Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Applied Linguistics

Committee Chair

Emily Thrush

Committee Member

Teresa Dalle

Committee Member

William Duffy

Committee Member

Lindsey Ives


This study investigated the perceptions of STEM professors at a Southeastern technical college about the international students in their undergraduate classrooms, including impact on the learning environment, academic abilities and proficiency in meeting course goals, contributions to class activities and recommendations for improved preparation.Data were gathered from semi-structured interviews with nine full-time STEM teachers and review of documents provided by these professors, including copies of studetn writing withteacher feedback, typical writing prompts (or examination questions) and course syllabi. Using thematic analysis to tease meaning from data, I allowed meaning to emerge from interview testimony and counterbalanced that information with evidence from provided documents.Major findings included the following:1. International students are perceived as neither better nor worse academically:a. a few of them excel, as reported by teachers who acknowledge some cultures value math and science more than othersb. bell curves of student grades are normal2. The few non-native speakers who exhibit writing and speaking challenges are accommodated quite naturally by professors and almost always by teammates, with emphasis on the practical application of written and oral worka. differences are apparent between writing teacher perspectives provided in anecdotal evidence and those reported in ESL literature in this regard3. Contributions of unique non-Western examples and home-country influenced motivation leading to innovative projects are appreciated and celebrated, but most contributions come from students who are mature, experienced, studious and outgoing no matter their nationality or first language, and4. Writing deficiencies and lack of "transfer" are seen as universal, far from confined to students who did not grow up speaking English.One professor's comment seems to encapsulate the general attitude about international students at this campus: "They fit in." Findings contradict predictions that L2 writers would underperform their American classmates but are in harmony with Writing across the Disciplines literature and practice. This case study might be reassuring to international students and supportive of an emerging WID program at the university as well as similar approaches in STEM higher education.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.