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What are some challenges instructors may face in helping Generation 1.5 students with their writing?

  • Students Might Not Identify Themselves as “ESL”

Some Generation 1.5 students don’t self-identify as an “ESL” student, but their writing may not be at the same skill-set as that of a native speaker/writer.

In Christina Ortmeier-Hooper’s article titled “English may be My Second Language, but I’m Not ‘ESL’,” she demonstrates the idea that some students, although they might spend years in a “mainstream” classroom, still may not be prepared for the college composition classroom, but because of their “mainstream” background, they could be offended when ESL classes are recommended (Ortmeier-Hooper).

  • Students Don’t Want To Be Isolated

In Susan Miller-Cochran’s article, “Beyond ‘ESL Writing’: Teaching Cross-Cultural Composition at a Community College,” she states that scholars have debated about placement for Generation 1.5 students, debating on whether they fit into “ESL” or “mainstream” courses, since students often do not wish to be isolated.

In Generation 1.5 in the College Composition: Teaching Academic Writing to U.S.-Educated Learners of ESL, Holton demonstrates some of the challenges of identifying Generation 1.5 students. “Students who were born in the U.S. and who have never lived or studied anywhere other than U.S. schools frequently resent being placed in the special composition course for generation 1.5 writers” (Roberge 182).

We need to be sensitive to the students’ perceptions of their needs, to be careful not to put a label on them, as every student may have a unique writing ability.

  • If the ESL classroom is not the best fit, is the mainstream classroom a better fit?

Of course, each student is different, as some may want the “mainstream” classroom, while others might not. However, Miller-Cochran suggests that there is room for improvement in the mainstream classroom. With the rapid growth of linguistic diversity in student populations, there is a need for “international and cross-cultural awareness among the general student population so that students are prepared to work in an increasingly global marketplace” (Miller-Cochran).

  • Possible Cultural Resistance

In Ortmeier-Hooper’s article, she writes about a case study with several students who fit the Generation 1.5 cateogory. One student in particular, Sergej, resists writing about himself and also resists the revision process. Ortmeier-Hooper says that part of this resistance could be cultural: “He believed in an academic tradition that was more of straight transmission of knowledge. In our discussions, he often referred to universities in his home country, noting the differences in expectations and examinations. He reported to me that based on his knowledge of the Yugoslavian universities, collected from stories told by his parents and relatives, schools and universities there emphasized a more authoritative, impersonal approach” (Otrmeier-Hooper).

  • Plagiarism

In the college composition classroom, students are held to certain expectations in their writing styles. According to Riazantseva, this is often problematic with Generation 1.5 students: “Students are expected to fully engage in literacy events and practice characteristics of academic discourse by demonstrating academic literacy, or the ability to read, write and think critically. According to Cummins (1979) who made a distinction between social language skills (i.e., Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills or BICS) and academic literacy skills (i.e., Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency or CALP), the latter take at least 5–7 years to develop. This may provide one plausible explanation for G1.5 immigrant students’ struggle in educational settings” (Riazantseva). Along with this struggle to adapt to this literacy standard, is that in relation to “students’ lack of experience with text borrowing and citation practices in academic texts [can] result in “patchwriting” and other forms of plagiarism” (Rizanatseva).

How can we take these challenges and turn them around to assist Generation 1.5 students in improving their writing?

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Page last modified on December 18, 2012, at 12:00 AM