Martha C Pennington Author of Evaluating Organization Development

Martha C Pennington

Professorial Research Associate and Research Fellow
SOAS (Linguistics) and Birkbeck College (Applied Linguistics), Univ of London

I am an avid reader and writer who loves language, teaching, research, and international travel. I have been able to combine these things I love to do by studying linguistics and working in English language teaching and applied linguistics in the United States, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Japan and also giving talks, attending conferences, and traveling in many other parts of the world. I hold an AB Hons in Philosophy (Bryn Mawr College) and a PhD in Linguistics (Univ of Pennsylvania).


MARTHA C. PENNINGTON holds A.B. (Hons) in Philosophy from Bryn Mawr College and Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the founder and former Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Writing & Pedagogy, and holds appointments at the University of London as Research Fellow in Applied Linguistics and Communication (Birkbeck College) and Professorial Research Associate (School for Oriental and African Studies). Professor Pennington has held administrative and teaching positions and won awards for teaching and educational leadership at universities in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong. She has published academic and pedagogy-focused articles and books on applied linguistics, language teacher education, phonology, and writing, and has also published poetry. Two books appearing in 2018 are Why Reading Books Still Matters: The Power of Literature in Digital Times, co-authored with Robert P. Waxler (Routledge), and English Pronunciation Teaching and Research: Contemporary Perspectives, co-authored with Pamela Rogerson-Revell (Palgrave Macmillan). Other books on writing are Creativity and Discovery in the University Writing Class: A Teacher’s Guide, co-edited with Alice Chik and Tracey M. Costley (Equinox, 2015); Creativity and Writing Pedagogy: Linking Creative Writers, Researchers, and Teachers, co-edited with Harriet Levin Millan (Equinox, 2014); and The College Writing Toolkit: Tried and Tested Ideas for Teaching College Writing, co-edited with Pauline Burton (Equinox, 2011); Writing in an Electronic Medium (Athelstan, 1999); and The Computer and the Non-native Writer: A Natural Partnership (Hampton Press, 1996). Other books on phonology are The Context of Phonology (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) and Phonology in English Language Teaching: An International Approach (Longman, 1996). Current book projects are Humor and Language: Two Things That Make Us Human (Equinox, forthcoming); Introduction to Bilingualism and Multilingualism: People and Languages in Contact (Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming, and Teacher-Student Relationship: Key to Effective Teaching and Learning in Contexts of Diversity (Routledge, forthcoming).


    PhD Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania, USA, 1982

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    English language and linguistics
    English teaching

Personal Interests



Featured Title
 Featured Title - Why Reading Books Still Matters - 1st Edition book cover


Pedagogy, 17(2), 259-87

Literacy, Culture, and Creativity in a Digital Era

Published: Apr 01, 2017 by Pedagogy, 17(2), 259-87
Authors: Martha C. Pennington
Subjects: Education, Literature, Media and Cultural Studies, Communications Studies

Changing constructions of literacy in online contexts are situating reading and writing within everyday and popular culture activities while also facilitating highly specialized literate and creative activity. New kinds of language and meaning are being created in thenew forms of writing and literacy enabled by the "third-space" environments and tools of digital media. Creative writing and writers can play an important role in developing the pedagogy and practices of this new creative landscape.

Writing & Pedagogy, 8(1), 161-191

A 3-D Approach to Discovering and Creating the Features of Written Text

Published: May 01, 2016 by Writing & Pedagogy, 8(1), 161-191
Authors: Martha C. Pennington
Subjects: Education, Critical & Creative Life Writing

An approach to teaching writing at university level is outlined in which the features of texts are first analyzed and then created in three dimensions: microtextual (lexico-grammar), macrotextual (rhetoric), and extratextual (context). The 3-D approach offers a step-by-step procedure to prepare student writers to write in specific disciplines and for specific purposes. As compared to other approaches, the 3-D approach gives particular attention to affect, writer-reader interaction, and context.

Rodney H. Jones (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Language and Creativity (pp. 483-497). New York: Routledge.

Creativity in Composition

Published: Mar 01, 2016 by Rodney H. Jones (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Language and Creativity (pp. 483-497). New York: Routledge.
Authors: Martha C. Pennington
Subjects: Education, Critical & Creative Life Writing

The chapter reviews the history of creativity in the teaching of composition, the critical issues surrounding creativity in composition pedagogy, and research perspectives on creativity in composing. On the basis of the review, recommendations are offered for enhancing creativity in composition instruction, and future directions for creativity in composition are outlined.

A. Chik, T. Costley, M. C. Pennington (eds.), Creativity and Discovery in the University Writing Class. Equinox.

Writing Creativity and Discovery: Process and Pedagogy

Published: Jan 15, 2015 by A. Chik, T. Costley, M. C. Pennington (eds.), Creativity and Discovery in the University Writing Class. Equinox.
Authors: Martha C. Pennington
Subjects: Education, Critical & Creative Life Writing

Commonalities and differences between creative writing and other kinds of writing are explored through the example of a scholarly text (an excerpt from Donna Haraway's "Cyborg manifesto"). On the basis of the analysis, reflections are made about the importance of creativity and discovery in all forms of writing and suggestions are given for ensuring attention to creativity and discovery in the teaching of writing.

H. Millan, M. Pennington, Creativity and Writing Pedagogy: Linking Creative Writers, Researchers, and Teachers. Equinox.

Towards a Creative Writing Pedagogy

Published: Mar 15, 2014 by H. Millan, M. Pennington, Creativity and Writing Pedagogy: Linking Creative Writers, Researchers, and Teachers. Equinox.
Authors: Martha C. Pennington
Subjects: Education, Critical & Creative Life Writing

The mental and physical processes that fuel creativity in writing are explored with reference to the chapters of the book and to other work on writing and the teaching of writing. It is maintained that those who teach writing need to do so believing that creativity exists in all of their students and is moreover teachable and can be enhanced through instruction.


Pennington Publishes Guest Blog on Neuromythology Website

By: Martha C Pennington
Subjects: Education, Neuropsychology, Psychology

In May, Martha Pennington published a guest blog on John Teske’s Neuromythology website that summarizes key themes in her book, co-authored with Bob Waxler, a founder of the Changing Lives Through Literature program, titled Why Reading Books Still Matters: The Power of Literature in Digital Times. In it they argue the power of reading literary works to exercise the mind, the imagination, and the emotions in ways that can literally (no pun intended!) change people.

   Reading literature increases vocabulary, grammatical knowledge, and general knowledge while also stimulating the imagination and creative thinking. A growing body of research in psychology has demonstrated that reading literary stories and novels helps people relate to others coming from different backgrounds and to imagine walking in their shoes, enhancing empathy and social connectedness, which are becoming degraded in a world where people increasingly exist in their own disconnected groups and bubbles. It seems far preferable to have young people addicted to fiction than to the social media and video games they are more likely to be addicted to today.

   Research in psychology has demonstrated the powerful and lasting effects of reading fictional literature and other forms of literary text in terms of increasing empathy and the ability to read others. Reading literary fiction seems to train people’s ability to perceive and relate to other people, and promotes positive psychological change that can cause social change as well. In general, researchers have found that information framed as a literary story can change people’s attitudes and beliefs by increasing their sense of empathy, as they are able to imagine what it is like to be someone else, and by opening their hearts and minds to new experiences and ideas.

   Research on the Changing Lives Through Literature program has demonstrated the life-altering effects that reading and discussing literature can have in helping prisoners and at-risk teens gain a better understanding of themselves and others, and a sense of hopefulness and empowerment. As research on this program has shown, the benefits of reading and discussing literature are profound in stimulating and maintaining the kind of positive change in attitudes and behaviors that keeps prisoners from reoffending and keeps at-risk teens in school.

   Literary reading leads people to reflect on who and what they are as human beings and how they are necessarily connected to other human beings, and to imagine different worlds and ways of being. In so doing, as argued in Why Reading Books Still Matters: The Power of Literature in Digital Times, literary reading offers a practical way to build humanity’s social capacity and capability and to strengthen the human imagination and ability to envision the future in the face of the limited vision of life that is provided by the mass media.

Professor Pennington Speaks at Georgia State University on the Importance of Human Arts to Balance STEM and Technology

By: Martha C Pennington
Subjects: Cognitive Psychology, Education, Neuropsychology, Psychology

On November 28, 2017, Professor Martha C. Pennington of the University of London, gave a lecture on the topic of  "Humanizing the Curriculum" and the need to balanced the current emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and technology by an equal emphasis on language, literature, and what she terms the "Human Arts," incorporating Humanities or Liberal Arts and Fine Arts. 

    Prof. Pennington's talk challenged the potential of contemporary STEM-focused education and digital culture to provide an adequate foundation for the future of our children and our society without a counterbalancing emphasis on literate culture and Human Arts. As she argued, within a Human Arts curriculum, literature, which stands at the intersection of art and language, offers a needed corrective to our fast-lane, digitally obsessed, consumerist existence. Literary reading encourages people to slow down and concentrate for extended periods of time, to go inside themselves for deep contemplation, as they exercise the imagination and savor language. Literary reading therefore has significant benefits, Pennington maintains, which counter the fast-paced, skimming-and-scanning type of reading and thinking that are promoted on the internet. In addition, she cited research showing a strong relationship between book reading, vocabulary level, and general knowledge, along with other research that has demonstrated how literary reading can enhance empathy and social skills.

   This and other research led Pennington to conclude that literate culture has an important role to play in countering the degradation of language, public and private communication, empathy, critical thinking, deep reading, and attention that are part and parcel of our current mass-media and online culture. This was the centerpiece of her larger argument that an equal emphasis is needed in education on Human Arts and STEM.

Professor Martha Pennington Lectures at NYU on "Book Culture as Counterculture"

By: Martha C Pennington
Subjects: Cognitive Psychology, Education, Literature, Neuropsychology, Psychology

Professor Martha C. Pennington of the University of London delivered a lecture on April 12, 2018, at the Steinhardt School of Education of New York University entitled "Book Culture as Counterculture: The Value of Literary Reading for Promoting Language Learning, Diversity, and Equality." In her talk, Professor Pennington argued that in this digital era, book culture has become an important counterculture with effects that balance the deterioration of language and empathy, and the increasing tribalism promoted by digital culture. She reviewed research showing that heavy readers excel in language and general knowledge together with a body of scientific literature in psychology showing that people's minds can be opened and their ability to relate to others can be enhanced by reading fiction. In addition, several studies show that prejudice against certain groups can be reduced by reading and discussing about fictional characters. The conclusion is that educators should take seriously the power of literature to promote both language learning and diversity and equality in society.