Date of Award

8-9-2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Bennett A. Rafoth, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Gian S. Pagnucci, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Michele Eodice, Ph.D.

Abstract

This study explores the effects of institutionalized demands for writing instruction and assessment on students’ work, agency, and identities and holds that one of the best ways to identify those effects is to ask students who serve as writing center tutors. Findings stem from the experiences of 56 graduate and undergraduate writing center tutors from 16 two- and four-year colleges and universities located throughout 10 regions of the United States. Over a three-year period, 53 tutors were interviewed in 17 small groups. Interviews yielded approximately 26 hours of recorded conversation and 246 pages of transcribed data. In addition, 51 tutors returned self-assessment inventories and 30 returned written responses to e-mailed prompts. Emergent themes from the coded transcripts were compared with findings from the self-assessments and written narratives. Findings point to tutors’ (and students’) expertise in identifying effects of institutionalized demands on tutors, students, and faculty. Tutors described institutionalized demands for writing instruction and assessment and attributed them to societal hegemonies, academic epistemologies, and individual ideologies. They articulated the effects of these demands on faculty’s instruction and assessment and on students’ composing processes, agency in their learning, and identities as aspiring members of academic and disciplinary discourse communities. Especially telling are the effects on basic writers, first-year students, and English Language Learners. Tutors point to students’ passive willingness to comply with demands, even if doing so means having to “become someone else” or make up experiences they have not had when writing. Tutors described how the weight of consequences for meeting or not meeting demands constrained them, too. Those challenges led tutors to question their role and efficacy. They also questioned whether a binary relationship really existed between institutional demands for writing and students’ personal goals. In assessing the value of their work, tutors also pointed to a disjuncture between what they were trained to do and students’ and faculty’s expectations of them. These findings add students’ voices to those of scholars who study the effects of institutional, standardized demands for writing instruction and assessment on teaching and learning.

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