Constructing identity/creating consubstantiality: how community college basic writing syllabi communicate "We"




Johnson, Erika

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This is the first digital dissertation filed at Texas Woman's University. It is a hypertextual document. Below is a video, also on YouTube, to assist in perusing this dissertation. QuickTime is necessary to view the video here. Exploration is similarly part of the goal in this dissertation in using Linguistic Inquiry Word Count 2015 to isolate the pronouns I, you, and we, (as well as students, professor, and instructor, which function as synonyms for the persons represented by these pronouns) in analyzing 1129 Basic Writing syllabi from North Central Texas College, Tarrant County College District, and Dallas County Community College District. I then apply a multiple pass narrative coding system (Saldaña) to locate and dissect dialogism and power. Drawing on the cultural rhetorical theory of “constellating,” I rely on a multi-theory approach (Powell et al.): Bakhtin’s concept of heteroglossia, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca's ideas about establishing communion with the audience, and Burke’s theories on identification and consubstantiality provide multiple lenses facilitating my analysis of meaning making, communication, and practices of linguistic efficacy in Basic Writing syllabi. Robert R. Johnson’s usercentered theory suggests how and why linguistic and rhetorical change should occur to generate more usable and user-centered syllabi, for Basic Writing or any other course, a vital step for all who value student success. bell hooks's engaged pedagogy aids in explicating why I offer preliminary recommendations regarding how teachers across disciplines conceptualize syllabi. Basic Writing syllabi are the crux of my study because they are pedagogy, and pedagogy matters because it is not just what we do, it is part of who we are as faculty and effects who we want students to be and become. Thus, the goals of this research are to understand the impact of syllabi from a user-centered perspective, and to issue a call for change in how we perceive and use specific linguistic elements in constructing all syllabi, specifically those for Basic Writing. Basic Writing is fraught with danger because of its unique situatedness in the academy, because of its constant battle for relevance, and because it populated by students who might not otherwise have access to higher education without the existence of Basic Writing. Basic Writing syllabi are narratives for survival. However, Basic Writing syllabi can also be paths towards probable student success; as such there are important pedagogical implications in their construction, across disciplines. Syllabi are vital to the effective facilitation of any course, but even more so in Basic Writing. As multi-voiced pedagogical documents under the guise of monovoiced pedagogical documents, their audience(s) and purpose(s) are complex. Considering students do indeed transform or at least are expected to transform to become college level students in Basic Writing, it follows that faculty would similarly transform, at a minimum pedagogically and at a maximum personally. What I have done here in this dissertation is a step towards considering and comprehending how language within texts that are informative of “being” and “becoming” facilitate the creation of academic identity for students, instructors, and even institutions. Such consideration and comprehension are vital to ensuring content does not obscure intention, to ensuring effective communication of student learning, and to ensuring faculty have voices in pedagogical documents, so these documents are not more reflective of political maneuvering than educational success.



Bakhtin, Basic writing, Burke, Community Colleges, Discourse analysis