Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English: English Studies

First Advisor

James Kalmbach


I have always valued reflection highly — as a means of developing as a writer and as a life practice — but I have been disappointed by the lack of thought resembling reflection when asking students to write about their writing practices. This dissertation presents the results of a grounded theory study of student reflective assignments through a direct analysis of the themes which emerge from a set of reflections from a course designed around the topic of games – primarily board, card, and video games. This study differs from much of the previous scholarship on reflection in composition in that I analyze what students say in these reflections rather than to analyze the purpose of reflection in reinforcing writing skills or in transferring writing skills to other contexts. The participants in this study were primarily first-year college students enrolled in a writing course with a curriculum focused on genre study and activity theory. The results of this study suggest that while many students tended to distance themselves from their work, through “I” claims and passive voice, these strategies may be important ways developing a sense of reflection. Other students demonstrated greater engagement with their work, taking ownership of their composing processes and using design thinking in their reflections. However, a tension between design thinking and engagement may prevent students from fully using both of these in reflective writing.

An important finding in this project is that students must claim agency in order to develop texts that show strong evidence of reflective thought. While they also demonstrate evidence of design thinking, partly due to the nature of the design process as one of making deliberate choices, students are more likely to resort to strategies intended to satisfy the instructor when they lack a sense of control over their work, whether due to the constraints of an assignment or due to their own unwillingness to make the decisions associated with taking ownership of a project. I also advocate for an understanding of reflection that recognizes the desire of students to make social connections through their reflective writing. Although students frequently invoked surface claims that they tailored their work from an audience, their reflections revealed a deeper desire for connections with their classmates and with potential readers.


Imported from Jones_ilstu_0092E_11865.pdf


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