Date of Award

Winter 1989

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Thomas Newkirk


This project examines how the findings of reader-response theorists and feminist theorists apply to the circumstance of teachers reading student texts. Although the overwhelming weight of theoretical evidence suggests strong connections, two related studies show that the reading differences which theorists find when males and females read literature do not necessarily occur when teachers read student writing.

In the first study, thirty-one writing teachers responded orally and in writing to four student essays. A statistical analysis of the written responses showed few significant differences for three of the essays. The responses to the fourth essay showed marked gender differences due to the essay's rhetorical form. The oral responses revealed gender biases, but in most cases, the context of the evaluative task was so strong a force that it helped teachers recognize and overcome gender bias.

The second study examines the responses of two teachers to their own students' texts. An analysis of taped interviews suggests that when teachers use a combination of a process-based methodology and sustained conferencing, they can overcome gender biases to their own students' writing. When they respond to the writing of students other than their own, they do not recognize how gender biases influence their evaluations.

The study suggests that self-awareness be a key ingredient of writing teachers' reading behaviors; given awareness of gender influences and the time to deal with them, teachers can overcome the negative effects of gender biases on assessment of their own students' work. Teachers must share the perspectives of feminist theorists, such as Cixous and Kennard, who acknowledge strong male/female behavioral similarities, and eschew the binary oppositions so prevalent in most feminist theory.

A methodology which includes attention to process and conferencing gives rise to maternal teaching patterns, which are employed by both male and female writing teachers. Although males are usually excluded from feminist discussions of maternal teaching, the male in the second study showed as strong maternal inclinations as his female counterpart.