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Writing Program Professional Development

The Writing Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is dedicated to supporting and funding Teaching Associates' ongoing professional development. We believe that we best serve our undergraduate students by putting the best possible teachers in their classrooms. We accomplish this by providing graduate Teaching Associates (TOs) with extensive professional development, support, and resources they need to grow and develop as teachers:

Summer Orientation for New TOs

As a way to introduce new TOs to the Writing Program and College Writing, an orientation is held every year just before the beginning of the Fall semester. Orientation is required of all new TOs, although veteran teachers (TOs who have already taught one year in the Writing Program) are invited to attend. Orientation consists of a series of theoretical and practical sessions designed to prepare TOs for teaching College Writing. New TOs must attend all sessions without exception.

Fall Workshops for New TOs

As a part of ongoing professional development, members of the Writing Program staff offer a series of mandatory workshops on our curriculum and topics related to the teaching of writing. New TOs are required to attend all Fall workshops, which take place every other Tuesday from 10-11:15 am. Be sure to check the events calendar for information on location and topic.

Course Director (CD Groups)

As part of ongoing professional development, new TOs also meet in bi-weekly pedagogy groups led by an English Department or Writing Program faculty member (Course Director) and a peer mentor. These meetings provide the opportunity for TOs to come together as colleagues to reflect on their teaching and focus on issues that arise in the classroom, ensuring consistent application of Writing Program principles and techniques.

Practica on the Teaching of Writing

Returning TOs in their third and fourth semesters participate in Practicum English 698V: Special Topics in the Teaching of Writing. The practica invites TOs to focus on broader pedagogical issues to enable reflection on their own teaching practices and to begin the process of compiling a teaching portfolio. Beginning with the first Monday of the semester, this practicum meets every other Monday from 4-5 pm.

Fall and Spring General Meetings

The fall and spring general meetings are required for all instructors in the First Year Writing Program (Englwrit 111/112/112H), including TOs, lecturers, and Course Directors. Usually these meetings occur just before or within the first weeks of the semester. The Spring general meeting usually includes lunch and a symposium centered around a topic vital to teaching in the Writing Program.

The handbook outlines the requirements for professional development and the consequences for not fully participating in professional development. Attending and participating in New TO orientation, Workshops, Course Director meetings (for new Writing Program TOs), and Practicum meetings (for returning TOs in their 3rd and 4th semesters) are contractual requirements for all Writing Program teachers. When TOs sign their contract, they agree that they are committed to participating fully in these requirements for the length of the TOship with the Writing Program.


Curriculum Committee

The Curriculum Committee conducts regular rotating reviews of the WP curriculum, including EnglWrit 111 and EnglWrit 112, to ensure course readings, assignments, and activities reflect research-based best practices consistently across sections, and shares their findings annually with the WP Directors.

Assessment Committee

The WP’s assessment committee has three central charges: 1) oversee curricular assessment of EnglWrit 111 and EnglWrit 112/112H learning objectives and outcomes; 2) provide input on the WP’s placement process; and 3) act as a center of program information on feedback, grading, and evaluation. The assessment committee conducts regular assessment of EnglWrit 111 and EnglWrit 112 course materials, in conversation with program instructors and students, to ensure learning objectives are being met. With special attention to assessing bias in the WP’s placement, feedback, and grading processes, the committee acts as an accountability mechanism for achieving equity in the WP’s evaluative functions.

Publications Committee

The publications committee creates and maintains resource publications related to Writing Program textbook needs. This includes but is not limited to the Best Text Collection, The Student Writing Anthology, and other textbooks for EnglWrit 112 (for example, a reader and a style handbook). The publication committee will select Best Text winners from EnglWrit 112 submissions and prepare winning entries from EnglWrit 112, EnglWrit 111, and Junior Year Writing for publication annually. EnglWrit 112 textbooks will be created and published as needed on a three to five year rotating basis.