First-year cadets’ conceptions of general education writing at a senior military college


  • James Michael Rifenburg University of North Georgia
  • Brian G. Forester United States Military Academy at West Point



general education, cadets, Army writing, mixed methods, first-year composition


This study investigates conceptions first-year cadets at a U.S. senior military college bring to general education writing courses, often termed first-year composition (FYC). Using a mixed methods research design, we surveyed over 700 cadets and conducted semi-structured in-person interviews with four first-year cadets. Our data suggest cadets stress orality, credibility, and clarity when writing for FYC. These conceptions are largely influenced by the cadet’s interest and immersion in the Army yet are also strongly influenced by their brief introduction to college-level writing within their required FYC class. We conclude by arguing for two specific avenues of future research into gleaning students’ conceptions of courses, specifically arguing for exploring how conceptions all students bring to the classroom impact important moments of transfer and engaging all students and students’ conceptions in course design. 


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Author Biographies

James Michael Rifenburg, University of North Georgia

James Michael Rifenburg is an Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of North Georgia (UNG) where he directs the first-year composition program. He is completing a longitudinal study of cadet writing instruction through the support of the Corps of Cadets at UNG.

Brian G. Forester, United States Military Academy at West Point

Major Brian G. Forester is an Army officer with fourteen years of active duty service. He has multiple overseas assignments and most recently served as an Instructor in the Department of Social Sciences at the United States Military Academy.


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How to Cite

Rifenburg, James Michael, and Brian G. Forester. 2018. “First-Year cadets’ Conceptions of General Education Writing at a Senior Military College”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 6 (1):52-66.