Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Jeffrey M. Ringer

Committee Members

Kirsten F. Benson, Susan L. Groenke, Tanita Saenkhum


The purpose of this dissertation is to provide rich data about the extent to which experienced, first-year PhD graduate teaching associates (GTAs) reused or adapted their prior teaching experiences and writing pedagogy education (WPE) into their pedagogical practices for a new teaching context. This study occurred throughout the Fall 2016 semester at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with eight experienced, first-year PhD GTAs as participants. Data was collected from three interviews that explored participants’ prior histories and current experiences as well as encouraged participants to reflect on their overall experience. Data was also collected from two classroom observations per participant and submitted instructional materials, such as syllabi and assignment sheets. Adapted from Beaufort’s (2007) conceptual model of transferring writing expertise, I developed a conceptual model for identifying participants’ pedagogical knowledge, which consists of five knowledge domains: curriculum knowledge, rhetorical knowledge, genre knowledge, pedagogical practices knowledge. To measure the extent to which participants reused or adapted learning from past or current contexts, I used Grossman, Smagorinsky and Valencia’s (1999) “five degrees of appropriation.” Data revealed that experienced, first-year PhD GTAs enter new teaching contexts with complex prior histories. Their prior WPE experiences were diverse, idiosyncratic, and localized to the institution that provided it. Moreover, participants prioritized pragmatic pedagogical tools and advice to inform their pedagogical practices more than composition theory. When they entered into a new teaching context, they experienced familiarity with ongoing WPE, such as a pre-service orientation, and identified pragmatic pedagogical tools and advice to inform how they adapted their pedagogical practices for a new context. Participants struggled to identify the underlying theoretical structure that informed curricula objectives, practices, and values, and they detected similar surface features among their prior and current learning experiences, leading to a maintenance of insufficiently theorized pedagogical practices. Participants reused or adapted prior experiences to help them survive teaching in a new context, and they did not examine the differences of teaching contexts when applying those prior experiences. This dissertation recommends that WPE should be recalibrated to consider GTAs’ prior experiences and pedagogical needs to develop their theoretical knowledge, academic discourse, and pedagogical practices.


Portions of this document have been used in conference presentations and a book chapter manuscript, which has not gone to publishing yet.

Available for download on Thursday, August 15, 2019

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