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The academic literacy socialization of Mexican exchange students at a Canadian university 2007

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THE ACADEMIC LITERACY SOCIALIZATION OF MEXICAN EXCHANGE STUDENTS AT A CANADIAN UNIVERSITY by SANDRA ZAPPA Profesora de Ingles, Instituto Neuquino del Profesorado en Ingles, 1994 M.A., The University of British Columbia, 2001 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Language and Literacy Education) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA September 2007 © Sandra Zappa, 2007 Abstract Academic exchanges have become very popular worldwide as part of the internationalization of higher education. While the benefits of study abroad have been well documented, mostly using large-scale surveys, detailed information about the individual experiences of sojourners and the outcomes of these experiences has been lacking. Addressing this gap, this qualitative multiple-case study explores the second language (L2) academic literacy socialization experiences of foreign students studying abroad at a large Canadian English-medium university. The focal participants are six undergraduate Mexican students enrolled in the MCMU-WCU Joint Academic Exchange Program (a pseudonym) for either one or two academic terms between 2005 and 2006. Triangulated data sources included interviews with focal and secondary student participants and with two instructors, focus group interviews, written assignments, questionnaires, writing logs, and field notes. The main goal of this investigation was to yield rich understandings of the learning resources and opportunities available to the participants and how these impacted their L2 academic literacy development and performance during their stay. The study also examined participants' reentry experiences in Mexico and their perceptions of the significance of their academic experiences in Canada once they returned to their home contexts. This study draws on the language socialization framework (Duff, 1996, 2003; Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986a, b), the "community of practice" concept (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998), and social network theory (Milroy, 1980,1987) to provide an ecological perspective of the students' socialization into host L2 academic literacy practices. Based on these theories, five parameters that emerged for the analysis of students' experiences from a sociocultural perspective are examined and illustrated. While this study does not yield findings that can be generalized to the wider population of study abroad students, it does contribute with "analytical generalizations" (Firestone, 1993) by illustrating how the three main theories informing this study can be combined in novel and productive ways to understand students' experiences of study abroad. Finally, suggestions for future exchange students, instructors and institutions sending and receiving international L2-speaking students are presented together with directions for further research. Table of Contents Abstract ii Table of Contents iii List of Tables vi List of Figures vii List of Acronyms viii Acknowledgments ix Dedication xi Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION 1 1.0 Background 1 1.1 Study purpose and research questions 4 1.2 Defining academic literacy 5 1.3 Dissertation organization 6 1.4 Significance of the study 8 Chapter 2 SECOND LANGUAGE SOCIALIZATION, ACADEMIC LITERACY, AND STUDY ABROAD RESEARCH 10 2.0 Introduction 10 2.1 Second language socialization theory and research 11 2.2 Individual networks of practice 17 2.3 Second language academic literacy studies 22 2.4 Study abroad terminology 27 2.5 Study abroad research 29 2.5.1 Academic literacy development during study abroad 33 2.5.2 Post-exchange investigations 34 2.6 Summary 37 Chapter 3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY '. 38 3.0 Qualitative case study 38 3.1 Research context 40 3.2 Research participants 42 3.3 Data collection 46 3.4 Research project timeline 52 3.5 Data analysis 55 3.6 Trustworthiness of the study and ethical considerations 57 3.7 Researcher-participants relationship 59 3.8 Summary 60 Chapter 4 FOCAL PARTICIPANTS' PROFILES 61 4.0 Introduction 61 4.1 Liliana, Natalia and Lorena 62 4.2 Nelda, Isabel and Raquel 72 4.3 Summary 79 Chapter 5 ACADEMIC LITERACY PRACTICES AT WCU: MAIN CHARACTERISTICS 80 5.0 Introduction 80 5.1 Participants'courses 80 5.2 Overview of assignments 82 5.3 Reading as unexpectedly overwhelming 85 5.4 Reading as rewarding 98 5.5 "Surviving" academic writing at WCU 99 5.5.1 Being "critical" writers "with a voice" 102 5.5.2 Conforming to word/page limit expectations 107 5.5.3 Writing in an L2: Issues of language and conventions 109 5.5.4 Writing as "torture" 113 5.6 Summary and discussion 115 Chapter 6 FACTORS SHAPING STUDENTS' L2 ACADEMIC LITERACY SOCIALIZATION ABROAD 121 6.0 Introduction 121 6.1 Individual networks of practice 123 6.1.1 Liliana'sINoP 124 6.1.2 Raquel's INoP: A comparison 132 6.2 Teamwork 134 6.2.1 Configuration characteristics 135 6.2.2 Natalia's team work negotiations 140 6.2.3 Raquel's team work negotiations 146 6.3 Course resources 149 6.4 Feedback 155 6.4.1 Kinds of feedback 156 6.4.2 Playing a "guessing game" 158 6.4.3 Feedback: Power, grades, and emotions 161 6.5 Institutional support 167 6.5.1 Support available 168 6.5.2 Students' use of support 172 6.6 Summary and discussion 178 Chapter 7 POSITIONINGS, NEGOTIATIONS, INVESTMENTS AND RETURNS: EXPERIENCES ABROAD AND AT HOME 187 7.0 Introduction 187 7.1 Discursive positioning and identity constructions 189 7.1.1 Positionings in team work 190 7.1.2 Positionings in feedback 191 7.1.3 Positionings in interactions with instructors, TAs and peers 194 7.2 Negotiating the WCU academic culture 198 7.3 Investments in opportunities for L2 academic literacy socialization 201 7.3.1 Interacting with target language/culture speakers 201 7.3.2 Collaborating with local students 204 7.3.3 Learning from assignments, resources, and feedback 205 7.4 Participants' post-exchange views 208 7.4.1 Reentry issues 208 7.4.2 Academic (literacy) outcomes of the exchange 212 7.4.3 Non-academic outcomes of the exchange 220 7.5 Summary 223 Chapter 8 CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS 224 8.0 Introduction 224 8.1. Recapitulation of findings 224 8.2 Main theoretical contributions 226 8.3 Pedagogical implications 229 8.3.1 Suggestions for institutions receiving and sending students abroad 229 8.3.2 Suggestions for instructors 232 8.3.3 Suggestions for future exchange students 235 8.4 Limitations of the study 236 8.5 Directions for further research 239 References 241 Appendix A Recruitment Notice 266 Appendix B Participants' Certificates and Courses 267 Appendix C Transcription Conventions 270 Appendix D Interview Questions 271 Appendix E Background Information Grid 275 Appendix F Writing Assignments Log 276 Appendix G Questionnaires 277 Appendix H Consent Forms 283 Appendix I Certificate of Approval 291 v List of Tables Table 3.1 Possible Study Periods for MCMU Students at WCU 42 Table 3.2 Data Sources 47 Table 3.3 Research Project Timeline 52 Table 4.1 Focal Participants' Profiles 63 Table 5.1 Focal Participants' Courses 81 Table 5.2 Course Assignments 84 Table 5.3 Contrasting Reading Practices 85 Table 5.4 Contrasting Writing Practices 100 Table 6.1 Academic Literacy Socialization Parameters 122 Table 6.2 Lorena's Team Work Configurations 137 Table 6.3 Nelda's Team Work Configurations ...138 Table 6.4 Nelda's LAST Essay "A" Instructor Feedback 163 Table 6.5 Sources of Institutional Support 167 Table 7.1 Participants' Sample Positionings 197 Table 7.2 Participants' Negotiations 198 Table 7.3 Outcomes of the Study Abroad Experience 222 vi List of Figures Figure 3.1 Study Participants 44 Figure 3.2 Data Triangulation Examples 54 Figure 3.3 Stages of Data Collection and Analysis 56 Figure 6.1 Academic Literacy Socialization Parameters 123 Figure 6.2 Liliana's INoP 125 Figure 6.3 L2 Academic Literacy Socialization Factors 180 Figure 6.4 Natalia's Blocked CoP Access 182 Figure 7.1 L2 Academic Literacy Socialization Themes 187 Figure 7.2 L2 Academic Literacy Socialization Factors and Associated Themes 188 List of Acronyms C O M M Commerce CoP Community of practice HE Higher education INoP Individual network of practice LAST Latin American Studies LI First language L2 Second language L2S Second language socialization LPP Legitimate peripheral participation M C M U Multi-campus Mexican university NES Native English speaker NNES Non-native English speaker OAP Oral academic presentation PHIL Philosophy POLI Political sciences SA Study abroad W C U Western Canadian University viii Acknowledgments I would like to thank a number of people to whom I am greatly indebted for their support in numerous ways. First and foremost, I would like to express my gratitude to my supervisor, Dr. Patricia Duff, whose mentoring, guidance, and encouragement have supported and encouraged me throughout this and many other academic endeavors. In her, I found not only a leading scholar in the fields of applied linguistics and second language learning, but also a very sensitive and generous human being who has left a strong imprint in my professional as well as my personal life. I feel very fortunate for the many years I have worked under her supervision, learning the true meaning of professionalism, collaboration, and integrity, and I have no doubt that she will continue to illuminate my paths in life. I would also like to thank my dissertation committee members, Drs. Bonny Norton and Ling Shi, for their thoughtful comments and constructive criticism. Their support and encouragement have positively shaped my work in many ways. To my doctoral dissertation university examiners, Drs. Kenneth Reeder and Dan Pratt, and to Dr. Ruth Spack, external examiner, I am grateful for their interest in and appreciation of my project, as well as for their suggestions for further work. I am also greatly indebted to a number of peers and friends at the University of British Columbia for their continued support, patience and collegiality. In particular, I would like to thank Jeremie Seror, from whom I have learned so much through thought-provoking discussions and practical help. Martin Guardado, Diane Potts, Ena Lee, Mi-Young Kim, Jean Kim, Lyndsay Moffatt, Abel Cardenas, Ling He, and former peers Drs. Naoko Morita, Masaki Kobayashi, Tammy Slater, Gulbahar Beckett, and Yang Guo, among other many U B C friends, have also contributed generously to my personal and academic growth with their time, advice and emotional support throughout the years we have spent together during class time, conference trips, and informal gatherings. I am also especially grateful to other members of the U B C community, especially Drs. Monique Bournot-Trites, Geoff Williams, John Willinsky, Jim Anderson, Steven Talmy, and Anne Simpson, and to the wonderful staff in the L L E D office, in particular, graduate secretary Anne Easfham and administrative manager Teresa O'Shea, both of whom made my life as a graduate student much easier. I would like to thank the Mexican participants (whose real names I am unable to disclose) for their time dedication to this project, their openness to share their experiences and insights with me, and their hospitality during my visits in Mexico. As well, I appreciate the help of the director of the M C M U - W C U Joint Academic Program, for giving me access to the site and for sharing with me her own experiences guiding several cohorts of Mexican exchange students in Canada. My appreciation also goes to the two course instructors who agreed to be interviewed despite their extremely busy teaching and research schedules. ix This research was in part funded by a two-year doctoral scholarship sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. I also received the financial support of Dr. Patricia Duff and from the U B C Centre for Intercultural Language Studies, for which I worked as graduate assistant under the direction of Drs. Duff and Kenneth Reeder. I am also grateful to the U B C Faculty of Education and to the UBC Department of Language and Literacy Education for their financial support in the form of awards. I thank our close friends in Canada, in particular Veronica D'Angelo, Matias, Lucas, Dante and Sofia Salibian, Veronica Cervantes, Javier and Matias Gazzarri, Jesus Calviiio- Fraga, Laura Cottle and Jorma Neuvonen, Samar and Hazem Sabbah, Jeremie and Naoko Seror, Gi l l and Jorge Palejko, Susana Breglia and Claudio Slamovits, for the many cheerful moments we shared. I want to thank our friends in Argentina, particularly Paula Murcia, Pablo Ruiz, Susana Espinoza, and Jorge Adrover for their many gestures of affection, their patience and understanding. My family deserves to be recognized for their patience and support throughout these years. I am grateful to my parents, Lisien and Hansi Zappa, to my parents-in-law, Carmen and Esteban Hollman, to my brother, Andres, and my sister-in-law, Veronica, who even at a distance of over 14,000 miles have supported my husband, our daughters and myself in as many way as possible. Last but not least, I am most grateful to my husband, Dr. Jorge Hollman, who unconditionally supported me throughout all these years. I thank him, more than anyone else, for his patience and love. Without him, I would not have had the courage and the strength needed to embark on this academic journey, which is definitely in many ways the result of a family effort. I would also thank our daughters, Rocio and Serena, for whom I do not find words to express my gratitude for their understanding, their patience and their smiles. I dedicate this dissertation to all three of them. x To Jorge, Rocio and Serena xi Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION 1.0 Background Increasingly, many higher education (HE) students worldwide choose to take part in study abroad programs with the primary goal of enhancing both their educational and life experiences as a result of their sojourn. Consequently, overseas programs that promote mobility between tertiary level institutions in different countries have continued to proliferate. Britain and Australia, located among the five top destinations for international students, constitute concrete examples of how student mobility has soared. Australia has increased the number of foreign students by over 1000% since 1994, a trend that actually started over two decades ago. And of the 153,400 overseas students in Australia in the year 2000, 47% were attending HE institutions.1 While student mobility is not a new invention of our postmodern era, what our times can be credited for is the institutionalization of organized study abroad programs (Haug, 1996; Teichler, 1996, 2004), which have become a popular internationalization strategy (Knight, 2004). People working in the H E sector as well as students who choose to study abroad often hold genuine beliefs and expectations about the anticipated academic and personal benefits of the sojourn experiences. However, it would be naive to maintain that the increase in student mobility results primarily from this idealism. Unfortunately, the potential "business" of education has also spread in different ways, and in some cases international students are welcome mainly because they have become a prominent economic resource to finance their local university peers. Interesting debates have appeared around this issue. For instance, two articles in The Economist, published on September 18, 2004 and January 13, 2004 respectively, center their argument on the profitability of international students; these constitute just a few examples of the current debates on the topic found sometimes even on the front page of newspapers and 1 It is important to note that HE experienced the greatest growth in overseas student numbers, doubling between 1994 and 2000, while the number of students in the school sector remained almost the same. (Source: Year Book Australia 2003, a publication by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.) 1 magazines. And in a rather recent speech on globalization in higher education addressed to the Centre for Reform in the UK, Ivor Crewe—president of Universities UK and Vice Chancellor of the University of Essex—asserted that "the presence of students and faculty from overseas is no longer an optional mildly exotic ingredient in campus life. It is what makes it possible for the academic enterprise to continue" (Crewe, 2004, p. 2). Crewe emphatically claims that UK universities need to adapt to an internationally competitive market. In the foreseeable future, besides the US, the UK will have to compete with Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Africa in order to attract overseas students. The case of universities in other countries, including Canada, is no different. With so much student mobility, there are current efforts at bringing together general information of different types (e.g., study abroad research results, study abroad programs offered) that relates to this phenomenon worldwide. For instance, the US Institute of International Education (HE) published in 2003 a groundbreaking new Atlas of Student Mobility that displays and analyzes information such as the most popular places of origin and destinations of these students seeking education outside of their home countries, providing a current view of international education students' trends and patterns worldwide. An important mandate of the HE is to work together with the British Council and IDP Education Australia and others to create a global focus on international student mobility. The possibilities for study abroad are thus expanding, and although only a very small percentage of students worldwide—around 2 million, what could be called "the privileged few"~currently have access to this type of experience, it seems that with the growth of study abroad programs offered by universities and colleges, and an increase in the sources of financial support for individual students as well as study abroad programs, the overseas experience will eventually become the norm in HE. The economic forces pushing for this move in HE are too strong to be ignored. Paralleling the spread of study abroad programs as a global phenomenon is the spread of English as an international language, with its consequent implications for the media, the workplace and education (Duff, 2005). English tends to be a very popular language of instruction, not only in inner circle countries (Kachru, 1985), where it enjoys the status of a national or official language, but also in countries of the outer and expanding circles, where it has the status of lingua-franca. This means that a large 2 proportion of the study abroad population is likely to experience at least part of their sojourn (such as the academic aspect of it) in English. This fact can be quite challenging for non-native English speaking international students, particularly as they are normally expected to perform according to the standards of the host institutions to which they are newcomers, but with the additional disadvantage of doing it in a foreign/additional language. Given that literacy practices permeate academic activities across disciplinary fields, participation in academic literacy activities constitutes a crucial aspect of HE students' lives. Thus, it is essential for university students to possess effective academic literacy practices in order to succeed. However, as is acknowledged by second language academic writing researchers, becoming literate in different discourse traditions is a challenging, complex, and lengthy process (e.g., Belcher & Braine, 1995; Casanave, 2002; Leki, 2003a, Shi & Beckett, 2002; Prior, 1995; Spack, 1997a, 2004; Zamel & Spack, 2004; Zhu, 2001). Thus, non-native English speakers (NNESs) expected to understand and produce academic texts in English may be profoundly affected by the pressure to perform effectively in an L2 for a number of interrelated reasons. In addition to linguistic limitations, even in the case of NNESs with high language proficiency levels, novice L2 academic writers also face the difficult process of becoming acquainted with new disciplinary and institutional contexts and their associated sociocultural/academic practices. And as noted in Zamel & Spack (2004), Even learners who have successfully completed courses in their first language may find the transition to doing this work in English disorienting. Students whose values and expectations are in conflict with those of the U.S. [or Canada] college classrooms will struggle, and may even resist, as they attempt to make sense of unfamiliar approaches to academic study, (p. x) This process can be very unsettling and fraught with struggle, particularly for NNESs in a new country, who may try to reconcile contradictory desires to adjust to and resist new ways of practicing academic literacy, thus making the whole academic experience all the more cumbersome. A third compounding factor relates to the fact that academic literacy activities usually take place in situations where the stakes are high (e.g., course assignments and exams). Leki (2003a) notes in relation to NNES post- secondary students in English-medium contexts that "[h]ow these writers develop L2 3 literacy is important because of the high stakes involved in them. It is through literacy experiences that much college learning takes place (...) and is displayed" (p. 81). Therefore, anxiety and other affective performance-related factors may interfere with optimal performance. Furthermore, in the case of short term study abroad exchanges, the significant and rapid adjustment L2 speaking students may be expected to make in order to conform to the academic literacy norms and values of the host university may not be realistic (Casanave, 2004). While the findings in the literature usually point to the many benefits associated with the L2 academic socialization of these students while abroad, this study attempts to show a more balanced picture by drawing attention not only to the positive impact of the exchange, but also by focusing on some aspects (e.g., the emotional impact of feedback students receive) that seem to be overlooked in many study abroad investigations and which need to be considered in order to reach a more comprehensive understanding of the experience. 1.1 Study purpose and research questions In light of the rapidly increasing number of HE study abroad programs, there is a need for research that explores issues related to these educational experiences. The main purpose of this investigation is to better understand how a group of exchange students were socialized into the academic literacy practices of their new academic context abroad in Canada, as well as the impact of this socialization on the students during and after the exchange. By means of in-depth explorations of the experiences of this study's participants, the purpose is to produce and analyze thick descriptions of their academic literacy practices in an L2 context. So far, study abroad research along these lines has been very limited (see Chapter 2 for a review). In addition, this study aims to provide concrete evidence of the impact that an academic exchange has on the students' academic literacy practices once they return to complete their degrees in their home university. To date, most study abroad investigations have focused either on students' experiences while abroad, or else—though to a smaller degree—upon their return to their home country. This study therefore addresses another gap in the literature by exploring the participants' experiences during and after the exchange. 4 The following questions guided the study: QI: What are the academic literacy practices valued and required in Canadian undergraduate content courses as perceived by the participating Mexican students? Q2: How do the participants negotiate the process of their L2 socialization into the academic literacy practices and expectations of the host university? Q3: Once the students return to their home university, what do they perceive to be the biggest impact of their academic sojourn? In particular, what is the significance ascribed to their L2 academic socialization through literacy practices in Canada upon their return home? 1.2 Defining academic literacy In a recent state-of-the-art article, Paltridge (2004) notes that There are those who view academic literacy as a singular phenomenon, comprising a set of skills to be acquired and problems to be fixed. A different view would see the development of academic literacy as a socialization process through which we explain "university culture" to our students so they can learn the requirements through a kind of apprenticeship, (p. 90) My dissertation work is closely aligned with the second view identified by Paltridge, whereby academic literacy is conceptualized as a form of social practice (Halliday, 1985). This more recent perspective on academic literacy reflects the "New Literacy Studies" orientation (Barton, 1994; Gee, 1986, 1996; Lea & Street, 1998; Street, 1984), which goes beyond the cognitive aspects associated with this concept (i.e., reading and writing as skills that can be developed independently from the context in which they take place) by showing that a more accurate understanding of literacy takes account of the social contexts and the ideological orientations in which the acts of literacy are fostered and enacted (Wiley, 2005, citing Gee, 2001). Inspired by the work of these scholars, L2 researchers like Hawkins (2005) elaborate on the notion of literacy by highlighting that a focus on language and literacy development as situated social processes (...) involves understanding the acquisition of languages and literacies as always occurring in and through interactions with others in specific (social) contexts, (p. 60) 5 This definition of literacy foregrounds the situated nature of literacy development (Barton, Hamilton, & Ivanic, 2000), and attempts to shed light on how literacy is developed by linking the reading and writing activities to the social contexts in which these are defined and practiced, and by referring to these as "literacy practices." This broader notion of literacy helps us to explain why, in spite of their advanced LI and L2 academic literacy proficiency, the participants in this study found certain aspects of their host university academic literacy practices challenging. There is also another development that has taken place in the LI and L2 literacy literature: a shift from talking about "literacy" to referring to "literacies" (or biliteracy, multilingual literacies, and multiliteracies).2 This change foregrounds the "multiple approaches to knowledge" (Zamel & Spack, 1998, p. ix) implicit in the revised notion. As noted by these authors, Collectively, classroom experiences across the curriculum require that students become fluent in multiple ways of reading and writing. In other words, students are expected to be conversant in a variety of academic literacies, (pp. ix-x) I also find value in highlighting this multimodal aspect of literacy, and therefore embrace the revised terminology by combining my use of "academic literacy practices" and "academic literacies" throughout my dissertation. 1.3 Dissertation organization Seven chapters follow this introductory chapter. Chapter 2 presents the theoretical approaches that guided this investigation and includes a review of relevant literature. Studies that have employed the perspectives of second language socialization and communities of practice (sometimes together) are reviewed and analyzed in light of how they relate to the current investigation, and the notion of "individual networks of practice," coined for this study, is introduced. An overview is also included of previous work on study abroad programs and populations, with special emphasis on research 2 The concept of multiliteracies is also employed in monolingual contexts, and some of the current research in this vein also embraces the notion of multimodality (Kress, 2000) in conjunction with multiliteracies, thus taking account of the increasing significance of cultural and linguistic diversity while simultaneously integrating different semiotic systems (e.g., visual, audio, and special patterns of meaning) into the original notion of literacy. 6 focusing on second language acquisition and, within this body of research, on advanced academic literacy development. The qualitative case study methodology selected for the design of this research project is explained in Chapter 3, which also includes descriptions of the Multi Campus Mexican University ( M C M U ) - Western Canadian University (WCU) exchange program in which the students participated, my focal and secondary participants, the courses they took, as well the procedures for data collection and analysis. Chapter 4 features the six focal participants of this study, providing readers with information about the students' personal and academic backgrounds, their reasons for taking part in an exchange, their expectations of their study abroad experience in Canada, and their plans for the future. Such detailed information is crucial in order to obtain a better understanding of the aspects that influenced the students' academic literacy socialization in W C U and their continuing socialization and re-entry back in their home campuses. Chapters 5 through 7 report on the data analysis. Chapter 5 serves as a backdrop to the next chapters, and it addresses mainly the first research question, which aims to reveal the kinds of literacy practices of the different courses the participants took at W C U . In Chapter 6 I address the second research question, and thus I focus on the tensions between adjusting to and resisting their academic literacy socialization into the norms and practices of W C U in Canada. I present my interpretations of the focal participants' investments in seeking language socialization opportunities during their academic exchange in Canada. I examine how their actions and their access to key resources and people affected their English academic literacy practices within the W C U context. I do this by focusing on the focal participants' academic literacy trajectories vis-a-vis five parameters that I propose as a useful model to investigate students' L2 academic literacy socialization. These parameters include: the participants' individual networks of practice, their team work experiences, their access to and use of course resources, the feedback and grading practices they obtained, and their access to and use of institutional support. Special emphasis is placed on how the participants exercised their agency in determining when to comply with the host university academic literacy rules, thus portraying their academic literacy socialization as a highly contested, negotiated process. In Chapter 7 I focus on three interrelated themes (i.e., positionings, negotiations and investments) that 7 e m e r g e d f r o m m y i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s o f t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s ' e x p e r i e n c e s v i s - a - v i s t h e p a r a m e t e r s d i s c u s s e d i n t h e c u r r e n t a n d a l s o t h e p r e v i o u s c h a p t e r s , a n d w h i c h a d d a n o t h e r l a y e r t o t h e i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s o f t h e c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s a n d r e p e r c u s s i o n s o f t h e i r a c a d e m i c l i t e r a c y s o c i a l i z a t i o n . I t h e n a d d r e s s t h e t h i r d r e s e a r c h q u e s t i o n a n d e x a m i n e t h e s e t h e m e s i n c o n n e c t i o n w i t h p a r t i c i p a n t s ' p e r s p e c t i v e s a b o u t t h e s i g n i f i c a n c e o f t h e i r e x c h a n g e i n C a n a d a a f e w m o n t h s after t h e i r r e t u r n t o M e x i c o . C h a p t e r 8 c o n c l u d e s t h i s d i s s e r t a t i o n w i t h t h e t h e o r e t i c a l c o n t r i b u t i o n s o f t h i s w o r k , its l i m i t a t i o n s , a n d a l s o i n c l u d e s i m p l i c a t i o n s f o r p e d a g o g y a n d f u t u r e d i r e c t i o n s f o r r e s e a r c h i n t h e a r e a s o f a c a d e m i c l i t e r a c y , s t u d y a b r o a d , a n d L 2 s o c i a l i z a t i o n . 1.4 Significance of the study T h i s q u a l i t a t i v e m u l t i p l e - c a s e s t u d y y i e l d s i n s i g h t s that w i l l c o n t r i b u t e t o a m o r e c o m p r e h e n s i v e u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h e f a c t o r s a n d p r o c e s s e s i n v o l v e d i n t h e L 2 a c a d e m i c l i t e r a c y s o c i a l i z a t i o n o f N N E S e x c h a n g e s t u d e n t s i n a n E n g l i s h - m e d i u m p o s t - s e c o n d a r y c o n t e x t . I n b r i n g i n g t o g e t h e r t h e v i e w s o f t h e s t u d e n t s , s o m e o f t h e i r i n s t r u c t o r s , a n d t h e r e s e a r c h e r , t h i s d i s s e r t a t i o n a i m s t o p r e s e n t a m u l t i - l a y e r e d p i c t u r e o f t h e s t u d e n t s ' a c a d e m i c l i t e r a c y s o c i a l i z a t i o n . B y a d d r e s s i n g a g a p i n t h e s t u d y a b r o a d l i t e r a t u r e as w e l l as i n t h e l i t e r a t u r e o n a d v a n c e d s e c o n d l a n g u a g e a d v a n c e d a c a d e m i c l i t e r a c y , t h i s t h e s i s b r i n g s t o g e t h e r t h e s e t w o a r e a s o f r e s e a r c h i n a n o v e l w a y . T h e s t u d y a i m s t o m a k e i m p o r t a n t p e d a g o g i c a l c o n t r i b u t i o n s . It i s h o p e d that t h e f i n d i n g s w i l l b e n e f i t f u t u r e p a r t i c i p a n t s o f t h e M C M U - W C U e x c h a n g e p r o g r a m , as t h e a c a d e m i c e x p e r i e n c e s o f t h e M C M U - W C U s t u d y p a r t i c i p a n t s t h a t a r e i n c l u d e d i n t h i s d i s s e r t a t i o n w i l l r e v e a l k e y i n f o r m a t i o n that w i l l m o s t l i k e l y i n f l u e n c e t h e i r s o j o u r n e x p e c t a t i o n s a n d c h o i c e s . F u r t h e r m o r e , t h e f i n d i n g s s h o u l d b e o f i n t e r e s t t o t h e l a r g e r f i e l d o f L 2 e d u c a t i o n i n l i g h t o f t h e p e d a g o g i c a l s u g g e s t i o n s f o r i n s t r u c t o r s a n d u n i v e r s i t i e s r e c e i v i n g f o r e i g n e x c h a n g e s t u d e n t s . I n s t r u c t o r s a c r o s s d i s c i p l i n a r y a r e a s ( i n p a r t i c u l a r t h o s e o f C o m m e r c e , P o l i t i c a l S c i e n c e s a n d L a t i n A m e r i c a n S t u d i e s ) a r e l i k e l y t o b e n e f i t from m y a n a l y s i s o f i s s u e s r e l a t e d to f e e d b a c k a n d g r a d i n g p r a c t i c e s , i n s t r u c t i o n s a n d a s s i g n m e n t t y p e s , t e a m w o r k , a n d s t u d e n t s ' L I a c a d e m i c l i t e r a c y p r a c t i c e s t h a t t h e y m a y c u r r e n t l y b e u n a w a r e o f ; k n o w l e d g e o f t h e s e i s s u e s m i g h t s e r v e as 8 a catalyst for transforming some of their instructional and feedback practices in order to better address the needs of an increasingly multicultural/multilingual student population. Finally, this dissertation also aims to make some important contributions in relation to theory-building about how to examine and theorize L2 academic literacy socialization in a study abroad context, as well as after the students return to continue their home university contexts. Inspired by theories of second language socialization (Duff, 1995, 2003; Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986a, b; Ochs, 1988; Zuengler & Cole, 2005), communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998), and the notion of individual networks of practice (which draws on social network theory, e.g., Milroy, 1980, 1987), I propose a comprehensive model to investigate L2 academic literacy socialization which integrates factors so far not usually brought together analytically, and suggest that this model could be employed in future investigations in a similar manner. 9 Chapter 2 SECOND LANGUAGE SOCIALIZATION, ACADEMIC LITERACY, AND STUDY ABROAD RESEARCH 2.0 Introduction As the number of "nontraditional" (i.e., international, multilingual NNES) students in higher education has continued to increase over the past decades, so too has the interest in research on students' experiences in foreign contexts. In particular, given the rapid proliferation of study abroad programs, there have been calls for studies focusing on the second/foreign language learning experiences of sojourners (DuFon & Churchill, 2006; Freed, 1995a). Following trends in second language acquisition, applied linguists' and L2 researchers' agendas have broadened in scope from focusing exclusively on the linguistic and cognitive processes and resulting gains of residing in the target language culture, to considering social processes and other contextual factors involved in a learner's study abroad experience. The sociocultural dimension of L2 language learning has thus been foregrounded, as demonstrated in recent studies that explore L2 learning from a more holistic and situated perspective (e.g., Bayley & Schecter, 2003; Belcher & Braine, 1995; Duff, 1995, 1996, 2002; Duff, Wong & Early, 2000; Kobayashi, 2003; Lantolf, 2000; Morita, 2000, 2004; Norton, 2000; Norton & Toohey, 2001; Poole, 1992; Prior, 1995, 1998; Schecter & Bayley, 2002; Spack, 1997a, 2004; Willett, 1995). Qualitative research methodologies employing ethnographic techniques and drawing from multiple sources of data (e.g., in-depth interviews, student and researcher diaries, in situ observations, student-produced documents) have contributed to furthering our understanding and broadening our perspectives of learners' experiences within their contexts of immersion. The insights yielded by investigations of such a detailed interpretive nature have therefore played an important role in complementing the findings produced by quantitative studies (Duff, 2002; in press a). (See more on this in Chapter 3.) The shift from quantitative to more qualitative inquiry, or a blend of these two complementary, rather than competing paradigms, is paralleled by the emergence of sociocultural and poststructuralist theoretical approaches. One such theoretical lens is called "language socialization" (LS), a framework originally developed in the early 1980s 10 by linguistic anthropologists Bambi Schieffelin and Elinor Ochs and their colleagues. Although LS was developed with first language (LI) learners in mind, it is currently considered among the most promising theories to explore L2 learning from a sociocultural/sociolinguistic perspective, with numerous studies having already been produced by two generations of L2 Socialization (L2S) researchers. (Refer to Duff & Hornberger, in press, for the most current review and examples of research conducted in LS.) Accordingly, the qualitative investigation reported on in this dissertation, which focuses on a group of NNES (Mexican) exchange students in a Canadian university, employs the L2S perspective to explore the learners' L2 academic literacy practices in a new academic environment, aiming to illuminate sociocultural dimensions of the learners' experiences. In this chapter I provide an overview of L2S theory and its relevance to this investigation. I also introduce the notions of "Community of Practice" (CoP) and "Individual Network of Practice" (INoP), which I drew on to analyze some aspects of the participants' academic literacy socialization. Next, I review key traits and findings of previous L2 academic literacy studies and identify the main themes of published study abroad investigations that have informed this project. In each section I identify gaps in the literature, some of which I aim to address in this study. Thus, the information in this chapter serves as backdrop for the interpretations of data found and reported in the remainder of this dissertation. Throughout the other chapters I make comparisons and either support or provide counter-arguments for the research synthesized here. 2.1 Second language socialization theory and research The LS theoretical perspective briefly introduced in the first section of this chapter lends itself well to the exploration of linguistic and cultural processes and interrelationships in L2 learning (Duff, 1996,2003; Duff & Hornberger, in press; Kulick & Schieffelin, 2004; Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986a, b; Watson-Gegeo, 2004; Watson-Gegeo & Nielsen, 2003; Zuengler & Cole, 2005). In language socialization theory, the locus of learning is the learner embedded in and interacting with his/her social context, and the aim is to understand "how persons become competent members of social groups and the role of language in the process" (Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986a, p. 167). 11 Since its inception over twenty years ago, the LS paradigm has been refined and re- defined, and while the original work on first language socialization by Schieffelin and Ochs (1986a, b) continues to serve as the cornerstone of this theory, new developments have also been associated with it, especially by L2 researchers who have employed this perspective (e.g., Bayley & Schecter, 2003; Duff, 1996, 2003; Garrett & Baquedano- Lopez, 2002; Kobayashi, 2003; Morita, 2000, 2004; Watson-Gegeo, 1992, among many others). Language socialization refers to: the lifelong process by means of which individuals—typically novices—are inducted into specific domains of knowledge, beliefs, affect, roles, identities, and social representations, which they access and construct through language practices and social interaction. (Duff, 1995, p. 508, citing Ochs, 1991; Poole, 1992; Schieffelin &Ochs, 1986a, 1986b) This process begins from the moment individuals come into contact with other people. While much of the earlier LS research focused on socialization into and through language in childhood, LS is a lifelong process, as Duffs definition above indicates. Thus, Ochs and Schieffelin (in press) also note that language socialization transpires whenever there is asymmetry in knowledge and power and characterizes our human interactions throughout adulthood as we become socialized into novel activities, identities, and objects relevant to work, family, recreation, civic, religious, and other environments in increasingly globalized communities, (n/p) Kulick and Schieffelin (2004) remind us that "the language socialization paradigm addresses the lack of culture in language acquisition studies" (p. 350), and that LS research aims to explore how different subjectivities, stances, and positionings are negotiated and achieved through the use of language itself. Indeed, the concept of agency is key in trying to understand how individuals negotiate new practices, identities, and patterns of participation in their target communities. (I come back to the notion of positionings, agency, and identity in Chapter 7.) New trends in L2S theory challenge certain assumptions previously maintained by LS research; for instance, that the stability of the target language norms should be taken for granted. Rather, newcomers should be seen as being immersed in fluid, hybrid, dynamic, multilingual and multicultural social contexts, which in some cases can be 12 perceived as unwelcoming and indeed may be hostile in some cases (Norton, 2000). Duff (2003) notes in this regard that: Language socialization is a process marked by peaks and valleys, progression and regression, times of learning and forgetting, of belonging and not belonging, of speaking and being silent, and all the tensions, confusion, and points in between, (p. 333) As a result, accommodation cannot be taken for granted, and in fact partial accommodation or even resistance might characterize newcomers who refuse to adjust to their new contexts, or who feel rejected by them (see Duff, 2003; Morita & Kobayashi, in press). In this sense, the bi-directionality and the contingent nature of L2S must be taken into account. Furthermore, the early anthropological research and theory featuring people's affiliation to a single community (i.e., the idea that people seek membership in one community at a time), while suitably representative of many "small-scale" societies, is inadequate in understanding contemporary contexts of migration and globalization. Therefore, it seems more appropriate to think of people's negotiation in terms of their synchronic participation in multiple communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998) (and as I argue later, the composition of their individual networks of practice). Language socialization theory also draws increasingly on perspectives on learning that emerged in the 1990s, particularly on the notion of CoPs (Bronson & Watson-Gegeo, in press). For Lave and Wenger (1991), learning is viewed as a situated activity, and the process through which learning takes place has been termed legitimate peripheral participation (LPP). LPP is a complex concept, associated with social structures involving power relations. Newcomers are seen as peripheral participants in their respective new communities who are moving from partial participation to full participation by means of the guidance provided by more experienced CoP members (referred to as "oldtimers"). However, traditional models of expert-novice relationships have been recently questioned, since the assumption that oldtimer individuals (who are by default assumed to be the experts, when they actually may not be) are always willing and able to share their expertise with novice newcomers is faulty (e.g., Duff, in press b; Leki, 2001; Morita, 2004). 13 A final defining characteristic of L2S research relates to its qualitative, longitudinal nature. Ethnographies of communication, ethnographic case studies, or case studies employing ethnographic techniques, this investigation being an example of the latter, have been identified as the hallmark of L2S research methodology. Bronson and Watson- Gegeo (in press) note in this regard that LS has increasingly become an umbrella term under which studies that do not strictly adhere to the defining characteristics of the theory have been placed. Bronson and Watson Gegeo propose a taxonomy of LS studies that includes three categories: in the first category are studies that focus on LS as a topic (e.g., Bayley & Schecter, 2003), yet without really employing the research methods advocated by LS theory or the theory itself. In the second category are studies that employ LS as an explicit theoretical framework or approach. Research of this kind draws on the ontology and epistemology of LS theory, but fails to follow a longitudinal design. In the third category are LS studies that follow a longitudinal, ethnographic design and draw on linguistic anthropology, and consider both macro-and micro-dimensions of the contexts under investigation. The third type of studies also usually perform discourse analysis of oral interactional data. The present study draws on features of both the second and third categories outlined above. The focus is placed on the role played by academic literacy practices in socializing students into their new academic contexts and also on students' acquisition of these new literacies and language skills. The LS approach has been employed by a number of researchers interested in the academic discourse socialization of L2 learners (e.g., Bronson, 2005; Duff, 1995, 1996, 2002, 2006a; Harklau, 2003; Kobayashi, 2003; Morita, 2002, 2004; Poole, 1992; Zappa- Hollman, 2007). This new and very fruitful line of research has demonstrated the effectiveness of the approach in examinations of the role of oral interactions, negotiations, and scaffolding in socializing learners to target spoken discourses. Duff (1995), for instance, focused on how students in dual-language (DL) Hungarian-English high school programs in Hungary enacted the "feleles" (a traditional form of recitation used as an institutional assessment tool), which at the time of the study was being replaced by other types of oral interaction and assessment, particularly by teachers in the English-medium classrooms. Among other findings, her study demonstrated the usefulness of the LS theory in revealing the macro and micro-political contexts of 14 instruction that shaped the original "feleles" and in turn led to its reform. Her study also shows that LS is indeed a contested process, which was illustrated in that case by means of the resistance and negotiations of the recitation practice between students and their more traditional Hungarian DL teachers. Morita (2004) illustrated how six Japanese women in a Canadian university negotiated their participation/non-participation in graduate courses where students were expected to interact spontaneously in different types of conversations (e.g., large class discussions, small group discussions, presentations, etc.). Morita was able to unpack the different meanings of Japanese students' "silences" by drawing on both LS and CoP perspectives, and revealed that despite their seemingly passive actions the students were indeed exercising their agency to negotiate their participation and language learning in classroom contexts. Several L2S studies share a common focus on oral academic presentations (OAPs) in Canadian university classrooms. Kobayashi (2003) looked at presentations from "behind the scenes," that is, he investigated how out-of-class experiences impacted in- class performance. His detailed examination of the discourse and content negotiations of a group of Japanese undergraduate learners demonstrates the role of peer collaboration and scaffolding in language learning both inside and outside classroom contexts. And Morita's (2000) work studied how TESL graduate students were socialized into OAPs by observing and performing this activity. Her LS-informed analysis yielded a detailed description of the identifying features of OAPs, the expected ways of presenting, and students' apprenticeship into this academic discourse tradition. Similarly, Zappa- Hollman's (2007) investigation examined how students across disciplinary fields (e.g., History, Anthropology, Biochemestry) were socialized into OAPs, revealing among other things, how the participants negotiated the challenges (linguistic, sociocultural and psychological) that they faced when preparing for and delivering an OAP. The study also illustrated how attempts made by more expert native English speaker (NES) classmates to scaffold novice NNES students were not always effective. Duffs (2006a) work examined the academic socialization of Korean undergraduate exchange students into the different discourses and practices of courses across disciplinary areas at a Canadian university. Her study reveals that although native 15 speaking models are considered to be an important source of socialization, for a variety of personal and contextual reasons many Korean students failed to connect with Anglophone speakers. As a result, much of their socialization came through practicing English and exchanging information about the target academic culture with students from Korean and other national (Asian) backgrounds who were more accessible to them. The studies reviewed so far have focused on socialization into oral academic discourse practices. In contrast, socialization into written discourse practices has so far been explored less. Bronson's (2005) recent investigation illustrates a very successful attempt at extending the use of L2S theory for the analysis of the academic literacy trajectories of four international graduate students negotiating texts and feedback in a US university context. Through an analysis of the "critical incidents" that illuminated the students' socialization, the resources they tapped into in order to gather knowledge of the target literacy conventions, and the challenges the students experienced as part of their socialization into new academic literacy practices, Bronson's study corroborates the usefulness of L2S theory in producing a holistic account of the students' learning experiences. There are other studies on academic literacy/writing which do not explicitly follow an LS approach, yet which do share many characteristics of LS research in light of their ethnographic nature, their view of practices as pre-eminently social and situated, and their focus on the fluid, contested, negotiated nature of academic literacy practices (e.g., Casanave, 1995,2002; Leki, 2003a; Spack, 1997a, 2004; Prior, 1995, 1998). I examine some of these studies in more detail in Section 2.3. The present study is an attempt to further illustrate the usefulness of L2S theory in examining the contexts of literate discourse socialization. In addition to taking account of the participants' backgrounds and histories to make sense of their experiences, I propose and illustrate five parameters of analysis (students' individual networks of practice, team work, course resources, feedback and institutional sources of support) described in 3 Bronson (2005) draws on the "critical incident method" used as a research and teaching tool in various disciplinary fields and contexts. He defines this notion as "episodes when the participants learned something important about the academy, academic language, or themselves as language learners and, as a consequence, changed their self-image in a significant way and/or decided on a particular course of action" (pp. 55-56). Critical incidents are seen as catalyzers of metacognitive knowledge, and therefore as an important aspect of language socialization; they can range from single episodes (e.g., a single interaction) to a series of concatenated episodes. In this study, I employ the notion of critical incidents along the same lines as Bronson (2005). 16 Chapter 6 through which I attempt to derive a situated, holistic, comprehensive understanding of the internal and external factors that shaped the participants' academic literacy socialization. I also suggest that this model could potentially serve as point of reference for future L2S investigations in the same vein. 2.2 Individual networks of practice Previous studies investigating HE student retention and adaptation have shown that the relationships students establish early on in their new academic contexts are of paramount importance for their motivation and performance (Beder, 1997; Wilcox, Winn & Fyvie-Gauld, 2005). It has also been argued that the level of stress students experience in a new academic environment is exacerbated when students fail to benefit from adequate social support. Wan, Chapman & Biggs (1992) explain: Social support refers to the extent to which students have a network of friends in the host culture who offer them encouragement, support, and advice. Friends within the social support network operate both to help interpret the new culture to the international student and to reinforce the individual's self-confidence, (p. 609) These views are also shared by research on the adjustment of international NNES students to Western English-medium HE settings both at the undergraduate (Myles & Cheng, 2003) and graduate levels (e.g., Braine, 2002; Ferenz, 2005). The common underlying principle appears to be that students' social relationships affect their socialization into the target academic culture. In my search for an adequate notion that would allow me to illustrate the complex networks of relationships that mediated the different practices of my participants, I was surprised by the great diversity of frameworks and terminology used to account for these relationships. Among the most popularly chosen notions are "support network," "social network," "social/academic relationships" and "communities of practice." While there is partial overlap among these concepts, some of which have been theorized more than others, each of them seems to highlight a particular aspect which might be ignored by one or more of the others (see discussion below), resulting in an incomplete picture. In light of this, drawing upon the interconnected theoretical approaches of "social network" and "communities of practice," I developed the notion "individual network of practice" (INoP), which I believe more adequately addresses my research goals. In what follows, I 17 first provide an overview of the relevant aspects of each theoretical approach which informed my theorization of the INoP notion. This is followed by an application of this concept as one of the parameters I considered for the analysis of the participants' L2 academic literacy socialization at WCU. The introduction of "social network" as an analytic construct is attributed to Barnes (1954), whose work later served as basis for anthropologists Mitchell (1969) and Boissevain (1974). It is identified as a useful concept to bypass Marx's more abstract notion of "social class," which seems more useful at the macro level but which is hard to specify and identify at the micro level, especially since individuals are not often conscious of their social class. In contrast, people seem to be conscious of their social network affiliations, whose overt characteristics make them also observable to an outsider (Feagin, 1982). Social network analysis is now an established paradigm popular among sociolinguists who have adopted it to study the influence of social networking on the linguistic practices of speech communities (e.g., Lippi-Green, 1989; Milroy, 1980, 1987; Santa Ana & Parodi, 1998). Despite its limited use in the fields of applied linguistics and L2 research, a recent study by Ferenz (2005) has demonstrated its applicability to examine advanced L2 academic literacy in an EFL context (Ferenz, 2005). According to social network theory, an individual's social network can be defined as a map including all the informal social relationships in which the person is embedded. The units that make up a social network are identified as "nodes" which are "tied" (i.e., related) along a continuum of strength and/or proximity, and these relationships are usually displayed graphically, with the nodes represented by points and the ties by lines radiating from the different nodes to the "core" (i.e., the center of the network to which all ties are connected). Social networks can be studied at various levels of complexity, identifying its different "network zones" (e.g., first order, second order, etc.) as well as their "structure" and "content." The people who are directly tied to the core are said to belong to the "first order" network zone. As Milroy (1987) explains, "each of these people may be in contact with others whom ego [the core] does not know, but who could come into contact with via his first order zone. Although a third, fourth and nth order zone could be distinguished, the first and second order zones appear, in practice, to be the most important" (Milroy, 1987, pp. 46-47). The structure of a network is identified by 18 means of its density, which is measured by calculating the number of people linked to the core who are also connected among each other. The content characteristics of a network are specified by analyzing the nature of its links, which can be "uniplex" (i.e., a node which is connected to the core in a single capacity) or "multiplex" (i.e., a node which is connected to the core in more than one capacity). A network's density and content can be calculated using two simple formulas (see Milroy, pp. 50-51).4 Among other uses, social network analysis is concerned with understanding the complex structure of relationships and identifying the roles of individuals within the networks in order to explain phenomena (e.g., social behavior, in the case of anthropologists; speech variation, in the case of sociolinguists). Social network, as a concept, also resonates with social practice theories by postulating that knowledge (i.e., meaning-making) and learning are the result of negotiations among members of a given network rather than being primarily determined by the cognitive and psychological characteristics of individuals. The concept has also been useful in assessing the "social capital" (Bourdieu, 1977, 1986; Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977) of individuals, equating the relationships people establish to investments: "individuals engage in interactions and networking in order to produce profits" (Lin, 1999, p. 31). These profits, commonly referred to as "returns," can be of two main types: instrumental (e.g., wealth, power, reputation) and emotional/expressive, thus contributing to the physical and psychological health of individuals (Boissevain, 1987; Lin, 1999), both kinds of profits eventually contributing to the individual's cultural capital. In L2 research, a social theory-informed notion of investment was proposed by Norton (1997,2000), Norton Peirce (1995), who views L2 learning as an investment individuals make with an expected return of symbolic and materials resources. The CoP framework introduced earlier in this chapter also views learning as the result of a social process (i.e., situated learning). Whereas the concept of "network" denotes social relationships among interconnected individuals (regardless of whether their ties are weak/distant or strong/close), the concept of "community" implies a 4 While I will draw on these notions to inform my analysis, I will not include these calculations since the quantitative results do not seem to address the kinds of questions my work aims to answer. 19 stronger kind of relationship, usually over a substantial period of time. A second distinction is that while CoP members are related through mutual engagement, a joint enterprise and shared practice (Wenger, 1998), members of a social network are not necessarily related through these three constitutive elements of CoPs; instead, their connection is role-based (see Holmes & Meyerhoff, 1999). Hence, while CoP research builds on the notions of apprenticeship (Rogoff, 1990) and legitimate peripheral participation to account for the process of becoming a CoP member (i.e., novice learners are guided by more expert members to acquire the target practices and eventually be granted full membership), social network research differs in how it examines the processes of participation, membership and learning. The issues of power and identity construction are implicated in both approaches (as well as in LS theory). According to the CoP framework, an individual's personal identities and social identities are viewed as being defined in relation to their membership status; i.e., whether they are marginal, peripheral or legitimate members of their respective communities of practice. In turn, differential power relationships are implicated in the membership granting process. Similarly, social networks are believed to have a direct impact on people's identity construction (Hogg & Terry, 2000), and power and identity emerge when the hierarchical nature of the network ties is considered. For the purposes of my dissertation, although both notions (CoPs and INoPs) are appealing, if employed independently neither of them appears to fully capture the complex social landscape of my participants. For instance, on the one hand, I find the CoP notion useful for examining the participant's team work experiences and relationships. On the other hand, the notion is not very helpful for accounting for my participants' social involvement in non-CoP-based relationships to which the defining characteristics of CoPs (e.g., mutual engagement, joint enterprise, and shared practice) may only partially apply. In such cases, the notion of social networks seems to be a better match. 5 The lifecycle of CoPs is currently under scrutiny, as Lave and Wenger's framework does not elaborate on this, therefore leaving open the question of how long CoPs last or even whether there is a minimum amount of time before CoP identification can take place. For an interesting debate on this and other aspects of the CoP framework refer to articles by Davies (2005), Eckert & Wenger (2005), Gee (2005) and Meyerhoff (2005), all published in issue 9 (4) of the Journal ofSociolinguistics. The CoP framework as a research tool for L2 studies has also been recently examined by Haneda (2006) and Barton and Tusting (2005). 20 Based on similar observations, Brown and Duguid (2001) combined the social network framework with the notion of communities of practice and coined the concept of "networks of practice," also known as NoPs. According to the proponents of this concept, "[p]ractice creates the common substrate [between both frameworks]. With the term network, we also want to suggest that relations among network members are significantly looser than those within a community of practice" (p. 205, italics in original). To a certain extent, the NoP concept appears useful for examining my participants' social interactional landscape since the absence of the word "community" makes the notion more inclusive of relationships that are less tight (in terms of proximity, strength, as well as permanence). However, NoPs has been developed to study extremely large groups of interconnected people (e.g., all workers in a large factory); groups, which despite sharing many CoP-like attributes, would not be considered a community as such because not all its members would be likely to ever meet, for instance. Brown and Duguid (2001) identify disciplinary NoPs, for example, as cutting "across heterogeneous organizations, including, for example, universities, think tanks, or research labs." (p. 206) In this sense, NoPs becomes a useful notion to study what could be identified as "loose macro-CoPs." In search of a concept more attuned to the examination of an individual's personal relationships, I draw on the notions of social networks and communities of practice (in conjunction with its modified version of networks of practice) to propose the concept of "individual network of practice" (INoP). INoP denotes all the social ties of any given individual, whether weak/distant or strong/close, relevant to the phenomenon under study (in this case, their L2 academic literacy socialization). A person's investment in their own INoP is also associated with expected returns of two main kinds: affective support and academic support. However, not all nodes necessarily contribute to both types of return, nor do they do so at equivalent levels, or homogeneously over time. My dissertation is mainly concerned with analyzing how students' L2 academic literacy socialization benefited as a result of their INoP interactions. The different INoP constitutive elements are represented as ties (i.e., the connections), nodes (i.e., the individuals with whom a person connects) and clusters (i.e., these are labels or identity markers grouping nodes of the same kind), all of these visually displayed in connection with the core (i.e., the individual's whose INoP is represented). 21 Typically, an INoP will include a variety of clusters (presumably, the larger the social exposure of the individual, the larger the number of clusters and nodes in their INoP) with ties along the strength/proximity continuum. Nodes (which can be uniplex or multiplex, as explained before) are tied to the core through one or more clusters. In sum, in this dissertation I draw on the CoP and INoP notions and show their usefulness in examining academic literacy from an LS perspective. 2.3 Second language academic literacy studies Several researchers in immigrant-receiving English dominant societies have explored NNESs' literacy practices beyond the context of the ESL/EAP classroom by focusing on the experiences of international and/or immigrant undergraduate and graduate students in different disciplinary areas across the curriculum (e.g., Adamson, 1993; Angelova & Riazantseva, 1999; Belcher, 1994, 1995; Belcher & Braine, 1995; Braine, 1995; Broson, 2005; Casanave, 1995, 2002; Connor & Kramer, 1995; Connor & Mayberry, 1995; Currie, 1993, 1998; Ferenz, 2005; Fu, 1995; Harklau, 1994; Ivanic, 1998; Leki, 1995,1999, 2003a; Leki & Carson, 1993, 1997; Prior, 1991, 1995, 1998; Riazi, 1997; Shi & Beckett, 2002; Spack, 1997a, 2004; Sternglass, 1997; Zamel, 1993, 1995; Zamel & Spack, 1998; Zhu, 2001).6 The findings of these studies have raised our awareness of the kinds of needs, strengths, and weaknesses students bring with them to their new contexts, and have yielded quite sophisticated (albeit still incomplete) understandings of the kinds of expectations involved in interpreting and producing academic texts in a second language. Taken as a whole, an overarching finding of these investigations reveals the contextually-grounded nature of academic literacy: we now view it as involving more than possession of the skills to read and write; it involves being able to read and write in particular ways that address the expectations of those who will be the co-constructors and simultaneously audience and assessors of the discourses produced. Spack's (1997a, 2004) Readers should note that most of the studies cited here are identified as "second language writing" research. Indeed, not all of these studies even employ the notion of literacy, and of those which do, not all conceptualize this notion in the ways that more current literacy theorists do. Despite this, all these investigations are considered as part of a bigger enterprise, and they have contributed to our understanding of different aspects of literacy. 22 longitudinal study of a Japanese college student's academic literacy development over a three-year period exemplifies this point and suggests that an individual needs to be familiar with the linguistic, cognitive, and sociocultural knowledge of the contexts in which the literacy events are embedded in order to succeed. (Refer to Kucer, 2005, and Prior, 1998, for a similar view.) Yet, as Spack indicates, much of this institutionally- contextualized knowledge seems to remain hidden to newcomers, who depend on their ability to unpack the tacit norms and expectations of their host academic communities. Along the same lines, Cananave (2002) notes that in order to achieve competency in academic literacy, students need to learn to play the textual, social, and political literacy "games" of academia. Furthermore, "learning to write [and I would add, read] in academic settings is about change in ways of thinking, using language, and envisioning the self (p. 36). To recapitulate, these studies point out some key issues and aspects that future academic literacy research should consider. Namely, that we need to keep in mind a broader notion of literacy and integrate all its multiple dimensions when exploring learners' experiences; that academic literacy research should concern itself with the contextual (institutional and political) forces that underlie literacy practices; and acknowledge that through literacy events individuals co-construct their multiple identities. With respect to this last point, issues of identity and subjective positioning have recently been explored by several L2 writing researchers (e.g. Cadman, 1997; Canagarajah, 2002,2003; Casanave, 1995,2002; Hirvela & Belcher, 2001; Hyland, 2002; Ivanic , 1998; Ivanic & Camps, 2001; Kubota, 2003; Shen, 1988; Starfield, 2002; and Thesen, 1997). These studies represent complementary perspectives on identity research that highlight the bi-directional impact of academic literacy and identity construction. For instance, Starfield's (2002) study of the identity negotiations of two novice writers (a Black NNES student and a White NES student) as they composed an essay for a first-year Sociology course in an English-medium South African university, shows that there are sociohistorically shaped unequal power relationships that impact the way people negotiate their identities. Based on Clark and Ivanic's (1997) and Ivanic's (1998) analysis of writer identity, Starfield (2002) argues that student success is 23 dependant on the kinds of identities they construct, and that developing an authoritative self seems to be the key to success. In order to negotiate an authoritative discoursal self in their texts, students draw, among other things, on their own "textual" capital,7 a notion that refers to the discourses students bring with them and that constitute their autobiographical self. Consequently, those who lack the kinds of valued textual capital have a very hard time trying to negotiate an authoritative voice in their academic writing. Canagarajah (2002, 2003) also states that there is an interplay between different dimensions of our self which has considerable implications for writing. His work on multilingual writers' identities draws on the notion of "voice," which he defines as "a manifestation of one's agency in discourse through the means of language" (Canagarajah, 2003, p. 267). He sees this rhetorically constructed voice as negotiated in relation to three dimensions: historically defined identities (such as race, ethnicity, and nationality), institutional roles (like teacher, student, researcher), and ideological subjectivity, which he explains as our positioning according to discourses such as "authoritative native- speaker/blundering non-native speaker" (p. 267). Taken together, these dimensions represent the values of the dominant ideologies in the society. While Starfield's (2002) research highlights the impossibilities of developing a successful identity through writing when the autobiographical self (i.e., the textual capital) people bring with them contradicts ideologies and beliefs valued in the dominant society, Canagarajah (2002, 2003) offers a more flexible perspective, whereby any novice writer has the potential to adopt discoursal strategies that will allow them to develop a textual critical voice (i.e., the kind of voice valued in Western academia). Hirvela and Belcher (2001) also approached identity through the concept of voice. For these authors, identity and self-representation are "voicist" terms that form part of what they call the "architecture of voice" (p. 91). Voice is defined as a "metaphor [that] has to do with feeling-hearing-sensing a person behind written words, even if that person is just a persona created for a particular text or a certain reading" (Bowden, 1999, as cited in Hirvela & Belcher, 2001, p. 85). In this way, voice is mostly seen as a textual manifestation of people's identity (or, in Ivanic's terms, the self-as-author). 7 Starfield's notion of "textual" capital draws on Bourdieu's (1990) theory of social capital. Textual capital exemplifies a kind of "symbolic" capital, as notion proposed in Norton Peirce (1995). 24 . Researchers interested in the area of feedback have also examined identity issues in connection with the kinds of responses L2 learners receive from experienced writers (typically, from instructors and tutors) (e.g., Carless, 2006; Higgins, 2000; Higgins, Skelton, & Hartley, 2002; Ivanic, Clark & Rimmershaw, 2000). Because written comments and grades may be the only kind of feedback students receive on their work in courses across the curriculum (as opposed to ESL/EAP/ESP classroom contexts where other types and sources of feedback may be offered), they are bound to have a strong emotional impact on students. Issues of power differentials between feedback givers and receivers have been identified, and these, together with examinations of the characteristics of the feedback offered to students have led to the conclusion that feedback positions students in various ways. In turn, these positionings may either facilitate or hinder learners' possibilities to improve their work. In sum, as Paltridge (2004) notes, "students are positioned by the person who has set the assessment task and who has control over them in terms of what they might say and how they will value what they say" (p. 91, citing Ivanic & Simpson, 1992). Researchers interested in other areas of L2 writing have examined the kinds of discourse features and writing tasks across different disciplinary fields (e.g., Braine, 1989,1995; Bridgeman & Carlson, 1984; Casanave & Hubbard, 1992; Johns, 1997; Hale et al., 1996; Samraj, 2002, 2004). These studies show that whereas different "genre systems" (Swales, 1990) may be identified as characteristic of particular discourse communities, some labels (e.g., research paper) may not necessarily mean the same thing in all contexts (Samraj, 2004). In short, "there is no such a thing as the one-size-fits-all academic essay that can be written in all areas of study" (Paltridge, 2004, p. 90). The existence of less "traditional" and much less studied "genres" or types of written tasks which may pose greater difficulty to novice NNES students than composing a research paper or an essay has also recently been underscored. For instance, Leki's (2003a) investigation of Yang's (a Chinese nursing student in the US) experiences writing Nursing Care Plans (NCPs) shows that while her skill at writing traditional research papers was acceptable for most of her instructors, it was the NCPs that posed the biggest challenge for her, since in addition to requiring knowledge of specific technical terms and of ways to reduce written language expression effectively, they also demanded cultural 25 and sociolinguistic awareness of the kind that newly arrived non-native speakers unfamiliar with the sociocultural context would have to acquire. Among other things, by illustrating how Yang struggled to complete the NCPs, Leki's study reveals a disjunction between the types of writing preparation students receive in ESL courses (which usually focus on traditional composition practices, e.g., the five paragraph essay) and some of the kinds of writing tasks students are expected to complete in content courses across the curriculum. The study also shows that many of the writing tasks students are expected to complete in the course of their career training in school do not necessarily match the kinds of writing demands they are expected to fulfill once they are working (see also Parks, 2001; Parks & Maguire, 1999). Also in relation to writing tasks, researchers have revealed that tasks are always subject to multiple interpretations. In exploring EAP needs analysis for academic writing tasks, Prior (1995) concluded that the task the professor assigned was not the same as the task the students understood (i.e., there were multiple task interpretations). His study also revealed that students drew on many sources other than the professor's instructions to complete the task: students made inferences based on their prior school experience, the models offered in the assigned readings, and their perceptions of the professor's personality and intellectual biases. As a central argument, Prior reminds us that tasks are to a great extent shaped by the multiple histories, activities, and goals that participants bring to and create within seminars. Other studies (although not in the L2 writing area) lead to similar conclusions about task interpretation and performance (e.g., Coughlan & Duff, 1994; and Mohan & Marshall-Smith, 1992). What these investigations highlight is the importance of investigating the nature and role of context in order to make sense of the academic literacy experiences of learners. The studies discussed in this section have strongly shaped my research questions as well as my data interpretations. In particular, the reconceptualization of academic literacy, the identification of the emotional aspect of feedback and the role it plays in positioning students, and the negotiated nature of task interpretations are aspects that I attempt to address and further explore in the analysis chapters of this dissertation. 26 2.4 Study abroad terminology The umbrella term "study abroad" is used to refer to educational activities in a foreign country that encompass internships, educational programs, and student exchange opportunities. In general—and also in this dissertation—study abroad refers to organized university programs for HE students who leave their home countries to pursue credit- bearing academic study in a host country. While some overseas students are independent, most of the literature has focused on students that have access to the overseas experience through official agreements in place between their home and their host universities. Another distinction that emerges from the literature is that study abroad is a term that has been usually employed to characterize the experiences of US-based students traveling abroad, while those based in other countries are normally referred to as "exchange," "foreign" or "overseas" students when outside their home countries (Coleman, 1998, in press). This means that, almost ironically, study abroad does not typically describe experiences of foreign students in the US (these students are usually referred to as "international"), even though the number of American students abroad compared to the number of foreign students in the US is miniscule. While "study abroad" refers to American programs, Europeans have their own version usually known as "residence abroad" or just "the year abroad." The term "student mobility" is also popular among Europeans. It thus follows that there is no simple way to make a clear-cut distinction among these concepts, especially when they have been employed so haphazardly in the different research areas. Below I include a brief definition of each of these terms, with the intent of clarifying their meaning in the context of this dissertation. It should be noted that some overlapping among terms occurs, and additional interpretations and uses are also possible. 8 Some researchers and organizations have looked into this matter, trying to figure out why US students are not particularly drawn to study abroad. Among the motives identified for their staying at home is the fact that American students are not required to become bilingual to secure a job, and until now, academic/professional experience outside the US has not been necessarily valued in the job market. This situation is changing as this dissertation is written, and Americans are starting to acknowledge the importance of study abroad in our global world. Consequently, study abroad opportunities among US based students are becoming more plentiful, and the Open Doors (2005) report shows that the number of American students abroad is on a dramatic increase. For a more in-depth analysis of this issue, refer to Bollag et al. (2004), Gardner & Witherell (2004) and Levin (2001). 27 "Overseas" and "foreign" are descriptors that have been used to classify those students that are not nationals of the country in which they are studying, and who are usually holders of a student visa.9 "International" is also a word that has been used to refer to this type of student population. But as mentioned above, most of the literature seems to have restricted the use of "international" to refer to foreign students based in the North American countries, while students based in other countries (mostly in Australia and Europe) have been usually called "overseas" or "foreign" students (Levin, 2001). Aside from this distinction, the constructs seem to apply equally to any individual studying in any country other than that of their origin. "Exchange" students share with overseas/foreign/international students the characteristic that they are pursuing academic development in an institutional context outside of their home country. However, a distinction that has sometimes been highlighted because it may lead to different findings than those derived for the overseas/foreign/international student population is the fact that exchange students usually take part in a program that has been organized and agreed upon between the home and the host institution. Also, while international students' fees are usually paid to the host university (because these students may not even be enrolled at a home university at the time of the study-abroad experience), exchange students usually continue to pay their fees to their home institution. In addition, an exchange usually involves an agreement between both participating institutions to send and receive students. Several exchange models exist, with variations in the types of length, the types of courses/academic activities expected from exchange students as well as the work load, the methods for evaluating students, and so forth (see Sowa, 2002, and Goodwin & Nacht, 1988, for more details about the different models of student exchange programs). Finally, the word "sojourner" is employed here based on Ady's (1995) definition, which states that sojourners, unlike immigrants or refugees, do not seek permanent 9 This again, depending on the kinds of agreements/relationships between the host country and the student's country of origin/citizenship. It would be inappropriate to generalize that all overseas/foreign/international students hold visas while they study abroad. The term "visa" student has also been employed to refer to foreign students (mostly in SLA /L2 research), but it seems this label suffers from the obvious limitation of inadvertently leaving out overseas students who, while not needing a visa in their host country, still share all other characteristics that are of interest to the researcher. 28 residence in the host country. They typically stay abroad for as long as their study or temporary work experience lasts, and then move somewhere else (usually back to their home country, although mobility across several countries also seems to be an increasingly popular phenomenon, especially in Europe). In short, the term study abroad is the most encompassing of all (e.g., an exchange program is one kind of study abroad program), and like some of the other terms, it can be used to refer both to the students as well as to the programs and the overall experiences. This is my rationale for its prominent use in this work. 2.5 Study abroad research Over the last thirty years or so, the field of SLA has experienced an increase in the number of studies focusing on foreign language acquisition by sojourners (e.g., studies by Brecht & Davidson, 1991; Brecht, Davidson & Ginsberg, 1990, 1993; Carroll, 1967; DeKeyser, 1991; DuFon & Churchill, 2006; Freed, 1995a, 1995b; Ginsberg, 1992; Urdaneta Hernandez, 1996; Parr, 1988; Pellegrino, 1998; 2005; Regan, 1998; Stevens, 2000). As Freed (1998) notes, "prior to the early 1990s there were a series of sporadic and unrelated studies which explored the language learning experiences of students who had been abroad" (p. 33). Most of these investigations relied on test scores to determine language development levels pre- and post-study abroad (e.g., Carroll's (1967) survey, which focused on the language proficiency of college students majoring in French, German, Italian, and Russian). Other test-based investigations were conducted, mostly in Britain, between 1969 and the early 1990s (e.g., Dyson, 1988; Magnan, 1986; Milleret, 1990). Most of these studies employed the ACTFL/IRL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) as an assessment tool to measure the language growth of study abroad students, and they reaffirm the positive impact of a stay abroad in the target language environment on students' improvement in linguistic proficiency. However, because these studies relied exclusively on test scores, they fail to provide any insights regarding the language development process itself, and the factors that may have affected it (Freed, 1998). Also, the students' perspectives are not considered in that literature. Other shortcomings relate to the kinds of tests employed to track students' achievement. For instance, the OPI has been criticized for presenting just 29 one global holistic score, thus failing to account for different aspects involved in language use. Researchers also found that the language development of learners at higher proficiency levels is hard to track because it is not linear (Huebner, 1998). Departing from an exclusive focus on language tests scores to determine the linguistic impact of study abroad periods, more recent investigators have employed a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies to explore issues in this area. Among these are large-scale studies, some of which were commissioned by organizations or institutions that provided financial support or that organized the study abroad programs on which the research later took place. The largest investigation on study abroad issues completed by American scholars in the 1990s focused on the acquisition of Russian by US students, and the findings were reported in a series of publications (Brecht & Davidson, 1991; Brecht et al., 1990, 1993; Ginsberg, 1992). Although these large-scale investigations were helpful in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the support programs for the mobility of students and they shed light on many pragmatic issues related to study abroad, they revealed little or nothing about the actual individual experiences of the students. Noting this gap, researchers interested in non-program evaluation information but rather on the impact of the study abroad program on the students and on the experiences they had while abroad, have conducted studies of a different nature. Several individual studies, including a growing number of doctoral dissertations (e.g., Farrell, 2006; Hernandez de Santis, 2004; Levin, 2001; Mendelson, 2004; Shougee, 1999; Urdaneta Hernandez, 1996; Waldbaum, 1996), explored language acquisition by students in a study abroad context. Some studies have tried to answer the question of whether or not length of stay has an impact on second/foreign language acquisition. A common belief—some call it a "myth" (Levin, 2001; Mendelson, 2004; Wilkinson, 1998a, 1998b)~is that the acquisition of a foreign language is accelerated and improved in all respects as a result of spending a prolonged period of time in the country where target language is spoken. This assumption was first claimed by Carroll (1967), who is credited with having published the first investigation on study abroad and foreign language acquisition. Also, some researchers claim that in most cases, language acquisition takes place even when it is not the primary objective of the sojourn experience (e.g., Barrows, 1981; Carlson et al., 30 1990). A number of studies sought to test the contention that studying a foreign language abroad yields better results than studying it at home (e.g., DeKeyser, 1991; Dewey, 2004; Dwyer, 2004; Freed, Segalowitz & Dewey, 2004; Guntermann, 1992a, 1992b, 1995; Lafford, 1995,2004; Matsumura, 2001; Mdhle, 1984; and Stevens 2000), revealing that language acquisition does not inevitably occur as a result of residence in the target language country, particularly when learners opt not to interact in the foreign language during their stay abroad.10 Other investigators have also reported similar findings, especially when students abroad choose to mingle with co-nationals instead of establishing new relationships with locals (e.g., Pellegrino, 1998, 2005; Wilkinson, 1998a, 1998b). Another group of studies have focused on the impact of out-of-class activities and socialization on language learning. For instance, Parr (1988) distributed a series of questionnaires to US students in Spain. The major findings derived from this study stress the importance of establishing friendships with target language speakers in order to better (and more quickly) acquire the L2 language in a true immersion context. Parr claims that studying a second language in the classroom is not sufficient to maximize language acquisition, and therefore the role of relationships is crucial in motivating the students to learn the language and to enhance the possibilities of exposure to the target language in a meaningful context. However, much research indicates that foreign students usually have problems establishing friendships with host students during their sojourn (Furnham & Bochner, 1982; Hull IV, 1981; Klineberg, 1981a, 1981b; Myles & Cheng, 2003; Segawa, 1998). Segawa (1998), for example, notes how problems of language communication hindered the process of establishing relationships between the Japanese student participants and their Anglophone Canadian peers. Other researchers have reported similar experiences, where study abroad participants prefer to establish networks with peers from their home country in order to speak their LI instead of choosing to mingle with host nationals (e.g., Koskinen & Tossavainen, 2004; Pellegrino, 1998, 2005). The role of students' social interactions with locals and the importance of extracurricular activities have been highlighted not only in relation to language acquisition, but also in Refer to Lafford (2006) for a recent comprehensive review of studies that compared Spanish SLA in study abroad versus at home contexts. 31 relation to students' adjustment to the new culture and to their acquisition of foreign cultural knowledge and values (Kim, 1994). While abroad, students experience transformations in different areas. They may become aware of new academic norms and values, they can be expected to gain fresh perspectives on the world, to experience L2 development, and so forth. In addition, "the journey outwards in terms of gaining global perspective is also a journey towards self- discovery" (Shougee, 1999, p. 61). Yet only a few study abroad investigations have explicitly focused on the relationship between language learning and identity development. In most cases, the literature mentions in passing that "changes in the self result from contact with other people in other cultures during the stay abroad period, but scarcely any details are provided about how this transformation of the self is in fact perceived by the students and the people who surround them. In addition, identity does not mean the same in all studies that employ this concept. Rather, multiple notions of identity have been explored: e.g., racial identity (Ng, 2003), national identity (Berwick & Carey, 2000), personal identity and social identity (Levin, 2001), sometimes more loosely defined and less theoretically supported than others. In general, when identity issues are explored, they are included within the whole "benefits package" of the study abroad experience. That is to say, shifts or changes in people's identities are usually explained as a by-product of the period of time the individual stayed overseas. In the case of study abroad students, because their sojourn experience may not necessarily involve prolonged periods of time, identity changes may not be perceived by the students during the period of their stay away. However, reentry to the home environment is prone to challenge newly acquired notions and frameworks, and recently established as well as older relationships may also be modified as a result of the period of absence in the home country or presence in the host country. All these in turn can be expected to transform the ways in which students perceive themselves, and can potentially influence the identity negotiations they perform as they seek entrance into (and exit from) different social groups. 32 2.5.1 Academic literacy development during study abroad The acquisition of academic competencies has been the focus of attention of a group of researchers interested in finding ways to help academic sojourners adjust to their new educational contexts. Many studies have examined the academic literacy of international students in a second language (refer to Section 2.1), yet the study abroad literature that has explored this topic is minimal. Indeed, in a recent review of studies of language learners within study abroad contexts, Churchill and DuFon (2006) point out the lack of research on this topic, and conclude that "given the scant attention that literacy has received in SA [study abroad] research (...) this would appear to be a rich area for further investigation" (p. 3). Among the few investigations in this area, the works by Kline (1998) and Shi and Beckett (2002) stand out. Kline's (1998) was an ethnographic case study of the L2 literacy development of eight US students during an academic-year study abroad program in France. Contrary to most studies on literacy that focus on the cognitive aspects of the acquisition of reading practices, Kline designed her study to explore L2 literacy development from a social practice perspective that emphasizes contexts and interactions between readers and texts, the environment, and other people. Literacy is viewed in her work as "context and culture-specific ... multifarious ... and ideologically bound. (...) It emerges through processes of acculturation, socialization and apprenticeship ... and thus is intimately tied to identity" (Kline, 1998, p. 147). Although her study only explores the reading aspect of literacy, her study does make some novel contributions and established an important precedent for subsequent academic literacy explorations in overseas contexts. In particular, her emphasis on reading as social practice is in sync with current "broad" views of literacy that challenge "narrow" conceptions of literacy that focus on the psychological and cognitive aspects of acquisition of reading and writing, yet ignoring socio-contextual factors." In addition, her study presents both an emic as well as an etic perspective, thus including perspectives which were missing in previous studies on the same topic in similar contexts. 1 1 For an overview of current notions of literacy, refer to Williams' (2004) excellent chapter which summarizes what he calls the "narrow" and "broad" views, and to the definitions provided in Chapter 1. 33 Shi and Beckett (2002) conducted studies on the academic writing development of a group of Japanese undergraduate exchange students in a Canadian university. Based on analysis of interview data and two written texts produced by the participants (one at the beginning and the other one at the end of the eight-month period abroad), the authors examined the kinds of written tasks that their participants were asked to do in the English context, focusing also on the types of conventions these students learned about academic writing in that language. In addition, they asked students to speculate about the impact of their newly acquired writing forms on their LI, once they returned to Japan. An interesting finding of this study is that, in the process of gaining awareness of the English writing style, most of the exchange students developed a preference for this style over their old Japanese one. This meant that upon their reentry to the academic context in Japan, students would have a choice between English and Japanese forms of writing (which the authors refer to as a "dilemma"). An important conclusion the researchers reach is that "academic staff should be aware that international students might bring with them perspectives and traditions of written communication that differ from those of English" (Shi & Beckett, 2002, p. 52), and they should not only focus on what students' lack, but they should also keep in mind that students are facing a process of adaptation, and resistance can be a stage in that process. 2.5.2 Post-exchange investigations The bulk of L2 study abroad research in higher education contexts has documented a wide spectrum of learners' experiences concerning their linguistic, cognitive and sociocultural dimensions, with most studies focusing on the period during which the exchange takes place and a subgroup of them also considering the pre-departure period. A growing percentage of the more recent research draws from data revealing students' perspectives, thus counterbalancing the previous neglect of sojourners' own voices (as discussed above in connection with Kline's (1998) study). As a result, although there is still much to learn, our current knowledge of students' views on their preparation before their exchange and their experiences while abroad has increased significantly. In contrast, although some investigations have documented, for instance, students' linguistic, psychological, sociocultural and cognitive transformations/development immediately 34 after the exchange, there is very little research that reports on students' post-study abroad views on how they assessed the significance of their sojourn once they returned to their home social, study and professional contexts. Indeed, as also noted by others, "even though colleges and universities remain committed to the assertion of positive outcomes from international education generally, we know surprisingly little in any systematic and empirical sense about the lasting effects of a year-abroad" (Berwick & Carey, 2000, p. 39, citing Berwick & Whalley, 2000; Coleman, 1997). This lack of research is even more extreme in the area of L2 academic literacy. A few exceptions are some partly related investigations conducted by Berwick and Carey (2000), Jones (1997), and Shi and Beckett (2002)~coincidentally, all examining Japanese students' issues upon reentry to their home country. The studies focused on the entire study abroad "cycle" of before, during and after the exchange, yet none of the above cited studies includes in-depth interpretations of the students' post-exchange perceptions. Of the three projects, only Shi and Beckett (2002) focused exclusively on writing aspects, while the others did so more peripherally. Clearly, there is a need for in-depth investigations that explore the L2 academic literacy socialization of learners during their sojourn, since only a few studies to date have addressed in detail this important aspect of the students' academic experiences. There is also a need for studies that follow up the students once they return to their home contexts given that most of the existing literature fails to examine how the sojourn may affect students' future professional, personal, and academic lives. In summary, the array of literature on study abroad has revealed many aspects of students' experiences overseas. Study abroad is highly complex, and to better grasp its real value we need to go beyond studies that quantify linguistic achievement and cultural impact. Notwithstanding the increasingly prolific work of researchers interested in international students' academic writing experiences, there are still many gaps that merit close attention. In brief, the kinds of writing practices (both products and processes), the types of contexts and populations, and the approaches that can be employed to focus on this SLA sub-area have not yet been exhausted. For instance, study abroad students' academic writing development has not been the focus of the vast majority of investigations on this topic. And what is more, there is a tendency to generalize the 35 findings on international students' experiences to other foreign sub-populations, such as exchange participants. Or vice versa, in some cases where exchange student populations were indeed the focal individuals of the investigations, the research questions do not address issues specific to this kind of overseas student, and therefore the findings are deemed relevant to all international students involved in L2 academic writing. However, there is potential for differentiating among the kinds of overseas populations in various ways. For instance, by looking at their academic background (i.e., international students with little or no prior academic writing experience may cope with different challenges than, say, exchange students that arrive in the host country with an already acquired set of L2 academic literacy practices). Also, the lens can be shifted by means of exploring the value attached by students to the L2 academic writing adjustment and the impact of the study abroad experience upon their return to their home universities. The role of students' goals for participating in the study abroad exchange can also be explored in relation to their impact on students' academic writing learning. And finally, the spectrum can be broadened by examining the role that institutions can play in assisting students in their academic writing development, which in turn can lead to specific pedagogical implications for the institutions involved in sending abroad or receiving the exchange students. An interesting issue brought to the fore by Casanave (2004) relates to whether or not issues of politics, ideology, and cultural constructs such as critical thinking (which have been lately addressed in SLA research) may "apply differently to populations of immigrant students in ESL settings than they do to international students who plan to return to their home countries after being educated in an English medium academic environment," (p. 199) which is precisely the case of study abroad students. Taking into account Casanave's point, we should ask ourselves: Do we really need to force study abroad students to fully adjust to their host institution norms and values? Is it equally fair to the students, their peers, and their instructors if we expect them to adapt and adopt new behaviors and competencies? Studies that attempt to shed some light on this issue are needed, and this is therefore one of the aims of this dissertation. 36 2 .6 S u m m a r y In this chapter I introduced the theoretical framework of L S and the notions of CoPs and INoPs, which have guided the data collection and analysis of this investigation. I also reviewed previous studies that are relevant to my dissertation project either due to their use of similar theories, research methods, and/or topics of inquiry. I have also identified areas for further research, some of which I attempt to address in my dissertation. In the next chapter, I will provide an overview of the research methodology I employed, as well as detailed information about the research context, participants, and the steps followed in collecting and analyzing the data. 37 Chapter 3 R E S E A R C H M E T H O D O L O G Y 3.0 Qualitative case study As indicated in the introductory chapter, the research questions guiding this investigation aim to examine the kind of academic literacy practices in which the participants were involved as well as the processes of L2 academic literacy socialization during their stay abroad. The study also attempts to shed light on the impact of the academic experiences in Canada on the participants once they returned to their home university in Mexico. The exploratory nature of the research questions calls for a research methodology well suited for the in-depth investigation of phenomena. Therefore, I have designed this investigation as a multiple-case study. Qualitative case studies constitute a research methodology with a long tradition. In education, case studies have been influenced by the theory and methods employed by qualitative researchers in the fields of sociology, history, anthropology, and psychology (Merriam, 1998). In second language acquisition and in applied linguistics research, case studies have also gained popularity (Duff, in press a), and in recent years we have seen a significant increase in the number of study abroad investigations as well as investigations on academic literacy development that have been fruitfully studied using qualitative case study methods. A case is defined as an integrated system with boundaries that can be clearly defined (Stake, 1995). In addition to their boundedness, some further characteristics are to be found in qualitative case studies. Namely, case studies are particularistic (i.e., they focus on a specific event, program, or phenomenon), descriptive (i.e., a "thick description" results as the end product of the investigation), and heuristic (i.e., they provide fresh understandings of a phenomenon, via discovery, extension, or confirmation of what is already known) (Merriam, 1998). In this investigation, a case study design has been selected due to the characteristics mentioned above, and the rich interpretive accounts resulting from this study help illuminate the process and outcome of the participants' academic literacy and identity transformations. 38 Furthermore, case study research offers a valuable choice to conduct studies that are guided by "who" and "why" questions, rather than by the more quantitative "how many" and "how much" questions. This means that case studies are useful tools to approach phenomena from a different angle, one that allows for naturalistic interpretation rather than from an angle that emphasizes clear-cut, objective results. For researchers who draw on social-constructivist, feminist, critical, or poststructuralist paradigms, the case study method represents an attractive option (Hatch, 2002). Hence, given the interpretive purposes and the sociocultural theoretical orientation of my project, case studies are an appropriate choice. This investigation employed a qualitative multiple case study design (Stake, 1995; Yin, 2003), where the focus of inquiry was placed on more than one case (i.e., on six focal student participants). In this project, each focal participant is considered an individual case, and both within- and across-case analyses were performed. It is believed that the inclusion of multiple cases enhances the trustworthiness (reliability) and the potential generalizability of the study (Merriam, 1998).12 It should also be noted in this regard that generalizability of the findings to a wider population is not the aim of the study, and that instead the emphasis is placed on particularization, on the uniqueness of each case (Duff, in press a, 2006b; Stake, 1995). Still, this study aims to make theoretical contributions that will allow to make "analytic generalizations" (Duff, in press a, 2006b; Firestone, 1993; Yin, 1989); that is, generalizations not to other populations, but to theory.13 In many ways, this study shares the characteristics of an ethnographic case study: it follows a longitudinal design and traces the development of participants over time, it 1 2 In this respect, it should also be noted that the issue of inference and generalizability of qualitative research designs has sparked much controversy among traditionally called "quantitative" and "qualitative" paradigm researchers. Also, among qualitative researchers two different positions are represented: those who seek to achieve generalizability and who claim it is possible in qualitative research, and those who reject the traditional concept and instead choose to highlight the internal validity, reliability and careful reasoning of their research. 1 3 Donmoyer (1990), Duff (2006b), Firestone (1993) and Yin (1989, 2003) explore the issue of generalization in qualitative research, and suggest that "analytic generalization" (as opposed to "statistical generalization," Yin , 2003, p. 32), which involves development of theory that could be applied in further studies, should be the aim of qualitative case studies. Indeed, analytic generalization is viewed as one of the strengths of qualitative inquiry. 39 focuses on a delimited sample of cases, it examines cultural practices and cultural knowledge development (in this case, in relation to academic literacy), and it employs many of the data collection and analysis strategies also typical of ethnographic research However, observational classroom data, which constitutes a main type of data collected by ethnographers, is not included in this study.14 Among the strongest advocates in favor of qualitative case studies of academic literacy are Braine (2002), Casanave (2002; 2004), and Paltridge (2004), who have expressed their preference for this type of methodology in order to access the stories of academic literacy learners that case study researchers then may recount as literacy auto/biographies (Casanave, 2002; 2004; Connor & Mayberry, 1996) and portraits of the learners' academic literacy transformations. The use of case study research in my study, moreover, is in great part based on the successful investigations of this kind carried out by other researchers. Exemplary qualitative case studies of academic literacy issues, such as those conducted by Angelova and Riazantseva (1999), Casanave (1995, 2002), Leki (2003a), and Spack (1997a), to name just a few, have not only set an important precedent for future investigations, but also demonstrate the legitimacy and poignancy of qualitative case study as a valuable methodological option which, through rich in-depth narrative accounts, provides a window into people's lived, perceived and desired academic literacy experiences. 3.1 Research context The study took place at two main sites: the host university setting in Canada, hereafter referred to as Western Canadian University (WCU), and the home university campuses in Mexico from which the participants of this study came. Most of the data were collected at the WCU site. Pseudonyms are used to refer to all institutions and to all the participants of this study in order to ensure their anonymity. Observational data would have allowed me to examine the participants while engaged in actual text production of academic texts, for instance. Unfortunately, gaining access for research purposes to individuals' private domains (e.g., homes) or even public domains such as classrooms has increasingly become more difficult. Hence, without denying the richness of data that observations would have added to this study, I am still confident that the triangulation of many other first hand sources of participant data allow for an in-depth examination of their L2 academic literacy socialization. 40 WCU is a large public university, ranked among the top five research universities in Canada, and among the top 40 universities worldwide. WCU has a strong internationalization mandate, and one of the strategies pursued to fulfill this mandate is by means of offering international students the possibility to take courses at WCU as part of an exchange program. As a result, WCU has established partnerships with over 130 universities across the world, and almost 600 international students arrive at WCU each year. In the case of the participants of this study, they have access to WCU within the framework of a joint academic program established in 2000 between WCU and Multi- campus Mexican University (MCMU). An average cohort of 70 MCMU students per academic term chooses WCU as their exchange destination, which speaks to the popularity of this joint academic program. MCMU is one of the largest private universities in Mexico, with over thirty campuses spread across that country. MCMU enjoys the reputation of a vanguard institution in terms of both its technological development as well as its internationalization policies. Like WCU, MCMU also has an internationalization mandate, and the students of this institution also have access to exchanges in over 130 countries worldwide. In fact, MCMU offers degrees with an international modality (i.e., an international track). Students enrolled in this modality are required to take part in at least two academic exchanges (one of which should be done abroad) during the course of their degree. This option is evidence of the importance ascribed to foreign academic exchanges by MCMU, and consequently, how crucial (sometimes inevitable) it is for MCMU students to take part in a study abroad experience. MCMU is a leading institution in terms of technological developments and the establishment of academic partnerships with other HE institutions worldwide. Currently, MCMU has international on-site exchange offices in Barcelona, Boston, Dallas, Hangzhou, Madrid, Montreal, Paris, Washington, and Vancouver. This allows MCMU to maintain close links with the institutions involved in each alliance, and also facilitates the provision of on-site support to MCMU students during their exchange period. Students for MCMU-WCU Joint Academic Program are recruited by taking into consideration the following multiple factors: their willingness to participate in a study abroad experience (an experience which is strongly encouraged at MCMU); their 41 financial resources to afford study abroad-related expenses (only a few merit-based scholarships are also offered by MCMU; usually 2 or 3 per cohort each academic term); their high academic performance at MCMU; and the required level of English language proficiency as measured by the TOEFL (only students with a minimum score of 550 on the paper-based exam). Candidates who are selected as exchange participants can choose to enroll in a variety of programs. Students can either opt to complete a "certificate of specialty" (see below) or simply take courses related to their program of studies at MCMU, or take courses not offered at their home university. Most regular credit courses from the Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, and the Business Department at WCU are open to MCMU students, and the credits earned at WCU are easily transferable to MCMU. "Certificates of specialty" are offered in over 20 fields of study. To receive an internationally-recognized WCU certificate, students must complete at least 15 credits (5 courses) from that certificate. Some certificates take a term to complete, and some take a year. Others take a combination of a fall or winter term and a shorter summer term, such as the Logistics certificate. Start dates are flexible, offered at the following times: Table 3.1 Possible Study Periods for MCMU Students at WCU a. September to December (Term 1) b. January to April (Term 2) c. September to April (Term 1 & Term 2) d. January to August (Term 2 & summer) e. September to August (Term 1, Term 2, & summer) f. May/June to December (summer &Term 1) g. May/June to April (summer, Term 1, & Term 2) 3.2 Research participants I first met the summer 2005 (S05) MCMU-WCU academic exchange cohort—a group of over 50 students—at their program welcome orientation meeting which I was given permission to attend by the exchange program Director, Ms. Gutierrez. At this meeting, I gave students a general overview of the purposes and characteristics of my 42 study, which I described as "an opportunity to share and reflect on their academic life and academic literacy practices during and after the exchange," and I invited them to volunteer as participants. Those students interested in learning more about the study wrote their e-mail address in a sign-up sheet so that I could send them a description of my project (i.e., the main goals, the expected impact of the study, and their expected level of commitment and involvement, among other important information. (See Appendix A.) A total of 31 students gave me their contact information, and after e-mailing all of them the document with more details, 20 replied expressing their strong interest in participating. Originally, I had planned to include two or three participants in the summer and conduct a few interviews with them in order to pilot the questions and determine the overall focus of the study. But given my familiarity with this program through my previous engagement as research assistant for a related investigation two years before,15 and also in light of the large number of motivated potential participants, I went ahead and distributed consent forms to all 20 students who e-mailed me. I later set up a first round of interviews with all those who contacted me again with their signed forms (12 students in all). Of these original 12 students, 7 had come to do a six-week exchange experience during the summer only, while the other 5 would also return to WCU in the fall of 2005 (F05) to complete their academic exchange experience. I was particularly interested in following these 5 students, since I hypothesized that their longer exposure to the Canadian academic system would most likely have a greater impact on them than on those who only came for the short summer program. Fortunately, these 5 students agreed to participate in the next phases of the study. Still, I was also interested in including in my sample participants who only came for the summer, since I presumed that some useful additional findings might be derived from comparing the experiences of students in the summer only, with those who came in the summer and fall, and those who came in the fall only.16 1 5 M y role as a research assistant for Dr. Duffs SSHRC-funded project familiarized me with the M C M U - W C U program and context, and also facilitated my future access to the site. 1 6 Nevertheless, since this comparison does not fall under the main purpose of my dissertation, I include information in this regard whenever I consider it appropriate, but I do not include a separate section discussing the comparison of the three groups in detail. 43 During the exchange program welcome orientation session in the first week of September I met the students in the F05 cohort (again, a group of 60 or so students). Following the same procedure as in the summer, I was able to attract 34 potential participants. In addition to the five S05 - F05 students I had interviewed in the summer and whom I continued to interview in the fall, I interviewed 12 other participants. After the first F05 interview round, two participants dropped out, and I carried on data collection with the remaining ten students from the F05 term plus the five students from the S05 - F05 terms. A first classification of the participants thus naturally derives from taking into account the length of the students' stay abroad, which also coincided in most cases with the duration of my data collection while they were in Canada. This classification is illustrated in Fig. 3.1. Figure 3.1 Study Participants ( ^ Three main groups of participants V J The study participants can further be classified into two main categories: focal participants and secondary participants. I collected data (via interviews, writing samples, e-mail exchanges, and so forth) from all 22 participants. However, the participants had diverse levels of involvement with the project; some were more invested by participating in more interviews, by providing me with more samples of writing, by keeping a more detailed assignment log, and by maintaining closer contact with me during all phases of the study. It is from this smaller group of students that the six focal participants of this 44 study were selected. Of these six participants, three arrived in Canada in the summer of 2005 and hence were able to engage in the project since phase 1 of the study, and the other three arrived in Canada in the fall of 2005, and thus engaged in phase 2 of the study (refer to the research project timeline below for more information about the different phases of the study). As mentioned before, one of the usual requirements to produce a rigorous qualitative case study is to focus on a relatively small sample, paying close attention to detail and to a very comprehensive set of factors related to each case and also across cases. Hence, since focusing equally on the academic literacy experiences of all 22 participants would defeat this purpose, the findings reported in this study are based primarily on the practices and lived experiences of the six focal participants. In Chapter 4 I include a detailed profile about each of these students. The remaining 16 students that participated in this study are considered "secondary" participants. Although their experiences are not revealed in this study with the same amount of detail and emphasis as for the focal participants, these 16 students are still considered key informants. In many cases, they were classmates, friends, and/or team members of the focal participants, and thus the information these secondary participants contributed served multiple purposes. For instance, it was useful as a way of verifying (i.e., cross-member checking) some of the data provided by the focal participants (e.g., about assignment instructions; classroom dynamics; instructor availability, personality and teaching style; and their views about the MCMU academic system). In addition, secondary participants often brought up interesting topics in the interviews, and these sometimes were included in my subsequent interview guides for each participant. The MCMU-WCU exchange students were given the possibility of completing a certificate of specialty, as mentioned above. However, not all students went to WCU to complete a certificate. Of the 12 students that participated in the summer 05 data collection period (phase 1), only the 5 students (those who later returned in the fall) were interested in doing the certificate option. The other 7 only went to WCU for the six summer term weeks, during which they took two courses. And of those who participated 45 during the fall data collection period exclusively, only three completed a certificate. (Appendix B includes details about the participants' courses and certificates, where applicable.) 3 . 3 Data collection Qualitative case studies aim to produce holistic, interpretive accounts of phenomena, and this has direct implications for determining the sources of information for the researcher, as well as the types of analysis to be performed and the final products to be constructed. Usually, one type of data is not sufficient to achieve the rich, thick description (Geertz, 1973) that characterizes solid qualitative case studies. Consequently, data for this project were drawn from various sources, and this information was triangulated during the different stages of analysis. Approval to conduct this project was granted by the Behavioral Research Ethics Committee at the University of British Columbia, and written support was also given by the MCMU-WCU Joint Academic Program Director. In order to have access to the participants' experiences and perceptions about the exchange, multiple and diverse kinds of data were gathered (see timeline in Section 3.5) between May, 2005 and April, 2006. The data set includes individual interviews with participants, focus group interviews with participants, individual interviews with two instructors, background information grid, written documents, writing logs, questionnaires, e-mails, chat sessions, researcher field notes, and miscellaneous sources. Since the participants and I shared the same LI (Spanish), although I come from Argentina not Mexico, the participants were allowed to complete all questionnaires, grids, and logs in this language. The identification of initial themes and patterns, as well as the coding of data, however, were done in English from the outset, and the quoted excerpts from data originally in Spanish were translated into English for this thesis.18 Note here that: (a) some students originally wanted to complete a certificate in the fall, but because some of the required courses in which they needed to register were not offered, they were unable to do the certificate option, and (b) some students dropped one of the five required courses for the certificate during the first few weeks of the exchange, and as a result they could not complete the certificate. 1 8 The fact that the much of the student participants' data were gathered in Spanish has both pros and cons: while this meant that the data collected was most likely richer (more abundant, more detailed, and in more 46 All interviews with student participants were also conducted in Spanish, their language of choice for this activity. The students unanimously indicated that while they felt proficient enough to carry out the conversation in English, it was only in Spanish that they could fully and freely communicate with me their feelings, and that speaking in English would have prevented them - in most cases - from expressing their ideas with the same level of complexity as they did in their mother tongue. Transcription conventions are included in Appendix C. Interviews are viewed as interactions that are co-constructed by the interviewer and the interviewee, where "the interviewer and the subject act in relation to each other and reciprocally influence each other" (Kvale, 1996, p. 35). Therefore, researchers are advised to be "conscious of the interpersonal dynamics within the interaction and take them into account in the interview situation and in the later analysis of the finished interview" (p. 35). In light of the large number and level of detail of interviews, this constitutes the main kind of data collected for this study. However, to further counterbalance the subjectivity of information obtained through interviews, these data were cross-checked with information gathered by means of other data sources, some of which were produced by the participants for purposes other than this research (i.e., this could be considered more "objective" data). Sample interview questions with student participants and instructors are included in Appendix D. Table 3.2 summarizes the kinds of data collected and analyzed, and classifies them according to the source that produced them (i.e., the researcher, the participants, both, and so on). Each type of data source is explained in detail below. Table 3.2 Data Sources Source Type of data Structured by researcher & completed by participants - background information grid - writing logs - questionnaires A & B Generated by Participants (students [S] & instructors [I] ) - written assignments [S] - written feedback [I] depth) than i f it had been collected in English, it also added an extra step to the data analysis process: that of translating from Spanish to English. 47 Source Type of data C o - c o n s t r u c t e d b y p a r t i c i p a n t s a n d r e s e a r c h e r - i n d i v i d u a l i n t e r v i e w s w i t h p a r t i c i p a n t s : - focal: N = 4 - 8 w / e a c h ; secondary: N = 2 - 6 w / e a c h - T o t a l : S 0 5 N = 2 2 ; F 0 5 : N = 5 6 - f o c u s g r o u p i n t e r v i e w s w i t h p a r t i c i p a n t s : - mixed focal and secondary: N = 3 t o t a l G e n e r a t e d b y r e s e a r c h e r - f i e l d n o t e s , m e m o s R e a d i l y a v a i l a b l e - w e b s i t e s - c o u r s e m a t e r i a l s ( r e a d i n g s , h a n d o u t s , c o u r s e o u t l i n e s ) - o f f i c i a l ( i n s t i t u t i o n a l ) d o c u m e n t s (i) Individual interviews with students (in Canada): Each student participant was interviewed between five and eight times. The interviews were digitally audio- recorded and lasted an average of 50 minutes. The first interview usually followed a semi-structured design, where students were asked to provide some background information about their previous study abroad experiences, their English language proficiency, their reasons for participating in the current exchange program, and their expectations. Subsequent interviews followed Patton's (2002) Interview Guide Approach. This interview guide technique "provides topics or subject areas within which the interviewer is free to explore, probe, and ask questions that will elucidate and illuminate the particular subject" (p. 343), thus characterizing the interviews as rather flexible yet still following a common guide of topics to explore. I also conducted text-based interviews (Odell, Goswami, Harrington, 1983) whereby I elicited information about how students wrote specific texts. I raised questions concerning issues such as language, content, organization, use of resources, time spent working on an assignment, and where applicable, interpretation of feedback received by the students. The interviews were transcribed, whenever possible prior to the next interview with the same participant. This allowed for the generation of questions for the subsequent interviews, which aimed at obtaining both general as well as specific information about their experiences in WCU, with a particular focus on their academic literacy practices. In total I conducted 22 interviews in the summer term (June - July, 2005) and 56 in the 2005 fall term 1 (September - 48 December, 2005), totaling 78 interviews, roughly 65 hours of audio-recorded data of this kind. All interviews with participants were conducted in Spanish and later translated into English by me. (ii) Focus group interviews with students (in Mexico): In addition to interviewing individually all of the students while they were at WCU, I also conducted some interviews when I visited them in Mexico a semester after their return (in April of 2006). Most of the data in Mexico were gathered by means of three focus group interviews I conducted on the MCMU campuses of Monterrey, Guadalajara, and of the Mexican Federal District. These interviews were also audio-recorded, and they lasted an average of 90 minutes each. While in Mexico, I also conducted individual interviews with two participants; these complement the data gathered in the focus group interviews. (iii) Individual interviews with instructors (in Canada): Two instructors were interviewed between December, 2005 and February, 2006. These sessions were also audio-recorded and transcribed. The interviews were conducted in English, and they lasted an average of 50 minutes each. I tried to interview as many instructors as possible, yet only two finally agreed to participate in the study, whereas three other instructors I contacted showed interest in the study but either argued they had no time for the interview or else did not reply to my messages when I tried to make an appointment with them. Of those interviewed, one (to whom I refer as "Instructor C") taught three of the most popular Commerce courses taken by the participants (these were required courses for those registered in the Logistics certificate), and his classes usually included a large percentage of Mexican students (up to 50%). Therefore, I was particularly interested in obtaining his perspective about the Mexican student population in his classes. The other instructor, "Instructor A" (who co-taught the course with "Instructor B," whom I did not interview) taught a Latin American Studies course which one of the focal participants took and which two of other focal participants dropped after realizing the course was harder than they expected. Given that the focal participant reported having so much trouble with the 49 r e a d i n g a n d w r i t i n g a c t i v i t i e s o f t h i s c o u r s e , I felt t h e n e e d t o o b t a i n t h e i n s t r u c t o r ' s p e r s p e c t i v e a b o u t t h e a c a d e m i c l i t e r a c y d e m a n d s o f h i s c l a s s a n d a b o u t h i s e x p e r i e n c e w o r k i n g w i t h N N E S i n t e r n a t i o n a l s t u d e n t s , p a r t i c u l a r l y w i t h M e x i c a n s . (iv) Background information grid: P r i o r t o t h e f irst i n t e r v i e w , t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s c o m p l e t e d a n d e - m a i l e d m e a g r i d w i t h r e l e v a n t f a c t u a l p e r s o n a l b a c k g r o u n d i n f o r m a t i o n ( s u c h as c a m p u s o f o r i g i n , p l a n n e d l e n g t h o f s t a y at W C U , c o u r s e w o r k i n w h i c h t h e y w e r e e n r o l l e d , p r e v i o u s e x p e r i e n c e t r a v e l i n g o r s t u d y i n g a b r o a d , p r e f e r r e d c o n t a c t i n f o r m a t i o n , a c a d e m i c a v e r a g e at M C M U , T O E F L s c o r e s a n d a s e l f - a s s e s s m e n t o f t h e i r E n g l i s h p r o f i c i e n c y . ( S e e A p p e n d i x E . ) T h i s p r o v e d t o b e a v e r y e f f e c t i v e m e t h o d o f c o l l e c t i n g f a c t u a l i n f o r m a t i o n a b o u t e a c h p a r t i c i p a n t , as it a l l o w e d m e t o g o t o t h e f i r s t i n t e r v i e w w i t h s o m e p r e v i o u s k n o w l e d g e a b o u t e a c h i n d i v i d u a l , a n d t h e c o m p l e t e d g r i d b e c a m e a p o i n t o f d e p a r t u r e f o r t h e f i r s t i n t e r v i e w . (v) Written documents: T h r e e m a i n t y p e s o f w r i t t e n d o c u m e n t s w e r e c o l l e c t e d : c o u r s e o u t l i n e s , c o u r s e r e a d i n g m a t e r i a l s , a s s i g n m e n t g u i d e l i n e s a n d p r o m p t s , a n d c o p i e s o f t h e w r i t i n g a s s i g n m e n t s s t u d e n t s h a n d e d i n . W h e n e v e r p o s s i b l e , s t u d e n t s s h a r e d w i t h m e t h e i r o r i g i n a l c o p i e s , w h i c h i n c l u d e d t h e i r T A o r i n s t r u c t o r f e e d b a c k . S t u d e n t s b r o u g h t t h e s e d o c u m e n t s w i t h t h e m t o t h e i n t e r v i e w s , a n d t h e y s e r v e d as t h e b a s i s f o r t e x t - b a s e d i n t e r v i e w s a i m i n g to t a p i n t o t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s ' t a c i t k n o w l e d g e a b o u t t h e i r t e x t p r o d u c t i o n . (vi) Writing logs: T h e s t u d e n t s c o m p l e t e d a w r i t i n g l o g i n w h i c h t h e y d e t a i l e d t h e c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s o f e a c h a s s i g n m e n t as w e l l as t h e p r o c e d u r e s t o d e v e l o p it , a n y c h a l l e n g e s t h e y f a c e d , a n y r e l e v a n t c o m m e n t s t h e y w a n t e d t o s h a r e w i t h m e , a n d t h e i r r e a c t i o n s t o t h e f e e d b a c k o b t a i n e d . A l l f o c a l p a r t i c i p a n t s c o m p l e t e d t h e l o g , a n d t h e y s e n t m e u p d a t e d v e r s i o n s o f it as t h e s e m e s t e r s a d v a n c e d ( T h e w r i t i n g l o g t e m p l a t e i s i n c l u d e d i n A p p e n d i x F . ) 50 (vii) Questionnaires: upon their return to MCMU, students were sent two questionnaires. Questionnaire A (2 pages long) included a section where students were asked to provide information about their final course grades at WCU and their current course work at MCMU. A second section included a set of open-ended questions that invited them to reflect on their re-entry experiences both in school and in other contexts (e.g., with their family and loved ones), and about their perceived impact of the recent exchange at WCU. Questionnaire B (3 pages long) invited them to reflect retrospectively on their academic literacy practices while at WCU, and on the same practices upon their return to Mexico. The questionnaire was divided into three main sections, and included a mix of multiple-choice items followed by open-ended questions. Students were invited to share any additional comments they wished to make. All focal participants returned the completed questionnaires A and B. (Both questionnaires can be found in Appendix G.) (viii) Electronic mail (e-mail) and hotmail messenger (msn) communications: In addition to the data described above, I maintained regular contact with the students mostly by means of e-mail and msn communications. These were more spontaneous exchanges of information, which in most cases complemented the information provided via the other sources. All e-mail and msn communications were saved and organized in such a way that they could be easily retrieved for analysis, which the students were aware of. (ix) Researcher field-notes: interview notes were taken by me during the interviews, and these raw notes were turned into narrative form whenever possible immediately after the interviews took place. These write ups included a record of topics covered during the interviews (since, in addition to the questions designed for each interview, other spontaneous questions emerged as the interviews evolved), as well as an initial identification of patterns and themes that resulted from a first approach at interpreting the data. Different font types and colors, and the Microsoft Word highlighting and comments functions were employed to easily classify the information recorded in the notes. 51 (x) Miscellaneous sources: In addition, information was gathered by consulting other relevant sources: the M C M U - W C U Joint Academic Program website (which provided details about the certificates and packages offered), the W C U website for International students (which included details about activities and resources available for international students), conversations with the M C M U - W C U Joint Academic Program Director, conversations with key people in charge of exchange programs in campus Monterrey and campus Guadalajara, course websites, and the W C U and the M C M U respective internationalization mandates. 3.4 Research project timeline As mentioned before, this study had four main phases. Table 3.3 below details the steps followed in data collection and analysis of data. Table 3.3 Research Project Timeline Phases Dates Description of activities Phase 1 April 05 Approval from Ethics board to conduct research project May 05 (week 1) Recruitment of participants in the summer (S05) term June - July 05 Data collection (in Canada): - individual interviews with 12 participants ( 2 each) - e-mail exchanges with participants - collection of samples of written work; feedback - participants' assignment writing logs - course outlines - participants' grades - researcher field notes August 05 Transcription of interviews Initial analysis in preparation for phase 2: - identification of emergent categories, themes and patterns, initial coding, triangulation Phase 2 September 05 (weeks 1-2) Recruitment of participants in the fall (F05) term September - December 05 Data collection (in Canada): - individual interviews with 15 participants, 5 of whom also participated in Phase 1 52 Phases Dates Description of activities - i n te rv iews wi th ins t ruc to rs - p e r s o n a l c o m m u n i c a t i o n s wi th M C M U - W C U e x c h a n g e p r o g r a m D i rec to r - e - m a i l e x c h a n g e s w i th M e x i c a n pa r t i c i pan ts - co l lec t ion of s a m p l e s of wr i t ten w o r k - pa r t i c i pan t s ' a s s i g n m e n t logs - c o u r s e ou t l i nes - pa r t i c i pan t s ' g r a d e s - r e s e a r c h e r f ie ld no tes D a t a t ransc r ip t i on and ana l ys i s ( recu r ren t , o n g o i n g ) - c o d i n g , m e m o i n g , v i sua l d i s p l a y s , ident i f i ca t ion of m a i n / s a l i e n t t h e m e s a n d pa t te rns wh i le t r i angu la t ing da ta Phase 3 January - April 06 D a t a co l lec t ion (in Mex ico ) - e - m a i l e x c h a n g e s wi th par t i c ipan ts back in M e x i c o - p o s t - e x c h a n g e re f lec t ive q u e s t i o n n a i r e s A & B - i n te rv iews w i th par t i c ipan ts in M e x i c o ( focus g r o u p s & ind iv idua l ) - v is i t to th ree M C M U C a m p u s e s ( M o n t e r r e y , G u a d a l a j a r a , Federa l D is t r ic t ) D a t a t ransc r i p t i on a n d ana l ys i s ( recu r ren t , o n g o i n g ) - c o d i n g , m e m o i n g , v i sua l d i s p l a y s , iden t i f i ca t ion of m a i n / s a l i e n t t h e m e s a n d pa t te rns wh i le t r i angu la t ing d a t a - t h e o r y d e v e l o p m e n t Phase 4 May 06 - 07 Disse r ta t i on wr i t ing Following a tradition in qualitative research, data collection and analysis were done recursively, with identification of preliminary categories, themes and patterns (Bogdan & Biklen, 2003). Contact summary sheets were completed for each participant, and coding, memoing, and visual displays (Miles & Huberman, 1994) were performed from the first stages of data collection. The findings of individual data types were triangulated with other available data sources, and within-case analysis (Merriam, 1998) as well as cross- case analysis were performed (Yin, 2003) as the themes were synthesized and tested. These different forms of data triangulation proved very valuable, leading to both proving or disproving initial interpretations and theories generated. For instance, one focal participant's interview data suggested that her team performance for an oral presentation had been very highly appraised by the instructor and classmates, and that the feedback they received from the mentor team and the instructor was all positive and included very few suggestions for improvement. However, since I also interviewed another participant who was a member of the same team, I had access to another insider's viewpoint of this specific event. The data I gathered from this participant included detailed descriptions of the kinds of feedback received by classmates as well as the instructor, and her own view 53 of the group performance was more critical and therefore constituted richer data quality. This resulted in adjustments of my interpretations of the participants' performances and of the significance of the feedback they obtained. At all times, the theoretical perspectives employed in this study guided data collection and analysis. The final interpretation of findings resulted in pedagogical and research implications, as well as in an extension of the applications of the theories that framed this study. Figure 3.2 includes a visual representation of sample data triangulations conducted in this study. Figure 3.2 Data Triangulation Examples focal participant A interview data focal participant B interview data copy of assignment instructor A feedback focal participant A interview data copy of assignment focal participant D interview data assignment prompt instructor C interview data As mentioned above, all data gathered in this study were triangulated. Data triangulation pursues the aim of checking whether "the phenomenon or case remains the same at other times, in other spaces, or as persons interact differently" (Stake, 1995, p. 112), thus adding credibility and robustness to the study. Member-checking was performed as a triangulation strategy, where initial research findings were shared with the corresponding participants and where their feedback was considered to further proceed with either more data collection or analysis (depending on the stage of the project at which the data and findings were shared). 54 3.5 Data analysis In order to design the study and for the subsequent stages of data collection, analysis and thesis writing, I consulted several research methods publications (e.g, Auerbach & Silverstein, 2003; Creswell, 2003; Denzin & Lincoln, 2000a, b; Duff, in press a; Marshall & Rossman, 1999; Merriam, 1998; Silverman, 1997, 2000, 2001; Stake, 1998). These works significantly shaped and aided the research process. I found particularly useful Yin's (2003) study protocol for the first stages of the project, and later on I relied quite heavily on the guidelines found in Bodgan and Biklen (2003) and in Miles and Huberman (1994), which are very helpful in illustrating the researcher how to initially organize data around patterns and categories (both participant self-identified as well as interpretive) which serve as the basis to later on derive theoretical understandings. The major common feature across qualitative strategies of inquiry is the inductive, recursive, iterative nature of data collection and analysis, which tends to blur the temporal boundaries between these two. However, there is a general agreement to refer to two moments of data analysis: informal (preliminary or initial) data analysis, which starts at the outset of the study, and a more formal, later moment, after data gathering has finished, when data analysis turns even more intensive and keeps the researcher busy for most of the time. Both "moments" are very important, since early data analysis has a direct impact in the amount and kinds of data to be collected, and this eventually also determines the final focus of the investigation. Formal data analysis becomes a critical stage in the interpretation of information; it is the stage at which (most of) the triangulation of data takes place, and it demands deep thinking to allow for theorization. While in the process of collecting and analyzing the data, I also continued to read relevant published works. As I kept on reading, I made journal entries on how specific published studies or parts of studies aided my analysis, and I kept detailed records of how to link some key pieces to my own study in order to later include them in the thesis. I found this memoing method quite effective, especially since after reading so much, it is usually hard to keep track of who said what, or where it appears in the literature. I feel this ongoing memoing activity was an integral part of the research process, and it influenced my data collection and analysis. Figure 3.3 visually displays the different 55 stages of data collection and analysis carried out in this study; the analysis steps were repeated several times until the final report version presented here was achieved. Figure 3.3 Stages of Data Collection and Analysis 56 3.6 Trustworthiness of the study and ethical considerations Published guidelines about qualitative research methods underscore the importance of establishing the trustworthiness of inquiry in order to assess its quality (e.g., Creswell, 1998, 2003; Duff, in press a; Firestone, 1993; Goetz & LeCompte, 1984; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Merriam, 1998; Stake, 1995). Traditionally, the concepts of validity, reliability and generalizability have been employed to assess the credibility of all kinds of research. However, since these concepts were originally developed to assess research that follows positivist criteria, they assume that researchers are in search of an objective observable truth (in contrast with the interpretivist criteria, which assume no objective truths exist). Consequently, over the past years there has been a re-examination of the applicability of these notions in qualitative case study research (Duff, in press a; Gall et al., 2003), and alternative concepts based on different assumptions that better match the characteristics and objectives of qualitative interpretivist studies have been proposed: credibility, dependability, and transferability (Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Merriam, 1998). The credibility of a study lies in the congruency of the findings with "reality." Merriam (1998) reminds us that reality in qualitative research is understood not as an objective, fixed phenomenon; rather, it is conceptualized as multidimensional, fluid and therefore constantly changing. Researchers thus are "interpreters" of realities more so than objective observers of it. Qualitative research should therefore aim at capturing the "multiple realities" (i.e., the multiple perspectives) of the phenomenon under study. Following Gall et al. (2003) and Merriam (1998), several strategies and criteria were implemented and followed in this study in order to enhance its credibility: (1) triangulation of multiple data sources, within and across participants; (2) member-checks: sharing initial analyses and findings with the participants, and addressing their feedback in subsequent report drafts; (3) performing extensive data collection during a one-year period (in addition to being familiar with the research context through a previous related study in which I worked as a research assistant); (4) sharing analyses and drafts with colleagues; (5) self-reflection of my research positioning and subjectivities. Dependability and consistency refers to "whether the results are consistent with the data collected" (Merriam, 1998, p. 206). I have attempted to address these aspects by including detailed explanations of the design of this study, as well as the different steps 57 followed throughout the entire research process. In terms of generalizability (or transferability), I have indicated that extending the findings of this study to other populations or to the larger population from which the sample was drawn is not my aim; instead, I attempt to produce particularistic, detailed accounts that yield in-depth understandings of the cases under investigation. However, I do aim to make "analytic generalizations" (Duff, 2006b; Yin, 1989) about language socialization theory and its usefulness to explore academic literacy socialization processes. These aims are congruent with the objectives of research following a language socialization perspective. Efforts were made to include a representative sample of the larger population of "typical" MCMU exchange students at WCU. To achieve this, I followed several criteria when choosing the focal participants, who were selected from a larger pool. First, the participants chosen were considered "good participants" in light of their openness to share their experiences and views, and their commitment to the project. Second, a balance between the number of participants who had stayed for one and two academic semesters was sought. And third, representation of the variety of courses and disciplinary backgrounds of the larger population was also sought. By including a sample of focal participants as well as a larger sample of secondary participants who came from the same research context, I have tried to enhance the potential generalizability and credibility of this study. This study closely followed UBC's ethical research guidelines to ensure sound research practices were carried out. Hence, during recruitment procedures I clearly stated to prospective subjects that their voluntary participation was sought, and that they were entitled to withdraw from the study without suffering any penalty should they change their mind any time throughout the research process. Also, anonymity was ensured to participants by means of the use of pseudonyms for all individuals involved, and course nomenclatures were also modified for the same reason. Any information participants decided to keep confidential has not been included in this final report, earlier drafts of which I shared with the student participants in its different analysis and composing stages. All participants were provided with a detailed description of the research purposes and procedures prior to their agreement to participate, and they were asked to sign a form 58 consenting to their voluntary participation as described above. Consent forms are included in Appendix H. 3.7 Researcher-participants relationship Although I had not met the participants prior to the commencement of this study, my familiarity with the research context and the MCMU-WCU Academic Program Director facilitated my entry to the site. I was presented to the students by Ms. Gutierrez, who introduced me as an "oldtimer" at WCU and as somebody whom they could consult and trust. I introduced myself to the participants as an Argentine-Canadian doing research on the experiences of international students studying abroad, as was also once my case. In approaching the participants, my initial aim was to establish a successful relationship based on mutual trust and respect. I tried to achieve this by openly stating my research objectives as well as their expected involvement and rights. As a form of reciprocity for their participation, I strove to help the participants in ways that would not compromise the data collection (e.g., sharing with them information about life in Vancouver, suggesting inexpensive places to go shopping for groceries). As I discuss in the last chapter, the participants mentioned that they had appreciated the opportunities for reflection and the development of meta-cognitive knowledge through their involvement in this study. In light of our shared Latin American background, there were many commonalities between the participants and myself which brought us closer. At the same time, there was a generational gap between us: they were undergraduate, single students in their early twenties, whereas I was a married graduate student ten years their senior, now established in Vancouver with my young family. This distance played both in my favor as well as to my disadvantage at times: on the one hand, the students' seemed to feel comfortable around someone who had been around for a while and who could serve to them as an informal advisor (for academic as well as non-academic topics). In case of emergencies, they all knew they could count on me as a resource (and in fact, on two occasions my family was able to support two participants who were in need of help). On the other hand, the generational distance as well as some of the differences in our cultural backgrounds sometimes interfered with my understanding of the participants' ways of speaking and 59 their worldviews. In order to minimize the impact of this disadvantage, I consciously strove to ensure that whenever I encountered unfamiliar concepts I double-checked what the participants meant. 3.8 Summary In sum, this investigation was designed as a qualitative multiple-case study, following the procedures described in several qualitative research methods (Duff, in press a; Merriam, 1998; Stake, 1995, etc). To enhance the trustworthiness of the study, different kinds of data were collected and triangulated during recurrent data analyses. The main aim of the study was to explore the individual participants' L2 academic literacy socialization processes and therefore there I do not attempt to generalize the findings of this study to other populations (or to the larger population from which the sample was drawn). Still, this investigation aims to extend the language socialization framework introduced in Chapter 2 by employing it for the study of academic literacy processes in novel ways, thus contributing with "analytic" (or theoretical) generalizations. The research context and the participants were purposely sampled based not only on my access to them but also, and most importantly, based on the need to examine the experiences of the increasing population of Mexican students in a largely international Canadian campus that shares similarities with other large campuses in this country. In the next chapter, I include a detailed description of the six focal participants and further account for my rationale behind my selection of participants. 60 Chapter 4 F O C A L P A R T I C I P A N T S ' P R O F I L E S 4.0 Introduction This chapter includes a condensed biography of each of the six focal participants. Detailed information about the students' personalities, their life in Mexico, their English language proficiency, their previous study and/or experiences living abroad and their expectations for the current exchange is necessary in order to have a better understanding of their motivation for studying abroad, their goals and expectations, and their investments in interacting socially and academically within their new contexts of immersion. While this kind of information is missing in many published study reports concerned with L 2 issues, in-depth knowledge about such details helps bridge the distance between the reader and the experiences of the participants (Duff, in press a). In the area of study abroad research, there has also been a call for a more clear identification of the characteristics of the sojourn context and of the sojourners under study. Coleman (in press) notes that it is currently very challenging to synthesize findings of study abroad investigations because many individual reports fail to clearly state the degree of comparability and generalizability of their findings. To help address this limitation, he proposed a framework for study abroad research which includes a series of parameters (some of which are discrete categories while others are continua) that he believes should be explicitly stated in every study abroad investigation. This chapter thus attempts to address both calls, from second language acquisition (SLA) and from study abroad research. All participants were female, in their early twenties at the time of the study, and they were all single. Whereas the large pool of participants from which these six primary students were selected also includes male students, the gendered sampling strategy results from my closer contact with female (rather than male) participants. Although I established good rapport with students from either gender, females seemed more comfortable sharing their feelings (i.e., the emotional aspect of the exchange experience) with me in addition to facts about their academic experiences; in contrast, males tended to be more reserved. As a result, the data I collected from most female participants is 61 richer because it includes more detailed information about various dimensions (i.e., cognitive, psychological, affective, relational) of their experiences. Still, I am aware that this gendered sampling strategy inevitably impacts the kinds of inferences than can be drawn from this investigation, as also does my perspective as a female researcher. Before each individual short biography, the participants are described as part of a group with whom they share some commonalities about their campus of origin, their length of stay in Canada, and their course choices at WCU. The first group includes Liliana, Natalia and Lorena, all of whom came from the MCMU - Monterrey campus and spent both the summer as well as the fall term in WCU. The second group includes Nelda and Isabel, who came from the MCMU - Guadalajara campus, and Raquel, from the MCMU - Mexico City campus. These last three participants only spent the fall term at WCU. Table 4.1 summarizes some of the main traits and background information about each of the six focal participants. 4.1 Liliana, Natalia and Lorena Liliana, Natalia and Lorena knew each other prior to traveling to Canada. Liliana and Natalia were already very close friends; they were both senior students in the final stages of the same program of study, they knew each other's families back home, and they had already started making plans for the future which involved working jointly on a new entrepreneurial project. Lorena, on the other hand, was a more junior student (like Nelda, Isabel, and Raquel, see section below). Although she came from the same campus as Liliana and Natalia, mainly because she was pursuing a different degree back at home, she was not closely acquainted with them until they met during their exchange in Canada. During the summer term, Liliana and Natalia were best friends, yet they also forged new relationships with Lorena and some of her other Mexican friends, who came from different MCMU campuses, but all of whom were enrolled in the same certificate of specialty at WCU. Liliana, Natalia and Lorena took the same courses during the Summer semester, and they also took most of the same classes during the fall semester (see Chapters 3 and 5 for more details). For one of the courses in which they were required to work in teams for an optional assignment, the three of them worked together. 62 Table 4.1 Focal Participants' Profiles Liliana Natalia Lorena Nelda Isabel Raquel MCMU Campus Monterrey Monterrey Monterrey Guadalajara Guadalajara Mexico City City of origin Monterrey Mexico City Saltillo Guadalajara Zacatecas Mexico City Semester at MCMU 7th - 8th 7th - 8th 5th- 6th 6th 6th 7th TOEFL 585 573 653 > 550 590 > 550 Years of English study 11 12 >13 9 >13 >13 MCMU average 82/100 89/100 97/100 93/100 93/100 83/100 - WCU average 1 72.4 (87/100) 75.5/100 (89/100) 79/100 (92/100) 72/100 (87/100) 73/100 (87/100) 70/100 (85/100) Summer accommodation Cherry Tree House Cherry Tree House Cherry Tree House N/A N/A N/A Fall accommodation Concrete Towers (shared dorm) Concrete Towers (shared dorm) Brick Residence (individual room) Cherry Tree House (shared dorm) Cherry Tree House (shared dorm) Rental apartment outside campus (shared unit) Previous study abroad experience None None 1 year in Belgium during senior high school 1 semester in Canada, during senior high school None 2 months in Cincinnati, during senior high school Exchange expectations - obtain certificate - improve English - obtain certificate - improve English - obtain certificate - improve English - improve English - learn about another culture - improve English - learn about other cultures - learn about other cultures Future plans - work in Toronto or start a new company - pursue graduate work in the future - start new company or work on a company - pursue graduate work in the future - participate in another exchange - pursue graduate work in the future - participate in another exchange - do master's degree at a Miami university - work in a company - travel as a tourist around Europe - find a job in Mexico 1 There are differences between the WCU and MCMU grading systems. Even though both use a 100-point scale, the WCU pass grade is 50 whereas the MCMU pass grade is 70. Hence, with a grade of 60/100, for instance, a student would have passed a course at WCU but if that grade were transferred to their MCMU academic transcript, the course would be failed. To avoid this conflict, a formula [Y = (3X + 130)/4] was used to convert the scores. The average values between parentheses reflect that conversion. L I L I A N A Liliana came from Monterrey, where she lived in a detached home in a residential neighborhood with her mother and two siblings. Her father lived in another home nearby, and Liliana maintained close contact with all family members. While visiting Liliana in Monterrey, I could sense she was a person who enjoyed family life; she had a rather close relationship with her mother, and shared a room with her younger sister, with whom she also got along. Life in Monterrey for Liliana was synonymous with a comfortable living standard. Although the MCMU campus was about a 25 minute ride from home (depending on traffic), Liliana didn't mind the commute as she drove her father's car through the busy streets of Monterrey. Of all campuses I visited in Mexico, Monterrey campus was not only the biggest, but also among the oldest and largest. The university's president's office as well as all the major central administrative offices are located on this campus, which hosts one of the largest MCMU campus libraries, cafeterias, and sports facilities. During the exchange, Liliana was dating her boyfriend, who visited her in Canada half way through the fall semester. While reinvigorating for Liliana, this visit together with her mother's visit a few weeks after was quite destabilizing for her, since she was torn between taking some time off from school in order to enjoy her special Mexican company and travel around with them to get to know new places, or work on her assignments and study for one of her midterms, which coincided with one of the visits. In the MCMU-Monterrey campus, Liliana was a good student enrolled in a Bachelor of International Commerce program. She once told me that her average (82/100) had dropped a few years earlier because she had to work long hours (from 4 pm to 12 am) for 1.5 years of her undergraduate program, and she hoped that during her stay at WCU she would be able to increase her average back to 85 or so. Liliana's command of English was good enough for her to enjoy oral conversations. She felt confident, having taken lessons in English for over 11 years, and a course on written and oral communication prior to the exchange. With a TOEFL score of 585, Liliana was above the score of 550 required to participate in the exchange, and although TOEFL scores are not a direct predictor of language performance in disciplinary content area courses, compared with other Mexican students whose scores were closer to 600, Liliana could have been 64 expected to experience certain difficulties. However, as I discuss later on, her main challenges were related to becoming adjusted to a new academic culture, and language proficiency thus seemed to play a lesser role in her case. For Liliana, being an exchange student was like a dream come true. She had hoped to be able to participate in a study abroad experience since she started her university degree, but it was only now, close to her graduation, that the opportunity materialized. Initially she had planned to go to Spain, but she changed her mind and decided that her experience in a North American English-speaking university would not only keep her closer to home (at least on the same continent), but also it would serve as a chance for her to practice and improve her English proficiency. Moreover, since she chose to do a certificate of specialty at WCU, she believed that this additional credential would in the future bring her many rewards. Liliana thus went to WCU with high expectations; she had invested much energy and resources in trying to make this experience possible, and she was hoping to make the most out of it by obtaining two main benefits: the certificate (her priority) and improved English language proficiency, which she identified as a second yet still very important goal of the exchange. During the summer term she took two courses (the same ones as Natalia and Lorena), and she was happy with her performance and with the overall exchange experience. It was the fall semester that confronted her with challenges she was not quite ready to face, as she was unprepared to deal with what she described as a massive amount of reading and weekly essay writing for one of her courses (PHIL 4 A), mainly. The following chapters include a detailed analysis of these and other associated challenges, as well as of the different strategic behaviors developed by Liliana to not only pass her course work, but also benefit from the exchange experience in another dimension. One semester after her return from WCU to Mexico, Liliana reflected back on her sojourn and said to me: The exchange a l s o helped me value my f a m i l y more, and helped me become aware of what I would lose i f I had continued with the same rhythm I used to f o l l o w before I l e f t . So, the exchange made me r e a l i z e what I had at home, we [ a l l f a m i l y members] a l s o became aware of t h i s and are now more uni t e d . And you a l s o l e a r n to o r i e n t y o u r s e l f b e t t e r - i f you get l o s t , you ask! I th i n k that t h i s was even more important than the academic p a r t of the exchange. I got i n there with some 65 expectations, and l e f t with more. (...) Because o r i g i n a l l y I thought that the b e n e f i t s would be l i m i t e d to the E n g l i s h language and the c e r t i f i c a t e , and that was i t . But apart from improving my E n g l i s h and ob t a i n i n g my C e r t i f i c a t e i n L o g i s t i c s , I have a l l these b e n e f i t s , which I t h i n k are even more important. ( L i l i a n a , Focus group i n t e r v i e w , Monterrey: A p r i l 5/06) As will be revealed in Chapter 6, the participants' access to local students as well as the social relationships they established in Canada played a key role in the participants' academic discourse socialization. Therefore, it is important to examine details related to the students' accommodation. In Liliana's case, during the summer term she lived in Cherry Tree House, a large campus building which is actually the residential complex for Japanese students of the "Reiko-WCU Academic Exchange Program." This residence is used during the summer time mainly by students from other universities, whereas during the rest of the academic year it houses a mix of Reiko university students and other visiting students at WCU. Liliana shared a four-unit dorm with her friend Natalia and with other two Mexican exchange students. Sharing a room with fellow Mexicans in some ways brought her closer to home, yet Liliana had looked forward to having a "truly Canadian" study abroad experience in the fall, when she expected to be placed in a residential complex known as "The Concrete Towers" which had a high concentration of local WCU students. Closer to the end of the exchange, the participants had mixed feelings about returning home. On the one hand, they realized that their "adventure" was close to the end, and many said they would miss Vancouver, their new friends, and their life as dorm- residents at WCU. On the other hand, they also looked forward to being reunited with their loved ones, to eating their favorite Mexican foods, and to going back to their familiar academic culture. In Liliana's case, I noticed that her anxiousness to return to Mexico was on a steady increase from the beginning of November, and it peaked by December, when she told me "I feel like I'm in jail now, I have my calendar pinned to the wall, and I cross out the days as they go by!" (Liliana, I#7: December 12/05) 66 NATALIA Natalia was originally from Mexico City, but searching for a less hectic living place she headed for Monterrey, where her older married sister lived. Natalia decided to participate in the exchange program at WCU because of the opportunity to do the certificate and also in light of the good reputation of this university. She had other two exchange destinations in mind: Germany and England. But after studying German for two terms she realized that an academic exchange in that country would be too much for her to handle because of the language, so she thought it made more sense to study in an English-speaking country given that she had studied English for twelve years. The MCMU-WCU exchange was her first experience studying abroad. Initially, Natalia was doubtful about her capabilities to do the certificate, since it was specifically designed for engineers and she was a Bachelor of International Commerce student. But after having a conversation about this with her advisor and with other students in Monterrey, she was highly motivated to do it and also more self- confident about her academic preparation to deal with the disciplinary demands of the exchange program. In the end, Natalia was able to successfully complete the certificate. However, she dropped one of her fall courses shortly after the beginning of that semester, when her concerns about the numerous writing assignments for that on-line course overwhelmed her (see Chapters 5 and 6 for more detailed analyses). At the MCMU-Monterrey campus, Natalia was a very good student. Her average was 89/100, and she hoped to maintain it during the exchange. Like Liliana and most other Mexican MCMU students, Natalia spent over a decade taking English lessons. Her TOEFL score was 573, and she intended to improve her language proficiency as a result of the exchange. She was eagerly looking forward to making Canadian friends, but she was aware that this would be quite hard during the summer term because of the large percentage of Mexican students in both summer courses she took as well as in the Cherry Tree House residence. She therefore had high expectations in terms of the new social relationships with non-Mexican students she was hoping to establish. However, as the following dissertation chapters show, Natalia's expectations in this regard were unfulfilled. 67 After the summer term, Natalia first returned to Mexico for a couple of weeks. She then joined her sister, who was temporarily working in England, and who invited Natalia to spend a month with her. She also toured around other European countries (France, Spain, Italy and Scotland) before heading back to Mexico City to spend another two more weeks with her parents. On the first week of September, Natalia was back in Vancouver, Canada, looking forward to her fall semester, and feeling slightly more at home at WCU this second time. In her first fall interview she commented: We already know where to f i n d t h i n g s , which buses to take, where to get our bus pass. We even managed to buy second hand books t h i s time! (...) and i n t h i s way we saved l o t s of money, because the books are r e a l l y expensive here. We f e e l much more r e l a x e d t h i s time because we already met people i n the summer who have come back f o r the f u l l year. So you know what you're up to, you know you have to read a l o t ! ( N a t a l i a , I#3: September 12/05) And it was precisely this last activity, reading a lot, which seemed to overwhelm Natalia. Reflecting back on her first few summer weeks at WCU, she told me that even though all Mexicans had been advised by the program director (Mrs. Gutierrez) and by the exchange program assistant to read the course materials from the first day of classes, she now realized that "You don't really know it until you live it!" (Natalia, I#3: September 12, 05). Natalia now warned the new incoming Mexican exchange students about the need to read throughout the entire semester, but she guessed that, as in her case when she first got to WCU, others would most likely disregard the advice to keep up with their readings. LILIANA and NATALIA: Like two peas in a pod During their stay in Canada, Natalia and Liliana spent most of their time together: they kept track of each other's whereabouts, they shopped and spent their leisure time together, and they took almost all the same courses and also completed most course assignments with their mutual support. As will be discussed in subsequent chapters, this friendship would become very relevant to the participants' academic discourse processes and outcomes. 68 While they were good friends prior to this exchange experience, their shared time in Canada certainly strengthened their bonds and brought them even closer to each other. When I visited them four months after their return to Mexico, I could see that they had each grown not only individually into more independent beings, but they also seemed to have been able to continue to sustain and further develop their friendship. They are currently working jointly on their brand new business: an on-line based company that aims to export a selection of fine Mexican products to different world destinations. L O R E N A When she arrived in WCU in the summer of 2005, Lorena was a third year (5th semester) student in the Bachelor of Industrial and System Engineering Program in the MCMU-Monterrey campus. She was enrolled in the "international modality" (or track), which implied that instead of six courses she was expected to take seven courses per semester at her home campus, and also, some of her classes there were taught in English. Lorena thus told me she was very comfortable in this language, which she had studied at a bilingual school and then in senior high school for a total of over 13 years, plus she was used to practicing English in some of her Mexican university classes. With a TOEFL score of 653 and an average of 97/100, Lorena had been awarded a partial tuition scholarship in recognition for her academic merit, and she had high expectations about her academic performance at WCU. In her first interview she mentioned that she expected to obtain marks over 90: "I don't like just to pass, I like to work as hard as I can" (Lorena, I#l: June 8/05). Still, like most other study participants, she was aware that going to a new university most likely would bring new challenges. So while she hoped to keep up her high academic record, she was also preparing herself to make some concessions which she believed were worth making for the sake of having the experience of living abroad: I would l i k e to maintain t h i s average. I don't know i f t h i s i s p o s s i b l e , but I f e e l that i t i s worth s a c r i f i c i n g the average a l i t t l e b i t f o r the sake of having the l i v i n g abroad experience. And academically, I'm j u s t hoping i t i s as demanding as i n Mexico. Because we're used to a c e r t a i n work rhythm, we know we have to get to work, which r e q u i r e s s e l f study, so f o r my study abroad experience to be complete I 69 hope to be challenged i n s i m i l a r ways as I am challenged at MCMU. (Lorena, I # l : June 8/05) Close to the end of her sojourn, Lorena reflected on her performance at WCU and on the overall assessment of her exchange. To my query about what she thought of her experience in Canada, she answered: I t was very c o n s t r u c t i v e . My average w i l l go down, but I thi n k i t ' s worth i t . I could have stayed there [ i n Monterrey] and could have maintained my high average, but I would have missed t h i s l i v i n g experience! And I am convinced that t h i s taught me a new way to work - i t i n v o l v e s more a n a l y s i s and more classroom i n t e r a c t i o n . (Lorena, I#6: December 6/05) In Monterrey, she lived in the student residences which are usually used by Mexican non-local students, where she shared a room with a long-time roommate and friend. Next door, in the male area of the residences, lived her younger brother. Lorena's parents resided in Saltillo, a smaller city located a few hours' drive from Monterrey. Therefore, she was used to living on campus during the week, and traveling back to her home town during the weekend, where she met her family and other loved ones. It was in great part thanks to her parents'encouragement that Lorena embarked on her study abroad experience choosing WCU as her destination. Many years ago, her mother had visited Vancouver, and she still cherished wonderful memories about the city and about WCU, which she held as a very prestigious academic institution that would benefit her daughter's education.20 Furthermore, being enrolled in the international track also implied that during her degree Lorena was required to participate in a year-long academic exchange to take place in a foreign university. Therefore, studying abroad was in Lorena's mind for a very long time, and her family had been preparing for this-- mentally as well as financially—from the moment she started her program at MCMU. Lorena's previous experience living abroad had taken place during senior high school, when she spent a year living with her family in Belgium. Yet Lorena did not seem to think her prior exchange experience had much of an impact on how she prepared for 2 0 Lorena's parents were university teachers in Mexico, and therefore -according to Lorena - they made a high investment in their children's education. 7 0 her current sojourn, since she considered that because she had lived with her own family in Belgium, this time it would be radically different. And in many ways I believe this was true, as I discuss in subsequent chapters of this dissertation. During the 2005 summer term, Lorena lived at Cherry Tree House, where she shared a suite with three other Mexicans. Like Natalia and Liliana, Lorena was also looking forward to the opportunity to live with non-Mexicans during the fall term. She had applied for housing at two residences, and she was finally placed in an individual room (with shared bathroom) at the Brick Residence. While originally Lorena thought that an individual room would give her more privacy, by the end of the exchange she wondered if perhaps she would have had an even greater time had she enjoyed the company of a roommate. Also, because the Brick Residence was located at one end of the campus (very close to Cherry Tree House), Lorena felt slightly isolated compared with those living in more centrally located residences. For instance, those living in the Concrete Towers were close to the WCU Student Building, which housed different cafeterias and fast food restaurants in addition to small shops, a computer access station, a postal office, a cinema, and a few other entertainment options. The Concrete Towers were not too far from a WCU village, a non-university owned series of stores which also included some restaurants and cafes used by the university community on a daily basis. In addition, while the Brick Residence had the advantage of being located in a quieter campus area, it was also relatively distant from the classrooms in which Lorena's classes were taught. She was happy, though, that at least one of her Mexican friends (a secondary participant in this study) lived in the same residence, and thus she usually had her meals with this friend. Meal times were indeed something that most Mexican participants felt alienated them from non-Mexicans, given that both their food types as well as the 3 pm timing of their main course in Mexico was very different from those of Canadian students and of students from other nationalities. In a later chapter I further develop this idea in relation to how it became a factor that affected Lorena as well as other students' in terms of the opportunities for socializing with non-Mexican students. Lorena was already used to looking after herself while living on the MCMU- Monterrey campus. Therefore, she seemed quite an expert compared with other MCMU exchange students in Vancouver who for the first time found themselves far from their 71 nuclear families, learning to manage their budgets, doing their laundry, cooking their meals, and feeling responsible for every decision taken. Still, as Lorena would point out, in Mexico she was subconsciously aware that in case of an emergency her parents were just one hour away on the road, and that was reassuring to know. Also, because at the MCMU-Monterrey campus residence a nightly record was kept about her return times, she felt that there was always somebody who would eventually be watching after her. In Canada, on the other hand, student residence policies were different; alhtough there were strict rules to enforce security measures and there were residential advisors in charge of the students in the different residential clusters (e.g., a cluster was made up of about 15 rooms per floor in a six-floor "house"), students were not expected to report their incoming/outgoing times. In this sense, Lorena felt that, for the first time in her life, she was truly on her own. As I write this dissertation, Lorena is packing her suitcases once again. This time she is headed for a one-semester study abroad experience in Australia. With her, she now takes a wealth of knowledge about what it means to be really far from home, and she now has a much better understanding about what she might have to negotiate in order to achieve success as a foreign student at an international host university and to make her overall experience of living abroad pleasant, rewarding, and exciting. Chapter 8 explores in more detail the impact of the WCU study abroad experience on Lorena's academic literacy practices upon her return to Mexico. 4.2 Nelda, Isabel and Raquel Common aspects among the experiences of Nelda, Isabel, and Raquel are that they arrived in Vancouver in the fall of 2005, and that their exchange lasted one semester only. In addition, all three took at least one Political Sciences (POLI) course and at least one Commerce (COMM) course, and they all had originally enrolled in a Latin American Studies (LAST) class, but Isabel and Raquel dropped it while Nelda went ahead and completed that course. 72 N E L D A Nelda was a 6 t h semester student in a Bachelor of Communications program at MCMU-Guadalajara campus. She was the middle daughter of three, and the only one currently living with her parents. (Her oldest sister had an American husband and lived in San Diego, where Nelda's mother and part of her extended family were from, and her younger sister was studying in the U.S.) Enjoying the privilege of living in one of the oldest and most prestigious private neighborhoods in Guadalajara, Nelda was used to a rather luxurious living standard which was in marked contrast with the more modest accommodation and overall living style she had access to in Canada. Nelda and Isabel, who were very close friends already in Guadalajara, chose to live in the same WCU campus residence, Cherry Tree House, albeit in different suites. They thus had different roommates, but they still spent most of their free time and a great part of their class time together, as they shared classes and friends. In Guadalajara they also attended most of the same classes together, and thus their daily routine at the MCMU- Guadalajara campus had many things in common. In fact, their decision to participate in the WCU exchange program was partly influenced by the fact that they both had study abroad plans. They both had hoped to be able to do a certificate relevant to their career interests, but unfortunately for them, WCU did not offer it at the time of their sojourn. Because they were unable to find another certificate that matched their interests within a one-semester time frame, completion of a certificate (as in Liliana's, Natalia's, and Lorena's cases) was not possible for them. This was actually the second time for Nelda in Canada: when in senior high school, she had participated in a four-month exchange program at a Canadian high school in Calgary. However, she viewed that experience as too distant from her current life, and therefore minimized the impact it might have on her experience living in Vancouver. And like Raquel (see section below), Nelda's past experience living abroad had involved residing with a local host family. While she was glad to be back in Canada, her original plan was to participate in an exchange experience in Miami, given that schools in that area are well known for their leading programs on communication and film. However, because MCMU did not have any joint academic agreements with any schools in Miami at the time, she searched for other viable possibilities, among which WCU stood out. 73 In any case, Nelda knew that she wanted to take part in an exchange that involved studying and living in an English-medium context, as improving her English proficiency was one of her goals. I was unable to obtain data about her TOEFL score, but it must have been over 550, which—as mentioned before—is the minimum score to be accepted for the WCU exchange program. Having studied English for nine years, Nelda told me she was quite confident. However, the prospect of having to write essays in her L2 made her very uneasy at the beginning of the semester. "The last time I wrote an essay in English was when I was in Calgary - so that makes me nervous!" (Nelda, I#l: September 22/05). Adding to her nervousness was the fact that she was nofused to writing very long assignments in Mexico. The Latin American Studies (LAST) essays in particular rose her stress level to the limit. Already quite frustrated at the beginning of the term, Nelda told me in despair: I thought t h i s c l a s s [LAST 1A] would be the e a s i e s t , but i t ' s the hardest one i n s t e a d ! The readings - and I don't understand when they speak. Even though I do my readings before every c l a s s , I don't know what they are t a l k i n g about. (Nelda, I#5: September 22/05) As I later illustrate in this dissertation, Nelda felt so overwhelmed by her LAST 1A essay writing assignments that she managed to obtain permission from her instructors to write them in Spanish. Her experiences with other course assignments were also causing her stress, and by the third interview, Nelda was wondering "Why can't I do it here when in Mexico I always do so well?" (Nelda, I#3: October 13/05). She was indeed having great difficulty to make sense of what more experienced classmates and roommates tried to explain to her about the WCU system: I t o l d my roommate about t h i s c l a s s , and do you know what she said? 'Everything works out at the end!' And I hate t h a t . I j u s t want to know - I want to keep t r a c k of how I'm doing. (...) For them [WCU l o c a l s ] the f i n a l exam i s l i k e the whole course! (Nelda, I#3: October 13/05) While Nelda had been made aware of the academic demands that would most likely challenge her, by the fifth week of her four-month stay abroad in Canada she was overwhelmed by some of her classes. She believed it was quite discouraging and unfair 74 that her grades were not as high as in Mexico and thus did not reflect the high level of effort and dedication she was putting into it. When I visited Nelda in Mexico a semester after her return, she shared with me her plans to go to Argentina for a second exchange experience. She dreamed about going to Buenos Aires and mingling with local students she expected to befriend much more easily than her classmates in Canada, mainly because of the cultural and linguistic closeness of Latin American people. The most recent news I have from Nelda tells me that she is having a wonderful time in Buenos Aires, studying at a large private university, living on her own in a downtown apartment she rented for a few months, and this time feeling much more relaxed, particularly in terms of the academic demands she needs to fulfill. I S A B E L Isabel was also a 6th semester student in a Bachelor of Communications program at MCMU-Guadalajara campus. Originally from Zacatecas, a five-hour drive from the city of Guadalajara, Isabel chose to study at the MCMU-Guadalajara campus because she was looking for a bigger campus than the one at her home town. Similar to Liliana's case, Isabel also initially wanted to study abroad in Spain. Even though she had studied English for most of her life, Spain appeared to her to be a smart option in terms of the university language demands. However, her parents preferred Isabel to choose a destination that was closer to Mexico, and in particular, in a country they considered safe enough to send their daughter. As Isabel said to me, "since they pay, they decide" (Isabel I#l: September 16/05). In the end, the choice of WCU was considered a wise option by Isabel, who realized that the opportunity to brush up on her English and to be in contact with people from diverse cultures were two strong reasons to be happy and thankful for the study abroad opportunity she had. Isabel was a very observant person who was eager to meet people from different cultures. She confessed to me that before getting to really know her Korean roommates, she had wished to share a suite with Anglophone Canadians. In fact, during the first week of the exchange she reported feeling upset and disillusioned that there were not many Canadian students living close by in her residence. Yet after a very short period of 75 discontent, she discovered wonderful people in her new Italian, Chinese and Korean friends. She also enjoyed it very much when they interacted in their different languages, and indicated that before coming to Canada she had considered starting with French lessons, but that she was currently very motivated to learn an Asian language since her new friends had piqued her interest in the non-Western world. She then said: "This is so cool. It also helped me to open up my mind to discover parts of the world that for me did not exist until now." (Isabel I#l: September 16/05). In fact, this kind of self-discovery was one of the reasons that encouraged her to participate on an exchange. She was aware that "going abroad changes you" (Isabel I#l: September 16/05). And this was something she was ready for. Isabel was also very reflexive about her performance at WCU, constantly comparing the WCU with the MCMU systems. And as the term progressed, like Nelda, she also felt very frustrated and discouraged by the grades she was getting. So while in her first interview she still sounded very positive and expectant about her academic performance, in the second interview her frustration and anxiety are revealed. This is evident in the following exchange between her and me: S = Sandra 1= I s a b e l S: I t ' s been a w h i l e s i n c e our f i r s t i n t e r v i e w . How a r e you do ing? I : Yes , i t was a lmos t the b e g i n n i n g o f the t erm t h e n , when I s t i l l had no i d e a about what t h i s would be l i k e ! (...) S: And how i s i t g o i n g so f a r ? I : I t ' s been okay - j u s t f i n e I s h o u l d s a y . T h i s week has been much more r e l a x e d i n compar i son to the p r e v i o u s two weeks. Because between the midterms , and a l l the a s s ignments we had to hand i n (...) i t was q u i t e h a r d . I was busy a l l the t i m e . I t was too much - too many t h i n g s , and e v e r y t h i n g was heavy type o f work. And t h e n , l i k e the f i r s t week we had t o hand i n t h i n g s , I had exams. And the second week t h e y r e t u r n e d us some o f the work, and I was- l i k e "oh no, but I 'm d o i n g r e a l l y b a d l y . " I t was l i k e "oh no, what ' s h a p p e n i n g ! " (...) For me, i n my m i n d , a 50 i s l i k e a F a i l . But they [her roommates and Mex ican f r i e n d s ] t e l l me "no, but a 50 i s a good g r a d e ! " And they t o l d me t h a t I'm not d o i n g so b a d l y . And I 'm h a v i n g t r o u b l e to a c c e p t t h a t I 'm d o i n g okay i n s p i t e o f the 50 - t h a t t h a t ' s an a c c e p t a b l e g r a d e . 76 (Isabel I#2: October 28/05) This excerpt, which reflects Isabel's opinions about the heavy work load of WCU and the emotional impact of her low grades, is representative of the entire corpus of her interview data, as she reiterated the same ideas in all her interviews. Isabel also mentioned to me that she was unhappy about the fact that she had worked really hard in Mexico in order to improve her average and qualify to study abroad, only to lower it as a result of her academic performance at WCU. In spite of these negative feelings, she was still very positive about the overall experience and managed to develop several academic survival strategies around her L2 literacy experiences, in some cases even taking advantage of her non-native English speaker exchange student status, which otherwise seemed to negatively affect her. RAQUEL Raquel was in the 7th semester of a Bachelor of International Relations degree. Whereas out of the 22 participants of this study 10 came from the MCMU-Monterrey campus, the largest of all MCMU campuses, Raquel was the only student I met from the MCMU-Mexico City campus. There were also quite a few students in the fall 2005 cohort (and also participating in this study) that came from the Mexican Federal District campus, which is located relatively very close from Raquel's campus; but as she would let me know, she felt that students tended not to mingle with students from other campuses. Raquel struck me as a very unique individual in many respects. In addition to feeling somehow isolated or perhaps ignored by her fellow Mexican exchange peers from other campuses, she seemed to have a personal cultural immersion agenda that interfered with any potential opportunities for getting together with fellow nationals. She was indeed quite straightforward about this when stating that "I specially came all the way here, so there's no point in spending time with other Mexicans" (Raquel, I#l F05: September 14/05). Raquel was also among the few MCMU students who chose off- campus accommodation; she lived in an apartment a few minutes away from campus 77 which she had rented together with two Mexican friends she had met at her home MCMU campus. As for her course work at WCU, Raquel was among the smaller group of students who took mostly Political Sciences (POLI) classes. She was also enrolled in a Commerce (COMM) class plus in a Latin American Studies (LAST) class from which she eventually withdrew. Even though she was unable to register for a certificate of specialty (this would have taken her a full year, a length of time she was not sure she would like to spend abroad when she just got to WCU), she was happy about the prospect of taking POLI classes because they sounded very relevant to her career interests. Every time I met Raquel she had a new anecdote to share with me about either her English language use experiences (examples of instances in which due to lack of socio- linguistic background knowledge she felt awkward) or about her new international friends, who came from different parts of the world (e.g., Iraq, Nepal, Australia, Korea, Cyprus). Raquel's drive to make her exchange experience truly international was evidenced by her active involvement with the WCU larger student community. Through the International Relations Student Association of which she was a member, she had access to conferences, camping opportunities, and other events that she thought contributed to making her feel part of "this [WCU] world." In addition to her multi-cultural immersion expectations, Raquel also hoped to excel in school. She feared though that her English proficiency might interfere with this, especially because after she received the feedback for her first POLI written assignment she confirmed that in spite of working hard and dedicating long hours to doing research and writing an assignment, her grades were much lower than she anticipated. By the third interview, Raquel was truly worried about her academic performance and, like most other MCMU study participants, felt that her large investment in the assigned work (including the readings) did not pay off, at least not in the ways desired. Also, due to a very troublesome experience with two team work classmates, Raquel reached a high level of despair. In fact, close to the end of the exchange she concluded that "I was very eager to work with other people in order to learn about their cultures, but I realized that this is quite hard." (Raquel, I#4 F05: November 22/05). Back in Mexico, Raquel reported going through a hard re-adaptation process: 78 My r e t u r n was qu i t e complicated ... Returning home was pl e a s i n g . When I a r r i v e d I r e a l i z e d how much I had missed my parents and my s i s t e r (...) I remembered how comfortable i t i s to be at home and know that there's always food i n the f r i d g e and that I don't have to look a f t e r every cent (...) Going back to school was much more traumatic. I t f r u s t r a t e d me that my teachers were not as w e l l prepared (...) Studying at WCU was synonymous wit h an i n t e l l e c t u a l challenge, but when I returned I f e l t very unmotivated. (Raquel, e-mail communication: A p r i l 25/06) 4.3 Summary The detailed background information about the participants included in this chapter is considered relevant to the analysis of their L2 academic literacy socialization in Canada, as will be illustrated in subsequent chapters. Readers are reminded that although the participants, all single young women, do not represent a completely homogeneous group (e.g., they come from different MCMU campuses and regions in Mexico, some come from a higher social and/or economic status than others), they do seem to challenge the typical image of "third world" students whose access to sojourn experiences may be very limited. Instead, on the basis of the biosketches provided in this chapter, we can see that, for the most part, these are privileged students with different kinds of sociocultural and economic capital: many of them have had prior or subsequent opportunities to travel internationally, they come from a highly reputed private university, and their families are wealthy (or at least economically comfortable). As shown in subsequent chapters, these are factors that shaped the participants' social and academic experiences abroad, and which should therefore be considered in future studies that aim to provide a holistic account of students' experiences. In the following chapter, the participants' L2 academic socialization at WCU is examined vis-a-vis the different kinds of assignments and literacy practices in which they were involved. 7 9 Chapter 5 ACADEMIC LITERACY PRACTICES AT WCU: MAIN CHARACTERISTICS 5.0 Introduction This chapter addresses the first research question: What are the academic literacy practices valued and required in Canadian undergraduate content courses as perceived by the participating Mexican students? The data for this chapter come from interviews with the participants and two course instructors, course outlines and assignment prompts, the participants' assignments (including feedback samples from instructors), their reflective writing logs, and a retrospective reflective questionnaire completed by the participants upon their return to their home university. The chapter begins with a descriptive summary of the courses in which the focal participants were registered (Section 5.1), followed by an overview of the academic literacy activities in which they engaged (Section 5.2). This information is included in Table 5.2, and it is placed at the beginning of the chapter (rather than at the end), as it is meant to provide readers with background knowledge that contextualizes the subsequent chapter sections. The chapter then includes the main themes that emerged from the participants' individual academic literacy socialization trajectories and which I have synthesized after performing within-case and across-case data analysis (Sections 5.3 to 5.5). For each theme, I present an interpretive account synthesizing the experiences across participants, including illustrations drawn from the data to support the claims made. The chapter closes with a summary and discussion of findings (Section 5.6). 5.1 Participants' courses As already briefly outlined in Chapter 3, the students that participated in this study were registered in regular content area courses that WCU local students took as part of their respective programs of study. The participants doing a "certificate of specialty" took two required courses in the summer term, May-June 2005 and during the fall term they took three additional required courses plus two electives, totaling a workload of five courses from September to December, 2005 (with exception of Natalia, who dropped one 80 of the electives and thus only took four courses in the fall). Students not enrolled in a certificate of specialty (i.e., Nelda, Isabel, and Raquel) had relatively more freedom to choose which courses to attend, as they were not required to fulfill any specific course requirements.21 Nevertheless, they were still expected to have a workload of five courses in the fall term, and most of them actually wanted to do so in order to obtain the maximum possible course work credit towards their home university degrees. Both Nelda and Isabel fulfilled this expectation, whereas Raquel initially registered in five but later dropped one of her courses (the Latin American Studies course, which Isabel also dropped in exchange for another Political Sciences course). Table 5.1 includes a detail of the courses taken by the focal participants during the summer and fall terms. Table 5.1 Focal Participants' Courses Academic Term Courses Lo re na  Li lia na  N at al ia  Is ab el  N el da  R aq ue l Summer COMM 3A 01 X X X N/A COMM 3E X X X COMM 2A 01 X Fall COMM 2A 02 X COMM 4A 02 X X X COMM 4B 02 X X COMM 4B 03 X COMM 4E X X X COMM 4G X X X COMM 4H X X X COMM 4L 01 X COMM 4M X X LAST IA D X D PHIL 4A X D POLI IA 01 X POLI 2A X X POLI 3B X POLI 3D X POLI 3E X (D = course dropped) Students were perplexed and usually complained to me about how stressful and frustrating choosing courses had been for most of them. Even though these courses were selected from a menu of choices available to MCMU students (rather than from the larger pool of courses available to local WCU students), the participants regretted that not enough detailed information about each course was available to them in advance, and that often they would find out-only too late-that they had not made a wise or appropriate course selection. 81 As can be seen, Lorena, Liliana and Natalia (all completing the same certificate of specialty) took many courses together; Isabel and Nelda had three course overlaps, whereas Raquel only shared one course with two other focal participants. The data corpus includes information about these 19 different course topics, formats (e.g., frequency, delivery styles), class size and other details. This information was valuable in the analysis of the academic literacy socialization experiences of each participant. Details about the individual course characteristics are provided in Chapter 6 in terms of specific students' academic literacy socialization trajectories. I include here the following characteristics shared across some of the courses: (a) most courses usually had one instructor; some also had teaching assistants (positions normally filled by graduate students who performed marking and/or lab duties); (b) classes in the summer usually met twice per week for three hours each time during a six-week period, whereas fall classes usually met twice per week for 1.5 hours each time during a 13-week period (except for the online Philosophy course, for which students were expected to log onto the course web-site one weekly evening for a three-hour period in addition to checking the site constantly for updates and information posted by the instructor); (c) With respect to the number of students enrolled in each class, in Commerce courses there was an average of 38 students per class, in Political Sciences the average was 140 (the range was 64 to 267 students), in the Latin American Studies course there were 50 students, and in the Philosophy class there were 32; (d) Whereas Mexican students could expect to have around five co-national classmates in Commerce courses (in some cases more, up to 20), fewer Mexican students were enrolled in other subject area classes (between two and three). 5.2 Overview of assignments The purpose of this section is to provide readers with an overview of the different assignment types and characteristics, to contextualize the students' experiences discussed in subsequent sections and chapters. I have included below a synthesis of the assignment The data corpus also includes detailed information about all the courses in which the secondary participants were enrolled. A summary of this information as it pertains to the focal participants is included in Appendix B. 82 types which I have labeled in most cases following the same terminology used by the course instructors. The characteristics included in the description of each assignment type should be interpreted rather broadly, keeping in mind that even though each label could be seen as representing a particular academic genre (Swales, 1990), ultimately the assignment characteristics were determined by the instructors in each course, and as this dissertation also hopes to show, they were also co-constructed by the students. Following Casanave's (2003) work, the assignments are defined and analyzed as "artifacts for evaluation;" that is, texts that: are produced in a social and political context where writers and their writings are compared to other writers and their writings, and where institutional norms, instructor and gatekeeper criteria, feedback, and decisions of powerful evaluators help determine what "success" means, (p. 88) This dissertation thus examines the impact of these artifacts on the students' second language academic literacy socialization during study abroad by first identifying the different artifact types, analyzing how they were produced, and looking at their impact on students' academic and personal lives. As shown in Table 5.2, for each course the students were required to do multiple assignments of different types, ranging from short paragraphs to extensive term papers. Students were expected to double-space and type their assignments. All assignments involved learners in academic literacy practices to varying degrees. The data corpus for this project includes multiple samples of the different types of assignments included in Table 5.2. " Some previous research analyzed undergraduate academic tasks (e.g., Bridgeman & Carlson, 1984; Johns, 1981; Kroll , 1979), course syllabi and writing assignments (e.g., Horowitz, 1986; Braine, 1989), and which has suggested classifications of tasks. However, none of the typologies neatly matches the writing assignments I identified in this study. Furthermore, while my aim in identifying the main characteristics of these assignments serves the practical purpose of being able to provide an overview of what I suggest can be called "typical" tasks, readers are reminded that ultimately each assignment had characteristics that were specific to each course. In turn, each assignment was interpreted and enacted in unique ways by the participants (echoing the findings of Coughlan & Duff, 1994). 83 Table 5.2 Course Assignments Type of assignment Characteristics Course Participant Case study analysis This type of assignment required students to read a particular case (usually a published business case), and critically analyze it based on a questionnaire guide. Numerical operations were also required sometimes. The length of the assignment was between five and ten pages. COMM 4A 02 COMM 4E COMM 4B 03 COMM 4L01 COMM 4M Isabel, Nelda, Raquel Liliana, Natalia, Lorena Lorena Lorena Liliana, Natalia Paragraph/ Short essay This type of assignment required students to answer three to five questions in paragraph form. The paragraphs ranged between 150 and 500 words. PHIL 4A COMM 4B 02 COMM 4G Liliana Isabel, Nelda Liliana, Natalia, Lorena Long essay Longer essays were up to five pages long, double- spaced. Students usually had to write three to four longer essays per course in which this type of assignment was given. Assignments were mostly individual (except for COMM 4L 01). LAST 1A POLI 1A01 POLI 3D PHIL 4A COMM 4L 01 Nelda Isabel Raquel Liliana Lorena Business plan This was done in teams. It involved at least two stages: submission of a two/three-page executive report (on which the teams were given feedback they needed to incorporate in their final business plan), and the final business plan, which was a longer comprehensive document with several sections (up to 40 pages). COMM 4B 02 COMM 4A 02 COMM 4B 03 Isabel, Nelda Nelda, Isabel, Raquel Lorena Oral presentation & brief report Oral presentations were done in teams. They involved group meetings; reading of various sources to gather background information/content; elaboration of PowerPoint slides; and writing up of a brief report (up to five pages long) to be handed in. COMM 2A 01 COMM 2A 02 COMM 4B 02 COMM 4G Nelda Isabel Isabel, Nelda Liliana, Natalia, Lorena Term paper These were written either individually, in pairs, or in groups. They were between 15 and 20 pages long, and required substantial research . The assignment usually involved several steps: (a) hand in an outline/proposal for research paper and receive topic approval from instructor, (b) hand in draft (short) version of paper and receive feedback from instructor and/or peers, (c) hand in full paper. POLI 2A POLI 3E POLI 3B COMM 4E COMM 4H Isabel, Nelda Raquel Raquel Liliana, Natalia, Lorena Liliana, Natalia, Lorena Midterm They typically required students to compose short paragraphs (150-200 words), answer multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank items, and in some cases also to write longer paragraphs (400 words), and solve numerical problems. Students had to sit for one midterm exam per course that required it. COMM 2A 01 COMM 2A 02 COMM 4H COMM 4E COMM 4A 02 POLI 2A Nelda Isabel Liliana, Natalia, Lorena Liliana, Natalia, Lorena Nelda, Isabel, Raquel Isabel, Nelda 84 Type of assignment Characteristics Course Participant POLI 3B POLI 3D Raquel Raquel Final exam Done in class. Two main types were identified: Type A: required solution of mathematical problems, answering short essay questions (one page long) Type B: required answering multiple choice items, answering short questions, and writing a short essay (2 pages long) Unless students had a final report to hand in, they usually had a final exam per course. COMM 4E POLI 3E POLI 3B POLI 3D LAST IA PHIL4A Liliana, Natalia, Lorena Raquel Raquel Raquel Nelda Liliana 5.3 Reading as unexpectedly overwhelming The participants indicated that reading was a very taxing activity, particularly because in Mexico they were not required to do any kind of "preparatory" reading (i.e., reading prior to attending a lecture) whereas at WCU they were expected to do so. Consequently, since exchange students were unfamiliar with and unaccustomed to the WCU reading practices, the associated reading demands were perceived as overwhelming. Table 5.3 summarizes the main reading practices of both academic cultures as described and interpreted by the participants. Since they usually referred to each academic culture as a "system," this is also the term I have used, as I believe it reinforces the notion that students tended to view each academic culture as highly systematic and cohesive in spite of some contradictions they also identified. Data for this table (and for Table 5.4) come from interviews and writing log and questionnaire entries from both focal as well as secondary participants. Table 5.3 Contrasting Reading Practices Characteristics MCMU "system" WCU "system" "Prep" reading • No reading in advance (i.e., before class) of relevant class content materials is necessary. • Instructors present all new material in class and explain it as is on the book. • Reading before class is essential to understand each class. • Instructors assume students have read the assigned readings since classroom lectures and discussions serve the purpose of internalizing and extending content. 85 Characteristics MCMU "system" WCU "system" • New content not always explained in class; students need to read course materials on their own. Gate keeping practices • Instructors talk about specific reading material in class only if it has been assigned as homework, in which case they check if students have read it. • Instructors rarely discuss the assigned readings in detail. Instead, they discuss the topics. Calling on students to check if they have read the assigned materials is not often done. Frequency • Few homework readings assigned per semester (e.g. two or three per semester). • Many readings assigned per week, (e.g., two or three per week) Length (per reading) • Up to ten pages, on average. • Up to thirty pages, on average. Language- medium • Most reading materials are in Spanish, although in some cases they are in English. Class discussions and assignments, however, are in Spanish (except for students in the international track). • All reading materials and related classroom discussions and assignments are in English. Reading before each class at WCU was something all students were strongly encouraged to do, since class lectures and discussions were usually based on reading materials that had been pre-assigned for each class. All WCU courses had either a required or recommended textbook and/or a required reading packet, and in some cases readings were also made available through the respective course website. Many of the course outlines included a detailed section with a list of the weekly topics and assigned readings, plus explicit statements about instructors' expectations regarding the readings, as illustrated in the following course outline extracts: COMM 2 A 0 1 / 0 2 : This course i s designed to sharpen your a b i l i t y t o diagnose and solve a broad range of o r g a n i z a t i o n a l problems. Through readings, lectures, cases, and experiential exercises, we w i l l introduce you to frameworks from the social sciences t h a t are u s e f u l f o r understanding o r g a n i z a t i o n a l processes and teach you how to apply these frameworks to p a r t i c u l a r s i t u a t i o n s . Readings are provided to give theoretical groundings for each day's discussion, and are a starting point for our discussions. You are expected to show a high level of commitment to the course by carefully reading the assigned material prior to coming to class each day. You 86 should come to class ready to absorb lessons from the applied examples of the readings that we w i l l discuss. We do not be l i e v e i n passive l e a r n i n g . I f you put i n the a p p r o p r i a t e l y high l e v e l of e f f o r t we assure you t h i s w i l l be a course you w i l l not f o r g e t , (p. 1, emphasis added) You w i l l be working p r i m a r i l y from a textbook and a purchased packet of m a t e r i a l s that contain cases and e x e r c i s e s . (...) To understand the m a t e r i a l s covered i n t h i s course and do w e l l i n the examinations i t i s crucial that you read the m a t e r i a l s BEFORE class sessions so that you can c o n t r i b u t e t h o u g h t f u l l y to the c l a s s d i s c u s s i o n s and e x e r c i s e s , (p. 2, emphasis i n o r i g i n a l ) COMM 3A 01: I encourage you to have the required readings done before you come to class. Some w i l l be discussed i n c l a s s . Others w i l l not. From time to time, I ' l l recommend a d d i t i o n a l sources, which are o p t i o n a l , (p. 2, i t a l i c s i n o r i g i n a l , emphasis added) COMM 4G: Readings f o r each c l a s s are i n d i c a t e d i n the attached course o u t l i n e . Most of the readings are a v a i l a b l e o n l i n e . Students are expected to read the required readings before class. (p.2, emphasis added) COMM 4M: Preparation of case analyses and c l a s s d i s c u s s i o n s provide a key l e a r n i n g experience. Consequently, i t i s imperative that each student come to class well prepared and able to contribute to the discussion. At l e a s t 2 hours of prepa r a t i o n should be spent on each case before c l a s s , (pp. 1-2, emphasis added) COMM 4B 02: There w i l l be a course package that i n c l u d e s case s t u d i e s and some background readings. The case s t u d i e s w i l l be the basi s f o r much of our classroom d i s c u s s i o n . Obtaining the course package i s mandatory. (...) Class p a r t i c i p a t i o n i s very important i n a case-based course. I view c l a s s d i s c u s s i o n as a way of l e a r n i n g from each other (...) You cannot p o s s i b l y make i n s i g h t f u l remarks i f you have not prepared f o r c l a s s , (p. 2, und e r l i n e d t e x t i n o r i g i n a l ) Great emphasis was therefore placed by instructors on students' responsibility to read before each class, as shown in the course outlines through word choices such as "you are expected to show a high level of commitment to the course by carefully 87 reading the assigned material," "it is crucial that you read," "it is imperative that each student come to class well prepared," "obtaining the course package is mandatory," and by statements such as "students are responsible for materials covered in lectures, class discussions, and assigned readings" (POLI 3B, p. 1). In most cases, students received a class participation mark, which usually accounted for 10 to 15% of the overall course grade. As the first course outline excerpt shows, instructors indicated that in order to make meaningful contributions in class discussions and be granted a high participation mark, students were expected to show their high commitment to the class by carefully reading the assigned materials on any given topic. In addition to the required reading materials, students were often encouraged to consult other sources of information that could contribute relevant knowledge (i.e., background knowledge as well as current knowledge). For instance, the Latin American Studies instructor advised students to "keep up to date with news from Latin America" (Course outline LAST 1 A, p.l). The course outline also included a statement that encouraged students to read about Latin American history and culture, and a website url plus a list of optional books the students could consult for further relevant information were also provided. Along the same lines, the following statement included by a Political Sciences instructor in his course outline also encouraged students to actively search of additional reading sources (e.g., mainstream print media as well as leading journals) to enhance their learning process: Even though i t i s not a course about current events, i t w i l l make an e f f o r t to i n t e g r a t e some contemporary events and issues to enhance the c r i t i c a l understanding of g l o b a l p o l i t i c s . Students should keep abreast of contemporary i n t e r n a t i o n a l events by e i t h e r reading the mainstream p r i n t media or l i s t e n i n g to the major broadcast media. Students can al s o b e n e f i t immensely by f o l l o w i n g the debates on contemporary issues that appear i n le a d i n g j o u r n a l s . (Course o u t l i n e POLI 2 A , p. 1) As mentioned above, the participants made numerous allusions in the interviews to their heavy reading load at WCU, which in turn prompted me to gather information about their home university reading practices. I collected some of the data on this topic by means of a retrospective reflective questionnaire distributed to all participants approximately two months after their return to Mexico. Below I have included sample 88 responses they provided when asked to comment about whether or not they read (or used to read) before each class, both during their exchange at WCU and after their return to MCMU. R e f l e c t i v e Questionnaire A prompts: • Do you u s u a l l y read before attending MCMU cla s s e s ? Why? • Did you u s u a l l y read before attending WCU clas s e s ? Why? N a t a l i a (At MCMU) Not r e a l l y . I t ' s not necessary to read before c l a s s , since I'm t a k i n g wrap up courses now. I only have to read f o r one c l a s s , but readings are never more than 2 pages long. (At WCU) Yes, because I wasn't capable of f o l l o w i n g the i n s t r u c t o r i n h i s c l a s s . They [ i n s t r u c t o r s i n general] assumed that you know what they were t a l k i n g about, and the i n s t r u c t i o n a l pace was much f a s t e r than i n Mexico. ( N a t a l i a , Questionnaire A) Lorena (At MCMU) Sometimes. I only read when I have time, a f t e r doing my homework, since I t h i n k that homework i s more important ((than reading)) i n the MCMU system. I n s t r u c t o r s almost never t e s t you on what you read, plus they e x p l a i n i n c l a s s a l l the to p i c s i n c l u d e d i n our readings. But our home assignments count towards our f i n a l course grade. G e n e r a l l y , I only read when I know that w e ' l l use the course reading f o r a c l a s s d i s c u s s i o n . (At WCU) Almost always. At WCU we a l s o discussed our reading m a t e r i a l s i n c l a s s , and our o r a l c o n t r i b u t i o n s were p a r t of a p a r t i c i p a t i o n mark. Moreover, even i f i t wasn't a d i s c u s s i o n t o p i c , the i n s t r u c t o r s didn't e x p l a i n the readings i n c l a s s ( u n l i k e most MCMU i n s t r u c t o r s ) . Instead, they assumed we knew the t o p i c and they j u s t answered our doubts or complemented the readings w i t h other m a t e r i a l s or with t h e i r own experiences i n t h e i r r e s p e c t i v e f i e l d s . (Lorena, Questionnaire A) The questionnaire entries show that the students recognized the centrality of reading in the WCU academic culture: reading materials in advance was seen as crucial to 89 scaffold their lecture comprehension and to facilitate their classroom participation. Besides this, the motivation for reading in each academic context was also described as different: reading before class at MCMU only happened when students knew they would have to be accountable to their instructor for their reading homework. Or, as Natalia told me when referring to her reading habits in Mexico: "we read [something] just when we need to hand in a summary; we don't read in order to prepare for a class" (Natalia, I#3 F05: September 12/05). In contrast, acquiring a reading habit in WCU was seen as necessary to prevent falling behind. Yet, the students would usually concern themselves with acquiring a reading habit only once they realized its importance after facing a "critical incident" (e.g., in preparation for an exam, feeling overwhelmed by the vast amount of unread materials that accumulated over the weeks, which resulted in the students' awareness of their need to modify their study strategies). In this respect, the participants that had spent the short summer term at WCU felt that their knowledge about the centrality of reading in the host academic culture placed them in an advantageous position over the "new" students that arrived in WCU for the first time during the fall. While the "oldtimer" exchange students were eager to share this knowledge with newcomer Mexican students, they were not surprised when their advice was not taken seriously, as they also had been incredulous at first: You don't l e a r n i t u n t i l you l i v e i t ! You don't do i t u n t i l you need i t . And i t ' s kind of funny to see the "new" [F05 MCMU exchange] students, when they j u s t a r r i v e . I t o l d one of the new g i r l s - I t h i n k she's from Puebla - that she'd b e t t e r read. Because I t r i e d to e x p l a i n to her that i f you don't read, then you have a p i l e l i k e t h i s ((gestures w i t h hands)) and you won't be able to read i t a l l at once. And that' s kind of funny - you take i t as advice, but at the same time you thi n k 'no, no.' (N a t a l i a , I#3 F05: September 12/05) In addition, the participants also mentioned in their reflective questionnaires and interviews that their assigned readings in Mexico were not only fewer, but also much shorter when compared to those in WCU. For all these reasons, reading at WCU constituted one of the most pervasive and in most cases extremely overwhelming activity for almost every Mexican exchange student, including secondary participants. It was 90 often perceived as so highly time consuming, that no matter the effort and time investment, the students found it hard to keep up to date. As Table 5.3 and some of the excerpts above illustrate, unless a reading was assigned for a special class activity, the participants were not usually required to read the required course textbook prior to attending their MCMU classes. Even though their home university instructors tried to instill in them the practice of reading by suggesting optional materials, the lectures covered all the course content. In turn, only the content covered in the lectures was included in the assignments and exams. Therefore, students and instructors acted under the shared assumption that teacher input and classroom-based activities (such as small group discussions) became the primary source of information that students ought to learn. As a result, reading was mostly characterized as an optional, perhaps even peripheral, activity that could complement instructor lectures.24 In contrast, lectures and class discussions at WCU were seen as a complement to the readings (not the other way about), as shown in the quoted text below: Lectures are drawn from m u l t i p l e sources and w i l l either supplement or complement the materials covered in the textbook. Lecture o u t l i n e s are posted on webCT every week. Students need to read the o u t l i n e s and f o l l o w the requ i r e d readings before coming to c l a s s . (Course o u t l i n e POLI 2 A , p. 1, emphasis added) Therefore, this suggests that another reason to explain why students found the reading demands so heavy is related to their being unaccustomed to similar practices, and to the more peripheral status ascribed to reading in the respective academic contexts. In addition, the participants viewed reading as demanding due to the cognitive overload they experienced when reading in their L2. Cognitive overload took place when a combination of extreme language and cognitive demands exceeding the participants' capabilities led them to feel overwhelmed. For many students, comprehension was described as slow and sometimes hard as they were trying to process new content in English. In Nelda's and Liliana's cases, their Latin American Studies and Philosophy readings, respectively, were seen as particularly challenging due to their obscure content 2 4 Indeed, most participants confessed-somewhat guiltily—that unless a particular reading was assigned for homework or unless they were doing research for an assignment (e.g., final paper) they usually did not invest much of their time in reading class materials. 91 in addition to the fact that they were English texts. Both students reported their reading comprehension limitations adversely impacted their performance in these courses. Nelda, for instance, mentioned that while she thought the LAST course would be the easiest one (in light of her Latin American background), it turned out to be the opposite because of "the readings - and I don't understand when they talk (...) Even if I read, I arrive in class and I don't know what they're talking about" (Nelda, I#l F05: September 22/05). This, she explained to me, negatively impacted her performance in the first LAST essay assignment, on which she scored 60/100. In response to her instructor's observation that she had failed to understand the article she discussed in the assignment, Nelda commented to me that "this is what I was telling you - that this is my problem in class. I don't understand the readings, and obviously if I understood something different, the result won't be what he expects" (Nelda, I#2 F05: October 13/05). She also had a similar frustrating experience with a pop quiz, for which she had to read a book on Mayan mythology. Once again, Nelda's grade was 6/10, and while she thought that the main problem was associated with the purpose of the quiz (i.e., it required students to demonstrate knowledge of very detailed information instead of referring to the main ideas discussed in the book, which was what Nelda focused on to study), she also thought that part of the problem was due to a language issue, arguing that even though she had read the book, had made summaries of each character and the plot characteristics, she still thought she might have lost some details while reading the story: "I could write about what each character did, but I won't remember whose arm was cut off during war - and besides, perhaps I didn't even realize that his arm had been amputated!" (I#2 F05: October 13/05). Liliana's data point to her struggles to make sense of her Philosophy course readings: I don't know i f i t ' s my E n g l i s h or i f i t ' s because i t ' s too p h i l o s o p h i c a l , but I spend way too much time. I t ' s a l o t of ma t e r i a l and many of the readings are very complex. Some are easy, but others - I have to read them three or four times and even so, I don't understand them! ( L i l i a n a , I#6 F05, November 24/05) 92 She also recorded similar comments on her writing log. Since she had trouble comprehending the PHIL texts, Liliana asked her Australian friend and roommate (Susan) to read some of these, in the hope that she could help her unpack the text meanings. However, Susan also found them challenging, and thus Liliana continued doing her assignments always being uncertain about whether or not she had "gotten it right." Indeed, she was not sure either about her interpretation of the assignment prompts for this course. "In one of my essays I got a higher grade [than in her first PHIL essays] even though I didn't understand the instructions very well. So, Natalia told me then that it's a matter of not understanding him!" (Liliana, I#6 F05: November 24/05). Even in cases where the participants reported no major reading comprehension difficulties due to content, the data still suggest that they experienced cognitive overload due to reading in an L2, since this process was much slower than in their LI . For instance, most of them reported looking up words in the dictionary (a strategy which decreased as time progressed, though), and they also reported having to concentrate more that when reading in Spanish (e.g., they needed to be in a quiet place, possibly alone, with no background noise, not even music). Furthermore, while in Spanish they felt they had the ability to just browse a text to extract its key ideas, reading in English demanded that they paid more attention to detail, and it usually also required that they re-read portions of the text several times, all of this slowing down the whole process. Consequently, preparing for each class and studying for exams were perceived as demanding a longer time commitment to reading than they were used to in their home university context. This is alluded to, for instance, in the excerpt below, which comes from an interview with Isabel during the first half of the exchange. S = Sandra I = I s a b e l 4 3 . S: So, when you say you dedicated a l o t of time to studying, i f you compare i t to how much you are used to studying i n Mexico, would you say i t ' s more or l e s s the same time? 4 4 . I: More! I t h i n k more - w e l l , I think more because for me, studying for an exam involves s i t t i n g down an evening and you f i n i s h . And this was not like this; I sat for an evening, and then the day after, and then another time for two hours, and then the whole night. It's really like more effort than I would normally put into for one exam. 93 45. S: And why do you t h i n k that's so? 46. I: I don't know. Well, besides I f e l t more pressured. It i s harder for me to study [at WCU] because i t ' s not like you read i t and that's i t . Here you have to read i t and re- read i t before you can assimilate i t . So I had my notes i n hand, and then "oh, what was that word again?," so I have to check. So i t ' s much slower. Yes, I f e e l i t ' s so much slower. So, f o r instance, the other day we were studying new concepts, and i t was so hard f o r me because I was studying them i n E n g l i s h . And then, I had lots of doubts, but I thought of them in Spanish, so I had to translate them into English. 47. S: So, do you t r a n s l a t e a l l the time? 48. I: Not a l l the time. But i n some cases, f o r i n s t a n c e , i f there i s a word I don't understand so w e l l - but I need to understand i t f i r s t in Spanish, I need to understand the concept. But then I also needed to write i t in English, because the exam w i l l be i n E n g l i s h . So f o r i n s t a n c e , f o r COMM 2A 02 we stu d i e d a l o t i n Spanish. So I stu d i e d a l l the terminology i n Spanish, but the exam d i d not i n v o l v e much composing. But t h i s one yes, so i f I s t u d i e d i n Spanish, by the time I had to w r i t e f o r the exam I would have f e l t I had no words! So I had to study a l l the terms in English. So that's harder, and I think that that took a lot of my time. ( I s a b e l , I#2, F05: October 28/05) In turn 44, Isabel contrasted her time commitment to studying in Mexico with her increased time commitment to studying at WCU, adding in turns 46 and 48 an explanation that accounts for some of the reasons she believed made the whole process slower and more demanding: she had doubts, she needed to translate from English to Spanish in order to internalize the content, yet she needed to be able to write in English. All this, in her view, made it harder and more time consuming. The other focal participants also echoed Isabel's comments about how much more time consuming they felt studying for an exam at WCU was, and how this was particularly so because the reading materials were in English while their learning process still seemed to naturally occur in Spanish. Hence the constant translation practices that Isabel and others engaged in. Similarly, Liliana mentioned that while reading in Spanish she usually underlined text to highlight the main ideas, the underlining technique did not 94 seem to work for her when reading in English. Instead, in order to better comprehend, internalize, and remember the content, she needed to write her own summaries of the text, a more demanding process that is also significantly more time consuming than underlining or highlighting. The cognitive overload that reading in a second language imposed on them was particularly high during timed-tasks such as midterm and final exams. This is illustrated, for instance, in the excerpts below where Isabel (first excerpt) and Nelda (second excerpt) shared with me their frustration at not being able to do their best in a test despite having studied a lot: Isabel's excerpt 10. I: In COMM 2A 02 - i t ' s [the midterm exam] a l l about f i l l i n g i n l i t t l e bubbles [ l i k e TOEFL] , and everybody has the same t e s t . And I f e l t that the problem in this case wasn't that I didn't know, since I had studied really hard, but I f e l t that because the exam involved large amounts of reading and i t was timed, I f e l t the time pressure. In Spanish I would have been able to do i t , but in English i t ' s as i f your ideas go away. There were some questions that, after reading them, I wondered what they were asking. And I really didn't understand. 11. S: Was i t m u l t i p l e choice? 12. I: Yes. But i f I r e a l l y didn't understand what i t was saying, then I j u s t answered something. I couldn't afford to spend much time on any single answer because there were 80 different questions [vignettes w i t h f i v e m u l t i p l e choice options each]. So I f e l t this was really d i f f i c u l t , I should have read i t more calmly. (I s a b e l , I #2 F05: October 28/05) Nelda's excerpt N = Nelda S = Sandra 27. N: COMM 2A 01 was one of my favorite subjects - i t ' s really easy, l o t s of common sense. I t has to do with o r g a n i z i n g a company, the company's value, i t ' s very easy! But the midterm was so hard! I got 42/100! I know - I f e l t so bad! I was the only student i n my c l a s s who f a i l e d . The average i n t h a t course has always been around 71, our i n s t r u c t o r t o l d us that i t ' s [the midterm] always been hard. But I was the only one who didn't get at l e a s t 50! So I 95 approached her and she s a i d - she t o l d me that she was aware that I p a r t i c i p a t e d i n c l a s s and that I - I could have r e c i t e d the book to you, I knew the stuff! But the exam involved answering 80 multiple choice questions- each question had five options, and some were right but they were not the best option, so that made i t harder. So I already t a l k e d with her [the i n s t r u c t o r ] and she t o l d me that she knew that i t wasn't ((that I f a i l e d ) ) because I wasn't i n t e r e s t e d i n her c l a s s . And i t was - we were supposed to spend one minute per question, but I had to re-read each question like two or three times - they were like scenarios, like vignettes - so I wasted a lot of time. Like - for the last 15 questions I didn't even manage to read! It was like ... 28. S: Do you t h i n k you spent more time than the others? 29. N: Yes! 30. S: Why? 31. N: Well, because I wouldn't understand the story at f i r s t , perhaps I didn't understand a word and therefore I had to go back and that took me longer. I di d n ' t even read the l a s t 15 questions - that i s , I read them but i t was l i k e 'yes, yes, yes,' I j u s t had to f i l l out some bubbles - I j u s t couldn't leave them blank! And I don't know - this past week I was very depressed, but then I realized i t wasn't me - that instead i t ' s really a generalized problem because there was l i k e a 12 poin t average d e v i a t i o n , l o t s of people who got lower grades and most of them were Mexicans. I know s i x Mexicans t a k i n g the same course, and they a l l got f o r t y something - t h i r t y something. So, that d i d n ' t make me f e e l b e t t e r , but i t made me realize that I wasn't doing anything wrong - rather - that I was studying the right way, but this i s a common problem across Mexicans. 32. S: And why do you say so? 33. N: I t h i n k that they experienced what happened to me. Lack of time. 34. S: But, i f you had to do the same exam i n Spanish, would you have had enough time? 35. N: Yes. It's a language issue. Besides, there were many - since they were l i k e s t o r i e s not questions, there were many u n f a m i l i a r words, so you had to read i t again i n order to make sense of i t ! (Nelda, I #3 F05: October 27/05) 96 The excerpts above reveal Isabel's and Nelda's strong engagement with and •ye commitment to the COMM 2A course: they had invested more time studying for the exam than they regularly spent when preparing for exams at MCMU, and they enjoyed the course and participated in class. Furthermore, they both claimed to be familiar with the content, which Nelda even characterized as "easy." Despite all this, neither of them performed very well. Isabel barely managed to pass with a grade of 52, while Nelda was the only student in her course section to fail the exam. Yet, neither of them attributed their low grades to lack of knowledge, instead arguing that the exam format (i.e., 80 vignettes with multiple choice options, thus involving mostly reading comprehension) was to blame, as it imposed on them extraordinary cognitive and linguistic demands they were unprepared to cope with in English in such a limited time frame. - Thus, even though Nelda and Isabel seemed to have done everything they were expected to do in order to prepare for the COMM 2A midterm exam (e.g. they gave themselves enough time to study, they read all the materials and learned the course content), it was their lack of familiarity and training with one specific type of academic literacy activity that positioned them as deficient students, even though they were not. In fact, it could be argued that Nelda's observations in relation to the large number of Mexican students who failed the test and her subsequent comments in turns 31-33 about this being a "problem across Mexicans" achieve two things: first, they serve as further evidence to support the view of the exam as consisting of a highly demanding academic literacy activity for which the MCMU students were under-prepared; second, Nelda re- states the issue as a problem common to all students like her instead of as an individual problem. This can be seen as an attempt oh her part to reposition herself as a good student in spite of this pitfall. Whether she did this in order to re-construct her student image for herself or for the interviewer is unclear; perhaps her comments had a dual intentionality. Yet what appears evident is the fact that Nelda's observations had a personal positive There were several sections of the course C O M M 2A, all of which were taught by the same instructor. Consequently, the course goals, contents, readings, assignments and exams were common across sections. Isabel took section 02 while Nelda took section 01. 97 effect in that they restored in her some of the self-confidence she had lost. In any case, both interview extracts above strongly support the suggestion that the participants' grappled with numerous and diverse kinds of reading challenges, and that these reading challenges seem to have had a profound impact on their academic performances and on their self-perceptions as competent students. 5.4 Reading as rewarding The portrayal of reading as excessive was shared by almost all participants. Nevertheless, in spite of perceived high demands associated with the expectations and standards vis-a-vis the practice of reading at WCU, some participants also discovered a unique value in it. For instance, Raquel welcomed the challenge and saw it as an opportunity for personal and academic growth, particularly in relation to the practice of reading prior to attending classes: I n o t i c e the d i f f e r e n c e when I go to class having read the materials in advance. This i s something I lik e about here. In Mexico I feel we are treated like high school students. They [ i n s t r u c t o r s ] a s s i g n a reading and the f o l l o w i n g c l a s s they c o n t r o l i f we read. But here i t ' s different. I l i k e the f a c t that i f you don't read, i t ' s your problem. I f you refuse to read, and i f you don't attend your c l a s s e s , w e l l , t h a t ' s your problem! And I like this approach - i t makes me want to read and go to class! (Raquel, I # l , F05: September 14/05) The reading practices at WCU seemed to serve as a motivating force for Raquel, who felt genuinely compelled to read the materials in order to be able to fully engage in the class content: reading in advance was rewarding. Furthermore, as the quote above shows, Raquel contrasted her home instructor's reading gate-keeping practices, which she despised, by indicating that they made her feel like a high school student. There is a strong resistance in her voice to being patronized, in a sense, and potentially chastised (with a low grade) by her MCMU instructors for failing to read assigned materials. There is also a self-proclaimed alignment with her WCU instructors and the more autonomous reading practices they seemed to favor. Indeed, I would suggest that Raquel's statement 2 6 This, in turn, leads us to consider the emotional impact of failure (or near failure), an issue that I further discuss in relation to feedback and grading practices in Chapter 6. 98 g o e s b e y o n d m e r e l y e m b r a c i n g t h e r e a d i n g p r a c t i c e s at W C U ; w h a t s h e s e e m e d t o a s c r i b e g r e a t v a l u e t o w e r e t h e c o n t r a s t i n g u n d e r l y i n g c o n c e p t u a l i z a t i o n s a b o u t t h e l e a r n e r that s h e a r g u e d e a c h u n i v e r s i t y p r o m o t e d t h r o u g h a c a d e m i c l i t e r a c y a c t i v i t i e s , f o r i n s t a n c e . T h a t i s , w h e r e a s M C M U p r o m o t e d a m o d e l o f " d e p e n d e n t " l e a r n e r b y i m p o s i n g r e a d i n g a s a d u t y a n d e n f o r c i n g t h i s r e a d i n g p o l i c y b y m e a n s o f a s y s t e m b a s e d o n p u n i s h m e n t s a n d r e w a r d s ( e . g . , i n s t r u c t o r s e v a l u a t i n g s t u d e n t s o n t h e i r k n o w l e d g e o f t h e o c c a s i o n a l a s s i g n e d r e a d i n g h o m e w o r k ) , W C U p r o m o t e d a m o d e l o f " a u t o n o m o u s " l e a r n e r b y g i v i n g s t u d e n t s t h e f r e e d o m t o m a n a g e t h e i r r e a d i n g l o a d s , t h u s t r a n s f e r r i n g t h e r e s p o n s i b i l i t y o f m e a s u r i n g t h e i r l e a r n i n g o n a n o n g o i n g b a s i s t o t h e s t u d e n t s t h e m s e l v e s ( s o m e t h i n g I a l r e a d y m a d e r e f e r e n c e t o i n t h e a n a l y s i s o f s o m e o f t h e c o u r s e o u t l i n e e x c e r p t s i n c l u d e d i n t h e p r e v i o u s s e c t i o n ) . I w i l l f u r t h e r e l a b o r a t e o n t h e " d e p e n d e n t " v e r s u s " a u t o n o m o u s " l e a r n e r m o d e l s i n a l a t e r s e c t i o n , as I a n a l y z e t h e s e c o n c e p t u a l i z a t i o n s i n r e l a t i o n t o o t h e r a c a d e m i c l i t e r a c y p r a c t i c e s a n d a l s o t o o t h e r p a r t i c i p a n t s w h o s e v i e w s c o n t r a s t R a q u e l ' s . F i n a l l y , s o m e p a r t i c i p a n t s a l s o v i e w e d r e a d i n g as r e w a r d i n g i n t h a t it b e c a m e a n o p p o r t u n i t y t o f u r t h e r d e v e l o p t h e i r E n g l i s h l a n g u a g e p r o f i c i e n c y , w h i c h w a s o n e o f t h e g o a l s o f t h e a c a d e m i c e x c h a n g e f o r a l m o s t e v e r y o n e I i n t e r v i e w e d . M o r e p o s i t i v e a s p e c t s a b o u t t h e i m p a c t o f b e i n g s o c i a l i z e d i n t o t h e r e a d i n g p r a c t i c e s o f W C U a r e f u r t h e r d i s c u s s e d i n C h a p t e r 7. 5.5 " S u r v i v i n g " a c a d e m i c w r i t i n g a t W C U W h i l e r e a d i n g w a s m o s t l y p e r c e i v e d as o v e r w h e l m i n g l y t i m e c o n s u m i n g , w r i t i n g w a s d e s c r i b e d a s d e m a n d i n g a n d c h a l l e n g i n g . I n s o m e c a s e s , w h e n I a s k e d p a r t i c i p a n t s w h e t h e r t h e y t h o u g h t w r i t i n g t h e i r a s s i g n m e n t s w a s h a r d , at f i r s t t h e y d i d n o t s e e m p a r t i c u l a r l y t r o u b l e d b y it. A f t e r a l l , as t h e y w o u l d u s u a l l y r e m i n d m e , m o s t o f t h e m h a d b e e n w r i t i n g i n E n g l i s h f r o m a n e a r l y a g e , a n d s o m e o f t h e m h a d e v e n t a k e n E n g l i s h - m e d i u m c o u r s e s at t h e i r h o m e u n i v e r s i t y . S o at f irst s i g h t , w r i t i n g w a s n o t a l w a y s p e r c e i v e d as p o s i n g a b i g c h a l l e n g e . H o w e v e r , o n c e t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s h a d a c h a n c e t o d i s c u s s t h e i r a s s i g n m e n t s , t h e i r i n t e r v i e w s , w r i t i n g l o g s , a n d r e f l e c t i v e q u e s t i o n n a i r e s r e v e a l e d that d e s p i t e a n a p p a r e n t c o m f o r t w i t h w r i t i n g i n a n L 2 , t h e s t u d e n t s w e r e i n d e e d c h a l l e n g e d t o c o n f o r m t o W C U a c a d e m i c l i t e r a c y s t a n d a r d s a n d v a l u e s w i t h w h i c h t h e y 99 were just becoming familiar with. In addition to the format and language issues, students also reported having problems meeting the expected level of critical analysis demanded by their instructors. In what follows I provide a more detailed explanation of these issues, as well as examples extracted from some cases that were particularly telling. As shown in Table 5.4, the participants identified several mismatches between both systems vis-a-vis assignment format, frequency, instructions, source of content, level of analysis, feedback and grading practices. The students argued that one of the main reasons why they could obtain high grades (>90) in Mexico was due to their familiarity with the MCMU academic system. By the same token, they thought that their main issue at present was that they still were unaware of the rules of the WCU "academic game" (Casanave, 2002), and they believed that mastering this new academic culture—something which they knew would take some time—would enable them to achieve better success. They also enjoyed the possibility at MCMU of tracking their course performance on a weekly basis and found WCU's tardy assignment return practice very troubling, especially since it left them wondering about their performance, which in turn significantly contributed to raising their levels of emotional stress (this issue is further addressed in the section on feedback practices, in Chapter 6). In sum, the participants seemed to find value in comparing both academic cultures, especially in order to try to account for the reasons underlying some of the unexpected obstacles they had to overcome at WCU, and in the most extreme cases, to a sensible justification for their fears, disappointments, and failures. Table 5.4 Contrasting Writing Practices Characteristics MCMU "system" WCU "system" Format • Assignments usually have no word limit; sometimes the longer the better. • Format aspects (e.g., citation, font size) do not usually affect grade. • Assignments usually specify a word limit. Marks are deducted if work exceeds prescribed word limit. • Format aspects affect grade and therefore should be taken care of. Frequency • Weekly short (1-5 pages) homework tasks • 1 major final paper. • Four partial exams; last • Very sporadic tasks. Three or four assignments per course. • 1 major final paper. • 1 midterm and 1 final 100 Characteristics MCMU "system" WCU "system" partial exam is called final, but it only includes content of last part of course. comprehensive exam that include content of entire course. Instructions • Straightforward instructions; there is one "correct" way of completing the assignment. • Instructions are sometimes open and/or ambiguous; there are multiple ways of approaching an assignment. Multiple solutions possible. Source of content • Assignments can be completed drawing mainly from class explanations; some supplementary reading occasionally needed. • Not all content comes from class lectures. In most cases, reading of additional sources is necessary in order to gather sufficient information for the assignment. Level of Analysis • Assignments are expected to include factual information mostly. Critical literacy is not systematically encouraged. • Assignments are designed to develop students' critical thinking/literacy skills. Writing should reflect depth of thought and personal stance. Feedback • Graded assignments are returned to students within one week. • Students continuously measure and track their performance on each course based on grades and feedback obtained in weekly assignments, and by monthly reports prepared by instructors. • Graded assignments are returned to students either several weeks after, at the end of the course, or are never returned to them. • Students are not able to keep close track of their performance by means of their grades. No monthly reports are prepared by instructors. Grading • Grading scale: 100 points. 70 is pass mark. • A "good" grade is at least 85/100, according to instructors and students. • Participants' average grades at MCMU: 90/100 • • Grading scale: 100 points. 50 is pass mark. • Bell curve used by many instructors following WCU grading policy. Marks over 50/100 are "good" enough, according to local students. • Participants' average grades at WCU: 74/100 Language- medium • Spanish (students' LI) • English (students' L2) 101 Of interest is the fact that initially, students appeared to perceive both academic cultures as relatively similar. In my early interviews with participants, when prompted to comment on their academic experiences as WCU they offered answers like the following: S = Sandra L = L i l i a n a S: With respect to the type of assignments you have to do here, would you say t h a t they are of the same l e v e l of d i f f i c u l t y as the ones you're used to doing i n Mexico? L: I would say they are very s i m i l a r i n that sense. For instance, we were j u s t assigned two other works, one of which i s l i k e a major assignment, and i t r e q u i r e s more time, you need to do i t b e t t e r . But I would s t i l l say i t ' s more or l e s s the same. The l e v e l of d i f f i c u l t y i s the same. S: Okay, because I heard Ms. G u t i e r r e z [MCMU-WCU J o i n t Academic program d i r e c t o r ] say that studying here i s more demanding. Do you f e e l t h a t ' s so? L: I haven't f e l t any d i f f e r e n c e so f a r , honestly. ( L i l i a n a , I#l S05: June 08/05) However, as the semester advanced and the students gained familiarity of the host academic culture, they seemed to modify their perceptions and progressively identified several differences between their home university and the WCU academic systems. In the sections that follow, I will provide more details about these differences, while in Chapter 61 will explore how students became aware of the academic literacy practices valued and promoted in WCU and how they became agents of their own socialization by choosing to adjust to, resist, or ignore these practices. 5.5.1 Being "critical" writers "with a voice" One of the major goals of WCU courses was to prepare students for the "real world" by involving them in higher-order thinking activities. For instance, the Philosophy course instructor stated that one of the course objectives was to "to provide the tools - the concepts and the vocabulary - to think critically, on an ongoing basis, about the moral issues ..." (Course outline PHIL 4A, p. 1). Similar statements can be 102 found in many other WCU course outlines, where emphasis was placed on encouraging the development of students' creativity and their analytical skills. Therefore, many course assignments pushed students to demonstrate they were critical thinkers; that is, students' writing was expected to convey a sense of authorship, which Greene (1995) defines as "the critical thinking skills that students use in their efforts to contribute knowledge to a scholarly conversation, knowledge that is not necessarily found in source texts but is nonetheless carefully linked to the texts they read" (p. 187).27 Thus, the academic texts students composed should reflect that their arguments were not only strongly grounded in the literature, but also that they evidenced the development of a critical personal stance on the course subject matter. As is discussed in what follows, this expectation constituted a big challenge for many participants. The interview data corpus includes numerous references to the participants' self- proclaimed struggles vis-a-vis learning how to write something that shows depth of thought, which displays a profound knowledge of the topic under discussion in addition to evidence of a personal stance. Clearly, this is not necessarily something that challenges non-native speakers only, since becoming a critical reader and writer takes years of training and practice, even in an individual's first language. And as Belcher (1995) notes, while subject area teachers assume students will eventually reach a level of subject matter knowledge saturation, at which point they will be able to naturally become critical readers and writers, this does not seem to be a realistic view. Rather, Belcher indicates that "student writers, whether native or normative speakers, are not automatically made critical through subject-area reading" (pp. 135-136) and therefore need to be trained in order to engage in knowledge transformation instead of merely regurgitation (Belcher, 1995; Cumming, 1995). Yet, in the case of international NNES students, the cognitive challenge entailed in developing critical thinking skills and abilities is compounded by 2 7 In close connection to the notion of authorship is the concept of authorial "voice," which has been explored by several scholars doing research on LI and L2 writing issues (e.g., Ivanid, 1998, Hirvela & Belcher, 2001; Hyland, 2002; Starfield, 2002). For instance, voice is conceptualized as a powerful metaphor that helps to examine "the complex question of how writers establish an authorial presence or identity in their writing" (Hirvela & Belcher, 2002, p. 84, in reference to Elbow's, 1994, work). As has been acknowledged in the literature (e.g., Belcher & Hirvela, 2001; Elbow, 1994; IvaniC, 1998), "voice" has been conceptualized and examined in various complementary as well as contradictory ways. In this chapter my analysis emphasizes the notion of voice as authorial presence in connection with students' efforts to demonstrate a critical stance, whereas in Chapter 6 I analyze issues of voice in connection with students' desires to maintain text ownership, emphasizing how the text is part of the students' identity. 103 the fact that their written artifacts should be in their L2. Furthermore, the participants in this study believed that the challenge to conduct critical reading and writing of texts was also associated with their lack of engagement with previous home academic literacy experiences of a similar kind. To illustrate this, I draw on an example that comes from the three participants during their summer portion of the exchange. Liliana, Lorena and Natalia were given the following prompt for their first written assignment for course COMM 3A 01: Your f i r s t paper w i l l be a one to two page c r i t i c a l review of a [subject matter s p e c i f i c ] website. The review should i n c l u d e a b r i e f d e s c r i p t i o n of the o r g a n i z a t i o n (business scope, l o c a t i o n , and so on), as w e l l as h i g h l i g h t s of the website ( i . e . , strengths and weaknesses) from a f u n c t i o n a l standpoint. (Course o u t l i n e COMM 3A 01, p. 4) This was a brief two-page double-spaced assignment which the students seemed to have approached without much trouble other than looking up unfamiliar words in the dictionary, as shown in their writing log entries. Each of them spent less than two hours to choose the website, navigate it to familiarize themselves with its format and content, compose their critical review, revise it, and proofread it. Liliana, for instance, described the whole process as follows: F i r s t I had to read the assignment i n s t r u c t i o n s i n order to know e x a c t l y what he asked f o r and then I looked f o r a website. I checked out the s i t e and e x t r a c t e d the information I needed to s t a r t my work. I had to use the dictionary because I di d n ' t know how to w r i t e some words, but I had no problem. ( L i l i a n a , W r i t i n g l o g S05: entry #1) Lorena also mentioned that she had relied on her previous experience when doing similar assignments for MCMU courses, which boosted her confidence. However, much to the three students' surprise, none of them received what they thought was a good grade. Both Natalia and Liliana obtained 7 % out of 10, while Lorena obtained 7 lA . The students' writing log entries reflect their disappointment and puzzlement at receiving 104 what they considered a relatively low grade28 on an assignment that asked them to share their personal views: The i n s t r u c t o r d i d n ' t give me any w r i t t e n comments about my assignment. I f e l t a b i t disappointed with the result because he asked for my opinion, which can't be really assessed. ( N a t a l i a , W r i t i n g l o g S05: entry #1) The i n s t r u c t o r mentioned [ i n c l a s s ] that our essays were f i n e . However, I received a lower grade than I expected. (Lorena, W r i t i n g l o g S05: entry #1) It wasn't what I expected because I got 7 and since these were my opinions about a website, I didn't think that personal opinions could be graded. ( L i l i a n a , W r i t i n g l o g S05: entry #1) Liliana also brought up the same issue during her first interview in the summer: 15. S: So u n t i l now, based on the work you had to do, do you th i n k i t ' s s i m i l a r to what you have to do i n Mexico, or i s there any d i f f e r e n c e ? 16. L: The cl a s s e s are f i n e , I understand every t h i n g . But today, f o r i n s t a n c e , I got my assignment back, and - i t ' s not a bad grade - because i t ' s almost an 8 . But I didn't feel like - we were asked to give our opinion about a website, and I wonder, how can you evaluate an opinion? Opinions are not supposed to be graded, i t ' s your opinion! If i t was lik e a concept or something like that, okay. But I was really surprise by how they evaluate here - i t i s stri c t e r . 17. S: Do you have the assignment wi t h you? 18. L: Yes. 19. S: Can I see i t ? 20. L: Sure. 21. S: And were you given c l e a r i n s t r u c t i o n s to do t h i s ? Readers might disagree with the students' opinion about 7 Vi being a low grade. However, we need to take into account their own conceptualizations of what constitutes a "good" or acceptable grade. This is discussed in detail in the section on feedback and grading practices in Chapter 6. 105 22. L: Yes, w e l l we were t o l d that we had to look f o r the i n t e r n e t s i t e of a company. And we had to assess the advantages and disadvantages, what one could improve, and something e l s e that you'd l i k e to add, l i k e an opini o n . So there I included what I thought was an advantage, but you see, he gave me 7 h out of 10, which I think i s too much [what was deducted]. In my opinion, at least according to the way I am used to doing things in Mexico, personal opinions are not assessed in the same way. This would have been okay there, I would have been given a higher grade. But perhaps, l i k e they say, WCU i s s t r i c t e r . So I j u s t need to get used to i t . ( L i l i a n a , I#l S05, June 8/05) The data extracts illustrate that the students' prior knowledge (i.e., their schemata) about how to approach and how to evaluate an assignment like the website analysis in question differs from the new norms they were confronted with at WCU. Apparently, none of the three participants was aware that demonstrating the development of a critical authorial stance was one of the main components (and aims) of the assignment, or else they thought that including a personal opinion equalled evidence of depth of thought and engagement with the assignment. Furthermore, they were unaware of the criteria employed to assess their work, which happened to be judged according to how effectively they managed to perform a critical analysis. In this sense, similar to the participant in Riazi's (1997) study who did not assume she was expected to provide a critical stance in a review assignment, my participants and their instructor in this course had different perceptions about the goals of the assignment. Based on the participants' reflections, it seems that the main reason for this mismatch was due to differences between the participants' LI literacy practices and the target practices. By the end of their summer portion of the exchange, even if they still found it hard to develop an authorial stance, the students seem to have become aware of these differences: L = L i l i a n a N = N a t a l i a L: I t h i n k t hat here i t ' s d i f f e r e n t - students are taught how to thi n k . In Mexico, the assignments f o r ins t a n c e , I t h i n k there i s more l i b e r t y to do copy and paste! But here they use Turn 106 I t In. We take much longer, because we need to analyze things and give our opi n i o n . In Mexico, on the other hand, i t ' s e a s i e r to do copy and paste and develop your idea based on that paragraph you copied. We're not r e a l l y used to being forced to t h i n k . And a l s o , the f i n a l exams here were d i f f i c u l t f o r us because we had to apply a l l the content of the course i n one p r a c t i c a l case, and j u s t i f y our choices, which meant that we had to r e a l l y show the teacher that we learned t h a t , i t wasn't j u s t about knowing a concept, i t was knowing how to apply i t . N: Yes, i n Mexico we have perhaps the same type of assignment but i n s t e a d we j u s t have problem s e t s , so we're u s u a l l y j u s t asked to solve problems and i f our c a l c u l a t i o n s are okay, then t h a t ' s i t . But here, i n a d d i t i o n to t h a t , we have to j u s t i f y why, and we a l s o have to account f o r the consequences of our choices, and e x p l a i n what the p o t e n t i a l consequences are. ( L i l i a n a & N a t a l i a , I#2 S05: J u l y 7, 05) Summarizing, through their engagement in classroom discussions, assignments, and exams (and team work, as discussed in Chapter 6), the students gained awareness of ways of working with texts which were thus far unknown to them. Namely, the participants gained a better understanding of the expected level of cognitive engagement for the interpretation of texts and subsequent application of knowledge in the production of academic discourse. 5.5.2 Conforming to word/page limit expectations In many cases, students were asked to write paragraphs (also called "short essays" of 150 - 500 words) and longer essays of up to five pages. The biggest challenge students faced in this case was to avoid exceeding the prescribed number of words in the short essays, since doing so would be penalized with a lower grade. As in the case of Zhu's (2001) Mexican graduate students in the US, the participants in this study also reported having problems sticking to the two-page limit because this space was not enough to convey all the information they knew and wished to include. A close examination of the documents produced by the participants reveals that if they had exercised more economy Turn It In is a popular digital service used at universities across Canada and the US that checks for the originality of students' work. 107 of words, in most cases they would have been able to better synthesize their knowledge and thus still stick to the limit. Yet it is true that this contradicts the academic writing practices of their home institution, where they were not usually given a page or word limit and where, in fact expanding on and embellishing the text usually translated into earning some extra marks. Once again, like the participants' in Zhu's study, the page limit made them terribly anxious and in some cases they became obsessed with it. This is illustrated, for instance, in relation to a series of four assignments that Lorena, Liliana and Natalia had to do for COMM 4G. There was a common main instruction for these assignments, which read as follows: Assignments are given to get students to t h i n k through i s s u e s . Assignments should be typed and are to be handed i n at the end of c l a s s on the due date. Late submission w i l l not be accepted. Word limits are given for assignments, they are to be adhered to s t r i c t l y . You may write less but not more. (Course o u t l i n e COMM 4G, p. 2) In addition to these general guidelines, students were given specific prompts for each assignment. For instance: Provide an o u t l i n e of the l i k e l y sources of economies of scale i n ships and the diseconomies to which they may give r i s e . You are limited to 150 words. (Assignment 1, COMM 4G, question 1) What i s the appropriate balance between l o c a l government autonomy w i t h respect to t a x a t i o n and land use versus the broader p r o v i n c i a l and n a t i o n a l s t r a t e g i c i n t e r e s t s i n port i n d u s t r i e s ? Limit to 175 words. (Assignment 4, COMM 4G, question 2) The three focal participants shared similar problems in adhering to these word limits, and they repeatedly complained in their interviews about the teacher's strict policy, as they thought it was too extreme. Besides, as I further elaborate on in Chapter 6 in relation to students' negotiations and agency, eventually they realized that despite the teacher's specific order not to exceed the word limit, she did not seem to count the words, after all. By the time the students became aware of this, however, they were already half way through the term. 108 Whereas sticking to the prescribed word limit appears to be the most common challenge students grappled with in relation to assignment length expectations, in some cases the students faced the opposite situation: it was hard for them to write as much as they were being asked to do. For example, Lorena indicated that her COMM 3 E instructor expected 250-word answers (approximately half a page) to his questions, yet she thought she could very effectively respond to them in just two or three lines. Other students also faced similar difficulties. For instance, Isabel explained to me why she had received a mark of 14.2/20 on one of her midterm exams: Honestly, I squeezed my mind and wrote e v e r y t h i n g I knew, but I ran out of words. Because - i t ' s l i k e in Spanish - okay, you have an idea and you can write i t in three pages, but I can't do this in English. I t gives me a l o t of work, and i t ' s even worse on an exam, wit h the time pressure. ( I s a b e l , I#2 F05: October 28/05) Liliana also mentioned that she did not understand why she would be given so much space (four pages) to write on an exam, when she felt that she could provide a very complete answer in three quarters of a page. In all cases, the students argued that it was quite frustrating for them not to be able to use the same techniques for lengthening the text (i.e., stretching it without necessarily adding more content) that they could very easily use in their LI. 5.5.3 Writing in an L2: Issues of language and conventions Writing guidelines included in the course outlines stated that students were expected to write work of "professional" quality. That is, riot only the content, but also the format and the language mattered: A professional appearance in polished English i s an essential prerequisite. Few people can do t h i s without spending s u b s t a n t i a l time and e f f o r t . (...) U l t i m a t e l y you are judged not by what you know but by what you communicate. (Course o u t l i n e COMM 4L 02) Guide l i n e s f o r assignment: • Maximum 5 pages, typed, double-spaced, plus a cover page and appendices ( i f r e q u i r e d ) . 109 • Content, c l a r i t y and grammar w i l l be considered. (Course o u t l i n e COMM 4A 02) In addition, the two instructors I interviewed mentioned that clarity of expression, coherence, cohesiveness, and content were aspects they took into account when evaluating students' assignments, which coincides with the descriptions included in most course outlines and in assignments that featured an evaluation criteria sheet. My textual analyses of the students' assignments, which include instructors' feedback in most cases, reveal that the students dealt with linguistic difficulties that were related to either one or a combination of the following: lack of familiarity with required genres (e.g., executive summary, persuasive essay, case study report, research paper); inappropriate use of language (e.g., prepositions, word formation, articles, spelling, parallel constructions, relative clauses); register inconsistencies (mixing formal and informal language), and lack of lexical variety. Some of these are illustrated in Chapter 6, in relation to feedback. Previous studies have found that students' L2 writing may be scaffolded by the use of LI writing knowledge (Johns, 1990; Riazi, 1997; Shi & Beckett, 2002; Spack, 1997a, 2004). This finding coincides with some of my participants' views, some of whom argued that their strong LI writing skills benefited their L2 writing, particularly in terms of the textual organization, as in Isabel's case:31 I classified students' mistakes according to the types listed above. Frequencies and number of mistakes were counted for at least two assignments each that the focal participants did. However, a micro-linguistic analysis of students' mistakes is beyond the scope of this dissertation, and this information is therefore used mainly as background data to support the more general comments I provide. 3 1 A controversial area of research known as contrastive rhetoric examines the influence of LI cultural frames on L2 writing (e.g., Connor, 1996, 2002; Leki, 1991, 1997; Ostler, 2001; see Casanave, 2004, for an overview). On one side of the debate is research that originated in the work of Kaplan (1966, and softer claims in 1987, 1988), and which claims that difficulties in writing result from differences across cultures, with some studies showing improvement in students' use of L2 rhetorical patterns as a result of an academic immersion experience in the target language context (e.g., Shi & Beckett, 2002); on the other side are arguments questioning and disproving this claim (e.g., Kubota, 1992, 1997; Leki, 1997; Mohan & Lo, 1985; Zamel, 1997). In a related discussion, Spack (1997b) also questions researchers' and teachers' tendency to label students according to their culture group, since this can lead to stereotyping them. My analysis of students' writing did not attempt to address the contrastive rhetoric debate, and I have therefore not analyzed the data trying to answer the question of cultural differences. Nor did I want to suggest that students' cultural backgrounds were static or fixed. Instead, my study aims to show that while the participants shared a common educational background (which included identifiable general traits about 110 We need to w r i t e q u i t e a few essays f o r my P o l i t i c a l Science courses - but since I'm a Communications major, I'm very used to reading and w r i t i n g essays. I know how to w r i t e a t h e s i s statement and support i t and that s t u f f . We do t h i s much more ofte n than students i n other majors. ( I s a b e l , I#l F05: September 16/05) Nevertheless, despite her high LI academic literacy proficiency, Isabel also indicated that while she was comfortable writing in Spanish, doing the same in English was much harder. Other participants still felt constrained in terms of the level of sophistication they could display in their L2 writing (see reference to Lorena, above). It was thus mostly their inability to produce "elegant" writing which perturbed students. Additionally, all participants found that their assignments at W C U demanded more time. According to them, this was mainly due to their unfamiliarity with the W C U system and to what some of them referred to as the "English factor." Nelda, for example, said that her time investment on writing assignments in Canada was much bigger than in Mexico, where she usually was able to do short assignments in a matter of a day or so. In contrast, assignments at W C U took her almost a week: What I r e a l i z e d i s that even though my school i n Mexico i s hard, i f I have an assignment f o r tomorrow, I know I can do i t i n one day. But here - f o r instance, I have another essay due on Tuesday ( ( i n a week's time)) and I'm already working on i t ! I t ' s l i k e I need more than one day to work on my assignments, and t h i s i s - i n Mexico we only need more than one day when we work f o r the bigger assignments, but I r e a l i z e d t h a t even f o r the e a s i e s t assignments we need more than one day (...) L i k e , i n Mexico I know I would need one day to w r i t e an essay of t h i s kind, and i n one day I can do a good job, and here I need l i k e f i v e days. (Nelda, I#4 F05: November 24/05) Despite the participants' self-proclaimed struggles, except for a few cases, students passed their written assignments and exams, and the feedback they received from instructors did not generally indicate that they had problems to interpret what students wrote, although instances where instructors suggested proofreading by a native speaker their familiar home academic culture), each of them experienced their academic literacy socialization in unique ways. I l l were found in the data (refer to Chapter 6, Section 6.1.4, for further elaboration on this and on other aspects related to feedback). In addition to linguistic issues, I looked at the students' knowledge of writing styles and citation conventions. The participants were familiar with at least a basic knowledge of publication styles (usually either MLA or APA), but they indicated that their MCMU instructors did not always seem to pay much attention to format aspects when evaluating assignments. For instance, double-sided final copies were usually permitted,32 double- spacing research papers was not always necessary, and stylistic convention consistency was not usually among the evaluation criteria. In addition, it appears that their home instructors had a laxer attitude vis-a-vis citation practices when compared to the WCU instructors, who in most cases required that students submitted their work through the Turn It In website to screen their text and identify any potential instances of textual borrowing. The use of sources is a relatively newly researched area in the literature on NNES international students' L2 writing,34 with special attention given to plagiarism particularly as it concerns non-Anglophone international students enrolled in Western English- medium HE institutions (Angelil-Cartier, 2000; Barks & Watts, 2001; Bloch, 2001; Bloch & Chi, 1995; Canagarajah, 2002; Casanave, 2004; Currie, 1998; Dong, 1996; Howard, 1995, 2000; Pecorari, 2001, 2003; Pennycook, 1996; Shi, 2004; Sutherland- Smith, 2005). The issue of "textual borrowing" (Shi, 2004), also viewed as a "survival strategy" (Currie, 1993) or as "patchwriting" (Howard, 1995) has been explored, consequently increasing our knowledge of the reasons underlying students' textual borrowing practices, and contributing with insights from institutional, instructors' and students' perspectives. Research shows that plagiarism is a very complex concept to unpack, "a multi-layered phenomenon encompassing a spectrum of human intention" 3 2 Such a detail might seem irrelevant to the reader; however, on at least one occasion, a student's assignment (at WCU) received lower grades because of double-side printing (instead of single-side). 3 31 would like to note that this information is based exclusively on students' accounts, and therefore the instructors' views are not reflected. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to interview MCMU instructors to corroborate the students' opinions, and therefore I treat this finding as extremely partial. 3 4 The spread of the use of computers and access to on-line information has also added a new dimension to the discussion of plagiarism (Bloch, 2001). 112 (Sutherland-Smith, 2005, p. 83), and that it is not restricted to L2 writers only, although English proficiency problems, and/or unawareness of or unfamiliarity with Western citation practices may have a negative impact on their citation practices (refer to Shi, 2004, for an overview). Also, it has been recently demonstrated that first language and task type may strongly influence students' textual borrowing (Shi, 2004). In this project, however, plagiarism did not emerge as a salient issue (at least not among the research participants).35 This might be so because, according to the participants, they were made aware of citation conventions on their MCMU campuses. In addition, Ms. Gutierrez, the MCMU-WCU Program Director, warned students against performing textual borrowing. (See Chapter 6, Section 6.1.5 for further details on this.) In spite of the students' self-proclaimed knowledge of citation and stylistic conventions, I found some instances revealing inadequate mastery of these rules. While the stylistic inconsistencies were not always identified by the instructors in their feedback, citation problems tended to be noted in their comments: "Who says [this]? Cite if it's from a book. If it's the prof in class you're off the hook." (Isabel, POLI 1A 01, short essay #1, TA feedback entry #1. Comment written in the margin.) Overall, though, it seems students made a concerted effort to acknowledge their sources,36 and when textual borrowing took place (as in the case above) it was most likely an instance of inadvertent plagiarism which did not lead to harsh consequences. 5.5.4 Writing a s "torture" For some students the academic literacy demands were perceived as so formidable and they became such a big hurdle that the students even went so far as to withdraw from the courses. For instance, Natalia was registered in PHIL 4A, an online course. One of the main requirements was writing multiple essays, an activity that seemed to frighten and " Because plagiarism is such a delicate issue with potentially harsh punishments for those practicing it, researchers may find it difficult to gather data that reveals cases of textual borrowing that were unnoticed by the corresponding authorities. Even when this is possible, ethical issues (e.g., respecting the participant's confidentiality vs. denouncing academic dishonesty) complicate the picture. 3 6 For example, for her L A S T assignments Nelda was required to use the M L A style, which she did not know. Yet she contacted me asking for help, and also looked for a copy of the manual and some guidelines available through the Internet. 113 intimidate Natalia from the outset, in particular due to the instructor's warning to NNES students:37 I'm very scared about this course [PHIL 4A]. I was reading the course o u t l i n e and the i n s t r u c t o r wrote that i f English is not your f i r s t language, you may consider dropping the course because the writing component of the course i s very important, and I know he's not going to f e e l compassion f o r us, Mexicans! So I'm qui t e worried about t h i s one; I don't know i f I should drop i t , or i f I should go to the W r i t i n g Centre f o r a s s i s t a n c e , I don't r e a l l y know. ( N a t a l i a , I#3, F05: September 12/05) Natalia submitted the first two assignments, and by then she realized that the academic literacy demands of this course were making her exchange experience too stressful. Over a month later she told me she had withdrawn from that course because the weekly essays were just too much for her. She explained to me: I don't li k e writing essays. I j u s t suffer too much. And t h i s was every week, and this was torture for me! So f i r s t I thought that I could ask f o r help, I could have someone check them f o r me. But then, what would I do on the f i n a l exam? This was j u s t too much pressure for me. ( N a t a l i a , I#5, F05: October 28/05) In addition to Natalia, another focal participant (Liliana) and three secondary participants (Alexandra, Mercedes, and Salvador) were originally enrolled in PHIL 4A, and while only Natalia dropped out (in her own words, feeling like a "coward" for doing so), all other participants felt equally burdened by the academic literacy demands of the course (both by the readings, which were short but hard to grasp, and the writing assignments). Two of the other students considered withdrawing as well, yet they refrained from doing so only because their course fees were not refundable. In the following chapter I provide further details about students' struggles with the academic literacy activities, including those related to this course. I confirmed the veracity of this information with all other four participants enrolled in PHIL 4A. 3 8 Natalia decided to drop the PHIL course in consultation with her parents, given that she had already paid the course non-refundable registration fee (about $600 CAD) and was aware that it was a large sum of money that would be lost. Also, because PHIL was an optional course (i.e., it was not part of the certificate of specialty), withdrawing from it did not dramatically affect the students other than from the financial point of view. 114 5.6 Summary and discussion Drawing on the collection, triangulation and interpretation of multiple data sources, in this chapter I first presented an overview of the courses and the different academic literacy activities in which the exchange students were involved, and then interpreted their insider perspectives about their engagement and performance in these situated discourse practices. There are a number of interesting findings revealed in this chapter. For instance, whereas much of the current literature has demonstrated that writing from sources can lead students to perform unacknowledged (sometimes also inadvertent) textual borrowing, this did not emerge as a salient issue in this study. Nevertheless, in spite of the participants' self-proclaimed familiarity with citation practices and stylistic conventions, students indicated that they felt that WCU was stricter on these matters than their home university (e.g., many WCU instructors asked students to submit their work through Turn It In), which in turn might have acted as a strong deterrent to plagiarism. Another finding relates to the participants' use of strategies to cope with the academic literacy demands of WCU. Similar to the case study participants in Riazi (1997) and Leki (1995), the students employed a series of strategies to maximize their academic literacy outcomes. For example, underlining or highlighting as they read, writing summaries and sharing these with peers (further discussed in Chapter 6), looking up words in the dictionary, using their LI knowledge about different academic genres (e.g., essay, research paper), among others. However, as noted before, the students arrived with a whole set of expectations about the WCU academic system, yet there were several mismatches between their assumptions and their actual experiences in the host academic setting. While students were able to capitalize on some of the academic literacy strategies they brought with them, in the process of being socialized into the target academic culture, they progressively became aware of the mismatches and, as I further elaborate on in Chapter 6, they transformed their practices to adjust to or resist the host academic culture. An in-depth examination of the strategic academic literacy knowledge the students brought with them to W C U as well as the knowledge they developed and then took back to their M C M U contexts is discussed in Chapter 7. 115 Even though none of the students found the texts particularly difficult to understand (except for the PHIL and LAST texts, which were short but very different from the style and content students were used to handling, and thus were perceived as challenging), reading could be summarized in one word: overwhelming. This aspect should not be overlooked, as most of the students' achievements and failures were in fact dependent on their success at developing quick and effective reading practices. The fact that all this wealth of knowledge about academic literacy practices was to be learned and internalized in such a hasty manner is problematic since, as L2 language socialization research shows, the process of becoming familiar with new practices and of gaining access to new academic communities takes time (Bronson, 2005; Duff, 1995, 1996, 2003; Kobayashi, 2003; Morita, 2002, 2004; Morita & Kobayashi, in press). Yet time is something that the exchange students did not have much of, considering that their academic sojourn lasted between four and eight months only. The findings also reveal that one of the biggest challenges students faced was learning how to successfully manage their time due to the heavy workload and to the more autonomous approach to learning that characterized the WCU academic culture. This echoes the results from previous studies that have focused on issues around the academic enculturation of NNES speakers (e.g., Abel, 2002; Ferenz, 2005; Flowerdew & Peacock, 2001; Johns, 1997; Myles & Cheng, 2003). Whereas the MCMU students were advised to keep up to date with their readings and plan for their assignments ahead of time, they did not always take this advice seriously. This is something I was able to observe throughout the data collection period, and which is nicely captured in Natalia's comments: "You don't learn it until you live it! You don't do it until you need it." Learning to manage their time not only had an impact on students' grades, but also on their life outside class. That is, unless the participants learned to optimize their time investments, academic literacy activities could potentially take over most of their free time, thus limiting their availability to engage in non-academic activities oriented towards informal social interaction. This is unfortunate, given that, as Toyokawa and Toyokawa (2002) suggest, there seems to be a positive association between students' involvement in extracurricular activities and their adaptation to the host context and their academic involvement. 116 Another finding relates to the students' perception of writing as highly demanding, particularly when it required demonstrating their critical analysis skills and a writerly authority.40 In the most extreme cases, writing was even considered a form of "torture." Throughout their exchange, the participants were involved in multiple and diverse writing activities (case study report, short and long essays, research papers, and so on). Interestingly, while most students originally anticipated no difficulties in approaching and completing these activities, over the course of the term their perception of the demands associated with them changed. With time, the participants realized that in spite of their high TOEFL scores, their previous L2 writing experiences in English, and their high academic average at MCMU—all of which boosted their confidence as being linguistically and academically well equipped—there were certain unforeseen challenges (such as writing with a voice, linguistic problems, conforming to word/page limits, etc.) they grappled with as they engaged in the academic literacy activities of their respective courses. That is, their assumptions about encountering familiar academic writing practices were not always met. As a result, the participants were left with the choice to either attempt to learn about the target academic literacy norms and use this knowledge to adjust their practices accordingly, or else to resist these norms (by ignoring or defying them) and suffer the consequences. I come back to this issue in Chapter 6, where I explore how participants became aware of the WCU academic literacy practices and interpret their reactions and responses. Finally, another finding relates to the students' tendency to compare and contrast the MCMU and the WCU education systems. The participants arrived in Canada with a comprehensive set of expectations about their academic exchange at WCU, including preconceptions about the nature and the level of difficulty of the academic literacy practices they would encounter. The findings reveal that the participants initially relied fundamentally on their home academic literacy experiences, particularly their (usually bilingual Spanish-English) high school and their university practices. Consequently, they continuously compared and contrasted, either consciously or unconsciously, their familiar MCMU academic culture with the new WCU academic culture they were trying to become acquainted with. While in many instances the students' views about the two 4 0 Presumably, local students also encountered some of the same challenges faced by the participants. 117 systems differed slightly, particularly among students from different disciplinary areas, for the most part there was general agreement in portraying both academic cultures in the ways described here.41 As time progressed, they engaged in multiple diverse academic literacy activities which led them to modify some of their initial interpretations. By the end of the exchange the participants shared a common view about the existence of identifiable differences between both academic systems; they also accounted for these differences as a way of understanding and perhaps even justifying some of their frustrations and mishaps (such as poor grades).42 This finding coincides with the findings of previous work that has examined cultural patterns reflected and promoted in North American and Mexican education systems (Kras, 1988). Mexico Connect, an online resource with comprehensive information about Mexico, features an article comparing Canadian and US education with Mexican education, suggesting that: For the Mexican, the educational base is deductive reasoning; moving from the global towards the particular. However the last critical step of translating from the particular to application, or how to implement, is not emphasized. (.. .)The Mexican student is drilled in concepts and ideas. Credit is given for examinations, not participation or class work. The student learns to focus on the intellectual and on recall, rather than how to use the knowledge on a day to day basis. (.. .)Where the Mexican student receives a broad education, their northern counterparts focus on specific areas and achieve a greater depth of knowledge. What are the implications of all this? Mexico produces citizens and employees who have an excellent general knowledge of the world, Mexico, culture and current affairs. But it also produces people who have learned to conform; that form is better than substance; a reluctance, due to training and concern over losing face, to resolving problems 4 1 1 would like to emphasize that the comparison of two academic literacy practices included here does not aim to essentialize academic cultures and characterize them as fixed and easily defined. On the contrary, especially in educational contexts like W C U , which have become what some researchers call "contact zones" (Pratt, 1991, Singh & Doherty, 2004) "transculturation" rather than acculturation may take place (Zamel, 1997). Additionally, the fact that there are many within and cross-disciplinary differences within each culture should also be kept in mind to avoid overly simplistic interpretations of the academic literacy practices students are expected to master. 4 2 For organizational purposes, these difficulties were analyzed in detail in relation to reading, on one hand, and to writing, on the other. However, I would like to highlight that both, reading and writing, are intricately intertwined and therefore the mutual impact on each other should not be overlooked (Belcher & Hirvela, 2001; Grabe, 2001; 2003; Hirvela, 2001; Spack, 1988). Based on the students' reports, L2 reading scaffolded their L2 writing (as well as their classroom participation and their engagement with the class subject matter), since students relied on the texts they read as sources from which to write their assignments and exams. 118 directly and implementing new or different techniques. (Mexico Connect, 1996- 2006, n/p) Although I do not intend to draw unwarranted generalizations about the Mexican education system,43 there are some interesting coincidences between the quoted text above and the findings of this study which I believe merit attention. For instance, according to the input gathered from the participants, students in Mexico were expected to recall large volumes of information that were mainly transmitted to them in their class lectures. Their knowledge of this content (rather than their processes and abilities) was frequently and regularly evaluated through weekly assignments and monthly examinations that mostly required knowledge "reproduction." As a result, students often succeeded (and managed to obtain grades on the high 80s - 100s range) with relative ease as long as they devotedly attended classes, paid attention, completed their daily homework and had a good memory. In contrast, their study abroad experience at WCU engaged them in processes of knowledge "construction" which were in marked contrast with their familiar MCMU practices. This process of knowledge construction is based on constructivist models of instruction, which, as noted by Jonassen (1994), strive to create environments where learners actively participate in the environment in ways that a