On the Front Line: Locating Mentorship in the Composition Practicum

Sherri Elaine Craig, Purdue University


This dissertation is a qualitative study of fifteen WPA instructors of the composition practicum. Driven by the primary research question, how do WPAs enact mentorship within composition practicum?, the study sought to better identify how WPAs enact and perceive mentorship within the composition practicum through an activity-theory framework in three distinct phases: a collection and analysis of twenty-six pedagogical materials, twelve structured interviews, and one case study. Through these phases, it was determined the difficulty of locating mentorship of TAs required distinguishing between performing mentoring acts and establishing mentoring relationships first, and second, a construction of the practicum course materials designed to highlight and construct mentorship for the TAs currently enrolled in the course. Data from the WPA instructors and their twenty-six unique course documents illustrated that mentorship in the composition practicum may be enacted in unexpected ways: WPA instructors are mentoring TAs outside of the composition practicum with greater frequency than within it; In the classroom, WPAs in the Consortium often defer to the TAs and jWPAs to co-mentor and peer-mentor in a distributed and feminist model of mentorship than a hierarchical, patriarchal mentoring structure often found in higher education and writing programs; and there is a disconnect between what is written in the course documents and what is performed in the composition classroom. Additionally, the course materials examined, largely syllabi from practicum courses, are not strong indicators of an instructor’s mentoring beliefs or classroom practices, but syllabi, as tools, have the potential to be responsive to the system in which they exist but issues of re-use (i.e., “recycling”) during construction create a barrier to being directly intended for the desired outcome. While the dissertation does not account for the experiences of TAs, the study does add to the qualitative research available with an additional call for more replicable, data-driven research on mentorship in the field of writing studies.




Dilger, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Pedagogy|Rhetoric|Higher education

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