Graduate Student: Joseph Wilson,
University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
Where are you from, and what are you studying?
An Illinois native, I am a master’s student in the Rhetoric,
Writing, and Linguistics program at the University of Tennessee,
Knoxville. I originally moved to Tennessee to pursue a BA in English
literature and a BS in ESL education at Johnson University. This allowed
me to study immigrant and refugee narratives alongside contemporary
research in second language (L2) studies. After teaching English to
resident L2 learners in Tennessee and to university students in China, I
decided to further my education at the University of
Tennessee-Knoxville in order to research theory, ethics, and practices
germane to second language learners. While pursuing my MA, I have
constructed an identity specifically as an L2 writing teacher/researcher
through coursework and research on L2 writing issues and after
attending the Symposium on
Second Language Writing in 2016. I am particularly interested
in scholarship at the interface of the field of L2 writing and writing
program administration, and I currently serve as the assistant director
of ESL [English as a second language] at the University of
Tennessee-Knoxville and as a teaching assistant in the composition
What is an “a-ha moment” you experienced recently in either teaching or research?
During the symposium, I attended a panel in which Dr. Chris
Casanave pressed a room of L2 writing specialists to propose a
definition of the term bilingual writer. I struggled
myself to come up with a solid definition, particularly one that does
not fossilize the imagined native versus nonnative speaker binary that
often circumscribes multilingual writers of all proficiency levels. I
also began to consider how my own teaching practices reinforce
nativeness as an (elusive) goal. Although I haven’t yet found a
replacement for the term bilingual or even the term multilingual, I have reshaped my teaching practices.
Recently, I have been developing a genre-based cross-cultural
composition course that encourages L1 and L2 students to gain awareness
and knowledge of new writing genres collaboratively, and I hope that
this class will work toward bridging the L1 and L2 divide common in
first-year composition settings.
What in L2 writing research excites you right now?
I am particularly excited about research and theory related to
L2 writing teacher identity, genre studies, and ESL writing program
administration. As specialists have often noted (Matsuda, 2013, 2017),
the field of L2 writing is incredibly dynamic because its specialists
are situated in a variety of disciplines such as TESOL, rhetoric and
composition, education, and applied linguistics. I am currently
interested in the ways that L2 writing specialists construct their
identities in relation to our field.
At the interface of L2 writing and writing program
administration, I am also working with my advisor, Dr. Tanita Saenkhum,
in a research assistantship to consider how placement procedures for
incoming L2 writers can be assessed on a continual basis. Of particular
interest is research that considers multilingual student perceptions of
placement procedures in addition to test scores and retention
Could you share one way L2 writing research informs your teaching?
At a foundational level, L2 writing research has allowed me to
cultivate a greater sensitivity toward the needs of multilingual
writers, as well as myriad tools for adapting my teaching practices to
meet those needs. My current project on assessing university placement
procedures, for example, has illuminated the ways that an institution’s
placement options for multilingual writers inform the curriculum of its
composition courses and communicate a program’s values to all relevant
stakeholders. I have found that these insights translate well into the
classroom itself, and I have worked to design syllabi and rubrics that
enhance student agency, explicitly delineate my expectations, and
abstain from allowing mechanical errors to dominate my written and
spoken feedback on students’ writing. I have also found that student
perceptions are critical to assessing placement, and I have worked to
create opportunities for constructive dialogue with my students both
inside and outside of the classroom.
Matsuda, P. K. (2013). Response: What is second language
writing—and why does it matter? Journal of Second Language
Writing, 12(2), 51–179.
Matsuda, P. K. (2017). Second language writing teacher
identity. In G. Barkhuizen (Ed.), Reflections on teacher
identity research (pp. 215–222). New York, NY: Routledge.
Elena Shvidko is an assistant professor in ESL at
the Department of Languages, Philosophy, and Communication Studies at
Utah State University. Her research interests include second language
writing, multimodal interaction, and interpersonal aspects of
Joseph Wilson is an MA student at The University of
Tennessee, Knoxville, specializing in L2 writing. His research areas
include writing program administration for multilingual writers, genre
and discourse studies, and teacher identity. He currently serves as the
assistant director of the English Department's ESL Writing Program and
teaches first-year composition.