I began working on my graduate degree in January, and the following journal is based on the first class session for Theories and Applications of Teaching Composition. We started our semester by discussing the relationship of theory and teaching composition. If you have anything to share or want to discuss… please do so in the comments below!


Theory is defined as a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the thing to be; a set of principles on which the practice of an activity is based.

Considering this definition and the readings, theory has a large role in teaching composition. Up until I began my undergraduate degree in English, I did not understand how theory had a place in writing… when I look back on my education, theory was present the entire time – I just didn’t realize I knew how to identify it. Writing was always just a hobby, a way to get the ideas and demons out of my head and on paper. It was just, and still is (but with more meaning), my form of therapy.

What is the role of theory in our teaching practice?

The role that theory plays in writing can be flexible – there are many ways to go about instructing someone to conduct a task. Understanding theory and how to apply it to each unique situation in the classroom helps everyone – instructors and students alike – become more versed in a craft. With writing, I never realized how theory really comes into play until a few years ago when I began tutoring.

Do you have a theory or set of theories about writing and teaching writing? 

When I began this course, I feared I did not have enough experience as a teacher like my fellow classmates, as I have only tutored in the academic setting. In fact, until this class began, I did not believe that I had a pedagogical background. I am discovering it has been there, waiting to be uncovered. I’m beginning to understand this desire to teach has been here all along, and I have to reflect on my life as a writer to even begin considering what my teaching theory could be. To be honest, I never thought I had a set of theories about writing and teaching writing until now. It brought a lot to light for me, and helped me identify and physically write what a couple of my theories could be. The beginning of my running list is below:
  • Writing is therapy.
  • There is not one end-all-be-all way to write a piece. The beauty about writing is that it’s flexible and can vary from person to person.
What experiences and knowledge have led you to your current theoretical stance?

Why write? Why teach writing? Why develop theories about the writing craft? I have always asked myself “why write?” but never started to think deeper than my obvious answer… because it’s enjoyable. That’s why I write – because I enjoy the craft. The other two questions I never really considered until now.

Pondering the how and why of teaching composition, I’m discovering my principles began to take shape when I took a course to become a tutor in the University Writing Center (UWC). Looking back, I feel like I can barely remember the studying and researching that was done to prepare myself to become a peer tutor, but after conducting a year of tutoring sessions with fellow undergraduates, I could clearly see my path as a writer would be to help others and educate them about the craft.

Specifically about the two theories I stated above (my running list)…

  • Writing is therapy. Many who write can funnel their passion creatively, or use research as a way to find the answers to their pressing questions. In my experience, journaling has been a savior on its own. I can spend a few moments a day writing out what is bothering me or what makes me happy. I also enjoy challenging myself to put a creative spin on my words when freewriting.
  • There is not only one way to write a piece. After I trained to be a tutor for the UWC, I realized I would need to adapt the way I assisted each individual student. Some learn better by seeing, then doing… and others learn better by simple instruction. Even though I would begin each session the same way – breaking the ice, asking them questions about the piece, and have them begin reading aloud – I would often find myself ending the session a different way every single time. This alone helps me learn to adapt to unique situations in an instructor position, which I believe is very important.

(Photo credit: http://fab4fan.wordpress.com)