The writing conference as a locus of emergent agency

Susan Strauss, Xuehua Xiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


This article examines writing conference discourse in one English as a Second Language (ESL) basic composition course. The study is based on a 25,000-word corpus of 10 writing conference interactions between the instructor and seven students. Through a microlevel analysis, the authors demonstrate how and to what degree the writing conference can serve as a locus of "emergent agency," with a particular focus on the second-language writer. The data exhibit patterns in the students' discourse such that earlier segments in the interactions tend to reflect uncertainty, confusion, negative self-evaluation, and negative other-evaluation. As the sessions progress, the authors note shifts in stance whereby students begin to propose candidate solutions to actual or perceived problems and evince more authorial direction. The authors demonstrate that the practice can serve as an effective pedagogical activity in which novice writers learn to navigate through challenges and obstacles associated with university-level reading and writing tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-396
Number of pages42
JournalWritten Communication
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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