Date of Award

12-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

David I. Hanauer, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Gian S. Pagnucci, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Curt Porter, Ph.D.

Abstract

This study is an examination of the outcomes of practicing autoethnography, specifically in the context of first-year undergraduate, writing-intensive courses. The researcher recounts his initial, inspiring encounter with autoethnography and explores the possibility of its pedagogical application in composition instruction.

Autoethnography is a form of qualitative inquiry that combines personal reflection, aesthetic representation, and academic research and analysis to study the self in relation to social/cultural context (see the work of Ellis and Bochner, among others: e.g., Ellis & Bochner, 2000, 2016; Ellis, Adams, & Bochner, 2011; Hanauer, 2012a; Holman Jones, Adams, & Ellis, 2013; Denzin, 2014; Adams, Holman Jones, & Ellis, 2015).

Using classroom research methodology (Dana and Yendol-Hoppey, 2014), the following questions are addressed: What are the outcomes of practicing autoethnography in a first-year undergraduate, writing-intensive course? More specifically, what are the benefits and the drawbacks, especially any that are unusual or unique, of practicing autoethnography in that context? That is, what do students gain, especially that they might not in another context, from the experience, and what does that experience risk and/or cost? Can practicing autoethnography be an appropriate and useful activity for first-year undergraduate students? Should compositionists consider pedagogically adopting autoethnography as an addition or alternative to traditional research writing assignments?

A review of the relevant literature suggested a list of nine potential outcomes of practicing autoethnography:

1. Increased understanding of self

2. Increased understanding of social/cultural context

3. Increased understanding of connections between self and social/cultural context

4. Confrontation of difficult experiences with therapeutic results

5. Critical empowerment through challenging status quo

6. Consideration of ethical issues

7. Improved research skills

8. Improved writing skills

9. Improved critical thinking skills

Following the teaching of two sections of a first-year undergraduate, writing-intensive course, 11 student interviews and essays were analyzed, as well as 26 student surveys. Evidence was found of all nine outcomes and several others, including enjoyment of and the development of a sense of community through the process of practicing autoethnography. Critiques of and concerns about practicing autoethnography in the context of a first-year course were also expressed, chiefly the possible pressure and emotional vulnerability felt by some students in producing personal writing for assessment purposes.

However, overall the evidence supports the researcher’s belief that compositionists should consider pedagogically adopting this genre because of the unusual, if not unique outcomes of practicing, even and maybe especially at the undergraduate level.

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