Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Writing groups have empirical support for their ability to give voice to stories, improve language skills, and result in personal and social transformations. However, the research into their effectiveness among English Language Learners (ELLs) is limited. This case study of an immigrant women's writing group in Memphis, Tennessee, examined the effects of participation on the language skills, identities, and communities of the women. Ten (10) women who were all non-native English speakers participated in a writing group held over the course of ten (10) weeks for two (2) hours each week. The structure of the writing group allowed for personal writing in response to a series of prompts and oral sharing of that writing with limited direct instruction. Data for the study was gathered through students' written products and observations of the writing group sessions. A qualitative design allowed for the emergence of other effects, and the data was analyzed to identify recurrent themes.An analysis of the data according to a grounded theory approach reveals support for such groups based upon their ability to promote language acquisition and the formation of a community. The participants wrote more a the writing group progressed; began to revise their writing; largely emphasized form, spelling specifically, over other elements of writing; and wrote exclusively in English. In addition, the writing group became a community as evident in the verbal encouragement among the women, the help with writing tasks that the women provided to each other, the applause after the women read their work, and the cross-cultural sharing that occurred. Yet, beyond the time and space of the writing group, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that participation in the group affected the women's other relationships, that the writing group necessarily helped women to acculturate, or that the writing group led to measurable social change.The results contribute to the field of second language acquisition by offering insights into how we might rethink the curriculum to incorporate more personal writing activities to facilitate not only language skills but also acculturation.
dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.
Swan, Jessica D., "Writing to Understand our Lives and Languages: A Case Study of an Immigrant Women's Writing Group" (2012). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 598.