Discoursal Negotiation of Identity in the Writing of Adult Students:

A Case Study


  • Michael J. Michaud Rhode Island College




identity, workplace, literacy, academic writing, adult students, discourses


In this article, I extend the academic conversation about writing and identity by investigating the experiences of one adult student negotiating the transition between professional and academic communities and identities. Drawing on a framework articulated by Ivanic (1998), I examine the interaction between the writer’s autobiographical self, the socially available possibilities for self-hood, and the discoursal self the student constructs in a single instance of academic writing. I argue that the primary writerly identity this student constructs in his text is a workplace or professional identity and show how this identity is not entirely coherent but reflects the process of identity transition the student was facing on the job at the time. I use this case study to draw attention to the negotiations some adult students pursuing postsecondary study make, especially those with well-established workplace identities, as they face the challenge of composing new identities in academic settings. I further suggest that the challenge of identity negotiation is one faced by all writers, not just adults, and that this is a challenge we must account for in our teaching and research.

Author Biography

Michael J. Michaud, Rhode Island College

Michael Michaud earned his Ph.D. in Composition from the University of New Hampshire. He currently teaches courses in composition, professional writing, rhetoric, and digital and multimedia writing at Rhode Island College in Providence. His work has appeared in Teaching English in the Two Year College and is forthcoming in Open Words. He is currently at work on a project investigating Donald Murray and his influence on the Freshmen English program at the University of New Hampshire.



How to Cite

Michaud, M. J. (2013). Discoursal Negotiation of Identity in the Writing of Adult Students:: A Case Study. Writing and Pedagogy, 5(1), 31–55. https://doi.org/10.1558/wap.v5i1.31



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