selected publications

Reclaiming Multiple Measures in Writing Placement

Heidi Estrem, Dawn Shepherd, and Samantha Sturman

Writing assessment research has long described the harmful effects of using standardized test scores for writing placement. Now, national higher education reform efforts are critiquing the use of these tests as well. In this article, we explore how external pressures in higher education offer new spaces for WPAs to advocate for richer placement processes. We propose that placement is a moment where faculty can and should shape the conversation in order to help others – policy makers, non-profit agencies involved in remediation reform – see placement anew. Finally, we describe our own locally-developed writing placement process as one possible placement approach that encourages student reflection and draws on faculty expertise.

Building Relationships: Online Dating and the New Logics of Internet Culture

Dawn Shepherd

Lexington Books

My book uses an apparatus approach to media analysis to examine logics of compatibility, online dating site procedures, and user narratives of popular matchmaking sites. Learn more.

Retention, Persistence, and Writing Programs

Todd Ruecker, Dawn Shepherd, Beth Brunk-Chavez, and Heidi Estrem, eds.

Utah State University Press

This collection seeks to begin a conversation about the role of writing studies in university efforts to retain students. It includes chapters from established and emerging scholars, teachers, and administrators from a variety of higher-education institutions. This edition offers multiple perspectives on the complex issues related to retention. Some pieces define and interrogate retention efforts; others demonstrate how to draw on data to make nuanced claims. Still others situate retention and persistence efforts in particular kinds of institutional contexts, from community colleges to tribal-serving state universities to research institutions.

Understanding How Algorithms Work Persuasively through the Procedural Enthymeme

Kevin Brock and Dawn Shepherd

Computers and Composition 42 (2016): 17–27

Procedure, when discussed in regards to rhetoric, is framed overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, in regards to game play (and to video games most frequently). We argue that this view needs to be expanded if we are to realize how complex human-computer rhetor systems function rhetorically in diverse contexts. Such systems do so algorithmically through procedural enthymemes, which persuade audience agents to action through the apparent logic of a given system. Procedural persuasion occurs most often via strategies that facilitate the agent to assume an active role in “self-persuasion” in order to complete a given enthymeme. In this text, we explore the procedural enthymeme as a rhetorical tactic for human and nonhuman persuasion by looking at three case studies of commonly used technological “matching” systems—search engines (Google), online matchmaking (, and social networking (Facebook)—that employ procedural enthymemes through their algorithms in order to persuade users toward particular engagements with those systems.

Relentless Engagement with State Educational Policy Reform: Collaborating to Change the Writing Placement Conversation

Heidi Estrem, Dawn Shepherd, and Lloyd Duman

WPA: Writing Program Administration 38, no. 1 (2014): 88-129

This article describes the educational reform efforts surrounding writing placement in one state context. We propose that placement offers a particularly useful engagement point because it is often controlled by state-level policies and it directly impacts the lived experience of first-year college students. To document how we worked across institutions in our state, we describe a series of events that occurred over several years and that fostered collaborative exchanges. Then, we explore the challenges and opportunities afforded by our long-term engagement with policymakers. Ultimately, we propose strategies that writing program administrators might consider as they become engaged with state-level higher education policy.

Participation and Collaboration in Digital Spaces: Connecting High School and College Writing Experiences

Rachel Bear, Heidi Estrem, James E. Fredricksen, and Dawn Shepherd

The Next Digital Scholar: A Fresh Approach to the Common Core State Standards in Research and Writing, eds. James P. Purdy and Randall McClure (Medford, NJ, Information Today, 2014), 141-173.

As literacy educators, we're particularly mindful of two different and current conversations about digital literacies that directly inform our experiences in the classroom. The first conversation stems from the development and initial implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for high school instruction (Council of Chief State School Officers [CCSSO] and National Governors Association [NGA] 2010) and the work informing the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing (Framework), a statement that outlines expectations for incoming college students (Council of Writing Program Administrators [CWPA], National Council of Teachers of English [NCTE], and the National Writing Project [NWP] 2011). These documents directly affect our curricular decisions in a host of ways. The second conversation that informs our experiences in the classroom is a larger cultural conversation about the implications of digital literacy practices and opportunities. Together, these twin conversations highlight the unsettled, ever-shifting landscape in which the authors of this chapter (Rachel Bear, a high school English teacher; Heidi Estrem and Dawn Shepherd, college professors and writing program administrators; and James E. Fredricksen, a college English education professor) work.

Questions for Genre Theory from the Blogosphere

Carolyn R. Miller and Dawn Shepherd

Genres in the Internet: Issues in the Theory of Genre, eds. Janet Giltrow and Dieter Stein (Amsterdam, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2009), 263-290.

Blogging as Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog

Carolyn R. Miller and Dawn Shepherd

Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs, eds. Laura Gurak, Smiljana Antonijevic, Laurie Johnson, Clancy Ratliff, Clancy, and Jessica Reyman (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Libraries, 2004).

The weblog phenomenon raises a number of rhetorical issues, and for us one of the most intriguing of these is the peculiar intersection of the public and private that weblogs seem to invite. The blog is a new rhetorical opportunity, made possible by technology that is becoming more available and easier to use, but it was adopted so quickly and widely that it must be serving well established rhetorical needs. Our analysis will take a next step in this direction, offering an interpretive-rhetorical approach that supplements the quantitative research in these other studies. Our aim in this genre analysis of the blog is to explore the emergent culture of the early 21st century--as revealed by the self-organized communities that support blogging, the recurrent rhetorical exigences that arise there, and the rhetorical roles (or "subject positions") they support and make possible.


selected presentations & invited talks