Date of Award

Fall 12-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Rhetoric, Writing and Discourse Studies

Committee Director

Kevin E. DePew

Committee Member

Michelle Fowler-Amato

Committee Member

Abha Gupta

Committee Member

Gail Shuck


In this qualitative methods study, I draw on Paul Kei Matsuda’s 1999 article “Composition Studies and ESL Writing: A Disciplinary Division of Labor” to examine if, more than 20 years after its publication, there is still a significant disciplinary division between ESL writing and first-year college composition. I surveyed writing instructors from both ESL and ENG at Mid-Atlantic Community College (MACC) regarding what they value as “good” writing. I also worked with three faculty members – one in ENG, one in ESL, and a third who teaches in both departments, serving, in this study and the department, as a “bridge” between these disciplines. I implemented a case study approach that included methods such as observations and interviews as well as artifact collection to attempt to better understand the values that the three studied instructors hold for “good” writing.

After data collection, I drew upon Glaser and Strauss’ constant comparative method, as well as Saldaña’s coding methods for qualitative researchers to analyze the data. I identified core “concepts” that represent key themes in how faculty view good student writing. Then, I compared these values across three data chapters, locating areas of connection and disconnect between the concepts in the two departments as well as discussing how faculty fit in with current scholarly conversations in their fields of study.

This study then highlights the ways in which the disciplinary division still exists between these two departments at MACC. The major findings are that significant disconnections exist between how ESL and ENG faculty approach accuracy/correctness, evidence use, and originality/self-expression, though other meaningful comparisons as well as connections are noted. Based on these findings, I conclude by making recommendations for ways that faculty in these two departments can potentially build bridges between how they present and teach these concepts so multilingual writers can ease their transition between these courses.

This study contributes to conversations in both writing studies and ESL/L2 writing regarding multilingual writers and their transition to college writing courses. It highlights the ways in which writing values have been articulated by both fields but not connected through a shared vocabulary or understanding of “good” writing, something that might benefit both faculty and students in these courses.


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Copyright, 2022, by Amy M. Flessert, All Rights Reserved.