"Far" transfer of learning outcomes from an ESL writing course: Can the gap be bridged?

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This paper presents a detailed examination of learning transfer from a university English as a second language (ESL) writing course to a writing task with characteristics very different from the kind of writing done in this ESL writing course but typical of the kind of writing required in other academic courses (i.e., involving text-responsible writing [Leki & Carson, 1997]). Thirty students completed this task. To try to stimulate transfer of learning outcomes from the course to the task, half of the students were asked before they started writing to identify similarities between the task and work in the writing course. All students were interviewed afterwards about how they completed the task. The students' writing from the task and from one assignment from the course was assessed for use of 15 learning outcomes targeted in the course; also, students' reports of intentional learning transfer were identified in the interview transcripts. The results indicated that learning outcomes did transfer from the course to the task, but in a constrained way; also, asking students to identify similarities between the task and the course did not promote learning transfer. Implications of these findings for theory, practice, and future research in second language writing education are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-84
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Second Language Writing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2009



  • English (second language)
  • Instruction
  • Skills
  • Transfer of training
  • Written language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language

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