Suggestions for Advocating for L2 Writers through WAC

This page displays suggestions for advocating for second-language writers through WAC. If you have any comments or suggestions about this page, please contact WAC and Second-Language Writers Resources editor Kendon Kurzer at

  • Connect with other groups on campus that advocate for L2 writers such as ESL specialists, an academic support center, the writing center, a diversity advocacy group, ethnic studies programs.  You can simply meet with folks from these groups to see how WAC can work with them to advocate for L2 writers, perhaps by offering programming together, and putting together resources.  Or you could combine forces, by coming together as a more formal group, such as a committee, task force, or advisory board.
  • Collaborate with other groups on campus to offer support for L2 writers writing across the curriculum and in graduate programs.  Examples of such support include stand-alone writing courses for L2 graduate students, writing fellows programs that include training in supporting L2 writers, and writing groups specific to particular disciplines or graduate students. 
  • Work to change the institutional landscape for L2 writers though curricular changes, increasing the visibility of L2 writers by celebrating their writing, and by highlighting multilingual faculty.  Examples of such work include Gail Shuck's work with cross-cultural courses across the curriculum, which are designed to co-enroll native English speaking and L2 students, Gail Shuck's "Conference on Language," a public reading by L2 students on their experiences with language, and Anne Ellen Geller's research on multilingual faculty at St. John's University.
  • Gather data about L2 writers from institutional research, area school profiles provided online by the Department of Education (see, for example, profiles of Massachusetts schools at, and/or surveys of students at your institution to create a picture of ESL students on your campus.  You can then present this information to faculty during meetings and workshops.
  • Conduct research on L2 writers on your campus by surveying L2 writers on their writing histories, writing experiences on your campus, and what they would like faculty to know about them as writers.  Or, you could interview a range of L2 writers across campus, as have Terry Zawacki, Eiman Hajabassi, Anna Habib, Alex Antram, and Alokparna Das, at George Mason University (their resulting publication, Valuing Written Accents: Non-native Students Talk about Identity, Academic Writing, and Meeting Teachers' Expectationscan be viewed here: .  Or you could conduct longitudinal case studies on L2 students, to trace their writing experiences across courses or across their years of study on your campus, as Ilona Leki has done at the University of Tennessee.  This kind of research creates richer data to present to faculty across the curriculum.
  • Offer workshops and/or brown bags on L2 writers and writing where you present information about second language writing, L2 writers on your campus, or simply ask faculty to share their experiences with L2 writers in their courses.
  • Create ways to differentiate between L2 writers and native English speaking students during assessment.  Many campuses conduct a variety of surveys and other assessments, such as campus climate surveys and assessment of student experiences in WI courses.  Being able to differentiate data according to linguistic diversity will provide a richer picture of L2 students' experiences on your campus.
  • Make resources on L2 writing and writers available to faculty.  I have found two resources to be especially helpful. First is Ben Rafoth and Shanti Bruce's ESL Writers: A Guide for Writing Center Tutors (Heinemann, 2004).  Though this book is aimed at writing center tutors, many of the chapters are helpful for teachers working with second language writers, such as the chapters on second language acquisition, reading ESL writers' texts, giving feedback without appropriating a second language writer's text, and thinking through the complexities of plagiarism with second language students.  Second is Wayne Robertson's film, Writing Across Borders (Oregon State University, 2005).  Wayne Robertson and others at OSU filmed interviews of students across the university about their experiences with and ideas about writing.  The film also includes interviews with faculty at the university, as well as scholars in L2 writing.  You could also create your own in-house resource focused on working with L2 writers, as have Catherine Black and Rebecca Smollett at the Ontario College of Art & Design, with their publication Supporting ESL Students at OCAD, which is also available online .
  • Bring up L2 writers during conversations about writing whether during workshops, meetings, or conversations with faculty.  Bring up L2 writers during conversations about assignment design, peer review, assessment, helping students write with sources, and other topics related to writing.  In this way, L2 writers are continually envisioned as part of, not apart from, the student body, and therefore part of courses across campus.