Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language

First Advisor

Dr. Diane Belcher

Second Advisor

Dr. Viviana Cortes

Third Advisor

Dr. John Murphy

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Alanna Frost


Despite the fact that international undergraduate students have been the most studied population in the field of Second Language Writing and that generation 1.5 students have received increasing attention in the past decade, our knowledge of what happens in college composition and subject-area classes with these students is still limited (Belcher, 2012). Moreover, surprisingly little is known about how these students’ academic literacy experiences compare to those of undergraduate native-speakers of English or about faculty’s perspectives regarding the academic literacies of these three student populations. Accordingly, the purposes of the present study were (1) to investigate generation 1.5, international, and native-speaking students’ academic literacy experiences and needs in composition and subject-area classes in first-year college as well as (2) to explore instructors’ perspectives and practices concerning students’ academic literacies. Multiple-case studies were conducted with twelve focal participants during their first semester in college: four international, four generation 1.5, and four native-speaking undergraduate students. Furthermore, the students’ composition instructors (n=4) and some of their subject-area instructors (n=18) also participated in the study. Data collection procedures included interviews, classroom observations, and written artifacts from both students and instructors, such as assignments, commented-on essays, prompts, reading materials, rubrics, and syllabi. The findings revealed that the three student populations faced some challenges in their first semester of college pertaining to reading, writing, and socio-academic literacy practices. Some of their difficulties were similar across the board (e.g., limited reading and writing practices) while others were specific to each student population (e.g., lexical issues for international students). Nonetheless, the generation 1.5 and international students succeeded in all of their classes and appeared to be more academically socialized than the native-speaking students. These multilingual students learned to develop effective study strategies and draw on resources available to them while the native-speaking student participants did not seem equipped with the socio-academic tools needed to negotiate postsecondary academic literacy demands. Additionally, the findings indicate that the instructors’ expectations regarding reading practices in their courses did not always align with those of the focal participants as faculty seemed to place a much higher importance on reading than the students did.