English Ph.D. Dissertations


Composition Studies and Teaching Anxiety: A Pilot Study of Teaching Groups and Discipline- and Program-Specific Triggers

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Sue Carter Wood (Advisor)


Although previous studies on teaching anxiety have clarified the general characteristics and manifestations of this phenomenon and established the need for more effective teacher preparation programs, most do not reflect the practices or concerns of writing instructors or indicate how or why they experience anxiety. The purpose of this dissertation, therefore, was to determine how the rhetorical and situational elements of writing instruction contribute to teaching anxiety and to what extent composition instructors attempt to resolve or minimize the effects of potential triggers and symptoms. Over a period of sixteen weeks, five first-year composition instructors completed a series of interviews and surveys related to their teaching and met periodically in small groups to discuss instructional matters and strategies for handling them. Data yielded from interview and group session transcripts and survey responses indicated that a) general teaching anxiety triggers (that is, triggers found in any discipline and at any level) are often compounded by discipline- and/or program-specific anxiety triggers, b) the potential anxiety triggers instructors reported or exhibited seem to interfere with their abilities to successfully impart student learning, and c) instructors’ behavioral responses to such anxiety triggers are influenced by what they consider to be the likeliest and/or most addressable sources of their anxiety. These findings provide several starting points for a much needed in-depth look into the causes and manifestations of and possible remedies for teaching anxiety as well as the long-term effects of teacher preparation and faculty development programs on anxiety and job performance.