Listening across the curriculum: TA preparation in the teaching of writing

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Writing Program


Rebecca Moore Howard


Teaching assistant, TA training, Writing pedagogy, WAC, Writing across the curriculum, WAC TA training, Professional development

Subject Categories

Rhetoric and Composition


Listening Across the Curriculum emerges at the intersection of multiple, intimately-connected conversations about writing across the curriculum (WAC), TA pedagogical training in all-university, national, and composition programs, graduate education, disciplinary writing, and the teaching of disciplinary writing. In reviving a conversation that has been dormant for nearly ten years, this dissertation advocates for the training of disciplinary TAs in WAC programs within the context of these conversations. In addition to the rising number of WAC programs and TAs in higher education, many TAs', like WAC faculty participants, teach writing through their multiple interactions with student writers and student writing, and thus need training in how to effectively do so.

After historicizing the notable absence of TA professional development in WAC scholarship and the minimal scholarly literature that advocates their presence, I investigate approaches, models, and training methods used for WAC TAs, WAC faculty, and composition TAs. I engage these conversations in dialogue with one another and two case studies comprised of interviews with a dozen disciplinary TAs and professors at a large, doctoral granting institution. The case studies explore the training of disciplinary TAs, disciplinary conceptualizations of writing and the teaching of writing, and expose possible insight and suggestions for a WAC TA training program. As all of the research participants' primary responsibility is to teach writing and none of them have formal training to do so, the case studies further emphasize the need for training in writing pedagogy. The research participants suggest the sharing of knowledge about areas of study and disciplinary writing, and development of languages for discussing writing and the teaching of writing is important for productive relationships in a WAC TA professional development program; the absence of knowledge and language, they reveal, contributes to resistance, which is the historical source of failure for WAC programs.

Ultimately, Listening Across the Curriculum reveals the importance in training WAC disciplinary TAs to work with student writers in a way that meets their needs and concerns, and provides insight--principles, ideas, training methods, considerations, issues, program development methods and possible structures--for and about the (re)construction of WAC TA training programs.