Paul Kei Matsuda
Composition Studies and ESL Writing: A Disciplinary Division of Labor

College Composition and Communication 50.4 (1999)

Although the number of nonnative speakers of English in U.S. institutions of higher education has been increasing continuously during the last four decades, the development of composition studies does not seem to reflect this trend. Until fairly recently, discussions of English as a Second Language (ESL) issues in composition studies have been few and far between, as though the presence of over 457,000 international students in colleges and universities across the nation does not concern writing teachers and scholars. To construct an interdisciplinary relationship that is more responsive to the needs of ESL students in composition programs, it is necessary to understand the historical context in which the disciplinary division of labor is situated. In this essay, I examine how this division emerged between composition studies and TESL. Specifically, I will show how the professionalization of TESL over the period of 1941 to 1966—just when composition studies was also undergoing a revision of its own disciplinary identity—inadvertently contributed to the creation of the disciplinary division of labor that continues to influence the institutional practices in composition programs across the nation.

Matsuda, P. K. (1999). Composition studies and ESL writing: A disciplinary division of labor. College Composition and Communication, 50(4), 699-721.

Reprinted in Villanueva, V. (Ed.). (2003). Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader (2nd ed.). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Updated on April 28, 2013