Assessing the usefulness of word processing during the revision process of ESL-graduate students

Material Information

Assessing the usefulness of word processing during the revision process of ESL-graduate students
Ilyasova, Ksenia Alex
Place of Publication:
Denver, Colo.
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
viii, 66 leaves : ; 28 cm

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Master's ( Master of Arts)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Department of English, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Committee Chair:
Ying, Ian
Committee Members:
Karls, Nancy Linh


Subjects / Keywords:
Word processing in education ( lcsh )
English language -- Composition and exercises ( lcsh )
English language -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- Foreign speakers ( lcsh )
Graduate students ( lcsh )
English language -- Composition and exercises ( fast )
English language -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- Foreign speakers ( fast )
Graduate students ( fast )
Word processing in education ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 63-66).
General Note:
Department of English
Statement of Responsibility:
by Ksenia Alex Ilyasova.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
50940175 ( OCLC )
LD1190.L54 2002m .I57 ( lcc )

Full Text
Ksenia Alex Ilyasova
B.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 2000
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts

This thesis for Masters of Arts
degree by
Ksenia Alex Ilyasova
has been approved
fifr JL 2 C


Ilyasova, Ksenia Alex (M.A., English)
Assessing the Usefulness of Word Processing During the Revision Process of
ESL Graduate Students
Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Ian Ying
Though more and more students are learning the process of writing and revising
on computers, there has been little new research regarding the impact of word
processing on the writing and revising process of the graduate ESL student. Initial
research conducted in the mid-80s and early 90s tested primarily undergraduate
first language learners. In addition, the results of that initial research proved
unclear, except in the area of assessing the motivation and attitudes of students
towards the use of computers in the writing and revising process.
Currently, the writing across-the-curriculum approach has resulted in an increase
in the amount of writing students do in all disciplines. It is becoming more
evident that graduate-level ESL students are coming into graduate programs with
substandard verbal and writing skills. The majority of these graduate-level ESL
students are enrolling in Business and Engineering Departments, making the need
for addressing their writing skills more pressing.
The two, primary purposes of this thesis are to increase awareness about the needs
of graduate-level ESL students and to present the benefits of conducting research
on them with regard to their writing and revising strategies using the word
processor. This work includes reviews of existing research and of the theories or
approaches used in teaching writing to ESL students. A discussion about which
approaches in word processing and ESL studies can be combined with regard to
graduate-level ESL students is also discussed. Suggestions for further research
and teaching implications are included.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the
recommend its publication.
Ian Ying

I dedicate this thesis to my greatest supporters and believers my partner in life
and my family.

I wish to thank my advisors, Dr. Ian Ying, Dr. Nancy Linh Karls, and Dr. Richard
VanDeWeghe for their support, guidance, and patience throughout the
development of this thesis.

1. INTRODUCTION...................................................1
Rationale of Thesis..........................................2
Scope and Arrangement of Thesis..............................4
2. REVIEW OF LITERATURE..........................................6
The Influence of International Students on the American System
of Higher Education..........................................6
ESL Issues and Research Involving Word Processing...........9
Issues Regarding Word Processing and the Revising Process...14
Research Involving ESL Students, Word Processing,
and Revising................................................18
Summary of Literature Review................................23
3. REVIEW OF THEORIES AND APPROACHES............................29
Approaches in Teaching ESL Students.........................29
Approaches to Teaching with Word Processing Technology......36
Theories and Approaches from ESL and Word Processing
That Assist ESL Writers to Revise...........................41
Summary of Theories and Approaches..........................44

Integrating ESL Approaches, Word Processing, and Revision..49
Benefits for the ESL Graduate Student......................56
Application to Pedagogical Practices Across the Curriculum.57

In the fall of 2001,1 began tutoring at the Writing Center at the University
of Colorado, Denver (UCD). After a couple of months, I began noticing that the
students visiting the Writing Center for assistance comprise about half native
English speaking students and half international and domestic ESL (English as a
Second Language) students. Approximately half of these ESL students are
enrolling at the graduate-level. After working with a number of these ESL
graduate students, I noticed that they were having the same writing issues as their
undergraduate-level counterparts. My assumptions about ESL graduate students
were that they were more proficient in reading, writing, and communicating in
English than their undergraduate counterparts. These assumptions were wrong.
These students entered graduate school without any more preparation in the
English language than the undergraduate non-native English speaking students. In
addition, because of their graduate-level status, they would not be required to take
undergraduate-level courses that might improve their writing, reading, and
comprehension skills.
The intent of this thesis is to increase awareness and show the important
benefits of addressing and meeting the needs of these international and domestic

ESL students. The specific needs discussed in this thesis with respect to these
students include the roles of word processing and revising in the writing process.
For the purpose of this thesis, I define international ESL students as those who do
not have U.S. citizenship or residency, and domestic ESL students as those who
have U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status. Unless otherwise stated, the
term ESL will refer to both international and domestic students throughout the
remainder of this thesis.
Rationale of Thesis
According to David A. Walker (2000), author of The International
Student Population: Past and Present Demographic Trends, during the last 40
years the number of international students studying in U.S. colleges and
universities has continued to increase (Introduction section, para 1). As a result,
the American system of higher education is being influenced by the growing
influx of these international students.
In addition, the increasing presence of technology and the growing
movement towards the writing across-the-curriculum model of learning are
affecting the writing, reading, and comprehension skills of ESL students. First,
many areas can be explored with respect to technology. For purposes of this
thesis, only word processing and its effects on the writing and revising process
will be discussed. The reason for focusing on word processing is that the word

processor is an unparalleled tool in the writing process, and has changed the way
revision occurs (Simic, 1994, Revising section, para. 1). The word processor
allows for quick revision and manipulation of text, which can result in more
experimentation with language. More experimentation can lead to increased
writing and revision opportunities for ESL students. Writing and revising are
important because they allow the writing process to become more cognitive,
especially for ESL students.
Second, the writing across-the-curriculum approach cannot be ignored as a
key factor in how we address the needs of this increasing community of ESL
students. According to the Report of ESL Graduate Student Interest Group,
compiled by Nancy Linh Karls (2001), Director of the UCD Writing Center,
52.9% of the UCD international student population is enrolled in graduate
programs. The College of Engineering and Applied Science and the College of
Business and Administration have the highest percentage of international
students. These departments are requiring more writing as the writing across-the-
curriculum teaching model becomes more integrated: Indeed, speaking, writing,
and communicating well in the classroom should be priorities for all students ...
[however, ESL graduate students] frequently arrive at CU-Denver with
substandard verbal skills (Karls, 2001, Overview section, para. 2).
Although research in various aspects of ESL studies has been done at the
undergraduate-level and will be discussed in later sections, little attention has

been given to the ESL graduate student. As growing numbers of international
students find their way to university writing centers and professional training
seminars they expect more assistance from universities and their staff (Wang,
1998, Introduction section, para. 1). When we combine these factors with the fact
that international students contribute a great deal of revenue to U.S. colleges and
universities, creating the appropriate research studies to servje] the needs of
these students as effectively as possible should thus be a campus priority (Karls,
2001, Overview section, para. 2).
Scone and Arrangement of Thesis
To increase awareness about the writing needs of this population of
students and to show the benefits of conducting research on them, the following
three areas will be discussed: 1) ESL students application of revising strategies
when using the word processor; 2) theories and approaches in ESL studies that
complement the incorporation of word processing into the writing process; and 3)
the benefits of assisting ESL graduate-level students.
The thesis is comprised of three sections. The first is the literature review.
The studies and research discussed in the literature review separate into the
following four categories: 1) international students influence on U.S. colleges
and universities; 2) research discussing ESL students and the word processor; 3)
issues regarding word processing and the revising process; and 4) research and

studies involving ESL students, word processing and revising. The next section
reviews theories and approaches in teaching ESL students, in the use of word
processing technology in the classroom, and in the revising process. Both
sections are followed by a summary of the material discussed.
The final section is the conclusion. The conclusion will first discuss the
various characteristics of the approaches and theories mentioned in the previous
section and how they may be combined to create new approaches that effectively
serve the needs of graduate ESL students. Second, the benefits of creating and
addressing the needs of graduate ESL students are presented. Finally, the
application to pedagogical practices in writing across the curriculum is offered.

This chapter addresses four areas that relate to the needs of ESL and non-
ESL graduate and undergraduate students. The first area discusses the change in
U.S. colleges and universities that has led to our awareness of ESL graduate
students needs. The second area presents the issues raised and the research that
followed with regards to ESL studies and word processing. The third area
examines how word processing and the revising process affect the writing
process. The last area summarizes the main issues and information about second
language learners, word processing, and the writing and revising processes and
offers a forecast of where future research is headed.
The Influence of International Students on the American System
of Higher Education
Before the national influence of international students on the American
system of higher education is addressed, it is worth noting the influence they have
here at UCD. According to the 2001, UCD generated Report of ESL Graduate
Student Interest Group, out of the 822 international students, 52.9% of them are
enrolled in graduate programs. The highest percentages of international students
are in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, with 34.9%; the College

of Business and Administration, with 27.8%; and the College of Architecture and
Planning, with 16.3% of the international students. The vast majority of these
enrolling international graduate students are not native speakers of English (Karls,
2001, Overview section, para. 1).
Speaking, writing, and communicating well is a priority for all students. In
the case of ESL graduate students, these areas require increased attention and
available resources on the campus to meet their needs. A review of the resources
available at UCD by the ESL Graduate Student Interest Group, has determined
that additional support for international graduate students language skills and
abilities is needed in order to enhance both the quality of instruction for all
students and CU-Denvers position as a research university (Karls, 2001,
Overview section, para. 2).
CU-Denver is not the only university adjusting to the needs of the growing
number of international students enrolling in U.S. colleges and universities.
Higher education institutions across the United States have seen the enrollment of
international students steadily increasing in just the last ten years. According to
David A. Walker, the number of international students more than tripled from
1974-75 to 1997-98, increasing from 154,580 to 481,280 (Walker, 2000,
Introduction section, para. 2). In addition, the demographic composition of
todays international student across the U.S. is similar to that of CU-Denvers.
During the 1997-98 academic year, 43% of international students enrolling in

U.S. colleges and universities were classified as graduate students (Walker, 2000,
Present Demographics Trends section, para. 1). The most popular fields among
these students, during the same academic year, were business (21%), engineering
(15%), mathematics and computer science (9%), physical and life sciences (8%),
and social sciences (8%) (Walker, 2000, Present Demographics Trends section,
para. 4). As seen in the demographic information for CU-Denver, the highest
percentage of international students are enrolling in business and engineering. As
these students venture outside of their departments for assistance in reading,
writing, and communicating, U.S. colleges and universities are truly becoming
multi cultural and inter disciplinary environments.
The inter disciplinary focus that has pervaded American institutions of
higher education demands that graduates, regardless of their fields of interest, be
skilled in all forms of communication. For example, in the case of business
communication, Roberta Allen and Pam Rooney (1998) authors of the article,
Designing a Problem-Based Learning Environment for ESL students in Business
Communication, state that there is an increased demand from business for
graduates who are skilled in problem solving and communication (Introduction
section, para. 1). However, educators in business communication and across the
disciplines are finding that many of the international students require additional
skill building and practice in oral, written, and group/team communication
(Allen & Rooney, 1998, Introduction section, para. 2).

In summary, as a result of the situations described above, opportunities are
being presented across U.S. colleges and universities to provide focused
instruction suited to the needs of international students speaking English as a
second language (Allen & Rooney, 1998, Introduction section, para. 2). The
number of international students is increasing across U.S. college and university
campuses. The writing skills they enter with are inadequate for the type of writing
demanded by their departments, i.e., Engineering and Business. Consequently,
these students require more attention and more available resources in order to
meet their needs. Their influence on colleges and universities across America is
not simply that they are a source of income. They are also a resource of
international expertise that will assist institutions in strengthening their
curriculums, their quality of instruction, and their support services to meet the
needs of this population.
ESL Issues and Research Involving Word Processing
The amount of research material in the area of second language writing
and computers does not come near the amount available in first language writing.
However, with the increasing awareness by higher educational institutions of the
needs of second language writers, it is anticipated that this situation will change.
Until a change occurs, researchers and authors such as Pennington, Phinney,

Silva, Leki, and Carson will continue to apply research results in the study of first
language learners and word processing for second language learners.
During the initial research of word processing technology, the attitudes
among researchers and instructors towards this technology ranged from eager
support to apathetic dismissal. The middle ground that has evolved over the last
20 years of research is, according to Dana Ferris and John Hedgcock, a cautiously
positive view of technology: When computers became widely available in the
1980s in U.S. schools, colleges, and universities, [the eager and supportive]
writing teachers and researchers expressed virtually limitless optimism and
enthusiasm about the potential of word processing and other computer-based
writing tools to facilitate students writing processes and improve their end
products (Ferris & Hedgcock, 1998, p. 264).
Unfortunately, as researchers and instructors found out, the question of
whether word processing affects writing quality is beside the point. According to
Gail Hawisher and Cynthia Selfe, Today the quality question seems somewhat
naive; word processing has become the writing technology of choice in school
and workplace settings. As word processing becomes increasingly accepted as
essential for student and professional writers alike, other research questions must
be formulated (Snyder, 1994, p. 5)
Past studies in word processing have been divided into two main
categories: those using mainly quantitative methods and those relying on

qualitative methods. Hawisher and Selfe state that the majority of the studies
conducted were quantitative or comparative studies, with writers divided into
experimental and control groups and the use of word processing established as the
primary variable that distinguished the groups (Snyder, 1994, 6). The research
questions driving most of the comparative studies included the influence word
processing had on students planning, drafting, and revising of their drafts, as well
as on the quantity and type of mechanical and grammatical errors. An additional
area of interest by researchers and instructors involved students attitudes and
motivations toward writing, and whether these factors are influenced by word
processing technology.
These studies yielded inclusive results. Advocates of computers initially
argued that using computers would lead to more extensive and effective writing,
improved writing skills, and produce superior final products. A number of
researchers and instructors have argued for the potential benefits, but also
considered the drawbacks of using word processing. According to Ferris and
Hedgcock, the potential benefits outlined by researchers such as Pennington were
as follows:
Increased motivation to revise (because of the ease of doing so)
Greater consciousness of writing as process
Quicker, more fluent, less self-conscious writing
Increased writing quantity
Greater motivation because writing is easier, more interesting, and
more enjoyable (p.265)

The drawbacks in these studies were not inconsistencies in the research, but rather
factors that either limited the use of the word processing technology or influenced
the attitudes and motivations of the writers. These factors included such items as
unequal or limited access to computers, increased anxiety levels due to being
unfamiliar with the applications or limited typing ability, and distractions in labs
that made the pen-and-paper method more desirable (Ferris & Hedgcock, 1998, p.
265). Today these drawbacks tend to be less significant because of the increasing
use and availability of similar word processing technology.
However, studies by less enthusiastic supporters of computers showed less
positive findings in areas such as the quality of the written work, the writing
activity, the revision behavior, and the affective/social outcomes of using word
processing. Results in studies by such researchers as Gail Hawisher and Christina
Haas indicated that
student writers planned less, revised less (or at least not more), and paid
more attention to sentence-level concerns when composing with
computers. Others pointed out that contextual variables such as access to
computers, screen size, user-friendliness of software, and distractions
present in the computer lab may make word processing less desirable
under some circumstances than traditional pen-and-paper methods (Ferris
& Hedgcock, 1998, p. 264).
In addition, these more cautious supporters such as Hawisher, Hill, Wallace, and
Haas point out that the variety of methods, technology, and participants used, as
well as varying durations in the collection of data, have contributed to the
inconsistent results.

In the qualitative research, the questions asked by researchers and
instructors focused on how student writers adapted their strategies to computer
writing. Although the general scope of these studies is similar to the comparative
studies that is, the influence technology has on the composing habits of
students the qualitative research contains a different context. These studies
looked at whether [the students] composing habits change with the technology,
and how the introduction of computers influences the cultural context into which
they were introduced (Snyder, 1994, p. 7). According to Hawisher and Selfe, in
seeking to elucidate the subtle influences of computers in social interactions
among students and teachers, the qualitative research suggests the importance of
the cultural context in shaping writers work and learning with word processing
(Snyder, 1994, p. 7). These studies become more important when researchers and
instructors begin examining and focusing more on the implications of word
processing for ESL students.
As a result of the variety of research and results of the past 20 years, most
researchers and instructors currently have a more moderate and cautious view of
word processing and technology. This cautiously positive view of technology,
as described by Ferris and Hedgcock, does provide three points of agreement
among researchers and instructors about the effects of word processing on
students writing. First, there is now an understanding that word processing, and
computer technology in general, cannot teach novice writers to write more

effectively or to produce more thoughtful products. As a result, such technology
will not replace the instruction, support, and feedback of teachers.
Second, researchers and instructors agree that word processing makes the
activity of writing easier. In addition, it can facilitate a lower level of anxiety and
improve students attitudes. This second point is particularly important for ESL
students, whose writing and English may include more fear and apprehension
than those of first language writers (Phinney, 1991, Introduction section, para.
1). Improving these students attitudes towards word processing offers the
possibility of improving their writing as well, despite the inconsistent research
about the quality of products produced and the initial results being based on first
language learners.
The final point of agreement is that computers are here to stay. Word
processing is commonplace in our schools and workplaces. Continuing the
research of word processing in composition and ESL studies could eventually
lead to consistent findings that assist a greater number of students in enhancing
their writing skills and producing better products.
Issues Regarding Word Processing and the Revising Process
From the previously cited studies, researchers and instructors can now
draw some consistent conclusions about the influence computers, and specifically
word processing, had on the writing and revising processes of students. Before

discussing the influence of word processing, it is important to highlight how the
perspectives by researchers and instructors have changed over the past 20 years
with regard to the writing and revising processes.
Prior to word processor, the writing process was considered by many to
consist of three identifiable stages. The stages, identified by many instructors and
used by students, consisted of prewriting, writing, and revising. With word
processing making the writing and revising activities faster and easier by
facilitating quick text changes and immediate access to clean copies of drafts, the
distinction between the two has become increasingly hard to establish.
Prior to the word processor, prewriting consisted of individual and/or
group activities. Specific activities might have included ffeewriting exercises,
which can take many forms, including quick writes, which are time-limited, done
individually, and not always shared; and dialogue journals, written to a teacher, a
classmate or other partner who then responds, outlining or mapping of ideas,
creating lists or timelines, or simply reflecting on an experience (Bello, 1997,
Approaches section, para. 2). These prewriting activities usually served as
springboards for more extensive writing that would occur during the writing
stage. In the prewriting stage the pen-and-paper method, versus the word
processor, presented few challenges since making corrections mainly assisted in
the generating of ideas and was usually less complex than the drafting stage.
Although prewriting activities seem the least affected by the emergence of the

word processor, some researchers and instructors argue that even this activity
could be enhanced by the use of word processing technology. According to
Marjorie Simic (1994),
ideally, freewriting also can be done at the computer. This would
encourage students to engage in learning and self-discovery rather than
focus upon the mechanics of exact writing. The word processor can
release the writer from restraints that inhibit the free flow of words and
ideas. The student can feel free to take risks in their writing because they
see that they can always change their minds (Revising section, para. 6).
In the writing stage students, using the pen-and-paper method, begin
writing their first drafts. They concentrate on getting their ideas down on paper
before any type of revision occurs. For beginning writers, like the ESL student,
one of the barriers to writing in the past has been the use of the pen and paper in
transcribing ones thoughts and ideas. Although some were able to express
thoughtful ideas, many had difficulty with handwriting and labored over these
first drafts. To them, making revisions and recopying becomes an overwhelming
burden. The original enthusiasm the student had for the writing assignment may
evaporate, and the student may approach the next assignment with anxiety and
apprehension (Simic, 1994, Introduction section, para. 2).
In the past, the revising stage for beginning and ESL writers has been
synonymous with editing and proofreading. Changes to the writing of a draft
usually involved spelling, punctuation, and grammar. According to Simic, ESL
writers and young writers will make only those changes that do not require

copying, regardless of how much the revision would improve their compositions
(Simic, 1994, Introduction section, para. 2). From the research results discussed in
the prior section, it appears that the level of revision occuring with a word
processor cannot be verified to be beyond that of editing and proofreading.
However, the fading distinction between the writing and revising processes due to
word processing technology allows them to be the cognitive processes they
should be, rather than being dominated by the mechanical aspects of actually
putting words down on paper (Simic, 1994, Classroom Problems section, para.
As a writing tool, the word processor can become the centerpiece for an
effective writing curriculum, encouraging early language production and
providing students with opportunities to connect reading and writing (Simic,
1994, Introduction section, para. 3). It is important to remember that computer
programs or word processing packages themselves do not teach student writers to
write and revise. The word processor assists and facilitates the writing process by
allowing writers the flexibility to manipulate their writing more quickly.
Functions such as delete, insert, strikeout, and cut and paste allow even beginning
writers to make simple changes to their texts. As writers become more
experienced, they tend to make more complex, global changes to their writing.
The word processor aids in making the organizational changes such as

reorganizing whole sections of articles, inserting new materials, and discarding
writing that no longer fits or serves (Simic, 1994, Revising section, para. 1).
The use of the word processor can result in more writing and
experimentation with language. In addition, writing researchers have long
advised that the key to fluent writing is to write as much as possible. The key to
exact writing is to revise repeatedly (Simic, 1994, Revising section, para. 1).
More experimentation, more writing, and more revision opportunities, especially
for ESL students, means that the writing process can become more enjoyable,
produce less anxiety, and result in more cognitive thinking about what causes
problem phrases, sentences, and paragraphs versus simply the mechanical
placement of words on a page (Simic, 1994, Classroom Problems section, para.
3). Word processing does not have to mean eliminating the pen-and-paper
method. Instead, instructors and researchers can teach student writers how to
exploit the benefits and avoid the weaknesses of both word processing and pen
and paper media (McKenzie, 1998, Trends in Writing section, para. 4).
Research Involving ESL Students. Word Processing,
and Revising
Research that integrates ESL students, word processing, and the
writing/revising process is limited. According to Marianne Phinney (1991), little
research has appeared on the use of computers with second language learners

(Background section, para. 2). Past research in word processing was conducted
during the mid-80s to early 90s with researchers such as Selfe, Halliday,
Hawisher, Haas, Daiute, Bernhardt, and others leading the way. Their research
laid the foundation for future studies in word processing; however, the focus on
ESL students was again quite limited. Thus, the discussion of more recent
research involving all three areas will be compiled from various studies conducted
in the last ten years. These studies often include one or two, but not all three
aspects ESL students, word processing, and revising in their research.
The first group of studies involves ESL students and their acquisition of
academic literacy. These studies do not focus on the technology aspect of
instruction or whether the writing analyzed was produced using the pen-and-paper
method, word processing, or a combination of the two. Instead, the main focus is
on the student and the assessment of his/her writing skills, needs, or appropriate
teaching approaches. For example, in the article Broadening the Perspective of
Mainstream Composition Studies: Some Thoughts from the Disciplinary
Margins, Tony Silva, Ilona Leki, and Joan Carson (1997) argue that mainstream
composition studies is at present too narrow in its scope and limited in its
perspective (Introduction section, para. 1). They provide evidence that
mainstream composition studies has neglected writing in ESL and writing in
languages other than English and concepts that might assist mainstream
composition studies in addressing these limitations (Introduction section, para. 1).

In her 1997 article, The Acquisition of Academic Literacy in a Second
Language: A Longitudinal Case Study, Ruth Spack examines the reading and
writing strategies of one Japanese ESL student. According to Spack, the research
demonstrated the inseparability of reading and writing in language acquisition
(Abstract section, para. 1). Lastly, an article by Ursula Pantelides (1999),
Meeting the Language Needs of Tertiary NESB Students, investigates the
support services available and language needs of non-English-speaking
background (NESB) students in university programs in Australia. All of these
studies provide information on the needs of ESL students, but no mention of
computer-assisted writing or revising exists.
The next group of studies either explicitly addresses ESL students or
applies research from first language learners to ESL students and word processing
technology. In E-mail and Word Processing in the ESL Classroom: How the
Medium Affects the Message, (2001) Sigrun Biesenbach-Lucas and Donald
Weasenforth discuss the implications of electronic mail and word processing
engendering both the written and spoken language of ESL students. The results of
the study showed no obvious differences between students electronic mail and
word-processing writing (Abstract section, para. 1). However, the discussion of
how computer-based media present new demands on the teaching of language
provided valuable insight into whether or not the medium affects electronic or
written messages. In her 1993 article, Modeling the Student Writers Acquisition

of Word Processing Skills: The Interaction of Computer, Writing, and Language
Media, Martha Pennington discusses the construction of a learning theory that
incorporates computers, language and writing. The learning model stresses the
development process in the shift from surface level to deep level usage1 of
computers, language, and writing. Although Pennington discusses the application
of this approach to non-native writers, the article focuses on first language
learners. Finally, Marianne Phinneys 1993 article, Word Processing and Writing
Apprehension in First and Second Language Writers, focuses on the level of
apprehension first and second language writers have, and the role word processing
has, in reducing that apprehension.
The last group consists of a study which focuses on various aspects of
technology from computer-mediated communication to networking, and a
retrospective on the role of technology in the teaching and learning of language.
In Student Perceptions on Language Learning in a Technological Environment:
Implications for the New Millennium, (2002) author Jonita-Stepp Greany
discusses the results of Technology-Enhanced Language Learning (TELL) in
foreign language studies. The contexts studied include video-conferencing and
technology-enhanced classrooms. The benefits of these technologies on the
affective and language skills of students, and the role the instructor had in
1 Surface level to deep level usage is conceptualized as a shift from the obvious conception of the
computer as a machine, an electronic device, to a conception of the computer as a medium, as both
tool and writing environment (Pennington, 1993, The Model of the Computer Section, para. 1).

facilitating student use of this technology, are also presented. In his retrospective,
M. Rafael Salaberry (2001) discusses the use of technological resources through
the critical analysis of articles published in MLJ [Modem Language Journal]
since its first edition in 1916 (Abstract section, para. 1). Salaberry considers the
pedagogical use of technological resources ranging from audiovisual media such
as the phonograph to computer-mediated communication and teleconferencing.
He concludes that the most important challenge posed by technology-assisted
language learning will be the identification of the pedagogical objective that
technology-based teaching is intended to fulfill (Salaberry, 2001, p. 50). These
articles do not completely encompass the focus of this thesis, but they do offer
information about which research questions regarding word processing and other
technologies, such as networking and multimedia, need to be asked in order to
meet the needs of ESL students.
The review of recent studies and articles in the areas of ESL, word
processing, and revising indicate that research about the effects of word
processing on the writing and revising processes of the graduate-level ESL
students is lacking. The initial research done in the mid-80s and early 90s
resulted in inconclusive findings; moreover, it primarily used first language
learners. However, in recent years, the increasing numbers of ESL students and
the growing familiarity with technology among most college students may present
a valuable opportunity for researchers and instructors to revisit the area of word

processing as it relates to the graduate ESL student. The language and writing
needs of this population are growing. Their unique cognitive aptitude in their first
language may offer insights into how word processing can benefit both ESL and
non-ESL students.
Summary of Literature Review
As mentioned earlier in this chapter, the amount of research on second
language learners and word processing does not compare with that of first
language learners. A few studies, including research by Martha C. Pennington,
suggest that the positive effects of computer use for first language learners, such
as reducing the writers apprehension, improving ones attitude towards writing,
and making the writing process easier, should hold true for second language
learners. It is often assumed that second language learners have more
apprehension than first language writers. They are assumed to monitor their
output more, to be more likely to edit prematurely, and to have more negative
attitudes toward writing in their second language than first language writers
(Phinney, 1991, Background section, para. 2). Based on these assumptions,
researchers believe that second language writers should benefit from computer
use at least as much as first language writers. However, the amount of research
done on first language learners and their computer use still exceeds any amount of

research done with undergraduate-level second language learners. Unfortunately,
even fewer studies and research exist that included graduate-level ESL students.
Some conclusions can be drawn regarding reasons why researchers focus
on first language learners and their computer use versus second language learners,
and specifically graduate-level second language learners. First, graduate-level
students, both ESL and non-ESL, are generally assumed to have the necessary
level of writing, reading, and communication skills required at the graduate-level.
For graduate ESL students, the placement tests and other admission information
required for acceptance into a graduate program seem to suggest a level of
competency suitable for graduate-level work. However, according to the UCD
International Student Graduate Information website regarding the materials and
procedures required for graduate applicants, a verifiable TOEFL score of 525 for
Business Graduate applicants and a score of 500 required by all other graduate
departments does not always indicate proficiency. It states on this website,
http://www.cudenver.eduy/admiss/intlgrad.html, that Students who qualify for
admission on the basis of the TOEFL are not always sufficiently proficient in
English to begin a full program of academic study immediately. Although the
Admissions Office is aware of this lack of proficiency, various departments
admitting these ESL students do not pass along this information to instructors,
which can perpetuate the assumption that these students have the necessary level
of language proficiency.

Second, the dramatic increase in ESL enrollment in U.S. colleges and
universities, coupled with a growing inter disciplinary focus in most U.S. colleges
and universities, is fairly recent, occurring primarily between 1989-1994,
according to Hawisher, LeBlanc, Moran, and Selfe (1996). As a result, the
opportunity to identify and address the needs of this population may only be
surfacing now. According to Angelova and Riazantseva (1999), authors of the
article If You Dont Tell Me, How Can I Know?: A Case Study of Four
International Students Learning to Write the U.S. Way, U.S. graduate schools
have seen a steady increase in the number of English as second language (ESL)
students in recent years. Many of these students are thought to be unprepared for
the demands of academia, though the process through which learning conventions
are acquired by these students is not known (Abstract section, para. 1). This
information seems to support the statements by the Admissions Office, in the
previous paragraph, that some of these students are unprepared for graduate-level
Third, computer technology has seen such impressive changes in
capabilities in just the last twenty years that it is only recently that some level of
familiarity can be expected and examined with regard to the writing process of
students and word processing. As a result, researchers and instructors have, in
some respect, moved beyond studies focusing on word processing to more cutting
edge technology such as hypertext, networked classrooms, and multimedia.

According to Hawisher, LeBlanc, Moran, and Selfe (1996), only a few
researchers still focus on computer work done in the classroom: Nydahls article
[...] spoke to the work that many, if not most, writing teachers were actually
doing in their classes. Nydahl illustrated how it was possible for teachers and
students to do style analysis using only a word-processing program [and]
reminded the profession that many teachers were not, indeed could not afford to
be, on the cutting edge (p. 196). Hence, most studies mentioned in this thesis
reflect the initial work done on word processing in the mid-80s to early 90s by
researchers such as Hawisher, Selfe, and Haas. Because it appears that research
has moved past the study of word processing, the studies conducted by those first
researchers are still the main sources of information about word processing and its
effects on the writing processes of students.
Furthermore, in these initial studies, the participants consisted of
undergraduate native English speaking college students. Among the few studies
that included ESL students, they still used only undergraduate-level participants.
In addition, the inconsistencies of the studies themselves provide even less
reliable data that can be applied to ESL students. Explanations for the
inconsistencies range from the differences in technology software and hardware to
the different aims and goals the studies addressed. For instance, in some studies
the participants experience with computers has ranged from two weeks to ten
years (Hill, Wallace, & Haas, 1991, Problems in Word Processing Research

section, para. 3). In Hawishers 1986 review of twenty-four studies, five studies
used Apple computers, five used IBM-PCs, three used other brands of personal
computers, five used some type of mainframe computer, and the rest of the
studies didnt specify the type of computer that was used (Hill, Wallace, & Haas,
1991, Problems in Word Processing Research, para. 4). These inconsistencies are
common among studies that used native and non-native English speaking
Since these studies were first conducted, computer technology has
changed dramatically over a short period of time. Subsequent studies on any
aspect of computer technology are scarce and become dated rapidly. Additionally,
the anxiety and computer literacy levels of students is also of smaller concern
now, because students are becoming more computer literate than ever before. I
believe this changing perception of technology among students has implications
on the way revision occurs in their writing. This assertion is already evident by
the way word processing has blurred the distinction between the writing and the
revising process. However, according to Hawisher and Selfe, [some] researchers
are still asking whether the use of word processing will enhance writing abilities
(Snyder, 1994, p. 6). The shift to considering the effects of word processing on
the writers processes and not just their products is now being investigated.
Further focus in future studies on second language writing instruction could help
mainstream composition researchers and instructors address their instructional

limitations and develop a more global understanding of how word processing
affects the complex writing process.
The review of literature in this chapter supports the need for research on
graduate-level ESL students, word processing, and the writing/revising processes
particularly because there is such a lack information about all three currently. This
lack of information furthers the purpose of this thesis to bring about awareness
and show the benefits this type of research could have on composition and ESL
studies and is the first indicator showing a need for research on this population
of students with a particular focus on word processing and revising.

Including of word processing and revising strategies into instructing ESL
students contributes tremendously to their conception of writing, identity, and
possibilities for writing. According to Elsa Auerbach (1999), the way that
writing is taught sends learners messages about who they are as writers, what is
entailed in the act of writing, what they can do with writing, and what writing can
do for them (Introduction section, para. 2). This chapter discusses theories and
approaches that contribute to the shaping of students writing identities and
approaches. These theories and approaches are divided into three sections: 1)
approaches in teaching ESL students; 2) approaches to teaching with word
processing technology; and 3) theories and approaches that can facilitate ESL
writers to use approaches that exploit the benefits and avoid the weaknesses of
both word processing and pen and paper media (McKenzie, 1998, Trends in
Writing section, para.4).
Approaches in Teaching ESL Students
Four current approaches used in teaching second language learners are
discussed in this section. These four approaches provide ample information for

incorporating word processing and revising in the final section of this chapter.
The four approaches include 1) behavioral and functional approaches: writing for
assimilation; 2) cognitive approaches: writing for self-expression and meaning
making; 3) the socio-cultural practices approach: writing for affirmation; and 4)
the critical approach: writing for social change. Although these approaches will be
discussed separately, it is important to note that considerable overlap occurs and
often teachers combine them in their instructional practices.
The behavioral and functional approaches are also known as competency-
based approaches or competency-based education (CBE). In the academic
context, these approaches are more recognizable as English for special purposes
(ESP) approaches. Writing tasks often include thematic life skills such as: filling
out job applications, preparing for interviews, taking notes during lectures, and
reading want ads (Auerbach, 1999, Behavioral and Functional Approaches
section, para. 1). These approaches generally consist of four parts: [1]
assessment of learner needs, [2] selection of competencies based on these needs,
[3] instruction targeted to those competencies, and [4] evaluation of learner
performance in those competencies (Peyton & Crandall, 1995, Competency-
Based Education section, para. 3).
The primary focus of these approaches is based on survival. Students are
in essence taught how to participate in the context of their daily lives
competently and meet the practical demands of work, family, and community

life (Auerbach, 1999, Behavioral and Functional Approaches, para. 2). The
writing tasks themselves are functionally oriented and context specific. Grammar
is not the center of the individuals writing, instead what students can do with
language [versus] what students know about language is emphasized in these
approaches (Auerbach, 1999, Behavioral and Functional Approaches, para. 1).
The adaptability of these approaches allows them to be used for learners with
academic, employment, and self-enrichment goals as well as for those with basic
survival goals (Peyton & Crandall, 1995, Competency-Based Education section,
para. 2). For example, in the academic context these approaches can be used to
teach word processing competency, such as the basic functions and capabilities of
the software to unfamiliar student users. The four parts of these approaches -
assessment of writing needs, selection of competencies, instruction of those
competencies, and evaluation of performance lend themselves well to teaching
writing strategies to ESL students using word processing.
According to Auerbach, approaches and methods of instruction send
messages to learners about the various aspects of writing and about their own
identities as writers. Proponents of these behavioral and functional approaches
argue that these approaches enable learners to participate in the contexts of their
daily lives competently and meet the practical demands of work, family, and
community life (Auerbach, 1999, Behavioral and Functional Approaches
section, para. 2). For international and domestic ESL students, the message of

behavioral and functional approaches implies that if they can competently
perform the writing tasks associated with specific contexts, norms, and societally
defined roles they will then successfully assimilate into the American culture
(Auerbach, 1999, Behavioral and Functional Approaches section, para. 2).
In contrast to the behavioral and functional approaches described above,
cognitive approaches focus on creating meaning in writing and communication
versus performing behaviorally or functionally useful tasks. These cognitive
approaches, often called process approaches, stress the reflection and
exploration of ideas through writing. Although the primary focus of these
approaches is on getting ideas, experiences, and thoughts across through writing,
form is addressed both implicitly and explicitly (Auerbach, 1999, Cognitive
Approaches section, para. 2). These cognitive approaches allow writers to make
sense of their experiences or discover what they think through writing versus
simply performing tasks that might require little thinking or extended writing, as
in the behavioral and functional approaches.
Writing practices in the cognitive or process approaches frequently
include personal narratives, freewrites in journals or in class, and in class
publications of students writing (Auerbach, 1999, Cognitive Approaches section,
para. 3). Cognitive approaches seem to follow the writing process itself by having
the writers go through the steps involved in composing a draft prewriting,
drafting, revising, and in some cases publishing. In addition, teachers often

incorporate dialogue writing, where students write about their thoughts,
experiences, reactions, or issues, and teachers respond to the content of students
entries with ideas, reactions, or by modeling correct usage (Auerbach, 1999,
Cognitive Approaches section, para. 3). These cognitive approaches stress the
importance of drafting and revising in the writing process while also sending a
message to the writers or learners that their lives and voices have value and can
become the vehicle for language acquisition as well as self-discovery (Auerbach,
1999, Cognitive Approaches section, para. 3).
The next approaches are the socio-cultural practices. They differ from the
behavioral and cognitive approaches by arguing against the sense of universality
in writing. Research supporting the socio-cultural practices states that acquiring
and using writing vary from culture to culture, from context to context, and
always depend on who is using it, under what conditions, and for what purposes
(Auerbach, 1999, Socio-cultural section, para. 1). The focus in these approaches is
on students bringing and utilizing resources they already know and have about
their writing and drawing from their funds of knowledge in acquiring new
learning and literacy. According to Garcilazo, Mercado, and Zentella (2001),
funds of knowledge, pioneered by Dr. Luis Moll and colleagues at the
University of Arizona, is a form of culturally responsive teaching [which] seeks
to improve participation and heighten students interest by using an inquiry-based
method that draws upon [students] home and community resources (Issues

section, para. 1). Specific practices that students are encouraged to write about
include culture-specific genres, purposes, and content.
Examples of past projects and writing assignments include a book about
the many uses of aloe vera and other natural remedies produced by a class of
Latino elders, and a Hmong project in California [where students] decided to
learn to read and write in Hmong to preserve their first language and pass along
oral histories to their children (Auerbach, 1999, Socio-cultural section, para. 2).
The messages these socio-cultural practices convey are that the students cultures
are important in developing new writing strategies and developing new learning
techniques, and that writing can be a vehicle of social and cultural affirmation
(Auerbach, 1999, Socio-cultural section, para. 2).
Lastly, critical approaches, unlike the previous ones mentioned, rely on
students analyzing and connecting economics and politics to their personal real-
life experiences. Critical approaches argue that all writing pedagogy has an
implicit stance, whether or not it is acknowledged (Auerbach, 1999, Critical
Approaches section, para. 1). These approaches are also referred to as Freirean,
participatory, learner-centered, or liberatory approaches. According to Peyton and
Crandall (1995) the central tenet of these approaches is that education and
knowledge have value only insofar as they help people liberate themselves from
the social conditions that oppress them (Frierean/Participatory Approaches
section, para. 1). Advocates of critical approaches argue that writing practice,

textual structures, and affirmation of socio-cultural issues in writing are not
enough. Students need to realize the acquiring the discourse of power [may not]
actually lead to gaining power (Auerbach, 1999, Critical Approaches section,
para. 1).
Common activities generated from the critical approach model include the
encoding and decoding of generative words and themes in conversations, reading,
and writing activities. Collaboration and dialogue among students and teachers
are also used, replacing the traditional lecture style format of teachers talking and
students listening, with a culture circle, or round table approach, where students
and teachers face one another and discuss issues of concern. Finally, problem-
posing is practiced, students are asked to describe and examine objects, pictures,
and written texts as they relate to what they are originally intended to represent
(Peyton & Crandall, 1995, Freirean/Participatory Approaches section, para. 1).
The goal of these critical approaches is for learners to identify their own problems
and come up with their own solutions. The messages critical approaches
communicate are that students can explore issues that concern them and use
writing to take action to improve their lives.

Approaches to Teaching with Word Processing Technology
During the past 20 years, a number of researchers looked at the effects of
word processing on students writing. As mentioned earlier in Chapter 2, the
results and conclusions of their research provided some encouragement, relatively
few gains, and many inconsistencies. Gail Hawishers (1989) review of 42 studies
conducted between 1981 and 1988 summarizes briefly the research done on word
processing. She concludes that the few consistent gains from word processing
included positive attitudes toward writing with computers; fewer mechanical
errors; and, for many students, longer pieces of writing. The hope that word
processing would do more, especially to help students improve the quality of their
writing, were disappointed (Kantrov, 1991, Introduction section, para. 1).
However, word processing has remained an invaluable tool for writing. The focus
now is on how teachers use word processing in their instruction (Synder, 1998;
Selfe & Hilligoss, 1994).
With the increasing availability of computers, computer classrooms, and
computer labs across U.S. colleges and universities, teachers have developed a
variety of ways to respond to the increasing use of word processing inside and
outside their classrooms. Teachers methods of incorporating word processing
into their writing instruction varies depending on the number of computers
teachers have available to them, the placement of their computers, and the
frequency with which their students can gain access to the computers (Rodrigues

& Rodrigues, 1989, Different Contexts section, para. 1). Based on the differing
strategies and innovations teachers have developed, the following three types of
teaching environments are discussed: 1) the traditional classroom; 2) the
traditional classroom supplemented by computer laboratories; and 3) the
computerized classroom.
The traditional classroom is probably still the most commonly used type
of classroom. In this context, the instructor is in a classroom without computers.
However, most students have access to computers outside the classroom. Many
colleges and universities now have campus-wide computer labs or department
computer labs. Also, more and more students own personal computers that they
use or bring to class.
In this type of classroom environment, instructors tend to continue
teaching in traditional ways without incorporating computers. However, they do
make other changes. Most instructors know that a growing number of students
have access to computers outside the classroom, and the first obvious change that
instructors tend to require now of students is that all drafts used in class and those
that are turned in will be printed drafts. One of the advantages of printed drafts is
that they are easier to read and can be easily used in a collaborative setting, such
as peer review sessions. According to Rodrigues and Rodrigues (1989), the ease
of reading means that students will be able to work collaboratively and more
rapidly as they offer revision suggestions (Traditional Classroom section, para.

3). In addition, because the revisions suggested by peers are easier to make due to
word processing software, instructors can encourage students to offer more
substantive changes without worrying that the students will need to recopy their
entire drafts.
In class discussions, instructors can stress global revising strategies such
as reorganizing, deleting, adding details, inserting or moving whole paragraphs
and/or sentences. Prewriting activities such as brainstorming or ffeewriting can be
directed to incorporate the use of word processing by asking students to create
lists of ideas at the end of their documents. This way brainstorming moves from
being a classroom exercise that many students do not actually do when they work
independently with pen and paper to an activity teachers can choreograph with an
assignment (Rodrigues & Rodrigues, 1989, Traditional Classroom section, para.
5). The knowledge of what word processing can offer, along with such
approaches as mentioned above, allows teachers to adjust their teaching beyond
the traditional classroom context.
The next teaching context involves supplementing the traditional
classroom with the availability of computer lab time. Even though the traditional
classroom remains the most common composition teaching environment, many
instructors now have an option of teaching at least one day a week in, or reserving
either regularly or occasionally the use of, a computer lab or computer classroom.
The most common use for computer lab time is to work on a particular phase of

the writing process (Rodrigues & Rodrigues, 1989, Traditional Classroom
Supplemented section, para. 1). Instructors often schedule time in the lab after a
peer review session to give students the opportunity to revise in class.
If instructors have computer labs or classrooms available to them on a
regular basis, they can vary the purpose for using computers during class time.
One of the areas that appears most affected by word processing capabilities is the
amount of risk-taking instructors can encourage students to take in their writing.
The ease of revision and the on-going access to computers can allow students
more freedom to experiment. According to Ilene Kantrov, this sense of freedom
to take risks can extend throughout the writing process, from planning and the
earliest scribblings through final revisions (Ease of Revision section, para. 4). By
word processing facilitating such experimentation with language, researchers such
as Richard Collier speculate that this could lead to a greater intuitive
understanding of the nuances of language for students (Kantrov, 1989, Ease of
Revision section, para. 5).
Lastly, the access that some instructors have to computerized classrooms
can affect the teaching strategies they use with their students. With some
instructors holding at least one class period a week in a computerized classroom,
the flexibility of the instructor is vital in keeping up with students needs.
Computer classrooms demand new variations on the teaching strategies used in
the traditional classroom context. According to Dawn and Raymond Rodrigues,

the workshop environment that evolves when writers work on essays in a
computer classroom has little resemblance to a traditional classroom
(Computerized Classroom section, para. 3). MosUcomputer classrooms are noisy,
seemingly chaotic, and require the instructor to constantly shift between the
various stages of their students development of drafts. Although students may
feel more inclined to experiment with language, this presents new challenges for
instructors as they spend more and more time in computerized classrooms.
Instructors teaching in computer classrooms also have to develop
strategies and activities both on and off the computer. The goal of such strategies
is not only to lead students to improved attitudes and increased motivation toward
writing, but to improve their writing as well. The goal for instructors in computer
classrooms is to effectively integrate the use of computers, language, and the
writing process. Despite the inconsistencies in the research about the effects of
word processing on students writing, researchers and instructors realize that word
processing can be effective if students are taught not only the mechanics of
revision moving, copying, deleting, and adding small and large chunks of text
with the aid of function keys but also revision strategies that focus on students
being able to assess their own work.
In computerized classrooms, the advantages of using word processing are
similar to those classrooms that are supplemented by computers. Students
perceive more freedom to experiment with language, have faster access to clean

drafts, have another audience other than the instructor, and are encouraged more
to make global changes. As a result of instructors using both traditional
approaches and newly developed approaches influenced by the presence of
computers in their classrooms, they are teaching a new way of thinking about
and working with writing as way of thinking of text as fluid and movable, a way
of thinking about communication as dynamic and purposeful (Rodrigues &
Rodrigues, 1989, Conclusion section, para. 3).
Theories and Approaches from ESL and Word Processing
That Assist ESL Writers to Revise
The classroom environments discussed above can all aid in incorporating
word processing technology in writing instruction. The goal of incorporating
word processing into the classroom, or through the available computer labs on
campuses, is to assist the student in using it effectively and revising according to
the various writing strategies they have learned. The anticipated outcome would
be to exploit the benefits and avoid the weaknesses of both word processing and
pen and paper media (McKenzie, 1998, Trends in Writing section, para. 4). In
the traditional classroom setting, the instructor has the opportunity to teach in
either mediums, demonstrating how the pen and paper method may be applied in
some areas of revising, such as the brainstorming or editing process, and directing
the students to the computer labs during the stages in the writing/revising process

where word processing can facilitate textual changes and global revisions. In
supplemented traditional classrooms and computerized classrooms, these same
methods can be used by simply giving students the opportunity to get off the
computers and work instead with pen and paper. By instructors adapting to
students writing habits and comfort levels with technology instructors assist
students with using both mediums more effectively.
In discussing the various approaches and theories involved with both ESL
studies and word processing, the underlining goal is to highlight elements from
both areas which apply in the practice and instruction of writing. As mentioned in
the beginning of this chapter, ESL approaches or theories often overlap in
instruction, goals, and activities. In using word processing in the three different
classrooms described earlier, the approaches from traditional classroom
instruction can and often overlap with the instruction developed for the use in
computerized classrooms. Based on the precedents these overlapping approaches
or theories set up, it is expected that instruction in ESL studies and the use of
word processing could be combined to enhance the writing and comprehension
skills of ESL graduate students.
For example, behavioral and functional approaches, or competency-based
approaches, often include writing tasks such as filling out job applications,
preparing for interviews, and reading want ads. The focus on assessment,
selection, instruction, and evaluation of such thematic life skills can be applied to

word processing and the revision process for these learners. Competency-based
approaches developed toward the assessment, selection, instruction, and
evaluation of word processing and revision competencies could aid these learners
in creating and revising their writing. In addition, because this is a functional as
well as behavioral approach, it can include concrete skills and tasks such as
cutting and pasting, striking out and editing, and merging texts, which assists
students with learning word processing and becoming familiar with the
writing/revising processes.
Incorporating word processing with cognitive, socio-cultural practices,
and critical approaches could provide learners with increased opportunities to
think of language as meaningful and relevant as well as developing correct form.
The cognitive approaches, which focus on the meaning making of writing and
communication versus the performing of functionally useful tasks, are thought to
increase language accuracy. According to Auerbach (1999), advocates of this
approach argue that increasing accuracy evolves through drafting, revision, and
editing (Cognitive Approaches section, para. 2). Because cognitive approaches
stress the importance of drafting and revising in the writing process, word
processing serves as a valuable tool for lessening the anxiety ESL students have
toward writing, increasing their motivation, and making the activity of writing

The socio-cultural practices and critical approaches share a similar
approach to teaching ESL students. Socio-cultural practices focus on acquiring
and useing writing based on culture, context, conditions, and purpose. Critical
approaches focus on connecting and analyzing these factors to political and
economic issues taken from students real-life experiences. The common factor
between these approaches is that they build on an existing foundation of
knowledge that students already possess and apply to their writing. The addition
of word processing can benefit learners who are and are not familiar with this
technology by adding to what they already do in the writing/revising process, as
well as how they do it. Improvement in students attitudes and motivations toward
writing are also seen when using these approaches. In addition, the ability to adapt
the technology to fit the culture, context, conditions, and purpose whether
political or economic can provide ESL students additional tools in their quest
for language acquisition and accuracy.
Summary of Theories and Approaches
The theories and approaches that seem to complement best the
incorporation of word processing depend on the language proficiency level of the
ESL student. Also, constructing a teaching method that assists the student in the
writing/revising processes requires overlapping various aspects of ESL
approaches. Although a more detailed discussion of which theories and

approaches in ESL and word processing work well together is discussed in the
next chapter, a brief overview seems warranted now.
The behavioral and functional approaches and the use of word processing
seem best suited for the beginning ESL learner, beginning computer user, and/or a
student who is attempting to get accustomed to writing in English. The skills and
writing tasks of the ESL approaches, such as preparing for interviews, and taking
notes during lectures, may fit well with the initial surface level usage of
computers beginning-ESL writers employ. The use of these ESL approaches can
serve to familiarize the student with the basic capabilities of word processing and
add to their foundation of knowledge in both writing skills and revising strategies.
With the cognitive or process approaches and the socio-cultural practices,
incorporating word processing strategies may assist with the acquisition of writing
and revising skills of more proficient ESL students. In cognitive approaches
writers have the opportunity to make sense of their experiences through writing
versus simply performing tasks. These approaches follow the writing process.
Incorporating word processing into the various stages prewriting, drafting, and
revising can assist ESL students with making more changes to the text and may
also allow for more experimentation with language, leading possibly to more
writing. With the socio-cultural approaches the idea is to build from an existing
foundation of knowledge, whether in writing or in the use of computers. For more
proficient writers, such as graduate-level ESL students, the opportunity to use

their existing funds of knowledge may help with the acquisition of new writing
skills and approaches, including those skills that assist them with using word
processing technology.
With regard to the graduate ESL student, ESL and word processing
approaches can overlap depending on the language proficiency of the student and
level of knowledge he/she has about word processing. The goal of incorporating
word processing into the writing/revising process of graduate ESL students is to
assist them in making the shift in the use of computers, language, and writing
from that of surface level usage to deep level usage resulting in a more cognitive
approach to writing in English. However, incorporation of these approaches is
currently lacking. Research that attempts to combine or even address ESL writing
instruction with word processing is scarce; moreover, attaining information on
how to instruct specifically graduate-level ESL students is difficult.
Consequently, it is important for the purposes of this thesis to emphasize this lack
of integration in order to stress once again the importance of doing research on
word processing, the revising/writing processes, and the ESL graduate-level
student. The potential benefits could affect ESL and composition studies.
As Auerbach (1999) states, Writing instruction is so powerful. In fact,
writing instruction often goes further than shaping conceptions about writing
itself, it can also contribute to constructing learners sense of their own identities
and possibilities (Introduction section, para. 2). The addition of word processing

as powerful tool in the writing/revising processes makes the need to research
these influential factors in the instruction of all students that more pressing.

Increasing enrollments of non-native English speakers in U.S. colleges
and universities offers us the opportunity to re-evaluate and re-invent ESL
instruction to meet the diverse needs of this population. Although ESL instruction
is one of the fastest growing programs in American colleges and universities, the
needs of the graduate-level ESL student receive little attention (Kuo, 2000,
Introduction section, para. 1). This chapter discusses the implications of
considering specifically graduate ESL students and the role of word processing in
their writing development, the potential benefits of this research, and the
application of this research to pedagogical practices across the curriculum.
Included in this last section is information on what another English speaking
country is doing to address the needs of international ESL students. This
particular section may shed additional light on the importance of addressing and
meeting the needs of ESL graduate-level students.
Before moving on, it is worth discussing where ESL studies and
composition studies intersect. According to Tony Silva, Ilona Leki, and Joan
Carson (1997), ESL writing, or more generally, second language writing is
uniquely situated at the intersection of second language studies and composition

studies (Introduction section, para. 2). This position has influenced the way
researchers and instructors in ESL studies develop and compare information from
these two distinct disciplines. Oftentimes research from composition studies have
benefited ESL studies; however, the exchange of information appears to be one-
sided, flowing from composition studies to second language studies (Silva, Leki,
& Carson, 1997, Introduction section, para. 1). Research performed in ESL
studies does present valuable information. Unfortunately, composition
professionals do not always adopt it to the teaching of writing. Possible future
research focusing on graduate-level ESL students has the potential to influence
both disciplines and broaden the focus of composition and ESL studies beyond
the current perception of students writing needs.
Integrating ESL Approaches. Word Processing, and Revision
Research into the writing strategies and language development of graduate
ESL students can be beneficial to both ESL and composition studies. According
to Pennington (1993), All learning is, in a sense, the building of theories, or
mental models (Constructing a Learning Theory section, para. 2). For graduate-
level ESL students, some of the theory building about language and writing has
been developed through the acquisition of their first language. In addition,
graduate-level ESL students presumably have acquired learning skills that their
undergraduate counterparts have not. These students have potentially valuable

funds of knowledge based on first language acquisition and past academic
learning experiences from which to build additional theories about acquiring and
developing English language proficiency. The questions then becomes where
research should start and what is the role of the first language for ESL graduate
If we continue with Penningtons notion that all learning is the building of
theories, we can develop research to address the questions posed above.
Pennington (1993) states that in the process of acquiring knowledge learners
construct a mental structure of new pieces of information as they elaborate and
interrelate these within the existing mental schemata of ideas (Constructing a
Learning Theory section, para. 2). The interrelating of existing material or funds
of knowledge could allow ESL graduate students to use theories already
developed from their first language while acquiring the English language. In
addition, the theory building concept seems to complement the already
established ESL approaches discussed earlier, i.e., cognitive, socio-cultural
practices, and critical approaches.
As mentioned in prior chapters, research on word processing indicates that
using computers consistently affects the behavior, attitudes, and motivations of
students. The theory building concept applies to word processing and revision by
building upon students existing knowledge of how they have used this
technology and revision strategies in the past. Because a growing number of

students are learning the writing process on computers, incorporating and
evaluating word processing technology in future research with graduate ESL
students is necessary. Graduate ESL students may offer insights about language
acquisition, the writing/revising process, and how computers can assist these
endeavors. Because they have attained first language knowledge and more
advanced skills as both graduates and ESL students, their experiences could yield
useful information for researchers and instructors in writing.
The concept of building theories of learning can be used to improve the
writing of ESL graduate-level students. Knowing students existing funds of
knowledge and using writing activities focused on Penningtons building
concept could prove instrumental for instructors trying to meet the writing needs
of graduate ESL students. This awareness factor alone by instructors may
facilitate a better understanding of students writing experiences and begin the
process of building learning theories. Writing activities that combine existing
knowledge from the learners first language and writing strategies with new
pieces of information may provide more effective opportunities for the learner to
experiment with a known topic in a different way. Topics might range from a
learners cultural experiences to their field of study and its application in their
country. To build upon this further, instructors might include a writing assignment
that requires discussion about an unfamiliar topic and the application of one new
piece of information in the course of writing. The goal of building in new pieces

of information and new approaches to teaching ESL graduate students is to
demonstrate that their writing can improve through their existing knowledge base
plus what they can apply as a result of learning the target language.
Based on the theories and approaches in ESL instruction, word processing
and the writing/revising processes reviewed in this thesis, it seems appropriate to
further discuss which approaches and/or theories may be integrated to effectively
serve the needs of graduate ESL students. To integrate some of the theories and
approaches, we can begin with Penningtons construction of the learning theory.
She states that a learner typically begins a new learning task with a highly
impoverished and potentially incorrect subjective theory [...] of the object of
learning, which is gradually developed and incorporated into the existing
cognitive structure (Pennington, 1993, Constructing a Learning Theory section,
para. 2). In other words, if applied to graduate ESL students, the learning process
involves a progressive development over time from surface level usage to deep
level usage of computers, language, and writing. The objective is to move the
student closer to a more developed use of computers, language, and writing
through an integrated approach of word processing, writing, and revising.
With this learning theory in mind, the approaches and theories in ESL and
word processing could serve as the progressive steps that facilitate such a move or
shift in usage. For the graduate ESL student, specifically, the theories and
approaches that appear best suited for examining this shift include the cognitive or

process approaches, the socio-cultural practices approaches, and the critical
approaches in ESL instruction. These approaches stress the writing process,
consider culture, context, conditions, and purpose in students writing, and
incorporate students real-life experiences. Adding word processing within the
application of these approaches can stress the importance of revising in the
writing process by making the task faster and easier. More importantly, it can
lower anxiety levels that ESL students may feel when learning the target
language, acquiring new writing skills, and developing computer proficiency. The
use of these ESL and word processing approaches with graduate-level ESL
students seems reasonable because of the high level of writing skills they have in
their first language. According to Pennington (1993), It seems logical to assume
that their working theory of writing from their first language experience will be
adapted for composing in the second language and will guide the way in which
language and the computer are employed, at least initially (Exploring the models
section, para. 4). Although ESL graduate students may not be the only area of
research that could yield new findings for writing instruction in ESL studies and
composition, it demands more writing assistance and resources to meet these
students needs.
The potential of ESL graduate students connecting the theories they used
in acquiring and developing their first language with the theories they will adapt
and learn to acquire and develop the English language can help them to produce

meaningful and relevant writing in the English language. According to
Pennington (1993), the components of these theories are drawn from oral
experience with the mother tongue and from the previous literacy history of
individual writers, including in some cases a history of second language learning
which provides major or minor input in developing writers experiences of oral
language and literacy (Constructing a Learning Theory section, para. 1). As these
students construct new pieces of information, the hope is that their existing
structure of knowledge will assist them in this new learning task.
According to Penningtons theory of development from surface level
usage to deep level usage of a medium, the use of computers and specifically
word processing is shifting from the obvious conception of the computer as a
machine, an electronic device to a conception of the computer as a medium, as
both tool and writing environment (Pennington, 1993, Model of the Computer
section, para. 1). With respect to graduate ESL students, the potential to enhance
their learning and writing skills can develop as their perception of the computer
medium develops. The desired development is one that is beyond the view of the
computer as a fixer and toward, the notion of the computer as a facilitator of
their myriad purposes as writers (Pennington, 1993, Model of the Computer
section, para. 1). The method that could assist this shift is an added focus on
revising. Word processing assists with manipulating words, making textual
changes easier and faster, and encouraging experimentation with language. As a

result, the distinction between the writing process and the revising process
becomes less noticeable. Research on how graduate ESL students use word
processing technology may lead to more information about how they acquire a
second language, what they do during the writing/revising processes, and how
they make the shift from surface level to deep level usage of language, writing,
and computers.
Based on this theory, the inclusion of word processing and revision in the
acquisition of writing and language of ESL graduate-level students seems quite
applicable. Although there is no evident contention among researchers and
instructors cited in this thesis against incorporating word processing and revision
in the language acquisition of ESL graduate students, there is also no research
specifically investigating computer-assisted writing and revising skills of this
population of language learners.
Graduate ESL students occupy a unique position in future research on
computers and composition. They may possess skills and aptitudes that
undergraduate-level ESL and native English speakers may not, offering new
perspectives on writing and language acquisition to researchers and instructors in
both ESL and composition studies.

Benefits for the ESL Graduate Student
The obvious benefit of research on graduate-level ESL students is that
U.S. colleges and universities may develop additional assistance and approaches
for meeting the needs of this increasing population of students. Successful
research could benefit these students on a number of levels. The acquisition of
another language requires the consideration of both internal and external factors.
Research addressing external factors such as a lack of resources, assistance, and
acknowledgement of their needs could affect internal factors such as the
behaviors, attitudes, and motivations of these ESL graduate students.
External factors, according to Silva, Leki, and Carson (1997), are
primarily social in nature. They relate to learning opportunities based on the
learners perceptions of the target language, culture, the social value and
usefulness of learning the target language, and the learners membership in their
own culture. For example, learners who view the acquisition of the target
language in terms of sacrificing their native language may perceive their native
language as a problem or obstacle. In contrast, learners who perceive the target
language as an additional tool view the target language as an advantage in terms
of social, political, or economic gains. As a result, external factors indirectly
affect language acquisition by influencing the behavior, attitudes, and motivations
of the learners. Research on ESL graduate students which examines the role word

processing and revision play in those students writing and language acquisition
may end up addressing external and the internal factors for these students as well.
The theory building concept, which relies on ESL graduate students
existing funds of knowledge, allows the students to view the acquisition of
English as an advantage, positively influencing their behaviors, attitudes, and
motivations towards learning. In spite of the different backgrounds ESL graduate
students come from, they often share in the unfamiliarity with the English
language and American culture, which can be partially alleviated by
incorporating ESL teaching approaches with word processing and revising. The
benefits of research which addresses the needs of ESL graduate students can
reflect positively on the colleges and universities these students attend and can
extend beyond the students themselves by affecting the reputation and retention
rates of colleges and universities.
Application to Pedagogical Practices Across the Curriculum
Addressing the needs of ESL graduate students has definite application to
pedagogical practices across the curriculum and could prove the most significant
reason for doing this research. Graduate-level ESL students typically enroll in
Engineering and Business Departments. The increasing amount of writing that all
departments are demanding of their students has not been met with approaches
and teaching strategies designed to teach writing across the disciplines. Research

into the language acquisition and writing skills of this increasing population of
students has the potential to enhance the writing curriculum across the disciplines.
The unique position of ESL graduate students, as mentioned earlier, can
offer benefits to ESL and composition studies as well as business and
engineering. These students may offer an enormous amount of information for
how U.S. colleges and universities can continue to meet the needs of all student
writers. As an example, according to Auerbach (1999), researchers and instructors
in ESL studies agree upon six points about teaching writing:
1. that a focus on meaning rather than form (grammatical correctness)
encourages writing development
2. that instruction should stress writing for real reasons, to real
audiences in order to promote authentic communication
3. that writing should be contextualized and that content should be
meaningful and relevant to learners
4. that learners need some degree of overt instruction, which includes
talk about writing, substantive, specific feedback, and multiple
opportunities for revision
5. that social and cultural variation in writing practices and genres
needs to be taken into account
6. that all writing pedagogy reflects a stance about the learner in
relation to the social order (Conclusion section, para.2 )
The above points may be used in developing and integrating approaches
from ESL studies, word processing, and the writing/revising processes. For
graduate ESL students these six points might be considered in conjunction with
Penningtons theory building concept. For example, points one through four stress
the meaning of writing development instead of grammatical correctness by
incorporating authentic communication into student writing assignments.

Additionally, the opportunity for overt instruction and discussion of writing is
also stressed. In other words, the writing assignments have meaning, are relevant
to learners, and based on instructional guidelines from the teacher. A possible
assignment that addresses these points and integrates word processing might ask
students to consider how word processing assists their writing/revising activities.
As a result, the instructor gains an opportunity to assess students perceptions of
the technology. Furthermore, this assignment allows the instructor to build upon
students perceptions with future assignments and instruction on writing and word
processing strategies.
Incorporating that last two points social and cultural variation in writing
practices and genres and writing pedagogy that reflects the learners relation to
social order builds upon the first four points. Variation in writing practices and
genres could assist instructors with incorporating new pieces of information about
writing to students. The emphasis of the first four points acknowledges and uses
information from students own culture and social writing practices to make the
writing assignments relevant and meaningful. The last two points may assist the
instructor with shifting the focus more on assignments that target a variety of
writing practices and genres including those of the target language. Examples of
activities that focus on a variety of writing practices include creating outlines
using the word processor that contain thesis and topic sentences, developing
counterarguments in relation to a stance on a topic, and writing opinion or

reflective essays about a relevant issue in the students life. As students build
upon their funds of knowledge and gain experience in different writing
practices and genres while using the word processor, instructors may incorporate
further approaches that target revising and specifically, revising using word
processing technology.
In addition, applying these six points to teaching writing in a variety of
disciplines may improve the writing skills of ESL and non-ESL students. With
graduate ESL students comprising a large section of the ESL population in
departments such as Engineering and Business, research on the incorporation of
word processing with these six points may lead to new approaches in teaching
writing to all students.
U.S. colleges and universities are not the only English speaking
institutions facing the challenge of addressing international ESL students needs.
According to a study done on international and local non-English speaking
background (NESB) students in an Australian university, Staff who are less
interested in students literacy skills tend to state that grammatical accuracy and
surface features such as spelling and punctuation are what constitute effective
literacy skills (Pantelides, 1999, Educators Difficulties section, para. 19).
Further, these staff members believe that the responsibility of fixing the problem
of literacy can be delegated to communication skills staff in another department
(Pantelides, 1999, Educators Difficulties section, para. 19). However, staff

members in other departments are often reluctant to assist with fixing the
problems because of the inconsistent expectations of various departments.
Although the Australian university is facing similar problems with addressing the
focus on inter disciplinary writing for increasing number of international and
domestic ESL students, this study also discusses and suggests solutions to
specifically meeting the needs of graduate ESL or in this case, NESB students.
This situation is not limited to the Australian university in the above study.
Other English speaking nations are also addressing the issue to attract and retain
international students. What this suggests for U.S. colleges and universities is that
research on graduate ESL students that addresses their inter disciplinary writing
and word processing needs is more relevant than ever. To add to the existing
issues, the influx of technology into the labs and classrooms of American colleges
and universities has changed the impact of the traditional approaches instructors
have used in the teaching of writing. Previously cited composition studies, which
focused almost exclusively on the effects word processing had on the writing of
native English speakers, yielded inconclusive results. Maybe it is time to revisit
the most frequently used classroom tool, word processing, with respect to
graduate ESL students. These students may offer American colleges and
universities information that previous research could not deliver.
As mentioned in prior sections of this thesis, graduate ESL students have
the potential to address the inter disciplinary writing issues U.S. colleges and

universities face. However, as evident in this thesis, the lack of current research in
the area of ESL and word processing, plus the lack of any new approaches that
integrate these two areas in teaching writing, needs to be acknowledged and
readdressed by researchers and instructors with regard to graduate-level ESL
students. According to Ferris and Hedgcock (1998), Our lack of knowledge can
only be remedied by time time in which computer technology will continue to
advance and become more widely available, and time in which, it is to be hoped,
researchers will ask the right questions (Research on Computer-Assisted Writing
section, para. 2). Research into how word processing and revision affect the
writing and language acquisition of graduate ESL students appears to be the
compelling question to ask. In addition, the emerging computer literacy of our
students and the diverse writing demands of our departments make now the right
time to ask it.

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