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

James Michael Rifenburg, Brian G Forester


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. 


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

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