Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Applied Linguistics and Technology

First Advisor

Carol A. Chapelle


Many American universities offer ESL academic writing courses to help international students prepare for written communication in other university courses. This study investigated the connections and/or disconnections across an ESL writing course, a first-year composition course, and content courses at Iowa State University from the perspective of writing assessment. As a longitudinal mixed-methods study, data were collected over one academic year from 108 international students, 14 instructors of an ESL writing course, 18 instructors of a first-year composition course, and four instructors of content courses. Quantitative data included grades on written assignments and survey responses, while qualitative data consisted of course documents such as assignment sheets and scoring rubrics, written assignments, instructors’ written feedback on students’ drafts, interview recordings, and survey responses.

The study found that the ESL writing course was not very well connected to the first-year composition or content courses in terms of writing assessment. There was a close correspondence across the three writing contexts in terms of evaluation criteria, but not in terms of writing tasks and the grades that students actually received on their writing assignments. Also, students’ performance on the written assessment in the ESL writing course was not a reliable indicator of their readiness for writing in other courses. In addition, although students were positive about the learning transfer from the ESL writing to other courses, the first-year composition and content course instructors were negative about it. These findings have implications for revising writing assignments, modifying evaluation practice, and determining ways to enhance learning transfer across the three writing contexts. Although the study was conducted within the context of Iowa State University, the findings are expected to have relevance beyond this particular institution given that ESL academic writing courses in American universities are designed in a more or less similar way and share comparable goals as those offered at Iowa State University.

Copyright Owner

Jooyoung Lee



File Format


File Size

344 pages