Visualizing Transfer Writing Theory, Key Terms (Threshold Concepts), and Reflection: A Reiterative Process

Doris Jones

During the last 15 years, research about writing studies has revealed an increased interest in writing transfer, with an emphasis on students' use of prior knowledge to compose new texts (Yancey, Robertson, & Taczak, 2014; Reiff & Bawarshi, 2016; Moore & Anson, 2017). In 2019, the Department of Rhetoric and Composition’s Professional Development Committee, in partnership with the Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT), implemented the Teaching Writing for Transfer Track. The “Track” was designed to strengthen and deepen teaching and learning about writing by investing in faculty development. This investment sought to further dispel the “myth” that undergraduate students will possess critical writing knowledge upon their completion of RHET courses. Major highlights included roundtable discussions with Dr. Jessie L. Moore, the Director of Elon University’s Center for Engaged Learning and the co-author of Understanding Writing Transfer: Implications for Transformative Student Learning in Higher Education. The discussions continued with Dr. Liane Robertson, Director of First Year Composition, University of South Florida and Dr. Kara Taczak, Associate Professor, University of Denver, who co-authored the book Writing Across Contexts: Transfer, Composition, and Sites of Writing. The “Track” fostered engagement among participants to learn how “writing for transfer” involves the ability to apply, adapt, or re-imagine learned threshold concepts, practices, and writing skills in new situations.  Each workshop also reinforced the argument that rhetorical fluency or writing expertise requires regular and reiterative practice across the four or five years of undergraduate study. Situated at the intersection of (1) Writing Theory; (2) Threshold Concepts; and critical deliberations about (3) Reflection, a framework for Teaching for Transfer (TFT) began to unfold.  This framework argues that “reflection” serves as the catalyst for students to build a metacognitive awareness about the value of writing, and by extension, see its applications and transferability in future writing contexts.

Rhet today 2021

Yancey (1998) argues that when embedded into the curriculum, reflection becomes a “discipline, a habit of mind/spirit/feeling that informs what we do, always tacitly, sometimes explicitly, and that making such understanding explicit is good” (Yancey, 2014; 1998). This means that reflection must be repeated to help students self-monitor their own writing practices. Yancey, Robertson, and Taczak (2014) also claim that if we encourage students to see themselves as the agent of the writing process, the potential for transfer increases. Also, as a rhetorical concept, reflection is a deliberate process involving the conscious design of assignments that promote reflective activities. This deliberate process begs the question: What conceptions about writing do students bring with them to the classroom as they revise, develop, and repurpose what they will learn in Rhetoric and Composition courses and beyond?

Today, the Academy of Liberal Arts (ALA) is working closely with schools and departments at AUC to develop a Writing-Enriched Curriculum (WEC). Pioneered by the University of Minnesota, the WEC Model offers “faculty-driven” writing instruction within a discipline’s undergraduate curriculum. The Model is further reinforced by five guiding principles (WEC, 2021):

  1. “Writing can be flexibly defined as an articulation of thinking, an act of choosing among an array of modes or forms, only some of which involve words” (WEC, 2021).
  2. “Writing ability is continually developed rather than mastered” (WEC, 2021).
  3. “Because writing is instrumental to learning, it follows that writing instruction is the shared responsibility of content experts in all academic disciplines” (WEC, 2021).
  4. “The incorporation of writing into content instruction can be most meaningfully achieved when those who teach are provided multiple opportunities to articulate, interrogate, and communicate their assumptions and expectations” (WEC, 2021).
  5. “Those who infuse writing instruction into their teaching require support” (WEC, 2021).

Following a rigorous engagement with research and workshops, the Department of Rhetoric and Composition is currently piloting a TFT model in RHET/CORE 1010 and 1020 courses. Critical attention is being placed around the Five Canons of Rhetoric, while advancing writing theory, and the use of e-Portfolios. We are also designing a series of reflection assignments that ask students to practice how well they are understanding writing as a rhetorical process. Reflection clearly makes up a significant part of the TFT model. What follows next for the Department should allow faculty, over time, to develop foundations for a proven reflective framework that can help students see writing as a self-directed, reiterative process.



  • Anson, C., & Moore, J. L. (2017). Critical Transitions: Writing and the Question of Transfer. WAC Clearinghouse.
  • Bass, R., & Moore, J. L. (2017). Understanding Writing Transfer: Implications for Transformative Student Learning in Higher Education. Stylus Publishing, LLC.
  • Figure 1. Teaching for Transfer (TFT) Model. (2013). South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference (SAMLA). Atlanta, GA: November, 2013.
  • Reiff, M., & Bawarshi, A. (Eds.). (2016). Genre and the Performance of Publics. Utah State University Press.
  • Writing-Enriched-Curriculum. (2021). University of Minnesota. WEC Model.
  • Yancey, K. B. (1998). Reflection in the Writing Classroom. Utah State University Press.
  • Yancey, K. B., Robertson L., & Taczak, K. (2014). Writing across Contexts: Transfer, Composition, and Sites of Writing. Utah State University Press.