Date of Award

Fall 12-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Rhetoric, Writing and Discourse Studies

Committee Director

Louise Wetherbee Phelps

Committee Director

Michelle Amato-Fowler

Committee Member

Staci Defibaugh

Committee Member

Andrea Williams


Writing plays a critical role in higher education as students are inducted into disciplinary practices through different genres, methodological repertoires and argumentation strategies. In Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) initiatives, the instructor serves as an embodied reservoir of disciplinary knowledge and an arbiter of literate practices but most crucially employs the mediating capacities of the writing assignment as a potent pedagogical nexus. In this practice space, the instructor acts as designer of the pedagogical experience—the course as a whole and writing assignments in particular. This study used interviews, survey, and the collection of syllabi and other instructional artifacts to examine the design thinking by instructors of upper division writing-emphasis courses at one private institution. Coding and close analysis of interview data compared with the survey and instructional artifacts demonstrated that disciplinary influences, absorbed from the instructor’s own disciplinary socialization and reinforced by professional interactions, strongly influenced writing assignments while institutional and personal factors also played a role in enabling and constraining design. The data also informed a model of how time may shape design practices, using concepts that owe some debt to practice theory, rhetorical genre theory, mediated discourse analysis, writing across the lifespan, and new materialism. For instructors at the target institution, time shaped design thinking in at least two ways, first, in generating a reservoir of experience at the personal and institutional level, and second, through the operation of intersecting time cycles on multiple scales that shaped both personal and institutional life.


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