teaching developmental writing

Resources for Writing Teachers and Students

I  picked up a project I started a few years ago. After teaching writing for four years both at the University of Georgia and at Eastern Kentucky University, I became interested in the ways we teach writing, particularly to students with little or no experience practicing writing in a classroom setting. Composition studies often refer to these inexperienced students as developmental writers.

Back in 2012, as I begun to ramp up my side work in the field of web design, I happened to discover that the domain developmentalwriting.com was available. I bought it, thinking one day I would attempt to create an online learning environment where students could practice the same skills I was teaching in my physical writing classrooms.

Fast forward a few years and I’ve now completely transitioned out of teaching and moved full-time into my new career as a web & graphic designer. And the Developmental Writing domain has sat dormant.

I actually attempted to sell the domain on flippa.com a few times, hoping to pass it along to the right person who would take it and build out the course sequence I once envisioned for it. I had some offers here and there–$100 from one potential buyer. I know the domain is more valuable than that, so I held on to it.

Well, I’ve finally decided to do something with the website. Because I’m no longer teaching and frankly no longer as interested in developing an online tutoring business, I’ve changed direction slightly from my original plan.

Eight Developmental Writing Lessons

Having graded thousands of freshman composition papers over the course of eight semesters, it’s safe to say I started recognizing certain issues that recurred over and over again in the writing of my students.

I broke those common issues down into eight different categories and the plan is to create a lesson on the Developmental Writing website that covers each of those eight categories of common writing issues.

The eight categories are:

  1. Thesis Statements
  2. Topic Sentences
  3. Transitions
  4. Taking Notes
  5. Summarizing & Paraphrasing
  6. Introductions & Conclusions
  7. Picking Good Quotes
  8. Signal Phrases and Smooth Connections

So far I’ve written the first two lessons on thesis statements and topic sentences. It’s been fun thinking back over my time as a writing teaching and even pulling out some of my old lesson plans and student papers. I may not be in the classroom anymore, but I still write regularly for the web and the craft of writing is always on my mind and part of my life.

The website also has a Resources page, where I list handbooks and online learning tools for both students and teachers of Developmental Writing like the Purdue OWL, for example. I’ve used most of these resources myself and endorse them. This resources page is how the website will be sustained, as Amazon.com pays me a small commission for everything purchased after clicking one of the links on the page.

I guess I haven’t been able to escape my passion for teaching even though my days in an actual classroom are now over. Hoping the lessons I write based on my own classroom experiences will be helpful to students and teachers of Developmental Writing.

I welcome feedback and ideas on the new website. Check it out at developmentalwriting.com. Up next: lesson three on transitions. Hey, if you’ve taught even one semester of writing, then you know students can never get too much practice working with transitions!

An Adjunct Thanksgiving

I’ve spent the last three years working to make life better for adjuncts. The Adjunct Project is approaching its third birthday, and I’ve been reflecting on some of the successes that have been achieved since its launch. It’s been a good year for adjunct professors. Here are some of the things for which I’m thankful during this holiday week:

I’m thankful for the adjuncts who stand up for themselves and speak out.
For the adjuncts who recognize that they hold the power.
For the adjuncts who have decided that they alone can change their situations.
For the adjuncts who have gained the confidence to make those changes.

I’m thankful for other members of the academic community who have decided it’s time to step up.
For the tenured faculty members who have joined the cause and raised their voices.
For the administrative assistants who devote special attention to adjuncts’ schedules.
For the human-resources professionals who take extra care to pay adjuncts on time.

I’m thankful for the adjunct unions and their successes of the past year.
For Adjunct Action and the Service Employees International Union and the advancements they’ve made.
For the metro organizing strategy and the fact that it’s WORKING.
For the contracts that are being negotiated across the country to make adjuncts’ lives better.

I’m thankful for New Faculty Majority and the work they’ve done for adjuncts.
For Maria Maisto and her tireless lobbying and testimony in support of the cause.
For the attention politicians have begun paying to the adjunct plight as a result of that lobbying.
For the partnerships and collaborations that the New Faculty Majority has forged in the name of adjunct research.

I’m thankful for the media coverage that’s been given to adjuncts this year.
For the conversation that is now spreading beyond the boundaries of the campus.
For the mainstream coverage from news outlets like PBS and Al Jazeera.
For the industry coverage from Vitae, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, and other blogs.

I’m thankful for the platform Vitae gives me to speak my mind.
For the freedom I have to write about any topic I choose.
For the commitment my editors have made to telling the truth about adjunct labor.
For all the important stories I’ve been able to read and contribute to over this past year.

I’m thankful for my Vitae colleagues and others who continue to thrust adjunct issues into the spotlight.
For Rebecca Schuman, Sarah Kendzior, and Kelly Baker who speak truth to power and call out injustice.
For Karen Kelsky, Joe Fruscione, and Katie Pryal who are helping adjuncts escape bad situations.
For Stacey Patton, Sydni Dunn, Audrey June, and Peter Schmidt whose news coverage of adjunct issues inform all of our discourse.

I’m thankful for the promise of the future for adjunct professors.
For the fact that, finally, adjuncts seem to be gaining ground.
For hope that things can get better.
For all of the changes that will come this year.

Thanksgiving Day

Always an Adjunct?

Regular readers of this website know that I left my adjunct teaching position at the University of Georgia last May.  Ultimately, I’m glad I did what I did. The job wasn’t bad, but it was keeping me from moving on to something better.

In this week’s post at Vitae, I discuss some of the questions I’ve been dealing with since deciding to leave my position.

For one, it’s just kind of strange to not be prepping for classes this year like I would usually be doing. After dedicating about seven years of my life to a career track, I’m having a hard time leaving it behind.

I’m also struggling with another important question. How does my role as a writer about adjunct issues change now that I’m no longer an adjunct? My professional identity for the past couple of years has been that of an adjunct who writes about adjunct issues. Now I’m wondering what my new life outside of academe means for my legitimacy as a higher ed writer.

Should I continue to write about adjunct issues? Am I allowed to? Will I even want to?

I have to admit that part of me wants to leave the conversation entirely. I know progress is being made. I see it every day. In the two and half years since the Adjunct Project first began, adjunct issues have been pushed into the mainstream. The tide appears to be turning.

As I discuss in the piece, I’m not sure what my new role will be and whether or not I will stay connected to higher ed. I know leaving was something I had to do. Now I just need to figure out how I can continue to be useful to the growing movement.

Read more about my decision to leave academe and about the questions I’m pondering at:

Giving Up the Good.


Walking Away

I’m walking away, but I’m not turning my back.

Not All English Majors Like Marketing

The second interview from the “How I Got Out” series about adjuncts who escape bad situations was published last week at Vitae. This piece is about Kate Weber, a professor in her last term as an adjunct at Monterey Peninsula College in California.

It’s her last term as an adjunct because Kate will be starting a full-time, contracted, lecturer position in the fall at California State University’s Stanislaus campus. Moving on up!

Out of the Frying Pan


Kate’s story is a little bit different from Alyson Indrunas’s, whom I interviewed for the first “How I Got Out” piece. Alyson had a more definite plan and stuck with it, but Kate’s story involves a windier road to success.

After being forced into a crushing teaching load by the need to become self-sufficient due to a divorce in 2011, Kate did some soul-searching and tried her hand at one of those marketing jobs that English majors are all supposed to be good at.

The marketing route ended up being a dead end for Kate, so she decided to go back to teaching. As she puts it, “escaping being an adjunct isn’t always a step up.”

But Kate made a smart move as she re-entered the academic job market. She took an online course in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). This class opened new doors for her and, when the job opened at CSU-Stanislaus, her TESOL training made her the best candidate for the position.

Kate offers some interesting observations on her foray into marketing and she also has advice for other adjuncts in her position who are looking to “get out.”

Read the full story at:

How I Got Out: Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire.

New Series About Adjuncts Who Change Careers

I’ve just launched a new series at Vitae called “How I Got Out” in which I tell the stories of former adjuncts who have reinvented themselves and escaped their bad situations.

Whether they’ve returned to school, switched careers, or picked up some kind of new certification, all the adjuncts I’ve interviewed for this series have made changes that allowed them to leave behind adjunct hell.

How to get out

I’ve been particularly interested in this topic lately because I’m in the process of doing the very same thing myself. This past semester was my last as an adjunct (I hope). So I’ve been trying to learn all I can about how other adjuncts have succeeded in escaping. And I’m passing along everything I learn to my readers, many of whom are also adjuncts contemplating a career change.

Earlier this week, I published Brian Flota’s alt-ac narrative about how he switched gears after his tenure-track job search stalled. Flota also saw that things weren’t working for him and decided to make a change.

For the first piece of the “How I Got Out” series, I talked to a former adjunct from the Seattle area who is now the e-Learning Director at the school where she used to teach part-time.

Alyson Indrunas did her research, went back to grad school for a second master’s degree, and hit the job market from a new angle. Her hard work paid off, and her life looks much different now than it did a couple of years ago.

Read more about Alyson’s story and how she made the change:

How I Got Out: One Adjunct’s Journey From Freeway Flyer to e-Learning Director