Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Claude Mark Hurlbert, D.A.

Second Advisor

Michael M. Williamson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Michael Pemberton, Ph.D.


English Composition instructors have an ethical obligation to teach their classes to the best of their ability. One way to work toward fulfilling this ethical obligation is for a composition instructor to practice critical self-reflection upon his or her personal ethical values, teaching situation, and place within that situation. To assist the composition instructor through this process, this dissertation offers instructors an understanding of ethical theory as it applies to teaching composition and provides a heuristic that guides instructors' critical self-reflection by asking them to question who they are and what their local context is. It further leads instructors to critique their answers in order to make ethical decisions concerning their teaching. While it is contended that this process of critical self-reflection is best performed prior to making decisions concerning teaching practice, it also has value for those who are in the throes of an ethical dilemma, as it may clarify where the actual point of ethical conflict lies and help the instructor work toward resolution. In order to test critical self-reflection's usefulness for composition instructors, three practicing composition instructors worked through the heuristic and shared their reflections. Two instructors completed the critical self-reflection as originally intended, as a way to fulfill their ethical obligation to their profession without consideration of a specific ethical conflict in which they were involved. The third instructor used this process as an opportunity to determine how her own personal values had conflicted with the values of others, and how that conflict of values developed into an ethical dilemma. All three participants noted that there were areas where their personal ethical values could or already had come into conflict with the values of others. As a result of these three instructors' experiences with critical self-reflection, it can be seen that this process has value for composition instructors, as these instructors have identified the potential areas for conflict and have started to decide how they might approach these areas to prepare for eventual conflict or to attempt to lessen potential conflict by altering their teaching practice.