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Academic presentations : exploring the second language socialization of international graduate students across disciplines Zappa Hollman, Sandra Carolina

Abstract

This study examined the language socialization of international students in the graduate school context of a western Canadian university. Focusing on one pervasive speech event, academic presentations (APs), this study explored the role this socioculturally organized activity played in facilitating students' linguistic and sociocultural development, and how it aided them in negotiating their entry into the academic world. The participants in this study included 55 graduate students and nine course instructors. Thirty seven students were native speakers (NSs) of English, while the remaining 18- -the focal participants of this study—were non-native speakers of English (NNSs). The sites were seven graduate courses in six different departments in three different faculties (Faculty of Medicine, Faculty o f Arts, and Faculty o f Applied Science). A qualitative approach was employed, and thus multiple kinds of data were gathered over a four-month period. Data collection methods included: (a) open-ended interviews with participants; (b) tape-recorded observations of APs; (c) researcher's fieldnotes of APs; and (d) collection of written documents (e.g., course outlines). Data were analyzed following Bogdan and Biklen (1992) by identifying major and minor themes while iteratively going over the data. A comparison of APs across disciplines is included, examining aspects such as A P content, sequence, length, and format. As well, an analysis of the qualities promoted in each field and of the multiple purposes APs fulfil is provided and related to the complex socialization (i.e., both linguistic and sociocultural) of international graduate students. Findings of the study suggested that APs are a complex task whose meaning is not fixed, but rather is determined by the interplay of the broad context of the academic world, the micro-context of each community of practice, and ultimately by each individual. With regard to the language socialization 6f NNSs, APs challenged students in both linguistic and sociocultural ways. However, by observing, participating in, and reflecting on APs, students gained increased membership and competence within their academic communities.

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