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Understanding voice in the disciplines: The struggles of Latina non -traditional students and their instructors

Doris M Correa, University of Massachusetts Amherst


For years, university faculty has complained that students come to the university unprepared to meet the demands of their content courses. In particular, they complain that students do not know how to cite or how to quote the work of others. To help students, university and content faculty have taken a series of measures which include creating a series of junior and academic writing courses, developing academic honesty policies and bringing APA or MLA handouts to class, and including in their syllabi academic honesty policies. All these measures come from a view of writing as a set of rules that can be applied across contexts, situations, and audiences. Given that students continue to struggle with issues of voice in their academic writing, it is important to review these views and practices and find other ways to help students. In the past 40 years, genre and SFL scholars have been arguing for a more situated view of writing in which writing is a social practice that varies from one context to another and from one discourse community to another. Drawing on these theories, this study explores how content faculty can more effectively help students in general, and ESL nontraditional students in particular, develop their disciplinary voices. This study examines the difficulties that a group of undergraduate Latina nontraditional students encountered while adopting a disciplinary voice and incorporating the voices of others in their texts, including the reasons for these difficulties and faculty support received. Ethnographic, Critical Language Awareness, and Systemic Functional Linguistics methods of data collection and analysis were used to explore these issues. Findings suggest that to effectively help ESL students respond to the different writing and voice demands of their disciplinary courses, content faculty need to work collaboratively with students and college ESL and writing instructors in adopting and presenting a more dynamic view of writing and voice. In this dynamic view, students are not required to memorize rules for attribution of voice applicable across disciplines, but to analyze the situation and the audience before deciding what voices to use and how to use them.

Subject Area

Womens studies|Teacher education|Rhetoric|Composition|Curricula|Teaching|Hispanic Americans|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Correa, Doris M, "Understanding voice in the disciplines: The struggles of Latina non -traditional students and their instructors" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3315508.