A critical examination of Beth Hewett's book illustrates the complexity of an interactive, asynchronous dialogue between the teacher and the student that incorporates problem-centered lessons, encouraging students to “practice the skill [discussed in the conference] and demonstrate what [they have] learned” from their interaction (p. 39). For many novice online teachers and tutors, the transition to a virtual teaching platform can be a challenge. However, Hewett concisely articulated potential pitfalls that novice teachers and tutors may experience when they begin online writing instruction, and she provided detailed strategies to help novice teachers and tutors circumnavigate these challenges, which are derived from her own experiences as an online writing instructor. Similar pedagogical approaches to online teaching have been presented by Scott Warnock (2009) in his book Teaching Writing Online: How & Why and John Bean’s (2011) book Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom.
Hewett (2015) advocated that the main goal of the conference is to serve as a means of intervention in student writing, which “can be initiated by one or both parties” involved in the conference (p. 25). While the benefits of student writing conferences are not a new pedagogical practice, the emphasis on writing conferences as empowering for both the teacher and the student has been understated at times in online writing instruction pedagogy. Further, many novice online instructors operate under the premise that online writing instruction can follow similar pedagogical practices used in face-to-face learning environments. However, Hewett’s book clearly and concisely articulated that new theories need to be developed and applied in text-based online writing instruction courses.
Although Hewett detailed explicitly the theory and practice for online writing instruction, the notion of self-audits in which the teacher or tutor audits their work, at least three times in a semester, may be a bit daunting for some instructors, especially those teaching online for the first time. While self-reflection is a beneficial way to assess one’s own teaching in practice, the method for conducting instructor self-audits was not explicitly described in her book. It is common for an instructor to have an observer from their department audit their course. The administrative observer can provide helpful comments on the instructor’s interactions with their students, grading practices, and lesson activities. This observation maybe a good starting point for receiving helpful instructor-instructor feedback, especially if the teacher is new to online writing instruction.
Hewett’s book provided a pedagogical framework that is based on "best practices" for text-based conferencing. Since instructors are transitioning more to online writing instruction environments, this book provided insights into how to navigate effectively and efficiently as writing instructors, which will benefit our students as they critically develop writing revision strategies.