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About John Webster

John Webster has taught at the University of Washington since 1972, arriving with a BA from UCLA and an MA and PhD from UC Berkeley. He has specialized in Early Modern literature, literary theory, rhetoric and composition, and pedagogical practice, and has published articles on Sidney, Spenser, Renaissance rhetoric and poetics, and the teaching of Renaissance poetry. Professor Webster has won both the English Department's Award for Distinguished Teaching (2000) and the University's Distinguished Teaching Award (2009).

Professor Webster was Secretary-Treasurer of the International Spenser Society from 1990-2000. His edition and translation of William Temple’s neo-Latin Analysis of Sidney’s Apology for Poetry appeared in 1984.

From 1986 to 1994 Webster was Director of Expository Writing for the University, overseeing the training and performance of teaching assistants for the English Department’s first-year writing programs (annual enrollments of approximately 6000). He has since worked in a variety of English Department and University mentoring programs for teachers of writing and teachers of literature. In 2000-2001 he taught the English Methods course for the University of Washington School of Education’s Teacher Education Program, and from 2000 to 2005 he was Co-Director of the Puget Sound Writing Project, a professional development program for K-12 teachers in Western Washington State.

In 1998 Webster's work with the emerging genre of Teaching Portfolios led to his being selected by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to participate in the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. He also has served on the Modern Language Association’s Executive Committee for the Division of Teaching as a Profession (1999-2004). From 1981-2008 he led the University of Washington’s biennial London Theatre and Concert Tour. He continues to teach London Theatre courses for the Department of English's Literary London Study Abroad program.

In November of 2003 Webster was appointed the inaugural Director of Writing for the College of Arts and Sciences, and in that position has now been working with faculty, administration and students to make writing a central part of every student's experience at the University of Washington, in all disciplines and throughout all four years of each student's college career. He has presided as well over the founding and development of the Odegaard Writing and Research Center (OWRC). First begun in 2004, the OWRC has grown from a site serving a few hundred students over a school year to a site serving well over 12,000 students annually. OWRC has also become a major means of supporting international students; it offers over 4000 tutoring sessions a year to Multi-language speakers (MLS) and has developed quarter-long MLS supporting writing-based tutorial groups.

In 2004 Webster also established the English 108 program: a bridge course for incoming undergraduates who feel less than fully prepared for College level writing. Titled “Writing Ready: Getting a Start on College Writing,” English 108 has provided significant levels of support for all incoming students, and particularly for international students. Conceived not as a remedial writing course but as an intensive immersion into an academic reading, writing, speaking and listening environment, English 108's assignments engage students in the study of cognitive science as it applies to writing and problem-solving. (For a more complete description click here). Webster still directs both the training of teachers for this course

Publications from the past few years include a lengthy biographical article on John Seton, the Cambridge University logician (c.1509-1567) in The Dictionary of Literary Biography (2003), “Whose Poem Is This Anyway? Teaching Spenser Through the Stanza Workshop,” in Pedagogy (Spring, 2003), “My Troubles with Perry: Developmental Scheme or Humanities Curriculum?” in the Proceedings of the International Conference on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: 2001 and 2002 (2003), and reviews of Salvatori and Donohue's The Elements (and Pleasures) of Difficulty (2005) in Pedagogy (Winter, 2005) and of Bernstein, Burnett, Goodman and Savory, Making Teaching Visible: Course Portfolios and the Peer Review of Teaching, in Pedagogy (Winter, 2009). “Going International: Getting Ready to Write Through English 108” appeared in Writing Matters, Spring, 2012, and “On the Challenges of Working with the Writing of English Language Learners,” appeared in the National Teaching and Learning Forum, 22 (2013).

Recent presentations include:

  • "Working with English Language Learners in Mainstream Writing Classrooms," for the UW Expository Writing Program (2011).
  • "Making the Change: Working with English Language Learners across the University," for ADVANCE, (Dec 2011).
  • "Writing for All: A Campus Conversation About Teaching Writing in a Global University." (Jan 2014)
  • “Reading for All: Teaching Reading in Multilingual Classrooms.” UW Teaching and Learning Symposium, sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning. (Apr 2015).