Digital-to-Print Adaptive Transfer: An Examination of a Pedagogical Approach for Eliciting Rhetorical Knowledge Transfer


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Language, Literacy & Culture


Language Literacy and Culture

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Students have always had to Òamalgamate new writing and writing practices in response to rapid social changeÓ (Brandt, 1995, p. 651), but the speed at which digital technologies have been influencing communicative practices and processes has never been faster. In the early twenty-first century, calls to address emergent literacies became prevalent within the field of Writing Studies. A renewed interest in writing knowledge transfer developed as a byproduct. In 2009, Kathleen Yancey, Liane Robertson, and Kara Taczak designed a Teaching for Transfer (TFT) course and studied whether, and how, their curriculum supported the transfer of studentsÕ writing knowledge and practice from course to course. This dissertation project continues that line of research to address the increasingly digital and diverse prior writing knowledge that students carry with them to college. Grounded in theories of abstraction (Salomon & Perkins, 1989) and adaptive remediation (Alexander et al., 2016), the original curriculum employed for this research project presents students with rhetorical concepts in overtly multimodal, digital contexts and then asks them to recognize the remediated concepts in print. By the end of the semester, students were tasked with adapting three or more concepts from a digital source for an original print-based research paper. The dissertation examines the efficacy of the adaptive transfer pedagogical approach by asking: (1) To what extent can students develop a meta-awareness that allows them to reshape rhetorical knowledge across media? (2) What aspects of a digital-to-print adaptive transfer pedagogy enhance or deny such transfer? (3) Does the pedagogy foster other types of knowledge transfer such as composing processes, student attitudes or dispositions, and/or other literacies? Using inductive coding, descriptive analysis, student work samples, and three single-case studies, this qualitative teacher-research found that the pedagogical approach resulted in ten of the fifteen student participants demonstrating the capacity for digital-to-print adaptive transfer during a single semester. To increase the potential for adaptive rhetorical knowledge transfer within and without the first-year composition classroom, the dissertation argues that writing instructors need to provide extensive time for students to explore key concepts within digital spaces, explicit instruction on academic writing genres, guidance and oversight with recursive reflective writing, and opportunities for developing conceptual writing knowledge such as goal-setting peer review sessions and Òcritical incidentsÓ (Yancey et al., 2014).