Debra Brown

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dana Lynn Driscoll

Second Advisor

David I. Hanauer

Third Advisor

Laurel Johnson Black


This study set out to create and clearly define a pedagogical approach to teaching Composition I that centered around frequent instructor-student writing conferences and measure its impact on writerly self-efficacy and writing ability. Instructor-student conferences have been a threshold concept in academia, but due to a lack of replicable, aggregable, and data-driven research, it has been unable to move into the realm of knowledge. To facilitate this transition, I combined recent, relevant research from disciplines including education, linguistics, psychology and sociology, and composed a new pedagogical approach: ISC Pedagogy. ISC Pedagogy has five foundational principles: create a community of safety, build writerly self-efficacy, use frequent conferencing as response, provide opportunities for reflection, and model revision.

To generate replicable, aggregable, and data-driven research, I used a mixed methods approach and gathered both qualitative and quantitative data. To measure writerly self-efficacy, I replicated Schmidt and Alexander’s (2012) study. To measure impact on writing, I extended Kelly-Riley and Elliot’s (2014) study. I then used original quantitative and qualitative research to isolate the specific affect of instructor-student conferences in an attempt to better understand its impact. I did this by asking students to use a Likert scale to rate the impact instructor-student conferences had on their writing confidence and ability and then, on a separate occasion, freewrite on what they found valuable in instructor-student conferences, what conferences actually do for them.

The results of the study showed that students who completed a Composition I course taught using ISC Pedagogy during the Fall 2017 semester, experienced a statistically significant improvement in their overall writerly self-efficacy (p = .001), and overall writing ability (p = .001) on five measures: context/purpose, content argumentation, composing, sources/evidence, and syntax. Students found tremendous value in the instructor-student conferencing component of ISC pedagogy with 98.5% of the students stating it had a positive affect on both their confidence in their writing and their writing ability. The top three benefits of these conferences, according to students, were the strategies for improvement they received, the increased confidence in their writing ability, and the personalized feedback they received. This study moves the Composition field closer to clearly understanding the impact instructor-student writing conferences – and specifically ISC Pedagogy – has on student writing and writerly self-efficacy. It’s implications extend to training of GAs, new instructors, and instructors in different fields of study (such as Literature or Linguistics), opportunities to contribute to student retention policies and practices, encourage and enhance writing in both WAC/WID contexts, and expose additional opportunities for research.