Discourse and identity among ESL learners: A case study of a community college ESL classroom

Yueh-ching Chang, Melanie Sperling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


While research in L2 language and literacy in academic contexts has shed light on learning language per se (e.g., students' development of syntactic complexity), classroom situations, in which ESL students engage in English and make it meaningful to them, have received far less attention. With a sociocultural perspective, this qualitative case study examined the discursive practices of a face-to-face community college ESL classroom and of its online discussion forums. We found that the discourse in the face-to-face classroom tended to prioritize shaping students' academic knowledge and identity, pushing aside knowledge and identities that were peer- or lifeworld based. In contrast, the online forums afforded discourses through which students displayed peer-based, life-world, and academic knowledge and identities, while negotiating responses to academic assignments. The study suggests that classroom-based online forums can provide a space for the legitimate display of students' nonacademic discourses in the service of academic work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-51
Number of pages21
JournalResearch in the Teaching of English
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014

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