Readings about Writing and Teaching Writing

Faculty as Writers

Composition Research

Teaching Writing or Teaching through Writing


Short article on University of Mary Washington faculty blog use:

David Wiley, "Open Teaching Multiplies the Benefit but Not the Effort," Chronicle of Higher Education, 15 July 2009.

Mark Sample, "Making Student Blogs Pay Off with Blog Audits", 11 October 2010.

Class Structure

Alice Horning, "The Definitive Article on Class Size"

  • Ideally, a writing class should be capped at 15.

ESL Writers

John M. Green, "Helping ESL Writers Grow," (Salem College). An earlier version appeared in the college's Crosscurrents, no. 3 (January 1998). "Learning how to write, like learning how to function in a second language, can also be seen in developmental terms. Mayher et. al. (1983) suggest that the process of learning to write involves a gradual shift of emphasis from fluency to clarity to correctness. … This leaves us with a key question: should a teacher mark all the errors a second language writer makes? It depends. If the student is at a fairly advanced level and is making very few mistakes, then underlining or correcting all errors may be useful, especially if the paper in question is going to be rewritten. On the other hand, if a student is at a lower level, and has grammatical errors of one kind or another in virtually every sentence, then correcting all errors would mean a great deal of the teacher's time invested in a way more likely to result in student discouragement than improvement."


Matt Burkenhauer, "The 'Systematicity' of Student Writing Errors", (Northern Kentucky University). Developmental writers sometimes makes mistakes by following bad "rules." Instructors can help them develop by asking about their intentions and talking about rhetorical choices.

Rich Haswell (Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi), "Automated Text Checkers: A Chronology and a Bibliography of Commentary," Composition and Computers Online (date unclear, ~2006).

  • Haswell cites a study that "found machines and teachers identifying the same mistakes less than 10% of the time." After a flurry of interest when text checking software debuted, scholarship about it has declined steeply. According to Haswell, "maybe all we are seeing is teachers losing interest in an aspect of teaching composition, attention to surface features, that more and more they have come to feel is secondary and that they are happy to turn over to mechanical household aids. Then the question is whether teachers are aware of how poorly the machines are doing the chores or how the students are getting along with the hired help."

Geoffrey K. Pullum, "50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice"

  • Grammar incompetents Strunk and White misguide readers with their celebrated Elements of Style.

Inquiry and Writing

Steve Kolowich, "Group Chemistry," Inside Higher Ed, 2 October 2009.

  • A UMBC chemistry professor replaces lecture with "discovery learning." Beginning students work in groups of four with assigned (alternating) roles: one does calculations, one takes notes, one publishes on a blog, and one manages the process. The result? "The pass rate for chemistry 101 students has leaped from 71.2 percent to 85.6 percent, even as the minimum score required for a passing grade has climbed slightly."


Brent Walth, "Teaching Journalism Students to Value What Is Authentic," Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, Winter 2006.

  • Nieman fellow Walth describes the denial, anger, thrill, and frustration of rooting out plagiarism in his class. "We talked about where the word came from: the plagiarii, Latin for kidnappers. 'In this class,' I told them on the first day we were together, 'don't steal any babies.'"


Alfie Kohn, "The Trouble with Rubrics," English Journal 95 (4), March 2006.

  • Education critic Kohn questions the value of rubrics, which make students write to narrow criteria. "Just as standardizing assessment for teachers may compromise the quality of teaching, so standardizing assessment for learners may compromise the learning."

Writing and Technology

Clive Thompson, "Clive Thompson on the New Literacy," Wired 17.09 (August 24, 2009).

  • "Online media are pushing literacy into cool directions," teaching concision, audience awareness, and collaboration.

PEW Research Center, "Writing, Technology and Teens," results of 2008 survey of teens and parents.
*Although teens text and e-mail all the time, they don't consider that writing. In high school teens write almost every day, but assignments are short. Eighty-six percent "believe good writing is important to success in life."

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