Date of Award

Spring 5-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Daniel Richards

Committee Member

Michelle Fowler-Amato

Committee Member

Louise Phelps

Committee Member

Jori Beck


Dual enrollment has become an embedded aspect of our writing programs yet is still an under-researched area within rhetoric and composition. One reason for this research gap is that many DE students experience their FYC courses on secondary campuses, liminal spaces that are more difficult to access for research. DE students within these spaces experience daily tensions between the collegiate expectations of FYC curriculum and the secondary social contexts in which their DE FYC courses are taught. These unique contextual experiences impact their perceptions of themselves as writers. This research is an attempt to step into this DE research gap and to give voice to the lived experiences of these students learning in liminal spaces of the neoliberal DE context.

This qualitative study employs ethnographic methods to look at how DE FYC students perceive of themselves as writers and how the DE context may evoke conflicts within these perceptions. Data from student surveys, focus groups, interviews, artifact samplings, and observational notes highlighted the DE participants’ usage of metaphor to relay their lived experiences and to discuss abstract concepts like habits of mind. Results also showed a dualism between how these DE students perceived of their writing and of themselves as writers, a schism of “skills” and “mindset.” The DE participants also demonstrated an awareness of ambiguity in teachers’ expectations, so they used their lived experience as a form of cultural agency in seeking out help from other students, past and present. Findings also highlighted the emphasis on neoliberalism as the backdrop for the DE context, as courses are commonly marketed as an expedient means to get through college coursework. This neoliberal context elevated grades as a primary motivator for the DE participants within this study.

These findings ultimately point to fragmentation in the DE experience. To lessen some of this fragmentation, this study calls for greater K-16 collaboration in professional learning; a more explicit unpacking of habits of mind as they relate to teacher expectations; and more time and space for reflective practice in DE FYC classrooms, as well as reflexivity in DE FYC instructors.