English Ph.D. Dissertations


Student Voices, Visions, Artistry, and Identity: The Effect on Transfer of Instructor-Student Co-Inquiry and Co-Construction of Lower-Road Mindful Assessment Dispositions in a Postsecondary First-Year-Writing Course

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English (Rhetoric and Writing)

First Advisor

Neil Baird (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Sue Carter Wood (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Lee Nickoson (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Alicia Mrachko (Other)


This project studies the effects on transfer of a learning-centered, co-constructed first-year writing course. By having the students voice and cross-examine their writing visions, the course helped them come to voice and acquire writing artistry, generative writing identity, and artistic vision of writing as inquiry, assessment, and transfer. Transfer transcends use of prior learning but encompasses continual growth in preparation for future writing. Through reflective practice, transfer fosters growth as non-automatic writing behaviors become automatic—“lower-road”—and writers reinvest freed resources. The course’s pedagogy was a hybrid of such pedagogies as critical, co-creative, relational, feminist, student-voice, and social-justice so as to promote co-inquiry, learning together, and independence by all members of the learning community. It relied upon three principles: respect, responsibility, and reciprocity.

In the course studied in the project, the instructor and students discussed, negotiated, and co-constructed the assessment dimensions of the course so as to think like writers and acquire an identity of “self-authorship.” Assessment, for the purposes of this project, means the explicit and tacit assessment processes of inquiry, evaluation, and transfer all expert writers employ.

To let the participants tell their stories, the project employed qualitative research consisting of teacher research during the course, which included document collection, formative weekly feedback from the students, and a teacher’s journal. Data collection continued during the following semester with five student participants participating in short-answer surveys, semi-structured interviews, and discourse-based interviews. Employing an “actor’s perspective” resulted in three categories of codes: tendencies to inquire, assess, and transfer.

All five student participants demonstrated tendencies to inquire, assess, and transfer while drafting their spring projects. All continued learning through transfer in their own idiomatic ways but demonstrated how the transfer situation can have a generative or disruptive impact on transfer of learning from a prior course, dependent upon the latter course’s optimism, respect, responsibility, and reciprocity.

The study’s implications, include the importance of 1) creating a generative writerly identity, 2) telling and showing teacherly optimism, 3) validating learners as knowers and creators of knowledge, 4) mutually constructing meaning, and 5) bridging students’ prior knowledge to new learning outcomes.