October 21, 2007

Refocus

Posted in Independent Study at 7: 12 pm by MK

After meeting with my professor to discuss the progress of my independent study, we’re realizing that my current reading list and focus might need to be adjusted slightly.  I’ve been reading a lot of composition theory focusing on second-language learning and writing.  While some of this is obviously relevant, it seems that my project has really taken on more of an anthropological/sociological study.  In light of this realization, I’m going to read more books like Fadiman’s.  I want to understand what it means to be both participant and observer of a group.

So perhaps the bigger question is why?  As I think about my goals for this study, and my interaction with A. and K. and their children, I realize that this is much bigger than a class in my graduate program.  I can’t simply separate my interactions with the family as simply a “project,” and when the semester is over I’m not walking away.  But at the same time how do I balance my personal investment with that of my research investment.  What is at stake for both?

Bottom line, I’m already personally invested.  So my goals for research I think begin to heighten my personal investment.
I believe that by telling A. and K.’s story, I can put a real name and face to the thousands of refugee families crossing U.S. borders each year.  In many ways, A. and K. and the hundreds of other Burmese families living in my community are invisible.  Without the ability to speak English and become active participants in their city, they fade to the background.  And yet their desire to be part of it all is fierce.

At this point I fill the role of both observer and advocate, and for now that feels right.

September 7, 2007

Theory & Practice of Second-Language Writing

Posted in Independent Study at 12: 15 pm by MK

I have finalized the content of my independent study, Theory and Practice of Second-Language Writing, and I’m psyched to officially begin.  So what will this all entail? See below for a description…

Course Content:

Through a reading list and research project, I will examine how the construction of second-language identity affects writers and ultimately writing pedagogy.  What are our community and institutional expectations for second-language learners?  How do we teach adult learners when they are no longer in a school system?  What are the literacy needs of adult learners?  For adults, writing a school term paper is not a needed skill; however, paying a phone bill or writing a check to the power company is necessary.  How, therefore, do we decide where literacy lessons should begin?  What have composition scholars discovered in writing and researching about these topics?  This study will focus on not just the construction of a writer’s second-language identity, but how that construction affects the way in which educators teach English as a second language. 

It will also be important to study how second-language identity is created.  Is second-language identity created by the student or the student’s outside community?  How do immigrants or refugees cope with the loss of professional identity when they move into a new country, culture, and language?  Ultimately, how second language identities evolve impacts the ways in which students learn.  This course will study what current theorists are writing and saying about these issues.