The composition writing experiences of Korean undergraduates in the United States: Five case studies

Date of Completion

January 2007


Education, Language and Literature|Language, Rhetoric and Composition|Education, Curriculum and Instruction




According to postmodernism, we can have a knowledge of things only if they have meaning. Meaning is individual and subjective. Also, knowledge is contextual; it is socially and culturally constructed. School is a social and cultural site where each student constructs different discourse styles and ways of thinking. In the application of this concept of knowledge construction to teaching English writing composition, educators consider students as individual and subjective agents who create contextual meaning in order to improve their writing ability. However, EFL students may perceive or experience writing composition and its related learning contexts differently from native English-speaking students. Since a student's cultural background is embedded in his or her concrete experiences and reflects what is real to him or her, conflicts in English writing composition classrooms arise from the gap between educators' expectations and students' different responses. Since there is an increased number of foreign students in the United States, we need to understand their perceptions and the differences caused by their cultural backgrounds. ^ The purpose of this study was to understand the writing processes by which EFL students constructed meaning in an educational setting that was culturally different from that of their native country. This was accomplished by examining the writing processes, experiences, and perceptions of five selected Korean EFL students in beginning-level English writing classes in a public United States university. The data were gathered from interviewing, narrative inquiry, classroom observations, open-ended questionnaires, portfolio, and think-aloud protocols. A case study analysis and cross case analysis were conducted to explain the students' experiences in the writing process. ^ The students reported that there were many elements that they confused in the process of learning writing caused by different perspectives from the teachers. Different cultural ways of thinking affected their composition writing in the way of making meaning. Their writing styles revealed culturally different their way of thinking. Knowledge about the EFL students in order to help them more effectively was suggested based on the results from the study. The finding of this study will contribute to further understanding of the learning processes of culturally different students. ^