Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jessica Yood

Committee Members

Amy Wan

Duncan Faherty

Subject Categories

Higher Education | Language and Literacy Education | Rhetoric and Composition


Teaching Practicum, First Year Writing, Teacher Training, Teacher Memoirs, Best Practices


For first year writing instructors, the teaching practicum is vital for navigating both the writing classroom and the institutions in which the classroom is embedded. The composition teaching practicum, or the often-required training course for new writing instructors, is where new instructors are typically first introduced to their institutional and departmental policies as well as to the field of Writing Studies. While the practicum is a course that is immensely important for new instructors, I have found that this course is nevertheless understudied, under- historicized, and—in institutional and disciplinary rhetoric—too often aligned with an abstract set of “best practices” that diminish the complex work of teaching writing. Building on the premise that the practicum has a capacity to intervene on present day myths and misconceptions about the purpose of college writing, this project shifts otherwise peripheral conversations about the relationships between teacher education, literacy instruction, and institutional gatekeeping practices to the center of Writing Studies.

To go beyond the commonplace “best practice” approach to teacher training, I argue that our present-day approaches to the practicum can only be expanded when we study the history of composition teacher education. Thus in this project, I develop a critical-historical framework that expands the dominant historical-disciplinary narrative that traces the origin of the practicum to the emergence of First Year Writing at Harvard in the early twentieth century. Contextualizing the practicum in a history that is not limited to the history of college writing or exclusive to post- secondary education, I draw from American Studies, English Education, Literacy Studies. I analyze artifacts from the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that ultimately connect the practicum to the rise of the normal college and racist debates around teacher qualifications that emerged in the post-Emancipation South. I also look to artifacts written by teachers (spanning the mid-nineteenth century to the present) to explore how educators critically position themselves in relation to teaching institutions that seek to define the terms for their qualifications and belonging. As course that is connected to the debates surrounding the establishment of normal colleges, the rise of college entry exams, the history literacy education, and, of course, the emergence of first year composition, a study of the practicum reminds us that the work and role of the writing teacher is and has always been constructed by and in relation to these complex and intersecting histories. Addressing this project to new college writing teachers, to faculty assigned to teach the practicum, to Writing Program Administrators, and to scholars in the field of Writing Studies, this project seeks to inspire renewed interest in the composition teaching practicum and, more broadly, in ongoing teacher education for college writing instructors.