Saudi Students’ Social Identity and Their Identity in Academic Writing: A Qualitative Study of Saudi Students in the UK
thesisposted on 26.06.2017, 11:56 by Sarah Rushdi Taj
This study is concerned with Saudi PhD students’ construction of writer identity in academic writing in the context of British higher education. In response to a growing need to understand the process of students’ intercultural adaptation and the approaches that can facilitate the students’ learning experience in the UK (Gill, 2007), this study aims to explore if active social participation in their academic community can facilitate students’ writer identity construction. The key argument of this study is that such active participation can be a process of learning the relevant conventions of writer identity. The study draws on Wenger (1998a) emphasising the role of ‘community’ and active participation in learning. Thus, the study aims to uncover the students’ expression of identity in academic writing (ID-AW), their enactment of social identity in their academic community (ID-AC), and the possible relationship between them. This study explores the ID-AC and ID-AW of four Saudi PhD students at UK universities. I conduct a qualitative case study utilising diaries of interaction, semi-structured interviews, the students’ academic written drafts, and stimulated recalls. Informed by Norton Pierce’s (1995) and Norton’s (2000) theory of social identity, the investigation of the Saudi students’ ID-AC reveals how they use and avoid opportunities to interact presenting an interplay between power relations and the students’ participation. The study exhibits that Saudi students’ interactions in their academic community can be directed by their desire for success, desire for mutual identification, desire to exhibit knowledge, cultural dispositions, feelings of foreignness, language disadvantage, and imagined future goals. Drawing upon Hyland’s (2005, 2012a) model of keys of academic interaction and Svalberg and Gieve (2010) content types, the investigation of the Saudi students’ ID-AW reveals how the students interpret, adapt and fail to adapt conventions of academic English writing. It is shown that the students have different level of awareness to their constructed ID-AW. The students’ ID-AW results from several factors that appear to have a more powerful impact on their ID-AW than their active participation in their academic community. The findings of the study draw attention to the need to explicitly bring issues of ID-AW to the students’ attention. Starting from addressing the students’ initial beliefs about writer identity, deconstructing expert texts, and enabling them to take a more autonomous role in their learning.