In-between Spaces: A Study of the Influences of Gender and Technology on the Writing Process in Online Composition Courses
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This qualitative phenomenological study examined the intersections of gender, technology, and composition pedagogy. The purpose of this study was to explore how female students and diverse instructors incorporated personal experiences in writing and teaching practices in an asynchronous online composition course. Life experiences allow students to reflect on past knowledge to generate ideas, topics, and evidence in academic essays. Such knowledge situates authors as rhetorical agents and adds to critically reflective thinking and writing, particularly for female students who choose narratives that challenge mainstream narratives. In an asynchronous online course, time, space, and technology change the quantity and quality of interpersonal communication. The results of this study show that the separation of the participants from other individuals offers benefits and challenges. Three online instructors were interviewed and fourteen in-depth interviews were collected from a diverse group of female participants enrolled in online composition courses in a rural public college. The findings of the study indicate that personal narratives contribute to knowledge-building when the participants establish a strong social presence with other learners and when instructors create positive online contexts that promote a community of inquiry. Various forces influenced how and why these participants incorporated autobiographical experiences into their writing. These forces include the participants’ writing goals, online communication, audience awareness, and the participants’ assumptions about academic writing contexts. The results of this study offer new insights on how to incorporate narratives in online writing courses in meaningful ways.