February 27: Dissertation Defense – Junko Imai


PhD in Second Language Studies Dissertation Defense

Junko Imai

L2 Learning to Write Through Writing Conferences:
 A Mixed Methods Research Study

Chair: James Dean Brown

Wednesday February 27 10:00 am – noon Moore Hall 258


A writing conference (WC) is a one-on-one consulting session concerning a student’s written academic work that takes place in a novice-expert dyad. The literature on second language (L2) WCs commonly addresses issues such as how novice writers learn to write through WCs, the communicative responsibilities of learners and experts, and the challenges involved in L2 WCs (e.g., Cumming & So, 1996; Ewert, 2009; Goldstein, 2006; Koshik, 2002; Patthey-Chavez & Ferris, 1997; Young & Miller, 2004). Researchers of L2 writing identify conditions that lead to successful textual revisions by coding texts, while conference studies, by conducting discursive analysis, illustrate the dominance, miscommunication, and learning that exist in WC talk. These two different approaches are rarely employed together using the same database, and most studies to date have been conducted on a small-scale. No attempt has been made to compare learners who attend WCs and those who do not. By combining these analytical approaches, the present study was able to better understand the learning and supporting mechanisms of L2 WCs in a particular context.

To understand the effectiveness, meaningfulness, and challenges of L2 WCs, I introduced WCs to 108 students enrolled in a college-level English for Academic Purposes (EAP) program in Hawai‘i. Employing a sequential explanatory mixed-methods research design (Creswell, 2009), I administered a questionnaire and an essay as pre- and post-observations, respectively. Over the course of the semester, 33 student-tutor dyads met for extra WCs outside of regular EAP class time. I video-recorded the WCs, collected the students’ drafts and revisions, then conducted playback sessions and a post-interview with each participant. Then, I statistically compared the quality of the students’ texts and attitudes; coded the topics discussed, discourse structures, and revision types; and explored the participants’ performances in the WCs through discourse analysis. The quantitative analysis reported the effectiveness of L2 WCs, which was then clarified with coding analysis describing the diversity of the WC treatments in which the participants engaged. Discourse analysis of the selected WCs then elaborated on the active participation and scaffolding obtained by each learner, and exemplified how the WCs were structured interactively. Finally, exploration of the convergence and divergence of the findings from the different analyses helped the researcher make a mixed-methods interpretation regarding L2 learning-to-write. Pedagogically, this study addresses the following three matters: (a) whether learners attend WCs, (b) what they say in WCs, and (c) how they participate.


Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3 ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Cumming, A., & So, S. (1996). Tutoring second language text revision: Does the approach to instruction or the language of communication make a difference? Journal of Second Language Writing, 5(3), 197-226.

Ewert, D. E. (2009). L2 writing conferences: Investigating teacher talk. Journal of Second Language Writing, 18(4), 251-269.

Goldstein, L. M. (2006). Feedback and revision in second language writing: Contextual, teacher, and student variables. In K. Hyland & F. Hyland (Eds.), Feedback in second language writing: Contexts and issues (pp. 185-205). New York: Cambridge University.

Koshik, I. (2002). Designedly incomplete utterances: A pedagogical practice for eliciting knowledge displays in error correction sequences. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 35(3), 277-309.

Patthey-Chavez, G. G., & Ferris, D. R. (1997). Writing conferences and the weaving of multi-voiced texts in college composition. Research in the Teaching of English, 31(1), 51-90.

Young, R. F., & Miller, E. R. (2004). Learning as changing participation: Discourse roles in ESL writing conferences. Modern Language Journal, 88(4), 519-535.