Inquiry: The Journal of the Virginia Community Colleges

Author Bio(s)

Mary K. Tedrow taught in the high school English classroom beginning in 1978, ending her career as the Porterfield Endowed English Chair at John Handley High School in 2016. She is currently the Director of the Shenandoah Valley Writing Project at Shenandoah University in Winchester VA and a DA candidate in English Pedagogy with Murray State University. Tedrow adjuncts at Lord Fairfax Community College and Johns Hopkins University and is the author of Write, Think, Learn: Tapping the Power of Daily Student Writing Across Content Areas.



The initial composition course in the community college has the potential to be a transformative space for the identity formation of adult learners towards the linguistic signifier of scholar. Freshman students of variable ages enter a new culture which demands the negotiation of an alternative academic language, an adaptation to the post-secondary culture, and the development of the critical thinking required for academic work. All of these factors can destabilize identity as students confront long-held beliefs and biases in their studies (Bartholomae, 1985; Tingle, 2004; Bracher, 2006). Students who are unable to adapt to the new environment are likely to leave without realizing personal goals. Adjusting pedagogy to support students through a transformative stage will increase student success.

In this study, freshman composition students reflect on their identities as writers in both pre and post treatment writings which were controlled within the classroom by the instructor. In the treatment, student identity threat was protected through multiple low-risk opportunities, as Peter Elbow (2000) recommends, in order to increase engagement in writing without fear of evaluation. This practice is described as doing the action of the curriculum (the verb) to create a sense of one as writer (the noun). Opportunities to write without the threat of evaluation were offered multiple times at each course meeting. In-class prompting encouraged students to reflect on readings and experiences while writing in their own home language, the language of thought. Post treatment reflections revealed a shift in linguistic identity markers, with 85% of students exhibiting language supporting an increased sense of agency and control over their written products and a rising confidence in their sense of self as a writer. Few, however, claimed the identity of writer, though most exhibited control over their writing destiny through definitive goal statements. This increase in confidence and control indicates that thoughtfully applied pedagogy can shift student identity to that which supports successful post-secondary learning.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.