Teaching Composition

In this course, students will have an opportunity to implement the theories they learn about producing, teaching, and tutoring writing through interactions with writers from across the UHM campus. In addition to course work, students will work several hours each week in the UHM Writing Center through which they will gain actual tutoring experience. The course will begin by exploring the evolution of theories about teaching writing over the last several decades and tracing how those theories have impacted theories and practices about working with writers as tutors. Understanding writing as a process, for both the students who take the class and those they work with in the writing center, will be a central theme. Readings and discussions will address practical approaches for helping students at all stages of the writing process, including invention, organization, grammar, as well as writing for different genres and in different disciplines. The complex teacher/tutor/student relationship and corresponding issues of authority and agency will also be a focus as students identify their own pedagogical stance in the teaching/tutoring dynamic. Throughout the semester, we will draw connections between tutoring writing in a one-on-one interaction and teaching writing in a classroom setting. Underpinning all these discussions will be attention to the specific students we work with at UHM—understanding their individual approaches, strengths, and challenges in terms of writing practices—and recognizing the inherent connection between place and the practice and teaching of writing.

Because this course involves a 5 hour/wk paid tutoring position, students need to be nominated and apply to enroll. For more information on how to apply, please contact Dr. John Gagnon at gagnonj@hawaii.edu.


  • Weekly reading responses
  • Tutoring
  • Journal log on tutoring interactions
  • 5-7 page mid-term literature review on a specific topic
  • 10-page final paper that, drawing from the tutoring log (and possibly literature review), situates/critiques tutoring practices employed within both composition and writing center theory
  • An in-class teaching demo that involves conducting an activity with the class

Required Texts:
Murphy, Christina, and Steve Sherwood. The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors. 4th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011.

Ryan, Leigh, and Lisa Zimmerelli. The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors. 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016.

Additional readings will be provided via a course packet or uploaded to a class website.