LINGUIST List 12.1259

Sun May 6 2001

Review: Silva & Kei Matsuda, Second Lg Writing

Editor for this issue: Terence Langendoen <terrylinguistlist.org>


What follows is another discussion note contributed to our Book Discussion Forum. We expect these discussions to be informal and interactive; and the author of the book discussed is cordially invited to join in. If you are interested in leading a book discussion, look for books announced on LINGUIST as "available for discussion." (This means that the publisher has sent us a review copy.) Then contact Simin Karimi at siminlinguistlist.org or Terry Langendoen at terrylinguistlist.org.

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  1. Lourdes Tolosa, Review: Silva and Kei Matsuda, On Second Language Writing

Message 1: Review: Silva and Kei Matsuda, On Second Language Writing

Date: Sat, 05 May 2001 10:46:32 -0500
From: Lourdes Tolosa <ltolosagloria.cord.edu>
Subject: Review: Silva and Kei Matsuda, On Second Language Writing

Silva, Tony and Kei Matsuda, Paul, eds. (2001) On Second Language Writing,
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 241 pp. ISBN 0-8058-3516-4 (paperback).

Reviewed by Lourdes Tolosa, Concordia College

The book is an edited collection of papers written after a symposium on
second language writing held at Purdue University a couple of years ago
(sic). The participants were a number of widely known and respected second
language writing specialists who addressed topics such as second language
(L2) writing teachers, students, programs, theories, research, assessment,
gender, relationship to other disciplines and standards.

The book is intended for English as a Second or Foreign Language (ESL/EFL)
instructors but it could also be used by Foreign Language (FL) teachers
mainly in the areas that cover theories, programs, relationship to other
disciplines, research, assessment and gender. The Preface includes a brief
description of each chapter (15 in all). There are 13 female writers and 2
male writers in addition to the 2 male editors. After almost every
chapter, there is an extensive bibliography useful for additional reading
and research. Most essays are concise, informative and very easy to read.
The perspectives presented are extremely interesting and the topic up-to-date.

Chapter 1 - Barbara Kroll - The Composition of a Life in Composition.

In five episodes of autobiographical reflection on her life as a teacher of
language and writing, Barbara Kroll presents the reasons that motivated her
to become the teacher she is today. Barbara Kroll sends a message to the
reader about flexibility, understanding and reflection that include oneself
and one's students. She also invites the reader, through her accounts, to
be more perceptive and open to change. Barbara Kroll writes about a
pioneering spirit that has allowed her to succeed as an ESL instructor.
Barbara Kroll now directs the ESL Composition Program at Ohio State
University.

In this essay, Barbara Kroll presents some good ideas for writing
activities in the second language writing classroom. She also gives good
advice to novice language instructors (like flexibility and improvisation).
Sometimes, Kroll's stories seem pointless but one has to keep in mind that
her goal in this chapter is to prove her thesis that states that the
teacher's life story affects the way s/he teaches and empathizes with the
students.

Chapters 2 and 3 focus on second language writing students.

Chapter 2 - Ilona Leki - In Hearing Voices: L2 Students' Experiences in L2
Writing Courses.

Based on five qualitative studies, one of which she conducted, Ilona Leki
writes about the struggles that ESL students face and the specific problems
observed over a long period relating to second language (L2) writing.
Using the results of the five qualitative studies, it became apparent to
Leki that the L2 writers do not always understand expectations, goals and
objectives presented by the teacher in the same way. The purpose of her
essay is to stimulate reflection and discussion and to increase the
awareness among L2 writing teachers of the nature of their students and the
educational systems.

Leki reminds educators not to assume needs, characteristics and expected
behaviors from foreign students (she refers to these as public and hidden
transcripts).

Chapter 3 - Pat Currie - On the Question of Power and Control.

The question of power in this chapter has different meanings; for example,
it refers to the way L2 writers are evaluated in terms of the amount and
nature of their assignment. In this chapter, Pat Currie also sheds light
on issues of power and control that the teachers (mainly L2 teachers) and
institutions posses over the L2 student. Moreover, Pat Currie explains
that the misuse of power and control that the institution and educators
(L2) have, has a detrimental effect on international students' careers and
opportunities to get scholarships and to finish their careers on time. Pat
Currie urges L2 writing and other L2 teachers to advocate on the students'
behalf and fight to change the policies that either discriminate against of
disadvantage L2 students/writers.

Although Pat Currie's does not present her thesis at the beginning of the
chapter to guide the reader; and even though the way she deals with
different arguments is somewhat "jumpy," she presents a very solid case to
raise awareness among the readers.

Chapters 4 and 5 address second language (L2) writing theory from different
perspectives.

Chapter 4 - William Grabe - Notes Toward a Theory of Second Language Writing.

In this essay, Grabe expresses a need for a theory of second language
writing that guides L2 professional writers. This second language writing
theory would work as a descriptive model for the L2 writer. In an attempt
to make his point clear, Grabe presents an example of a theory that would
include diverse elements like research organization, instruction and
assessment.

Although Grabe mentions authors and studies that could be helpful for
someone who is interested in this area of research, it seemed to me that
Grabe presents ESL students with blanket statements, disregarding the
different levels ESL students might have upon entering university
(p.44-45). In addition, Grabe takes too long to build up and introduce his
idea on how to develop a theory of the writing construct.

Chapter 5 - Diane Belcher - Does Second Language Writing Have Gender?

Diane Belcher has a very innovative way of looking at second language
writing. After presenting some examples that look into the feminization of
second language writing, she concludes that second language writing
researchers are more progressive than other researches and mentions that
this area of study is postmodern and feminized. She is optimistic in the
fact that second language writing research will continue to move in this
direction.

Chapters 6 and 7 deal with issues in empirical research with implications
for inquiry in general.

Chapter 6 - Lynn Goldstein - For Kyla: What Does the Research Say About
Responding to ESL Writers?

In this chapter Goldstein studies second language (L2) writing teachers'
written comments to L2 students. All these comments relate to rhetoric or
content. According to Goldstein, research needs to examine teachers'
comments, students' reactions and students' revisions simultaneously in
order to get a real body of information with which to work. Goldstein also
discusses the manner in which future research should be directed.

Chapter 7 - Charlene Polio - Research Methodology in Second Language
Writing Research: The Case of Text-Based Studies.

By looking at a number of published studies that measure L2 writing, Polio
concludes that researchers need to present everything they used while
coming up with the conclusions for their studies. She explicitly
encourages researchers to attach (in an appendix) the methods for data
collection they used.

Charlene Polio presents a variety of concepts and studies that might not be
familiar to novice readers. She does not explain any concept she
introduces relying on the fact that the reader has read the studies to
which she refers (for example Jacobs scale, T-units, idea units and
"tokens" among others).

Chapter 8 - Liz Hamp-Lyons - Fourth Generation Writing Assessment

Liz Hamp-Lyons presents a historical summary of the first three generations
of writing assessment (direct testing, multiple choice and portfolio-based
assessment) and a synopsis of the future (fourth) generation in writing
assessment. According to Liz Hamp-Lyons, the fourth generation in writing
assessment will use technology, humanities, politics and ethics.
Technology, due to the advances in computer applications. Humanities
because, according to Hamp-Lyons, assessment will be understood as a
complex set of processes. Politics because assessment will involve
competing interests and values. Ethical because the assessment will be fair.

This chapter exhorts the reader to think about his/her own practices and
re-think the way s/he is evaluating/testing writing. In addition to the
assessment of writing, one can re-think the written assignments that one
gives students for homework.

Chapters 9 and 10 look at L2 writing instructions from different angles.

Chapter 9 - Trudy Smoke - Instructional Strategies for Making ESL Students
Integral to the University.

>From personal experience, Smoke presents a plethora of strategies that
strengthen support and advocacy for ESL students and their needs. Some of
these strategies are: linking ESL classes with content-based courses,
collaboration among teachers across disciplines, grants for collaborative
projects and finally creating writing assignments that help L2 students
gain political power.

Chapter 10 - Joy Reid - In Advanced EAP Writing and Curriculum Design: What
Do We Need to Know?

Joy Reid suggests in this chapter that the curriculum needs to be
customized to the needs of the students that is serving. In addition, this
curriculum has to be based on principles underlying theory and practice and
external expectations and constrains. According to Reid, the English for
Academic Purposes (EAP) curricula, must collect, assess and describe
authentic information and then apply it or integrate its results into
course objectives which go hand in hand with the classroom pedagogy.

Chapters 11 and 12 deal with politics in L2 writing theory and practice.

Chapter 11 - Sarah Benesch - Critical Pragmatism: A Politics of L2
Composition.

Noting that in recent research politics were being involved in L2 writing,
Sarah Benesch decided to take a closer look at the situation. What she
found was that critical research was presenting opposing views to pragmatic
research, which she thought unnecessary. In this chapter, Sarah Benesch
brings together the critical research and the pragmatic research into what
she calls "critical pragmatism." Benesch explains that both forms of
research should come together in a more complete research form and explains
how critical research addresses important issues overlooked by the
pragmatic research. This chapter concludes with an example of critical
pragmatism that Sarah Benesch took directly from her classes.

Chapter 12 - Terry Santos - The Place of Politics in Second Language Writing.

Terry Santos also visits the issue of politics in L2 writing within the
context of critical applied linguistics. In this chapter, she presents the
downside to Benesch's ideas and proposals presented in chapter eleven
(previous chapter). Santos studies the concerns of critical theory,
critical pedagogy and critical applied linguistics and concludes with her
view of the future role of politics in L2 writing.

Chapters 13 and 14 review the issue of articulation between L2 writing and
other fields of study.

Chapter 13 - Joan G. Carson - In Second Language Writing and Second
Language Acquisition.

In this chapter Carson compares the questions that second language
acquisition and second language writing ask regarding research and tries to
see where these two areas intersect. Carson finds that although these two
areas deal with similar issues, their foci and their temporal perspective
are different.

Carson answers the four basic questions that second language acquisition
research asks. These questions are: What does a learner language look
like? How do learners acquire a second language? What accounts for the
differences in learners' achievements? and what are the effects of formal
instruction? Finally, she presents some good ideas for further research or
 study.

Chapter 14 - Carol Servino - Dangerous Liaisons: Problems of Representation
and Articulation.

Based on her personal experience Servino presents the difficulties of her
role as a liaison between U.S. instructors, teacher assistants,
administration and international students. One of the main aspects of her
role is to explain to the different communities in her institution who the
other members are. For example, she explains to U.S. teachers who the
international students are. She also makes instructors and teacher
assistants aware of the differences between U.S. rhetoric and the rhetoric
that international students bring with them. In addition, she explains to
international students who U.S. teachers and/or students are, how they
behave, what their values are and answers any questions US or international
students, US faculty and administration might ask, to the best of her
knowledge.

Servino concludes her chapter with some ideas: 1. to prepare ESL students
to be their own advocate and presenters to other people, 2. to hire more
international, bilingual and immigrant students as teaching assistants to
help other international students at the language lab, 3. to encourage
international students to think about U.S. students, teachers and
administrator's behavior and cultural issues, and 4. to encourage U.S.
teachers, teacher assistants and administrators to say "I don't know" or to
refuse to be a liaison if they do not feel comfortable doing it.

Chapter 15 - Alister Cumming - The Difficulty of Standards, For Example in
L2 Writing.

In this essay, Cumming reviews the notion of standards because in recent
publications and scholarly and public discussions he has heard the idea of
standards used in varied ways. Through his research, he became aware of
four fundamental dilemmas that the formulation of standards related to L2
writing, presents. These dilemmas are: 1. defining the construct of L2
writing, 2. ascertaining what students have learned, 3. relating L2 writing
to other abilities and modes of communication and 4. accounting for
variability among language varieties, people and situations. Cumming
discusses three ways of understanding standards, and tries to explain each
dilemma looking at specific cases and variations.

Lourdes Tolosa is an Instructor in the Spanish Department, Concordia College
Moorhead, Minnesota
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