By Mark Newton, Ph.D., Learning and Development Facilitator for USF’s Academic Success Center
I am often asked by my students in the College of Education why I endorse the Writing Studio so heavily. My response is simple: to effectively communicate with all of the stakeholders in your classroom. On a given day as a classroom teacher, I would communicate in writing with students, parents, administrators, colleagues, and other community members. Often, these communications were the initial contact and set the tone for future interactions. Clear and concise writing is essential for teachers to establish credibility, while also reducing the potential for misunderstandings that lead to conflict.
The benefits of writing well are not unique to teachers or teaching and the lessons I have learned as an educator, writing consultant, and graduate student are easily applied to most professions. It is valuable for writers to see beyond the assignment in front of them and understand how the skills they develop in the Writing Studio are transferable to their future profession. As consultants, it is beneficial to point out the transferability of these skills to promote buy in from the writer.
Writing and the Hiring Process
Well-written communications and lesson plans have a powerful impact during the hiring process. Principals and hiring committees often ask to see work samples during the interview and quality writing helps remove any ambiguity as to the teacher’s knowledge and abilities. More than once I have sat on hiring committees and witnessed applicants separate themselves from their peers with a well-crafted cover letter and lesson plans that effectively demonstrated the applicant’s understanding of the content and students. I was easily able to envision this teacher’s classroom without having to guess or assume.
Writing in the Classroom
Once in the classroom, clear and concise writing helps teachers express their expectations to all parties involved. Frequently, I have conversations with pre-service teachers who express concern over students “not getting it” or not producing quality work. While there are multiple variables impacting student performance, I always encourage the teacher to examine their assignment first to ensure that expectations were clearly conveyed.
The Writing Studio as a Tool
The Writing Studio offers an excellent opportunity for future educators to refine their writing skills with writing consultants who are often from outside the education field. The interaction between the consultant and writer mimics the interaction between the future teacher and their stakeholders. In both cases, the writer/teacher is speaking to an audience who is unfamiliar with the topic and must find a way to communicate effectively.
When I advocate for students using the Writing Studio it is not only to improve the quality of work in my course, but also to develop effective educators. Writing consultants can help frame the writing process in a new light to provide relevance for effective writing. Once future teachers recognize effective writing is as essential as developing sound lesson plans, writing becomes less of an isolated task and more of a tool added to the future teacher’s ever expanding bag of tricks.