Teaching Autoethnography: Personal Writing in the Classroom
Melissa Tombro, The Fashion Institute of Technology
Pub Date: 2016
ISBN 13: 978-1-9423412-8-4
Publisher: Open SUNY
Conditions of Use
Teaching Autoethnography is a comprehensive book. The author is very familiar with extant and historical debates in the field of pedagogy (of read more
Teaching Autoethnography is a comprehensive book. The author is very familiar with extant and historical debates in the field of pedagogy (of writing) and qualitative research (ethnography and auto-ethnography in particular). Melissa Tombro is able to guide the reader in a way that the reader (most likely a college based instructor) can then design a writing class, or a course with a significant writing component, quite easily. She includes a sample syllabus. Given that writing is a requirement across curricula in all disciplines, this book provides the impetus to discrete disciplines to start examining their reasons for requiring certain forms of non-personal writing. Not all disciplines require self-examination in the process of writing but this work seems to ask the question—why not? The student samples of individual autoethnography included in the text demonstrate that the task is indeed possible. These examples are well arranged and useful for designing one’s own assignments.
I believe the work is accurate. It forwards clear arguments and presents evidence to support those arguments. This book on auto-ethnography provides important insight and instruction to university instructors on how to value the pedagogy of inserting the “self” or “I” in student writing such that it does not become narcissistic, or a way to consume “the other,” in the highly materialistic society we live in.
The myriad examples of assignments and student writing that touch upon several different scenarios make the book relevant and current for a long time to come. This work examines the assumptions of research writing in academia and therefore it will remain cutting edge.
A strength of this work is that there is very little technical terminology or jargon. Students and faculty would be able to decipher the concepts that the book introduces as those are clearly explained.If there are unfamiliar terms, those are prefaced and explained in detail by the author. This book is written for the practitioner.
The format of the book and the consistency of the terms provides a familiarity to the reader which makes the book easy to read.
All chapters are marked and all student work clearly lists the name of the student-author. If I were to use just the introduction or another section of the book, I would be able to do that without the section seeming out of place or incomplete.
The book is arranged well into discrete sections. Each of the student examples are marked and the list of questions it answers is included so the reader does not lose their chain of thought. The assignments are arranged according to separate chapters. I find the flow to be smooth and each bit of information is properly placed in its order. The historical and academic context for the book is set in the introductory chapter that underscores the value of autoethnography in a student’s learning, especially research writing. The chapters that follow are clearly organized and explained.
This book is easy to navigate. The typeface is pleasing and the pages scroll easily from top to bottom. There are reasonable gaps within chapters and between chapters that give the eye relief if you are reading on-screen. I think the book will benefit from an index.
This book is about writing. The author is a faculty member and writing expert in an English program. There are no grammatical problems in this book.
Teaching Autoethnography is about recovering the “I” in writing for academia, and in culture. The book focuses on how to be self-reflexive, and through writing, become a member of the larger global community. Writing autoethnography is about the art of recouping our sense of connectedness with diverse human realities. I believe that the skills and philosophies that Teaching Autoethnography articulates, establishes it as a culturally relevant text. College students in universities around the world are a diverse body. When a college classroom is able to teach students how to articulate the “I” which is a powerful and unique position that questions diversity and marginality as we know it, and insert it in their research, it brings the students’ cultural world into the academy. That is a powerful position to hold for students who generally feel excluded or treated as clients rather than as active participants.
I recommend Teaching Ethnography to all instructors in the Humanities and Social Sciences who value qualitative methods and research writing in the classroom; and want to make it accessible and relevant to their students’ lives.
Overall, this textbook offers much utility in its approach to teaching thoughtful autoethnography in college-level writing. The author's approach read more
Overall, this textbook offers much utility in its approach to teaching thoughtful autoethnography in college-level writing. The author's approach is rooted and can be applied to many intersectional social identities, which is helpful in using this information to be aware of numerous issues of oppression in writing. The author also provides thorough outlines for a number of in-class writing and other class assignments, and helpful examples of those assignments from multiple perspectives. The questions for consideration under each of the writing samples offer clear examples of drawing forth more thoughtful pedagogical approaches. Overall, there are areas that would have been helpful to draw upon at greater length, such as a deeper exploration of individualized feedback for at least some of the writing samples (rather than the same set of unanswered questions for each sample). However, overall this is a solidly useful guide with much practical course application for first-year writing courses and beyond.
The author presents well-grounded information that represents her rich experience in instructing college-level writing courses and offers best practices for teaching autoethnographic writing. She discusses relevant ethnographic scholars and researchers to provide a framework for his approaches that culminate in an informed and critical teaching practice.
The content of this book offers content that is a best practices manual for introductory autoenthnographic writing. It is general enough to provide both applicability for numerous instructional approaches as well as lasting relevance for writing assignments across disciplines and levels. It also aims to encourage greater cultural-reflexivity and competency in writing so as not to rely on racialzed (or other) stereotypes and offers the tools to broach this within the classroom by deeper examination of subjectivity in writing. This goal is both timely within academia and the larger national climate, and is not likely to wane in importance or necessity for this critical intervention.
The author utilizes language that is accessible and clear in its communication. The introductory chapters offer a useful background discussion of contemporary approaches to autoethnographic writing that provide a context for her instruction approaches and theoretical framework seen within the assignments presented in the rest of the book. The writing and layout of the book is both straightforward and coherent.
The book is consistent in the presentation and layout of its information. It replicates a pattern of assignments and corresponding writing samples from the same batch of student writers, offering the reader a uniform and helpful example of the applicability and utility of the author's teaching methods.
The book offers concise and helpful modularity that can be easily applied throughout the course. It offers a direct path to apply within a course and offers examples of stage-appropriate assignments that build upon one another and increase in difficulty and depth of writing assignment. Conversely, individual sections could also be extracted from the larger set of examples and still have great utility as stand-alone writing assignments.
The book presents a logical flow that is both uniform and clear in its organization.
The book's interface is easily-navigabable and offers a straight-forward and consistently-designed format.
The book's text did not present either structural or grammatical errors. It is solidly-written and edited.
This book's content focuses on approaches to autoethnographic writing that encourages greater awareness for subjectivity within personal writing, and actively works towards the eradication of cultural insensitivity. It is an important topic that is timely and will continue to be a relevant and culturally-necessary intervention in college-level writing.
The text's primary aim is to serve as a guide for instructors teaching "autoethnography" or "personal writing" in the (composition) classroom. In a read more
The text's primary aim is to serve as a guide for instructors teaching "autoethnography" or "personal writing" in the (composition) classroom. In a somewhat dry but thorough introductory literature review, Tombro surveys current conversations concerning personal writing as a valid classroom practice for teaching critical writing and thinking skills. The strength of the book is in its outline of how such a course might be put together, including week-by-week topics and assignments. After each assignment is a discussion of "Results," which gives prospective instructors a preview of what to expect from the class's responses. Finally, the sample papers for each assignment give a range of representations of the possibilities for these assignments. Since the text is meant as an introduction and hands-on guide for instructors, it appropriately covers its subject and gives a useful bibliography for further readings.
The text gives an accurate portrayal of the field. It shows a fair representation of the benefits and problems of using personal writing in the classroom.
Since autoethnography and personal writing are increasingly used in composition classes, the book should only gain in relevancy. The assignments have been developed from longer traditions of both ethnographic practice and creative writing instruction, so the text is timely but should wear well.
Clarity is a particular strength of the main body of the book, but less so for the introduction, which reads more like a literature review than an overview of the key controversies and cornerstones of teaching personal writing. In the main body of the book, the voice is clear and examples are useful. Sample student essays are also vey elucidating.
Very consistent. The only inconsistency in terminology--"autoethnography" and "personal writing" are sometimes used interchangeably, sometimes not--is an inconsistency in the field itself, and one Tombro takes pains to explain in the introduction.
This is perhaps the text's greatest strength. It can be used in its entirety, but it also offers individual assignments and modules that can be used separately.
Going hand-in-hand with modularity, its organizational structure is a great strength. Assignments are very nicely designed to build on each other into a final project, even as they have merit if used individually.
No interface issues.
The text contains no grammatical errors (except the "errors" found in the creative portions that serve the text).
The text offers personal writing as a key way to empower students to explore the richness of their own ethnicities and subcultures, as well as a way to appreciate others. Such inclusion is increasingly a goal in universities, making this project very culturally relevant.
This book itself offers a useful and welcome auto-ethnographic engagement with classroom practice. It's refreshingly honest in its discussion of classroom misfires as well as successes.
This text is comprehensive in the sense that it includes everything an instructor would need to know to implement student autoethnographic writing in read more
This text is comprehensive in the sense that it includes everything an instructor would need to know to implement student autoethnographic writing in the classroom, but it is also very narrow and would not appeal to instructors who teach other kinds of writing or use autoethnography for other purposes. There is no index or glossary.
Content is accurate. It largely derives from the author's teaching practice, so as an original work, it is biased in favor of the author's work.
This book is very specific to one type of academic writing. It is relevant in that regard, and not likely to become obsolete.
The text is written very clearly, with straightforward descriptions of activities and tasks.
The text is internally consistent.
This text is not modular. While an experienced instructor could adapt sections for her or his own use, there is a clear scaffolding and interconnection in the content.
The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion that aligns with a usual course planning process and progression of complexity through a semester.
The text is free of interface issues.
This book is grammatically correct and free from errors.
The tasks and assignments described are adaptable to a variety of student backgrounds and cultural environments. The author has included student work samples that appear to reflect a diverse student population.
This book would best be used as an instructor resource or reference book rather than a course text. Reading the book is worth it for the beautiful examples of student work!
Table of Contents
1. Understanding our Students’ Relationship to “I”
2. Getting Started in the Classroom
3. Writing Essays for Class: The First Steps
4. Workshop and Peer Review Process
5. Memory/Character Essays
6. Writing about Spaces and Events
7. The Autoethnography Project
8. Choosing Topics for the Autoethnography
9. The Interview Process
10. Conducting Observations
11. Putting It All Together
12. Challenges of Personal Writing
13. Concluding Thoughts
14. Sample Class Schedule
15. Additional Readings on Autoethnography
About the Book
Teaching Autoethnography: Personal Writing in the Classroom is dedicated to the practice of immersive ethnographic and autoethnographic writing that encourages authors to participate in the communities about which they write. This book draws not only on critical qualitative inquiry methods such as interview and observation, but also on theories and sensibilities from creative writing and performance studies, which encourage self-reflection and narrative composition. Concepts from qualitative inquiry studies, which examine everyday life, are combined with approaches to the creation of character and scene to help writers develop engaging narratives that examine chosen subcultures and the author’s position in relation to her research subjects. The book brings together a brief history of first-person qualitative research and writing from the past forty years, examining the evolution of nonfiction and qualitative approaches in relation to the personal essay. A selection of recent student writing in the genre as well as reflective student essays on the experience of conducting research in the classroom is presented in the context of exercises for coursework and beyond. Also explored in detail are guidelines for interviewing and identifying subjects and techniques for creating informed sketches and images that engage the reader. This book provides approaches anyone can use to explore their communities and write about them first-hand. The methods presented can be used for a single assignment in a larger course or to guide an entire semester through many levels and varieties of informed personal writing.
About the Contributors
Melissa Tombro is an Associate Professor of English at The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She is the recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching for her work on a wide range of courses from Creative Nonfiction to Theatre Arts. Her research interests include autoethnography, ethnography, personal writing, creative writing and performance studies. Outside of FIT she runs volunteer writing workshops for at-risk and underserved populations through the New York Writers Coalition. In her writing, teaching and volunteer work, she encourages other writers to use self-reflection and community engagement as a way to create meaningful, informed, and inspiring prose.