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The invention of transformative agency: collaborative inquiry as graduate-level mentoring

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This dissertation examines collaborative inquiry as a form of graduate mentoring. To investigate this issue, I analyze the research and writing process of a team of five multilingual graduate students

This dissertation examines collaborative inquiry as a form of graduate mentoring. To investigate this issue, I analyze the research and writing process of a team of five multilingual graduate students and their mentor as they collaboratively design, implement, and report a study based in their local writing program over the course of two years. Through a qualitative activity analysis of team meetings, participant interviews, and the team’s written drafts and email correspondence, I investigate the ways in which self-sponsored, team-based collaborative research and writing supports participants’ learning and development of a professional identity.

Key findings show that unanticipated obstacles in the research context present participants with “real-world” dilemmas that call forth disciplinary alignments, reinforce existing disciplinary practices, and, most importantly, generate new practices altogether. An example of this process is reflected in the research team's frequent need to adjust their research design as a result of constraints within the research environment. The team's ability to pivot in response to such constraints encouraged individual members to view the research enterprise as dynamic and fluid, leading ultimately to a heightened sense of agency and stronger awareness of the rhetorical challenges and opportunities posed by empirical research. Similarly, participants’ demonstrated an ability to recognize and resolve tensions stemming from competing demands on their time and attention during the course of their graduate study. Actively constructing resonances across various domains of their graduate worlds—coursework, teaching, and non-curricular research and professionalization activities—served to clarify purposes and increase motivation.

An additional aspect of this study is the way graduate students leverage their language resources in the collaborative process. This dissertation extends the disciplinary conversation by investigating ways in which language resources function as rhetorical tools within the research context. This focus on language, in concert with collaboration and rhetorical stances to inquiry, challenges persistent views of authorship, apprenticeship, and language norms, while simultaneously lending insight into how graduate students invent new ways of participating in their professional worlds.

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  • 2015

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All we are saying: teachers' narratives of lived classroom experience

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Accounts in the media often demonize teachers and misrepresent what is happening in schools. Meanwhile, teachers' voices are largely absent from the national and international debates on school reform. This

Accounts in the media often demonize teachers and misrepresent what is happening in schools. Meanwhile, teachers' voices are largely absent from the national and international debates on school reform. This dissertation privileges the voices of nine participating Kindergarten through second grade teachers from a variety of public schools, including affluent schools and schools receiving full and partial Title I funding. Through observations and interviews teachers shared their narratives of classroom joys and challenges while also describing how policy has affected these experiences. A preliminary discourse analysis of these narratives was performed, identifying narratives related to nodes of the activity system of schooling. Further discourse analysis of these identified narratives revealed how these teachers' classroom experiences position them within an activity system strongly influenced by tensions between maternal relationships and the patriarchal project of schooling. A critical feminist theoretical perspective is utilized to respond to these tensions and to describe possibilities for future studies in education and the future of education in general.

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  • 2011