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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cultural variations in adult students' learning intentions for writing in English as a second language : a case study Ostler-Howlett, Catherine E


This study describes the learning intentions of eleven adult students in the context of one English as a second language (ESL) writing class-5 Japanese, 3 Taiwanese, and 3 Europeans-and the extent to which their intentions for writing differed across the three cultural groups. Also described are the intentions of these students' teacher-an advocate of the process approach to teaching writing-and the extent to which the teacher's and students' intentions corresponded. Various data collection techniques were used, including classroom observations, self-reports of previous experiences studying and learning to write, verbal protocols while composing two writing tasks, and retrospective accounts after these writing tasks. The data were then tabulated and transcribed, and intention utterances from the transcripts coded for attention to aspects of writing, i.e., meaning and the expression of that meaning at the level of discourse organization and language use. Results indicated that these students attended mainly to discourse organization concerns at the "idea" level while performing ESL writing tasks. A narrative task elicited more attention to meaning (content organization), and an argument task elicited more attention to how to express that meaning (rhetorical organization) as well as significantly more intention statements than the narrative task. These intention statements proved to fit loosely with the teacher's objectives for each of the two writing tasks, as well as his attention to aspects of writing while reading over the students' compositions. Only slight differences emerged in what students of the different cultural groups attended to while they wrote, although these differences could not be assessed because of the small number of participants in the research. Overall, these students appeared to have accommodated, or socialized into, the teacher's priorities for their ESL writing class, displaying significant changes in their purposes for studying ESL writing over the duration of the course. The culture of the ESL classroom seemingly overrode the values for learning to write of the First language cultures of the individual participants.

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