Teaching writing is hard. Doing it well is even harder. Writing is so ubiquitous within the university environment, that it’s rare when two professors using word “writing” are even referring to the same thing. The practices and methodologies of different disciplines vary so greatly, that writing across these disciplines must necessarily vary to reflect the different practices that predominate within each field. What you do as a scholar may overlap with quite a few of your colleagues in other fields, but it will vary tremendously with far more. This is one of the biggest collective challenges facing every institution.
If you’re lucky enough to teach at an institution with a dedicated composition program, it’s still not realistic to merely abdicate the responsibility of teaching writing to the “writing teachers” alone. Expecting an English teacher to teach your students how they should write academic papers in say, the mode of Physics journals, neglects the reality that most composition instructors won’t be conversant in that genre themselves. The same holds for Music, Mathematics, and Microbiology. Every field has its own idiosyncrasies and conventions, and teaching those things to your students falls to you.
If you ask your students to write, whether it be to turn in reports, for term papers, on exams, whatever—you must be a teacher of college writing. That fact likely doesn’t thrill every professor, especially around the second week of December or the first week of May. But even if you teach writing reluctantly, if not begrudgingly, would it not be better to look forward to seeing what your students have produced rather than dreading the stack of uninspiring papers descending on your inbox? What we’re hoping to build here at TCW is a resource for instructors of all stripes—one that can help you to embrace the challenge of teaching writing.
Even if your reasons for pursuing your profession were primarily oriented toward research, a massive part of what it means to be a successful researcher is the ability to share that research with colleagues in your field in a manner that will garner the respect and attention of your peers. And students who share your same interest in your field will look to you for guidance in learning the processes, customs, and conventions that go along with an intellectual life in your specialty. You have a great store of professional knowledge to share. Writing can be one of the best ways to help students acclimate to the same intellectual environment you’ve found fascinating, challenging, engaging, and enriching enough to make your life’s work.
We at TCW would like to invite and challenge faculty in all disciplines to embrace teaching writing as a means to bring students into your field—to learn to read, understand, and appreciate the traditions of your mode of inquiry. Writing itself is one of the most fundamental modes of inquiry and exploration in almost every field, and teaching it is one of the most important challenges facing instructors at every level and in every discipline, both individually and collectively. Each writing assignment can be an offer to your students for them to take a further step into a deep and rich intellectual environment.
One of our goals is to assist teachers in designing writing assignments that ask students the kinds of questions that yield writing students will want to produce and you’ll want to read. We strive to help you to learn how to meet students where they are so that you can bring them into your unique and fascinating area of study, one important step at a time.
Writing isn’t just about assessment and evaluation. It’s about inquiry, discovery, and membership in an intellectual environment—your environment. We’re here to help every writing instructor, whether you’re passionate or reluctant, to become a better guide of your respective field, to become a facilitator of the same curiosity that brought you to a life in scholarly inquiry, to become a teacher of writing who embraces the sense of fulfillment that comes with the challenge of teaching college writing.