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Writing, programs, and administration at Arizona State University: the first hundred years

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Composition historians have increasingly recognized that local histories help test long-held theories about the development of composition in higher education. As Gretchen Flesher Moon argues, local histories complicate our notions

Composition historians have increasingly recognized that local histories help test long-held theories about the development of composition in higher education. As Gretchen Flesher Moon argues, local histories complicate our notions of students, teachers, institutions, and influences and add depth and nuance to the dominant narrative of composition history. Following the call for local histories in rhetoric and composition, this study is a local history of composition at Arizona State University (ASU) from 1885-1985. This study focuses on the institutional influences that shaped writing instruction as the school changed from a normal school to teachers` college, state college, and research university during its first century in existence. Building from archival research and oral histories, this dissertation argues that four national movements in higher education--the normal school movement, the standardization and accreditation movement, the "university-status movement," and the research and tenure movement--played a formative role in the development of writing instruction at Arizona State University. This dissertation, therefore, examines the effects of these movements as they filtered into the writing curriculum at ASU. I argue that faculty and administrators` responses to these movements directly influenced the place of writing instruction in the curriculum, which consequently shaped who took writing courses and who taught them, as well as how, what, and when writing was taught. This dissertation further argues that considering ASU`s history in relation to the movements noted above has implications for composition historians attempting to understand broader developments in composition history during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Notwithstanding ASU`s unique circumstances, these movements had profound effects at institutions across the country, shaping missions, student populations, and institutional expectations. Although ASU`s local history is filled with idiosyncrasies and peculiarities that highlight the school`s distinctiveness, ASU is representative of hundreds of institutions across the country that were influenced by national education movements which are often invisible in the dominant narrative of composition history. As such, this history upholds the goal of local histories by complicating our notions of students, teachers, institutions, and influences and adding depth and nuance to our understanding of how composition developed in institutions of American higher education.

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  • 2011

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A community of second language writing at Arizona State University: an institutional ethnography

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This project is an institutional ethnography (Smith, 2005, 2006) that examines the lived experiences of nine second language (L2) writing teachers, specifically with regard to the interpersonal, material, and spatial

This project is an institutional ethnography (Smith, 2005, 2006) that examines the lived experiences of nine second language (L2) writing teachers, specifically with regard to the interpersonal, material, and spatial relationships inherent in their work. Using interviews, focus groups, and a mapping heuristic for data collection, the study investigates the current culture of L2 writing that is (or is not) created within this specialized community of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991) and the individual participant motivations as actors within a complex and dynamic network (Latour, 2007). Because findings from the study are relevant for a variety of fields and audiences, the dissertation is separated into three freestanding but interrelated articles.

Article one focuses on the data of one participant whose teaching roles/ranks in the writing program shifted over time: from graduate teaching associate to part-time adjunct faculty member to full-time non-tenure track writing instructor. Article two uses all nine participants’ data and focuses on their perceptions of and experiences with L2-specific teacher training. Results share the perceived benefits and drawbacks of teacher training to specialize in working with multilingual student populations considering various material conditions present in the institution. In addition, the article locates additional programmatic spaces where professionalization happens (or can happen), and ultimately assesses and questions the justification of specialization of teachers within the writing program and where that specialization can/should occur. Article three reflects on a specific data collection technique—a mapping heuristic—and discusses the ways in which this method is beneficial, not only for observing the different connections that L2 writing teachers create in their work lives, but also for collecting data in any institutional ethnographic study.

While these three articles are intended to be independent of one another, together they comprise a dissertation-length institutional ethnographic inquiry that demonstrates the diverse voices, motivations, and experiences of second language writing teachers that inform the decisions made in an institution known as a writing program. WPAs can use the knowledge and takeaways gained in the study to learn more about how to support and advocate for this important stakeholder group.

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  • 2016