Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


Date of this Version

Spring 4-21-2014


Kirchner, J. (2014). Student experiences of the community college developmental writing classroom. EdD Dissertation, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Education, Major: Educational Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Elaine Chan. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Janet Kirchner


The low success rate of students in community college developmental education classes has caused not only institutions and their instructors but also those outside of the classroom to search for alternative programs and delivery methods to improve student outcomes. As college completion rates become increasingly tied to state funding, many community colleges are re-thinking their programs, considering acceleration of coursework, learning communities, and supplemental instruction as replacements for the traditional developmental sequence. While these programs have shown success in some community colleges, much of the research is quantitative in nature and based on completion rates. The purpose of this study is to lend an instructor’s and students’ voices to the conversation on developmental education. The study focuses on one community college developmental writing classroom for one term. Through student stories, the study reveals community college students’ challenges and strengths, adding to the understanding of what causes some students to succeed while others fail. The study is a narrative inquiry, with data drawn from field notes, interviews, student writing, and instructor journal writing. Chapters include stories of racial and social tension in the classroom, challenges of overcoming previous negative schooling experiences, resistance to classroom procedures and requirements, difficulties in shifting from refugee camp schooling to college expectations, and student determination despite overwhelming challenges. The student stories reveal a changing population in one suburban Midwestern community college and help provide a context for conversations about curriculum and program revisions.

Adviser: Elaine Chan