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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Generation 1.5 students in the writing center

I recently conducted a study on Generation 1.5 students in the writing center. “Generation 1.5” refers to immigrant students who have permanent resident/citizenship status and have completed a significant amount of time (typically, at least high school) American schools before entering an American university/college. One of my guiding research questions was whether or not tutors seek to identify a student’s socio-cultural background in typical tutorials and how does this knowledge (or lack of) help shape the tutorials. Interestingly, none of the tutors in my study considered this socio-cultural background important to their tutorials, although the participating student population was quite unique and diverse, and thus, did not broach the topic with their students. Without critizing my colleagues, this does seem to imply that writing center tutorials have little to no elements of Socioliterate pedagogy. Are the students we work with then being under-serviced, or is it not possible for writing centers take a socioliterate perspective (that is, is it not possible or appropriate for tutors to engage in socioliterate practices)? It seems the writing centers often give explicit instruction on certain genres of writing. If we are practicing this, don’t we owe it to the students to step out of our comfort zones and discuss socio-cultural backgrounds as a means of further helping students?
-Eve R. (tutor and master's student)

5 comments:

  1. Hi Eve,

    Interesting study. Recently I hired our first-ever non-native speaker as a tutor (and she is a 1.5). She is brilliant in her tutoring, but faces some rather negative comments simply because of her accent. It is not that her accent is not understandble, but that the native speakers whom she meets with seems to regard her as ill-equipped to tutor them because she has an accent. On a positive note, she is quite good with L2 students and can identify with their issues. They rate her higher than even our native-speaking tutors. I think there is something to your 1.5 work.

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  2. I reread my comments and can see that there might be the idea that it is all about language: I don't think her success with L2 students is all about that. I would like to develop another survey that pinpoints why she is so liked in the L2 community who visits us, but I don't want to be putting her on the spot. Any suggestions?

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  3. Anonymous10:15 AM

    Students who have been utilizing the writing center usually volunteer their background information. If we are working on a project and the student is having trouble understanding the outline/structure, they usually tell me it is difficult for them since they are not American. I don't feel it is relevant; however, we should all have patience with every student regardless of their background.

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  4. To Clint - It's possible that clients who are English language learners prefer working with someone else who understands what it's like to be a language learning, to write in another language for academic purposes, etc - someone like the tutor you mentioned. As far as advice...perhap talk with the tutor about this and work together to develop a survey to poll students...? Just a thought...

    In response to the third comment (anonymous)...I want to clarify that I'm definitely an advocate of having patience with all clients. I also agree that many international students self-identify as being English language learners; this often isn't the case with Gen 1.5-ers. Studies have shown that this student population may or may not consider English as a "native" language, and that may even shift depending on the context. This is further complicated when one considers that Gen 1.5-ers may speak accent-free, grammatically and idiomatically "perfect" English. I just wonder if knowing more about a students sociolinguistic background would be helpful for WC tutors, in general, regardless of the "type" (native-speakers, internationals, or immigrants) of student.

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  5. Anonymous1:24 PM

    Hi,

    Eve, I appreciate your comments, from what I have read, you are correct in your explanation of 1.5 students. I am a graduate Composition Teacher and I
    am currently working on a project to understand Generation 1.5 learners more correctly. Specifically I am trying to put together some information on how to help these students write better. Have you any experience in this area? I've found that there is a lack of good data, research, and writing on this group. Any suggestions? Also, I am interested in personal experiences that these learners would be willing to share. I know this is lots, will be looking for any input you could offer.

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