Teaching Assistant Education & Training


The training and education of teaching assistants in rhetoric and composition programs has produced a body of literature that, like much of the literature devoted to the design and delivery of curricula in writing, rhetoric, and communication, is both laden with despair and laced with hopeful optimism at the promise of progress.

This list aims to develop my understanding of the history of TA training in the field of rhetoric and composition. Tracing historical and contemporary conversations and debates about how to best prepare graduate assistants to teach writing courses, this project will explore the goals that administrative programs promote and the methods they employ to achieve them. I am most interested in investigating what kinds of pedagogies are supported by training practica and to what extent they are able to reflect the field’s abiding concern for inclusion and social justice.


I’ve identified six major strands of focus that the readings I have selected for this exam fall within:

  • Overview and analysis of rhet/comp programs & TA training procedures (Brown et. al.; Connors; Dobrin; Latterell; Pytlik & Liggett; Phelps)
  • Institutional & hegemonic power structures (Bloom; Brooks, Yancey, and Zachry; Ebest; Fitts & Lalicker; Harris; Heyda; Horner; Welch)
  • Conditions and constraints for graduate student teachers and administrators (Bizzaro; Edgington & Taylor; Hennings)
  • Skills for survival; calls for change or refiguring of practices of the field (Green; Journet; Marshall; Murphy; Porter; Rose & McClafferty; Sullivan; Tremmel)
  • Marginalization; limits on authority (Olson & Moxley; Swartzlander et. al.)
  • Sin, misery and woe (Bousquet; Macrorie et. al.; Micciche; Rhodes; Taylor & Holberg; Wikelund)

There is definitely overlap within these categories and many selections don’t fit neatly into one strand, but these differentiations help me to map and classify the large and diverse body of literature I have amassed for the purposes of this exam.


I have selected the readings on this list with the intention that they will enable me to:

  • familiarize myself with the different methods of training that have been adopted by a range of programs in the discipline
  • acquire the ability to assess the effectiveness of these different methods
  • explore how new graduate instructors perceive their role as writing teachers
  • describe the administrative constraints of training new TAs; for example, ensuring that writing courses adhere to programmatic and university requirements for assessment purposes
  • discuss the material constraints of training practica; for example, a shortage of professors willing or able to participate on the administrative or teaching fronts of first-year writing

I investigate the ongoing tension between what some view as instruction and others see as indoctrination, which is a central issue in this area of scholarship. Another fundamental question I pursue is whether programs that focus on teaching practices risk a lack of investment by graduate student instructors, many of whom are not familiar with the foundational theories of writing studies.

Constructively and critically interrogating the dialogues that have been going on and continue to happen around TA training will be good preparation for the administrative work that I am likely to take part in as a specialist in rhetoric and composition, as a familiarity with this body of literature will help me better assess the needs and possibilities of any particular institutional situation I may find myself involved in as I prepare for future work as a professor in rhetoric and composition and potentially as a writing program administrator.



Aguinis, Herman et al. “Power Bases of Faculty Supervisors and Educational Outcomes for Graduate Students.” The Journal of Higher Education 67.3 (1996): 267-297. Print.

Bernard-Donals, Michael. “Interchanges: Solidarity Forever–Why TA Unions Are Good for Writing Programs.” College Composition and Communication 61.2 (2009): 437-451. Print.

Bizzaro, Resa Crane. “Making Places as Teacher-Scholars in Composition Studies: Comparing Transition Narratives.” College Composition and Communication 53.3 (2002): 487-506. Print.

Bloom, Lynn Z. “Freshman Composition as a Middle-Class Enterprise.” College English 58.6 (1996): 654-675. Print.

Boice, Robert. “Developing Writing, Then Teaching, Amongst New Faculty.” Research in Higher Education 36.4 (1995): 415-456. Print.

Bousquet, Marc. “The Waste Product of Graduate Education: Toward a Dictatorship of the Flexible.” Social Text 70 (2002): 81-104. Print.

Brooks, Kevin, Kathleen Blake Yancey, and Mark Zachry. “Developing Doctoral Programs in the Corporate University: New Models.” Profession (2002): 89-103. Print.

Brown, Stuart C., Rebecca Jackson, and Theresa Enos. “The Arrival of Rhetoric in the Twenty-First Century: The 1999 Survey of Doctoral Programs in Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review 18.2 (2000): 233-242. Print.

Brown, Stuart C. et al. “Portrait of the Profession: The 2007 Survey of Doctoral Programs in Rhetoric and Composition.” Rhetoric Review 27.4 (2008): 331-340. Print.

CCCC Task Force on the Preparation of Teachers of Writing.  “Position Statement on the Preparation and Professional Development of Teachers of Writing.”  College Composition and Communication 33 (1982):  446-9.

Connors, Robert J. “Overwork/Underpay: Labor and Status of Composition Teachers since 1880.” Rhetoric Review 9.1 (1990): 108-26. Print.

Dobrin, Sidney I. Don’t call it that: The composition practicum. National Council of Teachers of English, 2005. Print.

Duffey, Suellynn et al. “Conflict, Collaboration, and Authority: Graduate Students and Writing Program Administration.” Rhetoric Review 21.1 (2002): 79-87. Print.

Ebest, Sally Barr. Changing the Way We Teach: Writing and Resistance in the Training of Teaching Assistants. 1st ed. Southern Illinois University Press, 2005. Print.

Edgington, Anthony and Stacy Hartlage Taylor. “Invisible Administrators: The Possibilities and Perils of Graduate Student Administration.” WPA: Journal of the Council of Writing Program Administrators 31.1-2 (2007): 150-70. Print.

Farris, Christine. “Stars, Apprentices, and the Scholar-Teacher Split.” Academe 91.5 (2005): 19-21. Print.

Fitts, Karen and William B. Lalicker. “Invisible Hands: A Manifesto to Resolve Institutional and Curricular Hierarchy in English Studies.” College English 66.4 (2004): 427-51. Print.

Fu, Danling, and Jane S. Townsend. “Cross-Cultural Dilemmas in Writing: Need for Transformations in Teaching and Learning.” College Teaching 46.4 (1998): 128-133. Print.

Gillespie, Kay J., Douglas L. Robertson, and William H. Bergquist. A Guide to Faculty Development. John Wiley and Sons, 2010. Print.

Good, Tina Lavonne, and Leanne B. Warshauer. In Our Own Voice:  Graduate Students Teach Writing.  Boston:  Allyn & Bacon, 2000.

Graham, Margaret Baker and Carol David. “What’s Up on Monday Morning? TA Training and Freshman English.” Writing on the Edge 7.2 (1996). Print.

Green, Daniel. “Abandoning the Ruins.” College English 63.3 (2001): 273-287. Print.

Harris, Joseph. “Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss: Class Consciousness in Composition.” College Composition and Communication 52 (2000): 43-68. Print.

Harris, Muriel. “Centering in on Professional Choices.” College Composition and Communication 52.3 (2001): 429-440. Print.

Hennings, J. M. Tales of Teaching: Exploring the Dialectical Tensions of the GTA Experience. Master’s Thesis. San Jose State University, 2009. SJSU ScholarWorks. Web. 23 Apr. 2011.

Hennings, J. M. Tales of Teaching: Exploring the Dialectical Tensions of the GTA Experience. Master’s Thesis. San Jose State University, 2009. SJSU ScholarWorks. Web. 23 Apr. 2011.

Heyda, John. “Fighting over Freshman English: CCCC’s Early Years and the Turf Wars of the 1950s.” College Composition and Communication 50.4 (1999): 663-681. Print.

Horner, Bruce. “Traditions and Professionalization: Reconceiving Work in Composition.” College Composition and Communication 51.3 (2000): 366-98. Print.

Ianetta, Melissa, Michael McCamley, and Catherine Quick. “Taking Stock: Surveying the Relationship of the Writing Center and TA Training.” WPA: Journal of the Council of Writing Program Administrators 31.1-2 (2007): 104-23. Print.

Jacobs, Dale, and Kate Ronald. “Coming to Composition: A Collaborative Metanarrative of Conversion and Subversion.” Composition Studies 28.1 (Spring 2000): 59-77.

Johnson, Tara Star et al. “Learning to Teach the Five-Paragraph Theme.” Research in the Teaching of English 38.2 (2003): 136-176. Print.

Journet, Debra. “Redefining the Mission of the English Department at the University of Louisville: Two Years Later.” Profession (2001): 130-136. Print.

—. “Rethinking General Education and Increasing the Number of Professorial Faculty Members; Or, When Opportunity Knocks.” Profession (1999): 79-85. Print.

Jukuri, Stephen D. “Private Classrooms Made Public: Writing Program Administration and the Development of a Community of Scholar-Teacher Colleagues.” Rhetoric Review 21.1 (2002): 70-79. Print.

Latterell, Catherine G. “Training the Workforce: Overview of GTA Education Curricula.” WPA: Journal of the Council of Writing Program Administrators 19.3 (1996): 7-23. Rpt. In The Longman Sourcebook for Writing Program Administrators. Ed. Irene Ward and William J. Carpenter. New York: Pearson Longman, 2008. 139-55.

Lee, Jenny J. et al. “Tangles in the Tapestry: Cultural Barriers to Graduate Student Unionization.” The Journal of Higher Education 75.3 (2004): 340-361. Print.

Leverenz, Carrie Shively, and Amy Goodburn. “Professionalizing TA Training: Commitment to Teaching or Rhetorical Response to Market Crisis?” WPA: Writing Program Administration 22.1-2 (1998): 9-32. Print.

Lewis, Timothy J., Susan Barrett, George Sugai, and Robert H. Horner. Blueprint for School-wide Positive Behavior Support Training and Professional Development. Version 3. National Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. PDF. 23 Apr. 2011.

Lynch, Dennis, and Stephen Jukuri. “Beyond Master and Slave: Reconciling Our Fears of Power in the Writing Classroom.” Rhetoric Review 16.2 (1998): 270-288. Print.

Macrorie, Ken. “An Introduction to Ten Case-Histories: ‘It Wastes and Saps These Brilliant Young Persons.’” College Composition and Communication 15.4 (1964): 209-12. Print.

  • “CH 1: ‘I Could Not Recommend the Total Experience to Anyone.’” 212-16.
  • “CH 2: ‘Literature here is Studied as if it were a Dead Cat…’” 216-19.
  • “CH 3: ‘this Graduate School is no Treadmill…’” 219-22.
  • “CH 4: ‘Consider the Program as a Package…’” 223-25.
  • “CH 5: ‘One Wins a Ph.D. by being a Drudge.’” 226-29.
  • “CH 6: ‘the Graduate School Obstructed the Exchange of Ideas.’” 229-33.
  • “CH 7: ‘an Interruption rather than a Preparation…’” 234-37.
  • “CH 8: ‘I was Regarded as an Adolescent…’” 237-43.
  • “CH 9: ‘I was Thrown a Bunch of A’s and B’s to Eat.’” 243-48.
  • “CH 10: ‘A Nagging Sense of Dislocation…’” 248-52.

Marshall, Margaret J. “Familiar Stories: Public Discourse, National Board Standards, and Professionalizing Teaching.” English Education 28.1 (1996): 39-57. Print.

—. Response to reform: composition and the professionalization of teaching. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2004. Print.

Marting, Janet. “A Retrospective on Training Teaching Assistants.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 11.1-2 (1987): 35-44. Print.

McLeod, Susan H. “”Breaking Our Bonds and Reaffirming Our Connections,” Twenty Years Later.” College Composition and Communication 57.3 (2006): 525-534. Print.

Micciche, Laura R. “More Than a Feeling: Disappointment and WPA Work.” College English 64.4 (2002): 432-58. Print.

Miller, Hildy. “Postmasculinist Directions in Writing Program Administration.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 20.1–2 (1996): 49-65. Rpt. In The Longman Sourcebook for Writing Program Administrators. Ed. Irene Ward and William J. Carpenter. New York: Pearson Longman, 2008. 78-90. Print.

Mountford, Roxanne. “From Labor to Middle Management: Graduate Students in Writing Program Administration.” Rhetoric Review 21.1 (2002): 41-53. Print.

Murphy, Michael. “New Faculty for a New University: Toward a Full-Time Teaching-Intensive Faculty Track in Composition.” College Composition and Communication 52.1 (2000): 14-42. Print.

Myers, Amanda. The Individual Graduate Teaching Assistant Negotiating Current Preparation Models: A Case Study of Four Composition Graduate Teaching Assistants. Diss. Auburn University, 2010. Auburn University Theses and Dissertations. Web. 23 Apr. 2011.

Olson, Gary A. and Joseph M. Moxley. “Directing Freshman Composition: The Limits of Authority.” College Composition and Communication 40.1 (1989): 51-60. Print.

Papp, James. “Gleaning in Academe: Personal Decisions for Adjuncts and Graduate Students.” College English 64.6 (2002): 696-709. Print.

Porter, James E. et al. “Institutional Critique: A Rhetorical Methodology for Change.” College Composition and Communication 51.4 (2000): 610-642. Print.

Pytlik, Betty, and Sarah Liggett, eds.  Preparing College Teachers of Writing: Histories, Theories, Practices, and Programs.  Oxford UP, 2002.

Rankin, Elizabeth.  Seeing Yourself as a Teacher: Conversations with Five New Teachers in a University Writing Program.  Urbana, IL:  NCTE, 1994.

Rhodes, Keith. “Mothers, Tell Your Children Not to Do What I Have Done: The Sin and Misery of Entering the Profession as a Composition Coordinator.” Kitchen Cooks, Plate Twirlers, and Troubadours: Writing Program Administrators Tell Their Stories. Ed. Diana George. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook-Heinemann, 1999. 86-94. Print.

Ritter, Kelly. “Professional Writers/Writing Professionals: Revamping Teacher Training in Creative Writing Ph. D. Programs.” College English 64.2 (2001): 205-227. Print.

Roemer, Marjorie, Lucille M. Schultz, and Russel K. Durst. “Reframing the Great Debate on First-Year Writing.” College Composition and Communication 50.3 (1999): 377-392. Print.

Roen, Duane, Maureen Daly Goggin, and Jennifer Clary-Lemon. “Teaching of Writing and Writing Teachers Through the Ages.” Handbook of Research on Writing. Ed. Charles Bazerman. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2008. 347-364.

Rose, Mike, and Karen A. McClafferty. “A Call for the Teaching of Writing in Graduate Education.” Educational Researcher 30.2 (2001): 27-33. Print.

Ryan, Kathleen J. and Tarez Samra Graban. “Theorizing Feminist Pragmatic Rhetoric as a Communicative Art for the Composition Practicum. College Composition and Communication 61.1 (2009): 277-299. Print.

Shook, Ronald. “Stalking the Wild TA.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 11.1-2 (1987): 45-50. Print.

Smith, Emily R. et al. “On Learning to Teach English Teachers: A Textured Portrait of Mentoring.” English Education 36.1 (2003): 6-34. Print.

Stenberg, Shari, and Amy Lee. “Developing Pedagogies: Learning the Teaching of English.” College English 64.3 (2002): 326-347. Print.

Strickland, Donna. “Taking Dictation: The Emergence of Writing Programs and the Cultural Contradictions of Composition Teaching.” College English 63.4 (2001): 457-79. Print.

Sullivan, Francis J. et al. “Student Needs and Strong Composition: The Dialectics of Writing Program Reform.” College Composition and Communication 48.3 (1997): 372-391. Print.

Swartzlander, LuAnn et al. “That Adjunct Situation: Exploitation, Dilettantism, and the Downsizing of Academia.” The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association 31.3 (1998): 65-113. Print.

Swyt, Wendy.  “Teacher Training in the Contact Zone.”  WPA:  Writing Program Administration 19.3 (Spring 1996):  24-35.

Taylor, Marcy and Jennifer L. Holberg. “‘Tales of Neglect of Sadism’: Disciplinarity and the Figuring of the Graduate Student in Composition.” College Composition and Communication 50.4 (1999): 607-25. Print.

Trainor, Jennifer Seibel, and Amanda Godley. “After Wyoming: Labor Practices in Two University Writing Programs.” College Composition and Communication 50.2 (1998): 153-181. Print.

Tremmel, Robert. “Seeking a Balanced Discipline: Writing Teacher Education in First-Year Composition and English Education.” English Education 34.1 (2001): 6-30. Print.

Ward, Irene. “Developing Healthy Management and Leadership Styles: Surviving the WPA’s ‘Inside Game.’” The Longman Sourcebook for Writing Program Administrators. Ed. Irene Ward and William J. Carpenter. New York: Pearson Longman, 2008. 49–67. Print.

Ward, Irene, and Merry Perry.  “A Selection of Strategies for Training Teaching Assistants.”  The Allyn & Bacon Sourcebook for Writing Program Administrators.  Ed. Irene Ward and William J. Carpenter. New York:  Addison Wesley, 2002.  117-138.

Welch, Nancy.  “Resisting the Faith:  Conversion, Resistance, and the Training of Teachers.”  College English 55.4 (April 1993):  387-401.

Weiser, Irwin.  “Surveying New Teaching Assistants:  Who They Are, What They Know, and What They Want to Know.”  WPA:  Writing Program Administration 14 (Fall/Winter 1990):  63-71.

Wetherbee Phelps, Louise. “Turtles All the Way Down: Educating Academic Leaders. The Writing Program Administrator’s Resource: A Guide to Reflective Institutional Practice. Ed. Stuart C. Brown and Theresa Enos. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002. 3-39. Print.

White, Ed. “Use it or Lose It: Power and the WPA.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 15.1-2 (1991): 2-12. Rpt. In The Longman Sourcebook for Writing Program Administrators. Ed. Irene Ward and William J. Carpenter. New York: Pearson Longman, 2008. 106-13. Print.

Wikelund, Philip R. “‘Masters’ and ‘Slaves’: A Director of Composition Looks at the Graduate Assistant.” College Composition and Communication 10.4 (1959): 226-30. Print.

Willard-Traub, Margaret K. “Professionalization and the Politics of Subjectivity.” Rhetoric Review 21.1 (2002): 61-70. Print.

Wolf, Amie Caroline. Preparation of Graduate Assistants Teaching First-Year Writing at Ohio Universities. 2008. Web. 23 Apr 2011.

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