Writer identity and disciplinarity in the third space
Supporting emerging nursing researchers at a postdecondary learning center
Keywords:Learning Centers, Writing support, Nursing Education Research, Disciplinarity
This qualitative study examines academic support practices and students’ experiences and perspectives in a graduate nursing education program that has, for many years, emphasized research and writing by requiring aspiring nurse practitioners to pursue publication in peer-reviewed clinical research journals. In collaboration with faculty, practitioner researchers from the university’s postsecondary learning center developed and facilitated group workshops and provided students with individual consultations on research processes and manuscript development. The researchers wrote field notes and researcher memos, administered workshop evaluations, and interviewed seven participants to better understand students’ writer identities and whether writing for the discipline of nursing with the support of peers, faculty, and learning instructors led to any changes in both their individual and collective sense of disciplinary identity. More broadly, this study interrogated the role of a postsecondary learning center employing an academic literacies pedagogical approach (Lea and Street, 1998; Lillis and Scott, 2007) in working with faculty to support students’ writing for a specific discipline. Findings suggest that graduate nursing students felt anxiety and uncertainty about claiming disciplinary expertise and competence as writers. This affective experience made it difficult for students to align their understandings of nursing as a discipline, rooted in their field experiences as professionals, with a more academic conceptualization that they believed to be represented by the research and writing practices required for the assignment. By engaging with the learning center as a third space (Gutiérrez, 2008), the students explored these challenges and experimented with writing practices, directions for their research, and the conceptualization of their profession as they modified their understanding of what was possible for scholarly writing and research in nursing as a discipline and what they could contribute individually as emerging scholars. This study has implications for teaching academic writing practices in nursing contexts, as well as other academic disciplines and for forming generative collaborations between postsecondary learning centers and subject experts.
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