Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Rhetoric and Professional Communication

First Advisor

David R. Russell


This dissertation is a longitudinal study, following business majors from a business communication class to their new workplaces to see if they are able to transfer learning from one context to the next. While many studies have analyzed possible instances of transfer, few studies have followed students from the classroom to the workplace, and very few have specifically worked with the population of business majors. This study analyzed participants’ writing and reflective work using a case study qualitative methodology, informed by Grounded Theory, Legitimate Peripheral Participation, and Activity Theory.

A significant finding of this study is that one of the participants was able to directly transfer some rhetorical skills and genre knowledge from the business communication classroom to his new workplace, and use it effectively. He showed that high road transfer can be achieved if the participant is highly motivated to do so. In some cases, participants showed a developmental trajectory of learning, where they practiced and developed these rhetorical strategies during the semester, and were then able to use them effectively later in their jobs/internships. Specifically, participants were able to develop audience awareness, specific genre knowledge, and professional writing styles even further in their new contexts.

One of the key findings in this research study is the importance of three factors that may help promote an environment that is conducive to transfer of learning: knowledge of how a community of practice works, participants’ self-identity, and gradual fuller participation within the community. However, participants who did not have access to that knowledge, did not identify with the new community, and were not encouraged to participate more fully within the community had a challenging time transferring learning to those new communities and actually becoming a part of them.

I argue that instructors and researchers may need to reassess the way we study about and define transfer, or we may disregard some learning developments that are occurring right in our writing classrooms. Implications and recommendations are discussed.


Copyright Owner

Danica L. Schieber



File Format


File Size

294 pages