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Research in the Teaching of English, Vol. 51, No. 4, May 2017

Cover Art for Research in the Teaching of English, Vol. 51, No. 4, May 2017

Table of Contents

  • Editors’ Introduction: Teaching and Learning Language [FREE ACCESS]

    Ellen Cushman, Mary M. Juzwik, Heather Falconer, and Mandie B. Dunn

    Abstract: We end Volume Year 51 with a set of articles that emphasize language, particularly the teaching and learning of the grammatical structure, styles, and registers that undergird the English language arts and become ever more visible in a multilingual world.

  • Elaborated Specificity versus Emphatic Generality: A Corpus-Based Comparison of Higher- and Lower-Scoring Advanced Placement Exams in English

    David West Brown and Laura L. Aull

    Abstract: Text-driven, quantitative methods provide new ways to analyze student writing, by uncovering recurring grammatical features and related stylistic effects that remain tacit to students and those who read and evaluate student writing. To date, however, these methods are rarely used in research on students transitioning into US postsecondary writing, and especially rare are studies of student writing that is already scored according to high-stakes writing expectations. This study offers a corpus-based, comparative analysis of higher- and lower-scoring Advanced Placement (AP) exams in English, revealing statistically significant syntactic patterns that distinguish higher-scoring exams according to “informational production” and lower-scoring essays according to “involved” or “interactional” production (Biber, 1988). These differences contribute to what we label emphatic generality in the lower-scoring essays, in which writers tend to foreground human actors, including themselves. In contrast, patterns in higher-scoring essays achieve what we call elaborated specificity, by focusing on and explicating specific, often abstract, concepts.These findings help uncover what is rewarded (or not) in high-stakes writing assessments and show that some students struggle with register awareness. A related implication, then, is the importance of teaching register awareness to students at the late secondary and early university level—students who are still relative novices, but are being invited to compose informationally dense prose. Such register considerations, and specific features revealed in this study, provide ways to help demystify privileged writing forms for students, particularly students for whom academic writing may seem distant from their own communicative practices and ambitions.

  • Self-Directed Language Development: A Study of First-Year College Writers

    Dana Ferris, Grant Eckstein, and Garrett DeHond

    Abstract: Students in first-year composition (FYC) courses are expected to control the mechanics, vocabulary, style, and grammatical accuracy of their writing. Yet language development support, particularly that of grammar instruction in US FYC courses, has largely disappeared in recent decades, due in part to suppositions that students implicitly know grammar. This assumption is problematic given the increasing number of multilingual writers enrolling in US schools with observed needs for explicit language instruction. The present study explores whether first- and second-language writers of English perceived a need for language instruction and whether they wanted or expected it. Students from 12 sections of FYC were asked in surveys and interviews about their prior language learning experiences and current self-perceived language needs and then were asked to complete one of two self-directed language development projects (LDPs): an online, self-selected grammar and usage study project or journal entries focusing on vocabulary/style in texts they had read. Student work was collected, analyzed, and supplemented with students’ end-of-term observations and preferences about self-directed LDPs. Our findings reveal that students overwhelmingly wanted and expected language instruction and were largely positive about both types of LDPs, but they felt that language instruction should be offered in multiple delivery methods beyond just self-study. With these findings in mind, we offer pedagogical suggestions for addressing the perceived and real needs for language development of linguistically diverse FYC students.

  • “Why Needs Hiding?” Translingual (Re)Orientations in TESOL Teacher Education [FREE ACCESS]

    Nelson Flores and Geeta Aneja

    Abstract: Though applied linguists have critiqued the concept of the native speaker for decades, it continues to dominate the TESOL profession in ways that marginalize nonnative English–speaking teachers. In this article, we describe a naturalistic study of literacy negotiations in a course that we taught as part of the required sequence for a TESOL teacher education program. The course had the explicit goals of (a) supporting preservice teachers, many of whom are nonnative English speakers, in challenging these native-speaker ideologies, and (b) introducing preservice teachers to translingualism as a framework for challenging these ideologies with their own students. We focus on one of the culminating projects, in which students developed their own projects that enacted the new understanding of language associated with translingualism. By looking closely at the journey of three students through this project, we shed light on the possibilities and challenges of bringing a translingual perspective into TESOL teacher education, as well as the possibilities and challenges confronted by preservice TESOL teachers who are nonnative English speakers in incorporating a translingual perspective into their own teaching. These case studies indicate that providing nonnative English teachers with opportunities to engage in translingual projects can support them both in developing more positive conceptualizations of their identities as multilingual teachers and in developing pedagogical approaches for students that build on their home language practices in ways that challenge dominant language ideologies.

  • Forum: Pedagogizing Translingual Practice: Prospects and Possibilities

    Peter I. De Costa, Jyotsna G. Singh, Esther Milu, Xiqiao Wang, Steven Fraiberg, and Suresh Canagarajah

    Abstract: The notion of translingual practice has gained much currency within college composition and sociolinguistics over the last few years. Translingual practices challenge structuralist conceptualizations of language as discrete, bounded, impermeable, autonomous systems, conceptualizations that unfortunately (1) privilege linguistic codes over nonlinguistic ones, and (2) contribute to the hierarchization and separation of languages, leading some languages and their corresponding users to be valued more than others. To counter such a stance, we advocate the use of translingual pedagogy, which values the fluid communicative practices of learners who mobilize multiple semiotic resources to facilitate communication. By sharing examples from our own classrooms,we also underscore the need for teachers to recognize and expand the communicative repertoires of their students. This pedagogical shift, as we illustrate, is accompanied by an instructional commitment to develop students’ metalinguistic awareness and cultural sensitivities in order to create inclusive and equitable learning environments.

  • Announcing the 2015–2016 Alan C. Purves Award Recipient (Volume 50) [FREE ACCESS]

    Amanda Godley, Katrina Bartow Jacobs, Bob Jimenez, Sarah Levine, and Jason Torres-Rangel (2016 Award Committee)

    Abstract: The Alan C. Purves Award Committee is pleased to announce this year’s award recipient, Denise Dávila, for her article, “#WhoNeedsDiverseBooks?: Preservice Teachers and Religious Neutrality with Children’s Literature” (which appeared in Volume 50, Number 1, of Research in the Teaching of English, pp. 60–84). The Alan C. Purves Award is given annually to an article in RTE that holds significant implications for informing classroom practice and is likely to have the greatest impact on instruction and classrooms.

  • Announcements [FREE ACCESS]

  • Guest Reviewers and Translators [FREE ACCESS]

  • Author Index [FREE ACCESS]

  • Subject Index [FREE ACCESS]

* Journal articles are provided in PDF format and can be opened using the free Adobe® Reader® program or a comparable viewer. Click here to download and install the most recent version of Adobe Reader.

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A Professional Association of Educators in English Studies, Literacy, and Language Arts