Book Review: Hewett, B.L., & Ehmann, C. (2004). Preparing educators for online writing instruction: Principles and processes.

Jennifer S. Dail
The University of Alabama

Hewett, B.L., & Ehmann, C. (2004). Preparing educators for online writing instruction: Principles and processes. Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English.
ISBN: 0814136656

In an increasingly fast-paced and technologically growing society, issues of online instruction at the university level become increasingly salient in a competitive collegiate market. In order to reach a larger population of potential students and a working population of graduate students, universities are beginning to address the demands for online instruction. These demands, however, are not without questions and concerns. Because online instruction looks different from traditional classroom delivery models, inevitably a key question that arises is that of how to prepare and train instructors to deliver their courses via this new medium. Preparing Educators for Online Writing Instruction: Principles and Processes by Beth L. Hewett and Christa Ehmann addresses this question.

Writing instruction carries issues of management with it that are somewhat unique to the field. For example, instructors need to find means through which they cannot only deliver whole-class instruction but through which they can deliver individual instruction through one-on-one conferencing with students. As the authors note, “The information in this book is geared primarily toward training writing instructors for one-to-one, online writing conferences, which can occur in a variety of contexts” (p. 28). The contexts to which the authors refer are the delivery platforms. Hewett and Ehmann argue that the delivery platform for instruction is not really the issue, rather the how in organizing and managing online instruction is the issue, which can be accomplished through any delivery platform. Additionally, the models they present for application in a variety of delivery platforms are learner-centered, allowing the writing instructors more control of their training experience. Therefore, the authors present a model for training instructors for online writing instruction that can be adapted and applied in any school’s context, regardless of the technological platform.

In the book Hewett and Ehmann examine the process of training instructors for online writing instruction through various research-based models. They ground their framework in the fields of rhetoric and composition, adult learning, and E-learning (p. xv). The authors divide the book into two distinct sections. The first section is “Online Writing Instruction Program Development”. In this section they examine five pedagogical principles for instruction and learning to present a learner-centered model for training instructors for online writing instruction. The second section of the book is “Principle-Centered Online Training in Asynchronous and Synchronous Environments”. While the first section of the book laid the theoretical foundation, the second section offers more practical strategies and models that have been applied and tweaked in various instructional contexts. This section gives detailed attention to scenarios in which instructors might find themselves in both asynchronous and synchronous contexts online. This section examines the strengths and weaknesses of these instructional modes and offers simulations that those training instructors for online writing instruction can implement.

In addressing the very pressing question of how to prepare instructors to deliver online writing instruction, Hewett and Ehmann set forth training principles that directors of training programs can assert regardless of the available instructional platforms. This aspect of the book broadens the audience, making it more applicable and feasible for training directors to implement. The theoretical framework is strong and speaks to not only the field of E-learning but to the specific field of rhetoric and composition as well, thereby creating a clear and sound joining of how these two fields might come together to best deliver online writing instruction.

About the Author

Jennifer S. Dail is an assistant professor at The University of Alabama. She completed her doctoral studies in English Education at The Florida State University. Her research interests include pre-service teacher preparation in secondary English language arts, technology and literacy instruction, and young adult literature to promote reading with secondary students. Dr. Dail can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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