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Writing and transformation in college composition

Michelle Lynne Paranto, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation is based on an interview study of twelve participants who had been students in various sections of College Writing taught by the researcher. This study focuses on participant descriptions of the writing they did in the class and its transformative impact on them. Based on the literature that claims that writing can transform and heal writers, this study seeks to understand how university students make sense of the ways in which writing makes personal and social change possible. I conducted two, ninety-minute individual interviews with each participant. I also collected complete College Writing portfolios from each participant. Data coding and analysis were ongoing and guided by a feminist poststructural perspective. Through recursive analytic induction, I coded transcribed interviews and student texts for references to writing and transformation. I looked for individual and shared stories, metaphors and discourses that participants used to construct their writing experience in College Writing. The identified sections of the data that referenced writing and transformation underwent discourse analysis. To conduct discourse analysis, I coded the data for the social, cultural and institutional discourses students drew on to shape their understanding of writing and transformation. Findings of the study include: (1) Students draw on multiple and complex discourses to define transformative writing. (2) Students identify multiple literacy practices as transformative. (3) Relationships within the classroom play an integral role in writing for transformation. (4) Feminist poststructuralist discourse can offer students the space to write for transformation. (5) Writing for transformation may offer resistance to the silencing of dominant discourses. This study suggests that for these students writing is a sociocultural practice deeply imbedded in their sense of self and their constructs of knowledge and power. This study also suggests that writing in a classroom that creates the space for students to connect their subjective experience and knowledge with academic literacy practices is transformative. This study argues feminist poststructuralist discourse can offer teachers and students subject positions of resistance and agency so students may enter academic discourse communities as speaking subjects and teachers may work toward a more transformative educational practice.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Rhetoric|Composition|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Paranto, Michelle Lynne, "Writing and transformation in college composition" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3179914.