Peripheral or Marginal Participation?

University-Based Intensive English Programs as an Entryway to U.S. Academia




International Students, ESL, IEP, Student Access, Student Participation


For academically bound international students, university-based Intensive English Programs (IEPs) frequently function as an avenue to American undergraduate or graduate degree programs.  This qualitative study examined how one university-based IEP was preparing its academically bound international students and facilitating their transitions to matriculated study.  Lave and Wenger’s (1991) theory of Situated Learning was utilized to explore international students’ participation in the IEP as a community of practice and the IEP’s own marginality within the university structure.  We found that university-based IEPs can play a critical role in helping international students gain the competence and knowledge necessary to begin legitimate peripheral participation in degree programs.  However, the extent to which IEP students were able to participate in the larger university community was limited by the IEP’s own marginality in the university community and the fact that the IEP is ultimately not a discipline-specific community of practice.

Author Biographies

Sarah Arva Grosik, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Sarah Arva Grosik is Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Pennsylvania’s English Language Programs.  Grosik also serves as an instructor in the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and Lehigh University’s Graduate College of Education.  Her research and teaching interests include international students’ preparation for and access to postsecondary education.

Yasuko Kanno, Boston University, USA

Yasuko Kanno is Associate Professor and Director of Language Education at Boston University Wheelock College of Education.  Her research focuses on language minority students’ access to postsecondary education. As a former international graduate student, Kanno hopes that more U.S. universities will recognize international students’ contribution to the cultural, linguistic, and intellectual diversity in U.S. higher education and move to institute better support.


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How to Cite

Grosik, S., & Kanno, Y. (2021). Peripheral or Marginal Participation? University-Based Intensive English Programs as an Entryway to U.S. Academia. Journal of International Students, 11(4), 914–931.



Research Articles (English)