A Student's Guide to Academic and Professional Writing in Education
reviewed by James Fredricksen - September 18, 2019
Title: A Student's Guide to Academic and Professional Writing in Education
Author(s): Katie O. Arosteguy, Alison Bright, & Brenda J. Rinard
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807761230, Pages: 208, Year: 2019
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Although it can often seem like an invisible practice, writing is a central part of teachers intellectual work. In A Students Guide to Academic and Professional Writing in Education, authors Katie O. Arosteguy, Alison Bright, and Brenda J. Rinard offer a writers guide that will help educators at any stage of their career become better, more strategic, more purposeful writers. The authors aim to show that writing in education offers opportunities for teachers to use writing to improve students learning conditions and to use their voices to advocate for improved teaching conditions (p. xv). To meet this aim, Arosteguy, Bright, and Rinard identify increasingly complex rhetorical situations teacher-writers navigate as they move forward in their career trajectories, and the rhetorical situation (purpose, audience, context, voice, and genre) becomes a thread that ties each chapter of the book together.
A Students Guide to Academic and Professional Writing in Education is intended for preservice and practicing teachers, though I believe teacher educators could benefit from turning to this guide as a resource when designing and assessing writing experiences for educators who enroll in their courses. The authors divide the book into two main sections, Academic Writing and Professional Writing. Each section is divided into a few chapters that each focus on a specific kind of text or issue that teacher-writers navigate.
Section One begins with a focus on academic writing. In the first two chapters, the authors explain and provide multiple examples of rhetorical concepts and style issues. Chapters Three, Four, and Five focus on specific kinds of academic writing, including writing responses to readings, writing with scholarly sources (e.g., annotated bibliographies and research papers), and writing with qualitative data (e.g., field notes, case studies, profiles, and observation write-ups). Each of these chapters offers annotated examples of each kind of writing, which will help teacher-writers understand the kinds of choices other teacher-writers made when considering the purpose, audience, and contextual demands of a piece.
One compelling contribution the authors make in these chapters is the attention paid to the role of reflection in each type of writing. Reflection in a reading response, for example, requires a teacher-writer to use personal experiences and course concepts to respond to an opinion or theory about education, while reflection in a proposal for a policy change could serve as a way to highlight how the change could improve teaching or learning conditions. The authors move beyond asking teachers to write reflections to asking writers to make choices about how they could share their reflections and experiences in ways that suit their own purposes as well as the needs and expectations of their audiences.
Section Two focuses on professional writing, which includes writing that articulates ones competency in and approach to teaching (i.e., credential writing) and writing that facilitates policy/program change (i.e., stakeholder writing). Chapter Six offers examples of writing lesson plans and Chapter Seven examines writing teaching philosophy statements. Chapter Eight focuses on writing critical reflections, which the authors explain as writing for formal annual evaluations or for professional growth. Chapter Nine ends the focus on specific kinds of writing by examining writing proposals for the purpose of changing policies and programs. Chapter Ten is a brief chapter about citing sources, specifically looking at some distinctions between APA and MLA styles.
The most helpful writing guides offer not only concrete strategies for writers to practice, but also principles and reasons for why writers might choose one strategy over another in any particular context. A Students Guide to Academic and Professional Writing in Education does just that in each chapter by moving its readers from why to how. The models of each type of writing and the exercises at the end of chapters provide helpful opportunities for readers to see principles in action. For example, the chapter on writing teaching philosophy statements begins with an examination of the purpose, audience, context, voice, and genre of such statements. The authors ask readers to consider a number of questions about these elements of the rhetorical situation of teaching philosophy statements, then offer an annotated example piece written by a preservice teacher. In the annotations, the authors point to various moves the preservice teacher-writer made in the statement. These moves include articulating core beliefs, theoretical influences, specific pedagogical practices, and an understanding of school communities. After the annotated example, the rest of the chapter provides more details about each of these moves as well as more prompts and examples to help readers draft a teaching philosophy statement of their own. The annotated examples in the other chapters are similarly structured, which can help readers see the similarities and differences across different rhetorical situations and types of texts.
This text is accessible, student-friendly, and organized in a way that will support readers learning. I particularly appreciated the passages and sections that addressed how the way teachers write has direct and indirect ramifications for students and other stakeholders. Chapter Two, for example, directly links a teacher-writers word choice to the way readers see and understand students. Labels like at-risk student, struggling reader, gifted, basic, remedial, and English deficient all have implications for how teacher-writers and their audiences view students, their strengths, and the possibilities of what or how they learn.
A theme throughout the book is a respect for teachers and a belief that when teachers write, they have the opportunity to make the conditions in schools better for every teacher and student. In some chapters, this theme is more visible, while in other chapters it is more implicit. A Students Guide to Academic and Professional Writing in Education can help teachers at any stage of their career to grow as writers. It can also help teacher-writers become the kind of teachers who reflect on their pedagogical choices and who write as a way to improve the conditions for all teachers and students.