2023 Conference on the Teaching of Writing

First-Year Writing Program Logo

18th Annual Conference on the Teaching of Writing
University of Connecticut, First-Year Writing
Storrs, Connecticut

April 14, 2023

About the Conference

The University of Connecticut's Annual First-Year Writing Program’s Conference on the Teaching of Writing took place in Storrs on Friday, April 14, 2023. This year we invited a host of exciting and innovative proposals that investigate the possibilities of difference in the writing classroom. We asked our speakers to consider “What a Difference Makes” and to imagine the generative potential of difference in First Year Writing. We define “difference” broadly to encompass differences in identities, experiences, social groups, languages, social practices, curricula, and pedagogies, as well as in thought and action. Differences can be marked as divergences and as enrichments, as diversity and as divisive; difference can provoke a pressure to conform, or serve as a catalyst for creativity. Making a difference can demonstrate the kind of dynamic and productive ways of thinking that help us to grow as educators. 

As teachers and academics, we must encourage examinations into previous pedagogical methods while adopting a curiosity that fosters new ways of thinking. Although we are not yet in a post-pandemic world, we cannot deny that the writing classroom has significantly changed, as has the world around us. This conference asks what we have learned from these changes and how we can move forward with more diverse methods of working with students and evolving notions of what it means to teach writing. Furthermore, it asks that we consider the ways in which exploring new possibilities that prioritize generative difference can engender new knowledge and possibilities. This extends also to difference in how we view writing more generally. How can an understanding of writing as not merely textual but also multimodal and collaborative help us produce and respect difference? Finally, how can we approach these ideas of difference to make a difference in the lives of our students and within our departments/institutions? 

Guiding Questions

  • How do we understand, imagine, and mark “difference”? 
  • How can difference be generative? What can grow out of expressions of difference & diversity in the classroom? How can we nourish the products of that difference / diversity, and how might it help us to imagine new (different) possibilities? 
  • In what ways is difference erased or obscured in the classroom? What are the effects of making differences visible?  
  • How do we treat differences of minds and bodies in our course plans and classrooms?
  • How do we use difference to categorize? To exclude? How might we challenge the systems that stabilize difference and to create norms? 
  • How might divergences from the norm change us? How might they affect our pedagogies, assignments, grading and assessment?
  • In what ways has difference itself become the norm? 
  • Do/can technologies adapt a world with norms to the differences of minds and bodies? How do technologies affect and engage with difference? 
  • How might we engage with linguistic and language differences? What happens when the difference is Artificial Intelligence? How might AI writing flatten differences in language and style, and enforce linguistic norms?
  • How might we make a difference to our students?

Keynote Speaker

This year, we were thrilled to host Stacey Waite, as this year’s keynote speaker. 

Waite is a critically acclaimed poet, scholar, and educator known for her work on queer identity, writing, and pedagogy. Waite’s 2017 book Teaching Queer explores “the terrain where queer theory, writing, and pedagogy overlap, intersect, and move into one another.” In addition to her scholarly pursuits, Waite has published multiple award-winning poetry collections. Her first collection, Choke, received the 2004 Frank O’Hara prize in poetry. She is currently the Susan J. Rosowski Associate Professor and Graduate Chair for the English Department at the University of Nebraska and a Senior Poetry Editor for Tupelo Quarterly. Waite is presently working on a new scholarly book called The World as We Wish It Were: Speech Acts, Public Performance, and the Question of What Matters in the Teaching of Writing, which “brings non-compulsory writing spaces into direct conversation with the compulsory space of the first-year writing classroom to show what community engagement work has to offer those of us who teach creative and critical writing.” She is also in the process of releasing her next poetry collection, A Real Man Would Have a Gun, which explores “the impact of masculinity as an identity, mode of being, site of cultural proliferation, and force in the lives of queer people and women.”

Stacey Waite’s keynote address was titled "Queer In(ter)ventions in the Teaching of Writing” for which she has provided the following summary: “Queer theory and queer studies has been in direct conversation with theories of composition pedagogy since the 90s. But what have several decades of dialogue between these fields meant for the actual pedagogical practices we engage in first-year writing classrooms every day? Why might all of us teaching first-year writing want to queer our pedagogies? This keynote will address both the why and how of queer pedagogy in the first-year writing classroom.”

Stacey Waite's book Teaching queer: radical possibilities for writing and knowing is available as an eBook through the UConn Library. 


8:30-9:30: Registration
9:30-10:30: Keynote-Ballroom 330
10:30-11:00: Break
11:00-12:30: Session 1

Panel 1: Motivating Difference: Rethinking Engagement and Agency--Room 304A
“Self, Agency, and Emotional Value: The Neuroplasticity of Intrinsic Motivation” with Ryan Crawford
“The Difference Between Being Absent, Being Present, and Being Engaged” with Alexis Teagarden and Josh Botvin
“Time to Rethink Time Management” with Sarah Shea
"Duckling Syndrome: The Importance of Different Educator Perspectives" with JD

Panel 2: Looking Forward: Imagining the Future of Writing Pedagogy- Room 304B
“Communicating Via Technology: Responsible Use of Artificial Intelligence in Writing” with Reva Bourassa
“Rethinking Literacy from the Queer & Neurodivergent Margins” with Allison Craig
“Toward an Anti-Dystopian Pedagogy: Utopian Theory in the Classroom” with Adam McLain

Panel 3: “Representing identities: Negotiating Boundaries of Ourselves and our Others”-Room 304C
“‘Ever Tried. Ever Failed:’ Gatekeeping Vs. Teaching in First Year Writing” with Christine Garcia
“Stop Calling Me Doctor” with Mike Spry
“Where ya coming from?” It makes a difference! Using Geo-biography in the First Year Writing Class” with Lisa Neilson

12:30-2:00: Lunch (Ballroom 330) and Poster Presentations (Room 304B)

2:00-3:30: Session 2

Panel 4: Difference in Language and Identity-Room 304A
“Addressing Linguistic Difference and Valuing Student Experience as a Form of Knowledge” with Kristin Lacey
“Decolonization and Differentiation of the Writing Classroom: Creating Space for Decolonial Theory, Tools, and Methods to Improve Student Experience” with Desiree Brown
“Thinking Outside the Box: Implementing Peer Feedback Innovation in Second Language Writing Classroom” with Heon Jeon and Leah Begg

Panel 5: Different Students, Different Classrooms: Exploring Alternative and Innovative Pedagogies- Room 304C
"One Syllabus: Three Ways " with Kari Daly
“Interactive Storytelling and First Year Composition" with Haleigh Kirchenheiter
"When I Grow Up: An Exploration of Writing's Role in Supporting Students' Differing Career Trajectories” with Candace Chambers
"Research Before Reading: Applying Military Planning to Literary Pedagogy" with Christopher Liggett

3:30-4:30: Coffee Hour - Discussion and Farewell-Ballroom 330