Disciplinary Participation and Genre Acquisition of Graduate Teaching Assistants in Composition

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Virginia Tech

This project focuses on the way that new graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) in English develop both their professional identity as teachers and their view of Composition as a field. Drawing on social theories of disciplines (Prior, 1998; Hyland, 2004; Carter, 2007), disciplinary enculturation (Hasrati, 2005; Bazerman and Prior, 2005; Thaiss and Zawacki, 2006), and legitimate peripheral participation (Lave and Wenger, 1991; Wenger 1998), this dissertation examines the transition that composition GTAs undergo during their first year of graduate school. Many of these GTAs move from little or no knowledge of Composition as a discipline to teaching their own writing courses. I focus on GTAs from MA and MFA programs at a large research university in their first year of teaching composition. Using multiple types of data, including in-depth interviews, observations of practicum and mentoring sessions, and teaching genres written by the GTAs, I construct a narrative that shows the role that teaching composition plays in the overall identity construction of graduate students as professionals. This wide data set has allowed me to see the various ways (and various genres) in which Composition is constructed in the lives of new GTAs. Teacher preparation programs offer a variety of assistance, including experience shadowing current teachers, practicum courses and individual or group mentoring. I study the ways these activities help GTAs in one first-year writing program move toward a fuller understanding of and participation in Composition, and how these experiences relate to the overall graduate student experience. Each of these experiences helps move GTAs toward participation as composition teachers. However, the degree to which these GTAs participate in Composition as a discipline has to do with their relationships with mentors and the connections they make between the multiple communities of practice that they must continually navigate.

writing program administration, teacher preparation, graduate teaching assistants, disciplinary enculturation, disciplinarity, composition