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Classroom Research Example

Taking the criticism seriously that it may difficult for some students to discuss a potential research study design without more background information, following is an overview of a project that we will discuss as a common example throughout the term. (If there are details that you feel need to be included for you to adequately participate in the classroom exercises, please let me know and I will add additional information and material.)

But before you get to that, you may want to skim through this analysis of pedagogical and programmatic research in the field of TPC.(opens in a new window.) This article will help you better understand my own orientation (and biases) when doing pedagogical and programmatic research. It also gives you some insights specifically into the types of research that could result from this example.


One the primary premises of TPC programs is that we are preparing students for future professional lives both as engaged citizens and as professionals. In fact, it is an area in which both academics and members of industry are increasingly interested (see Bridgeford & St.Amant, 2015 and St.Amant & Melonçon, 2016b). Unfortunately, we have limited research that actually helps to prove this is what TPC is doing in the classroom and how well (or not) students are transferring that knowledge. The general definition of transfer as it is used in transfer research is the ability to apply knowledge or skills learned in one context to an alternate context.

The big idea of transfer is one that is important to the teachign of writing when we profess to be teaching students skills that will allow them to write successfully in an endless number of situations and contexts.

Thus, an area where TPC could focus our pedagogical and programmatic research is in transfer studies (Brent, 2011), which are studies that focus on understanding how students transfer knowledge from one context to another. While composition has increased its research in this area (e.g., Anson & Moore, 2016; Wolfe et al., 2014; Yancey et al., 2014; also see Moore’s summary article, TPC has not fully engaged with this line of research.

Broad research question

Accordingly, TPC scholars need to set up well designed research studies to examine

  • how can we consider questions of transfer between FYC and TPC? Should we, and if so, what are ways to determine “success”?
  • how well students are transferring knowledge from TPC courses (e.g., the service course) back to their own majors (e.g., Ford, 2004)
  • how well students are transferring the knowledge from our courses (both the service course and major courses) to the workplace upon graduation (e.g., Schieber, 2016).

These are two broad guiding questions that can help ground discussions within the existing literature.

Study Parameters

Here are some general parameters as we consider ways to design the research studies based on these broad questions.

  • based here locally at USF
  • have some access to students in the TPC service course
  • have some access to students in FYC
  • have student writing data from both programs (USF Writes)
  • have some student responses/reflections via USF Writes data
  • can have students in either TPC or FYC complete pre- and post- questions of some type
  • can potentially track students from FYC to TPC
  • much can be covered under the existing IRB
  • majority of our FYC classes are taught by graduate students (across areas of English) and adjuncts
  • majority of our TPC classes are taught by visiting instructors who have limited knowledge in the field of TPC
  • in a given year, we teach roughly the same number of students in FYC (1101 and 1102) as we do in TPC (ENC 2210, 3246, 3250)
  • only about half of the students who enter USF take FYC here at USF

Study Considerations

  • How would you narrow down the preliminary, broad questions? or would you?
  • how would you begin to design the research study?
  • what method(s) do you think would be useful to get at the answer to the question of transfer

I could list likely 20+ more questions to consider before taking the big questions and parameters to get us thinking about research study design. But that is part of what we will consistently talk about all term.




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