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.