Teaching Autoethnography: Personal Writing in the Classroom
Melissa Tombro, The Fashion Institute of Technology
Copyright Year: 2016
ISBN 13: 9781942341284
Publisher: Open SUNY
Conditions of Use
In this textbook, M. Tombro presents the practice of teaching personal writing in the classroom as one way to motivate students to explore qualitative inquiry. This book can be used as a comprehensive guide to practice ethnographic and... read more
In this textbook, M. Tombro presents the practice of teaching personal writing in the classroom as one way to motivate students to explore qualitative inquiry. This book can be used as a comprehensive guide to practice ethnographic and autoethnographic writing that is student immersive. Each chapter covers relevant English Language Arts content, methods of teaching, and strategies designed to engage college students in writing through the lens of qualitative study. There is an authenticity to note within documentation of experience and the art of culturally responsive understanding to make relevant human connections with course content for students. An index and/or glossary may be an added component for clarity of content for those who intend to use the book outside of the English Language Arts content areas.
Authenticity of expertise defines accuracy as the author takes the audience through her professional and personal accounts of practice as a writing professor. Tombro takes the “anecdote is not evidence factor’ to a shift of mindful understanding and support that one cannot quantify learning within human interaction. She addresses bias towards qualitative study, or areas of negativity towards first person writing as outdated and judgmental. There is a need to see the importance of documenting oral histories and personal narratives for the simple reason that living content makes human connections. Although it may not be widely accepted in academia and easy to measure, there is much to gain and learn from collecting qualitative data.
Content relevance of this text is not questionable, nor will it ever become obsolete within time. There is much relevance to writing personal narratives in college coursework. There is also a need for college students to break into a comfort level of writing for future synthesis and response to academia and research in designated career pathways. This textbook offers exercises that may be used partially or in full within many content areas as enrichment writing exercises for college classes. The exercises are straightforward enough to be adapted through a method of qualitative study. One way to utilize this text is through the discovery of self-knowledge. Writing narratives leads to practice, exercises designed to work on writing “chops”, or discovery of voice, point of view, perception of events, and decision making. Interviews bring oral history to life to engage and invest learners in deeper understanding of purpose, life, and being.
This textbook may be adapted or modified within any higher education content area where undergraduate research inquiry is supported. Qualitative studies are one way to provide students an opportunity to respond to context while finding a voice in specific professional arenas. M. Tombro provides a wide range of collaboration of ideas and thought process through writing strategies, personal experience, and approaches designed to unify an easy to follow text for a first-year writing classroom. Her approach integrates a multiple translation to qualitative inquiry with ethnographic pedagogical practice in a scholarly way. She refers this textbook as one way to introduce translations or use as a “field guide and blueprint” to reframe the conversation that points one to decision making issues of life experience. Her point is that personal life has real connection to scholarly life, to introduce multiple methods of producing knowledge as students learn to document experience as participant-observers in community life. Therefore, the text is written through experiential knowledge to offer a lucid, accessible prose, to provide adequate context for adaptation in many college courses.
When reading this textbook, it is obvious that M. Tombro shares and guides the reader through her personal/professional experience as a writing professor. From the first day of class to choosing topics for auto-ethnography, she provides guidelines for exercises, readings for support, and possible results for review. Textbook chapters are laid out to be easy to follow, through a step-by-step process to unpack critical inquiry and the thinking process. Terminology flows from understanding of self, how self fits into the “big picture” to how to write and respond to essays and peer reviews. Author recommendations for exercises follow a semester syllabus lead within a university course. A sample class schedule is provided within the text and additional resources. An appendix of class examples and student work with specific inquiry are offered to follow the chapters to support ideas and pedagogical practice.
Tombro offers a self-referential application within multiple models of writing exercises to support personal engagement of learners within the writing process. There is a great need to fill the gap of how to facilitate students into a deeper understanding of how personal writing might serve as the foundation for scholarly application, composition scholarship, and teacher training. This multi-use text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections. Tombro provides content within subheadings of the text that can be used in a university classroom in its entirety or sections/chapters may be selected to suit needs of individual course use.
This textbook is presented in a logical and clear fashion as an informative and user-friendly way to approach first-person research. There is a need to explore student’s interests in this first-person approach to research in order to analyze the “why” of our very human existence with decision-making and interests. What a refreshing way to offer a uniquely designed college textbook to share professional experience and support for research possibilities? Tombro’s offering is not only interesting, it is quite engaging as her writing motivates the reader with a self-actualized approach to research design through autoethnographic study. She provides clear examples of student work to support her ideas and methodology. There is a need to motivate, engage, and invest in personal experiences in order to support interests, talents, and discovery in multiple research pathways.
The text appears free of significant interface issues; it’s easy to navigate as a whole or in parts. There are no images or charts that may distract or confuse the reader. It is easy to follow for content and application in whole or divided into subparts.
Within a through review, the book appears well written, edited, and free of grammatical error.
When one utilizes a methodology for theorizing personal experience, it is difficult to find that a personal accounting of existence is offensive, for this is how one perceives life as it is lived. It is important and culturally responsive to find ways to allow students to relate and measure (assess) personal experience and ownership of learning and growth in college courses. Documentation of social events, life as it is perceived and lived in communities is as important as existing—within race, ethnicity, and cultural events. There is a need to be authentic in voice, to use personal writing, narratives to inspire creative expression, voice, language/lexicon, within a specific culture. Authenticity of content and self-identity are critical and necessary to preserve the authenticity of life as one lives—through qualitative inquiry methods, creative writing, performance studies, interpretive self-reflection of cultural influences, and narrative composition. This is how one documents living, through writing, storytelling, and experiencing life.
M. Tombro offers a refreshing approach to open the possibilities of incorporating autoethnographic studies into a cross-curricular approach to viewing the content and requirements of college courses. Benefits gained from this textbook out speak the discourse or bias towards qualitative studies.
This text is intended as a teaching aid for instructors of college students to learn how to use autoethnographic composition in writing and research. To the extent that it is not a textbook for teaching qualitative methodology, or directed toward... read more
This text is intended as a teaching aid for instructors of college students to learn how to use autoethnographic composition in writing and research. To the extent that it is not a textbook for teaching qualitative methodology, or directed toward a student audience, it is moderately successful in conveying approaches to teaching ethnographic writing. Given that the audience is intended to be the instructors of such courses, more time could be spent addressing the epistemological/ontological positions inherent in this form of inquiry.
Content is appropriate for the aims of this text. The assignments at the end of each chapter/topic are helpful, practical exercises for instructors to implement. The examples of student writing provided at the end of the book are very helpful.
This topic is -- like many humanities texts -- not likely to become outdated in content.
The text is written in accessible prose; the author seemingly intends to present material conversationally. This tone advances the purpose of the text: to utilize personal experiences in improving writing and communication skills.
The text is not specifically about conducting ethnographic/autoethnographic research. It is about instruction using these methodologies as vehicles for improving composition. The text is consistently situated in this framework.
The chapters are small and divided into consistent subheadings. The student examples are grouped separately from the main text, and in their own units.
The topics are presented in a a logical order; beginning with the internal structures of a course that might incorporate these techniques, then moving toward specific/practical exercises.
N/A -- purely text.
Grammatical errors were not observed.
The student work examples feature a diverse array of perspectives, identities, and experiences. These thoughtfully curated exemplars render the text a culturally sensitive and inoffensive resource.
This book feels like a manual on how to run this kind of workshop for students- and it feels complete in this effort. I would say that it is comprehensive, anticipating the questions that will arise as teachers and students wrestle with the... read more
This book feels like a manual on how to run this kind of workshop for students- and it feels complete in this effort. I would say that it is comprehensive, anticipating the questions that will arise as teachers and students wrestle with the concept of autoethnography. The greatest strength of this text is the inclusion of many student-written exemplars. These bring the work into focus for the teachers and for students moving through the material.
This book is an act of advocacy- that autoethnography deserves time and focus in college writing courses. As a manual, it is well-thought through. As an act of advocacy, it is persuasive.
This book feels like it will be relevant for years to come.
This book builds out a language for using autoethnography, and, as such, is very accessible and welcoming. The use of students' writing brings home the concepts laid out in the chapters.
This work is internally consistent, and builds a language and a practice that is useful and accessible.
The author has sequenced the work to build on past assignments, so excerpting parts could be problematic. The presentation of exemplar work from students, however, makes it possible to adopt particular assignments, and this increases the modularity of the text.
The topics of this book build upon each other, and seem to be well-organized. Whether this works with my students remains to be seen, but the author has made a persuasive case by including the work of her students in this.
The book is easy to use, and easy to navigate. I was accessing it on a Mac computer, and many of my students use tablet devices, but the PDF version was clean and very clear.
Grammar was standard, not distracting.
The greatest strength of this book is that is very very culturally relevant. The focus on autoethnography allows students to make this course multicultural, and almost assures that there will be more points of view represented than most of the courses taught at the university level (this might not be true if your university is very homogenous). The main idea of this methodology is to put students at the center of the curriculum, and in this process, begin to undo the colonial aspects of many university educations.
This is a valuable manual for professors to use as they begin to approach asking students to produce autoethnographies.
Very comprehensive - beginning with ideas and suggestions for the first day of meeting with writing students to a well-thought out progression of instruction. Defining of terms and placing personal narrative and the "I" squarely in the context of... read more
Very comprehensive - beginning with ideas and suggestions for the first day of meeting with writing students to a well-thought out progression of instruction. Defining of terms and placing personal narrative and the "I" squarely in the context of qualitative research - ethnography and specifically autoethnography is smart and effective. A well laid out case for personal writing as an academic pursuit.
Cited the best in the field of autoethnography and the author clearly draws on her own experience in the writing classroom. The reader gets a sense that this author knows her students, has practiced her craft and that this book is a "lived experience."
I would think that updating would be quite easy for this text as new samples, updated assignments and new research in the field could be easily included without losing the theme and structure of the text. For anyone who has worked with marginalized populations the relevance "rings true." I will consider using this text with a prison writing group in the months to come. Only wondering about its relevance for racially diverse populations - not sure as yet.
Very clear -- concepts defined, assignments and suggestions for teachers laid out in a clear step by step progression. The context of the field of autoethnography is helpful.
Yes, internal consistent with a authoethnographic approach and framework - terminology consistent with that perspective and positionality on writing and research.
This is what I particularly like about this text-- easy to pull out assignments, sections, chapters that are relevant at a particular time or for a particular set of students. Chapters and sub-headings make sense and can be used in isolation as needed.
Yes, this was highlighted in Question 4
No major interface issues are apparent.
Grammatical errors not apparent
Not certain that the examples are diverse in terms of race.
I intend to use it for a prison writing group -- will use parts of it this winter and depending on how it goes, may use it this summer as a full text for the prison writers.
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... 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 is rooted and can be applied to many intersectional social identities, which is helpful in using... 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.
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... 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!
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... 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.
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.