Great Expectations

A blog of the Department of English at BGSU:A place for faculty, students and alumni to connect.

Balancing Theory With Practice: Thirty Years After

Posted by bgsuenglish on May 2, 2007

At the 2007 Conference on College Composition and Communication meeting in New York City, a 1977 article by Rick Gebhardt was featured in a session by several leaders in writing- teacher education, an evolving field involving people in rhetoric and composition and in English education. The Thursday afternoon program session called “Writing Teacher Education: Thirty Years After ‘Balancing Theory With Practice in the Training of Writing Teachers'” had been planned by leaders of the CCCC Special Interest Group on English Education/Composition Connections to acknowledge the impact of Rick’s Braddock Award winning article on the preparation of writing teachers, whether for college classrooms or the schools.

For instance, Elizabeth Brockman of Central Michigan University and Mark Letcher of the University of Oklahoma emphasized how “Balancing” had drawn no distinction between pre-service school teachers and graduate teaching assistants, as they reported on research on students who crossed the borders of English education and composition. Jonathan Bush of Western Michigan University recounted how his accidental discovery of the article in 1996 left him “with a new mission and a new understanding of [his] place in composition studies, English education, and the connections between the two.” And he spoke of “Balancing” as “an opening text” that “helped launch the community of writing teacher educators that exists today.”

Rick served as Respondent at the end of the session, something, he says, that was very gratifying and quite weird-feeling, too.

When I started drafting an article based on a course for prospective writing teachers at Findlay College in 1975 I never imagined that it might be remembered, let alone still used, in the next century. Instead, I was wondering if I would ever finish the thing and, if I did, whether Edward P.J. Corbett might publish it in CCC. So it is gratifying to read the title of this session . . . and listen to the presentations and to sense that the article is still useful for people who are teaching writing teachers and working to shape the field of writing teacher education.

In part, Rick’s comments emphasize how much the field–and research and approaches writing teachers can draw on–has changed over the three decades since publication of “Balancing Theory With Practice in the Training of Writing” [College Composition and Communication, May 1977].


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