Ling Shi

Professor

Research Interests

Academic Writing
Second Language Writing
Teaching English as a Second Language Writing

Relevant Degree Programs

 
 

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2019)
Multilingual undergraduate writers' discourse socialization in a sheltered academic English program (2020)

Most universities in English-dominant countries have been competing to attract multilingual learners for some time, inspired by the dual need for brain power and income generation (Lee, Maldonado-Maldonado, & Rhodes, 2006). In the Canadian context, this has resulted in rising international student populations (Anderson, 2015) and the expansion of increasingly sophisticated academic language programs (Fox, Cheng, & Zumbo, 2014). Despite this, external research into the effectiveness and appropriateness of these programs from the perspectives of the students enrolled remains scarce (Keefe & Shi, 2017). This multiple case study involves six multilingual learners enrolled in a newly-designed academic language program in a Canadian university. This first-year program provided content and academic language courses in two disciplinary areas (Arts and Sciences), which upon successful completion, qualified students for their second year in the university mainstream. In this study, I investigate how students responded to program design features and academic writing instruction. I incorporate multiple interviews with students, collection of their written assignments and feedback, observations of classrooms and other educational events, interviews with other program stakeholders, and collection of program documents. Of the six student participants in this study, four were successful and two were less successful. For the four successful students, participation in the sheltered program was perceived as an overall beneficial experience that helped them make a positive transition to mainstream studies. However, responses to academic writing instruction and practice were highly variable and influenced by students’ backgrounds and their educational or disciplinary beliefs. For two less successful students, notions of agency, identity, and appropriation became influential in their transitions as they increasingly reported confusion, frustration, and conflict in meeting academicexpectations. Results suggest there are several opportunities and challenges involved in the integration of sophisticated theoretical and pedagogical approaches, some of which may not be realized for some time after instruction has ceased. The study highlights an ongoing need to: 1) (re)consider the time needed and the degree of complexity involved in academic writing instruction and, 2) maximize alignment of pedagogical objectives with multilingual learners’ backgrounds as well as their perceived academic and disciplinary writing needs.

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Processes of academic source-based writing in graduate school : a socio-pedagogical approach to students' interactions with source texts (2019)

Source-based writing is replete with decisions about what to include from others’ work and how to include it. The processes of source selection and source integration are integral yet occluded aspects of writing from sources (Pecorari, 2006). Issues pertaining to appropriate versus inappropriate source use have been among the controversial topics of discussion among university students and instructors (e.g., as noted in Harwood & Petrić, 2011, and Shi, 2016), yet current scholarship is still in need of an explicit understanding of the process of source-based writing—in particular, among graduate-level students as emerging scholars in their fields. In light of such exigency and to better understand the source-based writing practices of student writers at graduate levels, my doctoral research project aimed at exploring the processes of source selection and source integration in the research-paper writing of eight domestic and international Master’s and PhD students in the field of education at a major Canadian university. Data included drafts of research papers students prepared as part of their course requirements, related source texts, three rounds of text-based interviews with students, and individual text-based interviews with their course instructors. Employing a socio-pedagogical approach by interweaving the conceptual frameworks of Community of Practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991), Forms of Capital (Bourdieu, 1991), and Dialogism (Bakhtin, 1986), this study provided the ground to cross-examine not only each participant’s writing progress over multiple drafts, but also to compare the practices of the Master’s and doctoral participants as they strived to join the expert dialogues in their communities through collecting acceptable forms of textual capital. Macro analyses of data depicted perspectives of participating graduate students toward source-based writing, their dilemmas and solutions in the process of source use, contributing factors to their problematic and/or successful source-use practices, and available support to them. Micro analyses of these Master's and doctoral students’ written texts and oral accounts identified a wide range of motivations for source selection and purposes for the use of various types of source integration in their research-paper writing. This study offers insights for institutional and educational action plans to support students’ interactions with source texts.

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Emerging scholars' socialization into scholarly publication : negotiating identities and investments in a neoliberal era (2018)

Given the paramount importance of publication in academia, socialization of novice scholars into scholarly publication has received increasing scholarly attention. Extant empirical literature has tended to predominantly focus on impediments facing English as an Additional Language (EAL) doctoral students (e.g., Ho, 2017; Li, 2007; Lillis & Curry, 2010) in getting published, although recent research has also attended to issues encountered by Anglophone doctoral students in academic publication (Habibie, 2016). However, there is a paucity of longitudinal research that compares the publication processes and practices of EAL and Anglophone doctoral students. Moreover, little research thus far has compared the perspectives and practices of novices vis-à-vis established scholars in writing for publication. In this 16-month, multiple-case study on four - two Anglophone and two EAL - doctoral students in language education at a Canadian university, questionnaires, multiple semi-structured interviews, submission trajectories, and communications with journal editors and reviewers were used as the chief sources of data. Additionally, 27 editors and editorial boards members of well-known journals in applied linguistics and language education were interviewed to triangulate their perspectives with the experiences of the doctoral students in the study. The data were subject to iterative thematic analysis, and interpreted in light of the theoretical constructs of academic discourse socialization (Duff, 2010), and identity and investment (Darvin & Norton, 2015).Findings indicate that learning how to academically write a paper - i.e., discursive and generic dimensions of writing for publication (e.g., Habibie, 2016; Huang, 2010; Li, 2007) - is arguably important yet not sufficient in getting published. Perhaps more importantly, the findings suggest that navigating today's increasingly digitized terrain of academic publication demands socialization into a set of strategic competencies and tactical sensibilities, including the sensibility of knowing where (and where not) to publish and learning how to navigate and negotiate the process of academic publishing and its inherent complexities.

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Wiggle room for teaching English as a global language? : Western-educated Taiwanese English teachers’ identities and teaching of English writing (2017)

As the English language spreads around the globe and is used for various purposes in different social and cultural contexts, scholars and local practitioners have called for deconstructing the ideology of native-speakerism (Holliday, 2006, 2015) and reconstructing the local subjectivity of English language education (e.g., Canagarajah, 2005; Kumaravadivelu, 2016). In this transformation process of English language education, language teacher identity has played a central role because how teachers see themselves as English speakers, writers, and teachers is closely linked to what and how they teach in the language classroom (Varghese et al., 2005). Investigating such transformative potential of English writing education in Taiwan, the present ten-month qualitative case study takes social constructionist perspective to examine four Western-educated Taiwanese teachers’ writing and teacher identities and their teaching of English writing in relation to the discourse of native-speakerism in four Taiwanese universities.Based on data generated from interviews, classroom observation, email correspondence, and class materials, the study illustrates that language teachers’ training and writing experiences, their ideologies about the English language, and students’ and administrators’ expectations of how the English language should be taught all have a great impact on teacher identity formation and teaching practices. Two participants (Ava and Beth) depended on native-like English proficiency and Western pedagogical knowledge acquired while studying in Western graduate programs to define who they were as English writing teachers. The discourse of native-speakerism was reinforced in their English writing classrooms, leaving little room for local English norms and pedagogies to develop. In comparison, the other two participants (Sarah and Nita) viewed themselves as multicompetent writers and offered more space in their writing classrooms for developing non-Anglophone Englishes. However, the possibility for writing alternative forms was denied by Nita’s students and administrators, who expected her to help students achieve high scores on standardized tests. The study adds insights into the scholarship of professional identity construction of Western-educated English writing teachers, an area of research that remains scant in quantity. It also provides pedagogical implications for teacher education programs to cultivate more agents of change (Morgan, 2010) in teaching English writing as a global communicative means.

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Acceptability and authority in chinese and non-chinese english teachers' judgment of language use in english writing by chinese university students (2015)

This study solicits Chinese and non-Chinese English teachers’ judgments of linguistic (un)acceptability in writing by presenting teachers with essays by Chinese university students and asking them to comment on unacceptable features. Studies of error and variation in first and second language writing studies have often focused on errors in writers’ texts (see Bitchener & Ferris, 2012), but recent sociolinguistic perspectives used in this study take a broader view, considering variations from standard written English in light of the globalization of English. These perspectives, including world Englishes (Canagarajah, 2006; Matsuda & Matsuda, 2010), English as a Lingua Franca (Horner, 2011; Jenkins, 2014), and translingual (Canagarajah, 2013; Horner, Lu, Royster, & Trimbur, 2011) approaches to L2 writing, are applicable to academic English writing in international contexts. This study thus adopts a non-error-based approach to teachers’ reactions to nonstandard language use in Chinese students’ English writing, using the construct of “acceptability” (Greenbaum, 1977). The study includes two parts: first, it solicits a group (n=46) of Chinese (n=30) and non-Chinese (n=16) English language teachers’ judgments of (un)acceptability by presenting teachers with seven essays by Chinese university students and asking them to comment on unacceptable features. Second, in follow-up interviews (n=20), the study examines teachers’ explanations for accepting or rejecting features of students’ writing and the ways in which they claim the authority to make these judgments.Using these methods, the study is able to determine which lexical and grammatical features of the texts the Chinese and non-Chinese participants judge to be unacceptable, how participants react when they encounter putative features of Chinese English and English as a Lingua Franca, and how they describe their authority to make judgments of linguistic unacceptability. The study finds wide variation in the features of the texts that participants judge as unacceptable, and identifies some possible differing priorities in the Chinese and non-Chinese teachers’ judgments. It also describes how participants from both groups claim authority in judgments, variously positioning themselves as mediators, educators, and language users. The study adds to a body of scholarship which suggests that the identification of “errors” in writing is highly variable and contextual.

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Critical thinking in second language writing : concept, theory and pedagogy (2015)

Recognizing the reciprocal connection between critical thinking (CT) and writing, many second language (L2) instructors attempt to infuse CT in their writing classrooms but encounter great challenges due to the fact that teaching CT in a specific subject requires a “substantial reconstruction of a teacher’s model of how to teach a discipline” (Nosich, 2005, p. 65). To facilitate this reconstruction, this study is designed to provide the needed conceptual, theoretical and pedagogical supports. Based on a clarification of the concept of CT in L2 writing and the establishment of a theoretical framework that draws insights from Skill Acquisition Theory and Constructivism, I developed a CT-oriented L2 writing approach that included both explicit CT instruction and CT-oriented writing activities. The effectiveness of this approach was evaluated in actual teaching practice that involved 44 second-year L2 undergraduates in a Chinese university. Employing a mixed method research design, the study involved a pre-study questionnaire survey, a quasi-experiment and a post-study interview. After the study, the participants’ pre-test and post-test CT and L2 writing scores were analyzed. The results of the statistical analyses indicate that the CT-oriented L2 writing approach was effective for improving students’ CT and L2 writing scores and that there was a significant high positive relationship (r=0.89, p<.01 between="" students="" ct="" and="" l2="" writing="" scores.="" the="" analysis="" of="" post-study="" interview="" participants="" essays="" worksheets="" reveals="" that="" ct-oriented="" approach="" has="" facilitated="" learning="" both="" by="" connecting="" abstract="" theories="" practical="" interactive="" activities="" naturally="" infusing="" instruction="" into="" writing.="" development="" brainstorming="" worksheet="" peer="" review="" checklist="" as="" well="" for="" evaluating="" in="" teaching="" assessment="" present="" study.="" exploring="" effectiveness="" an="" to="" study="" provides="" pragmatic="" supports="" researchers="" instructors="" who="" wish="" cultivate="" their="" become="" not="" only="" proficient="" language="" users="" effective="" written="" communication="" but="" also="" independent="" critical="" thinkers="" life-long="" learning.="">
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Learning to be students again : second language socialization of graduate students in a Canadian university (2015)

This study reports on multiple qualitative case studies of five non-native English speaking (NNES) graduate students majoring in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) in an English-medium university in Canada. The students' academic discourse socialization experiences and the ways in which they negotiated and constructed their identities in this new context are highlighted as they navigate their first academic year in a graduate program in an English speaking context, as former teachers from an English as a foreign language context. Adopting a second language socialization framework (Duff, 2003, 2007; Duff & Talmy, 2011), this study employs longitudinal qualitative data, mainly participant interviews, journals, and writing samples, to examine the challenges and variability of these students’ language socialization processes. Findings demonstrate non-conformity, contestation, and partial and multiple community memberships with progress as well as setbacks, thus revealing the complexity of the processes and outcomes of language socialization. As the students worked to reconceptualize and negotiate multiple voices and identities, their language socialization processes were largely impacted by their prior learning and professional experiences as well as by their future trajectories (Gale, 1994; Hirvela & Belcher, 2001; Shen, 1989). Findings also suggest that, along with institutional and program support, students' willingness to negotiate and invest in their new communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991) accelerated their (perceived) progress in learning as well as their academic socialization. The study suggests that NNESs, by perceiving themselves as individuals with unique needs, ideologies, and goals, can be better equipped to see themselves as multicompetent, legitimate, and full members of their graduate studies community, rather than language-deficient peripheral members (Cook, 2005; Pavlenko, 2003). The study enhances our understanding of the necessity to redefine and recognize the diverse needs, expectations, and ideologies of a growing number of international students who increasingly compose a significant portion of the student body in North American academia and the field of TESL.

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Effect of topical knowledge on L2 writing (2010)

This study investigates the effect of topical knowledge on university-level ESL (English as a Second Language) students’ writing in a testing situation, following Messick”s (1989) validity theory, which embraces an integration of multiple types of validity evidence (content-, criterion-, and construct-based validity, along with social consequences) to support the inferences drawn from the test scores. A total of 50 participants with different levels of English language proficiency and various ethnic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds took part in the study in a metropolitan city in western Canada. Each student wrote two 60-minute essays: one responding to a prompt requiring general knowledge and the other responding to a prompt requiring specific prior knowledge. Using a mixed methods sequential explanatory design (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007), the study collected two types of data to attend to its purposes: (1) quantitative data based on repeated direct measures of the prompt effect on the overall writing scores, component scores (content, organization, and language), and indicator scores (idea quality, position-taking, idea development, idea wrap-up, cohesion, coherence, fluency, accuracy, and lexical complexity); and (2) qualitative interview data for an in-depth understanding of the writers’ perceptions of the two writing prompts. The overall writing scores showed that students, especially those at the intermediate and advanced proficiency levels, performed significantly better on the general topic than they did on the specific topic. The topic-specific task produced lower scores on content, organization, and language due to poor idea quality, hidden position, insufficient idea development, weak idea wrap-up, a lack of coherence and cohesion, shorter length, more syntax and lexical errors, and less frequent use of academic words. Posttest interviews confirmed how participating students were challenged by writing prompt that requires specific prior knowledge. The findings suggest that topical knowledge is a fundamental schemata to elicit a writer’s performance. Without such knowledge, an ESL writer, even with a high English proficiency, cannot achieve his or her optimal performance. The study calls attention to the effect of specific topical knowledge on ESL students’ writing and the importance of developing appropriate prompts for writing tests.

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Functions and genres of Chinese ESL children's English writing in school and at home (2008)

Drawing on a sociocultural perspective of genre as a social action situated in a particular context, this study examines the functions and genres of four second-grade ESL (English as a Second Language) children’s writing at home and at school. The two boys and two girls were born and raised in Canada, speaking English at school and with their siblings, and Cantonese at home with their parents who were immigrants from Hong Kong or China. A total of 67 pieces of school writing and 54 pieces of home writing were collected over a five-week period. Findings show that home writing exhibits a wider range of functions and genres than school writing. In the home context, the participating children wrote for more personal purposes, to entertain themselves, or to engage in social interactions with a real audience. In contrast, school writing narrowed the children’s choice of functions because of the teaching context, teacher expectations, and instructional objectives. Similarly, there was a greater variety in home genres, including greeting cards, diaries, notes, poems, and jokes in comparison to school genres that were confined to stories, journals, and list items. There was a strong relationship between the enactment of specific functions and particular genres while personal and social functions were more prevalent in their home-based than in their school-based writing. Qualitative analysis of the children’s writing shows that they constructed meaning with written language in individual ways in their enactment of functions and choice of genres and the use of different modes to represent meaning. The study suggests that teachers should be aware of the value of the writing opportunities and contexts children have at home and, therefore, incorporate such home experiences into classroom teaching. It also has implications for parents to conceive writing as a sociocultural as well as language practice, and to recognize the role of the home environment in their contributions to their children’s constructing meaning with written language. They should be aware of the need to build on the children’s interests and needs while encouraging them to write, and to make connections with school in working towards their writing development.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
The construction of writer identity of Bangladeshi L2 students in the English academic community (2014)

This study was conducted to investigate how five Bangladeshi L2 graduate students construct and express their writer identities in their L2 academic writing practices in English academic community. The study is based upon feminist poststructuralism, especially Weedon’s (1997) concept of subjectivity portraying the individual as uncertain, contradictory, dynamic, and changing over historical time and social space. I conducted semi-structured interviews and collected writing samples of the participants. Following Ivanič’s (1998) concept of writer identity which bears multiplicity with four interrelated aspects of autobiographical self, discoursal self, self as author, and possibilities for self-hood, I analyzed the data thematically to illustrate how participants constructed their writer identities. Findings suggest that the participating Bangladeshi student writers tried to construct their autobiographical selves by drawing on previous literacy practices. However, it was their field of study (science or arts) that allowed or restricted them from expressing their individual interest, experiences, opinions and commitment in their L2 writing. Participants also constructed their discoursal selves through citations practices, linguistics choices, and organization of their papers as they tried to accommodate to the discourses preferred by their field of study or professors. In addition, the science and non-science major students expressed themselves as authors differently by employing either personal or impersonal writing styles and by making claims following different disciplinary conventions. It was clearly the participants’ awareness of the possibilities of self-hood that influenced how they constructed their writer identities. Such identities, as the study illustrate, were multiple, shifted, conflicted, and developed as participants tried to align themselves with the preferred identities or possibilities in the English academic community. The paper concludes with teaching implications for academic writing in a second language.

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The difficulties of Polish scholars trying to publish in international peer-reviewed journals (2014)

This study set out to consider the factors responsible for the low publication rates of Polish academics in international, peer-reviewed journals, and whether the global dominance of the English language in scholarly publications is a significant contributing factor. The literature suggests it might be but, to date, no in-depth investigation has confirmed this. Qualitative research methodology was selected as the most effective approach for the study and semi-structured interviews with eight Polish scholars were conducted. According to the data collected in these interviews, the reasons behind the small international publication output of Polish scholars are multifaceted. Polish academics face a number of difficulties which are in line with those described in the literature discussing the challenges facing non-native English speakers attempting to publish internationally. Linguistic difficulties are exacerbated by chronic underfunding of Polish science which results in inadequate resources and low salaries that lead to faculty taking multiple jobs. However, the study also reveals that Polish academia suffers from the lack of publishing culture. In other words, the “publish or perish” imperative, so widespread in the Western academic world, is only just taking root in Poland. Further, the study shows that Polish scholars struggle more with mastering English academic writing structures than they do with English language proficiency in general.Scientific productivity in Poland could be fostered in a number of ways. Academics should be given more help and incentives to increase their overall publication output, domestically as well as internationally. For example, researchers’ salaries should be improved so that they do not need to hold multiple jobs. At the same time, access to subsidised English editorial services should be made available to scholars to help them prepare their manuscripts for international publications. As well, English academic writing courses should be introduced widely at Polish universities to improve the writing skills of future generations of scholars. What can be learned about publication obstacles in Poland from this study may be applicable to other non-Anglophone scholarly communities, and may provide answers as to how the global community may “level the publishing playing field” to ensure maximum dissemination of all scholarly ideas.

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