March 2014
SLW Newsletter

Leadership Updates


Dear SLWIS Members,

The 48th Annual TESOL International Convention is right around the corner! The SLWIS will be featuring a wide range of sessions and events that will be of interest to many of you. These events provide excellent opportunities to establish networks and converse with colleagues from all over the world as well as further your knowledge of our field and its best practices. In this last letter as the chair of SLWIS, I would like to draw your attention to some of the scheduled SLWIS events and extend my appreciation to the excellent work that our members and leaders have engaged in during the past year.

It is through your professional participation that we increase our visibility and reputation as an IS. Your contributions continue to invigorate SLWIS in many ways. As an IS, we continue to increase awareness of second language writing at all levels of education by offering a wide range of presentations representing the dynamic and transdisciplinary nature of the field. As I mentioned in the fall newsletter, we received a record high number (247) of proposals for TESOL 2014. On behalf of the Steering Committee, I would like to again thank all of you who sent and/or carefully reviewed proposals and congratulate those of you who will be presenting next month. We look forward to all the SLWIS presentations!

In this issue of the newsletter, Todd Ruecker, the chair-elect of the SLWIS, writes about the exciting academic session and the many InterSections planned for Portland We hope that you will soon be able to access the full list of SLWIS sessions at our community site; please be alert for updates concerning availability. In the meantime, you can also use the online convention planner to search for all SLWIS sessions by searching according to “second language writing” interest section. Please take a look at these fabulous presentations and mark your schedules! A handout of SLWIS sessions will also be available at the SLWIS booth in the Exhibit Hall.

In addition to these sessions, our members will have plenty of opportunities to meet well-known scholars in the field, converse with colleagues, and build research networks by (1) attending the Open Meeting of SLWIS, (2) having a chat with us at our social event, and (3) volunteering at the SLWIS booth. Please save the dates for the Open Meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday, March 21, 6:45–8:15 pm in the Oregon Convention Center, Room B118. If you are a newcomer to our IS, note that Open Meetings are important venues to meet scholars in the SLW field, build new friendships while talking about IS-related issues, and brainstorm proposal ideas for the next TESOL convention. I hope to see many of you at our Open Meeting.

Please also note that, following tradition, a social will be held right after the Open Meeting. This year we will meet at PINTS Brewing Company after the Open Meeting on Thursday night. Full details about our social will be circulated on the e-list and at our booth in the Exhibit Hall.

Once again SLWIS has been granted its own booth in the Exhibit Hall. The conditions for maintaining our own booth include keeping it staffed during the Exhibit Hall open business hours—9 am to 6 pm Thursday and Friday and 9 am to 2 pm Saturday. Volunteering at the booth is another way of contributing to SLWIS as well as increasing our visibility and reputation. Our goal is to staff the booth with at least two members for every hour during opening hours. This means we have need for 50 volunteer hours! I invite each of you to log into the booth schedule and volunteer some of your time. This is the perfect place for networking, collaborating, or just supporting the IS!

In closing, I would like to extend sincere thanks to the Leadership Committee, which continues to make SLWIS as robust as it is today. We will introduce our new chair, Todd Ruecker, and chair-elect, Silvia Pessoa, during the Open Meeting on Thursday. I am confident that SLWIS will continue to grow under their leadership. Serving as the chair of SLWIS this past year has been an honor; I am proud and grateful to be part of such a vibrant community of teachers and scholars.

I look forward to seeing you in Portland!


Gena Bennett


Welcome to the jam-packed, preconvention issue of SLW News.

We are pleased to include announcements, brief reports, and articles from different countries, contexts, and levels in this issue of the newsletter—and we hope that you will find them timely, thought-provoking, and useful to your work as SLW professionals.

In this edition of the newsletter, we say good-bye to Catherine Smith, who is stepping down as an associate editor. She has done an amazing job over the past few years soliciting and editing articles, and we thank her for her gracious service to the TESOL organization. If you wish to follow in Catherine’s footsteps as an associate editor, please email me for details.

Finally, we thank the authors themselves, who have worked with our editorial staff drafting and revising the manuscripts to ready them for publication. It is a joy to be in an Interest Section whose members so willingly share their ideas with the IS community. If you have ideas to share, please see the SLW News submission guidelines in this issue.

SLW News Editorial Staff
Gena Bennett
Karen Best
Steven Bookman
Helena Hall
Ilka Kostka
Peggy Lindsey
Lilian W. Mina
Margi Wald



In the middle of the 20th century, metaphor started to be connected to human cognition. In 1980, Lakoff and Johnson published Metaphors We Live By, a seminal work which used evidence of daily speech to point out that metaphor is pervasive in everyday language and, more important, that metaphor can structure thinking. According to Lakoff and Johnson, “the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another” (p. 5). This definition stipulates that metaphor is conceptual, that is, it has to do with the mind, not just with language. Our basic daily life experiences with our body, senses, food, and so on shape the way we perceive the world, and give rise to conceptual metaphors, which are re-represented in different modes, one of which is language. For example, we say

It is difficult to digest all this information at the same time.
His points are hard to swallow.
He devoured the book.

because ideas are conceptualized as food. So here we have a conceptual metaphor—IDEAS ARE FOOD (conceptual metaphors are capitalized according to cognitive linguistics convention)—and a number of expressions that we use to manifest this conceptual metaphor.

The application of metaphor to language teaching is situated in the cognitive linguistics paradigm. The elicitation of conceptual metaphor has been employed as a powerful tool to study teacher and learner beliefs. Raising learners’ awareness of metaphor has been found to aid comprehension and retention of unfamiliar figurative language. In addition, researchers study the patterns and dynamics of the linguistic metaphors in texts to investigate ways to help learners master the process of making meaning via metaphor.

Along the same lines, I will discuss how metaphor can help with a second language (L2) writing class, focusing on how it can aid the L2 learners in writing conceptualization, idea development, and word choice.

Writing Conceptualization

Using metaphor to help learners conceptualize their own writing fits well into the process approach to writing. Teachers can invite learners to reflect on what they think of writing with a simple worksheet that elicits metaphors by asking learners to complete the following sentence:

I think that writing/a writing course is (like) . . . because . . .
After important milestones in the course, teachers can change the worksheet:

After . . . , I now think that writing/a writing course is (like) . . . because . . .
I have (not) changed my mind because . . .

Teachers can also help learners elaborate on their metaphors of writing by extending their metaphors (i.e., using metaphorical entailments, to use the cognitive linguistics term). For example, if a learner sees her writing course as a trip, ask her,

Where are you heading?
How do you picture your destination?
What luggage have you got?
What challenges do you expect to experience along the way?

This elaboration can be part of a peer response session or a group feedback conference. Because metaphor has the power to activate the “known” to prepare for the “unknown,” it can bridge gaps in knowledge and learning, giving both learners and teachers the metacognitive tool to explore the learner writing world. The activity can be incorporated into the learner’s portfolio of the course to track the changes as she develops as a writer over time. As metaphor is usually strongly imageable, to make it more appealing for the portfolio, teachers can have learners sketch their metaphors into artworks. This can work very well for young learners, whose world is often richly visual.

Developing Ideas

As a writing teacher, this has happened to me many times: A learner complains that she does not have ideas or she cannot express her ideas. Metaphor can offer two solutions here for learners to generate ideas and clarify their points. They can use metaphor signaling devices such as A is like . . . , A is B, which/who . . . , A is B because . . . , If . . . to call for the supporting details of the idea in point. Analogical thoughts that come after these expressions are metaphorical in nature. For example, in order to support her point that Literature plays an important role in life, a learner writes, If a person knows everything in the world except for literature, he is building a tower without foundation.While sentences such as this do not exert additional while-writing cognitive load in terms of language structures, their explanatory power is beyond doubt. The metaphorical example clarifies what the writer wants to say, giving weight to her argument.

Another way is to encourage learners to use free writing, especially in the first drafts. A lot of writers’ interesting ideas are lost in their mind as passing thoughts in the writing process while they should be included in the writing product itself. In a study that logs computer keystrokes to track the process of metaphorical word making among second language learners (Hoang, 2013a), I have found that in the quest for words, learners call on different metaphor-related mechanisms such as creative metaphors, mental images, and analogical associations. However, these interesting ideas do not make their way into the writing, leaving the readers with abrupt pieces of thoughts. For the choice of see the world [in books], a student explained,

A literature work opens in front of us just like life. In literature there is sadness and happiness, so we can use those things to perceive and see the world around us.

Another thought that

in modern life, there is a lot of competition and pressure. But if the humanitarian values we read in books remain with us, when we step out into life, we can find good values in life.

But she simply wrote,

They [books] help us understand about life.

The writer-learners thus need to be aware of their own processual reasoning and learn to put down all their free thoughts in the first drafts. When they are better at shaping these free thoughts into supporting details, they can ask self-reflective questions such as Why do I use this word? Do I need to clarify it? and discard unrelated ideas.

Choosing Words

It is relevant to repeat here that metaphor is no longer a mere literary device to add flowery language to texts. Metaphors are indispensable to communication; “there is no division between metaphor and discourse, given that metaphors are both products of discourse and creators of discourse” (Gibbs & Lonergan, 2009, p. 251). On average, in English written discourse, one in every seven and a half words is metaphor related (Steen et al., 2010). The immediate implication for the second language writing classroom, and language teaching in general, is the need to give metaphorical language the attention it should receive. Knowledge of metaphorical word senses is one important aspect of vocabulary learning, reflected in the metaphorical potential of familiar words, the extended metaphorical meanings, metaphorical collocations, and semantic prosody of a word (semantic prosody refers to the attitudinal and functional interpretation of a lexical item in relation to its contextual surroundings). It allows the learners to achieve precision and encourages creativity and flexibility in word choice. Current literature seems to be occupied with vocabulary size, probably because vocabulary depth is more elusive by nature. However, whether a learner can use words correctly and appropriately is as important as the number of words that she knows.

It is found that language learners tend to misuse words due to a confusion of different senses of a lexical item or different lexical items that have synonymous senses but different usages, which results in an awkwardness in their writing (Hoang, 2013b). If we take verbal collocation as an example, persistently across four different undergraduate year levels, in a corpus of 396 second language essays, 27.76% of the metaphorical verbal phrases are miscollocated, such as in the following examples:

Reading can bring up your soul.
We should remain reading habit in young people.
Reading widens my mind.

How is this related to metaphor? Metaphor, generally speaking, is realized when there is a conceptual transfer from a concrete domain to an abstract one. When a word is used in a sense other than its primary concrete sense, this conceptual transfer occurs, and a metaphor emerges. For example, in build a relationship, build is not used in its primary sense of “to build something physical”; it is used metaphorically. One way to help learners make meaning via metaphor (i.e., attain depth of vocabulary systematically) is to draw their attention to the motivated nature of language, specifically to the concrete sense of words. The concrete sense refers to an entity which is physically and psychologically real, which makes it easier to understand and remember. When learners can establish the link (or motivation, to use the cognitive linguistics term) between the concrete sense and the extended sense, the target item is easier to remember because the learning process is deep and grounded as compared to mere acceptance of arbitrariness. Boers and Lindstromberg’s (2009) book is an excellent guide for teachers who would like to incorporate this insight into their classroom.

Another way is to use corpus-based activities. Corpora provide a lexical playground where learners can freely explore how a word performs, behaves, and plays in its real contextual environment, especially how it collocates and colligates with other words. Concordance patterns also show affective values and discourse functions of words. For example, when dogs and other animals are used as nouns, they are used nonmetaphorically; when used in the verb forms (to dog, to squirrel, to horse, to weasel), they are metaphors and carry evaluative values (Deignan, 2005). Depending on the learners and objectives of the lesson, teachers can have them work on one or more patterns of a particular word, of words of the same family or same grammatical properties. Such activities can raise learners’ awareness of the extended metaphorical senses of words and their usage patterns. This awareness will help them learn to use words in context and become more efficient writers.

Concluding Remarks

In this article, I have outlined that metaphor can help conceptualize writing, provide materials for the arguments and improve the lexis profile of a piece of writing. It is hoped that writing teachers recognize that metaphor is not the icing on the cake. Metaphor is not a matter of decorating a piece of writing. It is a basic ingredient of effective writing; the writing process starts with metaphorical thoughts and grows with the metaphorical language that writers use.


Boers, F., & Lindstromberg, S. (2009). Optimizing a lexical approach to instructed second language acquisition. Houndmills, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Deignan, A. (2005). Metaphor and corpus linguistics. Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins.

Gibbs, R. W., & Lonergan, J. E. (2009). Studying metaphor in discourse: Some lessons, challenges, and new data. In A. Musolff & J. Zinken (Eds.), Metaphor and discourse (pp. 251–261). Houndmills, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hoang, H. (2013a). An investigation into EFL learners’ metaphorical thoughts. Paper presented at the Psycholinguistics Interest Group Workshop, Wellington, New Zealand.

Hoang, H. (2013b). Is it vague and awkward? A text analysis of second language learners’ use of metaphorical word senses in writing. Presented at the 12th Symposium on Second Language Writing, Jinan, China.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Steen, G., Dorst, A., Herrmann, B., Kaal, A., Krennmayr, T., & Pasma, T. (2010). A method for linguistic metaphor identification: From MIP to MIPVU. Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins.

Ha Hoang is currently a PhD candidate in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies at Victoria University of Wellington. She has taught for several years at the tertiary level in Vietnam. Her research interests are second language writing, discourse analysis, cognitive linguistics, and metaphor.


Maria Elisa Romano

Julia Inés Martinez

Taking into account that feedback is thought to be a fundamental component of the process of scaffolding language learning, the implementation of techniques that seek to enhance such interaction constitute an interesting and necessary focus of current research in second language (L2) writing. After several years of researching feedback—and focusing on its different types and agents—we felt the need to incorporate students’ voices into our research so as to gain a greater and better understanding of the student-teacher interaction during the writing process. In this respect, self-monitoring stands as a valuable process to be explored because it involves the participation of students as the initiators of the process of feedback and subsequent revision of written texts. When referring to some of the theoretical and practical principles underlying feedback on writing, Goldstein (2010) claims that
effective feedback doesn’t start with the text, and isn’t just about responding to texts; it starts with the student, responding to the student, what the student wants to accomplish, what the student needs, and ultimately about teachers and students communicating with each other. (p. 76)

Our purpose here is to briefly describe a research project conducted in the Lengua Inglesa II chair at Facultad de Lenguas, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba (Argentina), that aims to explore the implementation of self-monitoring as part of an electronic feedback cycle and to report an analysis of the results obtained in 2012–2013.1


According to Charles (1990), self-monitoring is defined as “a means of increasing the amount of dialogue over the text for those whose institutional circumstances do not permit individual editorial discussions on student drafts” (p. 288). Specifically, it involves students underlining and annotating their drafts with questions, doubts, comments, or impressions regarding those items or areas in which they would like to receive feedback from the teacher. The teacher, then, responds to this text by focusing on the annotations made by the writer. In this way, the student is the one who initiates and directs the process of feedback and subsequent revision.

Self-monitoring has been proven to help students gain autonomy over their revision process, strike a balance between text-based and surface concerns, and develop awareness on the importance of the content and organization of their texts. In a study involving EFL university students in Eastern China, Xiang (2004) discovered that training in self-monitoring was an effective way of implementing written feedback inasmuch as it led students toward becoming more critical readers of their own texts and encouraged them to be more receptive to their teacher’s feedback, as this was based on their own concerns and on the main problems they had encountered while writing. As regards improvements in the quality of their texts, it was shown that more proficient writers seemed to benefit from this technique more than less proficient student writers or low achievers, who tended to focus on surface aspects of their texts. However, in an earlier study, Cresswell (2000) pointed out that specific training involving awareness raising, modeling, and evaluation previous to the actual application of self-monitoring techniques improved students’ ability to pay attention to the content and organization of their texts. On the basis of the above-mentioned studies, we decided to explore the implementation of self-monitoring on the writing of undergraduate students of English as a foreign language.


Three teachers and five intact groups of students of LenguaInglesa II participated in this study during 2012 and 2013. LenguaInglesa II is a course in the second year of the undergraduate programs on EFL at Facultad de Lenguas, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, in Argentina. Given the above-mentioned studies on self-monitoring (Charles, 1990; Xiang, 2004), it was necessary to provide students with appropriate training prior to the implementation of this type of student-initiated feedback. Therefore, a whole class period (80 minutes) was devoted to the introductory session, during which students were introduced to self-monitoring and the teacher provided examples with the aim of modeling the technique and showing the type and scope of the annotations that might be used (questions regarding both language and content, doubts related to the organization of the text, etc.) and how these could be inserted in the text by means of the comment function in Microsoft Word.

After becoming familiar with the basic characteristics of self-monitoring, students were given instructions for a writing assignment that was related to the topics being dealt with in class and that involved the self-monitoring technique—that is, making annotations on their texts as a way to initiate feedback. They were asked to submit their annotated texts by e-mail following a set of guidelines normally used in the course. The teachers provided feedback on the first drafts by responding to the annotations and, if necessary, by also providing feedback on other aspects of the text that they thought needed to be revised.2 Finally, students handed in a second and revised version of their texts. The whole procedure (that is, training and implementation of self-monitoring) lasted approximately four weeks, a period of time quite similar to the amount necessary to carry out the regular indirect feedback process used during our annual course.


In the first stage of the research project, we classified and analyzed the annotations students made on their drafts following the taxonomy proposed by Xiang (2004). Annotations were classified into three main categories: content, organization, and form (use of English). Taking into account the specific instructional context and our own pedagogical concerns, we decided to further classify annotations on form depending on whether they referred to grammar, vocabulary, expression of ideas, or mechanics (spelling and punctuation).

Of the 259 texts collected, only 88 (33.97%) had annotations; the remaining 171 texts were submitted with no annotations at all. That is, 66.02% of the students who participated in this study decided not to insert any comment, question, or doubt in their drafts. From the 88 texts that did include annotations, we collected a total number of 202 annotations. The classification of those annotations is shown in Table 1 (click to enlarge).

Fifty-six (27.72%) of the annotations were identified as annotations on content. Some examples illustrating the type of annotations found include the following: “I was not sure if this sentence is off the point,” “Does this example illustrate the previous idea?,” and “Shall I paraphrase the meaning to include the idea it represents?”

Annotations regarding organization amounted to 45, which represented 22.27% of the total number of annotations. In this category, some of the comments and/or questions presented by students include “I'm not sure this transition signal is useful for this type of essay. I try to show that first I’m going to discuss causes and then the effects” and “Is the order of ideas correct here? Or should I mention cause 1—effect one, cause 2—effect 2 for the summary?”

Half of the annotations analyzed (50%) belong to the category “use of English.” Out of 101 annotations found in this category, 34 addressed vocabulary issues and 43 focused on expression of ideas. Examples of the former include “Is this word used correctly in order to refer to the consequences?” and “Is it okay to use phrasal verbs like this in this kind of writing?” As to expression of ideas, recurrent annotations were of this sort: “Is it too informal? How could I express this better?” and “Is this a correct expression?” Of the remaining annotations, 20 were about grammar, such as "Is this correct, or should I use other Tense?,” and 4 about mechanics, such as “When I include a quote from the story, should I use contractions as in the original text?"

Final Remarks

One of the most outstanding results in this stage of the research project is the low percentage of students who actually used self-monitoring as part of the revision and feedback process. It is quite striking that, given the opportunity to initiate the feedback dialogue, more than half of the students opted not to do it. Retrospective interviews are currently being analyzed to look into the reasons underlying this tendency.

When looking at the most frequent annotations, it is interesting that a considerable percentage (50%) were on content and organization, a finding concurrent with the results of previous studies (Charles, 1990; Chen, 2009; Cresswell, 2000; Xiang, 2004). Although more research is definitely necessary, it seems that self-monitoring may be an effective technique to encourage critical reviewing of global aspects of ongoing texts, which tend to be disregarded by foreign language learners.

As regards annotations on the use of English, the most frequent doubts and/or concerns had to do with vocabulary and expression of ideas rather than with grammar or mechanics. This focus on lexical aspects of the language seems to characterize foreign language learners’ revision (Ferris, 2003), especially in academic contexts, such as the one in which this study was carried out.

To summarize, self-monitoring appears to be an interesting revision technique to promote autonomy and critical self-evaluation as well as to gear students’ attention to global aspects of their developing texts. There seem to be, however, some cultural, attitudinal, and contextual factors that prevent many students from getting involved in this type of student-initiated feedback.


1. A preliminary version of this article was presented at the I JornadasNacionales, III Jornadassobreexperiencias e Investigación en Educación a Distancia y Tecnologíaeducativa en la UNC, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, March 14–15, 2013, by M. E. Romano, J. I. Martínez, and A. de los Canavosio.

2. The type of feedback given in this instance was the same type of feedback used all throughout the academic year (explicit indirect feedback), which is a type of feedback that has proved to be effective for this specific undergraduate course. The fact that self-monitoring is complemented with teacher-initiated feedback has to do with the characteristics and objectives of this particular course and the broader institutional setting. In addition, and as proposed by Charles (1990), the main reason why self-monitoring may be accompanied by other comments from the teacher is to signal sections/areas which may cause trouble to the text’s intended audience.


Charles, M. (1990). Responding to problems in written English using a student self-monitoring technique. ELT Journal, 44, 286–293.

Chen, X. (2009). “Self-monitoring” feedback in English writing teaching. Research in Theoretical Linguistics, 3(12), 109–117.

Cresswell, A. (2000). Self-monitoring in student writing: Developing learner responsibility. ELT Journal, 54, 235–244.

Ferris, D. (2003). Response to student writing: Implications for second language students. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Goldstein, L. (2010). Finding “theory” in the particular: An “autobiography” of what I learned and how about teacher feedback. In T. Silva & P. K. Matsuda (Eds.), Practicing theory in second language writing (p. 72-90). West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press.

Xiang, W. (2004). Encouraging self-monitoring in writing by Chinese students. ELT Journal, 58, 238–246.

María Elisa Romano is a teacher of English and holds an MA in English with a focus on applied linguistics. She works as a full professor of Lengua Inglesa II at Facultad de Lenguas, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba. She has participated in several research projects on foreign language writing, especially on revision and feedback.

Julia Inés Martínez is a teacher and translator of English, and holds an MA in English with a focus on Anglo-American literature. At present, she works as a full professor of Lengua Inglesa II at Facultad de Lenguas, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, in Argentina. She has participated in several research projects on EFL.


The United States is a preferred destination for higher education for international students. The Open Doors Report, an annual publication of Institute of International Education (2013) in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, states that there are 819,644 international students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities. This is a 10% increase from 2012–2013. This is also the seventh consecutive year Open Doors reports an expansion in the number of international students. In the mid-1950s, international student enrollment was 35,000, so international education in the United States has come a long way.

Although international education may have come a long way, many questions still need to be addressed. How satisfied are international students with the educational services they are getting? How ready are the teachers to teach large numbers of international students? Is international education enrolling many international students and having them study in the existing system designed for domestic students? Or should it create new educational policies that aim to serve the needs of the “newcomers” who have a different culture of learning?

Currently, there is an urgent need to create up-to-date educational policies that serve a plethora of needs stemming from differences in the educational backgrounds of students in freshman composition courses. Instructors need to get to know students’ culture of learning because, if students are not familiar with the methods and the approaches a teacher uses to deliver lessons, effective learning may not take place.

What is culture of learning? Culture of learning, also known as cultural transmission, is how a group of people learn and pass on information to each other. Learning styles are very much affected by the way socialization takes place in a culture. Cortazzi and Jin (1996) state that the term includes “socio-cultural aspects of key practices, expectations and interpretations of learning” (p. 5). Although each student is unique, students from the same country most probably share a similar culture of learning influenced by their educational background. This educational background is mostly built on the cultural and educational policies of the country of education.

This is an important concept for the classroom environment in terms of syllabus design, teaching, and assessment. If there is a mismatch between the culture of learning of a student and the teacher, there may be challenges both for the learner and the teacher. Cortazzi and Jin (1996) claim the importance of culture by stating “it might be a determining factor on what happens in language classrooms and what is judged to successful language learning” (p. 4). Therefore, culture is also a determining factor for second language writers when they are learning to write in new academic contexts and genres.

U.S. universities have certain academic expectations of international students, and international students have expectations of their new schools. Yet these expectations may not match. Thus, the scholarship on cultural studies related to culture of learning, an often overlooked and neglected concept, is gaining traction. There is a need to step out of our cultural bubbles and familiarize ourselves with the cultures of students. It is important to acknowledge that it is not an easy practice to learn about each and every student’s culture of learning in very diverse educational settings. It is a challenge, yet we should take a step toward educating ourselves in this issue.

Given the increase in the number of Chinese students now studying in U.S. colleges and universities (they constitute 26% of the international student population), an important first step for U.S. L2 compositionists is to educate ourselves about Chinese culture of learning. This study looks into how Chinese students studying in a research university in the United States perceive their own culture of learning and the culture of learning in the United States and how they feel about being in the new system.


International student enrollment at Purdue University has increased drastically since 2010–2011. Purdue University’s (2013) Fall 2012 International Student and Scholar Enrollment and Statistical Report says that the university now has 9,505 international students from 126 countries (para. 3). In 2011, a large number of international students enrolled in freshman composition courses. Chinese students ranked first in this enrollment, with 1,700 Chinese students enrolled.

In my freshman composition course of 15 students, 11 were Chinese. At this point, I regret to say I did not know much about the Chinese culture or educational system, so I was wondering how I could teach this group of students effectively. I was an English language teacher coming from a Turkish-American educational background, whereas my students were mostly Chinese students in a U.S. context. This put me in a complex, threefold cultural interaction.

First, I decided to take a step toward understanding students’ perceptions to see if they had an understanding of what was expected of them in their previous and current educational settings. By no means do I aim to place cultures into boxes or discriminate one over the other. All I wish to do is to gain an understanding of how students perceive their previous and present culture of learning so that I can be of more assistance to them. The U.S. educational system generally requires students to be assertive and participate in classes, yet Chinese students tend to be on the quiet side and prefer listening. What do students think about these issues?

The Project

I conducted semistructured interviews with 10 undergraduate freshman composition students on their perceptions on Chinese and U.S. cultures of learning. One student had come to the United States to attend high school and had stayed for her higher education. Because she had spent more time in the United States, she had been exposed to the U.S. education system and culture longer than the rest of the class. She had advanced-level English proficiency. The other 9 students had just come from China and were experiencing the U.S. education system for the first time. They had intermediate to advanced English proficiency.

The interview included open-ended questions for further elaboration. These questions, based on my in-class observations, asked students why they were often quiet in class, why they tended not to raise their hands and participate, how they were expected to behave and whether they were expected to participate in the Chinese classroom, how they were expected to behave in class and participate in the U.S. classroom, what the role of the teacher is in the Chinese classroom was, how they perceived the role of the teacher in the U.S. classroom, and in which system they feel more comfortable.

At the end of the interview, students were shown the findings of a study called Chinese students’ views about teachers of English in China (Jin & Cortazzi, 2006, p. 105) and they were asked whether they agreed with these views.


Chinese students views’ on Chinese culture of learning:

  • Teachers always speak and ask questions.
  • Teachers are the authority.
  • Teachers deliver a lot of information.
  • There is no chance for students to speak.
  • Students do not ask questions in classes because it is not their role and teachers have a lot to explain so students do not want to interrupt.
  • Students are afraid of talking, losing face, and making errors.

Chinese students views’ on U.S. culture of learning:

  • Teachers ask for students’ opinions.
  • Teachers do not care if the answer is right. She or he cares that you participate.
  • Communication is three way. Teacher talks to students, students talk to teacher, and students talk to each other.
  • Teachers guide you, not control you.
  • Students have self-autonomy.
  • Students get individual attention.
  • Not easy to adapt to this system, change gears at once; very challenging process.

Discussion and Conclusions

These findings indicate that students are very well aware of the differences between the education system that they are in and the one they come from. They are not responding to the U.S. education system and they are remaining silent in the classroom, not because they do not know the expectations of the U.S. education system or do not care. They are definitely not just “empty vessels” just sitting there. They are just saying, “We like the U.S. education system, yet it is taking us a lot of time to get used to it.” They claim they are enjoying the freedom and expression of speech they did not have back home.

When asked about how they felt in their current institution in the interviews, some students reported, “We feel comfortable in the U.S. education system, we like it yet it is taking us a lot of time to get used to it.” They claim they are enjoying the freedom and expression of speech they did not have back home.

As Ronaldo (1989) points out, “Thought and feeling are always culturally shaped and influenced by one’s biography, social situation, and historical context” (p. 131), so it is a challenging experience to exist in a new educational setting. Students are “individuals-in-context” who should not be expected to exist separately from their social worlds (Atkinson, 1999, p. 642).

Scholars and institutions need to respect this otherness arising from cultural differences. Therefore, it is important that scholars are aware of the cultures and cultures of learning of their student population so that the academic needs of these students can be met in the new environment they are in. Guiding international students will involve creating appropriate pedagogies “to prepare learners to be both global and local speakers of English and to feel at home in international and national cultures” (Kramsch & Sullivan, 1996, p. 211). The feeling of being at home will decrease students’ affective filter, as Krashen points out, making them better learners of another language.

When we have “explicit understanding of each other’s culture, this would mean mutual convergence of cultures of learning” (Schumann, 1978a). Such convergence will create a positive learning environment that combines “cultural synergy” (Jin, 1992). This may aid learners to have more motivation, confidence, and interest in learning in the new and unfamiliar education context they are in and may help them become better learners. To make this happen, I propose the following:

  • Writing instructors in the United States should be provided with staff development and intercultural training sessions to raise awareness on linguistic, sociolinguistic, rhetoric issues related to Chinese language. Such awareness may give instructors insights into what Chinese students are trying to communicate in their written or oral language, and make L1 interference easier to spot. In addition, if writing teachers keep in mind that these students (a) are navigating from an education system that values memory, imitation, and repetitive skill practice and (b) feel comfortable working from templates and using others’ written work by treating them as wise masterpieces, it would may clearer why these students would have challenges in the U.S. education system, which values spontaneity, originality, and individual creativity.
  • As learning habits cannot be changed overnight, when instructors design writing courses, they should integrate Chinese-learning-style-friendly teaching methods that take these students’ educational background into consideration and then slowly introduce U.S. educational policies, explaining the rationale behind the expectations of the new system.
  • It important to have open dialogues with students on how they are coping with their work and integrate the feedback to our teaching policies.

Courses should marry the cultural and educational values of both cultures. Last but not least, creating appropriate pedagogies will bring an end to Kubota’s (2001) argument that “underlying assumption in the discourse of cultural dichotomy is that U.S. culture is the norm” (p. 24).


Atkinson, D. (1999). TESOL and culture. TESOL Quarterly, 33, 625–654.

Cortazzi, M., & Jin, L. (1996). Cultures of learning: Language classrooms in China. In H. Coleman (Ed.), Society and the language classroom (pp. 169–206). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Institute of International Education. (2013). Open doors report on international educational exchange. Retrieved from

Jin, L., & Cortazzi, M. (2006). Changing practices in Chinese cultures of learning. Language, Culture and Curriculum 19(1), 5–20.

Kramsch, C., & Sullivan, P. (1996). Appropriate pedagogy. ELT Journal, 50(3), 199–212.

Kubota, R. (2001). Discursive construction of the images of U.S. classrooms. TESOL Quarterly 35, 9–38.

Purdue University. (2013). Fall 2012 international student and scholar enrollment and statistical report. Retrieved from

Ronaldo, R. (1989). Culture and truth: The remaking of social analysis. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Schumann, J. (1978). Social and psychological factors in second language acquisition.  In J. Richards (Ed.), Understanding second and foreign language learning: Issues and approaches. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Aylin Baris Atilgan is a PhD candidate at Purdue University, where she currently teaches composition courses to undergraduate international students. She has a master’s in linguistics with a concentration on TESL from Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago. Her research areas include needs assessments on international students in the U.S. higher educational setting, designing curricula for multicultural settings, Writing Lab–centered work, second language writing, foreign language education, diversity, and peace education.


In a recent issue of the Journal of Second Language Writing, several prominent scholars from the field of second language writing expressed a sentiment that has become, it seems, an emergent consensus in the field: We need to expand the boundaries of research in second language studies. For example, Diane Belcher (2013) suggests that L2 writing inquiry and pedagogy should embrace school-age writers and adult learners outside of traditional academic contexts, who may need to develop their literacy skills in vocational and community contexts. She also highlights the need to explore so-called EFL contexts. Nearly echoing her, Ryuko Kubota (2013) states: “A focus on multilingualism in writing in various contexts can be a major area of future inquiry” (p. 430). Kubota provides several examples of such contexts: out-of-school environments, cyberspaces, workplaces, and other everyday communicative environments. Furthermore, when addressing scholarly achievements in the field of second language writing, Tony Silva (2013) indicates that the research “has neglected work done in primary and secondary schools” as well as “work done in adult education and workplace programs” (p. 433). Finally, Paul Matsuda (2013) expresses the need to expand the scope of inquiry due to the transformations of our conceptions of second language writers.

Clearly, because of the “fluidity” of the field, more and more scholars offer suggestions for better serving various populations of L2 writers. At the same time, while agreeing on the necessity of exploring the contexts with diverse types of writers, the needs of those who have long been the center of the research agenda of SLW scholars—international student writers in higher education—are not yet fully accommodated. The appearance of scholarly articles in various academic journals that deal with the issues of international students in academic contexts is proof of that. In addition, conference presentations continue to address challenges that ESL writers face in college composition classrooms, and some presenters attempt to provide suggestions to classroom instructors and writing program administrators on how to alleviate these challenges.

When I briefly looked through the program of the upcoming TESOL Convention in Portland, I found the following presentation titles:

  • Professional Development of NNEST Writing Professionals in TESOL
  • Writing and Multilingual Student Success in Higher Education
  • Supporting L2 Development in First-Year Composition
  • Reading and Writing Expectations of Matriculated University Students
  • Promoting Academic Literacy and Intercultural Competence Through Service Learning
  • How Can We Support ELLs in Mainstream University Classes?
  • More Than Linguistic Accuracy: Feedback on Graduate Academic Writing
  • Balancing Writing and Research Instruction in Undergraduate Composition Courses
  • Graduate L2 Writers in the Disciplines: A Language-Supported Curriculum

As seen, the interest to the population of L2 writers in U.S. academic discourse remains fresh. As Dana Ferris (2013) puts it, “The problem is systemic” (p. 429). Unfortunately, some scholars often see educational contexts falling short of addressing L2 writers’ academic and social needs. However, as much as they may feel that universities are not prepared to adequately meet the needs of the population of international students, most institutions and writing programs are not oblivious to the ever-growing numbers of students from abroad, and many of these universities provide a variety of resources to help these students succeed in their academic endeavors.

The way I see it, the problem is not the lack of resources or auxiliary programs on campuses, but the lack of awareness, mostly on teachers’ part, of these resources and the lack of understanding of how to effectively incorporate these resources in writing curricula. Take Purdue University—the school where I currently teach composition courses—as a case in point. With more than 8,700 international students, the university makes a substantial effort in providing necessary support to these students. The academic, professional, and social resources on the Purdue campus are plentiful. But the extent to which composition teachers utilize these resources to make them part of classroom activities and writing projects is a different question. Of course, it would be easy to shift the blame onto students by making them responsible for using these resources, programs, and services on campus; however, I would not advise anyone to do so.

First of all, those of us coming from a different part of the world know that college life in a new cultural environment may be absolutely overwhelming and intimidating. The first year of the college experience may be particularly challenging for international students. As students quickly discover the differences between the education systems in their home countries and the United States, they oftentimes feel unprepared. Additional trials may also include language barriers, culture shock, intercultural conflicts, and immigration regulations, to name a few. While trying to cope with the adjustment to the U.S. academic discourse community, students—quite understandably—may not be aware of the various resources available for them on campus. That’s where teachers come into the picture. Indeed, who else if not teachers would show students how to make use of numerous academic and professional resources on campus to facilitate their socialization? It seems like a composition class provides an excellent venue for integrating these resources in writing projects and activities. And writing teachers are well positioned to help students become socialized into the academic community.

My experience in discussing these issues with teachers suggests that many university instructors are quite sympathetic to the presence and needs of L2 writers. However, sympathetic nods of admittance are not enough. The problem is that this awareness does not necessarily carry over to their pedagogy, and, as I mentioned above, teachers oftentimes resort to shifting the responsibility onto students. Dana Ferris says that teachers can’t blame themselves for students’ failure to achieve a certain level of writing development due to a limited timeframe of the course. However, I believe that it’s within teachers’ abilities to help students develop their self-regulated learning strategies, so that after those 10 or 12 or 16 weeks are over, students will be able to successfully function as autonomous leaners.


Belcher, D. (2013). The scope of L2 writing: Why we need a wider lens. Journal of Second Language Writing, 22, 438–439.

Ferris, D. (2013). What L2 writing means to me: Texts, writers, contexts. Journal of Second Language Writing, 22, 428–429.

Kubota, R. (2013). Dislimiting second language writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 22, 430–431.

Matsuda, P. K. (2013). Response: What is second language writing—and why does it matter? Journal of Second Language Writing, 22, 448–450.

Silva, T. (2013). Second language writing: Talking points. Journal of Second Language Writing, 22, 432–434.

Elena Shvidko is a PhD student in the Department of English at Purdue University. Her research interests include second language acquisition, second language writing, and writing program administration.


Written feedback plays an important role in second language writing. It encourages learners to focus on form, providing them with opportunities to notice the gap between their interlanguage and the target language form (Schmidt, 1990; Schmidt & Frota, 1986). As a second language writer, I believe that written feedback has great value. Especially when a native speaker gives me feedback, I am assured that my writing quality and accuracy will be much improved. During my graduate studies, I have received written feedback from teachers and writing tutors in terms of writing content, mechanics, grammatical aspects, and word choice. In these various experiences, I have observed that different people have different approaches to giving feedback. Some teachers prefer to give direct feedback and correct my inaccurate expressions, while some instructors like only to highlight mistakes, but later add comments for me to self-correct the mistakes. Among the feedback approaches I have experienced, I am very impressed by reformulation for its feedback strategy in the form of rewriting my original text.

Reformulation has received considerable attention in recent years (Lapkin, Swain, & Smith, 2002; Sachs & Polio, 2007; Thornbury, 1997). As defined by Ellis (2009), reformulation “consists of a native speaker’s reworking of the students’ entire text [including but going beyond sentence-level concerns] to make the language seem as native-like as possible while keeping the content of the original intact” (p. 98). Sachs and Polio (2007) compare the efficacy of direct error correction and reformulation on the linguistic accuracy of ESL students’ writing. They provide an example, illustrating both feedback approaches below, and assert that the key differences between the two are “a matter of presentation and task demands and [are] not related to the kinds of errors that were corrected” (p. 78).

(1) Original version: As he was jogging, his tammy was shaked.

(2) Reformulation: As he was jogging, his tummy was shaking.

                                                                                tummy          shaking
(3) Direct correction: As he was jogging, his tammy was shaked.

The results show that, after studying reformulated and marked texts and then revising original texts without access to the reformulated/corrected texts, students benefitted from both error correction approaches, but students receiving direct correction statistically outperformed those receiving reformulation feedback in terms of accurate revisions. Sachs and Polio (2007) indicate that reformulation is nevertheless a useful feedback approach because it not only assists learners with tackling surface-level linguistic errors, but also draws their attention to higher levels of errors, such as style and organization.

My Experience

I did not have much experience with this reformulation feedback until I worked on a conference proposal with a U.S. colleague who is experienced in academic writing and has many publications in various reputational education journals. Inspired by previous studies on reformulation, I was interested in taking a second look at my final version of the proposal, which had been reformulated by my colleague, and to compare and contrast the differences between my draft and the revised text.

Appendix 1 shows a six-paragraph excerpt from my results section, selected because this excerpt received the most revisions. The first section is my draft; the second section is the reformulated text. I examined the differences in the two columns. During the comparison of both texts, I identified the corrected parts and tried to understand the purpose of the correction. Then I tried to induce possible categories in which to include the feedback. Once a category emerged, I reread the corrections, confirming or disconfirming the category. Six categories emerged: grammar, word choice, sentence structure, elaboration of the results, better description, and unclear correction. These categories can be generalized into three types: linguistic issues (local level of writing), content issues (global level of writing), and clarification needed. The linguistic issues are grammar, word choice, and sentence structure. The content issues consist of elaboration of the results (i.e., to further explain the result) and better description (i.e., to present the results more clearly). The final type, clarification needed, encompasses revisions for which I did not understand my colleague’s rationale.

Forty-three changes are identified and displayed in Appendix 2. A summary of each revision category for these changes is listed in Table 1, including the number and percentage of corrections in each category (click on image to enlarge).

I assigned the corrections to the category that best fit, although some corrections could fit into more than one category. When more than one possible category for a correction existed, I discussed the correction with a doctoral student who had taught second language writing for several years, and came to a final conclusion. After searching for differences in two texts and placing them into different categories, I made efforts to understand the corrections. This experience confirmed Sachs and Polio’s (2007) position that reformulation helps learners focus on the revised text in terms of various writing levels, as discussed below.

The percentages of corrections in the six categories are not equal. At the local level, more corrections were concerned with word choice. My colleague replaced my general or inaccurate word selection with precise words. For example, I realized that development was not an appropriate word for describing discourse moves and that fluctuation was an accurate word to explain an up-and-down situation. With regard to the global level, there were more pieces of feedback on new and better expression. I learned that I could use words in various ways. For example, in my original text, I wrote: “Monica had a higher percentage of uniqueness codes than Drinna. Fifty-three percent of Monica’s posts and 49% of Drinna’s posts were coded as showing unique.” My colleague reformulated it this way: “Monica also had a slightly higher percentage of uniqueness codes than Drinna, with 53% of Monica’s total number of posts and 49% of Drinna’s total number of posts displaying distinctiveness” (emphasis added). My colleague skillfully combined the two sentences into one sentence and used with to elicit the two participants’ percentages of discourse moves. I was excited about reading these reformulated corrections. Previously, I did not realize that I could use with to express conjunction. This correction broadened my writing repertoire.

Furthermore, I was fascinated by the reformulated sentences with regard to better expression. For instance, my original sentence was “Drinna’s anti-uniqueness codes comprised of 18 percent of her all posts and 14% of Monica’s posts were anti-uniqueness codes.” In contrast, my colleague redrafted the sentence as “For Drinna, 18% of her postings were coded with anti-uniqueness codes whereas for Monica, 14% of her total postings received such codes” (emphasis added). The colleague adeptly contrasted the two participants and specifically made the difference of the participants’ coding results stand out more. After the colleague’s reformulation of the text, the results section in the proposal more vividly presented better clarity. Several of my native-English-speaking classmates read the reformulated text and recognized that it was well written. More surprisingly, there were no advanced, sophisticated words used in the revised text, but rather, my colleague used common words. I learned that the power of straightforward words can still communicate ideas in a direct and nuanced way as long as they are well organized. In addition, by close observation of the reformulated text, I noticed the correct words that I always misused and understood how to present the finding succinctly and clearly.

In contrast to the five categories of linguistic feature corrections, I had several questions about some reformulated phrases and sentences, which I categorized as “unclear correction.” The percentage of unclear correction was the second highest among all categories. I did not understand why or whether the corrected sentences were better than the original ones. I felt uncertain about some changes that my colleague made, like dividing my sentence into two sentences, deleting certain words, or using punctuation to present the same idea. For example, my original text was “Drinna showed moderately high need for uniqueness (3.29 out of 5) and strongly agreed that it is important to express distinctive ideas in class whereas Monica displayed low need for being unique (2.07 out of 5) and strongly disagreed the importance of having distinctive ideas in class to her” (emphasis added), but my colleague reformulated it as “Drinna showed moderately high need for uniqueness (3.29 out of 5) and strongly agreed that it is important to express distinctive ideas in class. Monica displayed low need for being unique (2.07 out of 5) and strongly disagreed that conveying distinctive ideas in class was important to her.” I did not know the reason that she deleted my whereas.

Also, word replacement aroused my curiosity. My colleague substituted appeared for seemed in the original sentence “She . . . seemed to be more deliberate about how she created her posts” (emphasis added). So far, a simple and quick (but maybe insufficient) answer to explain the “unclear correction” revision was different writing styles and instinctive language sense. I suddenly remembered that my native-English-speaking writing tutors occasionally said, “Well, I don’t know how to explain it to you, but it just sounds better and natural to me!” when I raised tricky questions with them. It is suggested that more meetings with writing experts is one of the solutions to further clarify my problems. Another possible way is to read more good writing pieces and keep mindful of their expressions for further reflection.


There are several advantages and disadvantages of using reformulation as a way to give feedback on second language learners’ writing. With regard to the positive side, reformulation allows learners to compare the difference between their own and the reformulated version and further to push themselves to reflect on why the reformulated version is better than their own. I was exposed to examples of better expression of meaning and correct usage of English in academic writing. Moreover, reformulation involves feedback on both the local and global levels of writing, giving learners comprehensive feedback (Sachs & Polio, 2007). For me, the comparison of the reformulated text and my original text is like a treasure hunt game. I have to “dig out” my writing errors and examine correct writing expressions. By reading the reformulated text, it challenges my previous writing belief and further stimulates me to find answers to this question: Why does it look better when it is written like this?

As for the negative side of reformulation, it is an implicit feedback approach. I have to spend more time searching for the correction. As Ellis (2009) suggests, reformulation may impose the burden on learners of identifying writing revisions that have been made. Language learners have to pay close attention and exert effort to note the difference. Without such attention and effort, the learners may not receive the potential benefits of reformulation. Furthermore, reformulation may be better suited for advanced learners who can analyze the comparison between their writing and the reformulated text, rather than for novice learners who may feel overwhelmed and have many questions about why their writing is reformulated in a particular way.

To overcome the weakness of the reformulation, writing instructors or more knowledgeable writers could hold writing conferences to clarify students’ questions about the corrections. Such conferencing can motivate and encourage learners to look back at the revisions and identify changes they do not understand, thus enabling them to receive more benefits from the reformulation approach and further improve their writing.


Ellis, R. (2009). A typology of written corrective feedback types. ELT Journal, 63(2), 97–107.

Lapkin, S., Swain, M., & Smith, M. (2002). Reformulation in the learning of French pronominal verbs in a Canadian French immersion context. Modern Language Journal, 86, 486–506.

Sachs, R., & Polio, C. (2007). Learners’ uses of two types of written feedback on a L2 writing revision task. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 29(1), 67–100.

Schmidt, R. (1990). The role of consciousness in second language learning. Applied Linguistics, 11(2), 129–158.

Schmidt, R., & Frota, S. (1986). Developing basic conversational ability in a second language: A case study of an adult learner of Portuguese. In R. R. Day (Ed.), Talking to learn: Conversation in second language acquisition (pp. 237–326). Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Thornbury, S. (1997). Reformulation and reconstruction: Tasks that promote “noticing.” ELT Journal, 51, 326–335.

Li-Tang Yu is a doctoral student in the Foreign Language Education Program at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests include new literacies, computer-assisted language learning, second language acquisition, and L2 literacy development. He taught EFL at the elementary school and university levels in Taiwan.






J. Elliott Casal

Joseph J. Lee

University students are asked to act within and master a diverse range of genres as student writers and researchers (Nesi & Gardner, 2012). Although the difficulty in performing such a task is considerable for first language (L1) writers, second language (L2) writers face similar yet also different rhetorical and linguistic demands and challenges. As more L2 students attend U.S. universities and colleges, the need to assist such students become successful increases. In order to receive assistance with various writing assignments, L2 students often turn to the writing center. Intended to help such learners develop writing abilities, writing tutors provide invaluable one-on-one tutoring that is personalized and responsive to students’ individual needs (Reynolds, 2009).

Many L2 students at our institution, however, find it difficult to attend physical centers due to personal, professional, or other obligations. Additionally, the number of off-campus students enrolled in online courses has increased in our context, and some L2 students attend regional campuses that may lack the resources for providing assistance to meet the rhetorical and linguistic needs of L2 writers. In response to these challenges, the English Language Improvement Program (ELIP) Writing Center at Ohio University developed an online tutoring program to afford opportunities for L2 student writers in our context, who are unable to attend our physical center, to also receive individualized writing assistance. In this article, we describe the development and implementation of our synchronous online writing center, and we discuss the benefits and challenges encountered in implementing such a virtual tutoring service.

ELIP Writing Center

Some background on the ELIP Writing Center is useful in understanding our context. Our center is part of ELIP in the Department of Linguistics. ELIP, an academic-literacies-for-specific-purposes program, provides advanced writing, oral communication, and critical reading instruction for matriculated international and domestic graduate and undergraduate students. Although the university provides a writing center at the library for all enrolled students, the ELIP Writing Center is separate and specializes in offering targeted aid specifically for L2 students. Our center’s primary mission is to support students enrolled in ELIP courses, although we also serve any Ohio University student in need of our assistance, even occasionally receiving writers whose L1 is English.

Our writing center opened in Fall 2011, and we have served on average 125–150 undergraduate and 30–40 graduate students each semester, though the number of students attending our center has been steadily increasing. Although our tutors are trained primarily to work with L2 students, they do on rare occasions also help L1 writers. Since our inception, our tutors have mainly assisted L2 writers in our physical center. However, with the challenges we encountered offering only face-to-face (f2f) tutoring, we were compelled to explore alternatives to continue serving L2 writers unable to attend in person. After a semester of needs analysis and technology trials in fall 2012, our solution was to develop and implement a synchronous online writing center that approximates f2f tutoring, which we have been offering to students writers at our institution since spring 2013.

The Technology: Combining Audio, Video, and Text in Real Time

To begin exploring technology options for the online tutoring service we sought, we examined those offered by other university-based writing centers (e.g., Purdue Writing Lab). Similar to Neaderhiser and Wolfe’s (2009) survey, we discovered that the most common online consultation model in use was asynchronous email-based tutoring. However common, Neaderhiser and Wolfe find tutoring interactions via email to be short-lived, as students often simply attach their essays and tutors make comments in isolation before returning feedback through email. This type of interaction more closely resembles question-and-answer sessions than dialogic conferencing. Asynchronous options may be valuable supplements to traditional writing center services, but the limited interaction due to temporal remoteness is a stifling disadvantage if they are to approximate f2f tutoring.

With this limitation in mind, we shifted our focus toward synchronous audio-video-textual conferencing (AVT) media that allows spatially remote negotiation in real time, bringing the dialogic and collaborative nature of f2f meetings into the digital domain (Yergeau, Wozniak, & Vandenberg, 2009). We identified several potential services (e.g., Skype, Adobe Connect, Google Hangouts); however, we discovered that most are severely limited in their treatment of documents. Though many permit users to view a document simultaneously, they grant editing privileges only to a single party; that is, only one participant is free to interact directly with the text. The interaction that these screen-sharing models offer is more akin to a through-the-glass bank teller transaction than social activity focused on a text.

With a clearer idea of the features we desired, we experimented with and ultimately chose Google Hangouts (a video-chat service developed by Google). Crucially, it encourages interactions that are simultaneous, dialogic, and collaborative. Users have access to documents stored in Google’s cloud-based storage system, Google Drive, which boasts simultaneous document editing for all users. As in f2f tutoring, the papers, voices, and individuals are at the center of Google Hangouts tutoring sessions, not the computer screen. An added benefit is that the software is entirely free, which permits users to create dummy accounts to avoid sharing personal information. These features aligned with our goals and are considered essential for effective synchronous AVT tutorials (Yergeau et al., 2009).

The Google Hangouts interface, as seen in Figure 1, is clean and clear, with the document occupying the majority of screen space. Tutor and tutee see the same interface, markings, and highlights, and these elements are instantly updated across users; even blinking cursor positions (within a text) are marked. However, users do not necessarily see the same sections of a document simultaneously. This means the tutor and tutee must communicate to ensure they are viewing the same passage of a text.

Figure 1. Example of tutoring session in Google Hangout (click to enlarge)

As also seen in Figure 1, comments can be inserted, similar to other word-processing software with which many users are familiar. These comments are often used to facilitate communication because some L2 speakers prefer to see questions, new words, or suggestions in writing. Additionally, most menus and bars can be expanded or reduced according to preference, and participants’ faces move in real time.

The Online Tutoring Session

In AVT tutoring sessions, the interaction proceeds similarly to our f2f tutorials. Ideally, writers submit documents in advance, which allow tutors to prepare before meetings. For longer papers (e.g., dissertations), writers are asked to submit the documents in advance and to designate the sections they wish to work on. Due to scheduling pressures, however, most student writers do not send documents in advance. This being the case, sessions often begin with writers explaining their work and session goals, and tutors reading necessary sections. Once prepared, our tutors encourage the writers to direct the sessions according to their difficulties, concerns, and needs. In meetings involving shorter texts or L2 writers who may be unaware of their needs, tutors identify issues that require attention and begin a series of questions. Regardless, real-time feedback is provided through a combination of oral dialogues, Internet resources, and examples or explanations inserted as comments or entered directly in the text.

As participants interact, sections are often highlighted or colored to direct attention and facilitate understanding in the absence of fingers and pencil strokes. As shown in Figure 1, both parties use highlighting and comment features while discussing the writer’s intentions and understanding. These markings may be removed by either user when no longer necessary.

Because the Internet is available, tutors may recommend online resources for further practice, including online citation style guides (e.g., the one offered by Purdue OWL) or corpus tools (e.g., Contemporary Corpus of American English). In this way, writers may be provided with embedded links to tools that can aid them beyond the scope of their current paper and session. These are mostly used when writers have needs which cannot be addressed in the allotted time but seem capable of revising individually, if given support, at a later time. In Figure 2, for example, an APA reference site has been recommended that shows how to appropriately cite sources in a text.

Figure 2. Example of tutor directing L2 writer to online resource (click to enlarge)

When the writer is ready to revise the document, the tutor can follow the reformulations and restructuring and offer live feedback. As Google saves documents automatically and stores version and comment history, it is not necessary to reapply changes in isolation at a later date; the writer can revert to previous versions or revisit past comments at any time. Although the tool set may be distinct from f2f sessions, our online tutoring sessions offer personalized feedback and text-centric dialogue based on similar principles.

Leveling the Playing Field

One of the most exciting features of AVT tutorial, and the primary drive for our extension into digital space, is the ability to provide all students with equal access to our tutoring services. As online courses become more prevalent in many educational contexts, including our own, a greater number of students are not physically on main campuses where such tutoring services are offered. Through our online writing center, we have been able to aid numerous students unable to attend f2f sessions during our regular hours for personal, logistical, or professional reasons. One PhD student in interdisciplinary arts, for example, often prefers to work on her dissertation from home, calling in during scheduled times for feedback and discussion. Another student, who is unable to leave his children unattended, conducts evening sessions online while they are asleep. When necessary, though infrequent, some students have been aided online outside of normal operating hours. Such assistance would be impossible without the online writing center we have established, which permits students access to tutors remotely without compromising the f2f experience. In this way, offering AVT tutorial furthers our mission as educators to provide students with equitable access to educational services, thus somewhat leveling the playing field.

Benefits and Challenges of Online Tutoring

As praise of technology is often idealized, it is important to consider the experiences of those actually involved in online tutoring. In our case, we conducted interviews with two L2 student writers and two tutors who were most actively involved in the online sessions. Because our online tutoring closely approximates f2f meetings, the interviews mostly focused on comparisons between the two approaches, and each individual was interviewed once for about 30 minutes. During the interviews, the student writers and tutors were asked to comment on their expectations prior to beginning online tutoring sessions and the convenience, comfort level, specific difficulties and challenges, and benefits of AVT sessions. Given the small size of our interview pool, it is important to note that these perceptions should not be taken as conclusive.

Beyond accessibility, most themes emerging from our interviews suggest benefits of synchronous online tutoring not present in traditional f2f sessions, though only one of the tutees expressed a clear preference for this medium. Both student writers reported that they felt more comfortable during online interactions than f2f sessions. One student indicated that “communicating from home” was more relaxed and familiar, and therefore preferable to sessions at our physical center. Although the other student agreed that the session itself was comfortable, he also emphasized that travel and wait time was drastically reduced.

Moreover, all interviewees highlighted the productivity of online sessions. According to both writers interviewed, many peripheral distractions occur in an f2f setting, such as people entering the room or other interactions taking place. In online sessions, however, fewer distractions “definitely” exist, as one writer reported. The other student writer explained that online sessions are “even more productive” than f2f meetings for this reason. It seems that participants in AVT tutorials are less likely to stray from the document and more likely to stay focused. For this reason, such tutorials may present productivity benefits as well.

Online tutorial, however, at least through Google Hangouts, presents a few challenges. Formatting and Internet reliability are the most significant and recurring. Although documents composed in Google’s word processor (Google Docs) may be seamlessly edited and uploaded, documents stored in other formats (e.g., MS Word) cannot be edited in the software and must be converted to Google Docs. This is not a major difficulty, but it is an additional “hassle,” according to the tutors. Even though this becomes easier with time, such difficulties do not occur with printed papers. Furthermore, a high-bandwidth Internet connection is required for video streaming. This requirement may not pose an obstacle on many university campuses. However, because online tutoring is aimed at off-campus students, the reliability and performance of Internet connection is a real and relevant concern. Additional technical concerns, such as hardware and software maintenance, may place uncertainties on administrators, tutors, and writers as well.

In terms of interaction, online communication may reduce the nonverbal presence of a speaker and change the focus of a session. Nonverbal cues, which facilitate communication with lower proficiency writers, are more difficult to recognize. While most tutorials occur through live video interactions, video is relegated to a tiny box in favor of a larger document viewing area. In turn, micro-facial expressions and subtle body language may become difficult to interpret. Although one writer described the interaction as “fluid,” the other writer noted the lack of “spontaneity,” referring to unpredictable aspects of interaction such as humor. This could potentially place a greater distance between participants. Although these difficulties may be overcome, they require special awareness and consideration from tutors.

Though not covered in interviews, it is important to note that some writers expressed preferences in online sessions that cannot be easily addressed in f2f sessions. One student, who feels uncomfortable in person and on screen, chooses to conduct the online sessions without video. The presence of real-time audio, even without video, allows for dialogic interaction and collaboration while maintaining low anxiety. Another student, concerned with a lack of oral English proficiency, elected to listen to real-time audio and respond only through text and highlighting.


As online courses become more prevalent and more learners study remotely, the question of how writing centers can equitably offer services to L2 students may become more pressing. To offer these students tutoring experiences that approximate f2f sessions that their peers have access to, we have established an online tutoring program using Google Hangouts, an AVT tool that encourages real-time interaction, dialogue, and collaboration. Although we have offered this form of tutoring for only a little over a year, we have found the interactive and collaborative experience participants encounter in this digital space potentially as effective as the one experienced in our physical center. Perhaps no existing virtual media can truly overcome spatial remoteness, but the synchronous online tutorial we offer seems promising because it approximates f2f tutoring and provides equitable access to those L2 students needing writing assistance from a distance.


Neaderhiser, S., & Wolfe, J. (2009). Between technological endorsement and resistance: The state of online writing centers. Writing Center Journal, 29(1), 49–77.

Nesi, H., & Gardner, S. (2012). Genres across the disciplines: Student writing in higher education. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Reynolds, D. (2009). One on one with second language writers: A guide for writing tutors, teachers, and consultants. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Yergeau, M., Wozniak, K., & Vandenberg, P. (2009). Expanding the space of f2f: Writing centers and audio-visual-textual conferencing. Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, 13(1). Retrieved from

J. Elliott Casal is currently a graduate student in the Department of Linguistics at Ohio University and the assistant coordinator of the English Language Improvement Program Writing Center. His research interests include English for specific/academic purposes, second language writing, and computer-assisted language learning.

Joseph J. Lee is the assistant director of the English Language Improvement Program (ELIP) in the Department of Linguistics at Ohio University and the coordinator of the ELIP Writing Center. His research and teaching interests are English for specific/academic purposes, genre studies, classroom discourse studies, advanced academic literacy, and teacher education.


Jennifer Haigh

Robert Barrett

Traditionally in the United States, writing centers tend to work with native English speakers, in part because native English speakers make up a larger proportion of the postsecondary education population. However, as many recent books and articles explain, the number of multilingual students enrolling in postsecondary education in the United States is rapidly increasing (Ferris, 2009; Kim & Diaz, 2013; Menken, Kleyn, & Chae, 2012). As more people have immigrated to the United States, those of us in writing center work have seen a change in the population of students that we work with. Although these students share a commonality of being multilingual, their backgrounds are incredibly diverse. Some are international students, whereas others are U.S. residents, though they range in how long they have lived in the United States. Ferris (2009) demonstrates that the prior education and academic experiences of students can vary dramatically between multilingual students. As Doolan and Miller (2012) state, many of these incoming students are below grade average in their academic abilities. Menken et al (2012) further explain that the lack of preparation often relates to public schools in the United States being ill equipped to properly support the distinct needs of multilingual students.

Unfortunately, not every university is equipped to aid these diverse groups of students—either Generation 1.5 students or international students—in making the most of their education. In other words, some schools recruiting and accepting multilingual students do not always have services in place to help them be successful. Many students have turned to writing centers in order to find the additional help they need.

However, with these linguistically diverse groups of tutees, a tutor’s tool kit needs to be diversified as well. Much common writing center pedagogy, which we have relied on in training tutors over the years, may not be appropriate for all tutees (Harris, 1997; Thonus, 2003). For example, it is common writing center practice to assume that students should be able to identify their own mistakes while listening to their writing read aloud, whether by themselves or their tutor; this practice would not necessarily be appropriate with a multilingual student. With this increased reliance of nontraditional tutees on writing centers comes an increased responsibility for writing center directors: a responsibility to train tutors in various pedagogical approaches. Yet this responsibility is complicated by larger university policies such as budget cuts, which limit the amount of paid training days/seminars and registration unit caps and also limit the ability of students to take tutor training courses. These complications are exemplified by the recent history of our writing center at Sonoma State University (SSU).

To provide some necessary background, the SSU Writing Center houses two programs: the Writing Center, which functions as most writing centers do and serves all students at the university, and the Multilingual Learners Program (MLL). The MLL Program is funded by a federal TRiO grant and, therefore, has to follow federal guidelines on who can be served. To qualify, students must be permanent residents or U.S. citizens and meet at least one of the following three requirements: be the first student in their family to attend college, meet family income requirements (below the federal poverty level), or have a disability. In addition, students who enter the MLL Program must also have learned a language other than English at or before the same time that they learned English. In other words, the majority of students that we serve in the MLL Program are Generation 1.5 students: those “who immigrate as children and have life experiences that span two or more countries, cultures, and languages” (Roberge, 2009, p. 4). The MLL Program provides a variety of services for students, though the main focus is on academic support, primarily math and writing tutoring.

When students come to the Writing Center at SSU, they are asked a short series of questions by our front desk staff, who also work as tutors in the writing center: Have they been to the Writing Center before? Do they speak a language other than English? Did they learn that language at the same time as or before they learned English? Their answers to those questions determine whether the students are scheduled with a Writing Center tutor or an MLL tutor. All tutors are trained to work with any student who comes in, regardless of their language background, but MLL tutors are given additional training on working with students with a multilingual background, typically by reading additional articles, looking at a wide variety of sample student essays, and attending more tutor training meetings that focus on effective strategies for tutoring multilingual students. In addition, MLL tutors typically have previous experience working with multilingual students, often having taught ESL/EFL before entering SSU as students. Conversely, although the MLL tutors may have more experience working with multilingual students from their teaching experience, oftentimes they have limited writing tutoring experience and, thus, may need more training in writing center pedagogy.

In the 3 years that the MLL Program has been at SSU, we have been working out numerous growing pains. The MLL Program has limited capacity on the number of students that we can serve, limited by the budget set by the federal government each year. This year we are capped at 133 students who can receive tutoring services. Considering that the SSU Writing Center serves roughly 1,500 students each semester, 133 is a very small fraction. Because of these federal requirements for the MLL Program, clearly the general Writing Center student tutors also need to be trained in working with multilingual students, though many of the tutors initially assume that the students they work with will be linguistically homogenous.

To resolve some of our issues with effectively training tutors and providing services to all students, we have examined various methods of cross-training our tutors. We believe that our methods have the potential to be adapted to the needs of different programs. A time- and cost-effective way of initiating increased training for tutors is to employ techniques of cross-training. By cross-training, we simply mean tutors training tutors. Ideally, these tutors would represent varying disciplines and pedagogical backgrounds, and cross-training among them would enable every tutor to more effectively work with a diverse group of students. Following are some techniques that we have either effectively used in the past or begun to put in place at the SSU Writing Center.

Lead Tutors

The lead tutor program has been in place at Sonoma State since 2005. The lead tutors are hired to serve as mentors to new tutors. Each lead is hired because of previous experience in the Writing Center as well as his or her ability to respond and relate well to the new tutors. Most frequently, these are graduate students at SSU. They work an additional 5 hours a week with a small, select group of tutors. They check in with the tutors a few times a month, observe tutoring sessions a few times a semester, and provide guidance and support for their small group. The lead tutor program allows our experienced tutors to share their knowledge and expertise with new tutors, but the lead tutors also express that they frequently learn from the new tutors. The tutors report that they greatly enjoy their experiences with their lead tutors, because having a lead tutor gives them an avenue to discuss problems they are having or successes that they are having without needing to speak up in front of all the tutors. The lead tutor program also creates a sense of camaraderie among the tutors and helps to develop lasting tutor relationships.

Peer-Tutor Group Meetings

Sometimes it is easier for new tutors to open up about problems and challenges with a group of their peers. Previously, we used this tactic only with our MLL tutors, but this year we plan to implement it for all tutors. The MLL tutors reported that they liked having the option to meet with a small group of their fellow tutors to bounce ideas off of each other rather than needing to speak to an “authority figure.” To initiate this practice with the Writing Center, tutors will be assigned to a small cohort of peers, which they will meet with on a semiregular basis. The purpose of these meetings is to share their experiences with each other and give them opportunities to hear what other tutors do in their tutoring sessions away from any administration of supervisors. Through sharing personal triumphs, tutors in the cohort will be able to learn best practices and approaches from each other. Conversely, tutors can share challenges they have faced and possibly offer each other advice. If the cohort of tutors find a problem or challenge which they all share, they can then approach a supervisor or administrator, who can then either address the issue to the group, in a staff-wide meeting, or direct the group to some reading materials which may assist them.

Writing Center Meetings/Training Sessions

The SSU Writing Center holds weekly staff meetings that also serve as a way to train tutors on specific topics such as tutoring for the university graduate writing proficiency exam, working with developmental writing students, and working with ESL students. In the past, the MLL writing specialist, one of the full-time staff working for the MLL Program, has facilitated a few staff meetings focused on strategies for working with ESL students. Some of the MLL tutors have also facilitated meetings and offered specific strategies that have worked for them. For example, one MLL tutor led a staff meeting that taught tutors specific strategies for working with the international student population on verb tense issues. Our tutors, both MLL and Writing Center, have reported learning a great deal from these meetings that often help them feel more comfortable working with multilingual students. In some cases, the students report that the strategies or tutoring practices that were covered simply reinforced strategies that they were already using.

Cooperation With the University’s TESOL Program

Having a cooperative agreement with the university’s TESOL program can allow writing centers and writing tutoring programs to recruit potential tutors that are knowledgeable about working with ESL students. In addition, professors or students in the TESOL program could potentially lead workshops or staff meetings if there is no ESL writing specialist at the university. Partnering with the TESOL program also offers the chance for students in the TESOL program to gain experience working with ESL students and allows shared knowledge to be spread. Although this is still a newer initiative for us, the MLL Program has recruited several tutors from the MA TESOL program on the SSU campus. The MLL writing specialist is able to present workshops, but we are hoping to strengthen our relationship with the TESOL program in order to recruit tutors for both the MLL Program and the Writing Center.

We feel that the previous cross-training strategies have worked well or are worth trying for writing centers with similar constraints on training tutors. Most writing centers have a number of excellent tutors that can offer their fellow tutors new knowledge that may help a writing center learn to work with a variety of populations and help tutors learn discipline-specific skills.


Doolan, S., & Miller, D. (2012). Generation 1.5 written error patterns: A comparative study. Journal of Second Language Writing, 21, 1–22. doi:10.016/j.jslw.2011.09.001

Ferris, D. R. (2009). Teaching college writing to diverse student populations. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Harris, M. (1997). Cultural conflicts in the writing center: Expectations and assumptions of ESL students. In C. Severino, J. C. Guerra, & J. E. Butler (Eds.), Writing in multicultural settings (pp. 220–233). New York, NY: Modern Language Association.

Kim, E., & Diaz, J. (2013). Immigrant students and higher education: ASHE higher education report 38.6. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Menken, K., Kleyn, T., & Chae, N. (2012). Spotlight on “long term English language learners”: Characteristics and prior schooling experiences of an invisible population. International Multilingual Research Journal, 6, 121–142. doi:10.1080/19313152.2012.665822

Roberge, M. R. (2009). A teacher’s perspective on generation 1.5. In M. Roberge, M. Siegal, & L. Harklau (Eds.), Generation 1.5 in college composition: Teaching academic writing to U.S-educated learners of ESL (pp. 3–24).New York, NY: Routledge.

Thonus, T. (2003). Serving generation 1.5 learners in the university writing center. TESOL Journal, 12(1), 17–24. doi:10.1002/j.1949-3533.2003.tb00115.x

Jennifer Haigh is the writing specialist for the Multilingual Learner Program at Sonoma State University. She earned her MA in English from Humboldt State University in 2012.

Robert Barrett is a writing tutor with Sonoma State University’s Multilingual Learners Program and a lead tutor at Sonoma State University’s Writing Center. After 8 years of teaching English as a foreign language, he came back to school with the goal of becoming an English composition and world literature professor.

Brief Reports


Assessing writing for placement into college composition courses has traditionally been limited to one or more of a handful of methods: multiple-choice exams (indirect assessment), timed-essay tests, portfolio assessment (direct measures), and directed self-placement (DSP).1 In the past, standardized tests such as the ACT, SAT, and TOEFL included only multiple-choice questions, but now the SAT and TOEFL include a timed-essay test as well. Indirect assessment measures correlate poorly with writing ability, whereas direct measures increase these correlations, with assessments of multiple samples of student writing providing a better measure than a single sample, though the training and expertise of the raters can affect outcomes, too.

Huot’s (1994) nationwide survey of writing placement practices of 1,037 public and private institutions indicates that a writing sample is the most widely used placement method (51%), followed by standardized test scores (42%), and a combination of a writing sample and standardized test scores (23%). Crusan (2002) reviewed ESL writing placement practices at 10 large public universities, with a particular focus on ESL writers, and found that 3 (Penn State, Purdue, and Wisconsin) used only indirect measures, 2 (Northwestern and Ohio State) used only direct measures, and the rest (Michigan State and the Universities of Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota) used a combination of direct and indirect measures (pp. 24–25).

The CCCC Position Statement on Writing Assessment (2009) notes the following:

Decision-makers should carefully weigh the educational costs and benefits of timed tests, portfolios, directed self-placement, etc. In the minds of those assessed, each of these methods implicitly establishes its value over that of others, so the first impact is likely to be on what students come to believe about writing.” (p. 4)

While “educational costs” refers to more than financial costs, it is worth noting that multiple choice exams, timed essay tests, and portfolio assessment each cost successively more, according to White (1995) and Peckham (2009), who both estimated the expense ratio of essay to portfolio scoring is about 1 to 5. (Peckham estimated the cost of scoring a single essay sample at $5 while a writing portfolio costs $25).

Other educational costs noted in the CCCC Position Statement on Writing Assessment relate to using indirect measures include the loss of professional development opportunities for the teachers who score student writing samples; the distorted message to students about writing and literacy that indirect measures suggest by their traditional emphasis on form over content; and, in the case of machine scoring of essays used by many testing companies today, a reduction in reader-writer interactions.

The Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC; 2009) Committee on Second Language Writing, in its Statement on Second-Language Writing and Writers states:

Decisions regarding the placement of second language writers into first-year writing courses should be based on students’ writing proficiency rather than their race, native-language background, nationality, or immigration status. Nor should the decisions be based solely on the scores from standardized tests of general language proficiency or of spoken language proficiency. Instead, scores from the direct assessment of students’ writing proficiency should be used, and multiple writing samples should be consulted whenever possible. Writing programs should work toward making a wide variety of placement options available—including mainstreaming, basic writing, and second language writing as well as courses that systematically integrate native and nonnative speakers of English, such as cross-cultural composition courses. (p. 3)

Both CCCC Statements on Writing Assessment (2006) and Second-Language Writing and Writers (2009) recommend DSP because, in the assessment group’s opinion, “reflection by the writer on his or her own writing processes and performances holds particular promise as a way of generating knowledge about writing and increasing the ability to write successfully” (p. 2), and in the ESL group’s view, “writing programs should inform students of the advantages and disadvantages of each placement option so that students can make informed decisions, and should make this opportunity available to both international and residential second language students” (p. 3).

Nevertheless, some reservations about DSP are evident in the professional literature. Crusan (2006) describes the arguments for and against DSP that were voiced on her campus. Some questioned whether the cost of tuition might influence students (and their parents) to make unrealistic appraisals of their writing ability. Others argue that because the training international students receive in writing may differ from that which U.S. students receive, the students and their U.S. university teachers might have different understandings of the strategies and qualities that writing well entails. Crusan also cites Zamel (1995) in noting that, in general, international students tend to have a higher regard for authority and their teachers, and thus may not feel it is culturally appropriate to question placement decisions. Indeed, in a 1995 survey of ESL students’ satisfaction with their placement in writing courses, Crusan found that 2% felt they had been placed into course below their ability, but none challenged the placement decision (pp. 212–213). For these reasons, critics of DSP have argued that it may lead all students, but especially international students, to bypass the courses most needed for their academic success (Crusan, 2006, p. 211).

Gere, Aull, Green, and Porter (2010) analyzed a decade of data since DSP was introduced at the University of Michigan in 1999, focusing on different conceptions of test validity to determine if DSP was leading to a better match between students’ writing ability and the writing courses in which they enrolled. They note the inherent difficulty of aligning survey questions and demographic data on the student with course content: “The limited correlation of standardized test scores and GPAs with DSP questions, along with the relatively complex profiles of students with regards to these measures, suggests the need for more nuanced ways of describing student achievement” (p. 171). Additionally, a majority of students who participated in surveys and interviews about their experiences with DSP and first-year composition indicated that they followed the advice of their advisors in deciding which courses to enroll in more than the advice received from DSP. Nevertheless, for those students who enrolled in the lower level writing course as recommended by DSP, more than 71% felt they had made the right choice because the course increased their confidence in producing college-level writing successfully (Gere et al., 2010, p. 169).

Both Wright State University, where Crusan works, and the University of Michigan, where Gere works, eventually shifted toward an online directed self-placement system (ODSP). One advantage to ODSP is the global access students have to the system as well as the advanced notice students and administrators have of placement decisions. Peckham (2009) notes that the savings associated with “not having to adjust class sizes up and down during the first two weeks of classes” in addition to “having the students settled in a class by the time they arrived” on campus were significant (p. 522).

The University of Michigan (Gere et al., 2010) and Louisiana State University (LSU; Peckham, 2009) both use variants of ODSP that ask students to write essays in response to assigned reading(s). As in traditional DSP, students select their writing class based on the course information provided. At the University of Michigan, student essays are submitted online and reviewed by their instructors prior to the beginning of classes to identify strengths and weaknesses. At LSU, students are initially placed by standardized test scores. Then they receive course information and are given the option of challenging the writing placement online by logging into a secure system, reading the essay prompt and several assigned texts, and submitting their written response within a set period of time. The more motivated students, those with self-agency that isn’t captured in a standardized test score, pursue this option. Roughly 10% of the students at LSU challenge their initial placement, and of these, about half are moved up or down in the course sequence after their writing sample is scored by writing instructors in the program (Peckham, 2009).

This review of the professional literature to date on assessing writing for placement into college composition indicates that there is no one “best method” for placing students into first-year writing courses, for each method or even combination of methods has its own advantages and disadvantages for the university, the writing program, and the students they serve.


1. Unlike other assessment procedures, directed self-placement does not ask students to produce writing or answer grammaticality and usage questions. Rather, students are presented with detailed information about available courses, guided in an evaluation of their own background and abilities, and allowed to enroll in the course they feel best meets their needs.


Conference on College Composition and Communication. (2006). Writing assessment: A position statement (rev. ed.). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English. Retrieved from

Conference on College Composition and Communication. (2009). Statement on second-language writing and writers (rev. ed.). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English. Retrieved from

Crusan, D. (2002). An assessment of ESL writing placement assessment. Assessing Writing, 8, 17–30.

Crusan, D. (2006). The politics of implementing online directed self-placement for second language writers. In P. K. Matsuda, C. Ortmeier-Hooper, & X. You (Eds.), The politics of second language writing: In search of the promised land (pp. 205–217). West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press.

Gere, A. R., Aull, L., Green, T., & Porter, A. (2010). Assessing the validity of directed self-placement at a large university.Assessing Writing, 15, 154–176. doi:10.1016/j.asw.2010.08.003

Huot, B. (1994). A survey of college and university writing placement practices. Writing Program Administration, 17(3), 49–65.

Peckham, I. (2009). Online placement in first-year writing. College Composition and Communication, 6(3), 517–540.

White, E. M. (1995). An apologia for the timed impromptu essay test. College Composition and Communication, 46(1), 30–45.

Zamel, V. (1995). Strangers in academia: The experiences of faculty and ESL students across the curriculum. Reprinted in V. Zamel & R. Spack (Eds.), Negotiating academic literacies: Teaching and learning across languages and cultures (pp. 249-264). Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Adrian Wurr is assistant dean of academic English programs for international students at the University of Tulsa, where he teaches courses in applied linguistics and composition.


This past October, the Symposium on Second Language Writing was held at Shandong University, in Jinan, China. The symposium is an annual international conference dedicated to the development of the field of second language writing. The theme of this year’s symposium, “L2 Writing in the Global Context: Represented, Underrepresented, and Unrepresented Voices,” was fully and successfully realized.

Plenary speakers were invited from different parts of the world to talk about the state of second language writing studies in their own country or region. The plenary speakers that spoke on the represented contexts were Tony Silva (the United States), John Bitchener (New Zealand), Alister Cumming (Canada), and Neomy Storch (Australia). The underrepresented voices were spoken for by Junju Wang (China), Yeon Hee Chol (South Korea), Icy Lee (Hong Kong), Yichun Liu (Taiwan), Melinda Reichelt (Germany), and Miyuki Sasaki (Japan). The unrepresented were given voice by Fatima Esseili (Lebanon), Diane Pecorari (Sweden), Lukasz Salski (Poland), and Tetyana Yakhontova (Ukraine).

  Symposium Presenters and Attendees (click to enlarge)

In addition to the wide coverage of countries and regions, the symposium received more than 240 submissions from all over the world. In the end, the symposium had over 100 concurrent sessions with presenters from more than 20 countries and regions, including Australia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Macau, Madagascar, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Oman, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, and United Arab Emirates. This wide range of presenters brought valuable insights on various topics related to second language writing from all over the world.

Topics discussed at this year’s symposium ranged from computer-mediated communication to writer variables, from curriculum development to writing centers, and from text analysis to corrective feedback. The represented, underrepresented, and unrepresented voices were all fully represented at the symposium. All attendees of the symposium were able to explore, communicate, and share in a professional, scholarly, and friendly environment.

Tea Ceremony Performance

Beyond mere academic communication, this year’s symposium also featured various activities for the attendees to socialize, to renew acquaintances, and to meet new friends. These activities included Chinese tea art performance and other traditional Chinese arts, such as calligraphy, painting, dancing, and traditional Chinese musical performance.

                      Plenary Speakers Learn Traditional Mongolian Dance

Attendees were also able to participate in sightseeing to Mount Tai or Qu Fu, both of which are strong representations of traditional Chinese culture and architecture. Mount Tai, a place of worship for at least 3,000 years, has historical and cultural significance, and Qu Fu is the hometown of Confucius.

Overall, the 2013 Symposium on Second Language Writing was a great success, with many important academic conversations taking place. These conversations have helped to expand the knowledge of the field of second language writing and to set up the 2014 Symposium on Second Language Writing for success. The 2014 symposium will be held at Arizona State University, in the United States, November 13–15, with the theme of “Professionalizing Second Language Writing.” For more information and updates, please visit

Cong Zhang is a PhD student in the English Department at Purdue University, where she teaches first-year composition for international students. Her research interests include second language writing, teaching English as a second/foreign language, and World Englishes.

Joshua M. Paiz is a PhD student in the English Department at Purdue University. He currently teaches in the composition program and is the content coordinator for the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL). His research interests include professional identity and queer issues in TESOL and OWLs for L2 writing support.

Book Reviews


Bohlke, D. (Ed.). (2013). Next generation grammar (Vols. 1–4). White Plains, NY: Pearson.

Next Generation Grammar (NGG) is Pearson’s newest four-level, blended-learning grammar series. All four levels are available in both print and e-book versions, and the series includes an online component called MyEnglishLab, which offers a variety of additional practice for students. The series also includes ActiveTeach, a component that provides additional pedagogical tools for the teacher.

Each book is composed of 10 units, and each unit is composed of two chapters that include an end-of-unit assessment. Each themed chapter includes schema-activating introductory material; a short reading; summary information; controlled exercises for two to three grammar topics; and speaking, listening, and writing practice based on the grammar topics.

The series promises to meet the needs of today’s students, one of which is offering students the valuable face-to-face interaction of the classroom along with additional practice via technology. It also offers real-life topics that should help to engage students’ interest (e.g., Networks of Friends, Global Links, Your Travel Personality). The series meets needs that students may easily identify, but it meets needs that teachers would identify as well. The grammar points in each chapter and each series are cycled; therefore, forms are repeated and presented in increasing complexity. For example, Book 1 offers simple present tense statements with be, and Book3 presents contrastive tense use.

The series also promises a task-centered approach that includes both writing and speaking skills. The tasks of learning grammar include exposure to and practice with the grammatical form itself. To that end, the series includes controlled practice exercises to reinforce the basic forms presented (e.g., exercises that ask students to fill in the blank, finish the sentence, and circle the correct word). These types of exercises are found in the student book and the e-book as well as in the online component of the course. Additionally, the task orientation aligns with the free practice that is provided in the text and online materials: discussing questions; building stories around pictures; and writing to summarize, make choices, and offer advice. At the end of each unit is a project for students to work on, such as a presentation, debate, or travel brochure.

The series also promises to integrate technology into the coursework, which is included in the MyEnglishLab and ActiveTeach components of the series. MyEnglishLab is not unique to NGG; it has been around since 2009 and other textbooks, such as Northstar, also include this resource. The textbook clearly states which activities in MyEnglishLab will help student continue to practice with the particular grammar topic. To access the online component, students “scratch off” the access code inside the front cover. Once logged in, they can practice vocabulary from the readings, listen to and answer questions about the reading, and fill in blanks with correct forms. Students receive immediate feedback on exercises, and all results are recorded in a gradebook.

On the teaching side, students’ work that is completed in MyEnglishLab is recorded; teachers are provided with a summary of students’ completion of and success with practice and assessments. Common Error Reports offer quick reference to the grammar points that most students are struggling with. Teachers can also tailor the online component to meet their needs. For instance, activities or even full chapters can be hidden from students, and teachers can add their own activities for students to complete. An additional feature offered by the series is ActiveTeach, which includes interactive whiteboard software and notes with teaching suggestions.

Next Generation Grammar could be a good choice for intensive English programs or programs that offer grammar courses. With its useful, multimodal grammar practice, which ranges from beginning to advanced levels, the series sets a high standard for other grammar series to achieve.

Nancy Pederson earned her MA in TESOL from the University of Minnesota in 1997. She has taught in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States and is currently teaching at the University of Minnesota, Morris.


Philpot, S., & Curnick, L. (2013). Headway academic skills: Reading, writing, and study skills—Introductory level. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Headway Academic Skills: Reading, Writing, and Study Skills—Introductory Level
is part of a four-level series that aims to bridge the gap between general and academic English. There is also a companion series, Listening, Speaking, and Study Skills, which instructs students on effective techniques for taking lecture notes, making oral presentations, and asserting their opinions in class. The publisher notes that the series can be used either as a companion to their New Headway series or independently. This review is of the writing activities in the Introductory Level textbook, which was released in 2013 and falls between A1 and A2 on the Common European Framework scale.

The teacher’s guide includes a CD-ROM (suitable for Apple’s OSX, Windows, and Linux) and mid-course and end-of-course writing exams. The exam items are a mix of multiple choice, sentence construction, and paragraph writing and are based on the topics covered in the units. Also included on the CD-ROM is a detailed rubric for scoring learners’ written paragraphs. The materials were developed for postsecondary learners, and the topics covered are designed for both EFL and ESL classrooms. The recommended steps for the instructor to follow while imparting the lesson are laid out under the “Procedure” heading in the teacher’s guide. In addition to the step-by-step instruction, there are also suggestions for class management. Each writing skills section includes an extension activity, which is designed either to build on what students have already learned or to offer students a chance to write a reflection on what they have learned. It should be noted that some of the extension activities in the writing section are occasionally dependent on the students having completed the other skills activities (e.g., reading, research) in the unit. One additional writing activity is available at the back of the teacher’s guide.

As with all of the levels in the Headway Academic Skills series, the Introductory Level consists of 10 units on a diverse array of topics. As one might expect, the topics in the Introductory Level (e.g., Meeting People, Signs and Instructions) are not as complex as those found in the more advanced levels (e.g., Urban Planning, Free Trade) and are similar to what one would find in any number of general English course books. Authentic materials would have been beneficial for learners using this textbook even if they had to be slightly adjusted for level. The content also consists of extremely basic material for those students above the beginner level (e.g., Alphabetical Order, Telling Time).

Additionally, the aims of each writing section are clearly defined in the teacher’s guide, but they are noticeably absent from the student’s book. In my view, this is unfortunate because clearly defined objectives inform students of what they can expect and what is expected of them. However, this omission can be easily rectified by the instructor copying this information on the board at the beginning of the lesson.

The warmer activities (referred to as “Lead In Activities”) are satisfactory, but they are not overly creative (e.g., “Ask your classmates who have been abroad recently, and then find out where they went”). Another concern is that more often than not, the Lead In for the writing section is a speaking activity. Perhaps this choice made by the authors, along with my previously stated concern about creativity, is due to this being a textbook targeted for beginning-level students. That being said, as students are about to engage in writing activities, asking them to put words on paper is the optimal choice even if it is only a 5-minute stream-of-consciousness task or the creation of a list of topic-related vocabulary.

For instructors using this textbook solely for writing materials, the extension activity could prove to be quite useful. A significant feature is that the “Aims,” “Procedures,” and answer key are included for these activities, which can be photocopied. The Procedure section of the teacher’s guide is particularly well written in clear and concise language, and there is a small icon which alerts the instructor to the appropriate answer key for the exercises. This is something that is often overlooked by authors and publishers with additional activities outside of the standard unit materials.

There are multiple academic skills textbooks available in the marketplace, and Oxford can count its Headway series as a valuable contribution. In the introduction to the teacher’s guide, the authors state that the aim of the writing section for each unit is to help learners “become more efficient and effective in their studies by developing strategies to produce more coherent writing, and make clear, appropriate and relevant notes from academic texts” (p. 4). Generally speaking, the authors and publisher have met their goals with Headway Academic Skills: Reading, Writing and Study Skills—Introductory Level. This textbook is most certainly a useful resource for writing instructors; however, for those who teach a writing-specific course for beginners, the materials should be considered only supplementary.

John Zinck is a lecturer in the School of Liberal Arts, Walailak University, Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Thailand. He holds an MA in TESL from The Pennsylvania State University and has been teaching English as an international language for 18 years. His research interests include students’ perceptions of accent and second language acquisition.


Manchón, R. (Ed.). (2012). L2 writing development: Multiple perspectives. Boston, MA: Walter de Gruyter.

In this collection of articles, Rosa Manchón gathers studies from different theoretical frameworks to discuss the development of writing in itself, shifting from traditional second language acquisition (SLA) writing research that instead emphasizes language development through writing. This book includes chapters that work within the frameworks of dynamic systems theory, sociocultural theory, multicompetence, goal theories of education and psychology, genre theory, and systemic functional linguistics.

In Chapter 1, Manchón discusses how second language writing (SLW) research has grown substantially since its beginning in the 1990s and how these advancements have created additional volumes on SLW theories, research methodology, and pedagogy. Manchón’s collection adds to this breadth and explores SLW competency development, which, as she argues, has been neglected in the otherwise comprehensive research in the field. The goals for the volume are to present diverse views of SLW development, explore ways SLA frameworks can inform SLW research and pedagogy, and provide directions for future SLW research.

The book describes six empirical studies. In Chapter 2, Verspoor and Smiskova apply a dynamic usage-based perspective to the study of Dutch high school students’ development of “chunks” of English, calling attention to how frequency of input and use inform writing development. The researchers recommend that instructors make more use of writing in their classrooms in order to practice and use language in a meaningful way. Chapter 3 presents the second study, in which De Angelis and Jessner compared the writing of Italian L1, German L2, and English L3 learners in the south of Italy. Their findings suggest that because multilingual systems interact with each other, more research should be focused on the development of multilingualism, not simply L2 development. In Chapter 4, Wigglesworth and Storch explain how sociocultural theory can be applied to writing development, specifically when students are required to complete their writing tasks and respond to feedback in pairs. The study produced conflicting results, and the researchers are cautious about drawing conclusions about the effectiveness of feedback.

In Chapter 5, Kobayashi and Rinnert apply Cook’s theory of multicompetence to the relationship between L2 development and non-language-specific writing knowledge. Their findings suggest that as writing knowledge develops, L1 and L2 knowledge progress from separate systems to greater degrees of overlap until some components are merged completely. In Chapter 6, Cumming contrasts the writing development of two groups with different writing goals, proposing that writing proficiencies will develop differently based on the social and educational contexts of students and suggesting caution when transferring findings from one context to another. In Chapter 7, Tardy explores the development of genre knowledge by presenting longitudinal case studies she conducted with four graduate-level international students. She argues that because nearly everything we write is generic, genre theory must be applied in the study of L2 writing development.

In Chapter 8, Byrnes takes a more pedagogically oriented approach. She argues that L2 writing curricula should be informed by a theory of language and offers an approach that combines SFL <What does this stand for?> with genre theory. Drawing on linguistic features of history texts across grade levels, Byrnes argues that learners must be aware of the changes in order to write successfully in varying genres. She then proposes a genre-based curriculum design for her university learners of German.

Each chapter draws from the others, including several internal references and some cross-theory implications. Tardy’s discussion of genre theory, for example, draws from both Kobayashi and Rinnert’s DST approach and Byrne’s genre-based SFL approach. Although the book is firmly rooted in theoretical frameworks, each chapter offers pedagogical implications. For example, Cummings proposes that educators use students’ goals to predict what can and should occur for individual learners, and Tardy suggests bringing experts from other disciplines into the classroom to discuss their written genres. The volume also presents views of writing development from varying contexts, from English as a foreign language in Europe and Asia to community-based afterschool tutoring programs in the United States. For this reason, the “multiple perspectives” of the title apply not only to theoretical frameworks, but also to the breadth of the contexts.

In the final chapter, Norris and Manchón discuss how the theories in the book define L2 writing and how and why writing development takes place, make suggestions for further research, and discuss implications for teachers. The final section acknowledges that writing development takes place in educational contexts and therefore calls for better understanding of teachers, students, and the contexts in which they work.

It is refreshing to review a collection of studies that do not attempt to fit within one framework, but instead recognize the merits of taking diverse perspectives. This book is recommended for researchers who are interested in writing as a meaningful form of language in and of itself, and those who are interested in the dynamic and sociocultural theories of language development. Writing instructors who use SLA theories to inform their pedagogical practices will also benefit from this collection of empirical studies completed in real classroom contexts.

Jennifer Slinkard is in her second year of the master’s of English as a second language program at the University of Arizona, where she teaches first-year writing, works as editorial assistant for the Journal of Second Language Writing, and serves as a Peace Corps Coverdell Fellow. She is interested in writing studies and the discourses apropos to multilingual spaces.



In addition to dozens of presentations, roundtables, and other sessions, the SLWIS will be sponsoring several special sessions as well as its annual meeting and a social event. Please mark your calendars for the following sessions, and be sure to stop by (and sign up for!) the SLWIS booth in the Exhibit Hall to keep updated on the exact details of all SLWIS events.

For a searchable list of SLWIS and SLW-related sessions, please visit TESOL 2014’s Online Convention Planner.

Working Contexts of SLW Professionals in Higher Education

Friday, March 28, 9:30 am–12:15 pm, Convention Center B116
Presenters: Gena Bennett, Junju Wang, Michelle Cox, Ryuko Kubota, Shawna Shapiro, Christine Tardy, Silvia Pessoa, Icy Lee, and Fatima Esseili

Established and emerging L2 writing scholars from diverse postsecondary contexts will explore how the specific professional context may shape their daily working environment and professional identity development. Presenters work at private and public institutions in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Qatar, and the United States.

INTERSECTION With Elementary Education and Secondary Schools ISs
Shaping the Learning Experiences of L2 Writers Across K–16 Contexts

Friday, March 28, 1–2:45 pm, Convention Center E141
Presenters: Theresa Laquerre, Luciana C. de Oliveira, Mary Soto, Ditlev Larsen, Jill Jeffery, and Todd Ruecker

This InterSection brings together teachers and scholars from a variety of educational levels to build on recent scholarship to expand the field’s knowledge of teaching L2 writing across K–16 contexts. Presenters offer practical strategies for classroom use and provide suggestions for improving teacher education and dealing with recent nationwide movements such as the Common Core State Standards.

INTERSECTION With Video and Digital Media IS
Feedback 2.0: Using Audio-Visual/Digital Commentary to Improve Student Writing

Saturday, March 29, 1–2:45 pm, Convention Center B113
Presenters: Christel Broady, Anna Grigoryan, Johanna Katchen, Larisa Olesova, Luciana de Oliveira, Alsu Gilmetdinova, and Kay Losey

Presenters discuss the benefits of and techniques for providing digital (video audio, screencasting) feedback on university-level student writing in face-to-face, hybrid, and online courses in order to increase learner uptake. Panelists demonstrate software applications and feedback techniques; provide samples; and present tips, caveats, and student outcomes and reflections.

INTERSECTION With Intensive English Programs and Nonnative English Speakers in TESOL ISs
Helping IEP Students Develop Their Academic Writing Skills

Thursday, March 27, 3–4:45 pm, Convention Center B113
Presenters: Caralyn Bushey, Kyung-Hee Bae, Stephanie Vandrick, and Daniela Wagner-Loera

IEP students can find that developing adequate academic writing skills can be a barrier to entering and succeeding in a degree program. A panel of experienced instructors shares the best practices they have successfully developed to help students gain the academic literacy needed to succeed.

SLWIS Steering Committee Meeting
Wednesday, March 26, 7–9 pm, Convention Center PB 251/252
If you are a member of the SLWIS leadership team, are interested in joining the team, or want to learn more about projects we have in the works, please attend our Steering Committee meeting.

SLWIS Open Meeting
Thursday, March 27, 6:45–8:15 pm Convention Center B118

At the annual Open Meeting, members and friends of SLWIS come together to discuss the past year’s events, plan for next year’s TESOL convention, and explore options for events in the upcoming year. Come join the discussion!

Social Event: An Evening With Friends of Second Language Writing
Thursday, March 27, 8:30–10:30 pm, PINTS Brewing Company
412 NW 5th Ave, Portland, Oregon 97209 (503) 564-BREW

Friends of Second Language Writing will gather after the SLWIS Open Meeting to celebrate advances in the field of second language writing, to renew acquaintances, to form new research alliances, and to welcome new members into the discipline. Stop by the SLWIS booth in the Exhibit Hall or attend the Open Meeting to get maps and other information about this informal gathering.

A special thanks to this year's sponsors: Parlor Press Series on Second Language Writing, Symposium on Second Language Writing, and Members of the SLWIS Steering Committee.



TESOL’s Second Language Writing IS provides a forum for researchers and educators across grade levels and institutional settings to discuss and exchange information in the area of second language writing.

Discussion E-List
Visit the SLWIS TESOL Community page to manage your SLWIS status. You can also read past Listserv messages here.


SLWIS Community Leaders 2010–2011
Gena Bennett

Todd Ruecker

Peggy Lindsey

Steering Committee

Nigel Caplan
Ryan Miller
Lilian W. Mina
Tony Silva
Sedef Uzuner Smith

E-List Manager:
Youngjoo Yi

Web Manager:
Charles Nelson

Newsletter Editorial Staff

Managing Editor

Margi Wald

Associate Editors

Gena Bennett
Karen Best
Helena Hall
Lilian W. Mina
Peggy Lindsey

Book Review Editors

Steven Bookman
Ilka Kostka

Development Officer:
Deborah Crusan

Past Chairs

2012–2013: Lisya Seloni
2011–2012: Ditlev Larsen
2010–2011: Danielle Zawodny Wetzel
2009–2010: Christine Tardy
2008–2009: Gigi Taylor
2007–2008: Deborah Crusan
2006–2007: Jessie L. Moore
2005–2006: Christina Ortmeier-Hooper


SLW News is soliciting articles on second language writing theory, research, and pedagogy in all ESL/EFL settings.

SLW News welcomes articles that focus on L2 writers and characteristics and text features, classroom materials and practices, placement and assessment issues, writing program administration, teacher development, and other related areas. SLW News encourages submissions related to any educational setting, especially traditionally underrepresented contexts (preK–12, 2-year colleges, community programs, international K–12 schools, etc.). In light of the newsletter’s electronic format, authors are encouraged to include hyperlinks.


June 30 for the August/September issue and December 31 for the February issue.

General Submission Guidelines

Articles should

  • be no longer than 2000 words
  • contain no more than seven citations
  • include a 50-word (maximum 500 characters) abstract and two- to three-sentence author biography
  • be accompanied by an author photo (.jpg)
  • follow the style guidelines in the fifth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th Edition (APA style)
  • be in MS Word (.doc/.docx) or rich text (.rtf) format

All tables, graphs, and other images should be submitted as separate .jpg files.

Please direct your submissions and questions to
Margi Wald, SLW News Managing Editor

Please use “SLW News Submission” in the subject line of your email. See below for more information concerning book reviews and submissions related to specific topics and contexts.

Action Research Projects

SLW News welcomes summaries of classroom-based action research projects. Submissions should include a discussion of the following items:

  • statement of the problem
  • research design
  • proposed solutions
  • analysis of results
  • final reflections

Please include any relevant classroom materials that emerged from the research.

Book/Media Reviews

SLW News welcomes reviews of teacher resource books and student texts dealing with second language writing, teaching, research, and administration. Anyone interested in writing a review for SLW News may choose a recently published book in the field and contact the editor for approval and review copies. Reviews will be considered for publication based on the quality of the reviewer’s evaluation and description of the book as well as the book’s relevance and importance to the field.

Reviews should

  • be in APA format
  • be 600–900 words in length
  • include a 50-word (maximum 500 characters) abstract and a two- to three-sentence author biography

CALL Submissions

SLW News welcomes CALL-related articles, announcements, reports, and reviews in the following categories:

  • Software/Hardware (e.g., organizing systems or integrating software/hardware in learning environments to enhance writing instruction, assessment, or program evaluation)
  • Materials Design (e.g., using software such as Flash or MonoConc to design language-learning activities or materials that address specific language-learning goals, including discovery activities, practice exercises, storybooks, quizzes, or games)
  • Curriculum Design (e.g., using course management software such as Blackboard or eCollege to design e-courses, e-programs, or hybrids for second language writing)
  • Applied Writing Research (e.g., writing computer programs to identify lexicogrammatical features, discourse patterns, or errors/learner variation in writing, i.e., corpus linguistics).

EFL Submissions

SLW News welcomes submissions focusing on EFL contexts. Topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • statements of instructional problems
  • summary of research
  • literature review with pedagogical implications
  • book/media review
  • lesson plans
  • handouts and activity sheets
  • proposed joint research projects

    In order to ensure diversity of interest and coverage of as many areas of instruction in the field of EFL writing as possible, SLW News encourages submissions on the following themes:

    • university writing classrooms
    • preK–12 writing instruction
    • learner communities in the writing classroom
    • computers and the Internet in the writing classroom
    • writing for tests (e.g., TOEFL, IELTS)
    • technical writing as a genre in the EFL context
    • EFL writing instructors’ professional development

    Writing Center Submissions

    Given that many ESL/EFL students need (and want) more individualized or in-depth assistance with their writing than instructors can understandably provide, these students look to the writing center for support. This phenomenon has been reflected in the increasing number of writing-center-related sessions at professional conferences, as well as discussions on various e-lists.

    To share information on this topic with a wider audience, SLW News encourages submissions highlighting

    • research,
    • programming,
    • administration, and/or
    • best practices.

    Articles can focus on

    • tutor development,
    • one-on-one tutorial sessions,
    • writing groups,
    • workshops, and/or
    • other models.