Date of Award

Summer 8-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Rhetoric, Writing and Discourse Studies

Committee Director

Daniel P. Richards

Committee Member

Kristi M. Costello

Committee Member

Vanessa R. Panfil

Committee Member

Louise Wetherbee Phelps


Over a century ago, rhetoricians called on writing instructors in the U.S. to accept and even encourage language diversity among learners. Yet scholars of composition, rhetoric, and writing studies are still advocating for this via arguments for linguistic justice and translingualism, even referring to strict adherence to a single, mainstream standard for language use as a kind of violence. This disconnect between scholarship and practice is evident in the silences surrounding first-year composition language instruction. This dissertation charts that disciplinary disconnect and then describes how adult students at a rural, open-access community college experience first-year composition feedback, with special attention to corrective feedback on language use and grammar. Based on a study employing focus group methodology, this project locates a complex network of material and cognitive resources that mediate and influence adult learners’ experiences of writing instruction. These rural writing ecosystems consist of well- defined beliefs, attitudes, habits, and skills that predispose learners to desire a more agential role in instructive feedback encounters, which in turn enhance interpersonal relationships in the composition classroom, thereby facilitating language growth that respects discursive identities. The project concludes with discussion of how such learner desires might be realized through a reimagining of first-year composition as a coordinating object that facilitates comparable growth and respect among rurally-situated two-year colleges and the communities they serve.


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