June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.1.1 - 14.1.25
“It’s not my job to teach them how to write”: Facilitating the Disciplinary Rhetorical Socialization of International ESL Graduate Assistants in the Sciences and Engineering Abstract
The purpose of this research was to determine the challenges faced by international ESL graduate assistants in the Sciences and Engineering in writing for their academic programs and professional positions (e.g., proposals, dissertations, journal articles, conference proceedings), as well as those faced by faculty in helping them with their writing, at the University of Idaho.
This study’s findings suggest that ESL graduate assistants are frustrated with the lack of effective guidance that they receive from their advisors/major professors on writing-related issues, which hinders their academic success as well as their working relationships. In addition, the lack of writing support directly correlates with not being adequately prepared to write in English about their research once they become researchers in either a university or industry setting in the United States (US) or abroad. Basic communication, writing for assistantships and advisor/major professor issues (including faculty lack of time and the tendency to “take over” and re-write student writing) were the most significant challenges identified by participants when results were analyzed separately for the two key stakeholder groups.
The results of this study and similar findings nationally and internationally suggest that writing for academic/professional purposes at the graduate level is an exceedingly complex cognitive and social undertaking for ESL graduate students. The results also suggest that facilitating disciplinary rhetorical socialization is exceptionally complex and challenging for faculty. And while research has shown that cohesive discipline-specific, graduate-level writing programs that equally support graduate students and faculty result in optimized research performance and professional preparation, few exist in the US.
Introduction: The Problem and Its Importance
Universities across the United States (US) rely upon their graduate students to conduct research and teach courses. Almost 12% of the 2.2 million graduate students in the US are international graduate students for whom English is not their native language. Approximately 33% of all doctoral degrees awarded in 2005 were to non-US citizens, the majority of whose native countries were China, India, and South Korea.1, 2, 3, Approximately two thirds of these students are in science and engineering programs: in 2006, 64% of all engineering doctoral students were international, as were 56% of graduate students in physics and 55% in mathematics.4, 5, 6
After graduation, 74% of these international students have firm job commitments in the US either as postdoctoral fellows or in industry. Non-US citizens accounted for 58% of all postdoctoral fellows in 2003. The majority of those who stay are from China and India. 7, 8
Despite meeting high university standards, many graduate students for whom English is a secondary language (ESL)* continue to struggle with written communication in their academic
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