavior. We have set up writing
centers, tutoring centers, special classes, and individual conferences with varying
degrees of success. Some ESL students are successful in adapting to Our culture.
"Studies have shown that the minority students most likely to finish are those who
take advantage of the support systems offered by a college" (McSpadden 90). If we
are going to maintain the democratic goal of educating everyone, we need to
concentrate our work on the students who are not so successful. "I am crossed
between two cultures," a Korean student told instructor Helen Fox (22). This
intersection of cultures creates problems for these students.
Living on borders and jn margins with conflicting information and points of
view creates a tension for these students. This tension can bring frustration,
. exhilaration or a sense of alienation from both cultures (Lu).
"Students' fear of acculturation and the accompanying sense of contradiction
and ambiguity" has been treated as a deficit (lu 889). Lu Jbelieves that Bruffee,
Farrell, and Shaughnessy, pioneers in the Basic Writing field, view conflict and
struggle as negative forces and enculturation as positive. This creates two
33


assumptions about language: "1) an essentialist view of language holding that the
essence of meaning precedes and is independent of language; 2) a view of discourse
communities as discursive utopias, in each of which a single, unified, and stable
voice directly and compJetely determines the writings of all community members"
(Lu 889). Our culture has no more of a common voice than any other culture, as
indicated by the variety of writing in popular magazines, newspapers, or scholarly
journals. Students need to be able to accept conflict, they should not be "led to view
the academy as a place free-.of contradictions. They need to Jearn to Jive with rather
than escape from the tension of biculturalism"(898).
Students should focus on and develop this tension, according to Lu. She says
we should not try to erase the ambiguities and contradictions that come from
striding two cultures, but we should use these differences as a starting point for
development. This attitude could be a basis for critical thinking and writing as we
Westerners define it. To be able to work with the students on these tensions to
develop themselves and write about the changes they are experiencing could develop
better writers and students.
Problems: 1) Would this be considered critical thinking in other
cultures? Probably not, which creates another point of tension. 2) Can assigning
ESL students to write about their culture be compared with having native speakers
write about "What J did Last Summer?" Some stories about customs and holidays
can be delightful for native speaker instructors to read, but are not work for the
students at all (Burns). The first time I received an argument about how Nepalis
should let their children marry for love instead of based on the caste system and
34


chosen by parents, I was impressed. The fourth paper on the same subject was less
impressive, making me think of common topics of native speakers, like the
legalization of hemp. What seems unique to us may not to them. 3) Are there
cultural limitiations? Some emerging countries have not always had written
language; the cultural stories and philosophies may have been just transmitted
orally. One paper J received on superstitions was a good start, but the student only
knew of some of the background and history of her own culture's superstitions and
could have developed a comparison/contrast or other analysis if she knew more
about other people's superstitions or her own. However, no texts were available
for research in Nepal, on their own superstitions or others'. Her workshop group
could not help her either, as their knowledge was based on the oral tradition of the
culture also.
On the other hand, Fox and Robinson believe that we should focus on the
humanness of all of the students and find the similarities, instead of the differences.
This would develop the comfort level of the students so they can perform better.
This is where I intuitively start, thinking of all of us as just a group of humans. To
perhaps start with similarities, such as fear people worldwide have similar
fears of snakes, for example, might spark this unified ideal. Even an activity like
this can reveal cultural differences, however. I use an exercise on punishments
frequently in 1020 classes (Hashimoto). The native speakers tend to group
punishments according to whether death is a result. The Nepalis, on the other hand,
ranked "starvation" as the worst punishment and could not visualize any other
punishment as even close to starvation. They see starvation daily on the streets of
35


Kathmandu, so starvation was a separate group by itself as the worst possible
punishment. None of the other punishments meant much to them and they laughed
and joked through the others on the list. Even if these students become
educated in the United States, they will probably return to Nepal. As instructors
we need to figure out how to help these students integrate the cultures so their
education can be useful:
Cultural differences can influence effective communication, according to
sociolinguists. The research and logic support this, but we need to find ways to
assist learners. Researchers indicate ESL students value feedback from
instructors, but continue to advocate peer reviews. Some instructors go over the
same information again and again, hoping the ESL students finally start to learn the
rhetorical competence (fox). If we can understand and identify the problems, and
the students tell us their needs, we may be able to figure out ways to help them
learn. We need to open up Jines of communication with our students to identify
needs and concerns. "To the extent that cultural diversity is present, it is all the
more critical that the basic form of teaching is through dialogue between teacher
and learners through the instructional conversation" (Tharp in McLeod 158).
36


CHAPTER 3
CONVERSING AND COLLABORATION
How can we develop instructional conversations with our ESL students? We
can read and research problems related to skills, cultural rhetorical styles, or
cultural communication differences to facilitate understanding, but we also need to
listen to our students. Many times students recognize their own weaknesses and can
tell us what help they need. Responding to these needs can create a learning
atmosphere.
Teaching Collaboration
Introductory exercises at the beginning of the semester can be used to set
the tone for the class. Interviews and introductions can stress similarities as well
as differences in the students' .background and Jbehavior. In some cases, ESL
students are trying to ignore differences to help cope with enculturation (Burns),
but these differences can help students see how they can help each other and learn
from each other (Lawrence and Sommers) and help them identify the tension which
can help develop critical thinking (Lu). Ether way a teacher focuses the
interviews or preliminary introductions on similarities or differences can be
used as a springboard for discussion. Other group activities should be structured
before workshops to build trust and develop collaboration techniques. These can
include reading response, pre-writing discussions, paraphrasing and quoting,
37


making transitions from text to quotes, summarizing, working with interview data,
and other writing strategies. After these activities groups should be well
established and comfortable working together, even the ESL students. They may
have not increased communicative competence enough to participate fully in
workshop groups, but they will at least be more comfortable with group work.
The purpose of groups and the roles individuals play in these groups should
be a focus of learning for the class. Groups can be analyzed by task roles, such as
Initiators, Information seekers, Information givers, Opinion seekers, Opinion
givers, Clarifiers, Elaborators, and Summarizers The climate of the group is
built by the group members who assume the maintenance roles of Encouragers,
Feeling expressers, Harmonizers, Compromisers, and Gatekeepers (Singh-Gupta
and Troutt-Ervin). Students who realize the necessity of these task and
maintenance roles will be more aware of what is happening in the group. Since
many of our students, including ESL students, may have never been exposed to the
elements of groups, a brief lesson with descriptions and role-playing would be
helpful.
Ground rules for workshop groups should be clear. Training should include
both the reading and writing roles for a workshop group. Questions are important
for both roles, as writers need to ask about specific aspects and responders need to
ask the writers about intentions before making suggestions. The writer should
speak first, so the responders can appropriately meet the writer's needs (Kasper).
The students should understand the purposes of peer workshops and the
benefits of participating. Most instructors feel that "feedback on substantive
38


elements of the drafts focus, content development, and organization would be
more helpful in the initial stages of writing than merely pointing our typographical
or usage errors" (103, and Hacker and others). Modeling and role-playing have
been suggested as appropriate scaffolding behavior for workshops. However, ESL
students are so focused on the grammatical problems, they may not be able to
concentrate on anything like organization and development So, conferences can be
used here before papers are exchanged, as requested by students having
grammatical problems. Other resources, such as writing centers are available, of
course, but many of the writing centers focus on organization and development
concepts instead of grammar also.
From my experience tutoring in the Writing Center, ESL students come in
asking directly for help "fixing" the grammar in their work. I explain that I will
help with up to two sentence level consistent problems and work on those first.
Only after that can I talk about organization or introductions or conclusions so that
they will listen. I'm not sure what issues are involved here, perhaps they fear
looking uneducated in their second language. If so, they want someone to look at the
paper on the grammatical level first so they feel more secure. Perhaps they know
the material, not the grammar. If so, they know what they want to say, but not how
to say it. If I work on the grammar first, the students become much more animated
and involved in discussions about the topic and the organization and development.
This additional optional grammar conference seems to help students in the
workshop situations. They feei more confident about their work and their writing
and can talk about the other issues. If we are to work from a basic goal in
39


education, to start where the students are, we first need to find out where that is.
For ESL students, they are stuck on grammar, if we can help them there, 1 have
found they can go on to other levels.
When I have grouped my classes, the ESL students felt most comfortable
with the lower level writers and mainly focused on grammar throughout the
workshops. Since ESL students feel that grammar is the greatest
need, perhaps we need to work with it first. In my classrooms and as a tutor at the
writing center, grammar is certainly the first comment from ESL students.
Perhaps we need to address this concern focus first on grammar, not for
perfection, but on perhaps two issues which are problematic in a conference Jbefore
drafts are due. This is more of a tutoring responsibility, but if the students need
this, I think we should provide assistance. Something like mini-lessons can work
in the classroom, but frequently native speakers are bored with these discussions,
however much they may need them also. The need for a pre-draft conference would
depend on the needs of the class. This would also provide the instructor feedback
needed by ESL students which has been indicated in the studies.
Other conferences can be required during the workshop process (Hacker).
If papers are exchanged on a Monday, for instance, conferences could be held on
Tuesday, before the Wednesday writing workshop. The writers should provide
written questions about their papers to their peers for a conference with the
instructor. At this point, we should talk about the ways to approach the workshop
papers and ways to talk about them, confirming appropriate comments to make to
peers, suggesting negotiation for comments. Students do not talk about their own
40


papers in this conference, but the papers of peers with whom they will be
workshopping. This conference reinforces the idea that workshops should discuss
development, focus, and organization. When students are not talking about their
own papers in this conference, they are also talking about their own papers
(Hacker), comparing organizational techniques or focusing strengths and
weaknesses.
Reading-Writing Links
After this conference talking about a peer's paper, a written analysis of
this peer's paper should be required. We need to make sure students understand
what others mean in writing. "Meaning construction is critical to text
comprehension, and both appear to depend upon the degree of active reader-
response to text. Writing can provide students with a powerful tool to enhance text
comprehension" (Kasper 25). Written response has been categorized as either
informal, responsing to a specific element in an individual text, or formal,
requiring a more extensive analysis of issues/themes presented in the text (Flower
in Kasper). ESL students become better readers when they use text content to gain
a deeper understanding of themselves and others. Formal writing can help achieve
these goals. "The degree of interaction with text required by the writing activity
appears to be critical to improving text comprehension and overall reading
proficiency" (30). If we can help students evaluate each others' work through
writing, we help students with all their literacy skills and even, perhaps, with
critical thinking. This is also a structure for ESL students to work with
(McLaughlin in McLeod). Suggested guidelines for written peer criticism follow.
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Sample of Elbow and Belanoff's Peer-Response Exercises
1. Sayback: Ask readers: "Say back to me in your own words what you hear me
getting at in my writing."
2. Movies of the Reader's Mind: Get readers to tell you frankly what happens inside
their heads as they read your words.
3. Pointing: Ask readers: "Which words or phrases stick in mind? Which
passages or features did you like best? Don't explain why."
4. What's Amost Said or Implied: As readers: "What's almost said, implied, hoving
around the edges? What would you like to hear more about?"
5. Voice, Point of View, Attitude toward the Reader, Language, DJction, Syntax: Ask
readers to describe each of these features or dimensions of your writing.
6. Center of Gravity: Ask readers: "What do you sense as the source of energy, the
focal point, the seedbed, the generative center for this piece (not necessarily the
main point)?"
7. Believing and Doubting: Ask readers: "Believe (or pretend to believe)
everything I have written. Be my ally and tell me what you see. Give me more
ideas and perceptions to help my case. Then doubt everything and tell me what
you see. What arguments can be made against whay I say?" (Molt 385).
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The writers of the draft should indicate which of the items they want
answered or provide their own questions about their papers. Use of this exercise
for after draft conference prior to workshop fulfills a need for writing about
writing.
Sociolinauistic Basis
Writing workshops are a cultural phenomena. Our ESL students are usually
undergoing some sort of culture shock. They may not understand how to predict the
process of writing workshops, so they are not sure of appropriate responses. They
develop control or coping strategies, such as avoidance, the most common I have
observed in my workshops. They simply don't show up for class, or they don't
actively participate in the workshop. There are other types of coping strategies,
however, including benign reappraisal (Robinson). In this way, students can learn
to cope with workshops. Some of the coping mechanisms include mastery, social
learning, modeling, and repeated exposure to graduated tasks. Through carefully
scaffolded workshops and modeling, with exposure to all these tasks in a social
learning situation, mastering the concept of workshops may be possible.
Contrastive Rhetoric
Although I think the analysis of rhetorical styles has value, I think we need
to be careful of the stereotyping which can result from such studies. A Chinese
woman explained that if her mother was the subject of a study of Chinese rhetorical
style, the analysis would have to be that the Chinese went around and around in
circles, never reaching a conclusion. A study of my own mother's conversational
43


style would indicate that Americans cannot consistently finish a sentence or a
thought. To apply (what may be) idiosyncratic behavior of even a number of
individuals to an entire group can be deceiving and inaccurate.
On the other hand, to apply knowledge of a group to an individual may be just
as inaccurate, particularly if this knowledge may be limiting and restrictive.
Recognizing and understanding the linguistic and cultural backgrounds may help us
understand students' struggles, but we must not use this information as "a
deterministic stance and deficit orientation as to what students can accomplish in
English and what their writing instruction should be" (Zamel 342).
I share Zamel's concern that "examining one language in comparison with
another reinforces the idea that each is separate from, even in opposition to, the
other and keeps educators from understanding the complex ways in which the two
intersect, mingle with, and give shape to one another" (342). These researchers
who find students bound by their cultures may be bound by our culture themselves,
therefore generalizing and hypothosizing using cultural assumptions.
Awareness of all the cultural influences is important in any rhetorical analysis.
Integrating Cultures
Cultural identity has generally been viewed as assimilation, with the loss of
native culture and language, however biculturalism is possible also. In a study of
Hmong students at the postsecondary level, language and cultural identity was
studied (Bosher).
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"In general, the students interviewed for this study had not assimilated into
American culture, nor had they adhered exclusively to Hmong culture. They
generally sought a middle path between the two cultures that combined elements
from both. They made conscious choices about what elements of both cultures to
keep and not to keep" (599). They kept a Hmong sense of responsibility, loyalty to
the Hmong community, and lived with their parents, but postponed marriage and
pursued a higher education in working toward a career. "In other ways, they
exhibited the still-unresolved tension of being caught between two cultures"
(600).
Most of the students in this study used both Hmong and English. "Their
strong sense of ethnic identification and community seems to have provided them
with the stability and support they needed to make the changes necessary for their
long-term survival without sacrificing their sense of self "(600). They were also
caught between two cultures, but were able to merge the two and establish their
own bicultural identities.
Our ESL students are dealing with cultural and language challenges.
Biculturalism and bilingualism are growing as the immigrant population grows.
Assimilation is only one answer. These students do not need to erase their cultural
identities, nor do we need to abolish writing workshops. Our students can leam to
write in English and perhaps learn how to participate in writing workshops if we
properly scaffold Our Jessons. Studies show that our ESL students want instructor
feedback and structured writing plans; the students themselves tell us they want
help with grammar. I believe we can do these activities. We can help with their
45


grammar and we can structure our classes so we can give the students structure and
feedback. We need to be aware of cultural studies which can set limits on what we
expect from our students. We need to be aware of the communicative competency of
our students, the limitations of their current ability. Perhaps we need to
experiment with other aspects of the writing process, as well as the writing
workshop. No one answer will provide a solution to every classroom situation; of
course, but we can listen to our students and try to understand their needs.
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CHAPTER 4
LISTENING AND RESPONDING
Listening and responding to the needs of students would seem to be a basic
tenet of teaching at any level, Jbut it is particularly important with our ESL
students. They come from other countries, other cultures, where priorities may
differ from ours. They have varied goals, objectives, and methods for learning.
Some are international students, here to study and then return home, some are
immigrants, here to stay, some are resident bilinguals, who have been here all the
time. We need to recognize these differences and understand their nature and the
implications for writing instruction in order to properly teach (Silva). ESL
students may not have the cultural knowledge or the communicative competency
required for writing workshops, so we need to listen to them in order to provide for
their needs.
Students tell me they are tired of trying to think in English. They don't like
to engage in conversations about their writing as they are unsure of their speech.
They want help with grammar so they don't appear ignorant. They are not used to
the student-centered culture of the American classroom, but want feedback from
the instructor. We should be able to provide assistance for these students.
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Teachers have identified these areas for ESL students as most strongly
affecting learning:
*" negative motivation and attitudes from previous learning experiences
* experiences of .being made unemployed and remaining unemployed overa
long period of time
* medical and legal problems
* problems with family relationships
* political influences including experiences of war, torture, and trauma
* conflicts arising from ethnic and cultural differences" (Burns 8)
We can address some of these areas in our teaching to try to help these
students learn. Their attitudes toward learning from previous experience may be
based on teacher-centered education, such as the grammar-translation method of
learning languages, which will probably change with experience in American
schools. Most ESL students I have worked with are enthusiastic about learning in
America, but may not immediately understand the methods we use.
When working with these students, J'm reminded of the American dream of
opportunity. Many of these students see their experience here as a chance to find
work and to get ahead financially regardless of past unemployment
Political and family influences and conflicts from cultural differences can
be viewed as points of tension from which critical thinking can begin. The students,
of course, must be comfortable with the American culture of the classroom and
comfortable with the groups for peer feedback before this can occur. Through
many structured group activities, allowing the students to work on grammar
48


before drafts are due, and teacher feedback, ESL students' experience with this
enculturation may be more comfortable.
These issues cannot be resolved easily. The experience and backgrounds of
our ESL students create varying degrees of communicative competency in all areas.
We may be able to help with all levels of communicative competency, but we need to
realize that scaffolding must be established and the students must learn at their own
rate. We only have a semester to try to teach a lifetime of communicative
competency. All experience can help these students, .but we must modify our
expectations. "I became very aware that the students were not only from diverse
backgrounds but {in some cases) were dealing with very stressful physical and
emotional problems which directly affected their ability to learn and to interact
positively with each other" (Burns 9).
Cuture of the Classroom
ESL students' experience with English may be based on grammar-
translation methods with little contact with native speakers. Their grammarical
skills usually need work and experience just talking and writing in the language.
The English rhetorical theory and our proccess of writing can he new to our
students. Our sensitivity to register and naturalness, our cultural references and
figures of speech, and our heuristics and imaginative functions for our language are
learned from experience within the language. Our classes can provide part of these
experiences, but we cannot expect complete assimilation in one semester, and we
49


would be not only unreasonable but unethical if we did. The maintance of culture
and the development of biculturalism should be encouraged if we embrace a
multicultural ideal.
In a foreign country biculturalism begins with culture shock. .
"It's the homesickness,.the absence of their culture's food, the
differing cultural values of dorm roommates, and loss of a close
extended family who can't he reached by phone and may not be
able to read letters" when "backhome, they were all the leaders,
the football heros and the valedictorians" (Moseley quoted in
Frazier 10A).
This culture shock does not last forever, but until students attain some sort of
balance between cultures, suffering can be intense. Biculturalism and the
communicative competency needed for sensitivity to register and cultural
references challenge our ESL students in learning another language.
V
Reading and Writing
Just reading and writing in another language present challenges for our
students. Some of their abilities to read and write are based on their abilities in
their native language. Transfer occurs between the languages so that if a student
reads well in one language, she can read well in another with practice. Meaning
loss occurs when the reader does not get the correct amount of information from the
writer. The meaning of the writing must be clear for the reader and those
standards are culturally developed. In writing and attempting to create meaning for
a reader, the assumptions of reader knowledge and experiences determine the
success of the writing. A writing workshop could be one place where meaning is
negotiated with peers, but undeveloped communicative competence, fear, and
50


hesitation restrict growth in transmission of meaning. Experience and a
comfortable yet challenging learning environment can foster growth of
communicative competence.
Contrastive Rhetoric
Understanding rhetorical style is part of communicative competence.
Analysis of .rhetoric worldwide is a vast resource for understanding, but we must
be careful in the application of this knowledge. ESL students probably have
minimal awareness of their own culture's rhetorical style, although it does affect
them and their writing. Other influences contribute to varying styles also, not just
traditional rhetoric from their culture. As instructors we need to avoid
categorizing students purely on cultural rhetorical styles which may not be
accurate for individual students.
Workshops
In our attempt to see students as individuals, educational theory suggests
that we start where the students are. To do this, research indicates "the importance
of conducting a detailed and continuing analysis of learners' needs" (Bums 8). We
need to listen to what they are saying about their own needs at the time. Most ESL
students are asking for help with grammar. Students can frequently sense their
own weaknesses accurately, so we should listen and help with grammar. In study
after study, students ask for and prefer teacher feedback. We should provide this
for them. A lower prioritity of ESL students may be peer feedback.
51


Experience with peer feedback can be scaffolded.with role-playing and
numerous conferences with the instructor, but parts of communicative competence
may still be weak for our ESL students, particularly negotiation of meaning when
sensitivity to register, naturalness and cultural references are necessary. All
these conferences, group work, and role-playing activities are time-consuming
considering we only have one semester to work with these students.
It seems it would take most of a semester to get ready to produce a workshop
properly. If we consider peer feedback in workshops as part of collaborative
learning, it probably takes more than one semester. For ESL students to achieve
communicative competency it certainly takes more than one semester. Since they
may. not have the communicative competency for workshops, can we offer anything
else?
Are there other activities in the writing process which could be used instead
of the workshop? Are workshops necessary for the writing process? If we must
have workshops, can we structure our them so that ESL students can be successful?
Can we speed up enculturation and assimilation? Is this an appropriate or ethical
goal? Assimilation is not necessarily the answer, but workshops are so culturally
based, I'm not sure how well ESL students can perform in the framework. We can
help with grammar; we can provide feedback. We can offer assistance with other
forms of cultural awareness, including rhetorical theory. We can provide them
with experience to build a base for communicative competency. However, we are
restricted by our culture, as much as our students are.
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In my opinion, more research should be done on the varied ways people
perform the writing process. Perhaps activities other than workshops could help
all of our students. Are workshops the only answer? Are workshops the only way
to develop collaborative learning? Are workshops part of the only way to go
through the writing process?
Even if we spend the semester preparing for a workshop experience, will
our ESL students show up for class? Will they assume their share of the
responsibility of a workshop group and contribute? Will they segregate
themselves into a separate workshop group and work primarily on grammar?
Workshops can be a productive developmental experience for students, as
research shows. However, a degree of communicative competency is required for
negotiation of meaning in a workshop situation which our ESL students have not yet
acquired. I have explored why our ESL students do not do well in workshop
situations and I have a few suggestions, such as grammar first, teacher feedback,
and more conferences, but no solutions, just exploration.
We need to explore the failures in our teaching, as Newkirk advised. We
need to talk about why we are not successful with some aspects or some students in
order to continue our part of the learning experience.
53


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