CJSDW CFP: Writing Instructors, Academic Labour, and Professional Development

Canadian Journal for the Study of Discourse and Writing Special Section CFP: Writing Instructors, Academic Labour, and Professional Development

As increasing emphasis is placed by post-secondary institutions and employers on the importance of writing skills, this special section considers the gap between what writing instructors need to be effective and the supports currently in place, particularly in light of the disciplinary tensions between English departments and writing studies, the reliance on precariously-employed faculty members, the emergence of teaching-stream faculty roles, and the seemingly perpetual restructuring of writing centre work.

Writing instructors’ working conditions reflect multiple tensions, including the professional formation of most Canadian writing instructors in fields outside rhetoric, composition, writing studies, or applied language studies, and the historical tendency to teach writing through literature (Brooks, 2002; Clary-Lemon, 2009); the way that some “Canadian English departments off-loaded writing instruction to other disciplines, through writing centres and ad hoc arrangements” (Phelps, 2012, p. 16); the challenge of justifying small-class instruction and extensive personalized feedback as signature elements of effective writing studies pedagogy (Horning, 2007); the increasing numbers of multilingual students whose language support needs have only been partially accommodated (Marshall & Walsh Marr, 2018); and the expectation that writing instructors will “fix” students’ writing, ideally in first year, before they undertake advanced work in a specific academic discipline (Giltrow, 2016).

Academic labour issues also play a central role. Canadian college and university instructors of writing are disproportionately graduate students and contract faculty members (Landry, 2016; Graves, 1991) who, much like their American counterparts, have limited institutional power (Samuels, 2017; Bousquet, 2008). Similarly, writing centre work is often carried out by staff who do not have the same job security and institutional status as tenure-track instructors (Graves, 2016) and whose academic credentials are not acknowledged by faculty (Alexander, 2005).

In addition, new types of permanent and tenure-track teaching-stream positions have become increasingly associated with writing instruction in Canada; these positions often include heavy teaching loads that limit professional development or research time. The teaching of writing is female-dominated, both reflecting and contributing to diminished status in the academy (Alexander, 2005). Further, pedagogical training and ongoing faculty development have not been evenly available to permanent or sessional instructors of writing (Smith, 2006).

The guest editors for this special section invite contributions of short articles (including theory-based analysis, empirical research, narrative, and opinion-style pieces) that explore these issues, as well as related topics. Our goal is to work with authors to develop articles that are in dialogue with one another and that further the conversation about professional formation and identities.

Questions that could be explored:

  • How does location (by type of institution, within a particular faculty, department, or program, in a writing centre) affect the status and pedagogical support of writing instructors?
  • How do writing instructors who move between institutions or programs negotiate differing (and sometimes conflicting) administrative and pedagogical imperatives?
  • How are the specific needs of multilingual, Indigenous, and international students contemplated and addressed in the professional development of writing instructors, and what is missing?
  • How can writing instructors be supported in accommodating diverse student learning needs, including disabilities, in a changing legal and human rights landscape?
  • How does online writing instruction affect the requirements for faculty preparation and development?
  • In light of the precarious status of many writing instructors, how can faculty development be inclusive, democratic, and participatory rather than managerial?
  • How do writing instructors’ own identities–particularly in the context of the feminization of writing studies, the eurocentrism of the field, and the limited number of Black, Indigenous, and other racialized scholars in Canadian writing studies–affect faculty development needs and shape the institutional status of writing instruction?
  • How can instructors outside writing studies be prepared and supported in writing instruction needs within their own disciplines?
  • What are the institutional and pedagogical effects of the low status of writing instruction and writing instructors, particularly within research universities, and how can this status be challenged?
  • What are the effects (on students, on faculty members and in departments/institutions) of a growing group of instructors teaching primarily in a field they did not train in, especially with little time and support for professional development?

Submission Guidelines

Manuscripts should be in the range of 2,000-4,000 words (including references and appendices), and should be submitted electronically in MSword (.doc or .docx format). Please refer to the APA Handbook (6th edition) for style guidelines. Manuscripts that do not follow these guidelines will not be considered suitable for review. Please note: The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2019.

Please feel free to contact the section editors if you have questions: Sara Humphreys, Micaela Maftei, Katja Thieme, and Heidi Tiedemann Darroch.


Alexander, K. (2005). Liminal identities and institutional positioning: On becoming a ‘writing lady’ in the academy. Inkshed: Newsletter of the Canadian Association for the Study of Language and Learning, 22(3), 5-16.

Bousquet, M. (2008). How the university works: Higher education and the low-wage nation. New York: New York University Press.

Brooks, K. (2002). National culture and the first-year English curriculum: A historical study of “Composition” in Canadian universities. American Review of Canadian Studies, 32(4), 673–694. https://doi.org/10.1080/02722010209481679

Clary-Lemon, J. (2009). Shifting tradition: Writing research in Canada. American Review of Canadian Studies, 39(2), 94–111. https://doi.org/10.1080/02722010902848128

Giltrow, J. (2016). Writing at the centre: A sketch of the Canadian history. Canadian Journal for Studies in Discourse and Writing/Rédactologie, 26, 11–24.

Graves, R. C. W. (1991). Writing instruction in Canadian universities (PhD Dissertation). The Ohio State University.

Horning, A. (2007). The definitive article on class size. WPA: Writing Program Administration, 31(1–2), 11–34.

Landry, D. L. (2016). Writing studies in Canada : A people’s history (PhD Dissertation). University of British Columbia. https://doi.org/10.14288/1.0308778

Marshall, S., & Walsh Marr, J. (2018). Teaching multilingual learners in Canadian writing-intensive classrooms: Pedagogy, binaries, and conflicting identities. Journal of Second Language Writing, 40, 32–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jslw.2018.01.002

Phelps, L. W. (2012). The historical formation of academic identities: Rhetoric and composition, discourse and writing. Canadian Journal for Studies in Discourse and Writing/Rédactologie, 25(1), 25-Mar.

Samuels, R. (2017). The politics of writing studies: Reinventing our universities from below. University Press of Colorado. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt1v2xts5

Smith, T. S. (2006). Recent trends in undergraduate writing courses and programs in Canadian universities. In R. Graves & H. Graves (Eds.), Writing centres, writing seminars, writing culture: Writing instruction in Anglo-Canadian universities (pp. 319–370). Winnipeg: Inkshed Press.




Job Opportunity: Director of Writing Center and Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric, Middlebury College

The Writing and Rhetoric Program at Middlebury College invites applicants for a full-time, 3-year renewable (non-tenure track) position as Director of Writing Center and Assistant Professor, beginning fall 2019. The position involves teaching one writing course per semester (including first-year seminars and upper-level courses), administering a robust writing center, contributing to faculty development initiatives, and tutoring individual students in writing. Candidates should hold a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition or a related field, and have a minimum of one year of writing center experience, as well as some experience with faculty development and a promising record of teaching and scholarly engagement.  Expertise in STEM writing, social science writing, or working with “big data” (Writing Analytics) is particularly desirable, as is knowledge of inclusive pedagogy and program assessment practices.

Middlebury College is a top-tier liberal arts college with a demonstrated commitment to excellence in faculty teaching and research. At Middlebury, we strive to make our campus a respectful, engaged community that embraces difference, and we seek a candidate who is cognizant of the role of the writing center in this vision. Middlebury College uses Interfolio to collect all faculty job applications electronically. (Email and paper applications will not be accepted). Please address your application materials to The Writing and Rhetoric Program and include the following: a cover letter, curriculum vitae, undergraduate and graduate transcripts, a writing sample, a teaching philosophy, a statement of your approach to writing center administration, and three current letters of recommendation, at least two of which speak to tutoring and/or administrative abilities. In your application materials please address how your work as a teacher and administrator can support our commitment to diversity and inclusion.  More information is available here, and more details on the application and search process can be found here. The application deadline is October 19th, 2018.

Job Opportunity: Contractually-limited Term Appointment in Graduate-level Writing Support at U of T

The Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto is currently searching for a Contractually-limited Term Appointment (CLTA) in Graduate-level Writing Support.

Details regarding this opportunity are available online: Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Contractually-Limited Term Appointment (CLTA) – Graduate-level Writing Support (3-year term)

About the Faculty of Arts & Science
Since the first classics, chemistry, philosophy and physics classes were taught at King’s College – U of T’s precursor – the Faculty of Arts & Science has evolved into one of the most comprehensive and diverse academic divisions in North America and established itself as the heart of one of the world’s leading universities. Home to the majority of undergraduates on the St. George campus, Arts & Science offers an unparalleled breadth of programs leading to bachelor’s degrees in arts, science and commerce.

About the University of Toronto
Established in 1827, the University of Toronto is Canada’s largest university, recognized as a global leader in research and teaching. U of T’s distinguished faculty, institutional record of ground-breaking scholarship and wealth of innovative academic opportunities continually attract outstanding students and academics from around the world. U of T is committed to providing a learning experience that benefits from both a scale almost unparalleled in North America and from the close-knit learning communities made possible through its college system and academic divisions. Located in and around Toronto, one of the world’s most diverse regions, U of T’s vibrant academic life is defined by a unique degree of cultural diversity in its learning community. The University is sustained environmentally by three green campuses, where renowned heritage buildings stand beside award-winning innovations in architectural design.

Please feel free to share this with any interested colleagues.