Learning to mentor and be mentored: distributed expertise in an ESL composition classroom

This study seeks to fill a gap at the intersection of the fields of ESL, composition studies, and mentorship; particularly embedded mentorship in ESL writing classrooms. As increasing numbers of non-native and non-traditional students enter higher education in the U.S. the need for instructional approaches that provide multiple avenues of support must be explored. This study examines students’ and mentors’ perceptions of a model of writing instruction emphasizing the distribution of expertise in order to provide insight into a pedagogical approach that may better meet the needs of ESL academic writers. Findings are based on both quantitative data from student surveys and qualitative data from student and mentor interviews, mentor reflective journals, and researcher field notes. Participants in the study were drawn from a class of international ESL students and embedded mentors in a beginning academic writing class at a state university. The implications of this study in regards to ESL pragmatism and ideology, the role of ESL experience, transfer of learning, and distributed cognition are discussed. In addition, re-conceptualizations of the role of instructors are explored.