Graduation Term


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

Committee Chair

Rachel Gramer


College writing teachers compose and write professionally often in our positions, but how often are we recognized as writers and not only as teachers of writers? During the sudden shift to emergency online learning during the COVID-19-interupted Spring 2020 semester, online communication became the primary, if not the only, way that college writing instructors were able to communicate with undergraduate students. Relying on surveys, interviews, and written artifacts, this dissertation investigates how college writing instructors at one Midwestern university learned to compose crisis communication messages to students in 2020–and what we have continued to learn and practice as online communicators with students since then. Drawing on feminist research practices, writing studies scholarship, and social justice technical and professional communication research, this dissertation reframes writing teachers as writers of complex crisis and everyday communication to student audiences. I revisit and unpack writing teacher practices during Spring 2020 (Chapter 3), examining how people learned how to compose crisis communication messages, what tools and resources we relied on, and how we responded affectively to writing as a writing teacher during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as importantly, in this writing studies approach to writing teachers, I investigate how communication practices mediated how writing instructors conducted classes throughout pandemic-impacted semesters, thought about ourselves as teacher-writers, and ultimately influenced our pedagogical practices. Extending this approach beyond initial crisis communication, I describe how writing teachers continue to practice online communication in divergent ways that align with our complex, shifting teaching and writing goals and values (Chapter 4). I conclude this dissertation with participant- and research-informed suggestions for how writing teachers and writing programs can work toward applying knowledge from this project to practice writing online communicative interaction messages to support teachers’ writing and teaching goals for student learning. As one place to begin, I include an infographic that I composed that articulates how writing teachers can make small changes in how we use online messages to students as effective teaching tools. KEYWORDS: rhetoric and composition; writing teachers; writing studies; pandemic discourse; technical and professional communication; college writing; communicative interactions; writing program administration


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