As writing about writing (WAW) research enters its second wave, characterized not only by an increase in data-driven studies that theorize and assess the effectiveness of WAW curricula (Downs) but also by an increase in its prominence and adaptation, particularly among emerging writing studies scholars and teachers (e.g., Bird et al.), a space has opened for more and varied types of research, especially empirical research, to determine its effectiveness and to produce more solid recommendations for training and curriculum development, especially for those who are new to the field. This case study, which highlights how a novice teacher responds to a new teaching experience, aims to address the dearth of empirical research on WAW curricula and to aid other graduate instructors interested in teaching WAW or program administrators interested in implementing WAW. The study reports results from data collected (e.g., interviews, in-class observations, teachings logs) on the experience of a second-year MA graduate student in composition and rhetoric as he taught a WAW-based curriculum in a first-year composition (FYC) class in the beginning of 2016. His twenty students were also research subjects, but only a small portion of their data is reported here. The instructors experience, chronicled in narrative form, began optimistically, though with a hint of skepticism, and ended in discouragement and even pessimism. These results were largely unexpected due to the instructors confidence with and knowledge of WAW history, assumptions, and pedagogy and experience teaching FYC. However, his struggle with the approach reveals and confirms several important points for anyone hoping to teach or implement WAW. Particularly, new WAW instructors need sustained training, support, and mentoring to help them properly temper their expectations for the course, correctly and usefully interpret their experiences teaching WAW, successfully transfer prior teaching knowledge and methods to the WAW classroom, and ultimately find their place in WAW instruction.



College and Department

Humanities; English

Date Submitted


Document Type





writing about writing, WAW, first-year composition, FYC, threshold concepts, graduate student instructors, new writing instructors, case study