This dissertation offers three significant implications for scholars, instructors, and students, especially in the fields of literacy studies, developmental education, and basic writing. First, by bringing original qualitative data and scholarship in education on poverty and student performance into conversation with scholarship on basic writing students—scholarship which presently has a “thin empirical base” (Lovas, 2002, p. 276)—this dissertation’s finding that it is students’ limited material resources—and sometimes the problematic expectations of their instructors—that often impinge on student performance has the potential to redirect the conversation in basic writing and developmental education scholarship away from critiques of student attitude and behavior and instead toward 1) how poor working conditions for instructors impinge on student literacy learning and 2) how to accommodate the material realities of working-class students’ lives.
Second, given that these basic writing students already possessed significant “funds of knowledge” in bureaucratic and personal writing, rooted in the social and material contexts of their lives, this study has the potential to intervene in basic writing scholarship and pedagogy which assumes these students have only basic literacy skills. Third, however, the “funds of knowledge” framework provides only part of the picture. This dissertation builds on the crucially important concept of “funds of knowledge” in literacy studies, arguing that the personal and bureaucratic literacy skills that many basic writing students already possess do not seem to transfer to academic literacy skills because they are deeply tied not only to context, as Gonzalez et al. argue, but also to students’ underlying motivations. This study’s finding that the most successful and invested student writers found ways to bring their out-of-school motivations for writing—often the injustices of poverty and racism—into their academic writing, has the potential both to inform the development of meaningful literacy learning pedagogies for basic writing students and working class students more broadly, as well as advance scholarly understandings of how literacy learning happens.