Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

English Rhetoric and Composition, PhD

Committee Chair

Horner, Bruce M.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Boehm, Beth

Committee Member

Kopelson, Karen Lynn

Committee Member

Ridley, Glynis

Committee Member

Leung, Constant


Learning strategies; Report writing--Study and teaching; Language arts--Psychological aspects


This dissertation offers a theoretical examination of current conceptualizations of writing-related transfer of learning in Rhetoric and Composition. I analyze the models presently available for understanding writing-related transfer of learning and argue that they are constrained by narrow conceptions of language use/users that do not accurately reflect the rich and varied language practices student writers perform, nor the multilingual audiences students with whom students will interact when they leave our classrooms. As a result, I argue that transfer has been difficult for writing studies scholars to pinpoint and locate. Building on theoretical models of language from applied linguistics and second language writing, I develop a theoretical orientation to the idea of transfer in terms of dispositions or attitudes toward language that can be practiced, enhanced, and potentially mobilized across rhetorical moments and spaces. This dissertation is divided into five chapters. Chapter One narrates the scholarly context for my dissertation by surveying contemporary theories of writing development in postsecondary education, and explores why the idea of ‘transfer’ has become so critical (and polarizing) for the disciplinary identity of Rhetoric and Composition. Chapter Two offers an analysis of three recent efforts to revitalize research on writing-related transfer, including the domain model of writing expertise, studies on writing-related threshold concepts and Writing about Writing curricula, and research on individual/institutional dispositions. Although the emerging perspectives purport to address the limitations of models that presume the existence of general or universal writing skills, I argue that they continue to work within the same terms of the models they propose to redefine. Chapter Three introduces the temporal-spatial framework advocated by translingual scholars to current transfer models. By locating contexts and practices in both time and space, I argue that it no longer makes sense to conceive of expansive learning as the process of transporting knowledge objects between two stable contexts. Chapter Four illustrates a set of critical reading practices that might help writing researchers and instructors identify the performance of rhetorical expertise in more nuanced and complex ways. Chapter Five concludes the project by situating my work within current fast capitalist discourses about writing across higher education.