Date of Award

12-9-2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Claude Mark Hurlbert, D. A.

Second Advisor

Bennett Rafoth, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Gian Pagnucci, Ph.D.

Abstract

My first experiences in teaching basic writing to students who were enrolled in the college’s remedial writing program met with abject failure. I could not get past the overwhelming lack of academic ability on the part of most basic writers, and as a result, I suffered in the classroom along with my students. As the number of students who entered our college doors underprepared for college level work increased, I began to question the effectiveness of my teaching because it focused on students’ failure and not their potential. This dissertation addresses what I believe to be the most important question in the teaching of marginalized students: How do we best respond? What I learned in this dissertation was that by examining a teaching ideal that unites the emotional, spiritual and intellectual aspects of the teaching and learning process, basic writing students may achieve personal and academic growth. This teaching ideal, which I refer to as a pedagogy of love, a concept articulated by bell hooks and further enhanced by Paulo Freire, Mike Rose, and the Christian Brothers, a Catholic religious order, calls teachers to nurture an emotional connection with their students alongside best practice and calls on teachers to respond to student weakness with compassion. A pedagogy of love empowers students, increases their competence, nurtures their whole self-image and confirms them as valuable human beings with worth and dignity For this study, I researched scholars in the field of Composition who uphold a standard of care that sympathizes with basic writing students’ educational obstacles and experiences, that promotes students’ emotional and academic flourishing, and that works to change basic writing students’ and basic writing programs’ marginalized conditions. This study also includes interviews and stories of teachers who share their struggles in teaching basic writing students as well as of teachers who have adapted a compassionate ideal in their classrooms. Ultimately this dissertation addresses teachers’ belief systems as they relate to basic writing students, calls teachers to question belief systems that may dehumanize students, and brings issues of emotion and spirit into our discussions of teaching and learning.

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