Telling What They Know, Performing What They Say: Genre Awareness and the Transferability of Writing

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Institution Granting Degree

University of Washington

Cedarville University School or Department

English, Literature, and Modern Languages

First Advisor

Anis Bawarshi

Second Advisor

Sandra Silberstien

Third Advisor

Candice Rai


Genre, education, genre awareness


Because genre is critically important to the ways that writing works throughout the different disciplines, discussions of whether and how to teach genre has become a debated subject among compositionists. In response to this debate, Amy Devitt has proposed teaching "genre awareness," which does not attempt to explicitly teach the features of a genre, but rather teaches students about genre--how genres work, how to make more rhetorically informed decisions about genre when they find themselves in new writing situation. This dissertation presents results from a study testing the transferability of a genre awareness approach to first-year composition. Through a qualitative study of three students who took a first-year writing class focused on genre awareness, this project seeks to understand the extent to which students draw on the genre awareness they were taught when writing papers for other classes, and to what extent genre awareness contributes to students' ability to successfully write these papers. Research data includes interviews with students, analysis of written work, interviews with instructors, and class observations.