Jessica Woodruff

Agnostics, skeptics, and believers: Writing teachers’ perspectives on student-centered teaching

Jessica Frances Woodruff

  • School: Purdue University
  • Degree: PhD
  • Date: 2009 pp: 239
  • Advisor: Rose, Shirley K
  • Committee Members: Alsup, Janet; Bergmann, Linda; Blackmon, Samantha; Weiser, Irwin H.
  • Source: DAI-A 70/11, May 2010
  • Keywords:: Composition, Faculty, Student-centered, Teaching, Transcription
  • Subjects: Rhetoric, Curriculum development
  • ProQuest Document Number: 1917181631
  • ISBN: 9781109485608
  • UMI Number: AAT 3379618


One of the central goals of my dissertation project was to analyze teachers’ reflections on their behaviors and attitudes toward student-centeredness as a means to show their understanding of student-centeredness. This dissertation reports and analyzes the results from survey and focus group conversations held in fall 2007. The study took place at Purdue University with Composition teaching assistants and instructors as participants. In the study, I used the degree to which a Composition instructor described pedagogical behaviors and choices as student-centered as a means to determine some basic tenets of a student-centered approach to Composition pedagogy.

Teachers self-selected to participate by responding to an email invitation I sent to Introductory Composition instructors, graduate TAs, and adjunct faculty in August 2007. I scheduled four meeting times for four groups of Composition instructors which took place over the course of two weeks. Participants took a brief 20 item survey at the beginning of each meeting that asked them about the behavioral frequency of specific actions determined by the larger scholarship to be “student-centered” in nature. Participants then engaged in a fifty minute focus group discussion about the survey.

Through the results of the study I found that the participants were skeptical about the practical applications of student-centered writing pedagogy, but they generally agreed that it was a type of instruction that was desirable for them to perform. Many teacher-participants were uncertain about how to describe a student-centered approach, making it clear that a more systematic and pragmatic definition of student-centeredness is necessary for the effective performance of that type of Composition pedagogy.