Date of Award

Spring 2004

Project Type


Program or Major

Reading and Writing Instruction

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Paula M Salvio


Donald M. Murray (1994) proposes that the practice of teaching composition engages us in a process of "teaching not knowing." In this inquiry, I draw from theories in composition, psychology, epistemology, ethics, and communication to portray and describe this practice in my high school classroom. Studying my students' writing processes and our interactions in writing conferences, I describe a philosophical stance that approaches teaching writing as improvisational, dialogic and relational. This reflection explores the conditions and attitudes which enhance our capacities to teach writing processes and adopts discourse outside of composition theory that may inform our practices in teaching writing.

This study suggests that a professional practice, unique and constantly in process, focuses beyond the application of techniques to ethical relations with persons. The implications of "teaching not knowing" offer insight into ways of being with students which foster their capacity for agency and their potential for learning. The teaching of writing, and the meanings engendered in our professional discourse, extend far beyond what some consider the "basics," to an understanding of persons, of relations that invite learning, and of intuitive practices developed within a reflective practitioner's daily experience.