Michigan students bring a variety of language and learning experiences into the classroom. One group of multilingual students includes international students who speak English as a foreign language. Another group includes those who either themselves immigrated to the U.S. as children, or who have parents who are immigrants, and who speak English as a second, third, or foreign language. This population of English Language Learners has been referred to as Generation 1.5 students. Because Generation 1.5 students do not fit neatly into existing categories of language and writing instruction, Sweetland hoped to learn more about the specific needs of Generation 1.5 students in introductory writing courses at Michigan.
In 2010, graduate research assistants under the leadership of Anne Ruggles Gere applied for a grant from the UM Center for Research, Learning and Teaching (CRLT). They hoped to investigate the writing instruction needs of Generation 1.5 students at Michigan. They asked, “Who are the Generation 1.5 writers at the University of Michigan, and what is their experience of writing instruction at this university? What are their needs as writers, and how are these needs being met or not being met by the current system of course offerings?
In Fall 2010, Sweetland administered a survey to first year students to explore the experiences and concerns of the Generation 1.5 students enrolled in introductory writing courses at Michigan. Interviews and focus groups, to be conducted during the Spring semester of 2011, will further explore questions emerging from the survey data, such as:
- What prior experiences and literacies do Generation 1.5 students bring to the writing classroom?
- How do they understand and define their identities as students and as writers?
- What is their experience of writing at UM?
- Which FYWR courses do they usually take, and why?
- How did they navigate the university’s Directed Self-Placement (DSP) process?
- Which courses or instructional strategies have been most helpful/discouraging?
- What needs do they have as writers?
- What other resources might help meet the needs of this population?
The team envisions that their research may inform decisions about writing placement, instruction, and GSI training at UM, as well as influence academic scholarship calling for more a more adequate conceptualization of this diverse college student group.
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