Trajectories of Persons and Practices: Sociohistoric Perspectives of Disciplinary Development.

Chapter 8 | Conclusions and Implications

Conclusions: Heterogeneously Situated and Complexly Mediated Pathways

Based on her longitudinal study of Eliza’s learning to navigate the genres of biology throughout four years of college, Haas (1994) concluded that the instructional support learners encounter in their disciplinary classes and curricula is a key factor in people taking up “the patterns of knowing about, and behaving toward, texts within a disciplinary field” (p. 43). Like Eliza, the five co-researchers in this study—Charles, Kate, Lindsey, Terri, and Alexandra—indicated that they benefited from the instructional support provided in their coursework. Co-researchers enjoyed productive interaction with professors and teaching assistants, whether during classroom discussions, office hours, or through feedback on their in-process and final drafts of written work. In addition, co-researchers indicated that they had productive encounters with disciplinary genres that were appropriately scaffolded based on their place in the curriculum, both in terms of class materials they were assigned to read and the writing they were asked to produce.

And yet, the instructional support they encountered has been only one thread in these co-researchers’ histories. For these co-researchers, their engagements with disciplinary practices and identities has not been limited to those within the presumed temporal and spatial borders of a particular focal disciplinary world. These co-researchers’ pathways of disciplinary development are heterogeneously situated in the sense that they have extended beyond the assumed borders of a focal discipline and into their richly literate lifeworlds. As such, these co-researchers’ pathways of disciplinary development have been complexly mediated in the sense that they have been mediated by texts, genres, practices, and interactions beyond those that might be readily associated with their focal discipline.

In addition to the classes he took, Charles’s history of engagement with journalism wove together interactions with his great-aunt and great-uncle, his participation in the essay contest he won, and his engagement with sports. Journalism was also at the center of his participation with his high school newspaper, New Expression, and the student-managed newspapers associated with the university he attended. In Chapter 3, we argued that Charles’s activities for several of his college courses, including the Introductory Journalism course he enrolled in during his second year of college, were mediated by his engagement with vernacular journalism.

In addition to her coursework from high school through completion of her MA program, Kate’s history of engagement with the canonical texts of English studies, and eventually rhetoric and composition, also extended into her extensive history with fan activities. In Chapter 4, we argued that Kate’s engagement with English studies, specifically her knowledge and engagement with canonical texts associated with that disciplinary world, was mediated by the fan fiction pieces she wrote and the illustrations she created.

In addition to the graduate creative writing class she took, Lindsey’s history with invention and arrangement practices included her engagements as a graphic design major and later for undergraduate and graduate courses in literature. In Chapter 5, we argued that the development of the discursive practice Lindsey employed in her creative writing class was mediated by her concrete use of that practice for creating visual designs for graphic design and later for literary analysis in her literature courses.

In addition to her nursing classes and work, Terri’s history of representing patients laminated many of her other literate activities. Some of these activities structured interactions with her family, such as the family multimedia video she created using the images and voices of cancer survivors in her family. Other activities included her poetry, her science fiction, her autobiographical memoir, and her participation in religious worship. In Chapter 6, we argued that Terri’s seeing and understanding of the patients she cared for as a health care professional was mediated by the other representations of patients that textured her lifeworld.

In addition to acting with tables for her introductory engineering course, Alexandra’s history of acting with tables laminated her other literate engagements, including interactions with her family and many of her leisure activities, including playing Minecraft, scheduling her life, creating fan novels, and solving puzzles. In Chapter 7, we argued that the development of Alexandra’s fluency with tables in ways valued by engineers was mediated by these other actings with tables.

These narratives suggest that co-researchers’ disciplinary development as a journalist, a rhetorician, a creative writer, a health care professional, and an engineer emerges not from within autonomous disciplinary territories but rather from multiple nexus of practice woven from blending practices officially associated with disciplinary engagements with practices spun off from seemingly disparate activities. In the same way that Bakhtin (1981) argued that hybrid constructions of internally persuasive and authoritative discourses drive people’s ideological becoming, we see interweavings of heterogeneous histories propelling these co-researchers’ disciplinary development. And yet, the features that are so vital to these co-researchers’ disciplinary development are the very ones missing from dominant maps and thus overlooked by dominant perspectives.

One might anticipate that these co-researchers would rely heavily on practices from other engagements in their early disciplinary coursework, but then deploy them less and less as their participation with their focal disciplines progressed. These narratives, however, point to other engagements mediating co-researchers’ disciplinary development in increasingly deeper and fuller ways. Kate, for example, wove her fan fiction and fan art into increasingly higher-stakes academic tasks, from reading Everyman for a high school language arts class to reworking Elizabeth Bishop’s “Roosters” for a short assignment for an undergraduate creative writing class to crafting a lengthy analysis of Beowulf for a graduate literature course to teaching herself Burke’s pentad for her MA exams to writing a master’s thesis on fan fiction. Following graduation, Kate’s fan activities were prominently featured in a chapter she had published in an edited collection, her work as a faculty member, and her coursework for the doctoral program she enrolled in. Likewise, Terri leaned more and more, rather than less and less, throughout her career as a nurse on representations of patients that emphasized their humanity. Representations of “whole patients” seemed to proliferate throughout and to find their way into more and more parts of her literate lifeworld. Her comment that she did not think she would have made it as a nurse as long as she has without representing patients in ways other than those afforded by the flowsheet suggests that she relied increasingly on her poetry to buoy her through the emotional demands of professional health care.

Still, it is important to note that although these engagements came to be more densely entangled over time, they were not linked permanently and inevitably together. To echo Scollon (2001a), these nexus were not “finalized” (p. 16). Although much of Kate’s fan fiction and fan art was indeed based on texts valued by English studies, much of it was grounded in popular texts valued by the other fandoms she participated in. While much of Terri’s poetry and other writings and makings did indeed address patients, many of them addressed other topics. In acting with these alignments, co-researchers were not simply automatically reproducing linkages sedimented in their histories, but rather actively and continually producing connections by weaving, unweaving, and re-weaving multiple activities together. These alignments, then, were continually in the making rather than already made.

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