The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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For Instructors

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.