Teach What You Preach?: A Case Study of a Non-Native Writing Instructor's Awareness of Student Needs, Feedback Beliefs, and Practices

Lee Jung Huang, Purdue University


Despite the influx of international students into U.S. university writing programs, there is a paucity of research regarding teachers' awareness of such students’ needs. The small amount of research that does exist suggests that many university writing teachers find it difficult to address L2 writers' needs (Ferris, 2011; Matsuda, 2013). The research derives from a larger project examining L2 writing teachers' beliefs and practices which was grounded in the conceptual frameworks of schematic conceptualization of teaching (Borg, 2006) and communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991). This study focuses on how one non-native novice instructor of an international section of first-year writing at a large U.S. university developed her feedback beliefs and effective strategies to meet students’ needs. Data collection involved five week-long periods of intensive classroom and conferencing observation, 14 in-depth interviews with the teacher and three students, and text analysis of first, second and final drafts of the students' academic essays. Data were analyzed using analytic induction (Erickson, 1986), the constant comparative method (Glaser, 1964). Results showed that understanding individual student’s needs, developing different sets of feedback strategies for different levels of proficiencies, and providing contextualized, personalized, indirect feedback with explanation and instruction for revision based on students' weaknesses were key elements in meeting students' needs. Although most of the feedback practices the teacher described accorded with her actual practice, she was surprised to find that she provided far more direct feedback than she imagined. However, student interviews and evaluations revealed a high level of appreciation for her comments and teaching, and she received teaching awards for three consecutive semesters. Some students even described the instructor as inspirational in their struggles with second language writing. In sum, this study suggests how non-native first-year writing instructors can, through hard and effortful experience and the will to develop, teach at a high level of awareness of student needs and student satisfaction, with particular emphasis on providing appropriate and effective feedback.




Silva, Purdue University.

Subject Area

English as a Second Language

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