Revolution Lullabye

October 23, 2014

Morgan and Pytash, Preparing Preservice Teachers to Become Teachers of Writing: A 20-Year Review of the Research Literature

Morgan, Denise N. and Kristine E. Pytash. “Preparing Preservice Teachers to Become Teachers of Writing; A 20-Year Review of the Research Literature.” English Education 47.1 (October 2014): 6-37. Print.

Morgan and Pytash, in their review of the 31 published peer-reviewed research studies focused on preparing preservice teachers (PST) to teach writing, argue for an explicit focus on writing teacher preparation in undergraduate teacher education programs. They reiterate the National Commission on Writing’s recommendation for PSTs to have a writing pedagogy methods course in their undergraduate teacher preparation.

Morgan and Pytash organized the 31 studies they found in four thematic categories: 1. studies that focused on PST’s attitudes and beliefs toward writing; 2. studies that focused on PST’s interactions with student writers and writing; 3. studies that looked at PST’s influential experiences in methods courses that expanded their understanding of how to think and read as a writer; and 4. studies that looked at how PST applied what they had (or had not) learned in their methods courses about the teaching of writing in their student teaching and first few years of teaching.

Morgan and Pytash contend that the teaching of reading and the teaching of literature overshadow the teaching of writing, and they argue that it is time, especially in the advent of the CCSS, to rebalance the focus in teacher preparation coursework and in K-12 language arts classrooms. They also point out that there is a need for further research in how PSTs learn and enact the teaching of writing, pointing out that the literature available on how inservice teachers learn and enact the teaching of writing through venues such as the National Writing Project do not address the same needs and concerns as PSTs and beginning teachers. They call for further, longitudinal, cross-institutional research studies that can explore what kinds of concepts and practices learned in methods coursework helps PSTs negotiate both their past experiences as student writers and their current school contexts as they teach writing to whole classes of students.

Quotable Quotes

Goal of the research review: “To develop a coherent picture of the research concerning PSTs’ preparation to teach writing” (7)

“It is critical that PSTs enter the classroom, whether as student teachers or in their early careers, with strong theoretical and pedagogical knowledge for teaching writing” (7).

“Writing is a complex, nuanced, and layered activity. Teaching writing is even more so as teachers are challenged with making visible the in-the-head processes associated with writing, often to 30 students at a time, each with individual writing processes. To make instructionally sound decisions, teachers need to develop a conceptual framework that will guide their interactions with students. PSTs should be able to look to teacher education for that initial guidance” (33).

“Without writing methods coursework, the topic of writing is ‘sandwiched in’ the semester, with often just a few class periods devoted to teaching writing and the rest devoted to teaching reading. This provides PSTs with, at best, surface understandings of and experiences with teaching writing” (30).

“Now more than ever teacher educators are faced with the critical need to prepare PSTs to become confident and capable teachers of writers. With the current national focus on writing instruction in schools due to the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010) teachers must be prepared to enter the profession with strong pedagogical knowledge of how to teach writing and with a sense of their own writing self-efficacy. Just as schools at the K-12 level are being required to increase their writing instruction, universities should consider increasing the amount of writing preparation PSTs receive. Reading coursework cannot dominate literacy teacher education preparation” (28).

The literature review shows there is “a crucial need for PSTs to experience methods courses that provide explicit, consistent, and thoughtful writing experiences” (28)

Notable Notes

what sorts of preparation do PST get for designing and teaching digital and multimodal writing? (32)

future research project could be analyzing the syllabi of writing methods courses (repeat a similar study done by Smagorinsky and Whiting in 1995)

the methods course for teaching writing must provide PST with a conceptual framework to teach writing and practical strategies to implement in the classroom (29)

there is a divide between what is taught in methods courses at the university and what is implemented in K-12 classrooms – more studies needed about the transition of PSTs to the classroom to see what causes this (29)

studies done with experienced or inservice teachers are helpful, but they do not fully address the particular challenges faced by PST who are teaching writing (30)

without a methods course (or without a strong one), PSTs and beginning teachers revert to teaching as they were taught (27)

good methods courses give PST a reference of both theoretical concepts and hands-on practical strategies (26)

Question about methods courses that are run as modeling/writer workshops: “Is ‘living through’ a writing workshop and all it entails a significant method for learning how to teach writing?” (23) – the difference between being a writer and being a writing teacher (23)

Questions about methods courses that ask students to work one-on-one with student writers: How does working one-on-one with a student writer help a PST learn how to teach writing to a whole class? (19) If the PST only focuses on providing feedback, how do they learn how to create assignments and teach writing before and during the drafting stage? (19)

PSTs who have negative self-images as writers end up not valuing writing in their classroom and/or providing poor writing instruction (14)

Their methods: search databases using key word search terms (“systematic browsing”) and “footnote chasing” (9)

February 23, 2009

Phelps, Composing Administration as a Writer

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Composing Administration as a Writer.” CCCC 1996.

The theories and practices of writing, the expertise of a composition and rhetoric scholar, can be the source for a WPA’s administrative strategies in four distinctive ways: the WPA can use her own writing to complete the intellectual and bureuacratic tasks of administration; the WPA can foster a writing community in the program; the WPA can make writing a root metaphor the work that happens in the program, transforming the program jargon and thinking; and the WPA can write scholarship about administrative practice and reflection. A WPA who uses writing in these ways is using writing in its many functions simulataneously. Those functions of writing include institutional invention, performative, framing, contact, and identity formation. Being delberate about using writing to administrate bridges the gap between author and agency, showing that administrative structures do have human faces and are, like all humans, adaptive creatures able to change.

Quotable Quotes

.”Most people mean by administration “whatever the administrator does,” but my analysis demonstrates that the functions and genres of administration are simultaneously something an individual “composes” and also a widespread, diverse set of cultural activities and structures mediated by texts and socially produced genres. Unfortunately, the ambiguity of agency and action in administration does not show up in our usage of the word. When we look at writing as a surrogate for “administration,” though, we discover that what administrators do best is to orchestrate and respond to this complex activity. Administration is all the work that gets done. Administration is the organizational structures and processes and roles—and the genres—in terms of what happens.  It is not simply what the administrator does, or autonomously composes” (12-13)

“I’m suggesting that the administrator who employs writing as a preferred tool for problem-solving and conducting daily business is likely to find herself on a slippery slope, the relationship between writing and administration sliding constantly from the instrumental use of writing as a practical tool toward the metaphoric identification of administration with writing and rhetoric. This prospect is enhanced when the administrator’s strategies and metaphoric resources for practicing administration derive not only from personal experience as an academic, technical, or creative writer and a literate person, but also from the scholarly investigation of written language.” (2)

Notable Notes

framing is managing meaning by putting one metaphor, one way to view reality, over other through metaphors, stories, spin, etc.

genres and administrative writing are multifunctional. The same document can have many purposes.

January 30, 2009

Bridges, Training the New Teacher of College Composition

Bridges, Charles W. Training the New Teacher of College Composition. Urbana, Illinois: NCTE, 1986.

The training of TAs and beginning composition instructors happens at almost every college and university (especially those with MA and PhD programs), but it is rarely discussed across institutions or theorized about in the field’s journal. This collection brings together essays by rhetoricians and writing directors to answer two questions: how do you, at your institution, train beginning teachers, and what advice do you give new teachers about the teaching of writing. The essays, some by well-known members of the field, run the gamut from discussing how new teachers should be taught through the writing process they will teach their students to specific suggestions for grading, making assignments, and managing a classroom. I’ll include the table of contents with some notes for reference:

Richard Gebhardt “Unifying Diversity in the Training of Writing Teachers” – tremendous diversity in who these beginning teachers are and what content can form a teacher-training course and the composition course. A “responsible training course in composition” sees the students as writers, showing them how to teach others to be writers through the writing process. The writing process should form the foundation of composition instruction. Lots of valuable references to comp articles.

Charles Bridges “The Basics and the New Teacher in College Composition” – teach teachers that writing isn’t just a basic skill but a valuable “way of knowing, of discovering, of experiencing.” Student-centered, writing-intensive curriculum/

William Irmscher “TA Training: A Period of Discovery” – the importance of a stability in a writing program through a director who is grounded in and is interested in the research and practice of the teaching of writing. Give TAs independence over their own teaching

RIchard VanDeWeghe “Linking Pedagogy to Purpose for Teaching Assistants in Basic Writing”

Nancy Comley “The Teaching Seminar: Writing Isn’t Just Rhetoric” – the training course should look beyond composition (because not all TAs are studying comp/rhet) to show how writing can be incorporated in all different disciplines

Don Cox “Fear and Loathing in the Classroom: Teaching Technical Writing for the First Time”

O. Jane Allen “The Literature Major as Teacher of Technical Writing: A Bibliographical Orientation”

John Ruskiewicz “The Great Commandment” – don’t lecture away the class; the focus should be on writing, have the students write

Mary Jane Schenck “Writing Right Off: Strategies for Invention” – journals, freewrite, heuristics, small groups

Ronald Lunsford “Planning for Spontaneity in the Writing Classroom and a Passel of Other Paradoxes” – importance of the teacher’s role in planning and implementing group workshopping sessions

Richard Larson “Making Assignments, Judging Writing, and Annotating Papers: Some Suggestions”

Maxine Hairston “On Not Being a Composition Slave” – argues against the model of the good comp teacher as marking up all papers and holding non-stop conferences. It’s a huge, draining workload and a cognitive overload for students, putting too much emphasis on correction. Teachers should only mark up a paper on the 2nd read, teach students how to revise, have students work on papers in class, do peer editing.

Christopher Burnham “Portfolio Evaluation: Room to Breathe and Grow”

Timothy Donovan, Patricia Sprouse, Patricia Williams “How TAs Teach Themselves”

Quotable Quotes

Teacher training needs to be “an important and rewarded part of a given department’s activities” (viii)

There needs to be more communication so theories and methods can be developed or else “teacher training will remain a hit-or-miss process that departments assign to lower-ranking faculty members and then ignore” (viii) – in isolation

Create a free website or blog at