English Ph.D. Dissertations


Learning to Teach Locally: A Case Study of Graduate Students', Teaching Philosophies and Classroom Practices

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Lee Nickoson (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Sue Carter Wood (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Kris Blair (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Michael Zickar (Committee Member)


This dissertation explores the ways that teaching assistants (TA) in the Rhetoric and Writing program at Bowling Green State University experience the teacher-development program, including the practicum course, peer mentoring, graduate student orientation, and teaching itself. Primarily I was interested in how writing teachers develop as pedagogues in relation to the efforts designed to foster pedagogical development. Employing survey methods, I inquired about TAs’ teaching and teacher-development experiences, teaching philosophies, and classroom practices. In an effort to triangulate data, I conducted observations of online course spaces, textual analysis on teaching materials, and follow-up interviews with two graduate students to add richness to their survey responses. My findings suggest that TAs’ classroom practices are largely influenced by requirements of their assistantships, such as the happenings within the practicum course or in mentoring groups; however, although TAs’ teaching philosophies are somewhat influenced their direct training, they are also influenced by a wide range of factors, such as their personal beliefs and program courses outside of the teacher-development program. The central claim in this project, then, is that teacher-development programs in rhetoric and composition should be more purposeful in fostering the pedagogical identities of TAs by acknowledging that many pedagogies can exist within the parameters of a single program’s curricula. Further, by inviting TAs’ pedagogical differences into negotiation with programmatic standards, writing program administrators and other faculty members involved in teacher development foster pedagogical identities in TAs that are more likely to successfully transfer from the role of TA to that of faculty. With this dissertation, I not only seek to contribute to the discipline of rhetoric and composition, but I also seek to build on the teacher-development program already in place for English TAs at BGSU.