Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Journet, Debra S.

Author's Keywords

Explicit instruction; Boundary crossing; Antecedent genres; Templates; Student engagement; Creativity


English language--Rhetoric--Study and teaching; Creative writing--Study and teaching; Literary form--Study and teaching


This dissertation enters the ongoing discussion regarding whether or not genre can and/or should be explicitly taught in the classroom. It begins with an overview of genre theory, specifically centering on explicit genre instruction and the question of genre context. It uses genre, transfer, student engagement, and creativity scholarship, as well as my own empirical research, to argue that instructors might best enable students to learn genres by linking classroom instruction not the social genre context, but to the individual’s genre context. I sought to evaluate such a pedagogical possibility by examining individual students’ propensity to cross genre boundaries, to repurpose their antecedent genre knowledge, and to engage with their writing assignments. The dissertation reports the results of my analysis in six chapters. Chapter one provides a comprehensive literature review and discusses the framework I developed for my project, over-viewing the concepts of boundary crossing, antecedent genres, student engagement, and creativity. Chapter two reports my procedures for data collection, coding, and analysis, and describes the data sources for this project: interviews with four instructors and fifteen students, as well as pre- and post-writing surveys gathered from students in six first year composition courses. Chapters three through six report the results of my research. In chapter three I examine the presence of a powerful, direct, pervasive, and at times, obstructive influence that I termed the “antecedent effect,” or students’ tendency to default to antecedent genre knowledge in a rhetorical situation. Chapter four reports the potentially mitigating impact of explicit instruction on the antecedent effect, specifically suggesting that explicit instruction may enable more students to cross genre boundaries than otherwise would. Chapter five suggests that student engagement with writing prompts may be nearly universal, but also argues that such engagement may not always be positive for learning. This chapter also reveals an extensive overlap between boundary crossing, student engagement, and creativity. Finally, chapter six synthesizes the theoretical and pedagogical implications of my findings, recognizes the limitations of the research I have performed, and suggests areas for future research, including suggestions on ways that such research might be conducted based on my findings.