Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Rhetoric and Professional Communication

First Advisor

Barbara J. Blakely


This qualitative study investigates knowledge transfer in college students

whose high school Advanced Placement (AP) or dual credit (DC) English courses

enabled them to opt out of the first level of composition at Iowa State University

(ISU). Although early college credit (ECC) students’ university writing

performances have been studied, writing transfer has not been adequately

studied in this population before. The influence of these students’ lived

experiences require more consideration from scholars because of the growing

number of students who enter advanced university classes by virtue of credits

earned in high school.

Thirteen students from a variety of backgrounds, majors, and years at ISU

participated in this study. Discourse-based interviews encouraged participants to

reflect upon high school writing experiences, university writing experiences, and

moments of crisis and confidence they encountered in writing “for the

university” (Bartholomae). Data were analyzed inductively with a constant

comparative method using disposition and threshold concept lenses since, as

scholars assert, transfer is heavily influenced by attitudinal and environmental

influences, especially those encouraged by educational practices. The

combination of disposition and threshold concept codes has not been used as a

method in writing studies before, but answers the call of writing studies scholars

to more thoroughly examine all influences on students’ abilities to transfer.

Participant perceptions revealed evidence of positive transfer closely

connected with generative dispositions. Instances of negative transfer revealed

inability to access prior knowledge and paralytically anxious attitudes about

needing to know the “right” way to proceed with assignments, revealing the

tendency of some threshold concepts to work in concert with disruptive

dispositions and create barriers to transfer. Students’ writing practices and

products indicated that they need not first level composition but more advanced

writing guidance.

This project illuminates the need for teachers and administrators in both

secondary and post-secondary settings to better understand transfer and support

all students to become more successful in their college writing experiences.

Ultimately it suggests that the field of writing studies is at a point where some

redefining of roles and methods needs to happen, and where conversations need

to occur across institutional divides.


Copyright Owner

Kathy Sanders Rose



File Format


File Size

241 pages