Graduate Student Writers
Assessing Needs across the “Linguistic Divide”
Keywords:English for academic purposes, genre-based pedagogy, graduate writing, IMRD research article, L1 and L2 English speakers, writing pedagogy
Genre analysis has become an important tool for teaching writing across the disciplines to non-native English-speaking (EL2) and native English-speaking (EL1) graduate students alike. Since the pressing needs of EL2 graduate students have meant that educators often teach them in separate classes, and since genre-based research into teaching higher-level writing has been largely generated in fields such as English for Academic Purposes, we have an insufficient understanding of whether this instructional mode plays out similarly in EL1 and EL2 classrooms. Launching a genre-based course on writing research articles in parallel sections for EL1 and EL2 graduate students provided an opportunity to address this knowledge shortfall. This article qualitatively examines the different classroom behaviors observed in each version of the course when a common curriculum was used and specifically explores three key themes: initial receptivity, nature of student engagement, and overall assessment. Our study shows that although EL2 and EL1 learners have similar needs, the obstacles to their benefitting from genre-based instruction are different; EL2 students must learn to identify themselves as needing writing support that transcends linguistic matters, while EL1 students must learn to identify themselves as needing writing support despite their linguistic competence. Providing the same mode of instruction can benefit both populations as long as educators are sensitive to the specific challenges each population presents in the classroom. The insights gained contribute to the scholarship on genre-based teaching and offer ways of better meeting the needs of EL1 and EL2 students alike.
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