English Ph.D. Dissertations


Networks of Interaction: Writing Course Design through Fourth Generation Activity Theory and Principles of Play

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Lee Nickoson (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Daniel Bommarito (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Ethan Jordan (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Tracy Huziak-Clark (Other)


Honnicutt’s (1990) “Leisure and play in Plato, teaching and philosophy of learning” and D’Angour’s (2013) “Plato and play: Taking education seriously in Ancient Greece” reveal games, play, and learning have a long pedagogical history in the classroom. With the mainstream emergence video games in the 1970’s, it wasn’t long before academics such as Malone (1980) began to explore how these games may assist formal education; however, some 39 years later video games often found tenuous if not contentious ground in academia. Even so, scholars such as Gee, Selfe, and Alexander took an optimistic view of games, professing their value not only for learning in general, but for writing. These scholars’ work laid a foundation for why games deserved consideration, but the question of how to utilize games and play in writing instruction remain an open conversation. This study works at providing some answers to this complex question insofar as First-Year Writing is concerned, through a site-specific study aimed at the creation of a development kit for creating games and play at Bowling Green State University.

Using activity theory, ethnography, and survey, this study articulates and apparatus for exploring way to develop games and play through several prototypes. The study asks the following research questions: How can game-based learning (GBL) be better understood, implemented, and measured in first-year writing courses? What are some specific tools and designs that first-year writing teachers can use and augment for game-based learning? How can instructors use specific game-based strategies and tools to identify with their students, their curriculum, and themselves?

My findings are understood and processed through intersections of activity theory, teacher research, and Dynamic Criteria Mapping philosophies that examine actions, artifacts, and feedback through discussion boards and feedback of the participants in this study. The study invites the researcher and participant to serve as co-producers, engaging in forms of academic that encourage cyclic and praxis-oriented development. The results indicate a promising foundation for a development kit that may help praxis-minded teachers in creating activities, modules, and text that network interactive classroom experiences.