Review of Shane A. Wood’s Teachers Talking Writing: Perspectives on Places, Pedagogies, and Programs

Reviewed by Virginia M. Schwarz (she/her), San Francisco State University

Wood, S. A. (2023). Teachers Talking Writing: Perspectives on Places, Pedagogies, and Programs. WAC Clearinghouse.

As a first-time graduate student in 2006-2008, my favorite “text” was Todd Taylor’s Take 20 (2008), a now out-of-print DVD that explored 20 questions that were, at that time, central to the teaching of writing. The disc featured 22 writing studies scholars talking about their classroom teaching, including Brian Huot, Paul Kei Matsuda, Jacqueline Jones Royster, Mike Rose, and Nancy Sommers. They give us insight into what they wished they would have known as new teachers, and they share strategies for those entering the field and the classroom for the first time. Take 20 gave me a felt sense of community, like I was joining a conversation and these teachers would help me learn. Teachers Talking Writing: Perspectives on Places, Pedagogies, and Programs reminds me of that DVD.

Teachers Talking Writing: Perspectives on Places, Pedagogies, and Programs (TTW) is Shane A. Wood’s full-length monograph inspired by his interviews with writing teachers on his podcast, Pedagogue. As of April 2024, 164 podcast episodes have been published on the Pedagogue website along with their full transcripts. In TTW, Wood groups and synthesizes many of those early interviews to create a rich dialogue around a specific context or topic in the field. These 52 perspectives are strategically organized into three sections: Places, Pedagogies, and Programs.

As a long time listener of Pedagogue, my primary question picking up TTW was whether it would offer something new that Pedagogue does not. Would TTW simply be a reprinted series of interview transcripts? I was really pleased that Wood addresses these questions in his introduction when he describes his own thought process for writing the book and imagines its potential uses. For context, I’m approaching this review of TTW as a former community college instructor and current assistant professor who now works in composition MA and certificate programs. This means that my own interest in Wood’s work stems from approaches to and issues within faculty development and graduate student education. In addition to those frames, readers of JWA may also be interested in TTW because of Wood’s attention to assessment specifically and larger systems of valuing (and devaluing) more broadly.

For Wood, TTW is both an extension and a disruption of a genre, the composition anthology. In traditional anthologies, Wood argues, well-known R1 scholars typically drive conversations about teaching writing (p. 2). Additionally, most of the chapters are solo-authored and therefore can only capture a single perspective (p. 2). While Wood acknowledges how important these texts have been for the field and for his own development, TTW, in contrast, centers teachers, graduate students, junior faculty, faculty across rankings, and faculty from various kinds of institutions (p. 10). Wood also reminds readers that historical silences in the field exist due to racism (p. 10). He hopes that “TTW (and Pedagogue) can challenge gaps in scholarship and further examine power and race” (p. 2, 10). Not only does Wood want to flip the script on who is included, but he was also mindful of opening these conversations to a larger audience by making this text open access. 

Wood images that TTW can be used in a variety of ways, including alongside the Pedagogue podcast. In fact, he describes his book and his podcast as “interconnected” (p. 2). For example, at the top of each printed conversation in TTW, there is a reference and timestamp corresponding to the full audio interview on Pedagogue. This invites readers and listeners to go back and forth between the two mediums or engage them at the same time. Wood also states that readers might use TTW alongside other texts. For example, we might read one of the featured teacher’s own books and then reference a specific interview in TTW to better understand them or their work (p. 14). What makes TTW different from just a chronological archive of interview transcripts is Wood’s strategic grouping of these conversations and the framing he provides in both the beginning and end of each chapter. “I see Pedagogue as a monologue and TTW as the full script for a play,” Wood writes (p. 4). “Pedagogue focuses on individual actors; each episode is a center stage spotlight on teacher-scholars talking about their teaching and institutional context. TTW, on the other hand, is interwoven scenes that comprise a full production and collaborative performance that consists of a much larger plot.” (p. 4). Readers will find that Wood concludes each chapter with a “denouement” where he highlights some of the conversational threads present across multiple interviews. Each chapter ends with a series of questions for further thinking.

TTW is divided into three sections, Places, Pedagogies, and Programs. The first section, Places, has four chapters: (1) Pathways and Reflections on Teaching, (2) Two-Year Colleges, (3) Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and (4) Hispanic-Serving Institutions. The second section of TTW focuses on Pedagogies and includes five chapters: (1) Classroom Writing Assessment, (2) Multimodality, (3) Social Justice, (4) Disability Studies, and (5) Community Literacies. Finally, Wood’s third section, Programs, entails five chapters: (1) Writing Program Administration, (2) Basic Writing, (3) Second-Language Writing, (4) Writing Across the Curriculum, and (5) Writing Centers. Wood provides a summary of each section in the TTW introduction and, for me, the chapters and their pieces (context, excerpts, denouement, thinking questions) are easy to locate, navigate, skim, and read in any order.

Assessment, as a focus topic, has its own chapter under Pedagogies. Wood constructs this conversation from his Pedagogue interviews with Nancy Sommers, Chris M. Anson, Jennifer Grouling, and Asao B. Inoue. The questions he selects and the excerpts he includes primarily center classroom writing assessment and, more specifically, feedback and response. Sommers shares some of her commenting strategies and how they emerge from the shared language and context of each class; for example, she thinks about the writer in addition to the writing, she talks to students about commenting before they receive comments on their first assignment, and strives to give feedback that is reflective both specific conversations with students and her own values as an educator (p. 113-116). Next, Wood includes Anson who shares that he became interested in students’ perceptions of teacher response as a graduate student when his own teacher used cassette tapes to record feedback (p. 117). This leads into Grouling’s interview and research on how different learning management systems (Canvas, Blackboard) and material technologies (iPads) can impact the kinds of comments teachers make on student writing (p. 119-121). Asao B. Inoue is the final person Wood includes, and in these excerpts, Inoue talks about centering labor in an assessment ecology to “shift [what is problematic] away from the politics of language and the politics of identity… to the politics of economics and how much time do I have” (p. 124). Inoue also discusses fairness and assessment, his grading contract negotiation process, and the importance of students’ participation in shaping classroom practices (p.122-125).

I can imagine using this chapter in many of the ways Wood describes in his introduction. For example, I would be excited to pair the first three interviews (Sommers, Anson, & Grouling) with chapters from Bad Ideas About Writing (Ball & Loewe, 2017) for graduate students, faculty, and as a reflective experience for myself. Taken together, these texts would likely start a productive discussion about a variety of feedback approaches and practices. Also, if I were using TTW to explore someone’s body of work, Inoue’s interview on Pedagogue and the excerpts here in TTW could work alongside and bring another layer to theoretical texts like Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future (Inoue, 2015) and Labor-Based Grading Contracts: Building Equity and Inclusion in the Compassionate Writing Classroom (Inoue, 2019). If someone is beginning to learn about teaching writing and writing assessment, TTW offers more context and support than individual Pedagogue episodes alone. The thinking questions that Wood includes at the end of this chapter (or versions of them) could probably work in most classrooms or workshops, and one of the questions directly asks readers to reflect on how assessment and teacher response are connected to linguistic justice and diversity (p. 126).

In his own words, TTW “centers conversation as a tool for building knowledge and community, and prioritizes dialogue, inclusivity, and accessibility” (p. 14). I also value Wood’s critique of anthologies in the field and his appreciation for the texts that made us but also his recognition that these are inherently narrowed, often privileging R1 tenure-track faculty. For example, in Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies (Adler-Kassner, L. & Wardle, 2015), one well-known scholar is tasked with defining each key disciplinary term. Coming from a two-year college, I often found myself outside the “we” in many canonical writing studies handbooks. While there are going to be gaps in any collection, I agree with Wood that dialogue across perspectives can serve as an intervention in dominant disciplinary narratives and add important nuance to conversations about teaching.

Ultimately this book gave me ideas for additional ways to use the podcast. I also think this could be a valuable tool for new teachers of graduate students, like myself, who might be conceptualizing course design or perhaps for senior faculty who want to reinvent their “introduction to composition and rhetoric” course. Wood organizes these interviews in a conversational way and emphasizes inquiry. When students ask me for teaching or career advice, I often tell them that I will share what I think but only if they promise to talk to at least three other people. TTW encourages and embodies this spirit of discovery, acknowledging that all perspectives are limited while also celebrating each as an important part of a larger story. Wood’s book intervenes in a genre that lends itself to codifying knowledge, best practices, and celebrating particular institutions and stories. I appreciate Wood’s effort to include a range of voices in TTW, and I can imagine that some teachers and students will find this accompanying text very valuable for working through important issues in composition. For me, Wood’s multimodal, multivocal work feels like a necessary update to Take 20.


Adler-Kassner, L. & Wardle, E. (2015). Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. Utah State University Press.

Ball, C. & Loewe, D. M. (2017) Bad Ideas About Writing.

Inoue, A. B. (2015) Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future. WAC Clearinghouse.

Inoue, A. B. (2019). Labor-based grading contracts: Building equity and inclusion in the compassionate writing classroom. WAC Clearinghouse.

Taylor, T. (2008). Take 20. Bedford/ St. Martin’s.