Research

I conduct research in the field of composition and rhetoric, with a focus on the intersections between secondary and postsecondary settings. Overall, my research projects are motivated by learning how to better support students and teachers in K-12 and college-level writing classrooms through research-based, emerging best practices. My dissertation study is rooted in my interest in how educators can support students as they transition from high school to college-level writing. I garnered these research interests from my own experience as a secondary k-12 English Language Arts (ELA) teacher, along with my experience teaching courses that range from first year writing for undergraduate students to field instruction for pre-service ELA teachers. In all these instances of teaching, I have heard and participated in conversations between educators about student preparedness for college-level writing. Those conversations are not always consistent across contexts, and unfortunately, sometimes perpetuate a blame game between teachers about student unpreparedness. What’s more, the subjects of those conversations—the students—are not often invited to participate in those conversations. Further, conversations about student preparedness are limited largely to cognitive and academic ability without much consideration for the broader writing experiences college-bound students carry with them from high school to college-level writing.

My dissertation project builds on research in composition, English education, and self-efficacy research to better represent the writing experiences of college-bound students as they anticipate the transition from high school to college. Through a series of two qualitative interviews with a group of 15 Advanced Placement (AP) senior students conducted during the Fall 2016 semester at a public high school, my dissertation study examines potential connections between participants’ writing self-efficacy and perceived preparedness to write at the college level, based on how college-level writing has been previously represented to them. For instance, 7 out of the 15 participants who took AP Language and Composition (AP Lang) during their junior year believed they were better-prepared to write at the college level, compared to their peers who did not take AP Lang. What’s more some participants who took the course expected that writing in AP Lang would be exactly like college-level writing. This may be due to how a course like AP Lang was positioned in the high school and was regarded as the way to achieve preparedness for college-level writing by some participants. This dissertation offers implications for how educators and educational institutions represent college-level writing to students and the ways in which those representations influence students’ perceived preparedness and expectations for college-level writing.

My research agenda has paved the way for me to investigate more questions around teacher professional development, teaching assessment as a genre, and support structures in place for preparing students with varying backgrounds to write at the college level. For example, many of my participants for the dissertation study were astute in wanting me to understand that their individual experience is not every student’s experience. Responding to their valuable insight, I aim to further investigate how preparedness for college-level writing can be influenced by issues of access to educational resources, and how college-level writing is represented across low-performing and high-performing schools. In sum, each of my research projects seek to expand who or what gets included and valued in academic contexts, especially through writing instruction, and I hope to continue conducting research that opens up communication between K-12 and college settings and community stakeholders.