Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career and Higher Education

Major Professor

James A. Eison


Community college, Composition, Culture, Latinas, Non-native speakers


The role of culture as a phenomenon guided this qualitative study, which examined the influence of diverse Hispanic cultures on the attitudes and perceptions towards college writing courses of female Hispanic students who are non-native speakers of English. With the increasing number of Hispanic immigrants coming to the U.S., the minority student population at our nation's colleges and universities has also risen. Community colleges have become the means through which many of these Hispanic immigrants obtain a college education.

The eight women who participated in this study self-identified as Hispanic. All were first generation college students who had been born outside of the United States. Three were born in Puerto Rico, two were born in Cuba, and the remaining three came from Uruguay, Colombia, and Mexico, respectively. The eight participants were students at a Florida community college, and all had already completed at least one college writing course.

The data were collected through the use of individual interviews (Patton, 1987) and responses to journal prompts (Owens, 2007). The journal prompts and interview questions were designed to elicit the participants' descriptions of their experiences in their college writing courses and their attitudes towards their college writing coursework. These eight women provided insight into how their culture as Hispanic females affects their learning experiences in college writing courses.

This study was based on three exploratory questions:

* What are the cultural influences that shape the experiences of female Hispanic ESL learners in college writing courses?

* How do these cultural influences affect student learning, specifically those skills involving thinking, conducting research, and using correct grammar, format, and citation?

* Have these cultural influences produced a learning experience that is transformative? If so, how?

The data were analyzed using qualitative analysis software. The findings were triangulated through this analysis of the responses, by having the participants check the transcripts for accuracy, and through the use of a researcher reflective journal (Creswell, 1998). Five emergent themes were extracted from the data:

1. The frustrations and struggles ESL students experience in their college writing courses;

2. The desire to succeed in school and in their prospective careers;

3. The influence of teachers on their academic experiences;

4. The importance family for emotional support; and

5. The necessity of cultural assimilation without compromising one's own cultural identity.

From these themes, descriptive statements (Creswell, 2007) were developed that suggest answers to the exploratory questions. These descriptive statements are:

* Female Hispanic ESL learners are influenced by several elements of their culture, specifically in their relationships with their families and their instructors.

* Female Hispanic ESL learners consider English language acquisition an integral element of cultural assimilation.

* Female Hispanic ESL learners see the transformative aspect of their English writing courses as requiring them to change on both a personal and a societal level.

These descriptive statements formed the basis for a discussion of implications in both teaching and curriculum development, and recommendations for future research. These recommendations include promoting awareness of the cultural and institutional barriers that are the result of a lack of personal connections between students and teachers, such as the limited availability of tutors and other learning center staff; the limited availability of instructors whose native language is the same as that of the ESL student; family and child care responsibilities; problems related to full- or part-time employment; transportation issues; and the lack of college writing courses designed specifically for non-native speakers.