Readings for Writing Instructors

These books, articles and studies are relevant to work in writing centres and other cross-disciplinary writing initiatives. This is a small selection from the literature, focussing on classic works and Canadian studies. Most of the journals mentioned are available online through U of T Library, and many of the books are online at the WAC Clearinghouse at Several of the pieces (chapters noted as by Irish, MacDonald, Procter, and Williams) analyse U of T programs.

Babcock, Rebecca D. and Therese Thonus. Researching the Writing Center: Towards an Evidence-Based Practice (2012). The authors call for theories that go beyond anecdote and experience, and that use and generate empirical evidence.

Bartholomae, David. Writing on the Margins: Essays on Composition and Teaching (2005). Includes the seminal article “Inventing the University” which argues (controversially) that students should be taught academic discourse before being expected to find their own voices.

Bartholomae, David and Beth Matway. “The Pittsburgh Study of Writing,” Across the Disciplines, 7 (2009). A thorough and nuanced account of the extensive ethnographic study of student and faculty experiences with writing at the University of Pittsburgh.

Bazerman, Charles. Shaping Written Knowledge: The Genre and Activity of the Experimental Article in Science. Originally University of Wisconsin Press, 1988; now online through the WAC Clearinghouse. A fine demonstration of the ways both theory and close textual analysis can illuminate a genre with a long history and many variants.

Bazerman, Charles and Paul Prior, eds. What Writing Does and How It Does It (2004). Eleven chapters by leading scholars summarizing approaches to the research and teaching of writing. An excellent introduction to the field.

Beaufort, Anne. College Writing and Beyond: A New Framework for University Writing Instruction (2007). Using a longitudinal study and referring to learning theories, Beaufort argues against attempts to teach generic “academic writing” and outlines better ways to produce transferable knowledge.

Bruffee, Kenneth. Collaborative Learning: Higher Education, Interdependence, and the Authority of Knowledge (1999). A classic work on the ways social interactions contribute to student learning, with a special relevance to learning writing.

Elbow, Peter. Everyone Can Write: Essays Toward a Hopeful Theory of Writing and Teaching Writing (2000). A personal and persuasive account of the generative capacity of writing. As in his earlier books (Writing with Power, Writing without Teachers), Elbow supports a more expressivist approach than Bartholomae. This book also deals with program issues such as portfolio assessment.

Everett, Justin and Christine Hanganu-Bresch, eds. A Minefield of Dreams: Triumphs and Travails of Independent Writing Programs (2016); online through WAC Clearinghouse. The chapter by Brock MacDonald, Margaret Procter and Andrea Williams outlines the success of the WIT program in Arts and Science.

Freedman, Aviva and Peter Medway, eds. Learning and Teaching Genre (1994). An influential collection of articles applying genre theory to classroom practices in recognizable Canadian situations. (See also Patrick Dias et al., eds. Worlds Apart: Acting and Writing in Academic and Workplace Context, 1999, for a less optimistic reporting from Canadian genre research.)

Graves, Roger. Writing Instruction in Canadian Universities (1994). An illuminating history of the distinctive Canadian ways of positioning writing instruction in university curricula. U of T does not yet figure in the account. .

Graves, Roger and Heather Graves, eds. Writing Centres, Writing Seminars, Writing Culture: Writing Instruction in Anglo-Canadian Universities (2006). A collection of articles from the diverse set of programs that have grown up in Canadian universities since 1994, including chapters by Rob Irish and Margaret Procter on U of T experiences.

Grimm, Nancy. Good Intentions: Writing Center Work for Postmodern Times (1999). This book analyses the “missionary” tendencies in writing-centre work, and argues for more attention to student subjectivity and the politics of culture.

Harris, Muriel. Teaching One-to-One: The Writing Conference (1986). Practical advice for new writing-centre instructors. See also Harris’s classic article, “Talking in the Middle: Why Writers Need Writing Tutors,” College English 57.1 (1995): 27-42.

Haswell, Richard. Gaining Ground in College Writing: Tales of Development and Interpretation (1991). An engaging survey of theoretical and empirical knowledge about how students progress as writers; argues for specific teaching practices (e.g., the use of models, but not “masterpieces”).

Heilker, Paul and Peter Vandenberg, eds. Keywords in Composition Studies (1996). Excellent brief introductions (with bibliographies) to concepts and terms in the field, including a history of writing centres; Canadians will regret the omission of genre and language acquisition.

Hillocks, George, Jr. Research in Written Composition (1986). A classic review of composition research. Concludes that grammar instruction by itself is often counter-productive, affirms the value of guided student peer review.

Ivanic, Roz. Writing and Identity: The Discoursal Construction of Identity in Academic Writing (1998). Study of eight mature students at a British university who use, adapt, and sometimes resist using academic language as they work out their identities; an impressive use of functional linguistics (Bakhtin, Halliday) blended with keen personal observation.

Lerner, Neal. The Idea of a Writing Laboratory (2009). Lerner traces the origins of writing-centre pedagogy to early twentieth-century ideas about hands-on learning in science labs.

Noguchi, Rei. Grammar and the Teaching of Writing: Limits and Possibilities (1991). A detailed analysis of the interrelationship of grammar and good writing, ending with tips for teaching students a few essential concepts for revising their own writing.

Russell, David R. Writing in the Academic Disciplines: A Curricular History, 2nd ed. (2002). In outlining the history of US writing programs since the 1870s, Russell shows the theoretical and practical fallacies of reliance on first-year composition courses and makes a strong case for integrated writing instruction.

Schryer, Cathy and Laurence Steven, eds. Contextual Literacy: Writing Across the Curriculum (1995). These chapters analyse the situations for teaching writing in Canadian universities as they started to open up in the 1990s. A chapter by Margaret Procter describes student attitudes towards academic writing at U of T Mississauga.

Shaughnessy, Mina. Errors and Expectations: A Guide for the Teacher of Basic Writing (1977). A seminal work from CUNY’s open admissions years. Shows how to read even “remedial” student work as representing a stage in learning, not just a demonstration of deficiencies.

Starke-Meyerring, Doreen, et al., eds. Writing in Knowledge Societies (2011); online at WAC Clearinghouse. A collection of discursive articles about the political and social functions of writing. The final chapter by Margaret Procter traces the ways writing centres at U of T established their place as part of university teaching.

Thaiss, Chris, et al., eds. Writing Programs Worldwide: Profiles of Academic Writing in Many Places (2012); online at WAC Clearinghouse. A chapter by Roger Graves and Heather Graves describes the aims of the inclusive writing program at the University of Alberta.

Zamel, Vivian and Ruth Spack, eds. Crossing the Curriculum: Multilingual Learners in College Classrooms (2004). Vivid accounts from learner and instructor perspectives of the experiences of second-language learners in the university curriculum. Excellent reading; offers no easy answers.