Bonita Selting

The entry of student discourse into academic conversation: An inquiry into student identities in composition classrooms

Bonita Ruth Selting

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 1997 pp: 245
  • Advisor: Lauer, Janice
  • Source: DAI-A 59/01, p. 157, Jul 1998
  • Subjects: Language, Rhetoric And Composition (0681); Literature, General (0401); Education, Higher (0745)
  • ProQuest Document Number: 304359292
  • ISBN: 0-591-73504-0
  • UMI Number: AAT 9821819


      • Through a postmodern, qualitative research approach, I inquire into the knowledges and awareness of cultural issues students bring to the composition classroom and concentrate, specifically, on how aware they are of the dominant power forces that establish value systems favoring the privileged and oppressing the ‘other(s)’ in society. I studied fourteen Introductory Composition students by analyzing their written responses to course assignments, oral responses during videotaped interviews, and observing them in class and peer group discussions. Because my participants were white, middle to upper class university students, they were, themselves, so-called ‘privileged’ members of society, the people most often assumed by cultural studies theorists to lack a sense of responsibility for society’s marginalized groups because of being constructed to put great value on wealth and the accumulation of commodities. Through my data analysis, I found that awareness varied among students of the ways cultural systems, in this case the educational and advertising systems, establish and maintain their power and effectivity within the culture. Sometimes, they demonstrated awareness of the complex and conflicting ways their subjectivities had been constructed for them and for the cultural ‘others,’ and other times, they revealed lack of awareness that certain cultural power forces (such as the image makers of advertising) actually did impact their lives.
    • Because of the often conflicting and contradictory data, my research calls into question the tendency of cultural studies theorists to characterize students as ‘dupes of the system’ who are unaware of the objectives and techniques of dominant power forces to establish value systems and maintain a status quo built on traditional, mostly conservative foundations. Importantly, my study does not generalize its findings to all student populations. It is local and situated and intended to add to the ongoing conversation about the identities of the 1990’s composition student. It challenges characterizing students as a monolithic, homogenous group and calls for more inquiry to determine the knowledges of cultural power forces these students already possess.