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For both entries this week, I have focused on articles by Paul K. Matsuda. In this second post, I selected another article that is frequently mentioned in second-language scholarship, “Composition Studies and ESL Writing: A Disciplinary Division of Labor.” In his 1999 article, written while he was still a doctoral student at Purdue, Matsuda notes that “few composition theorists include second-language perspectives in their discussions” (699) and points to the growing presence of international students and ESL students within composition classes without adequate consideration in research and specializations.

There is a likelihood if you teach composition in higher education, that you will encounter second-language students and Matsuda writes that there are “linguistic and cultural differences they bring to the classroom” that can “pose a unique set of challenges to writing teachers” (700). Citing Tony Silva, from his chapter in Writing in Multicultural Settings and Joy Reid’s Teaching ESL Writing, Matsuda notes that there is a “need for writing instructors to become more sensitive to the unique needs of ESL writers” (700).

Matsuda discusses some of the same composition and second-language events during the mid-20th century as mentioned in his later article (PAB #1) and notes that “one of the central topics of discussion at this workshop was the question of how to deal with international ESL students in the regular composition course at institutions where neither ESL specialists nor separate ESL courses were available-a question that continues to be relevant today” (708). Mentioning early practices that included placing ESL students in “speech clinics where speech therapists treated them as suffering from speech defects,” or in basic writing classes with native speakers “without making any adjustments or proving sufficient linguistic support” (709), Matsuda points to the focus on the oral practice and tradition of teaching English as a result of Fries’ earlier work.

The division of labor for teaching ESL was argued “on the basis of the need for a specially trained ESL instructor” (710), with early programs established to insure that those who taught had linguistic training, but as Matsuda writes, “were also motivated by the need to release composition specialists from the extra ‘burden’ of teaching ESL students in their classes” (710).

In this article, Matsuda does not argue for a merging of composition and second-language studies, but outlines ways that “second-language writing should be seen as an integral part of both composition studies and second-language studies” with both groups integrating the pedagogy and practices that would help both groups (715). Offering suggestions that composition specialists learn more about ESL writing and adopt second-language perspectives in their work and theories, Matsuda sees second-language readings and research as requisite for graduate programs in composition[1].  He lists prominent names and areas of focus to explore further.  Looking finally at writing program administration, he examines ways in which ESL students can be offered as many options as resources as possible (717).

Perhaps because this was Matsuda’s earlier article, I saw this more reflective of Ostergaard and Nugent’s “Preservation and Transformation” discussion from our reading in Transforming English Studies (“Introduction,” 13-15) of a transformative response– than did his later article I reviewed. How much did moving into the academic community as a professor affect his outlook – and his ability to work within the institution’s bureaucracy to influence second-language learning within the curriculum?  While he certainly would be an example of Gallagher, Gray and Stenberg’s discussion of the need for a student to be a “troublemaker” once they graduate by working to effect change in their academic institutions, it seems that Matsuda also recognizes the need for collaboration and “relational work” as a necessary compromise within a system that has been working “for more than 30 years…to improve the institutional practices for ELS writers in second-language classrooms” (Ostergaard 26-40, Matsuda 718).

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[1] In a list of readings focusing on second-language writing, Matsuda mentioned these topic areas with authors that I note for my own further study: Writing in the disciplines (Belcher and Braine; Johns, Zamel and Spack; Literacy (McKay, Rodby); Assessment (Hamp-Lyons); Reading and Writing (Carson and Leki); Writing Program Administration (Braine, Kroll, Roy, Silva and Williams); and Written Discourse Analysis (Connor, Connor, Connor and Kaplan, Purves)

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Works Cited

Matsuda, Paul K. “Composition Studies and ESL Writing: A Disciplinary Division of Labor.” College Composition and Communication 50.4 (1999): 699-721. JSTOR.

Ostergaard, Lori, Jeff Ludwig, and Jim Nugent. Transforming English Studies: New Voices in an Emerging Genre. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor, 2009.