Gebhardt: “Balancing Theory with Practice in the Training of Writing Teachers”

Gebhardt, Richard C. “Balancing Theory with Practice in the Training of Writing Teachers.” College Composition and Communication. 28.2 (1977): 134-140. Web. 21 Jan. 2015.

Pascal's Triangle


Braddock Award, theory/practice, frameworks, disciplinarity, pedagogy

Bibliographic Notes

Words: ~4,000

Pages: 6

References: ~16

Affiliation: Findlay College


Gephardt proposes a methodical, quasi-taxonomic approach to the teaching of writing. He argues teachers of writing should be versed in four of knowledge (history of English language, rhetoric, theoretical frameworks, methods of writing). The theoretical frameworks are a group of three binaries (Classical/Existential, Thinking/Writing, Product/Process). The methods of writing encompases five ideas (writing as practice, concern with audience, writing as process, teacher empathy, student agency). Gephardt continues by arguing for the importance of balanced theory and practice, suggesting that teacher training should encompass learning “what,” “how,” and “why,” of writing. Gephardt also argues strongly for teacher training to include and focus teachers writing about the teaching of writing

“A highly technical grounding in rhetoric is not absolutely necessary, as the NCTE book, What Every English Teacher Should Know, implies when it distinguishes between ‘good’ and ‘superior’ writing teachers. The latter, the book indicates, should have ‘a detailed knowledge of theories and history of rhetoric though the ‘good’ teacher need only be able to recognize ‘such characteristics of good writing as substantial and relevant content; organization; clarity; appropriateness of tone'” (135).

cf. Braddock (“Topic Sentence”) and Corder (“Learned”); it’s interesting to place some of the prose in Gebhardt’s Braddock Award up against previous awardees Braddock and Corder. SPecifically, Gebhardt’s quote of Richard Larson on rhetoric: “‘writing is a series of choices among alternatives and that a good writer must shape his discourse carefully to make it reach its intended audience effectively and accomplish its intended purpose'” (135). Braddock warned against overstatements and Corder struggled with finding occasions to write (i.e., unclear sense of audience & purpose).

What’s interesting here is the melting pot of ideas Gephardt presents here. The times were a changin, and it’s clear that works that emerge about a decade later (North, Phelps, Crowley) were simmering in same milieu that Gephardt writes in here. What’s most interesting to me is this moment: “the Writing for Teachers of Writing course should ask students to write about the teaching of writing” (139).  The call for writing about writing would be echoed three decades later in the work of Wardle and Downs and the emerging writing about writing framework for FYW.



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