Introduction to Teaching Writing

English 712: Writing and the Teaching of Writing

Course Description

This course introduces current and future teachers to writing pedagogies and the theory that informs them. The seminar has a dual aim: to probe the historical and theoretical issues in teaching writing and to connect those issues to pedagogical problems. We will do this work in pursuit of the following questions:

  • Why teach writing? Where did this practice come from and where is it going?
  • What is the role of writing in the 21st century university?
  • How do we best prepare students to write for this role and for practices outside of and after college?

Course texts, assignments, and discussion aim to provide an introduction to composition pedagogy and offer the opportunity to experiment with and combine pedagogical stances. Our exploration will proceed from the following beliefs that form the foundation of this course:

1) Composition Pedagogy is a body of knowledge consisting of theories of and research on teaching, learning, literacy, writing, and rhetoric, and the related practices that emerge. It is the deliberate integration of theory, research, personal philosophy, and rhetorical praxis into composition instruction at all levels from the daily lesson plan to the writing program and the communities it serves. Composition Pedagogy is an umbrella term like theory, rhetoric, or literacy; it contains much that is worthy of extensive scholarly and practitioner attention, and the more deeply we engage it, the more complex and diverse it becomes. A Guide to Composition Pedagogy

2) Developing writers require support. This support can best come through carefully designed writing instruction oriented toward acquiring new strategies and skills. Certainly, writers can benefit from teachers who simply support and give them time to write. However, instruction matters. Teachers of writing should be well-versed in composition theory and research, and they should know methods for turning that theory into practice. When writing teachers first walk into classrooms, they should already know and practice good composition. However, much as in doctoring, learning to teach well is a lifetime process, and lifetime professional development is the key to successful practice. Students deserve no less.  – “NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing”

Course Objectives

In this seminar, you can expect to:

  • Strengthen your ability to read critically, assess pedagogical research, and identify areas of intervention
  • Gain insight into the theoretical principles that define approaches to teaching writing
  • Translate theoretical trends or research-based findings into teaching options and actions
  • Practice and produce common pedagogical and professional texts: assignments, syllabi, book reviews

Required Texts (Additional articles will be posted on course Moodle page)

A Guide to Composition Pedagogies (2nd ed.) by Tate, Rupiper, and Schick

Naming What We Know by Adler-Kassner and Wardle

First-Year Composition: From Theory to Practice by Coxwell-Teague and Lunsford


Textbook review and presentation (1000 words), 25%

Choose a textbook and assess its relative merits for the writing classroom. What is this textbook trying to accomplish? Who is its audience? Why was it published when it was? This review should follow the conventions of book reviews published in the field’s major journals. You will present your reviewed text to the class in a brief but formal ten-minute presentation, explaining especially how the textbook extends or complicates our ongoing course discussions. These presentations will occur throughout the semester and your review will be due the day you present.

Dream writing assignment (500 words), 20%

Drawing on our readings as well as the models critiqued in class, design the writing assignment of your dreams for a high school, first-year, or upper-division undergraduate writing course. Consider the assignment’s topic, task, readings, and evaluation: include all of these on the assignment together with a rationale for why these are appropriate for the course for which the assignment has been designed.

Dream course syllabus (1200 words), 30%

Design a syllabus for your dream course for a high school, first-year, or upper-division undergraduate writing course. The syllabus should include a course description, goals or learning outcomes, reading list, list of assignments, evaluation breakdown, and schedule of activities. The syllabus should reveal the assessment, reading, sequencing, and pedagogical philosophies you’ve developed from our readings and class discussions.

Teaching philosophy (1000 words), 25%

Drawing from your reading, writing, and thinking over the course of the semester, write a teaching philosophy that illustrates your pedagogical values, your goals for teaching writing, and the methods and practices that realize those values and goals.

Reading and writing to participate in seminar

Reading and preparation writing are absolutely required. Everyone is expected to be present, prepared, and participating during every class meeting. We will use writing to synthesize our reading in 2 ways:

Before class

Write 500 words responding to this week’s reading. This writing is informal and just for you. Bring it to class in whatever form suits you best. You will use it as a basis for your discussion contributions.

  • What interesting issues, complexities, or lines of inquiry does this reading raise for you?
  • What do you find yourself responding to most strongly? Where are your skepticisms or concerns?
  • What questions does this work pose in your mind?

At the beginning of class

Synthesize your responses with your group.

  • What are the commonalities or overlaps in your group’s responses? Where do they differ?
  • What take aways—questions, reactions—for discussion can you distill together?

Course Calendar

All assignments listed on a given day should be completed for discussion on that day.

Historical Stance: Where did teaching writing come from and why do we do it?

Week 1 9/5 Positions and stances

  • NCTE Statement on Professional Knowledge for the Teaching of Writing
Week 2 9/12 History

  • Bedford bib history
  • Crowley “The Invention of Freshman English” “Composition in the University”
  • Miller “Where Did College English Studies Come From?”
  • Hairston “The Winds of Change”
Week 3 9/19 History and pedagogical overviews

  • Villanueva “On the Rhetoric and Precedents of Racism”
  • Royster and Williams “History in the Spaces Left”
  • North “The Practitioners” pgs 21-33
  • “What is Composition Pedagogy” in GCP
  • Applebee and Langer “Snapshot of High School Writing Instruction”

Pedagogical Stance: What are some pedagogical approaches to teaching writing? What theories support them?

Week 4 9/26 Expressive / Process

  • “Expressive” and “Process” in GCP
  • Concept 1 from NWWK (pgs 15-34)
  • Murray “Teaching Writing as Process not Product”
  • Faigley “Competing Theories of Process: A Critique and a Proposal”
  • Breuch “Post-Process ‘Pedagogy’”
  • Faigley “Conflicting Rhetorics of Writing Textbooks”
Week 5 10/3 Argument / Cultural studies

  • “Rhetoric and Argumentation” and “Cultural Studies” in GCP
  • Chapter 10 in FYC
  • Lynch, George, and Cooper “Moments of Argument”
  • Berlin “Contemporary Composition”
10/10 No class: Monday schedule
Week 6 10/17 Collaborative / Public


  • “Collaborative writing” in GCP
  • Bruffee “Collaborative Learning and Conversation of Mankind”
  • Ede and Lunsford “Collaboration”
  • Trimbur “Consensus and Difference”


“Community-engaged” in GCP

  • Ackerman and Coogan “Introduction” The Public Work of Rhetoric
  • Herzberg “Service Learning and Public Discourse,”
  • Cushman “The Rhetorician as an Agent of Social Change.”
  • Cox, Tirabassi, & Ortmeier-Hooper “Teaching Writing for the ‘Real World’”
Week 7 10/24 Critical / L2/Translingual / Feminist


  • “Critical” in GCP
  • Concept 3 from NWWK (pgs 48-58)
  • Giroux “Rethinking the Language of Schooling”
  • Freire and Macedo
  • Graff “The Dilemma of Oppositional Pedagogy: A Response.”


  • “Second Language Writing” in GCP
  • Chapter 2 in FYC
  • Horner et al. “Translingual Dispositions”
  • Canagarajah “Translanguaging in the Classroom”
  • Guerra “Writing across Communities”


  • “Feminist” in GCP
  • Brodkey “Writing on the Bias”
  • Romano “On Becoming a Woman”
  • Ritchie and Boardman “Feminism in Composition”
Week 8 10/31 Multimodal / New media / Digital


  • Chapter 8 in FYC
  • Bezemer and Kress “Writing in Multimodal texts”
  • New London Group “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies”
  • Selfe “Movement of Air”
  • George “From Analysis to Design”

New media / digital

  • “New media” in GCP
  • Chapter 7 in FYC
  • Shipka “Including but not Limited to the Digital”
  • Selfe, Selfe, Berry Transnational Literate Lives in Digital Times

Dream Assignment Draft Due

Week 9 11/7 Genre / Transfer / WAW


  • “Genre” in GCP
  • Concept 2 in NWWK (pgs 35-47)
  • Chapter 12 in FYC
  • Miller “Genre as Social Action”
  • Bawarshi “The Genre Function”


  • Chapter 1 in FYC
  • Rounsaville “Selecting Genres for Transfer”
  • Robertson, Taczak, and Yancey “Prior Knowledge”
  • Smit “Transfer”

Writing about writing

  • Intro and pages 84-121 in NWWK
  • Chapter 11 in FYC
  • Downs and Wardle “Righting Misconceptions”
  • Wardle “Mutt Genres”
  • Downs and Wardle “Reflecting Back”

Dream Assignment Due

Evaluative Stance: What are some ways of determining writing’s effect, efficacy, or consequences?

Week 10 11/14 Error

  • Bartholomae “The Study of Error”
  • Williams “The Phenomenology of Error”
  • Lunsford and Lunsford “Mistakes”
  • “Students’ Rights to Their Own Language”
11/21 No class: Thanksgiving break
Week 11 11/28 Response

  • Concept 4 from NWWK (pgs 59-70)
  • Haswell “Minimal Marking”
  • Sommers “Responding” and “Across the Drafts”
  • Brannon and Knobluach “Students’ Rights to Their Own Texts”

Dream Course Syllabus Draft Due

Week 12 12/5 Grading

  • Chapter 4 in FYC
  • Elbow “Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking”
  • Inoue “Contracts”
  • Yancey “Looking Back”

Dream Course Syllabus Due

Week 13 12/12 The future of teaching writing

  • Addler-Kassner and Harrington “Responsibility and Composition’s Future”
  • Bizzell “Composition Studies Saves the World”
  • Berthoff “Is Teaching Still Possible”
  • Smit “What is Writing Instruction” and “…Writing Teacher”

Teaching Philosophy Draft Due

12/19 Teaching Portfolio Due