Date of Award

May 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Writing Program


Eileen E. Schell


composition, feminism, feminist pedagogy, pedagogy, writing assignments, writing studies

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


This dissertation examines feminist writing assignments as one pedagogical site that influences students’ engagement and thinking. Drawing on rhetorical genre studies, feminist pedagogy, and composition scholarship on writing assignments, I argue that because writing assignments are genres that position students in particular subjectivities and carry implicit arguments and values, they are texts that should be revised for their theoretical and pedagogical features. The dissertation examines feminist writing assignments in the history of feminist composition scholarship, in a collection of 73 feminist-oriented writing assignments contributed by teachers who self-identified as enacting or being influenced by feminist pedagogy, and in one of my own feminist-informed writing assignments for an upper-division research writing course. Additionally, this study grounds the textual analysis of writing assignments through interviews with five of the participating teachers and an analysis of students’ reflections on my own research assignment. Through this extensive research, I found that, despite the theoretical commitment of feminist scholars and teachers, 38% of the assignments did not reflect feminist epistemologies. The teachers interviewed and the study of my own writing assignment both further suggest that translating pedagogy into assignments is a complex process, often understood as implicit. I offer this not as a critique of the feminist teachers’ pedagogies, as feminist pedagogy can be enacted in multiple ways, but to argue for more attention to the ways in which writing assignments visibly reflect pedagogies. The 62% of the assignments surveyed that did reflect feminist epistemologies highlight a variety of ways that assignment texts have the potential to be transformative—by offering students new understandings of their own roles and positions as writers and students, by complicating perspectives on the aims of the assignment or work of the class, by challenging students to view the world in new, slanted, or different perspectives, and by re-imagining what is possible in the world and in writing. The implications, which are examined in the conclusion, are that time and space for reflecting on pedagogy and writing assignment texts are useful for all teachers, whether through TA training programs, writing across the curriculum workshops, or other professional development events.


Open Access