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Making Change, Changing Spaces: An Antiracist Writing Ecology for First-Generation College Students

Lovett, Sara. Making Change, Changing Spaces: An Antiracist Writing Ecology for First-Generation College Students. 2022. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.

In this dissertation, I build on scholarship on antiracist, culturally sustaining, translingual and ecological theories in composition studies to argue that equitable, accessible pedagogies affirm students’ role as co-creators in producing knowledge alongside their peers and instructors and that antiracist ecological frameworks can aid writing programs in working toward equitable, student-centered courses.

Through a qualitative case study of a stretch writing program for first-generation college students and student athletes—primarily BIPOC students from low-income family backgrounds—at the University of Washington, I draw upon student, instructor, advisor, and administrator perspectives to capture the insights of actors throughout a writing ecology. During this project, the course was under revision to shift away from the common association in composition studies between stretch writing and remediation and toward community-driven inquiry drawing upon students’ cultural and linguistic experiences and capacities. My case study investigates students’ goals, conceptions of themselves as writers, experiences in the writing classroom, and sense of belonging in the writing classroom and in the university more broadly given historical legacies of racism and classism in higher education.

I propose that writing programs can cultivate confidence and growth while resisting rhetorics of remediation by working across a writing ecology to learn from students, instructors, administrators, and campus support staff in the process of continually remaking a writing ecology that strives toward a more just and equitable future. This study offers local implications for continued antiracist ecologically oriented program revisions and for other institutions seeking to design or revise writing ecologies that foreground student voices and design spaces that center their lived experiences. Cultivating such programs can challenge and resist oppressive structures in higher education that exclude and marginalize first-generation, economically marginalized, and BIPOC students.

In Chapter 1, I situate my dissertation in the context of stretch writing studies, antiracist pedagogies, and ecological methodologies. In Chapter 2, I review the institutional context of the writing ecology, including the course’s history and ongoing revision process. In Chapter 3, I draw on data from focus groups, interviews, and classroom observations to discuss the affordances and limitations of the stretch writing sequence. In Chapter 4, I present a curated teaching archive of documents developed by University of Washington writing instructors and frame these materials in the context of antiracist and culturally sustaining pedagogies. I conclude in Chapter 5 with takeaways and implications for writing programs.