Inas Mahfouz

Title: “Did anyone ever…?” Reader Engagement in First Year Writing: A cross cultural study

Abstract: Freshman writing courses offered in the higher education on the Gulf Council Countries (GCC) follow the American model where all freshman students are expected to take one or more semester long writing courses that focus on critical reading, rhetorical awareness, and genre awareness. These courses are designed to help freshman students bridge the gap between their secondary education and college level writing that they are expected to produce. These non-native students are usually blamed for their production in the same way as native students have long been criticized for not being “able to write English at the minimal college level” (Sheils 1975 p.58). The case is often complicated because to these students English is a second or a foreign language. These non-native learners (L2) often find themselves in an unjustified comparison with their Western counterparts as if the adoption of the American model of higher education automatically entails boosting their knowledge of a language and culture to which many of them had little or no exposure. This paper combines quantitative and qualitative approaches to understand how students across different cultures engage with their readers in different genres.
The study relies on two learner corpora, the first is built from writings of American students and the second consists of writings of Arab students. The researcher adopts Hyland (2005) model of reader engagement to investigate whether students from different cultures engage their readers differently while producing different text types. This corpus-based analysis examines two different corpora to pinpoint whether culture or text type has a greater influence on students’ choices of engagement markers. By combining language-based and socio-rhetorical context-based approaches, the study aims to highlight practical teaching techniques that address the practical needs of different learners across different cultures.