Writing in Education: The Art of Writing for Educators
reviewed by Amy G. Rouse - April 14, 2021
Title: Writing in Education: The Art of Writing for Educators
Author(s): Elizabeth Chase, Nancy P. Morabito & Sandra S. Abrams
Publisher: Brill | Sense, Leiden
ISBN: 900443724X, Pages: 129, Year: 2020
Search for book at Amazon.com
As Smagorinsky noted in his foreword, this book addresses a need and a gap in what is available to teachers: a guide to the types of writing they will be producing as part of their profession. We know that teachers are expected to write for multiple audiences in multiple different genres as part of what they do, but rarely (if ever) do preparation programs provide writing methods courses on how teachers should instruct their own students to write (Brenner & McQuirk, 2013; Myers et al., 2016) much less in how they themselves should write to complete their own daily work and professional tasks. Thankfully, Chase, Morabito, and Abrams have taken years of combined experience to ground their suggestions and ideas for the types of writing teachers will encounter in their professions, and how developing ones writing skills in these various genres will shape teachers writing, reflection on their practice, and teaching of writing to their own students.
After an introduction and overview of the book in Chapter 1, the authors organize the bulk of the text around important writing practices teachers, regardless of grade level or content specialization, will encounter in their professional responsibilities. Each of these chapters (2, 3, and 4) begins with guiding questions for readers to consider and an introduction to provide background (e.g., research, anecdotes, experiences) on the focal writing practices discussed. Each chapter also includes a Curriculum Matters section to highlight and extend what is discussed in the chapter; examples include further discussion of supporting research or questions for readers to answer as they reflect upon and evaluate their own writing or teaching practices. Chapters also include student writing examples and questions to help the reader evaluate those examples; Chase and colleagues have gathered these examples from their teaching of a course at their university that bears the same name as the title of the book. Each chapter concludes with a Featured Assignment that allows readers to apply and generalize the information learned in the chapter to a novel and authentic writing task. The final section of each chapter includes additional questions for further consideration. Throughout the book, Chase, Morabito, and Abrams also draw the readers attention to what they have privileged in their own writing of the book, and ask readers to do the same as they write in their own careers and classrooms.
In Chapter 2, Writing About Teaching and Learning, the authors frame the work of teachers strengthening their own writing as being critical for teachers who want to model effective writing behaviors and practices for their students. They describe several practices teachers can use to develop and strengthen their own writing: developing robust writing by gathering multiple sources of evidence and engaging in peer review, and using multiple types of writing to showcase and describe pedagogical choices. The examples throughout the chapter are relevant and relatable (e.g., a letter to an administrator, a teaching statement, a letter to families). Furthermore, the suggestions apply to beginning teachers looking to hone their craft as well as seasoned teachers needing to refine their practice.
In Chapter 3, Expansive Writing Beyond Content and Page, the authors focus on teachers roles in: (a) helping their students understand their use of writing and its impact in their daily lives, (b) providing opportunities for their students to use writing across the curriculum, and (c) honoring and promoting their students use of multimodal forms of expression. These concepts are not novel, yet the authors provide rich examples and descriptions (e.g., how to rethink the design of a writing assignment in history class or how students made connections between the writing process and playing hockey) that contextualize their suggestions in ways that allow readers to better understand and apply them. Thus, theoretical assumptions and research become real, more practical, and applicable to teachers lives and classrooms. The Featured Assignment in this chapter asks readers to create their own digital story about an aspect of writing; what the authors call an important exercise in thinking about ones own understanding of writing, as well as the implications of this understanding for ones teaching, (p. 53).
In Chapter 4, Reflecting on Reflective Practices, Chase and colleagues discuss teachers enactment of reflection while they are writing reflection-in-writing, reflection after writing is completed, or reflection-on-writing (p. 66). Although a chapter on its own, Chapter 4 draws upon earlier chapters and integrates prior information discussed in the book. The authors offer examples of reflective writing (e.g., taking field notes, comments on a students assignment), but their suggestions (and cautions) apply more broadly to any type of teacher writing and to teacher practice in general. The information presented in this chapter encourages reflective practitioners who recognize and understand bias, promote equity and inclusion, and use reflective opportunities to improve their practice.
In their book, Chase, Morabito, and Abrams aim to explore writing in education as a way to create understandings and effect change (p. 101), and they do just that. The authors provide practical and purposeful guidance to teachers about how to approach writing and writing instruction without simply providing a step-by-step guide of how to complete writing tasks or deliver writing lessons. The descriptions, examples, and suggested reflection opportunities are so rich and engaging, pre-service and practicing teachers could easily use this book on their own as a guide and complete the suggested activities to grow their professional practice. Without templates, how-tos, and step-by-step directions, the book will guide the reader without constraining, limiting, or suppressing their growth and creativity. Artfully, the authors have written a book that could (and should) be used as a primary text in teacher preparation programs, with enough detail to direct major assignments for an entire course or series of courses; and yet, they have also written a book that could just as easily promote reflection and professional growth for a practicing teacher throughout their entire career. This book is a must-read, and read, and read again, for anyone who identifies as an educator.
Brenner, D., & McQuirk, A. (2019). A snapshot of writing in elementary teacher preparation programs. The New Educator, 15(1), 1829.
Myers, J., Scales, R. Q., Grisham, D. L., Wolsey, T. D., Dismuke, S., Smetana, L., Yoder, K. K., Ikpeze, C., Ganske, K., & Martin, S. (2016). What about writing? A national exploratory study of writing instruction in teacher preparation programs. Literacy Research and Instruction, 55(4), 309330.
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