LAWRENCE J. CLARK
Submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies of
Texas A&M University
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
Major Subject: English
abstract | dedication | acknowledgements | table of contents
(Re)entering Academic Discourse Communities: A Case of Computer Mediation in Teaching Writing and Literature. (December 1999)
Lawrence J. Clark, B.A., William Carey College;
M.A., University of Texas-Pan American
Chair of Advisory Committee: Dr. M. Jimmie Killingsworth
The dissertation analyzes the effects of computer-mediated communication on the formation of a local academic discourse community, on various stages of the writing process, on the instructor’s pedagogical strategies, and on new roles and relationships of students, instructors, and administrative personnel. The data is drawn from e-mail transcripts and student essays from an American literature course I taught via the internet in 1996. The first chapter reviews previous literature in computers and composition and discourse community studies. The second chapter describes the sources of the data and my research methodology, which was based on the triangulation method used by ethnographers. Chapter III examines the formation and characteristics of a virtual academic discourse community (course discussion took place via an e-mail discussion list). Students were able to experience first-hand the phenomena of shifting, evolving, and dissipating circles of discourse which they will encounter often as business and academic communities continue their shift toward working and learning online. Chapter IV examines some of the new avenues of discussion which learning in an electronic environment opens, and how communicating in this manner facilitates invention and collaboration. The networked electronic writing space and its effect on the writing process is explored in Chapter V; just as collaboration and invention are affected by computer-mediated communication, so are other stages of the writing process. Chapter VI discusses some of the changing roles and relationships of students and instructors in virtual learning environments. The role of the instructor in the web-based course has evolved from a "professor" of knowledge to a facilitator of learning experiences; the student is now required to be an active learner--to follow links to information, to make connections between thousands of unrelated sources and e-mail messages; to not only react in writing to an essay prompt, but to defend his or her views and challenge those of others. Chapter VII examines some of the difficulties encountered by pioneer cyber-instructors as they learn new technologies, adjust their pedagogical strategies to account for the virtual environment, and learn to deal with often uncooperative technical and administrative support staff.
This dissertation is dedicated to God for giving me life; to my mother, Lenore Irene Clark for giving birth to me and for her constant love and support; to my father, Edward J. Clark, Jr. for his living example of hard work, perseverance, and dedication to the task at hand; to my beautiful children: Stephanie Jane, Andrew Stephen, and Lauren Marie for giving up time with Dad while I sat for hours staring at the computer screen; and to Uncle Sam for financing my education.
Thanks go to the many professors who have helped, advised, and encouraged me throughout my academic career and in the long process of writing this dissertation: J.V. MacCrorie, Milton Wheeler, and Myron Noonkester of William Carey College; Will Davis, Dorie Schmidt, and Beatrice Egle of The University of Texas-Pan American; Mary Ella Phelps, Doug Boyd, Rebecca Dowden, Mary Pat Trenkle, and Mark Dial of Tomball College; and the many wonderful current and former faculty at Texas A&M University, including M. Jimmie Killingsworth, Valerie Balester, Paul Taylor, Janet McCann, Dennis Berthold, Craig Kallendorf, Beth Tebeaux, John Leggett, Joanna Gibson, Clint Machan, Jeff Jones, Bob Campbell, and James Hannah. I also acknowledge the advice, encouragement, and cyber-mentoring of the many members of the Alliance for Computers and Writing, from whom I have learned volumes regarding the teaching of writing in a virtual environment.
TABLE OF CONTENTS