chapter  3
22 Pages


On the first day of the spring 1992 semester, I hurried through corridors crowded with students. My usual first-day nervousness was heightened by the knowledge that these new classes would provide the data for my study of student journal writing. Because the classroom was on a floor undergoing renovation, the elevators and the main stairs had been sealed off to protect the college community from asbestos fibers and other debris from the construction. To get to the classroom, it was necessary to use the fire stairs from the floor below, which remained open for safety reasons. The following excerpt from the teaching journal I kept for a professional development seminar will give a sense of the setting in which this study began:

The students who soon filled the room, ali classified by the college as “advanced ESL writers,” were a diverse group. The 21 students came from 11 different countries and spoke nine different native languages. The length of time these students had lived in the United States ranged from 1 to 9 years. Eight had graduated from U.S. high schools, and six had attended other colleges, three of which were in the United States.