The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Certificate in the Teaching of Writing

Overview: The Certificate in the Teaching of Writing is sponsored by the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, a professional development program within the Department of English, and the Division of Continuing and Professional Education.  Participants complete courses totaling 15 graduate credits in writing and literacy pedagogy courses to develop their capacity as teachers and teacher-leaders in the field.  NOTE: Certificate recipients may go on to receive an M.A. in English from UMass by completing 6 additional courses.

Purpose and Goals: K-16 educators enrolled in the Certificate in the Teaching of Writing program receive a strong grounding in writing and reflective teaching, while developing a framework for teaching writing and literacy across the curriculum.  Participants gain a deep understanding of literacy learning through a combination of working on their own writing, reflecting on their teaching practices, and reading current research in composition, literacy, and writing pedagogy.  Following the National Writing Project model of “teachers teaching teachers,” participants share successful writing activities and develop and implement curriculum. They formulate research questions about their teaching practices and document the effects of their instruction by collecting and analyzing student work.

Need: High-quality professional development in the field of literacy (including literacy in the disciplines) is in high demand. Many schools and districts in western and central Massachusetts – and sometimes the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education – look to WMWP to provide courses and workshops for teachers. All of WMWP’s programs for teachers are led by teachers, and the certificate is an avenue for teacher-consultants to develop expertise, confidence, and flexibility as teacher-leaders in their schools and in WMWP programs.

Curriculum: There are three required courses totaling 9 credits, usually taken in this order:

  • English 591AA WMWP: Summer Institute (3 credits)
  • English 591AB WMWP: Summer Institute Inquiry (3 credits)
  • English 712      Writing and the Teaching of Writing (3 credits)

There are several electives that can fulfill the remaining 6 credits:

  • English 591C    Writing Teachers Writing (1 credit)
  • English 591G    Professional Writing (1 credit)
  • English 591T    Teaching with Technology (3 credits)
  • English 591LL  Literacy Leadership Institute (3 credits)
  • English 591P    ELL Leadership Institute (3 credits)
  • English 592D    Principles/Practices of Effective Content Literacy Curriculum Design (3 credits)
  • English 592E    Teaching Social Justice through the Lens of the Holocaust (3 credits)
  • English 592K    Collaborative Coaching (1 credit)
  • English 592L    Civics Literacy Leadership Institute (3 credits)
  • English 592R    Reading and Teaching Literary Nonfiction and Informational Texts (3 credits)
  • English 592S    Science Literacy Leadership Institute (3 credits)
  • English 592T    Topics in Literacy Education (1 credit) (may be repeated for up to 3 credits)
  • English 593C    College, Career, and Community Writers Program (3 credits)
  • English 593R    Reaching and Teaching All Learners (3 credits)

Other courses offered through the WMWP professional development program and the English Department Composition and Rhetoric Program are also eligible as electives, and relevant courses from the College of Education and other departments or institutions may be counted by permission of the WMWP Site Director.

The Summer Leadership Institute (591AA), which is normally the starting point of the Certificate in the Teaching of Writing program, is open by application to teachers at all levels of education and in all subjects. Admission to the Summer Institute includes acceptance into the certificate program, which is an optional extension. The Summer Institute engages participants in three key activities: personal writing and peer response, reflection on and sharing of literacy teaching practices, and inquiry into pedagogical questions in the educational literature. Participants develop from this experience an inquiry stance and an inquiry question to be examined in action research in their classrooms the following year (591AB). Having completed these two steps, they are deemed WMWP teacher-consultants, eligible to lead professional development programs.

Those who wish to go deeper may pursue the remaining requirements for the certificate. Writing and the Teaching of Writing (712) offers a theoretical foundation and explores practical questions in the teaching of writing, and the electives enable participants to develop particular areas of expertise while building their leadership skills in literacy education and their capacity to have an impact on colleagues in their schools, districts, and region. The primary objective of the program is to develop teacher-leaders who not only demonstrate effective teaching practices in their own classrooms but also influence other teachers and administrators through leadership of professional development programs and peer-to-peer interactions. The certificate program can be completed in as little as two years, depending on course availability and participants’ own schedules. The Summer Leadership Institute and Inquiry courses are a full-year sequence, and the remaining courses can be taken beginning the following year.

While the sequence outlined above is typical, it is not the only possibility. Sometimes teachers are introduced to WMWP through professional development courses offered in their schools, in which case, they might complete an elective before enrolling in the Summer Leadership Institute. The exact sequence of courses is less important than the overall objective of teacher leadership.

Process: Summer Leadership Institute fellows who wish to pursue the certificate program should declare their intentions to the WMWP Site Director by the conclusion of the inquiry course (591AB) including documentation of any requirements already fulfilled. Certificate candidates are responsible for monitoring their progress and notifying the director when all requirements are completed, supplying transcripts as needed. Certificates will be awarded at the annual Best Practices in the Teaching of Writing Conference.

Availability: The Summer Leadership Institute and Inquiry courses are offered annually. Writing and the Teaching of Writing is offered every other year. Elective courses are offered regularly through the sponsorship of school districts and/or Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or by open enrollment through Continuing and Professional Education.

Please contact WMWP Site Director Bruce Penniman ( if you have questions about the certificate program or would like to join the new cohort of certificate candidates. Please state the courses you have completed (if any) and the years you enrolled in them.

Download a PDF description of the certificate program with a tentative schedule of courses below. If you have completed the requirements for the certificate, download and complete the Certificate Award Application Form.