Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology and Research

Major Professor

John M. Peters

Committee Members

Trena Paulus, Mary Ziegler, Michael Keene


This was an action research study examining 1) narratives community college writing students had about themselves as writers in a college-level writing course and 2) the connection between those narratives and student experience of collaborative learning activities. The study of narrative is particularly useful in determining how people make meaning of experiences in their lives.

The class utilized three types of teaching and learning to explore the writing process, including lecture, discussion groups and collaborative learning activities. Students and teacher used a social-constructionist approach to conversation that implemented a process of reflective dialogue about writing and writers' strategies.

At the end of the course, which began with thirty students, nineteen students out of twenty anonymously volunteered to participate in the study. A neutral third party randomly selected twelve names for final participation. The researcher conducted a phenomenological analysis of audio taped entrance and exit interviews of the twelve students. The study also utilized relevant examples from student journals and researcher field notes. Data analysis yielded themes that the researcher subjected to metaphorical analysis.

Findings revealed what narratives students had about themselves as writers upon entering and exiting the course. Results showed that using collaborative learning activities in the writing classroom influenced student narratives of themselves as writers. Students experienced interpersonal and technical gains from participation in social-constructionist-oriented classroom dialogue about writing and from certain, specific aspects of a learning environment that incorporated collaborative learning activities.

Conclusions linked the use of collaborative learning in the college writing classroom to the creation of a “novelesque” and process-oriented class experience that lent itself to the meaning-making of college writing. There were additional implications from this study concerning composition studies and student retention of college freshmen.

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