Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level





David A. Jolliffe

Committee Member

Patrick J. Slattery

Second Committee Member

Christian Goering


Advocacy, National Writing Project, Rhetoric and Composition, Rural Schools, Teachers, Voice


This study examines teachers' perceptions of advocacy and voice in a summer institute of the National Writing Project. The Rural Advocacy Institute, a first-time initiative through the Northwest Arkansas Writing Project, offered three weeks of professional development centered on rural education and teaching English language arts in rural public schools. The study is a grounded theory study; grounded theory forces the researcher to stay "close to the data," compare data sets, and use reflective writing to identify conceptual categories in the data. Data collection in the study included semi-structured interviews with six K-12 teachers participating in the Institute and twenty-seven hours of video-recordings of all whole-group discussions and writing activities. The grounded theory generated in this study incorporates Robert Brooke's work with "underlife" and Homi Bhaba's concept of "third space" in maintaining that researchers, teacher educators, and professional development coordinators must consider the ways teachers negotiate the "hybrid" discourses created in professional development opportunities. For example, participant-teachers in this study demonstrate an affinity for discourses of advocacy for rural schools, while demonstrating an "underlife" discourse that often resists the role of advocate. Through Peter Elbow's concept of "resonant voice" and Bakhtin's concept of "answerability," the grounded theory also explains the role of voice in the teachers' discourses on writing and how teachers perceive advocacy. The study argues that analyzing how teachers discuss and view voice, and its relationship to writing and professional agency, is a means of better understanding how and if teachers are able to perceive themselves as advocates.