An exploration of the process of reading to write used by good Spanish-as-a-foreign-language students

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Virginia Tech

Research in the process of reading to write used by foreign language (FL) students is lacking. This study is descriptive in nature as its main purpose was to generate a hypothesis about how good Spanish-as-foreign-language (SFL) students in a third-year level class performed reading-to-write tasks. The following objectives guided the investigation: (1) to explore the processes and strategies that good upper-level SFL students in a third-year Spanish composition class used to perform reading-to-write tasks; (2) to explore how the processes used were affected by the contextual constraints of academic writing within an authentic FL class; and (3) to explore how the students integrated information from the source texts into their writing in terms of types of use of information, their function, and location in the students' texts. Case study was used to explore the processes of reading to write and to capture the relationship between cognition and context within an academic FL setting.

In order to achieve the objectives of the study, two good third-year SFL students from a composition and conversation class in a large southeastern university were the subjects in this investigation. The subjects performed two reading-to-write tasks as part of their class assignments. The two reading-to-write tasks were intensely analyzed as to the processes and strategies that the subjects used and the effects of the teacher's expectations, of the rules and conventions of academic writing, and of the subjects’ limited command in Spanish on such processes. In addition, a product analysis was conducted on the final written products. Stimulated-recall interview was used as the method for data collection process. The subjects also kept reading and writing logs for each task that were used to help stimulate recall of the processes they used.

Findings indicate that the process of reading to write used by good third-year SFL students is a recursive process that includes the orchestration of the following major processes: brainstorming/synthesizing, monitoring, structuring, elaborating, planning, relaxing, writing, revising, and editing. In addition, results show that contextual constraints affect the processes listed above. Among the contextual factors explored, teacher's expectations had the strongest effect. Rules and conventions of academic writing and limited command of Spanish also affected the processes of writing from source texts. Results from the product analysis indicate that good SFL students tend to integrate information from the source texts using mainly original statements, synthesis, and paraphrases. Results led to the design of a preliminary-research based model that could have important implications for future research and consequences for teaching.