Research Statement

My research interests are in online writing pedagogy, labor issues in composition studies, and intersections between the two. When I became a writing instructor in 2009, I grew interested in scholarship that promotes the use of online environments in composition courses for the ways they afford active and collaborative learning possibilities. Motivated by Scott Warnock’s (2009) argument that since writing is essential to communication in most online environments, the format allows composition students to pragmatically apply writing skills taught in their composition course (xi), in 2010 I piloted Temple University’s first online-hybrid composition course. This course forced me to rethink how I position myself as a teacher in a writing classroom. I was no longer a central classroom authority, but a guide who could help students cultivate their own arguments, interests, and ideas through collaborative assignments with their peers.

My current research investigates how students and teachers define the labor of writing and writing instruction within the context of composition classrooms, and how the adoption of digital technology transforms these definitions. My Computers and Composition article (with Chad Iwertz), “‘Are the Instructors Going to Teach Us Anything?’: Conceptualizing Student and Teacher Roles in the ‘Rhetorical Composing’ MOOC,” examines how composition in massive open online environments challenge students’ expectations of what writing instruction entails. In this article, we analyze discourse about teachers in the most viewed and discussed message board thread, “Are the Instructors Going to Teach Us Anything?” and demonstrate how certain students rely on fixed notions of active teacher and passive student to understand the work of writing instruction. Continuing this vein of research, I am currently working on a project that analyzes characteristics of interaction within second-year writing students’ online peer reviews statements to understand how and when students provide positive, critical, specific, and vague feedback to each other.

I see my work as contributing to larger conversations about the role of graduate assistants and contingent faculty in composition studies. In Moving a Mountain: Transforming the Role of Contingent Faculty in Composition Studies and Higher Education, Schell and Stock (2001) stress how the “turn to contingent faculty in the academy confronts us with challenges and consequences that call for responsible and ethical solutions” (5). Since this proclamation, reliance on graduate and contingent labor in first-year writing courses has continued more or less unabated at colleges and universities in America. To adequately respond to Schell and Stock’s clarion call, I believe research about how students, teachers, and administrators define labor and in the modern composition classroom needs to be collected, analyzed, and applied. I am interested in conducting data-based studies that compare and contrast how these stakeholders describe the labor involved in composition courses. As a former adjunct, I have a personal stake in this endeavor. By aligning my professional and personal interests, I have committed myself to composition scholarship that fosters ethical, equitable, and educational writing classroom praxis.