Who Teaches Writing
Tyler Branson, University of Florida
Ron Brooks, Montclair State University
Sara Beth Childers, Oklahoma State University
Elizabeth Devore, Kent State University
Anna Sicari, Oklahoma State University
Charlotte Hogg, Texas Christian University
Ho'omana Nathan Horton, Oklahoma State University
Copyright Year: 2021
Publisher: Oklahoma State University
Conditions of Use
Elements that begin each essay are very useful as prompts for pre-reading: as "What you will learn" and "Key terms." As post-reading material and writing assignments, the "Discussion Questions" in each chapter are very useful to implement the... read more
Elements that begin each essay are very useful as prompts for pre-reading: as "What you will learn" and "Key terms." As post-reading material and writing assignments, the "Discussion Questions" in each chapter are very useful to implement the content and students' learning goals.
The four main units of the book are on narrative writing; writing with primary research; "analyzing writing," and "evaluating writing," so a course instructor who focuses on one type might select sections that are most important to the learning objectives.
A major advantage of this text is that it focuses on various contexts, social and functional, of writing, and is written by nine contributors with different backgrounds in writing. So, again, an instructor can choose topics most appropriate for his/her course. Examples are memoirs and narratives; a Shakespearean scholar analyzing the narrative form; a writing center administrator and socially-based writing goals; creative writers demonstrating techniques for analyzing any text; and interdisciplinary writers with ethnographic-based content. I would envision it being used as a course textbook, as described above, and for a team of professional educators in college writing who are evaluating and shaping a writing curriculum.
I found the book accurate and based on solid scholarship, with extensive footnotes as required. The wide range of subjects relating to college writing is a major feature, which worked well with including nine major contributors (more than the average number). This could have presented problems in editing and proofreading, but the content seems error-free and not filled with unnecessary literary jargon.
The wide range of topics, with writing in several rhetorical forms and purposes, and a variety of experts from poetic to Shakespearean to ethnographic to "service learning" to a "sports rhetorician" and video game expert has created a broad framework of writing and text analysis that should ensure relevant content for a variety of uses in a college setting. Various elements of the book could be useful to both beginning college writing courses, and to discussion among graduate students and writing tutors.
An elemental goal of a textbook on writing should be to keep the "jargon" to a minimum, to write in an accessible manner, and display a variety of voices from experts in various forms of writing content. This goal is admirably accomplished.
It is appropriate that a book that emphasizes "finding ways to enjoy [writing] and fear it less," (introduction) has been carefully framed to include a variety of voices from various fields of writing and levels of expertise. Writers from literary scholars to seasoned writing instructors, one of whom is a "former first-year comp student," demonstrate that writing is a universal skill with unique features of perspective and purpose.
The outline of pre- and post-reading is consistent across the units and essays, and the terminology, while sophisticated, is addressed with the pre-reading feature of "key terms" before each essay.
The topic "A Writing Studies Scholar teaches interview-based writing Assignments," by Dr. Tyler Branson, is a good example of a well-designed text. Its topic of how to create, and write from, interview-based assignments, can also be used to teach students how to write from this kind of primary research material, self-generated, as well as the standard research materials. While the content in this essay is complex, the headings and "principles" as an organizational feature are helpful in guiding a student's new learning of this research skill.
The text is well-organized according to its purpose to approach and discuss writing in various social functions and rhetorical forms. The opening prompts of "What you will learn," and "Key terms," mentioned above, are good for previewing and guiding students into the topics. The four units of "Writing a narrative," "Writing with Primary Research," "Analyzing Writing," and "Evaluating Writing" create a usable framework of subjects.
The outline of each essay is well-done and useful for maximum understanding of the content. It is useful to have a few illustrations, and also to include authors' photos. I found no navigation issues.
I found no grammatical errors.
As stated above, the writers are drawn from many aspects of professional writing and teaching; rhetorical, literary, sociological, community practice. Diverse backgrounds are featured, and the overall use of language is respectful and informed. I can see, from the wealth of subjects and experts in various writing fields, that cultural richness in diversity has been a goal of the editors.
An example of how relevant the essays are to teaching ways to understand information, evaluate it, and write about it, is the essay "A Librarian teaches evaluating Information, by Holly Reiter. The topics of "How to distinguish between different types of web sources," Strategies for fact-checking popular information sources found on the web," and "Ways to evaluate information for bias, scope and relevancy," are essential factors to be practiced, reviewed in each writing assignment, and used as a framework not only for writing, but, of course, for reading across the disciplines. I am so happy to have found this essay, and will use it in my beginning college writing courses.
Overall, this textbook does an excellent job of achieving the question: Who Teaches Writing? I was thoroughly impressed with the various professional backgrounds of the chapter writers. While the book is geared towards first year composition... read more
Overall, this textbook does an excellent job of achieving the question: Who Teaches Writing? I was thoroughly impressed with the various professional backgrounds of the chapter writers. While the book is geared towards first year composition classes, I appreciate reading how a writing center administrator (chapter 8) would approach teaching a composition assignment versus how a creative writer (chapter 11) would do so. Providing numerous voices grants this book a larger scope than a traditional rhetoric and composition textbook.
The textbook is divided into four parts: Writing a Narrative, Writing with Primary Research, Analyzing Writing, and Evaluating Writing. Each part corresponds with a unit taught in Oklahoma State University's first year writing classes, but any composition instructor could easily select which chapters are relevant for his or her class.
As a seasoned first year writing instructor, I found much of the content similar to my own university's courses. Despite the variety of different perspectives offered throughout the textbook, the introduction establishes a unifying concept throughout - writing is a lifelong skill that requires practice and reflection. Each chapter ends with discussion questions that tend to be inviting and open ended for student writers. Writing instructors will find the content of the textbook accurate.
I find this textbook highly relevant as a composition writing mentor who works with graduate teaching assistants to develop their sense of instruction style. Every instructor will approach learning differently. As a mentor, I would assign individual chapters that best reflect the interests of my GTAs. For example, some of my GTAs are creative writers while others prefer the more analytical and traditional study of English literature. The ones interested in creative writing might enjoy Chapter 13's "A Poet Teaches Analysis." The traditional ones might find Chapter 10's "A Modernist Teaches Analysis" more to their tastes. I also think it would be beneficial for my GTAs to read chapters outside their interests to broaden their perspectives regarding approaches to first year writing.
Very little jargon is used throughout the textbook, and with any key terms, the writers do an excellent job defining them. Most of the chapters I found clear and easy to understand, though a few chapters may benefit with additional instruction in class. For example, Chapter 5's "A Feminist Teaches Writing through Institutional Ethnography" was rather dense compared to previous chapters. Some students may struggle with reading that chapter, but discussing institutional ethnography in the classroom before assigning the reading could potentially clear up any confusion.
This is the one area the textbook could significantly improve upon. In Part 1, the beginning of each chapter included an estimated time it takes to finish the reading. I think this was a marvelous idea as freshmen often find the task of reading daunting, but unfortunately the time estimates were inconsistent in parts 2, 3, and 4. If the authors would work to include the time estimate for each chapter, I think both students and instructors would appreciate it.
The only other inconsistency I noticed was the absence of the "What Will You Learn" box in chapter 11. This introductory information can help students better prepare for a reading.
Overall, the information is well-organized and easy to read. The textbook was designed to be accessible for screen readers. While most of the textbook is no frills, a few images are present. Unfortunately, I found these images to be unnecessary and even a bit distracting since so many chapters did not use images. The image on page 99 did not have any alt text or text under the image to caption it. I think it would be useful to label which images are meant as decoration versus which ones are relevant to the content of the chapter.
The textbook's organization is strong. Each part is clearly labeled and the chapters are grouped together well. Some chapters may be shorter than others, but I think the variety keeps the prose fresh and interesting. The chapters in each section offered a fine balance of ones that felt conversational while others a bit more formal in tone.
The only main recommendation I have for interfacing is to include hyperlinks to chapters. If I assign an ebook to my students, it's useful to click on the chapter title and have the PDF 'jump down' rather than having to scroll to the section.
In addition, the formatting was off on pages 128 and 129. My PDF showed two blank pages that might be from a table formatting error.
I did not notice any grammatical errors.
The textbook offers a splendid sense of cultural relevance. Each chapter author has a different area of expertise, yet all of them embrace the idea of writing as a process of practice and reflection. In addition, I liked the sample texts used in the textbook. For example, in Chapter 3's "A Shakespearean Taches Narrative," the author compares Shakespeare's Hamlet to Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton. Blending classics with modern favorites is a great way to get students to connect to a subject. What intrigues me the most is how different the voices are in each chapter. Rather than a textbook that has a uniform voice, each writer has a distinct voice. Reading each chapter demonstrates the key mission of this textbook - many people teach writing, and they don't all sound the same.
Table of Contents
About the Book
Who Teaches Writing is an open teaching and learning resource being used in English Composition classes at Oklahoma State University. It was authored by contributors from Oklahoma State University and also includes invited chapters from faculty and staff at institutions both inside and outside of Oklahoma. Contributors include faculty from various departments, contingent faculty and staff, and graduate instructors. One purpose of the resource is to provide short, relatively jargon-free chapters geared toward undergraduate students taking First-Year Composition. Support for this project was provided in part by OpenOKState and Oklahoma State University Libraries.
About the Contributors
Dr. Tyler Branson is an assistant professor of English and the associate director of composition at the University of Toledo. He has published articles in College Composition and Communication, Composition Studies, and WPA: Writing Program Administration, and he has essays in the edited collections Bad Ideas about Writing and the Cambridge Handbook of Service Learning and Community Engagement. His book Policy Regimes: College Writing and Public Education Policy in the United States, is forthcoming from Southern Illinois University Press.
Dr. Ron Brooks is an Associate Professor of Writing Studies at Montclair State University, where he currently serves as the Founding Chair of the Department of Writing Studies. He has published essays in College Composition and Communication, Technical Communication Quarterly, Enculturation, hyperrhiz, and Pre/Text.
Dana Jaye Cadman, Lecturer, Director of Creative Writing Pleasantville, and Faculty Advisor for student literary and arts magazine Chroma, holds an MFA in Poetry from Rutgers University Newark. Her creative work has been published in New England Review, PRISM International, The Moth, The Literary Review, Atlanta Review, and Raleigh Review, among others. Her featured performances include New York Shakespeare Convention, North American Bicentennial Conference, and Colorscape Chenango Arts Festival. Her visual art is featured in the upcoming opera Sensorium Ex with composer Paola Prestini and librettist Brenda Shaughnessy and its corresponding documentary from EnactLab. She runs the annual Pace Poetry Festival and has founded Saturated Channel, a media space featuring student content across creative and academic genre, highlighting hybridity and digital works.
Heidi Cephus holds a PhD in English from the University of North Texas, where she conducted research on the connection between bodies and judgment in Shakespeare's plays. More recently, she has focused on depictions of women’s work from Shakespeare to today. In addition to teaching and researching Shakespeare, Dr. Cephus has 13 years of experience teaching composition courses, including 3 years at Oklahoma State. Currently, she is employed as a Choice and Success Advisor at a Colorado high school. In her spare time, Dr. Cephus enjoys playing disc golf, running, and reading detective fiction.
Sarah Beth Childers is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Oklahoma State University, specializing in creative nonfiction, and the nonfiction editor of the Cimarron Review. She is the author of the memoir-in-essays Shake Terribly the Earth: Stories from An Appalachian Family (Ohio University Press, 2013), and her essays have appeared in Brevity, Colorado Review, Shenandoah, Pank, and elsewhere. Sarah Beth lives in Stillwater, Oklahoma, with her family, including a dog-chasing little girl.
Elizabeth Devore is an Associate Lecturer of English at Kent State University at Ashtabula. Her poetry has appeared in The Bark magazine, the Great Lakes Review narrative map project, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing, composition, and has special interest in dogs in literature.
Dr. Anna Sicari is an Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Writing Studies at Oklahoma State University and she directs the Writing Center. Her research interests include writing centers, feminist theory and research, and work on identity and inclusion.
Dr. Charlotte Hogg is Professor of English at Texas Christian University where she serves as Director of Composition. She is the author of From the Garden Club: Rural Women Writing Community and co-author of Rural Literacies with Kim Donehower and Eileen Schell. She co-edited with Donehower and Schell Reclaiming the Rural: Essays on Literacy, Rhetoric, and Pedagogy as well as a special issue of enculturation: Rhetorics and Literacies of Climate Change. With Shari J. Stenberg, she co-edited the anthology Persuasive Acts: Women’s Rhetorics in the Twenty-first Century. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, College English, Rhetoric Review, Peitho, Puerto del Sol, and elsewhere. She teaches women’s rhetorics and literacies, creative nonfiction, and composition. Her Twitter handle is @paxtonista.
Dr. Ho’omana Nathan Horton is a Visiting Assistant Professor of TESOL and Linguistics at Oklahoma State University and the Coordinator of OSU’s International Teaching Assistant (ITA) Program. His research focuses primarily on sociolinguistics, especially on linguistic diversity and discrimination at the university level. Most recently, his chapter in Linguistic Discrimination in US Higher Education (Clements & Portray, 2021) addresses the prevalence of Standard Language Ideology and the resulting linguistic discrimination in First-year Composition courses and offers suggestions for how writing instructors can better support and empower students’ use of their own varieties of English in writing and beyond.