Committee Chair

Crawford, Elizabeth K.

Committee Member

Miller, Ted L.; Bernard, Hinsdale; North, Susan G.


Dept. of Education


College of Health, Education, and Professional Studies


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


Guided by four research questions, this mixed methods study examined students’ perceptions of their ability to transfer skills learned in the first-year composition (FYC) course to the writing required in their reported majors, in other college courses, and in their vocations. In the quantitative portion of the study, the researcher administered pre- and post-semester composition surveys to capture differences in attitudes in four areas: students’ abilities as writers, students’ previous knowledge of writing, students’ expectations of the FYC course, and students’ expectations of using the knowledge in other courses and contexts. To determine whether there were significant differences in the findings, the researcher used paired-samples t-tests, descriptive statistics, and analysis of variance (ANOVA) tests. The results of the tests for Research Question 1 and for two items mapped to Research Question 3 revealed significant differences. These differences, along with areas where no differences were found, provided insight into students’ perceptions of transfer. In the qualitative portion of the study, analysis of students’ responses to open-ended questions about their perceptions of transfer revealed emergent themes relevant to composition studies: a growing awareness of the conventions of academic discourse; preparation for collegiate and vocational writing; and self-improvement in specific areas of proofreading and editing. The responses of the students emphasized how they had used and how they intended to use the knowledge and skills learned in FYC in their other coursework. Several important recommendations for pedagogy emerged. Perhaps the most important recommendation is to equip instructors with teaching strategies that provide students with the ability to transform knowledge to useable skills. The researcher recommends the research be expanded to a longitudinal study following select students throughout their collegiate writing experiences.


My first thoughts of gratitude are to my dissertation committee members who shared their time and expertise throughout this process. While I could never have imagined the life-changing event my family and I would experience, their encouragement helped me to persevere. Dr. Hinsdale Bernard, your calm demeanor kept me focused on each task. I truly appreciate your direction and support. Dr. Susan North, my former supervisor and mentor. Your thoughtful guidance throughout the departmental study and my research project gave me faith that I could finish well. Your advice to “tell my story” has never been far from my mind as an instructor, a researcher, and a writer. Your coming to my son’s memorial meant much to me. Dr. Ted Miller, my methodologist and fellow Buckeye. You examined a multitude of tables, graphs, statistics, and analyses providing timely and engaged instruction. Thank you for your going-forward attitude, even when you felt as if this right-brained English instructor would never grasp the statistical sequences I had to employ. Dr. Beth Crawford, my committee chair and advisor. Thank you for leading my committee with tenacity and resolve. You have been a dedicated instructor who has challenged me to grow in my weakest areas. With your technological assistance, I am better prepared to pursue my future research projects with confidence. Several of my colleagues must be mentioned. Sharon Ratchford has battled cancer for several years. You have inspired us all. Thank you especially to Ryan Bandy. You challenged me to press forward every step of the way. Beverly Kutz, former UTC reference librarian. Your attention to detail was the key to reworking my dissertation with EndNote. Yvonne Artis, composition administrative assistant and dear friend. Your words of hope and faith have sustained me. My father, David Blaser, educator and inspirational leader. Thank you for encouraging me through the analytical elements this project required. Your life has inspired me to take on herculean tasks, no matter the cost. My mother, Sharon Blaser, dedicated teacher. Your perseverance and love sustained me through this process. My grandmother, Velma Willett. Your quiet strength has inspired me through the years. Grandpa passed away nearly 30 years ago, but I will never forget how he overcame a life of struggle. Thank you for believing in me. My daughter, Chelcee Beard, burgeoning teacher and creative spirit. It is difficult to express how much your words of encouragement have meant to me. Your determination to help others has inspired all who know you. Your time in the Dominican Republic proved to be a challenging yet enriching experience. After all that has happened, you have earned your undergraduate degree and have begun your teaching career. We, of course, are proud of you, but I am quite sure your brother is the proudest of all. My husband, Steve Beard, entrepreneur and free spirit. After these many years, we know each other well—we both knew you would never proof one word of this paper. Yet, you listened when I was feeling low, supported me when twelve hours of work disappeared from my laptop, and encouraged me when the pain of loss was too great. This project may be coming to an end, but we will continue to pursue the task before us—loving one another. I am a better person for having known you.


Ed. D.; A dissertation submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Education.




English language -- Rhetoric -- Study and teaching -- United States; English language -- Composition and exercises


Learning; Transfer; Writing; Knowledge; First-year composition; Perceptions

Document Type

Doctoral dissertations




xvii, 204 leaves