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"How Do I Write This? And How Do I Teach It to Kids?": Making Sense of the National Writing Project's Summer Institute

Emily A Fisher, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis study explores how elementary teachers made sense of their experience in the National Writing Project’s Summer Institute and how it influenced their teaching of writing. Many elementary teachers have not received writing methods as a stand-alone course during their teacher preparation. Furthermore, the teaching of writing is vast, complex, and rigorous. Complexity Theory in the teaching of writing was framed the study and was used as a lens for understanding. Findings indicated that elementary teachers made sense of their National Writing Project experience in two major ways: as a writer and as a teacher of writing. Findings revealed that teachers understood their experience by grappling with and enduring writing fear, embracing a writer’s humanity with structure, and giving themselves permission to make choices. In addition, elementary teachers’ enjoyed teaching writing after the Summer Institute and recognized the importance of safeguarding writing time in the classroom. Teachers reworked and recombined their ideas surrounding the purpose of writing and the demands of writing and being a writer. Overall, there were three major understandings that teachers reworked and recombined during the Summer Institute within the Teacher Development as a Complex Adaptive System: 1) organization, 2) choice, and 3) communities of authors. Ingrained within each reworked idea were elements from the first two systems of Complexity Theory in Writing. Revised knowledge from the Summer Institute facilitated ways for teachers to make choices and judgments about teaching writing to students. Implications from the findings include the need to rethink professional development for in-service teachers to follow principles of the National Writing Project, rethinking and disrupting writing and writing instruction paradigms, continue funding for the National Writing Project, and embedding elements of the Summer Institute into pre-service teacher preparation.

Subject Area

Elementary education|Pedagogy

Recommended Citation

Fisher, Emily A, ""How Do I Write This? And How Do I Teach It to Kids?": Making Sense of the National Writing Project's Summer Institute" (2022). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI29162856.