Language matters:Examining the language-related needs and wants of writers in a first-year university writing course
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Abstract

Language matters: Examining the language-related needs and wants of writers in a first-year university writing course

Dana Ferris & Grant Eckstein (2020 - accepted for publication)
Journal of Writing Research

All writing involves complex linguistic knowledge and thoughtful decision-making. But where do students acquire the linguistic tools needed to write effectively? Many students come from diverse backgrounds and may need additional support and/or instruction in language and grammar. In order to better understand this situation, we conducted a qualitative multiple-case study to examine the experiences of 12 students in a first-year university-level composition course to understand the extent of their diverse learning backgrounds and language needs and expectations. We synthesized information from surveys, interviews, and written texts into narratives about each student's attitudes toward language and writing and also examined the actual language in their texts. The findings reveal wide diversity in linguistic backgrounds and experiences and that students need and want attention to their language skills in first-year writing. Findings further suggest that instructors should consider the backgrounds and abilities of individual student writers and listen carefully to students' perceptions about their own writing and language needs in order to build students' writing self-efficacy levels.

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