Although the student population in higher education has become increasingly diverse and international, we know little about non-native English speaking (NNES) students' experiences and challenges in different models of college writing courses. Addressing this gap, this study examines a pilot program that links first-year composition (FYC) and English for Academic Purposes (AEP) classes together, exploring the possibility of an alternative model of a FYC for NNES students. This study draws on activity theory (Vygotsky, 1977; Engestrom, 1991) and communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998), and data are collected and triangulated through in-depth interviews with students and their linked course instructors, observations, and compilation of written documents.
The findings of this study suggest that the linked-course model, as an alternative to a stand-alone FYC course, increases students' success in learning. Despite the challenges of co-generative dialogue and collaboration between two linked course teachers, the linked courses provide students with pedagogical and emotional support. Having peers who share the same goal and being taught by instructors who understand them and adjust curriculum empowered NNES students. By creating a tight community, students benefited from sharing resources and working together. The findings also illustrate that NNES students envisaged linked courses differently based on their own perceptions of the ESL label and of their peers' abilities, which resulted in different ways of negotiating identity and competence in the linked courses.
Based on findings, I propose that the piloted FYC and EAP link is a unique window of opportunity where two different scholarly traditions can come together to serve the NNES student population. Through close collaboration between two linked-course teachers, the linked course can make possible a synergistic combination of the two fields, composition and Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Finally, I make suggestions for writing program administrators and FYC/AEP/L2 writing teachers, and I present directions for further research.