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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Second language writers’ processes, performance and perceptions in ESL Composition : Case studies of Japanese students Hayward, Lynda Joyce


This study describes the products, processes and perceptions of Japanese ESL students with varying degrees of writing expertise in their L1 as they engaged in English composition tasks. Case studies were impressionistically chosen from profiles which included the writers' range of experience in L1 writing, their attitude toward L1 writing, their self-ratings of their L1 writing ability and holistically assessed samples of their L1 writing. Of the six chosen, three had relatively strong backgrounds in Japanese writing; three did not. Writers were observed across two ESL compositions tasks — a description and an argument. Written products were holistically assessed using the ESL Composition Profile (Jacobs, Zinkgraf, Wormuth, Hartfiel and Hughey, 1981). Protocols of the writers' "thinking-aloud" during composing sessions and retrospective interviews held immediately afterward yielded qualitative data concerning the types of processes - which writers engaged in as they composed. Descriptions of the writers' perceptions of the task demands and their previous writing instruction in Japanese and English (L2) are considered in interpreting the findings. On the first task (the argument), writers with more LI writing expertise performed better than writers with less expertise in L1 writing; on the second task (the description), they performed better than two of the three less expert L1 writers. Better performance of the stronger L1 writers was observed across all categories of the ESL Composition profile: content, organization, language use, vocabulary and mechanics. Process data showed that stronger L1 writers exhibited more control over the planning of their texts. Their "think-aloud" protocols were more often done in English and generally provided a richer source of data than those of less proficient L1 writers. No correspondence was found between second language proficiency, according to either measure, and written products or writing processes. Data from interviews held with the writers suggested that they had received little explicit writing instruction in L1 or L2. Writers appeared to lack familiarity with various modes of English discourse organization which led them to view the task demands as similar.

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