Intervening in First-Year Composition: Overcoming Writing-Related Trauma Through Reflective Journal Writing

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2023-12

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Abstract

This study explores the extent to which first-year composition (FYC) students’ views of their writing—and, as I argue, of themselves—can be revised, moving from dispositions prohibited by writing-related trauma (WRT) to the comparatively healthy dispositions that result from mindfulness benefits inherent to reflective writing such as journaling. Specifically, I enact a humanistic teacher research strategy, guided by strands of feminist scholarship and lightly informed by autoethnography, whereby I study students’ reflective journal and extra credit writing, along with follow-up interview transcripts, in order to ascertain whether or not WRT exists, what it looks like as manifest in students’ reflections, and the effects writing reflectively has on WRT. Regarding my students’ reflections as data, I employ the methods of grounded theory in order to organize and derive significance from students’ reflections. The main findings of this study are: 1) though FYC students acknowledge compulsory writing classes are capable of benefiting students or doing “good,” they are also capable of detrimentally impacting students; 2) in particular, the detriments students perceive in association with writing can negatively affect students’ sense of self-worth; 3) and, as a result, many students find FYC classes unnecessary. It was my hope that by writing reflectively about these dynamics, students would benefit from what is known as writing as healing or writing-to-heal. What the data revealed instead was that students tapped into and, as I argue, expanded mindfulness scholarship in and through their reflective writing as a means of effectively combatting the effects of WRT.

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Keywords

English, rhetoric, composition, pedagogy, trauma, reflection, journal writing, expressivism, teacher research, grounded theory

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