Surviving through uncertainties: perceptions and experiences of Chinese EAL writers in FYC courses at a Canadian university




Mao, Jing

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Canadian universities and colleges have experienced a rapid increase in students who speak English as an additional language (EAL). A central concern of this change involves how to support these students to navigate their studies abroad, especially in academic writing. Against this broader context, this dissertation investigates the writing trajectories and socialization experiences of six Chinese EAL learners in their first-year composition (FYC) courses at a Canadian university. This study draws on an ecological perspective toward language learning and use (Dufva, 2013; van Lier, 2004; 2008a, 2010), as well as theories of (second) language academic socialization (Duff, 2010; 2019; Duff & Anderson, 2015). To capture students’ lived experiences in a situated context, a multiple-case study method was employed to include multiple perspectives toward students’ writing practices and socialization experiences in navigating their written assignments and activities. The findings of this study showed that EAL students experienced challenges in relearning language skills, meeting course expectations and conventions, navigating intensive readings, and negotiating self-positioning with native English-speaking peers. Coupled with faculty perceptions, the findings highlight that composition instructors may underestimate EAL students’ emotional pressure related to academic writing when they seek support. This study further uncovered interconnected factors impacting EAL students’ writing experiences at various levels of the local context. Most importantly, it provides evidence of learner agency among EAL students in accessing learning affordances and socialization processes. By adding an ecological understanding of EAL learners’ writing practices and socialization experiences in the context of FYC courses, this study recommends establishing an agency rich and networked environment that could empower EAL learners to thrive in FYC context.



Chinese EAL writers, Challenges, Learner agency, Canadian higher education, Ecological an language socialization perspective, First-year composition (FYC) courses