TAs and the Teaching of Writing Across the Curriculum

Guest editors: Tanya K. Rodrigue, Salem State University, and Andrea L. Williams, University of Toronto

Graduate Teaching Assistants (TAs) play a key role in helping students learn how to write in the disciplines. TAs who teach their own courses are responsible for all facets of student learning, including the instruction and assessment of writing. Even when they are not the instructors of record, TAs are often the official or unofficial writing instructor for courses. Undergraduate students rely heavily on TAs to answer questions and provide guidance about their written work. In addition, TAs help students develop critical thinking, reading, and writing skills in recitations, labs, and in face-to-face and online consultations. For all intents and purposes, many TAs across the disciplines are de facto teachers of writing.

Despite the important role many TAs play in teaching writing, relatively little scholarly work discusses their role or potential role in WAC. Most of what we know about disciplinary TAs and the teaching of writing emerges from anecdotal evidence passed along by faculty or TAs at our own institutions, or from talk among colleagues at conferences. However, sustained discussion and research about disciplinary TAs in WAC is essential. With crunched budgets, dwindling faculty positions, and larger class sizes, the number of graduate instructors is rising dramatically. In fact, in some institutions, TAs even outnumber faculty: in 2007, TAs at public research/doctoral granting institutions in the US comprised 41 percent of instructional staff while faculty made up 28.9 percent (US Department of Education Report, 2009). These statistics speak to the growing role TAs are likely playing in disciplinary writing instruction and the critical role they play in achieving the goals of the WAC movement.

The guest editors of this issue of ATD invite proposals that explore theoretical, pedagogical, practical, and administrative issues that attend to TAs as writing instructors across the disciplines. We are seeking articles based on qualitative or quantitative research, such as case studies, surveys, ethnographies or narrative inquiry, in local, national or international contexts. Research may document WAC programs with active TA participation on a local, regional, or national scale, describe/critique WAC TA training and professional development programs, or explore the diverse ways in which TAs take on the role of writing instructors in various contexts. We are also open to theoretical and pedagogical pieces that shed light on TAs' disciplinary enculturation, and the effects this enculturation has on the teaching and assessment of writing in WAC programs. The guest editors hope to receive proposals from faculty and TAs that address the various forms of disciplinary graduate student involvement in writing instruction in multiple contexts. Proposals may address questions such as the following:

  • What does a TA writing pedagogy across different disciplines look like, both within and outside of, formal WAC programs, and in local, national, or international settings?
  • What does scholarly research reveal about best practices for building and sustaining WAC programs with TA participants?
  • What are current models of WAC TA professional development and how do these models prepare disciplinary TAs to achieve WAC goals?
  • What does a cross-institutional study reveal about how WAC administrators address TA resistance in training and professional development?
  • How might institutional forces, administration, disciplinary faculty, disciplinary histories, English departments, TA unions/organized labor, or teaching and learning centers play a role in developing or maintaining WAC programs with graduate instructor participants?
  • What factors contribute to how disciplinary TAs identify (or do not identify) themselves as writing instructors? What role does training and development play in this identity formation?
  • How do TAs' own disciplinary writing practices and knowledge prepare them for working with undergraduate student writers? In what ways does this knowledge inform their writing pedagogy?
  • How do TAs involved in writing instruction position themselves as nascent-experts (both in the discipline and as disciplinary writing instructors) when they themselves are still in the process of disciplinary enculturation?
  • In what ways might writing center theory, assessment research, or other theoretical and professional perspectives offer insight into the roles TAs play in WAC programs?

These questions are meant to provide a general direction for articles. Proposals for related topics and issues are most welcome.

Deadline for Proposals: February 15, 2014

Notification of Acceptance: March 15, 2014

Manuscripts Due: August 15, 2014

Publication: Spring 2015

Proposal Format: Please submit a 500-word proposal explaining your topic, the theoretical and/or experiential base on which you will draw, and your plans for the structure of your article. Proposals and manuscripts should follow APA documentation style (with the single exception that ATD includes authors' first names). Send your proposal electronically (in MS Word format) to guest editors Tanya Rodrigue (trodrigue@salemstate.edu) and Andrea Williams (al.williams@utoronto.ca), and also to ATD editor Michael Pemberton (michaelp@georgiasouthern.edu). Please provide full contact information with your submission.