English language learning in Mexico : a case study of implementing problem based learning into a technology enhanced writing curriculum



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English for Academic Purposes literature is often criticized for its very functional interpretation of language (e.g. Benesch, 2001) which ignores the intellectual, cultural, and social side of learning in an attempt to appear “neutral.” Furthermore, writing is the EAP skill area which seems to provide students with the most difficulty. Many EAP students express high levels of frustration toward their writing despite years and years of ESOL writing courses (e.g. Johannson, 2001). Thus, the purpose of this study was to invent and describe a curriculum which would approach the teaching and learning of EAP writing in a way that addressed student frustrations toward L2 writing, shifted the idea of EAP writing back toward the more authentic purpose of communication and, described students’ reaction to the curriculum. The resultant PBL2 curriculum evolved into a method, under the umbrellas of Communicative Language Teaching and the Process Approach, that “fleshed out” EAP curricula with regard to second language writing by recognizing students as intellectual, cultural, and social beings, promoting life-long learning, emphasizing the importance of discourse communities, and by shifting the focus of writing to communication. This dissertation is a teacher research-evaluative case study that took place in an exit-level EFL course at a small bilingual university in Mexico City. The students were all Mexican nationals, of an average age of 21, whose majors included psychology, business administration, international studies, and computer information systems. All were enrolled in the class in order to complete the mandatory English requirements of the university. The data collected included observations via a teacher-researcher journal/lesson report per Richards & Lockhart (1994), three audio taped semi-structured student interviews per Seidman (1998), and various course related documents such as student assignments and instructor evaluations. Three types of analyses were used: (1) emergent theme-constant comparative analysis, (2) cross case analysis, and (3) document analysis. During analysis, issues concerning the impact of the learners’ feelings toward the L2 emerged along with issues of culture, hegemony and power; moreover, classroom management and learning communities were highlighted in addition to the invaluable role of technology in facilitating the PBL2 inquiry process.