Date of Award

Spring 2007

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Thomas Newkirk


In this study, I examine the literacy, school, and work experiences of three professional adult learners attending Northeast State College (NSC), a four-year public university in New England. I define professional adult learners as those over the age of twenty-five who enroll in formal programs of post-secondary study for reasons having to do primarily with career advancement and/or transition. More often than not, professional adult learners work full-time and pursue their studies part-time. This project grew out of my work teaching at NSC in the late 1990s. At that time, I had a limited sense of who professional adult learners are, why they enroll or re-enroll in college, and what role literacy, and in particular writing, plays in their lives. I had an even more limited sense of how I was supposed to help such students, many of whom are already competent and even savvy communicators, improve their writing. In this project, I investigate participants' literate lives both in and outside the classroom, examining, in particular, their writing across three domains: school, home/community, and work. I argue that, far from remediation, what professional adult learners need in terms of writing instruction is an overarching awareness of the role of genre in professional and academic writing and frequent opportunities to connect writing instruction inside school with the wide variety of rhetorical tasks and projects in which they often already engage outside of school.