Answers to What You Are Wondering

To learn more, read our comments in response to these Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What’s the Teaching Writing Program about and how does it work?

The Teaching Writing Program seeks to join the study of theories and proven practices in the teaching of writing with the opportunity for all participants to explore their own writing. We are not a certification program, but a program that seeks to help teachers from all grade levels, K-University, in all disciplines, as well as future teachers and those who teach writing in the private sector. All our courses (except for a 7-10 day residency) are fully online, taught in an asynchronous way so that participants can do the work when it is most convenient for them. We offer a Master of Arts degree in Teaching Writing and a Graduate Certificate in Teaching Writing; it is also possible to take only one or two courses as a special student.

2. What’s the difference between the certificate and MA?

The MA in Teaching Writing requires nine courses to complete, including one 7-10 day residency and a final thesis course. The certificate requires five courses to complete, the residency is optional, and there is no thesis. (Note that a student may start out seeking the certificate and then switch to degree candidacy, but only three courses taken for the certificate can transfer to the degree requirements. Similarly, a special student who decides, after taking one or two courses, to seek the certificate or degree will get credit for those one or two courses already taken.)

3. What is it like to learn online?

Our online courses have two elements usually not paired in the nation’s growing number of low-residency programs – individual instruction AND group interaction. Our online courses meet in instructor-led digital classrooms that provide intensive interaction with other students. Meanwhile, instructors also provide individual feedback and leadership. Online course content is the same as an onsite course, but taught in a different way.

4. Do I show up online at the same time each week, like an onsite class?

Lessons in our online courses are asynchronous, meaning you complete the work when you have time during the lesson period — usually one week. When it’s convenient during that week, you login and join discussions, read materials and complete exercises at any time, day or night. You also may have an assignment or other homework due by a certain deadline. When you finish with that lesson, the entire class moves to the next one. Think of it as having a single weekly class session spread out over the entire week, at your convenience instead of the university.

5. What’s an online lesson like?

The instructor presents materials in many ways – handouts, readings, textbook assignments, video lectures, audio files, PowerPoints, etc. Most of those methods are the same as an onsite classroom. You use this info to help with your work – exercises, discussion, readings, writing. Our special Blackboard learning tool also features wikis, blogs, individual journals, and various other tools to share work, engage in lessons, or join in interaction among your classmates or privately between the instructor and student. Our online courses are open only to registrants; they are not on the web.

6. Teachers from all grade levels and all disciplines in the same class? How does that work?

We believe teachers have much to share with each other, regardless of the discipline or grade level they teach. Although a particular reading or lesson may not focus directly on one teacher’s grade level, everyone is continually encouraged to look for what they can adapt to their own situation. For example, in the Teaching Writing core course, we spend a week on Revision. We read articles about ways to effectively teach and use revision; we share our experiences and thoughts on revision, both as teachers and as writers; we practice some revision exercises on our own writing. Each individual teacher is then encouraged to take back to his or her classroom those particular tools that will help their particular students. A typical reflective activity might be to ask teachers, following a revision exercise, “How might you adapt this exercise to fit your students?”

7. The program says that teachers get to explore their own writing. How does that work, and what sort of writing might be allowed?

Each course includes writing, often in the form of reflective or response writing and analysis. Teachers are also encouraged to pursue avenues of professional writing, whether that involves teacher research, program or course proposals or lessons, or other methods of inquiry. Several courses encourage teachers to explore personal writing as well, through creative nonfiction, poetry, fiction, or any other form the student wishes to try. In the final thesis course, degree candidates will revise and polish both professional and personal writing started at some point during their time in the program.

8. What value might this program have for me?

We envision some teachers completing our degree or certificate program and becoming “master teachers of writing” in their school or district, sharing what they’ve learned with their colleagues. Others may share their learning in a less formal way. We are confident that all teachers will become better teachers of writing, and as a result, their students will become better writers too. Others, when exploring their own writing, might discover a passion to continue developing their own writing, and perhaps seek to publish. The Teaching Writing Program strives to offer variety and flexibility, both in our overall course offerings and within each individual course, so that participants may take from the program what they most want and need.

9. How can studying online help me, when I teach face-to-face?

In our online classes, we read and discuss theories of all aspects of teaching writing, read and discuss published writing in a variety of forms, share ideas and best practices, examine and reflect on how we have taught in the past and how we might teach in the future, consider our values as teachers and seek practices that will allow those values to manifest themselves in the classroom. Teachers develop a clearer understanding of what they want to accomplish as teachers and learn the tools that will help them realize those goals. Teachers learn from the material, from the instructor, and from each other, and they practice what they have learned. Teachers then return to their own classrooms to implement those things that seem most relevant and valuable to their situation and needs.

10. Who teaches in your program?

All our teachers are teachers and writers both. Some of our faculty are award-winning writers and editors who have long taught in the Johns Hopkins M.A. in Writing Program. Others are public and private school teachers, many of them holding leadership positions in their schools, districts, or in their local affiliate of the National Writing Project. The program director, Mark Farrington, is a member of the advisory board of the National Writing Project, and has been an NVWP Teacher/Consultant for more than twenty years; he also taught for twelve years in the Johns Hopkins M.A. in Writing Program, and for the past four years served as Assistant Director. In addition, he has taught writing and literature to college undergraduates, taught English and Dramatics to high school students, and taught Creative Writing to elementary students, including pre-school students.

11. A thesis sounds challenging. What’s that like?

The thesis serves as a capstone course in which students focus on both their professional and their personal writings. Students might complete an article on the teaching of writing; write a proposal for a new program or course for their school; or focus on some other aspect of professional writing that will be of benefit to them. At the same time, they will revise and polish some personal writing they have begun during the program. Much of this work will be done under the guidance of the student’s thesis advisor. In addition, all students taking the thesis in the same semester will meet on a limited basis to engage in discussions on their experiences in the teaching writing program and what they hope to accomplish going forward.

12. Tell me about the residency.

The Teaching Writing residency takes place for 7-10 days every July, in or around the Washington/Baltimore area, or at selected sites throughout the country. The residency is part of the Hopkins Summer Conference on Craft, and students from the M.A. in Writing Program, the Science Writing program and the Teaching Writing program all meet together, face-to-face, for individual classes and group activities. Residencies include class sessions, lectures, discussions, field trips, visiting speakers, writing and reading assignments. We also spend some time as tourists, and students may bring families along for the off hours. Students complete one of their required courses through the residency, which has the same tuition as other courses. Residency students also pay a small residency fee and must cover their travel and housing, although we often offer discount lodging and some meals. Degree candidates must complete one residency and may take a second as an elective; for certificate candidates, the residency is optional.

13. I’m as busy as anyone else with a (fill in the blank – job, family, commute, etc.) How much time does each course take in each week?

Workloads will vary, and within any course, one week might present a larger workload than another. On average, expect to spend six to ten hours per week on any one course (but remember, that includes the time you’d spend, in an onsite class, sitting in the classroom.)

14. How long are your classes and what is your academic year like?

We offer courses in Fall, Spring, and Summer terms. You choose the terms you want. Our Fall and Spring courses last 14 -15 weeks, with summer courses spread from six to twelve weeks.

15. How long does the program take?

That’s largely up to you. The degree program requires that you complete nine courses; you may take one, two or (with permission) as many as three courses in one term. Or you may decide not to take a course in a term. The fastest one could complete the degree is four semesters (that’s very fast), and you have up to five years (which can increase to seven years if extensions are requested.) The certificate, which requires five courses, could be completed in one year, but you have up to three years (five with extensions.) We want you to go at the pace that works best for you.

16. How many credit hours are each course?

Each course in the Teaching Writing Program is four credit hours.

17. How much does the MA program cost?

Each course costs the assigned tuition rate, so your total cost for the nine-course MA will be nine times the courses tuition, plus books. For the certificate, multiply by five. The university also charges small fees for some courses or purposes, like at our summer conference, for the thesis course, and for graduation/diplomas. Any changes in the tuition rate will occur beginning in the summer term. Please visit our Tuition and Fees page for more information about the current tuition.

18. Do you offer Financial Aid and student advisors?

Yes. Aid comes through student loans. Some students also receive tuition assistance from employers, PTAs, or other outside sources. Each accepted student is assigned a faculty advisor who can help guide their course selection. Each student also has a university financial aid advisor.

19. What is your admission rate?

Johns Hopkins has given the Teaching Writing Program a broad admission mandate; as a result, we can accept any student we feel will benefit from our program, and who we believe will succeed in it.

20. I’m not proud of all of my undergrad grades. Can I still apply?

Yes. Some programs at Johns Hopkins require a specific GPA, but we see the GPA as only one of many ways an applicant can demonstrate an ability to do well in our program.

21. What are you looking for in an application?

We are looking for applicants who are clearly interested in making writing a significant component in their classrooms, and in exploring their own writing as well. We are looking for applicants who are open to examining and reflecting upon their own values and practices as teachers, and to pursue their own writing in a variety of forms and genres. We are looking for applicants who are willing to share their own experiences and knowledge with others in a community of writers and teachers. We are looking for applicants who are willing to commit the time and effort needed to become active members of each class they take. We are looking for teachers who are or wish to become, life-long learners.

22. Most of the students I teach don’t like to write and struggle doing it. Will your program help me?

Yes. Many of our courses focus on ways to encourage students to become more comfortable with writing and to consider how important writing skills are, not just in school but in the world at large. Our core Teaching Writing course looks at low-risk ways to “invite writing” into the classroom, and Teaching Composition at the College and Community College level includes a section on helping remedial writers. We also plan to address this challenge directly, with a course we are currently designing called “Teaching Reluctant Writers.” We also believe that the sound principles and practices that can be found throughout our courses are adaptable to every situation, even those with students who struggle with writing.

23. I’m hoping to teach but I’ve never taught before, and I’m not yet in a classroom. Would I be able to succeed in your program?

Yes, you don’t need to be in the classroom to benefit from our courses. At times you might have to speculate on what you would do in a classroom, as opposed to what you have done or are doing, but that kind of adapting is easily managed.

24. I see some courses listed that really interest me, but I’m not ready to pursue a Master’s degree or even a certificate right now. Can I take just one or two courses?

Yes. You’ll need to fill out a complete application, and request to take courses as a “special student.” State which course or courses you want to take. You may take up to two courses as a special student, and should you decide to apply for the certificate or degree later, you’ll receive full credit for those courses taken.

25. I’m an alum of the Johns Hopkins MA in Writing Program. Does the alumni discount apply to your program?

Yes. Graduates of the Hopkins MA in Writing Program or the Science Writing Program may take courses in the Teaching Writing Program at half the price of tuition (and on a space-available basis). However, this benefit is currently under review by the Academic Policy Committee and may not be available for the 2019-2020 academic year.

26. Are you affiliated with the National Writing Project?

We are not directly affiliated with the National Writing Project. However, Mark Farrington, the Teaching Writing Program director, has been a teacher/consultant with the Northern Virginia Writing Project for more than twenty years and is a member of their advisory board. Several of our faculty are co-directors of Writing Project affiliates. Most importantly, our program shares many of the National Writing Project’s key principles about writing and the teaching of writing, and we have sought to design our program to reflect those principles.

27. How are you connected to the Johns Hopkins MA in Writing Program?

Several of our faculty are published writers and editors who also teach in the MA in Writing Program, and Mark Farrington, the Teaching Writing Program director, moved into the Teaching Writing Program from his position as assistant director of Writing. The Writing Program and the Teaching Writing Program are both parts of Johns Hopkins’ Advanced Academic Programs, and we collaborate on the Hopkins Summer Conference on Craft.Each course costs the assigned tuition rate, so your total cost for the nine-course MA will be nine times the course tuition, plus books. For the certificate, multiply by five. The university also charges small fees for some courses or purposes, like at our summer conference, for the thesis course, and for graduation/diplomas. The tuition rate changes each year beginning in the summer term. Please visit our Tuition and Fees page for more information about the current tuition.

28. How can I find out more about Teaching Writing?

On our main web page, take a look at the video sampling from a course lecture. For specific questions, please email Mark Farrington at mfarrin1@jhu.edu.