ESL students as ethnographers : co-researching communicative practices in an academic discourse community Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/wh246w03x

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  • No research to date has involved ESL students as researchers in investigations of community language practices. This study examined the research processes of 23 international college students in an advanced ESL course. The students worked on an original curriculum, the Language Research Project, through which they performed ethnographic and discourse analytic tasks and engaged in collaborative action research. As the students uncovered the tacit rules that regulate communicative practices in the university community, they sought to improve their own performance in academic interactions. The teacher-researcher simultaneously observed and analyzed students' perspectives, seeking to improve her teaching practice. An analysis of the classroom dialogues showed that intertextual links made by the teacher and the students served to build a system of scaffolds for the group. These intertextual links acted as cognitive and affective support for reflection and evaluation of ideas. The students' comments to each other resembled comments made by the teacher, which indicates that they appropriated the teacher's expert role. Thus, this study reveals that learners of similar levels can offer each other expert assistance in the completion of tasks. The students developed a high level of metacognition. Their reflections uncovered serious conflicts between themselves and native English speakers. They observed that they performed better in social settings. Conversely, they felt awkward in academic settings when interacting with domestic classmates and professors, who were often unsupportive and unwilling to engage in communication. This denial of access by Americans resulted in feelings of inadequacy and inferiority for the students. Nevertheless, some students rejected and transformed certain dominant practices of the community. By adopting the identity of researchers, the students were empowered to engage in their own realities from a position of strength and to assert their individual needs. These findings demonstrate that the students developed a sense of critical language awareness. This dissertation portrays an emerging Vygotskian sociocultural perspective on second language acquisition research. The findings support social constructivist teaching approaches that incorporate students' lived experiences. Finally, this study reveals an urgent need to sensitize faculty and students in higher education in the United States about the experiences of language-minority students.
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