Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Elizabeth Burmester - Chair

Second Advisor

Nancy Chase

Third Advisor

Jeffrey Berman

Fourth Advisor

Marti Singer


This dissertation is a rhetorical analysis of the theories and practices surrounding student-centered mentor-teaching. I examine textual representations of the teacher/student relationship as well as theories and practices involved in the discursive formation of teacher/student relationships, examining the intersection (or lack thereof) between the ways we as researchers talk about teacher/student relationship formation and the way(s) such relationships form in the “real world” of the English classroom. This institutional critique of teacher/student relationships draws on the works of ancient rhetorical scholars like Quintillian and Socrates, and on the post-1980 scholarship of Robert Connors, Lad Tobin, bell hooks, Paulo Freire, Parker J. Palmer, Mike Rose, Wendy Bishop, Louise Rosenblatt, Jeffrey Berman, and Peter Elbow. These scholars have all provided helpful models for me as I have framed my own beliefs about the value of expressive writing, the usefulness of writing conferences, the need for teacher vulnerability as a model for students’ expressive writing, the appropriateness of various relational settings beyond the classroom, and the ways grading/responding to student writing can either promote or inhibit a trusting student/teacher bond. While all of these scholars have contributed to my own beliefs and ideas, I am merely identifying and classifying pedagogical movements; rather, I am synthesizing these movements’ theories and practices in order to formulate an overall critique of the strengths and weaknesses of the various approaches. I also draw heavily upon the theoretical underpinnings of psychoanalysis, feminism, reader-response criticism, and composition studies to weave together a synthesized working model of mutually beneficial teacher/student relationships as they pertain to the high school and college English classrooms. Ultimately, I suggest my own contributions to the existing scholarship that will call for a mixture of both bolder pedagogical approaches and greater relational caution, depending upon the concept and the student(s) involved. I conclude with suggestions for utilizing teacher research to formulate new theories and practices for mentor-teaching in the English classroom.