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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Ellen Barton


In the field of Rhetoric and Composition, cultural rhetorics (CR) has been developed as a scholarly orientation in theoretical and methodological frameworks. However, few studies describe how a CR orientation informs specific teaching practices. In order to identify concepts that are specific to a CR pedagogy and demonstrate their value for first-year composition (FYC), my dissertation describes the development, teaching, and assessment of a FYC course designed from a CR orientation. After conducting and analyzing a set of interviews with CR scholars to identify key concepts for teaching from a CR orientation, I used those key concepts–story, relationship and constellation, visibility, and CR as social justice–to revise the approach to rhetoric and argument in my program’s common syllabus for FYC. What my study contributes to CR and FYC scholarship is not the key concepts themselves but a discussion and assessment of assignments and activities that integrate these concepts into an FYC course. My comparative analysis of student writing from my CR-oriented class and a class following the common syllabus found that students from the CR-oriented class focused their written discussions of rhetoric on a larger variety of rhetorical strategies and some extended their analyses to discussions of rhetorical strategies not covered in class. My final chapter describes a student-inclusive course assessment, which demonstrated both that students in the CR class met course outcomes at the same rate as students in the course following the common syllabus and that student-inclusive assessment models provide useful feedback for writing program development. Ultimately, the findings from this dissertation make a case for the contributions of CR to the teaching of FYC.

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