ORCA Symposium

Congratulations to Rachel Casper

Presenting at the 2017 ORCA Symposium

October 13th 3-5 in 4010 JFSB

Rachel Briney Casper has been accepted to present at this years ORCA symposium. Rachel is a undergraduate student pursuing an education in Linguistics. She is a bright student who has participated in a research group on campus that studies eye-tracking. This research group has two articles in review, one of which Rachel was a co-author. Her presentation at the ORCA symposium is titled “Not Seeing Eye-to-Eye: How Compositionists and Applied Linguists View and Assess Student Texts Differently”. The abstract for this presentation is as follows:

The epistemological divide between rhetoric and linguistics, dating to Grecian times, effects the way teachers assess writing modernly. For instance, composition teachers (trained in rhetoric) are likely to “see” the rhetorical, organizational, lexical, and grammatical features of student texts differently than ESL writing instructors (trained in linguistics). This can negatively affect how ESL writers are prepared for a first-year writing course (FYC) and how their writing is graded once they arrive.
We present evidence of differential assessment practices between compositionists and ESL writing teachers drawn from eye-tracking research data. This data measures the miniscule eye movements teachers make while reading student texts. Accordingly, we asked 5 compositionists and 5 ESL writing teachers to read and assess two similarly weak FYC essays using our eye-tracking device. One essay was written by a native English speaking student and one by an ESL student. The writing teachers were then asked to describe their reading and rating experience in in-depth interviews.
According to our research, compositionists are more attuned to rhetorical structures in student essays than their ESL counterparts. However, compositionists tend to give substantially lower scores to student writing, in part because they fixate on grammar and lexical errors longer than ESL writing instructors. And while both instructors claim to view native and non-native English writing in the same way, eye-tracking data demonstrates empirically that this is not the case; compositionists read ESL text with less fluency and fixate longer on all problem areas in comparison to their reading of native English text.
Implications of this research are numerous for developing future writing teachers who want to benefit their growing population of international students. For example, more cross-training of teachers would lead to better experiences for ESL writers before and during FYC courses

In addition to presenting at the ORCA symposium, she has recently also been invited to represent the entire Humanities College at the semi-annual President’s Leadership Council luncheon. Only 12-15 students across the campus who have received ORCA grants are invited to participate at this exclusive meeting of top-level BYU donors. This will be Rachel’s 5th presentation of some aspect of this project (1 international, 1 national, 1 regional, 2 local). She also has a co-authored publication in review associated with her research.