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Resistance and Revision: Autobiographical Writing in a Rural Ninth Grade English Language Arts Classroom Open Access


Other title
Narrative Inquiry
Arts Based Research
autobiographical writing
Language Arts
classroom study
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Bowsfield, Susan
Supervisor and department
Margaret Iveson (Secondary Education)
Examining committee member and department
Margaret Iveson (Secondary Education)
Ingrid Johnston (Secondary Education)
David Pimm (Secondary Education)
Jill McClay (Elementary Education)
Leah Fowler (Education) (University of Lethbridge)
Department of Secondary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This qualitative study draws on the traditions of narrative inquiry and arts-based research to explore the intricate puzzle of the experience of writing in a grade nine English Language Arts classroom, with a particular group of participants engaged in a creative autobiographical writing project. This case study of a small rural classroom, where 10 of 12 students participated as writers in the research, explores both the teacher’s and the students’ experiences. As a participant-researcher, I designed a three-cycle writing project spanning nine weeks, where all participants engaged in conversations about writing. One specific feature of the classroom setting was that both the teacher and the researcher were themselves active writers and deliberately and systematically offered stories of their own writing practice as part of the teaching about writing process, while undertaking the same writing tasks as the students. The data collected and analyzed in this dissertation includes students’ group conversations in class time, participants’ drafts and final writing, entry and exit drawings of how students saw themselves as writers, and individual reflective private conversations. From this data, I created portraits of the participants as writers and of the instructional moments. The drawings which were shaped by a participant’s historical relationship with writing, their broader personal, social and educational context, and the study provided insight into the individual’s relationship to and with writing, providing access to a participant’s knowledge and experience at times unavailable through more traditional forms of data. Two main themes that emerged were resistance to writing and students’ complex relationship with revision. Their resistance manifested itself in a variety of forms, including one instance of plagiarism and a total absence of writing with another. An exploration of revision practices revealed a tangled process that often failed to improve the quality of students’ writing, where revision became, for example, a matter of excision with the delete key or serial first drafting. This study complicates the common school use of autobiographical writing prompts, by documenting the many forms of participant resistance and task subversion. Further, the interpretation of ‘autobiographical’ as necessarily entailing only the ‘true’ proved an area of tension.
License granted by Susan Bowsfield ( on 2010-04-12T22:02:20Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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