Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level





Elias Dominguez Barajas

Committee Member

David Jolliffe

Second Committee Member

Sean Connors


Language, literature and linguistics, Education, Argumentative writing, Critical ethnography, National writing project, Professional development


The purpose of this dissertation was to investigate the experiences of teachers participating in a two-year professional development program designed by the National Writing Project and funded by a U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation (i3) grant. Informed by New Literacy Studies’ ideological model of literacy as a Social practice and rural literacies’ notion of pedagogies of sustainability, this study employs critical ethnography and discourse analysis to analyze the discourse of teachers participating in the College-Ready Writers Program (CRWP) in order to understand how professional development might be adjusted to re-empower teachers. Data sources included field notes, interviews, lesson plans, student writing samples, and reflective vignettes, collected between March of 2013 and January of 2016. Data were analyzed in order to examine how teachers’ identities and epistemologies of literacy influenced their resistance or appropriation of the argumentative writing practices targeted by the CRWP professional development series.

Analysis resulted in the identification of three essential themes in the discourse: (1) participating teachers who identified as writers and believed in their own instructional efficacy were more likely to successfully integrate argumentative writing into their curricula than teachers who did not identify readily as writers or had a generally low sense of instructional efficacy; (2) teachers who identified themselves as agents of change articulated and acted on beliefs in the expectancy-value theory, resulting in higher goals and higher expectations for students’ writing; and (3) for English language arts teachers working from epistemologies of literacy shaped by the understanding of literacy as a state of grace, the argumentative writing focus of the CRWP was outside of their disciplinary content area, a positioning that made integration challenging. These findings provide supporting evidence for the argument that professional development should invest in teachers’ empowerment through the exploration of their identities and epistemologies as a foundational step in the professional learning process.