Applying the ‘Social Turn’ in writing scholarship to perspectives on writing self-efficacy

Kim M. Mitchell, Diana E. McMillan, Michelle M. Lobchuk


The aim of this paper is to explore the fit between the cognitive concept of writing self-efficacy and a socially constructed epistemology of writing. Socially constructed perspectives on writing emphasise context and community and include academic literacies, rhetorical genre theory, and the writing across the curriculum movement. These perspectives have been prominent in theoretical discussions of writing since the 1980s. This paper argues that the measurement of writing self-efficacy has continued to prioritise assessing writing self-efficacy as ability to successfully accomplish superficial writing product and process features, while the social context of writing and its resultant impacts on the identity forming, relational, emotional and creative impacts on writing self-efficacy have been largely ignored. The historical context of paradigmatic shifts in writing theory will be discussed with a lens towards proposing a synthesis of three constructionist situated perspectives - activity theory, rhetorical genre theory, and communities of practice - and how these situated perspectives may inform a more complete view of how writing self-efficacy should be assessed and measured. How practitioners may consider the merger of these theories in writing pedagogy will be introduced to inspire future research.


Writing self-efficacy; social cognitive theory; socially constructed epistemology; academic literacies; activity theory; rhetorical genre theory; communities of practice

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ISSN: 1759-667X