Appointment Strategies: EAL Writers

Welcome! The EAL Tutoring Guide supports Writing Center TutorWriting Center Tutors’ work with English as an Additional Language (EAL) writers. It supplements the Writing Center training courses (WRD 395/WRD 582), Handbook, and tutors’ ongoing professional development training. While all Writing Center training and core practices draw from second language writing research, we want to more directly and explicitly support our tutors’ work with EAL writers by offering you more in-depth theory, best practices, resources, and examples of effective EAL tutoring.

Best Practices

These best practices are great to use as a prep for an appointment, or for reflection, but remember that all writers are different, and therefore require different tutoring approaches. We want you to use these best practices (in addition to those in Writing Center Tutoring Writing Center Tutoring and the other Appointment StrategiesAppointment Strategies pages) not as set-in-stone-rules, but as a foundation for learning and development. Be critical as you read, connecting these ideas to your practices in daily work as a peer writing tutor.

EAL Approaches to Writing Center Core Practices

First, here are EAL-specific approaches to working with the Writing Center Core Practices. While there is no one way to interpret the Core Practices or put them into practice, critical reflection and examination of your work with these practices are important.
We've drawn from TESOL and L2 writing scholarship to offer you ways of thinking about and adapting your tutoring practices for EAL writers.

Build & Cultivate Rapport

As with any writer, rapport can help break down fears, anxieties, or apprehensions about writing. This is especially true for EAL writers and international students. For more on building rapport with EAL writers, revisit Bruce (2009).
Building rapport with EAL writers:
  • Slow down the rapport-building process. This will help you and the writer become acquainted, ease their apprehensions, and better understand their linguistic and cultural backgrounds
  • Don’t assume that the writer is an EAL writer, or that they’re seeking help with language and grammar. Instead, ask about their assignment, concerns, and previous writing experience. Through this line of questioning, you can avoid any microaggressions, and uncover more about their individual writing identity

Communicate Clearly, Respectfully, & Honestly

EAL and international writers often have additional apprehensions about working with a writing center tutor on their writing and language. They may also pay closer attention to your communication, and read more into what you say and how you say it. Clear, respectful, and honest communication can be especially effective in creating an apprehension-free environment.
Clearly Communicate:
  • Your roles in the appointment
  • How you will use the time you have and that the agenda can change
  • Direct and explicit information to the writer. Communicate why this information is relevant for the writer and their work without mandating specific edits or changes

Ask Questions

Asking questions about the writer's experiences with language and writing can help establish rapport, and it can help you determine what agenda items to collaboratively set. For more on how to effectively use questions in an appointment with EAL writer, revisit Bruce (2009).
What to ask:
  • About their expectations for the appointment and what they know about the Writing Center
  • About their experiences with writing (both in a US academic context as well as other contexts)
  • About their strengths and concerns with their writing
  • About the specific situation or assignment and its outcomes
  • What they think about their work so far, or response to the assignment

Collaboratively Set an Agenda to Guide Your Work

As with any writer and appointment, a collaboratively set agenda helps establish a mutual understanding of how you'll use your time. This can also clear up any misconceptions and expectations the writer has. For more on working with EAL writers on an agenda, revisit Bruce (2009).
Collaborative agendas:
  • Make it clear that this is their appointment and that they are in control. Whether because of cultural backgrounds or personal apprehensions, writers may perceive you as the authority. Explain each of your roles in the appointment
  • U.S. culture values jumping right into the work, but not all cultures do. Talking through how you and the writer can use and navigate the time allowed is especially valuable when working with EAL and international writers
  • Making the agenda visible can help you and the writer navigate the agenda; it can show a hierarchy, or even the relationship between the agenda items. This can also make the transition into next steps more fluid

Listen & Read Actively

Every writer and every text comes with different needs and different approaches to the work. Reading through the entire text is especially important for EAL writing as approaches to arguments or organization differ between cultures and contexts. For more on listening and reading actively, revisit Matsuda and Cox (2009).
To be an effective reader and listener of EAL writers:
  • If you have time: do a quick, silent read of the text to get a sense of the main idea, what is being communicated, and its organization
  • Talk with the writer about reading their project aloud, it can be a valuable way to get an outside view. When reading aloud, EAL writers may focus on their language and pronunciation, distracting them from the writing itself. Hearing you read aloud can rhetorically help with the processing of the writing and the meaning
  • Read through the whole text, and take notes about what you notice—content, organization, language error patterns. Then revisit the agenda based on what you and the writer noticed
  • Listen to what the writer is saying, not how they are saying it
  • Do your best to focus on the rhetorical and global order concerns, looking past variations in language and discursive elements. Once you've read through, you can always reread with an eye on the language
  • If you do get lost while reading, take a step back and isolate where you became confused and why. That can offer great metadiscursive discussion

Provide Specific Feedback

For any writer, text-specific feedback is crucial in seeing concrete examples of their writing as it relates to your feedback. For EAL writers, it is important that your feedback is direct: clearly and explicitly indicate what, how, and why with your feedback. But do not be directive in what they need to do with that feedback. Pointing to concrete instances in the text is a great way to manage that.
When providing feedback:
  • Don't assume meaning. Instead present what you, a reader, interpreted the meaning to be, pointing to the language/structure in the text itself and how that influenced your interpretation
  • Focusing on specific passages has been shown to aid in avoiding appropriation. In synchronous contexts, this allows you the opportunity to discuss the meaning and approaches to revision. In asynchronous contexts, it allows you the opportunity to also go deeper into your explanation, instead of glossing over with a quick fix
  • Consider the genre and context for the EAL writer's text, and use this as an opportunity to explain the conventions and contextualize your feedback

Provide Generalizable & Transferable Feedback

Making your feedback explicit and transferable is important with all writers and especially with EAL and international writers. The expectation may be that you'll fix all the errors, so explain how and why you are approaching the feedback. It's also important to indicate how they can use this feedback in other contexts as well.
Making your feedback transfer:
  • Give an overview and rationale for why each agenda item is important, also explicitly stating that you aren't going to address all instances of each agenda item
  • In the feedback itself, indicate several passages where the writer has the opportunity to work on said agenda item. Make sure to then indicate that there are other instances you see needing attention—you can make use of color-coded highlights, but it is okay not to find every single instance, just enough to indicate the pattern
  • As a next steps item, indicate how the writer can utilize this feedback in other writing contexts. Explain the genre conventions and why those conventions are expected in that genre and context

Adopt & Adapt Specific Strategies for Each Particular Writer & Their Particular Writing Context

There is no one right way to respond to an EAL writer or writing. As with any effective tutoring, you need to be flexible and adapt to each individual writer and text.
Being adaptive for EAL writers:
  • It can be more effective for you to read aloud; EAL writers may focus on their language and pronunciation, distracting them from the writing itself. Hearing you read aloud can rhetorically help with the processing of the writing and the meaning
  • Extending the rapport-building and early stages of the appointment can help you better understand the individual writer and their needs
  • Ask the writer about their writing process and where they are in that process to better understand how you can effectively approach the work

Provide Resources that Build on or Augment Your Own Expertise

Definitely pull from the resources you regularly use in appointments. However, while many resources are developed in a generalist sense, some may not be as effective or accessible for an EAL writer. So if you feel your writer is having a hard time connecting with the material, consider a more EAL-specific resource. For a list of topic-based resources, check out the EAL Tutoring ResourcesEAL Tutoring Resources.
Effectively using your resources:
  • Explain what the resource is, and why it's valuable
  • Explain how the writer can use the resource, and how that transfers beyond this appointment (and this text)
  • Many of our go-to resources can often assume cultural knowledge—academic, social, etc. Either refer to an EAL-specific resource, or explicate the meaning and context for the writer

Plan Next Steps

Having your writer explain their next steps can help you assess their takeaways from your time together. It can also help you reinforce that this is just one person's feedback on one response to one type of writing. But it also allows you to continue the rapport-building, encouraging the writer to return.
In your next steps:
  • Reiterate to the writer that you haven't fixed everything in the paper or even every instance of your agenda items
  • Revisit the agenda, reviewing all you've accomplished, and explain how the writer can use it as a guide when continuing on their own
  • As with the agenda, writing down the next steps can be a helpful visual—and you can then build upon those steps in your summary letter

Stances in Our Response to EAL Writing

Feedback to EAL and international writers' writing can be politically charged. We're here to help students in their learning of the material, to act and think like a member of the discourse/discipline, and to improve their work to be seen as a member of that discourse/discipline. As Carol Severino asserts: "the ideology can be construed as more conservative and assimilative to the status quo." Pedagogy shows, however, that the opposite leads to effective learning and expressing knowledge.
While we are here to guide writers through their learning processes and often immersion into a discourse , telling them do this or do that offers them no genuine exploration. It corrects the idea rather than responding to it. Severino further argues that these political implications ought to be brought to the surface of our work and carefully examined.
This is true too in the response we have and feedback we provide to EAL writers' texts. Our responses, what we say, and how we say it can have linguistic and cultural implications. How we approach our feedback is determined by many things. Severino offers some of these complex factors that determine our approach (these are by no means all the factors):
  • The tutor's own experience with feedback and response to their writing
  • The learning outcomes of the program or department
  • The tutor's pedagogical approach
  • The specific exigence and task
  • The needs of the writer
  • The tutor's "political attitude," their ideology toward international students and EAL writers
These factors are clearly complex, and some may be more actively a part of our stance, others not so much. Regardless of what our answers are to the above factors, if we think through the purpose of our feedback, we can be more consciously aware of our stance on feedback and how that is then affecting the writers with whom we work.

Avoiding an Assimilationist Stance

As with any assimilation the focus of this feedback is to blend the writer's language and work into the expectations of the target discourse. So in academic work this may be along the lines of, "in [discipline] we do this" or expecting writers to use "standard" academic English. The problem with an assimilationist approach is that it focuses so heavily on the language and conventions that the ideas, purpose, and attention to the learning itself often get lost—on both the writers' end and on the tutors' end.
Yes, language and conventions are important, but this approach takes the emphasis away from the ideas, preventing writers from really exploring the material or making connections to their experiences. Rather than getting their unique perspective, we push them to produce templated, uncritical, and non-meaningful work. One thing to note is that this approach often doesn't come from a hurtful or harmful intent. It's more often from unexamined stances, inexperience, or not understanding what will really help the student. Matsuda and Cox argue that:
"It is important to realize that differences are not necessarily signs of deficiency. In fact, some of the differences may reflect the writer’s advanced knowledge of conventions in other languages or in specific English discourse communities including disciplines with which the [instructors] may not be familiar....Inexperienced readers of ESL texts tend to lean toward the assimilationist approach out of their desire to help ESL writers. In doing so, however, they inadvertently read difference as deficiency."

Aim for an Accommodationist Stance

Our goal should be to facilitate learning. Knowing that the DePaul community is becoming increasingly diverse, we should aim to accommodate our writers' experiences: linguistic and discursive, cultural, educational, etc. Our goal should not be to tell writers to stop that way of thinking/doing, but rather to add to our writers' knowledge.
We can draw from James Paul Gee's toolkit metaphor: we are adding resources that they can draw on in different contexts. I.e. when we learn how to use a hammer, that doesn't make the saw less valuable. They are both valuable and serve valuable purposes.
Through our feedback, we ought to aim to build on and reinforce students' toolkits. Rather than a comment like we don't do this in [discipline], you could ask the writer why they approached it this way/why they did ______. Figuring out their goal and purpose can help us understand why it does or doesn't work. In other words, our writers are balancing the line between the new discourse/discipline (its conventions and expectations) and their other discourses. So rather than picking them up and setting them down on your side of the line, your feedback can further help them navigate the boundaries, learning what works and what doesn't; more importantly, they will learn why it does or doesn't work.
Severino argues that accommodationist stances:
  • Will help writers develop and add to their rhetorical knowledge, which will help them as they encounter new contexts.
  • Will emphasize that knowledge, skills, and values are only gained, not lost.
  • Will emphasize specific discourse conventions, allowing students to navigate the effectiveness and appropriateness of the conventions in different contexts.
  • Will navigate the contexts, audiences, and uses with the students in meaningful ways to understand the linguistic and cultural differences and how those boundaries can be navigated.
Lastly, another quote from Matsuda and Cox:
"As the reader makes the effort to move away from the deficiency model, however, they become more open to understanding their own responses to ESL writing and to learning from the writer. Today, many second-language writing specialists advocate for a broader definition of what counts as “good writing,” urging NES readers to see “accented English” as part of that spectrum."

Written Feedback

As we know, receiving feedback is a crucial component of the learning process. Writers use our feedback to make meaningful connections in their work: what works, what doesn’t, and what a reader thinks of their ability to carry out a certain task. This is especially valuable for international students who are in a new academic and professional culture.
Effective EAL Written Feedback Strategies
  • Be explicit with the information you are providing the writer. It's about being direct with what you are seeing and how it affects the writing and the reading of the writing, not directive in what the writer needs to do with that information
  • Don't just focus on what's not working. Identify areas in students’ work where they are successful and use those areas when you offer suggestions for improvement
  • With grammar and patterns of error be as specific as possible: "grammar" is never an acceptable agenda item, and even "comma usage" could be too broad. Instead, think about commas in specific situations, such as introductory phrases
  • Use the hyperlink function to refer writers to external resources for additional support. Before linking to a source, always vet it to ensure the information is accurate and appropriate for your writer's academic level (avoid extremely dense scholarship as well as elementary activities). There are some great resources on the EAL Tutoring ResourcesEAL Tutoring Resources page that you can send out to writers as well!
  • Remember that writers are here to learn ideas, conventions, and ways of interpreting and presenting information within their discipline. Keep in mind that international students are also in a new academic and professional culture. Keep comments professional, informative, and helpful
  • Last but not least--always check WCOnline for your writer's preferred name!

Clarifying Meaning

One of the main goals of writing, especially US American academic writing, is communicating your main argument in clear, concise, and coherent writing. Clarifying meaning is thus an instrumental part of not only one’s writing, but the feedback we give to our writers. This section thus covers two important aspects of clarifying meaning: not simply helping your writer to communicate their argument effectively, but also ensuring that your own feedback is not obscured or compromised.

Helping EAL Writers Clarify Their Meaning

As peer tutors, we often stress focusing on global concerns before moving on to local ones. The most common global concern that will come up in an appointment with an EAL writer will be the overall meaning the writer is trying to convey. It’s important to remember that culture influences the way we write and that affects the way meaning is conveyed. Amy Jo Minett in her article, “’Earth Aches by Midnight’: Helping ESL Writers Clarify Their Intended Meaning*,” discusses different tips and ways to approach this scenario in tutoring appointments.
At The Paragraph Level
A large portion of a tutor’s attention should start at the paragraph level before focusing on local concerns when it comes to clarifying the writer’s meaning.
Minett provides the following ideas:
  • Ask writers to find sentence topics (what the sentence is about) in individual sentences and underline them
  • Discuss with them the relationship between the underlined topics and the paragraph. Then discuss the paragraph’s relationship to the whole essay (Does it prove the thesis? Does it answer the research question?)
This approach helps the writer determine the ways that the sentence topics build meaning (Minett 63).
At The Sentence Level
Another focal point for clarifying an EAL writer's meaning is through the cohesion of their sentences. Minett explains that the best way to practice clarifying meaning at the sentence level is to do this occasionally to avoid overloading the writer with too many concerns.
That being said, Minett explains another method for approaching this by repeating the unclear sentence back to the writer in question form. Here's an example:
"They ran by 1 hour" They ran for 1 hour?
Addressing the concern this way will help the writer recognize the way the wording of their sentence can effect their meaning directly. Again, while this approach is effective, it is important to remember that corrections such as these should only be made occasionally. It may be tempting to address these each time they come up, but this can be overwhelming and nonproductive when trying to help an EAL writer develop their meaning clarification.
Overall, peer tutors must be willing to push aside their cultural normative practices of standard "academic" writing to assist EAL writers in clarifying their own meaning. Moreover, new perspectives and placing the writing in context with the culture of the writer, betters our abilities to help EAL writers clarify their meaning.
To conclude, a quote from Minett:
"The problem, however, is that if you are accustomed to reading texts developed according to the conventional rhetorical patterns and preferences of academic English, the effects of other ways of structuring essays (be it Spanish, Russian, or Chinese) can cloud your understanding of an ESL writer's meaning."

Clarifying Your Meaning

Clarity is crucial in tutoring. Our feedback—comments, suggestions, questions we ask, etc.—and the information we provide to writers needs to be clearly expressed so that the writers know what the information is and how to apply it to their writing.
These comments can be very effective in getting writers to make substantive revisions. On the other hand, these comments can sometimes be misunderstood by EAL writers if they are unsure how the comments should be interpreted.
One of the biggest considerations to make is whether to give direct or indirect feedback.
Indirect feedback sounds something like this: “Does anything about this sentence stick out to you?” “Are you sure that’s the right word?” “I think there’s a preposition error in here somewhere.” “Can you think of a different way to phrase this?” etc.
While Direct feedback is more pointed: “This sentence is a run-on, let’s fix it.” “This preposition doesn’t go with this verb--it’s always paired with ‘of’.” “The word ‘correlation’ doesn’t actually refer to a relationship between two people, it shows how two things (usually data) are related. You could just say ‘relationship’.” etc.
You will find yourself using both kinds of feedback as a tutor; the key lies in identifying when it is appropriate to use which kind. Generally, we recommend a balance of the two.
Balancing direct and indirect feedback
Consider your writer’s backgrounds with direct and indirect speech acts when constructing your comments. Some cultures value directness in writing and speech, and students from those cultures--particularly if they have had limited experiences in the U.S. educational system--may find hedged comments confusing.
Hedged comments take writers the longest time to decode, while directive comments were not only read and understood the fastest, but they also resulted in the most accurate uptake of revision strategies (Baker & Hansen Bricker, 2010). Use great care in constructing hedged comments, and consider using more direct methods for straightforward revisions (e.g., grammatical forms). If you are hedging, balance that with direct explanation.
Further Resources on Direct vs. Indirect Feedback in EAL Writing:
Questions to consider when giving feedback:
What is the cultural, discursive implication of your comment?
Will the writer expect indirect or direct commentary from you?
Will the writer know what the intent of the indirect comment is?
How can you balance direct and indirect strategies with your feedback?

Grammar, Language, and Style

Providing grammar-based feedback is an important part of our work as peer writing tutors. EAL writers often isolate grammar and language as areas they want to work on—this may stem from confidence levels, experiences with writing, and even experiences with instructors. But navigating grammar or language and the content can often be a difficult process. We want to help the writers with whom we work, and if there are clear grammar issues, it can become a challenge. This is especially the case when there are many grammar errors and reading becomes challenging. Overall, the key to approaching grammar, language, and style in EAL writing is identifying when patterns of grammar hinder the reading and comprehension of a paper, as opposed to identifying when stylistic changes to the language are not necessary for comprehension. Feedback can be given on both elements, but language that obscures the argument/meaning of the writing must be given priority. Be as specific as possible when giving feedback on grammar.

Grammar in the Agenda

Be specific to one pattern of usage per agenda item. Never have “grammar” as an agenda item. But also consider the exigence and context. Not all writing comes with the same expectations for grammar, so make sure that the grammar pattern you’re focusing on makes sense in that context.
Develop a hierarchy of importance
If there are many patterns, it can be difficult to isolate which grammar pattern(s) to focus on, so think about what:
  • Interrupts the communication of meaning
  • Occurs more frequently throughout
  • The writer’s context is, and which grammatical elements will be most important
  • What you can effectively work through in the appointment and its modality

Working With the Language

Offer options for how the writer could revise for clarity/effectiveness. This will put the focus on the language use, making for not only a better text but also a better, more aware, writer. For example, if you’re commenting on subject-verb agreement, you could discuss how the writer could change the subject or the verb, exploring the change in meaning that occurs.
Focus on language use, not rules
Ground your feedback in language use and conventions. It’s easy to simply say we do this because it’s the rule. But this avoids the learning opportunity.
  • Refer back to the writer’s exigence and context
  • Discuss the effect on the reader, the meaning, and their ethos
  • Individualize the feedback by using their work to begin a conversation about their grammar usage
  • Balance indirect and direct feedback. Don’t just fix or identify the pattern; engage the writer in the grammar revision. As you move through the text, move to more indirect feedback

Additional Considerations

Be modality conscious
Some errors are easier to address in one modality than in another. If you feel that working on a certain grammar point would be easier in another modality, or at another stage in the process, suggest a follow-up appointment.
Avoid articles and prepositions
Feedback on these patterns offers little potential for learning.
Remember your role
You're here to help make better writers, so help the writer:
  • Identify errors of the grammatical point
  • Understand the grammatical structure in their writing
  • Apply that grammatical structure, effectively and appropriately, to their writing. It’s one thing to know it; it’s another to be able to use it

Academic Integrity

Understanding the role academic integrity is a must if students—no matter where they are from—want to succeed at DePaul.
Price (2002) stated that understanding academic integrity:
is not only a phenomenon that can be mastered by new students to academic writing, such policies announce, it must be mastered (p. 89 as cited in Thomas & Sassi, 2011, p. 48).

How to Discuss Academic Integrity

Success in a particular institution means “playing” by their rules, and a major tenant at DePaul (and in many academic circles) is maintaining academic integrity in all of one’s work. However, there are some not-so-obvious factors at play when it comes to fully understanding academic integrity and academic integrity violations that affect all students. Understanding these factors is important for tutors to consider since some of the work we do is focused on addressing and mediating potential academic integrity violations in writers’ work.
This section addresses several factors that complicate discussions on academic integrity and academic integrity violations in relation to English as additional language (EAL) writers and international students, and it addresses what your role as a tutor is in mediating expectations and standards of academic integrity and academic integrity violations in the context of DePaul University as a whole.

Plagiarism Isn’t Always Intentional

Plagiarism is one tenant of academic integrity that is sometimes difficult for EAL and international writers to understand.
Click (2012) pointed out that there are two kinds of plagiarism: textual plagiarism, wherein a writer uses the “language or ideas from a source without appropriate attribution” and prototypical plagiarism, wherein a writer uses someone else’s’ ideas as their own with “the intention to deceive” (p. 45).
Sometimes EAL writers unintentionally plagiarize because they have not been taught citation conventions and are thus unaware of expectations for citing sources in the kinds of academic writing expected at DePaul.

How Cultural Norms and Assumptions Impact Academic Integrity

Differences in cultural norms is one of the biggest contributors that “explains” why some EAL writers commit "more" academic integrity violations than their native English-speaking counterparts. Simpson (2016) stressed the need for everyone involved with EAL writers in higher education to understand and be conscious of cultural differences and how we can help students navigate academic integrity. As peer writing tutors, we are often the contact point for these questions, so it's especially important for us to understand and mediate when needed.
Cultural Norms
In discussing cultural norms, Click (2012) found that it is important to keep in mind that:
  • Just because someone is an international student or is an EAL writer, does not mean that they are more likely to commit a form of academic integrity violation
  • Cultural variations can and do influence the way international students or EAL writers perceive and approach higher education
  • Cultural norms are embedded in social, political, and ideological matrices, and educational norms can help or prevent them from understanding academic integrity
Cultural Attitudes
Students from collectivist cultures, where group work is prioritized, encouraged, and shared, can struggle in navigating our academic environment where helping one another is often not allowed. This difficulty results in many students “resorting” to intentional or unintentional acts of academic integrity violation. Amsberry (2009) noted that differences in “cultural attitudes about text ownership, educational practices that encourage copying as a learning strategy, and linguistic challenges” can make understanding academic integrity and academic integrity violations difficult for EAL and international writers studying in American colleges (p. 37 as cited in Click, 2012, p. 45).
Attitudes and interests complicate perceptions of academic integrity and academic integrity violations:
  • The interests of students, staff, and faculty influence students' perceptions of academic integrity and academic integrity violations (East, 2010, p. 71)
  • Instructors tend to perceive issues of academic integrity violations as “breach[es] of trust undermining academic traditions” and thus assume malicious intent (East, 2010, p. 74)
  • Students prioritize success outside of school and academia, so academic tradition may not seem as important as succeeding in a class since the class is only temporary, and what matters is graduating and getting a job
“[S]tudents who come from cultures where cheating is the norm are more likely to engage, whether intentionally or unintentionally, in the behaviors themselves.”
(Simpson, 2016, p. 7)
Teacher-Student Dynamic
In American class settings, it’s both common and encouraged that students challenge professors’ and other scholars’ ideas and beliefs about topics. However, this approach to education is not a global one, and many international and EAL writers have trouble bridging the gap between what they know, and what they’re expected to do in a Western academic setting. Click (2012) pointed out that “students who have spent most of their educational career considering textbooks (and their professors) to be the ultimate authority” on a topic, may struggle with writing assignments that ask them to challenge a text or a belief (p. 48).
When it comes to doing research, cutting and pasting an authors’ words is much easier than trying to rephrase or reinterpret the idea in their own words (Simpson, 2016, p. 9). In some cultures, maintaining eye contact and asking an instructor questions are seen as disrespectful, and being placed in a situation where these behaviors are the norm and expected places students in a strange limbo where they don’t know what to do (Simpson, 2016, p. 8).


There are many stressors that influence academic integrity violations in higher education. Many of these can be internal to the student, self-consciousness, or perceptions. However, there are also external factors that can further stress students and complicate their perception of academic integrity.
Fass-Holmes (2017) stated that some of the unique challenges EAL and international students are (p. 647):
  • acculturative stress
  • cultural barriers
  • English language weakness
  • mandatory compliance with immigration regulations
  • lack of familiarity with US academic integrity standards
  • lack of familiarity with US academic teaching methods
These pressures, along with the pressures of being in a new place and having to be independent, effect the ways in which all students do college, and can possibly push students towards committing academic integrity violations.
Internal stressors
How students feel about themselves and their need to succeed strongly influences how they respond to their work. According to Simpson (2016), students indicated feeling:
  • Pressure to succeed academically for later employment
  • A sense of ill-preparedness for academic success
  • Strong competition from peers in the course, department, or college as a whole
Experience-based stressors
While all students face challenges while navigating higher education, EAL learners face those same challenges and more. Furthermore, Simpson (2016) indicated that international and EAL students often:
  • Do not possess the experience with writing to be able to effectively compose and "conform to Western standards of writing” (p. 9)
  • Are more likely to commit academic integrity violations based on a lack of knowledge of conventions and expectations, not because of an inability to comprehend content (p. 9)

Inconsistent Policies & Definitions

One of the biggest obstacles for all writers—not just international or EAL—when it comes to academic integrity and academic integrity violations is understanding how academic violations are defined. Research has shown that academic integrity definitions are not always clear and can vary between:
  • The university as a whole
  • A discipline
  • A department
  • A teacher in a department
  • A student
At its most basic, academic integrity violations have been “oversimplified by professors, universities, academic integrity councils, and many others” (Click, 2012, p. 45).
Conflicting Views
The inconsistency in defining what constitutes academic integrity and academic integrity violations from college to college does not mean that there is a need to push for a more universal standard for defining academic integrity violations; doing so would only continue to undermine the intricacies of different cultures and ideologies. It is, however, important to keep these inconsistent and intrinsic definitions of how academic integrity and academic integrity violations are defined in mind, more so since these definitions affect the ways in which all students succeed in higher education. Being aware of and critical of these differences can allow us to more effectively aid EAL and international writers as they navigate academic integrity. Research found that:
“students, faculty, and administrators also have conflicting views on the differences between reasonable and dishonest behaviors and, for this reason, there is an overall indifference towards academic dishonesty” (Simpson, 2016, p. 4, emphasis added).
“rules and norms of one community or group may be distinct from those of another” (Thomas & Sassi, 2016, p. 48).
“concepts of what constitutes academic integrity and academic misconduct can vary” from institution to institution, and these concepts “can change over time” (Bertag et al, 2014, pp. 1150-51).
“there is [no] universal understanding about what [academic integrity violation] means” (East, 2010, p. 80).

Making sense of expectations

Defining and understanding academic integrity violation becomes more complicated when students who are unfamiliar with the concept come into play. EAL writers, and adults returning to college, face many challenges when it comes to (re)familiarizing themselves with a college’s expectations, especially when concepts of academic integrity and academic integrity violations are unfamiliar to them.
  • For EAL writers, academic integrity violations are even more complicated since academic integrity is embedded in a very Western ideology where intellectual property “belongs” to a researcher or group of researchers
  • For many EAL and international writers, academic integrity may be an entirely new concept, and they may not understand its role in the academic culture or context (Click, 2012, p. 45)
  • Students' "lack of familiarity with [American] educational standards for academic integrity” pushes many students, especially international students, to commit unintentional AIV [academic integrity violations] in their works (Fass-Holmes, 2017, p. 649)

Your Role as a Tutor

Academic integrity and academic integrity violations are not just student issues; anyone who is involved in the academic community is responsible for understanding the role academic integrity plays in higher education. It can be easy to say that only the student is responsible for understanding how to uphold academic integrity throughout their academic career, but placing this responsibility on just the student undermines the role others play in this situation as well. As tutors, you are also responsible for understanding the role academic integrity plays here at DePaul. You are not here to police writers and their work via a “‘gotcha!’ pedagogy” (Thomas & Sassi, 2011, p. 48), but you are here to stress why academic integrity is important in the context of DePaul as an institution.
First: Educate Yourself
One of the best ways to help the writers we work with understand DePaul’s stance on academic integrity and academic integrity violations is to educate ourselves on what these policies are, and how they’re enforced. The whole idea of a policy is that everyone involved is on the same page when it comes to (a) understanding an issue, and (b) understanding how to address an issue. Personal interpretations and dismissive attitudes about the policy—from all parties involved—make using the policy as a standard for everyone harder than it should be. This isn’t to say that personal interpretations are “wrong,” but they can get in the way of addressing an issue when it becomes a “big” problem.
  • Bretag et al. (2014) concluded that “the purpose of [academic integrity policies] should be to develop shared values with all stakeholders based on a genuine and coherent commitment to academic integrity” (p. 1153).
  • In a similar vein, Simpson (2016) stated that “it is important for administrators and faculty to address facets of academic dishonesty with their students and colleagues on a way that incorporates the diverse needs of the entire campus population” (emphasis added, p. 4).
  • Knowing what DePaul’s stance on academic integrity violations is, and the consequences is important because it sets the standard for what writers should be doing, and it also helps provide a specific context and definition to what academic integrity and academic integrity violations mean here at DePaul.
Having this foundation is helpful in sessions because it gives us a starting point from which to build.
Your role
All things considered, it’s not our job as tutors to police students’ writing. As a resource, the Writing Center exists to help make writers become better writers, and a part of becoming a better writer at DePaul is understanding DePaul’s stance on academic integrity and academic integrity violations.
  • Our job as tutors is to “offer assistance for all members of the community in implementing academic integrity” in their written works (Simpson, 2016, p. 13).
  • In the discussion of helping students from all backgrounds and academic experiences, it’s important to be cognizant of the role a resource like the Writing Center plays when mediating the expectations of all the people involved in the discussion of academic integrity and academic integrity violations.
  • Understanding the nuances of academic integrity and academic integrity violations in higher education as well as the potential struggles writers of all backgrounds may encounter will better prepare you as a tutor to address issues with academic integrity and academic integrity violations.