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The professional development of four teachers participating in a writing project

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Title:
The professional development of four teachers participating in a writing project
Creator:
Harrell, Carol P
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
vii, 307 leaves : ; 29 cm.

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Classrooms ( jstor )
Creative writing ( jstor )
Students ( jstor )
Teachers ( jstor )
Writing ( jstor )
Writing assignments ( jstor )
Writing instruction ( jstor )
Writing process approach ( jstor )
Writing processes ( jstor )
Writing teachers ( jstor )
Dissertations, Academic -- Instruction and Curriculum -- UF ( lcsh )
Instruction and Curriculum thesis, Ph. D ( lcsh )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Thesis:
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1997.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 299-306).
Additional Physical Form:
Also available online.
General Note:
Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Carol P. Harrell.

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37852933 ( OCLC )

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Full Text










THE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF FOUR TEACHERS PARTICIPATING IN A WRITING PROJECT










By

CAROL P. HARRELL










A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 1997



























Copyright 1997

by

Carol P. Harrell













TABLE OF CONTENTS

page
A B S T R A C T ............................................................................................. v i

CHAPTERS

1 BA C KG R O U N D ........................................................................ 1

Background for Study .............................................. 2
Statement of the Problem .................................... 3
Significance of the Study .................................... 6
O v e rv ie w ...................................................................... 1 1

2 REVIEW OF RESEARCH ........................................................ 13

Staff Development ................................................... 14
National Writing Project ...................................... 20
Project Connection to Research ........................ 37

3 METHODOLOGY ........................................................................ 42

S ite S e lectio n ............................................................ 4 4
S u b je c ts ....................................................................... 4 6
D ata G athering ........................................................... 5 1
A nalysis of D ata ....................................................... 6 4
Theoretical Frame .................................................... 73

4 MS. ROTH--TEACHER WHO WRITES ................................ 76

S chool C ontext ........................................................... 7 6
Personal W riting ....................................................... 8 3
Writing Instruction ................................................. 87
Ms. Roth--Writing Project ................................... 103
P rofessional R ole ..................................................... 1 13




iii








5 MRS. HAMMOND--TEACHER OF WRITING ...................... 116

S chool C ontext ........................................................... 1 16
Personal W riting ....................................................... 12 2
W riting Instruction ................................................. 12 7
Mrs. Hammond--Writing Project ....................... 145
P rofessional R ole ..................................................... 15 0

6 MR. MCNEW--WRITER WHO TEACHES ............................ 155

School C ontext ........................................................... 15 5
P ersonal W riting ....................................................... 16 1
W riting Instruction ................................................. 16 6
Mr. McNew--Writing Project ............................... 184
P rofessional R ole ..................................................... 19 1

7 MR. MARRIET--TEACHER/WRITER ................................ 193

S chool C ontext ........................................................... 19 3
Personal W riting ....................................................... 2 0 2
W riting Instruction ................................................. 2 0 7
Mr. Marriet--Writing Project .............................. 233
Professional R ole ..................................................... 2 4 1

8 THEORETICAL ANALYSIS ................................................... 244

Berlin's Three View s .............................................. 245
Blau: Stages of Development .............................. 252
Nelms: Patterns of Response ............................. 254
Placement of Participants within Existing
C ategories ......................................................... 2 5 7
Teacher M aturity ...................................................... 2 63
Individual Response to Writing Project and
Connection to Staff -Development
P rincip le s .......................................................... 2 6 6
Emerging Categories for Writing-Project
T e ache rs .............................................................. 2 7 5

9 C O NC LUS IO NS ......................................................................... 2 7 9

Participant Sum m ary .............................................. 279
Im p lic a tio n s ............................................................... 2 8 4
Direction for Future Research ............................ 290

iv









APPEND IX-INTERVI EW QUESTIONS......................... 292

REFERENCES......................................................... 299

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH......................................... 307













Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy THE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF FOUR TEACHERS
PARTICIPATING IN A WRITING PROJECT By

Carol P. Harrell

May 1997

Chairman: Ben F. Nelms
Major Department: Curriculum and Instruction
One of the most respected staff development programs today is the National Writing Project designed to improve student writing by improving writing instruction. That improvement usually places an emphasis on teaching writing as a process and puts teachers in the role of active participants working with students during their writing. This active role is different from the one teachers assume in traditional writing classrooms where they act as givers of assignments and graders of final papers but interact minimally with students as they work on their writing. Although teachers in traditional writing classrooms may realize that their instruction does not produce improved student writing, changing from traditional, prod uct-oriented instruction to process-oriented instruction is difficult.




Vi








To help teachers make this pedagogical change, substantial
support during the period of transition is necessary. Implied in that level of assistance is an understanding of how teachers transform their current pedagogy to accommodate what they learn, but currently little discussion of what individual teachers experience during this pedagogical change is forthcoming.

The purpose of this research project was to explore the
responses and implementation processes of four teachers as they traversed the process of pedagogical examination and the eventual incorporation of the offerings of a writing project into their practice. The findings suggest that teachers at different levels of professional maturity respond differently to the process of pedagogical change and that follow-up assistance should reflect those differences.
























Vii













CHAPTER 1
BACKGROUND


What a writing-project inservice is and what it teaches is well studied and well documented (Gomez, 1988; Scriven, 1979), but the process through which teachers pass as they apply what they learn during the writing project is relatively unexplored. This leaves a gap in understanding how to assist teachers during the transition period that follows their writing-project experience. Swensson (1992) says that plans need to be developed to help teachers overcome inhibitors as they implement instructional changes initiated by writing-project participation. Knowing how to help teachers presupposes knowledge about how they deal with their process of change. Some researchers have studied teachers' implementation of the writing-project spirit in individual classrooms (Blau, 1993; Zbikowski, 1991), but currently little is known about the individual teacher's critical response to and subsequent implementation of new writing instruction techniques. This research project is designed to explore the responses and implementation processes of four teachers as they traverse the process of examining their own pedagogy during the year following their writing project experiences.





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Background for Study

During the last 25 years, a dichotomy of sorts has emerged in composition instruction. Although traditional writing instruction continues, an increasing number of teachers choose to teach writing in new ways. By far the largest vehicle for teacher retraining is the National Writing Project (NWP), an innovative staff development program designed to broaden teachers' understandings of writing instruction. This grass-roots staffdevelopment program uses what is currently considered best about composition pedagogy as the foundation for preparing teachers to become better at their instructional tasks and to become trainers of fellow teachers in proven methods of writing instruction. The pedagogical focus is usually on teaching writing through a process which places teachers in the role of active participants working with students throughout their writing. This active role is different from the one teachers assume in traditional writing classrooms, where they act as givers of writing assignments and graders of final papers but interact minimally with students as they work on their writing.

Determining the reason that teachers offer a minimum

amount of guidance to students is relatively simple. In the past teachers themselves were taught this way; they were given little instruction on how to teach writing in their teacher-preparation programs, so by default they taught with the same methods they encountered as students. Although teachers may realize that their current practice does not produce better writing, it may be






3

difficult to change their approaches. Swensson (1992) points out that altering any behavior is difficult but that the change from traditional, prod uct-oriented pedagogy to process-oriented pedagogy is a major change, and this sort of turn-around is difficult indeed. What seems to follow, then, is that when teachers are presented with the writing-project approach to pedagogy, a logical next step in the instruction process is substantial support during the period of transition. Offering teachers support and guidance through the transition requires knowledge of what is inherent in that change, but currently little discussion of what individual teachers experience during this pedagogical change is forthcoming.


Statement of the Problem
Stotsky (1993) expresses concern over the lack of the

teacher voice in the issue of pedagogy in particular and in other issues generally. She says that "it's as if highly touted pedagogical ideas cannot be criticized or evaluated by K-12 teachers until university researchers or scholars begin to criticize or evaluate them" (p. 14). Stotsky urges professional organizations to encourage on-going critical dialogues by K-12 teachers about pedagogical beliefs and practices. Gomez (11988) notes the paradox that while the NWP is based on a body of pedagogical knowledge determined by practitioners, their voices are not often heard in literature about the writing project.

The concern over the absence of the practitioner's voice in the dialogue acts as the opening statement for this present





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research project, which is designed to allow a few practitioners to speak from their personal experience as they navigate a writing project, deal with implementation of pedagogical strategies, and analyze the writing-project experience as it applies to their teaching. Both Stotsky and Gomez argue for the teacher voice, unfiltered by university-sponsored research, but that voice is currently not heard; therefore, this research acts as a bridge until the teacher voice is directly heard.

A bibliography recently produced by the NWP shows over 300 entries since 1976, and this list by no means includes all that was written during the period. In this extensive list, however, fewer than 10 references are directed toward teachers' experiences following the project. While one researcher describes the support group used by teachers as they began changing their teaching styles, no researcher attends to the individual teacher's progression through the difficult process of changing pedagogy.

Ultimately, the purpose of this staff development program is to improve student writing, but before that can occur, individual teachers must reorder their philosophy of writing instruction. Between the end of the writing project and the expression of that experience in the classroom, individual teacher must personalize the ideas presented. Provision needs to be made for this transitional period. Blau (1993) says that the key to helping teachers is a follow-up program that allows teachers to stay up to date with developments in the field and keeps them exposed to the spirit and character of the learning environment





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established in the writing project. Though follow-up programs are an essential part of the writing project experience, presently the focus is on teachers as part of a group rather than on their individual progress after participation. What needs to be added to the current body of knowledge is the individual teacher's experience through the process of pedagogical assimilation and change.

Much can be accomplished by way of support for the writing project graduate through a group, but ultimately the individual deals with the dissonance that results from a redefined educational philosophy. Guidance and support are offered during this period, but a detailed record of what occurs during the process is needed. This study is designed to examine the individual teacher's experience of assimilation and implementation. The teachers' experiences detailed in this research project act as only one part of a critical dialogue; a few voices are hardly representative of all teachers, but this research project is a beginning.
One major question and several subquestions guided the investigation: How did the teachers in this study develop professionally during the year following their participation in a writing project?
(1) What do teachers report as their beliefs about writing

and the teaching of writing?
(2) What is their theory of writing instruction?
(3) How do these teachers classify their practices of
teaching writing?





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(4) What connections do these teachers report between

their beliefs about writing and the teaching of writing,
their theory of writing instruction, their practices in writing instruction, and the experience of the writing

project?
(5) What do teachers report they gained, if anything, from
the summer writing project?
(6) What other factors appear to influence teachers as they
teach writing?


Significance of the Study
For scores of teachers, the NWP is an important source for professional development. As these teachers mature, they reflect and speculate on traditional methods in ways that challenge existing theory and suggest new pedagogical possibilities (Blau, 1988). They focus not on student writing errors but on the reasons behind these errors and on the meanings of the errors; their interest is on how students might learn and how students think (1988). At the institutes held each summer, selected teachers work on personal writing, critique each others' writing, share writing instruction practices that have worked effectively for them, and discuss research about writing and the teaching of writing (Marsh et al., 1987). This summer experience is a validation of teacher knowledge during which professionals who claim an area of expertise and successful classroom practice come together to train and learn from each other (Nelms, 1979). The instructional strategies for writing that these teachers





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share with each other are not techniques from a generic stateadopted textbook curriculum or from a curriculum passed down by earlier generations of teachers; rather, what is offered reflects the needs of the teachers' student writers.

Teachers who attend a writing project share their best practices, which means they return to their classrooms with a cadre of new instructional strategies. As positive as that outcome is, figuring out how to assimilate the strategies and finding colleagues in their school who might assist this process are not simple tasks, especially since "institutional requirements and conditions often militate against excellence in the teaching of writing" (Nelms, 1979, p. 133).

Nevertheless, over the past decade the number of teachers using the process approach to teaching writing, an approach that includes teacher and student involvement throughout the writing process, has increased steadily. Moss (1990) reports that according to a survey done by Applebee and presented at the meeting of the National Reading Conference, 40% of the English teachers surveyed reported they use the process approach in teaching writing. While much is known about the broad subject of process writing because of the work done by the Center for the Development of Writing associated with the NWP at Berkeley, not as much is known about the work of individual teachers in classrooms. The Applebee survey and others like it are informative, but studies like these summarize information from groups of teachers rather than analyze information from the individuals who make up the large groups. Although the group is a





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vital vehicle in support for teachers as they mature professionally, the individual teacher is the essence of successful pedagogical change. The guiding of teachers, new to the practice, through the process of change demands intimate knowledge of the experience.

Newly acquired knowledge rests in a precarious position until firmly embedded in long-term memory. When humans assimilate new knowledge, learners must practice "elaborative rehearsal" during which they take new information and do something with it (Bourne, Dominowski, Loftus, & Healy, 1986). Writing teachers learning new teaching strategies are no exception. Typically, writing project participants experience each presenter's practice as the presenter's students would, which offers some rehearsal but not elaborative rehearsal. Then, the participants return to their classrooms to use the teaching strategies they learned during the summer project.

This service model has generated positive feedback.

Teaching is considered lonely work, but the NWP offers an what Gomez calls the "potency of the group experience" (1988, p. 12), so that a teacher's connection to a writing project goes beyond just learning new teaching techniques for professional enhancement and includes belonging to a group of like-minded colleagues. Marsh (1987) commends the project for being effective without following staff development models exactly, and says the NWP enriches staff development literature with a successful variant. The Fellows, as the writing project teacher participants are called, praise the unique effectiveness of this





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teacher-directed service project. One teacher wrote a letter to her colleagues and described her experiences at a summer institute. "After five weeks I'm fired up about teaching composition, and I'd like to share some ideas" (Sears, 1981, p. 45). Marashio, a curriculum coordinator for a school district in New Hampshire, commented on his writing experiences in a summer writing project. "A sense of pride rushed through me at my first attempt to think poetically." He reports that his writing project colleagues share his feelings. "Our enthusiasm remained high [and] we all gained from the experience" (1981, p. 465). Moffett describes teachers as "fired up after attending a summer institute in the NWP" and goes on the declare the NWP "the best curricular movement" (1985, p. 52) of which he is aware.
Despite these glowing reports, the NWP is criticized for ignoring the steps required to move teachers from being recipients of knowledge to users of knowledge. After praising the NWP, Moffett says in the next sentence, "somehow, the means and the occasions for using what they have learned in that summer institute never materialize" (1985, p. 52). Capper and Bagenstos (1984), working for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, said the NWP is an "in-service effort [that] gets teachers to try new approaches and techniques but fails to transfer these skills into teachers' active repertoires, presumably from lack of further reinforcement" (p. 10). They recommend that the service be structured to include schoolyear service programs to enhance what is learned during the summer workshops.





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John Mayher (1990) notes that while the NWP has positively changed some aspects of teacher attitudes concerning writing, it has neglected to offer a substantive framework from which teachers can reconstruct their patterns of writing instruction. In essence, these writing project participants take what they learn during the summer institutes and simply add the new techniques to what North (1987) calls the "House of Lore," a pedagogical structure generations of teachers have added onto but have rarely pared. Mayher (1990) says that to break the cycle of accepting unevaluated practice, which causes the house to grow but offers no structure for dropping off ineffective practice, teachers must don the stance of the reflective practitioner and draw on their experience in classrooms, on the best [they] can discover through theory and research about how writers write and how writing ability develops ." (p. 132). Then, teachers can reflect on their classroom, on sound theory, and on pertinent research to generate practice that works for their student writers.
During a writing project, teachers are bombarded with strategies for teaching writing. Personal reflection on and analysis of teaching strategies presented during the summer institute and structured feedback from others as they implement new teaching strategies (Joyce & Showers, 1980) seem missing from the current writing project agenda. Those of us who are interested in helping teachers improve their practice need to know more precisely what is transferred from the summer institute to the classroom teaching experience, and we need to know more about the process involved in that transfer if we plan








to successfully aid teachers as they implement new teaching strategies. In an effort to more fully understand the teacher's needs during the implementation experience, this research study is designed to offer an in-depth look at four teachers as they progress through this process.


Overview
One way to discover the effects of a staff development project upon teachers as they return to their classrooms is to observe and question individuals as they make sense of and apply to their practices what they learned during a summer institute. Obviously, four participants at two writing sites do not represent teachers at all sites, but analysis of pedagogical transfer from the staff development experience to actual practice requires close attention to the experience of the individual. Some work has been done in this area at the high-school level. Zbikowski's (1991) study focused on what a writing project offered its participants. His findings showed that upon returning to their classrooms, the participants attempted to recreate the atmosphere of the project, but none was entirely able to do so. The purpose of the present study is to look more closely at how four teachers synthesize and incorporate the offerings of a writing project into their instructional practices. Through this research, the teachers' voices can be heard as a reflection of their experience in the writing project.

Chapter 2 details the current literature as it converges on this subject, and Chapter 3 explains the methodology used in this






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study. Chapters 4 through 7 offer an in-depth look at the four teachers' experiences as they returned to the classroom after a summer writing project. Chapter 8 connects this research to current theory and research, and Chapter 9 provides recommendations for future research and a summary of the present research findings.













CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF RESEARCH


In an extensive research project including classroom observations in more than 1000 schools, Sirotnik (1983) describes the typical classroom as one where there is

a lot of teacher talk and a lot of student listening, unless
students are responding to teachers' questions; little
corrective feedback and no guidance; and predominantly
total class instructional configurations around traditional
activities--all in a virtually affectless environment.
(p. 2 9)

He concludes by urging educators to disconnect themselves from their mediocre educational processes if they desire to move away from the dismal picture in so many classrooms.
Transforming the classroom from a place of mediocrity to a place of excellence requires change, and staff -development programs are designed to bring about change by altering teacher beliefs and attitudes, teacher instructional practices, and student learning (Guskey, 1985). In this chapter, recent trends in staff development are examined; a specific example, the National Writing Project, is detailed, and finally, the convergence of the two is examined. The literature review is divided into three parts: staff development, National Writing Project, and conclusion.




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Staff Development

Generally, desired outcomes from staff development include an increase in student learning (Joyce, Showers, & RolheiserBennett, 1987) while meeting the needs of both teachers and institutions (Love, 1991). In a research summary published by the New York City Public Schools (1991), staff development is viewed as the major strategy for school improvement. While the central purpose for staff -development programs may vary dependent on the needs of the students, teachers, and institutions, they are the foremost improvement technique in today's schools (Fullan, 1990).
Castetter (1986) places staff development in the larger framework of personnel development. His assumption is that staff development ought to be something that teachers do for themselves rather than something they have done to them, and that self improvement, not deficiency, should prompt the personal urgings. Castetter (1986) provides a model to guide staffdevelopment plans. This model includes diagnosis of current and future staff needs, development of plans to meet found needs, implementation procedures, and evaluation of programs and their outcomes. Castetter urges program planners to view the overall school system's expectations as they develop individual school plans in order to promote balance in the system. This dual focus provides guidance in planning school staff development to reflect the needs of the individual teachers working within specific and emerging school district plans. This element is necessary for the overall health of a school district's curriculum so that no staff-





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development program stands alone but instead becomes an integral part of the district's curriculum goals.

Determining staff development needs is the beginning point for inservice. Developing worthwhile programs to assist teachers as they learn new pedagogical strategies is also necessary. Joyce and Showers (1980) did a comprehensive analysis of over 200 inservice studies to glean guiding principles for general inservice practice. They categorized their findings into two sections. The first, which they call Levels of Impact, deals with content knowledge acquired from the inservice experience. They note that teachers' acquisition of knowledge progresses through four levels. In level one, awareness, teachers become cognizant of some educational principle. When inservice participants move to level two, concepts and organized knowledge, teacher/learners gain control over the content of an educational principle. In level three, principles and skills, the learners prepare for action, and in level four, application and problem solving, learners transfer the content of the concept to classroom practice. The forth level is critical because application of newly acquired pedagogical knowledge requires teachers to transform principles and integrate and combine these with old teaching strategies so that transfer and practice of new methods is set. Helping teachers traverse through these levels should be a major goal of inservice planning.
Joyce and Showers' (1980) second section in the research synthesis focuses on the principles of inservice training. These principles include the following: (a) present the underlying





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theory to support cognitive growth in training, (b) demonstrate the teaching skills presented, (c) provide appropriate practice of the teaching skills, and (d) provide opportunities for structured or unstructured feedback so teachers are aware of their actual teaching behavior. Inherent in the fourth principle are alternative teaching options for teachers facing difficulties with implementation. From their research synthesis, Joyce and Showers found that these elements are essential for service programs if teachers are to transfer newly acquired strategies to successful classroom practice, the point of staff development.

Guskey (1985), like Joyce and Showers, contends that
neither training alone nor training and implementation supply the impetus needed to initiate real change in practice. Guskey proposes that genuine change in teachers' beliefs and attitudes follows an identifiable change in student learning. Guskey's staff -development model has three implications. First, because change is slow and often difficult, service programs should offer well-defined incremental steps toward change and immediate student improvement. In addition, frequent feedback helps teachers see their impact on students' learning process. Finally, Guskey says that support after initial training is essential. Teachers need guidance, support, and an arena for sharing both successes and difficulties during implementation.

Ellis and Kull (1991) used Guskey's staff -development
principles as the basis for a research project. Their study was designed to explore teachers' thinking as they learned a new teaching strategy. Volunteer teachers attended a conference.





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They were selected based on school-district commitment to the project, availability of release time for teachers, principals' recommendations, and the teachers' interest in the topic. Through modeling, these teachers were trained to use small-group techniques and discovery learning to facilitate concept development and problem solving. The purpose of the group work was to give teacher/students experiences that forced them to rely on their own knowledge and problem-solving abilities. During the staff -development program, time was provided for the teachers to figure out problems on their own. This experience helped participants to see the teacher as a guide rather than a director of learning. Each of the 21 teachers who attended the service kept a journal to record personal feelings about the staff -development experience. All of the teachers received six weeks of summer instruction followed by two one-day service workshops given during October and March in the following school year. Nine of the teachers were observed and interviewed during the school year. Issues related to teacher selection and observation procedures were not described.
In the final report, the experiences of four teachers were selected for in-depth analysis. These four represented different levels of commitment to the service teaching techniques. Two were model students of the program and implemented the service principles with little difficulty. A third was initially unsure of the effectiveness of group work, but as the implementation period proceeded, so did his ability to use groups effectively, although he never attained the level of success






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reached by the first two. The fourth teacher refused to relinquish her role as director of all learning in her classroom.

Ultimately, Ellis and Kull (1991) concluded that these
teachers had periods of growth shortly after periods of intense frustration. They also found that many of the teachers' practices reverted to pre-inservice levels by the end of the first year of implementation. In this case, it appears that most inservice knowledge is ultimately lost. This a major concern when evaluating the usefulness of a staff -development program, but knowledge retention and subsequent implementation of pedagogical strategies was not the focus of the study. Kull and Ellis recommended that inservice programs include follow-up opportunities to supplement and reinforce what is learned during inservice. Their conclusions, though, focus on Guskey's proposal that belief in the learned teaching technique does in fact follow practice and observation of student improvement.

The most current work on staff development places it within the framework of school improvement plans (Fullan & Hargreaves, 1991; Huberman, 1988; Joyce, 1991). Within these plans, the focus is on improving all elements within a school rather than isolating elements of instruction, an idea reminiscent of Castetter's (1986) notion that district-wide improvement should be the ultimate goal for staff development.

Joyce (1991) reiterates the point by stating that
restructuring the school, another name for school improvement, involves several components, only one of which is teacher inservice. Fullan notes:





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It is essential to understand both the small and the big pictures. We have to know what change looks like from
the point of view of the teacher, student, parent, and
administrator if we are to understand the actions and
reactions of individuals; and if we are to comprehend the
big picture, we must combine the aggregate knowledge
of these individual situations. (xi)


Making staff development a part of school restructuring gives authority to the role teachers play in school. Their work does take place behind closed doors, but the impact is felt throughout the school and the community.
Hargreaves and Fullan (1992) say that school leaders are
beginning to recognize that what happens inside the classroom is closely connected to what occurs outside the classroom. Looking at staff development through the single lens of teacher growth limits a school's potential; therefore, personnel development calls for a systematic, continuous program to enhance skills toward some agreed upon goals central to the belief system of the entire organization.

Based on the literature reviewed, several guiding principles for staff development emerge. First, staff development must provide worthwhile educational objectives for teachers, within the framework of the larger context of the school and district. Second, administrative support must accompany any call for changed practice following an service experience. Third, teachers learning new pedagogical skills progress through several stages of understanding and development, and staff development must facilitate that passage. Fourth, worthwhile pedagogical





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feedback for teachers must occur during the inservice and also following the program. Fifth, teacher belief in the learned teaching technique is essential.
Placing these principles into the context of an actual staffdevelopment program gives them meaning, for principles without practice are lifeless. Applying principles of staff development to an existing inservice model offers the opportunity to test realistically the emerging principles. One of the most successful staff -development programs is the National Writing Project (NWP) (Capper & Bagenstos, 1987). This program is anything but lifeless. During the last twenty years, teachers from all over the world have attended the summer inservice workshops that Goldberg (1984) claims may be the most successful. The fact that staff -development principles are not consistently applied in this program (Capper & Bagenstos, 1987) offers an interesting possibility for inquiry.


National Writingi Project
Teacher retraining is often the focus of staff -development programs, and one of the most effective programs is the NWP which functions at sites throughout the United States and in several foreign countries (Capper & Bagenstos, 1987). In this staff -development program, teachers encounter an intense inservice experience designed to enhance their methods of writing instruction and prepare them to train other teachers of writing. Simply stated, the purpose of a writing project is to enhance writing instruction in order to improve student writing.





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Certainly the issue is much more complicated than this, but as Piano and Tallerico (1990) conclude after a seven-year study of a writing project, the main purpose of the writing project is to prepare teachers to be better writing instructors. Besides improving student writing through improved instruction, the NWP undergirds teachers' professionalism and expands the use of writing from the English classroom into all curriculum areas (Office of Policy and Planning: US Department of Education, 1992). Delineating the overall purpose of a writing project is possible, but determining the specifics is more complicated. James Gray, the project's founder, vehemently refuses to name a theory of writing or writing instruction to which the NWP pays allegiance (Blau, 1988), yet he clearly advocates specific guidelines under which the staff -development project operates. No one curriculum or instructional method undergirds the thinking of a project, but an openness to what is best about practice and teaching is the guiding philosophy. It is not that the philosophy lacks substance but that teachers, their professionalism, and their best practices are the significant elements. As these areas develop, the NWP philosophy is free to embrace new professional directions.
Gray and Myers (1978) indicate that a concern about the decline in writing scores in the California schools gave a small group of elementary through college level teachers the impetus to join together to study traditional writing instruction's ineffectiveness. These teachers agreed that one reason for unsuccessful writing instruction was poorly trained writing teachers. Further, this group agreed that in order to improve





22

writing instruction, service programs were needed to act as a bridge between research and practice (Gray & Myers, 1978). Eventually, these meetings in the early 1970s resulted in calling together successful writing teachers who demonstrated to other English teachers their successful composition instruction techniques.
This grass-roots staff -development movement, devoted to instruction throughout the writing process unified; and in 1974, under the leadership of Gray, the Bay Area Writing Project was formed. Because of the movement's growth across the country, the name was later changed to the National Writing Project (NWP). Gray (1991) summarizes the general assumptions on which the movement is based. University and school personnel at all levels of instruction must work together as partners because the "top-down" tradition is not an acceptable staff -development model. The multi-grade inclusion allows for constant attention to writing all through school. It is possible to identify successful teachers of writing. These teachers should come together to further their own professional development and to be trained to prepare other teachers to be good writing instructors. Training of teachers in an on-going process, thus teachers need to meet throughout their careers to continue their training in writing instruction. Since writing is an essential element in all disciplines, the summer institute should include teachers of all subject areas. Teachers of writing must be writers since they can best understand the demands of the task through first-hand experience with writing. The NWP does not adhere to any single





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correct way to teach writing but remains open to instructional possibilities as they are developed by knowledgeable practitioners. Despite the lack of an undergirding theory, local sites gain strength from affiliation with a larger national network and from the ability to meet the specific needs of the local community. Underlying the entire project is the understanding that the goal of the NWP is improved student writing. (Gray, 1991).
Application of NWP inservice principles has been highly successful, according to Goldberg (1984), who visited writing programs across the country and noted that the NWP may well be the most successful inservice program in history. In a joint effort, Binko and Neubert (1984) studied the effectiveness of the NWP but limited their focus to teacher status within the writing project. Working from the hypothesis that to be good, inservice education should include successful classroom teachers working as equal partners training other teachers, Binko and Newbert conclude that the NWP is an effective collaborative effort. Whether the inservice actually improves instruction or learning is not addressed, but they note that the collaboration provides university professors and elementary and secondary teachers opportunities to share responsibility for funding, scheduling, and activity implementation. Additionally, university faculty and classroom teachers are allowed equal association in the staffdevelopment program
This staff -development program revolves around the equalization of university and school instruction toward the





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"essentiality of the classroom teacher" (Binko & Newbert, 1984, p. 17). This essentiality of the teacher figures into the formula for professional respect on both the K-12 and college sides of the academic community and may "represent a new professionalism in English--a professionalism that transcends what practicing teachers perceive as the narrow academicism of college English departments and the intellectually suspect pragmatism of colleges of education" (Nelms, 1979, p. 132). Empowering teachers with confidence in their worth prepares them to be the staff -development personnel to whom other teachers will listen. Watson (1981) says that teachers begin to understand their own strengths, intuitions, and needs, and this influences their language which becomes centered on "curiosity, community, intensity, discovery" (p. 97). This is the language of motivated, involved teachers; teachers concerned about the learning of their students; teachers who see their own efforts influence the education community of which they are members.
In a study done by Thompson (1979), teachers were
questioned at the beginning and end of a writing project institute about why they felt students do not write well. At the beginning of the institute, the teachers blamed external factors for their students' poor writing and named things over which teachers have little or no control as reasons for the poor writing. They blamed such things as watching too much television and the decline of writing in society. At the end of writing-project participation, the teachers named factors which they control as the reasons students are poor writers. For instance, they recognized that





25

students need guidance during the writing process and that they need writing practice without the demands of grades. This shift supports Watson's (1981) conclusion that writing-project graduates see themselves as capable agents directing the educational experiences of their students. The teachers become curious; they wonder how to fashion educational opportunities for students so that optimum learning occurs. They develop a sense of a community of learners during the service experience, and they seek to reproduce that in their own classrooms. They become constructors of knowledge rather than consumers of information. An intensity builds toward leading students to writing and self-discovery along the same paths the teachers took during their service experience. They become teachers who understand that they do influence the learning of their students (Blau, 1993).
This self-discovery and consequential confidence in constructing knowledge has the potential to transform the teaching and writing which occur in classrooms. Olson and DiStefano (1980) studied the effectiveness of writing-project teaching techniques in the classroom and found a substantial improvement in the writing of students exposed to the instruction of writing-project graduates. The findings of this study were not substantiated by the Scriven (1979) study, however. In this three-year study, Scriven and his colleagues found it difficult to sustain a long-term study of writing project effects for several reasons: control groups with equivalent relevant variables are unlikely to occur from year to year;





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teacher/student relationships over time are difficult to predict since students change teachers yearly; and consistent assignment of teachers to academic subjects from year to year is unlikely. The results of their study, however, indicate generally poor results from writing samples of students taught by writingproject graduates.
In a later well-designed, quasi -experimental study,
Pritchard (1987) found conclusive evidence that middle school students who had been taught by NWP teachers consistently over a three-year period were indeed better writers than were students taught by teachers not trained in a writing project. Her research project used a pretest-posttest design that consisted of essay topics to which the students responded. She gave a pretest to more than 2000 junior- and senior- high students in the fall of one year. The same students were tested that spring and in the spring of the two following school years. During each posttest, the students listed their English teachers of the previous three years. Students who had received instruction from at least two teachers trained in a writing project were considered a part of the experimental group, and those with one or no trained teacher were the control group. Their writings were holistically scored by trained English teachers from a school district outside the experimental school district, and the results showed that middle school students taught by writing project teachers outperformed students of untrained teachers. While not all studies demonstrate conclusive evidence that NWP trained teachers produce superior writers, it is well documented that writing





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project graduates have a solid understanding of writing instruction (Binko & Neubert, 1984; Blau, 1988; Office of Policy and Planning: US Department of Education, 1992; Marashio, 1981; Sears, 1981; Watson, 1981).

Despite these successes, there are those who question the NWP model. In an article based on his experience with a writing project, Newkirk (1983) makes several interesting points about the five writing project assumptions he identifies. (Gray says that teachers of all subject areas should be included in writing projects, but otherwise, the two lists are comparable.) Newkirk begins by supporting two of what he considers five essential NWP assumptions: teachers should be writers, and teachers of all grade levels should participate equally in the writing project. While generally agreeing with the three remaining assumptions he identifies, Newkirk addresses ways he thinks each might be enhanced. One of these assumptions is that teachers who attend the writing project are expert teachers of writing and that each teacher has some knowledge about writing instruction worthy of being shared with other teachers. Newkirk contends, however, that some teachers come to the writing project as good writing teachers but with expertise in areas they have begun to question. Their attendance is geared toward change rather than continuation of practice. When this is the case, writing-project leaders should take more responsibility for the project curriculum and lead participants in new instructional directions rather than expect the teachers to share teaching techniques they no longer believe are pedagogically sound.





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Another NWP assumption questioned by Newkirk is that no theoretical model should be imposed on the participants. Newkirk's philosophy is that those who attend a writing project need to share a common theoretical base so that informed decisions can be made about what should be stressed or ignored in the service.
The final assumption deals with the role of writing project participants after summer attendance. The NWP model is designed around the idea that trained participants will lead workshops to train other teachers in proven teaching techniques learned during the writing project and implemented in their own classroom. Newkirk (1983) disagrees with this notion and defines follow-up specifically as classroom visits by project instructors who are also classroom teachers. These visits include guidance for newly graduated writing project teachers as they work toward successful change in writing instruction. His emphasis is on redefining the way writing-project participants teach rather than on consultant training, the NWP focus. Teachers' willingness to change indicates a desire to support the NWP assumption that professionals are open to what is pedagogically new and sound and Castetter's (1986) assumption that staff development should be designed from the felt needs of the teachers involved. This willingness to continue growth warrants support during the difficult change process, and Newkirk contends that the best place to receive appropriate classroom support is from project instructors.





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Mayher's discussion of the NWP parallels Newkirk's. In the book, Uncommon Sense (1990), Mayher directs educators away from assumptions imposed by current practices toward uncommon thinking about what education might be. It is in this context that Mayher questions the NWP. He says that it is appropriate for teachers to share questions and to celebrate their expertise, but

the irony of the Writing Project approach as a basis of
instructional reform is that the approaches and lessons
being shared are inevitably based on the teacher's practice
before they have had the positive writing experience of
the institute. So, for the most part, although not
exclusively since many teachers have been the source
of uncommon sense theories and practices, the lore they share fits comfortably within the commonsense framework. (emphasis his, p. 231)


Thus, a large portion of what is gained in writing-project attendance is domesticated upon teachers' return to the classroom (Mayher, 1990), and while the experience does alter some elements in teachers' beliefs about writing, the NWP experience is not thorough enough to "reform the overall pattern of instruction in uncommonsense directions" (p. 231-232). Before that can happen, says Mayher, educators must come to understand more fully the "theoretical framework which underlies the uncommonsense position on writing, and to sufficiently deconstruct the commonsense framework of schooling to be able to fight against its domesticating power" (p. 232). For these changes to occur, teachers need more than one summer workshop experience.





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Zbikowski (1991) studied a writing project and concluded
that the project experience was fruitful and provided the impetus for altered classroom instruction. Implementation of writing strategies learned from colleague presentations was possible, but replication of the writing project spirit, the camaraderie between writers--the essence of the writing classroom--was almost impossible to reproduce during the year following writing-project attendance. Zbikowski says that the question to ask when assessing writing projects does not center on student gains in traditional measures of writing but to what extent the romantici' messages of the writing project make sense in schools as they are. The "romantic" messages (Zbikowski, 1991) and the spirit of the writing project (Watson, 1981; Zbikowski, 1991) are elements critical to the successful replication of writingproject ideas in authentic classrooms. The point of writingproject assessment should, therefore, be effectiveness of implementation of academic strategies and the classroom spirit in which the strategies are implemented.

Stroble and Bratcher (1990) studied how well rural teachers implemented new writing instruction strategies following writing project attendance. They used Guskey's (1985) assumptions about staff development to support their findings related to pedagogical change following writing project participation. Like Guskey, they found that changing a teaching style is a difficult process that occurs over time. In their conclusions they say that the teachers in the study grew in their use of some critical elements in writing instruction, but the





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change was not complete after the service, hence the teachers needed continued training and support long after the summer institute ended to enable them to completely implement writing process instruction with their students. Newkirk and Mayher clearly made the same point: teachers may make philosophical changes during the summer institute, but complete pedagogical changes must be well supported over time.

Bayer (1985) did an observational study of five teachers' growth undergirded by group support after a writing project experience. The group which represented four schools included two English teachers, two teachers from other content areas, and one elementary teacher. The focus of Bayer's study was the supportive oral language used by the group as they helped each other during the change process following writing project participation. Like others, Bayer concluded that modifying teaching practice is difficult, and she contended that group support during that process can undergird the change efforts. Results from the study point to the fact that a collaborative group can, through dialogue, help teachers to initiate, clarify, and expand their thinking about writing. Change is difficult and slow, but the study of this group effort shows that a collaborative experience can facilitate growth in a way isolation from colleagues does not allow.

Sharing ideas and understanding writing as a process is often at the heart of teacher change following writing-project participation. McCarthey's (1992) study focused on three elementary teachers' changing conceptions of writing instruction





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techniques after writing project participation. She identified the teachers' changing understanding of writing and the actual teaching of writing and how those changes linked to writing project participation. Using three interviews given intermittently during the two-year study, McCarthey traced changing beliefs about the teacher's role in writing instruction.

McCarthey (1992) interviewed three teachers who
participated in the New York City Teachers College Writing Project. The participants were selected because they had implemented some of the strategies learned in their writing project experience. The writing project included ongoing workshops and training designed to aid the teachers in their transition toward using the workshop format to teach writing. In this project, a part of the teachers' training, much like Newkirk suggests, included modeling done in the teachers' classrooms after they attended a writing project so the teach er/lea rne rs could view a lesson in their own classrooms and then discuss the strategy and implementation of the strategy at work in their actual classroom.
The first teacher in McCarthey's (1992) study, Erica, a
fifth-grade teacher, did not enjoy teaching language arts before her writing-project participation, but she did consider herself a writer. During the project experience, her teaching was transformed from lessons that concentrated on ditto sheets and simple routine assignments to instruction that focused on teaching writing as a means to prepare students to communicate.





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Elma, who taught sixth grade, was an experienced writing teacher but directed her students' writing rather than guide it toward personal writing experience. Although this teacher did not consider herself a writer before participating in the project, she did afterwards. Her pedagogical growth stemmed from a found belief in the empowerment of writers who use writing for their own needs.

The third teacher, Emily, who had taught both literature and language arts and directed a creative curriculum before participating in the writing project, was a first-grade teacher during the study. She engaged in personal and professional writing and participated in a course designed to offer an overview of process writing several years prior to her writing project experience. Changes in her teaching were less pronounced than Erica's or Elma's, but she did learn that she needed to become more deeply involved in her students' writing process and to teach grammar within the content of the students' papers.
Ultimately, each teacher's change is as individual as her
background. McCarthey attributes variances to the differences in background knowledge and writing beliefs each teacher brought to the project. These teachers, like the ones to whom Newkirk refers, attended the writing project at a point in their career when they were ready to alter their teaching style rather than continue existing practices.

It becomes evident that the change in beliefs and in
instructional strategies resulting from the service experience is strategic to the outcome in actual classroom practice. To






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understand thoroughly the process in which teachers were engaged from their writing-project experience to their practice following their NWP attendance, Zbikowski (1991) participated in a writing project as a Fellow and as an observer. During the school year following the project, he observed in four high-school teachers' classrooms to understand how the participants used writing project ideas in their classrooms. He also questioned students about their reactions to the teacher's writing instruction and found that the writing project offered an ideal unattained in the actual classroom the year following project participation. Nonetheless, the experience energized the teachers and in turn the students. The findings are substantiated by Blau's (1993) synthesis about writing project graduates' progression after participation. In his discussion of teachers' change processes, Blau points out that even the most exemplary teachers require three years to establish a classroom learning community like the one experienced in a summer institute.

Blau tracked the development of writing project Fellows over several years and determined that teachers implementing writing project philosophies in their classrooms progress through three stages which reflect the levels that Joyce and Showers (1980) define in their staff development analysis of the progression of knowledge acquisition. In the first stage, which Blau calls the "show and tell" stage, successful teachers show other teachers what they do and then tell the teachers how they came to do it. In the second stage, which he calls "show and tell why," teacher-presenters begin explaining the principles behind





3 5

their demonstrated practices. In the final developmental stage, Blau defines teachers as researchers. Teachers reflect on their own teaching much as a researcher does, and they no longer "focus as much on their own practice or on student behaviors or outcome data as they do on what they can infer from behavior or other data about what is going on in their students' heads" (1988, p. 33). The teachers are more concerned with what or how students might learn or think as a result of instruction. As a consequence of this professional development, Blau contends, the education community has also been revolutionized in that the job of writing teachers has been elevated; classroom teachers are no longer seen as a deterrent to change. Instead, they are "seen as (or potentially seen as) expert practitioners, writers, agents of change, teacher-consultants, classroom-based researchers, contributors to the pool of current professional knowledge, trainers of administrators, curriculum specialists, and publishing authors" (Blau, 1984, p. 35).

These studies support the notion that change comes slowly and that when teachers make changes in habitual behavior they need to see new behaviors modeled (Zemelman & Daniels, 1986). Permission for change and movement away from what Mayher calls common sense notions about teaching is echoed by Zemelman and Daniels (1986), but they call this the "socialpsychological-political context of the schools" (1986, p. 221). This concept is built around the notion of "top-down" politics and requires time and a complete knowledge of the difference between "an 'authority' as one who controls a situation and





36

authority' in the sense of one who is consulted because she has valuable ideas" (p.225). They argue, and rightly so, that often teachers completing work on "new" approaches to writing instruction simply return to their classrooms to reconstitute the teacher-centered classroom with a few process-oriented writing activities but without the tools necessary to reconstruct their classrooms in schools filled with "a strong institutional grain" (p. 220). These teachers are ill prepared to assume the role that Blau says comes in the final stages of change.

Zemelman and Daniels (1986) suggest that teachers in the throes of instructional change need instruction in areas beyond content knowledge and this includes information of "psychology, sociology, politics, and recent social history of American education" (p. 229). Shulman (1987) points out that "comprehended ideas must be transformed in some manner if they are to be taught. To reason one's way through an act of teaching is to think one's way from the subject matter as understood by the teacher into the minds and motivations of learners" (p. 16). These facets of change resulting from knowledge acquired in a writing project deepen the nature of the staff -development program. Included in the change process is more than just alteration of writing instruction strategies. Integral to these changes are also the issues of the institutional grain, recent social history, and the learner. These issues are vital elements in the process of teacher change.

At this point the individual teacher in the learning process is the key, and the experiences of the teacher are foremost in the






37

educational cycle. As Freedman, Warshauer, Dyson, Flower, and Chafe (1987) conclude in their directions for future writing research:

We want to understand the literacy demands learners
encounter across time and space as they progress from home to school to university and workplace; we aim to
identify more completely the resources learners have to draw upon to meet these ends and the resources teachers
have as well as they seek to mediate between the learners
and the ends. Thus, although we have reviewed research
in the traditional areas of context, process, and development
(much of which traditionally focused on product), we
propose program areas that focus on teaching and learning.
(p. 43)

Viewing the teachers' experiences in the writing project staff development program produces a window into the teacher perspective to which Freedman, et al. refer. The effectiveness of a staff -development program becomes an integral element in that program so that actualization of practices, in this case the emphasis on writing instruction following an experience in a writing projects, becomes the focus.


Project Connection to Research
The writing project as a worthwhile tool to retrain teachers is supported by all those connected to it, even its critics. Writing projects are, however, tools in the hands of human beings, thus permitting questions to be raised about whether particular practices are best in every situation. Research may provide some direction about possibilities for new writing-project options. The purpose of this research project is





3 8

to add to examine the individual teacher experience with the staff -development program in such a way as to enhance the opportunities for professionals as they strive toward altering their existing instructional practices.
When applying the five staff -development principles
outlined in the final paragraphs of the staff -development section in this chapter, it becomes clear that the NWP is a well-designed program. First, staff development must provide worthwhile objectives for teachers within the larger context of school and district educational objectives. Writing projects provide this pedagogical freedom and direction as evidenced by the essential element of local projects developing around the felt needs of the teachers involved. As pointed out by Blau (1993), teachers who pass through a writing project are seen as expert practitioners and gain the respect of administrators thus ensuring, in essence, administrative support, the second staff -development principle. Also important to staff development is a belief in the presented teaching technique; the writing project is developed around the notion that good writing teachers have something worthwhile to share with their colleagues and that each will present a successful writing lesson to the larger group. It can be argued that participants believe in the service offerings even before they begin the project since they are unlikely to attend and present unless they believe in the service. The remaining two principles suggest the need for support during traversal through the stages of growth in a new teaching technique. Currently, the writing project functions to enhance writing instruction and to





39

train teachers to become teachers of teachers who are in search of better instructional methods in writing. The path teachers traverse on their way toward pedagogical change, the fourth principle, is not clearly addressed in discussion of the writing project. Feedback following writing-project attendance, the final staff -development principle, is important but gets little attention in the literature.

Some research has been done in these areas (Bayer, 1985; McCarthey, 1992; Stroble & Bratcher, 1990). Newkirk (1983) suggests that follow-up should come through scheduled classroom visits by program instructors and that this should be geared toward transforming classroom instruction. Blau (1993) advocates the need for follow-up programs to help teachers as they become constructors of professional knowledge; however, Newkirk does not focus on the individual teacher perspective, and Blau reports only the view of exemplary writing-project teachers. The teacher perspective on the process of change and of implementation following writing-project participation needs to be heard, not as a summary of many experiences but as individual reports on the journey. As a result of writing project attendance, teachers change their writing instruction strategies, and students like the approach to writing brought to the classroom (Zbikowski, 1991); but measurable improvement in student writing is minimal (Scriven, 1979; Stotsky, 1993). Perhaps individual teacher's reflection on the writing-project experience may offer insight into writing instruction and writing improvement. The individual is missing from the current picture,





40

and in a staff -development program designed to meet the everchanging needs of the professionals, this voice needs to be heard.
Sunstein (1994) studied the culture that grows within a writing project and found that participants act as folk groups that possess two defining characteristics. According to Toelken, says Sunstein, folk groups accept a conservative core of ideas, but they also develop dynamic features around growth. The writing project participants in Sunstein's study reflect this acceptance of a core and then, as expected, develop new versions of the old. Although the study reflects the individual teacher in the three-week writing project, it does not reflect the teachers' experiences as they work through the school year following the writing project.

Dialogue exists within the research community concerning the effectiveness and appropriateness of the NWP, and some teacher voices are heard in testimonials. The authentic voices of teachers as they use knowledge gained in the writing project experience are missing, however. A close look at individual teachers as they implement writing project principles in classroom settings after attending a writing project may determine the kind of support, if any, they need. This investigation is designed to focus on the individual teacher. Tracking individuals as they reconsider their practice after attending a writing project might show whether teachers find ways to create a network outside the service that could provide strategies for others who want to do the same. To continue the search for a better way to teach writing, this research project





41

focuses on the individual teacher as a way to offer a new dimension in writing-project and staff -development research.













CHAPTER 3
METHODOLOGY


This study was designed to examine individual teacher's
experiences with assimilation and implementation of knowledge gained during participation in a summer writing project. Drawing from each teacher the knowledge gained and the articulated implementation of that knowledge requires a research design that allows the individual voice to describe personal experience; thus, qualitative methods are the most appropriate. Learning how these teachers' beliefs about writing and their theories of writing instruction were influenced by the writing project, discovering which of their writing instruction methods were influenced by the writing project, and determining what they believe they learned from writing-project attendance requires intensive research. Merriam (1991) emphasizes that the qualitative case study focuses on "discovery, insight, and understanding from the perspectives of those being studied [and] offers the greatest promise of making significant contributions to the knowledge base and practice of education" (p. 3). She also points out that the case study examines a specific phenomenon where "researchers are interested in insight, discovery, and interpretation rather than hypothesis testing" (p. 10). The emphasis is on depth of understanding surrounding a single focus.


42





43

Such an emphasis is needed to support the purpose of this research.

Four subjects were selected for this one-year study. The interview was the major form of data collection because it focuses on "discovery, insight, and understanding" from the subjects, exactly the kind of data needed for this research project (Merriam, 1991). This research used the interview method to discover: (a) the participants' beliefs about writing, (b) their theory of writing instruction, (c) how they thought their beliefs and theory were influenced by the writing project, and (d) how they reported that their beliefs, theory of writing, and practice changed because of writing-project attendance. The nine interviews, spaced over an eleven-month period, were set up to suit the schedule of the participants, and each followed a common interview form--the "person-to-person encounter in which one person elicits information from another" (Merriam, 1991, p. 71). 1 used both formal and informal interview techniques so that insights and information could emerge based on the answers each teacher gave (Merriam, 1991).

Besides the interviews, I observed in each teacher's
classroom and in the writing projects the teachers attended. Classroom observations focused on practice. Having been a classroom teacher, I know that when students are unfamiliar with a teaching method or classroom practice, their behavior and questions are signs that new things are occurring. I used these indicators as a guide to verify that the teaching methods I saw were not just implemented on the days I observed. My





44

observations focused specifically on writing in the classroom because my interest was in how each teacher engaged in writing instruction. Through observation I saw firsthand what these teachers did in their classrooms (Merriam, 1991). The intent of the writing project observations was to give me a sense of what the teachers experienced during attendance. An account of the research process is detailed in the following sections.


Site Selection
The participants in this research study attended one of two southeastern writing project sites located within 80 miles of each other. I chose to work with graduates of these projects because they were near my residence and were easily accessible. To gain insight into the writing projects that the participants would reference during the research process, I observed one writing project for four days, one day per week during the fourweek writing project. These observations allowed me to view firsthand the writing project my participants experienced. I simply observed one day, and on the other days, I targeted one of the three participants. Each day, I sat with a different participant and then observed the participant's writing group.
I observed the other four-week project two days, once at the end of the second week and once at the end of the third week. As with the other project, one day was devoted to writing project observation, and the other was participant and writing group observation. I spent each of the days fully absorbed in the writing-project experience. This included, among other things,





45

listening to writing instruction demonstrations given by several teacher r/partici pants and participating in large-group writing activities. On one of the days, I went with the whole group on a field trip to a small museum dedicated to a local writer. I also observed in each participant's writing group and experienced first-hand their writing processes and the discussion of their personal writing. Each of the six writing-project observations lasted about six hours for a total of approximately 36 hours.
The first writing project was founded in 1982 at the state's major university. Throughout the four-week project, fresh flowers decked the tables and tempting morning snacks became the symbols around which the camaraderie of the participants was generated. Three participants attended this project. The second project had been in operation only three years; and while the teacher in this research project initially intended to attend the first project, the project leader and district language arts coordinator convinced him that he could be more influential in his county if he attended the writing project closest to his home school. Like the first writing project, this site focused on the development of personal relationships within the group, but the effort was less noticeable. No flowers decorated the tables and food availability was minimal; nevertheless on the days I observed, the participants appeared to have developed a positive working environment.
Besides the two writing project sites, the schools in which the participants teach were also sites for the research project. The sites where these teachers work are unique; indeed no two





46

schools are similar enough for a real site comparison. Each, however, allows the participants great freedom in curriculum implementation thus allowing and even encouraging the four teachers to experiment with pedagogical possibilities from their writing-project experience.
George and his colleagues (1992) suggest that in a true
middle school the curriculum should focus on thematic units that intersect with adolescent concerns and issues. Usually an interdisciplinary team addresses these issues through a constructivist approach which suggests that students build knowledge from collaborative inquiry, research, and writing, thus allowing students to generate knowledge related to personal needs and experiences. None of the schools in this study could be defined as a true middle school, but each makes some attempt in that direction. These schools use the team approach to enhance student personal growth while continuing separate subject learning. Each does include some interdisciplinary thematic units that typically revolve around some broad topic such as drug use or career possibilities. Each school is briefly described in the following section and fully described in the next chapter.


Subjects
Four middle-school language-arts teachers, two male and two female participated in the study. Selection was based on their reputation as writing teachers. Inherent in teacher selection for writing-project participation is the idea that teachers who are selected are exemplary writing teachers. In





47

both of the sites for this study, teachers were recommended by the district-level language arts coordinator, the school principals, and their peers. Final selection for participation was made by the project director. Three criteria were used to select teachers for this research project: (a) participation in a 1992 summer writing project, (b) identification as an exemplary middle school writing teacher according to administrative and peer recommendations, and (c) accessibility to teachers following the writing project. Several other middle school teachers attended this writing project but were eliminated because they were not considered exemplary writing teachers by the university director of the writing project or because the distance to their school prohibited accessibility. I wanted good middle school writing teachers because that is the NWP expectation for writing-project participation. Because it was impossible to obtain an ethnic mix due to the make up of the writing-project participants, I attempted to include some diversity through the status of male/female, years of experience, rural/city, and new and repeat writing-project participation. For the purposes of this research project, the teachers' names have been changed to ensure their privacy.
The participants' teaching experience ranges from one to ten years; two teach in a rural setting and two teach in a midsized city school. The four participants represent four different middle schools. One of the teachers was an English and philosophy major in college and holds teaching certification but was not an education major during college preparation; another





48


was elementary trained; the third has a degree in creative writing; and the fourth has a degree in English education.

Mrs. Hammond (fictitious names are used throughout)
teaches in a city middle school that caters to the educational needs of upper middle class students. The school has transformed the English department so that all teachers must structure their curriculum around a reading/writing workshop. She reports that a feeling of collegiality exists among the language arts teachers who share ideas and experiences while learning their way through this new approach to teaching.
The year of this study was Mrs. Hammond's seventh year as a teacher. Despite the fact that she held a teaching certificate, she was forced to begin her post-college career in education as an elementary school aide because teaching jobs were scarce. She worked in that capacity for four years. When her family moved, she worked as a permanent substitute in a high school; and when her family moved to their present location, she taught three years in a rural school and then transferred to her current position which she has held for three years. Her educational background was in English and philosophy, not education; but she did add teacher certification to her credentials while in college. A few years ago she attended the school district writing project led by the county language-arts supervisor and several teacher/consultants trained during a writing project. This workshop is not as intense as the summer writing project, but it acts as the county training ground for teachers of writing.






49

Like Mrs. Hammond, Mr. Marriet also has an undergraduate degree in English, but he completed a master's degree program in English education prior to beginning classroom teaching. During his education training, Mr. Marriet embraced the philosophy that writing is a process and this belief guides his classroom practice. During this study Mr. Marriet completed his second year of teaching.
Mr. Marriet teaches in a newly-renovated middle school
situated at the edge of the mid-sized town in which he resides. During the school renovation, Mr. Marriet's room was outfitted with state-of-the-art computer equipment which he uses daily. Several years ago the principal brought in a consultant who completely restructured the school's scheduling and teaching practices. Rather than the traditional 50-minute class period, Mr. Marriet sees his students for blocks of 90 minutes two times each week and then for one regular 50-minute class period once a week. This arrangement allows the revised curriculum, based on the assumption that reading and writing are interrelated and require extended periods of time for integration and exploration, to be implemented. Mr. Marriet prefers this arrangement but stated that his colleagues are not as satisfied.

Ms. Roth works in a middle school that serves middle-class, rural students. Her room connects physically with her team colleague, but the connection stops at the door. Ms. Roth practices innovative writing instruction, but she says she acts alone--apart from her colleague and apart from the other language arts teachers in her school. Despite the philosophical





50

differences, Ms. Roth reports that she has a pleasant relationship with her colleagues.
Ms. Roth is trained in elementary education, although she has never taught at that level. Her three years of teaching experience have been in the middle school. She taught one year in a large, city school system before moving to her present position. Like Mrs. Hammond, she attended the school-district writing project led by the county language-arts supervisor and teach er/co ns ultants before attending the summer writing project.
Mr. McNew works in a small middle school. The school is rural, like Ms. Roth's, but the student population is lower middle class. He is one of only two middle-school English teachers at the school, but he reports that his teaching practice is completely independent of his colleague's. They share neither teaching philosophy nor teaching ideas.
Mr. McNew has taught for ten years, but not all of the
teaching experience is in the public school system. He worked three years as a teaching assistant during graduate school. His public school teaching career spans seven years, three in his current position and four in a coastal, tourist community. He attended the writing project for the second time and acted as group leader or facilitator for the small writing group to which he belonged.





51

The following table summarizes each participant's demographic information.


Table 1
Demographic Information


Age Sex Ethnic # of Years Tchg/ # of Yrs. in New/Repeat Background in Middle Schl. Present Situa. Wtg. Proj.
Participation


Roth 27 F W 3/3 2 New

McNew 42 M W 10/6 4 Repeat

Hammond 41 F W 7/6 3 New

Marriet 27 M W 1 /1 1 New




In addition to these identified participants, four minor participants were also included. I conducted a telephone interview with the language-arts supervisors in the two counties where the participants teach and with one of the directors from each of the writing projects the participants attended. The purpose of these interviews was to gain another perspective on the writing-project experience and to validate the writingproject purposes and central themes.


Data Gathering
Procedures

Following approval by the Human Subjects Committee at the university where the research was conducted, related personnel





52

at the district county office where the schools are located, and the appropriate building administrator at each school, I contacted the teachers and set up observations and interviews convenient to their teaching schedules.

All of the interviews were conducted similarly. I asked several prepared questions to begin the discussion, but then I allowed the issues raised by each teacher to direct the interview as it progressed. When an issue was exhausted, I returned to my prepared questions to stimulate more discussion. The questions I asked were designed to elicit responses of knowledge, opinion, feeling, and teacher personal background, and while they were similar for each teacher, the data supplied during each interview stimulated questions for further interviews (Merriam, 1991).
Classroom observations usually occurred on the same day as the interviews. I sat off to the side of the classroom activity and took notes on what I saw that related to the domain of writing. This included not only teaching and student writing but also any evidence of student writing such as writing folders, work displayed on the board, and indirect references to writing such as reminding students of writing done during a previous class period or discussion of writing techniques during nonwriting lessons. I also searched for verification of what the participants reported in interviews during actual writing instruction and in writing instruction philosophy manifested in teaching practice.





53

Interviews
I used in-depth interviews to examine the way teachers who attended the summer writing project made sense of their workshop experience. This technique allowed me to find out from them how they believe they used what they learned in their teaching after attendance. The interviews also acted as a source of information concerning the teachers' beliefs about their personal writing experiences and their beliefs and understandings of writing pedagogy. The main purpose of this qualitative research technique is to gather unobservable information from the participant perspective (Merriam, 1991). Spradley (1980) says informants "speak in their own language [and] are a source of information[J [1-literally, they become teachers for the [researcher]" (p. 66). Since the purpose in this study was to learn how the teachers made sense of their summer learning experience and how they changed their pedagogical stance following participation, the interview method which allows the source of information to become the teacher and encourages entrance by an outsider into the perspective of another person seemed an appropriate research technique.
My purpose during the interviews was to "discover,
understand, [and] gain insight" (Merriam, 1991, p. 48) from the participants. This purpose places the participant in the role of authority over the criteria established by the researcher. In this emic mode, or insider perspective, the researcher's role is one of information gathering from the expert. This role encourages participants to give personal responses rather than ones they





54

might feel the researcher wants. Merriam (1991) proposes that the sernistructured interview is more "open-ended and less structured" than the traditional research survey, and provides a guiding framework when "certain information is desired from all the respondents" (p. 74). The questions in the sernistructured interview allow for individual responses, but they are standardized enough so the responses are comparable.
I used this technique in the interviews I conducted. The
discussions were "guided by a list of questions to be explored, but neither the exact wording nor the order of the questions [was] determined beforehand" (Merriam, 1991, p. 78), which allowed the participant's expertise to lead the discussion under a general framework. As I prepared for each interview, I incorporated not only my inquiries that reflected the guiding questions for the research but also those that grew from previous interviews and classroom observations. In a synthesis of information about good questions, Merriam (1991) notes that different questions elicit different kinds of information. Experience/behavior, opinion/value, feeling, knowledge, sensory, and background/demographic questions are all possible question types. In the interviews, I used questions from all these categories except the sensory which seemed irrelevant to this research. Merriam also suggested the use of hypothetical, devil's advocate, ideal position, and interpretive questions; I used questions from all of these categories (See Appendix).
Each teacher was interviewed between nine and eleven
times. The interview process began during the summer prior to





55

their writing-project experience and continued until the final month of the school year that followed. Except for interview six, which lasted about thirty minutes, the interviews lasted between an hour and an hour-and-a-half each for a total of 10 to 15 taped hours per teacher. All interviews were audio taped and transcribed verbatim. The typed protocols were between 10 and 18 pages, so that each participant's interviews produced about 120 to 150 pages of text for analysis.
During interview one I attempted to learn about each
participant as a writer and a writing teacher. I prepared ten questions for the interview, but allowed the respondents freedom to discuss a topic in more detail when they guided the interview in that direction. Generally, participants seemed pleased at the opportunity to share their views with a willing listener, and I did not have to prompt their participation. I conducted this interview just as the summer writing projects began. The teachers had been selected for writing-project attendance, but they had not been influenced by the project. I wanted to intrude as little as possible on the participants' summer vacation, but I wanted to capture their understandings of writing instruction and of themselves as writers before the writing project.

During interview two my guiding questions centered on the participants' educational background and on their personal beliefs about what they learned from their summer writing-project participation. I also tried to gain a deeper understanding of their teaching practices and why they selected those practices. Interview three was designed to draw from the participants their





56

unfulfilled expectations from the writing project and a writing theory on which their current instruction techniques were based.
The focus of interview four was on clarification of information given during the first three interviews and information gained during the accompanying observations. It was at this time that I began to know the participants, and when something I read from the transcribed tapes seemed at odds with my growing understanding of each participant's beliefs about writing instruction, I wrote that down and used that information as the basis for questioning. For example, in one participant's classroom, I observed the students begin a writing in each of three classes; but I never saw what became of the writing, so during the fourth interview I asked the teacher what the students did with their writing after the initial draft. I knew from our interviews and from evidence around the classroom that this teacher spent time guiding the students' writing, but because I had not observed that process in the classroom, the interview allowed me to learn how that element of writing was incorporated into instruction. Therefore, what was unobserved was explained through an interview.
For an in-depth look at the physical arrangement of the classroom, I took photographs during the observation prior to interview five. As the class activities shifted, I took photographs and recorded the activity in which the class was involved. Since none of the teachers used the traditional row configuration, I was curious about why that might be, and I wanted a concrete way to discuss the various physical





57

arrangements generated by classroom instruction. To do this, I felt I needed examples of changes that occurred in each class to use as prompts for our discussions, so I chose to use photography in this research project in conjunction with and as an extension of the interview.
In quoting Collier, Fang (1985) says photography can "serve as a stimulus during an interview" (p. 13) to prompt further discussion of a topic. Tucker and Dempsey (1990) say that "the verbal interview tend[s] to elicit general perceptions, [while] the photographs shared in small group settings [elicit] more specific perceptions" (p. 5). In his paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Evaluation Network and the Evaluation Research Society, Fang (1985) said that "[p]hotography can be seen as an extension for observation and as a complementary technique for interviewing. As such it is another strategy for collecting data" (p.1 1). He further stated that "[t]hrough procedures similar to content analysis, photographs are examined on the basis of specific themes or events" (p.11). Because one purpose of this study was to explore the in-depth thinking of teachers following summer participation in the writing project, photography seemed a good approach into the teacher thought process which neither an observation nor an interview alone could stimulate.
During interview five I displayed the photographs taken in the teacher's classroom and asked the teacher to respond to what was represented in the pictured learning environment. Then I showed a photograph of a traditional classroom setting to stimulate comparison and expand discussion. I asked several





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specific questions about the photographs, but then I allowed the discussion to be directed by the teachers' comments. Each participant eagerly viewed the photographs and used them as a comfortable beginning for discussion not only of their own classroom but also of their own personal experience in school as a writer. I had tried on several occasions to elicit from the participants memories of writing experiences during their school years, but no one was able to draw much to mind until I showed the photographs of their current classroom. Interestingly, the photographs drew from each participant a detailed childhood writing experience, data I wanted but had been unable to elicit through direct questions.
Interview six occurred just after the winter holidays. I was aware that my interviews took large chunks of the participants' time at school, and so I shortened this interview to give them a respite and to ease them back into the interview schedule following the holidays. In this interview I focused on only one thing: articulating perceptions of the positive aspects from the summer writing project. This was important because few of the writing instruction strategies that were presented by fellow teachers actually made their way into the participants' instruction repertoire. The participants mentioned that the writing-project presentations were interesting but of little value for their own classroom writing instruction. Since the presentations took up a large portion of the writing-project time, but were not useful in their practice, I used the interview to probe for an explanation concerning the variance.





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Interview seven was designed to determine how the

teachers were influenced beyond their classroom by writingproject attendance. The next interview centered on how middleschool considerations influenced instruction. During the final interview, I focused on the participants as writers. This theme was repeated throughout the interviews, but I wanted to concentrate on this issue specifically. During this interview I was interested in the participants as writers only, not as writing teachers.

Throughout the interview process I telephoned the

participants and asked them for clarification or expansion on issues discussed during the taped interviews. In this way I validated my understanding of their thoughts as I made decisions about the direction for the research. The interview information is summarized in the following table.


Table 2

Interview Summary


Interview # Date Teachers Involved Interview Focus


one early McNew Information on each as a

June 1992 Marriet writer and as a teacher
Roth of writing
Hammond
Two mid McNew Educational background/
Oct. 1992 Marriet beliefs about what was
Roth learned in the summer
Hammond writing project






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Table 2--continued


Interview # Date Teachers Involved Interview Focus



Three late McNew Unfulfilled expectations
Oct. 1992 Marriet and personal writing
Roth theory
Hammond

Four early McNew Clarification from first
Nov. 1992 Marriet three interviews;
Roth photographs taken
Hammond

Five mid McNew Discussion of photographs
Nov. 1992 Marriet
Roth
Hammond

Six mid McNew Articulation of positive
Jan. 1993 Marriet aspects of summer
Roth project attendance
Hammond

Seven early McNew How professionalism was
March 1993 Marriet influenced beyond the
Roth classroom by writing
Hammond project attendance

Eight late Marriet Middle school considerations
March 1993 Roth when teaching writing and
Hammond applying ideas learned in
writing project

Nine early Marriet Participants as writers
May 1993 Roth
Hammond

*Because of Mr. McNew's schedule, I spread out the last two interviews over four interview sessions which meant he was interviewed 11 times. His last four interviews were early March, middle March, late March, and late May.



Observations

Because the purpose of this research project was to give a

voice to the individual experience of four teachers as they





61


progressed through pedagogical examination and change following their writing-project experience, the interview acted as the primary data source. However, the teachers in this study are practitioners who--to one degree or another--applied what they learned during the project. Merriam (1991) says that "methodical triangulation combines dissimilar methods such as interviews, observations, and physical evidence to study the same unit" (p. 69). The point of study from multiple directions is to strengthen weaknesses inherent in a single direction of study. As a means of strengthening the interview data and as a way to triangulate the categories emerging from the interviews, I also included observations of each participant's classroom.

Classroom observation began in September and continued through May. I observed each classroom between seven and ten times with each observation lasting one class period. The observations occurred on the same day I interviewed the teachers. I acted only in the observer role; I did not participate in any class activity or discussion. During the observations I noted the nature of the writing done by the students and teachers, the students' familiarity with writing in the classroom, evidence of past and future writing activities, teacher actions and behaviors related to writing, and student actions and behaviors related to writing. In the majority of the classes I observed, student writing was the primary activity. I asked the teachers to allow my observations to occur on writing days since my purpose was to view them as writing teachers. During my observations I recorded everything I saw related to writing. Generally, the typed notes from an





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observation were from two to five pages which added 30 to 50 pages to each teacher's data gathered from the interviews.
All of the classes were heterogeneously grouped. Two were seventh-grade classes; the other two were sixth-grade classes. Although the observations did include two grade levels, county curriculum goals for the two grades are similar. The writing goals for both classes include increased fluency, better command of English language conventions, introduction and practice in different writing types with a concentration on the narrative form using a variety of audiences, and possibilities for writing experiences across the curriculum. Grade level is a factor in making choices for curriculum, but for the purposes of this research project, which centers on overall pedagogical examination and change, grade level is less important than the development of the teaching philosophy following writing-project participation.
During the classroom observations I noted and recorded as
much of the teachers' behaviors as possible. I observed both their behavior and their discussions during the classes. I tried to record their words exactly, and most of my notes were as close to verbatim as possible. I recorded information about bulletin boards of student work and learning stations (discussed more in the following section), which gave me information concerning the teachers' classroom practice, prior writing activities, and overall classroom approach; thus, a part of my observation is a description of the classroom. I sat away from the center of activity so I could watch but not intrude on the classroom





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activities. During my initial visits the students inquired about my presence, but each teacher explained my purpose and the students quickly forgot about me.


Artifacts
In addition to the interviews and observations, I
investigated several artifact sources. Three of the teachers wrote a position paper about their philosophy of writing and writing instruction as part of the writing-project experience. I was able to copy the papers and use them to check their written expression against their verbalized and practiced philosophy. For the fourth teacher, I obtained a similar written statement of philosophy completed during a graduate course taken the year before the writing project. Further, I received a copy of the handouts the participants prepared to accompany their writingproject presentations, and I made a display of photographs that were used to prompt interview discussion (see Interview section).
I also used classroom artifacts to aid in the "holistic understanding" (Merriam, 1991, p. 169) of patterns and generalizations that emerged from analysis of the interview data. I made careful note of student writing displayed around each of the four classrooms. My purpose was to see whether the practices the participants proclaimed during our interviews were applied in the reality of the classroom when I was not observing. Other important classroom artifact sources were bulletin boards and learning stations. Both reflected the teachers' purposes of





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instruction and added to my data several verifiable displays of the teachers' philosophy of writing and writing instruction.


Analysis of Data

According to Spradley (1980), analysis of any kind is a way of thinking which involves systematic examination of the whole to find its components, the relationships among the components, and the relationship between the components and the whole in search of patterns and meaning. Merriam (1991) states that data gathering can become unfocused and repetitious without analysis throughout the process. The principles from these statements guided the work in this project. In addition to the guiding research questions, the focus for each interview and observation was based on what emerged from earlier interviews and observations determined by initial analysis and emerging categories, a process called for by Spradley (1980) and Merriam (1991).

As part of the initial analysis process, I chose to transcribe the taped interviews and hand-written observations. This act can be performed by someone other than the researcher, but I found that the task allowed me to recount in slow motion the experience viewed during the data collection process and provided me with an opportunity for valuable manipulation of the data. In a sense, the words that belonged to the participant during data collection became mine for data analysis. During this etic stage, the point at which data moves from the insider perspective (emic) to the more general and scientific setting (Sandstrum &





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Sandstrum, 1995), 1 coded every section of each observation and interview and made choices about direction for future interviews. Merriam (1991) advises identifying the units, defined as the smallest piece of information about some topic that can stand alone, within each document and assigning a code to each. Following this initial identification, the researcher should place these units into categories based on some unifying theme. At this initial point in data analysis, I followed Merriam's advice and named each segment of data. In one interview Mrs. Hammond talked about students who balk at working through each stage in the writing process and related their sense of the writing process to her own by saying, "Sometimes in my own writing it just hits me, and I want to go with it; that's okay." The larger discussion was about student writing, which I labeled as such, but the embedded statement quoted here was about her personal writing, and I labeled that statement to reflect Mrs. Hammond's personal writing process.
Once that initial analysis was completed, I grouped all related references. These initial groups acted as a beginning place for data analysis as I combed through each list and identified more specifically every reference. Under "personal writing," some of Mrs. Hammond's references were specifically about her own writing. She said that she became interested in writing "because my teachers let me be creative, read aloud what I wrote. We got excited about writing." That statement describes her own writing, but in the statement mentioned above, "Sometimes in my own writing it just hits me," the meaning





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refers to how her own writing process influences practice. As my data analysis progressed, sharper distinctions of meaning became evident, and this increasing focus guided my coding in more specific directions. In the example found in this paragraph, I changed the category for the second reference from "personal writing" to "evidence of personal writing techniques in practice," while the first reference stayed simply "personal writing."

Spradley (1980) calls the categories "domains" and says
they are composed of three elements: the cover term, the included terms, and the semantic relationship between the two. For example, in data analysis for this research, "personal writing," the cover term, includes several terms such as "early writing experiences," "writing habits," and "reasons for writing" each of which is connected to the cover term by the semantic relationship "are a part of." Together they become "early writing experiences are a part of personal writing," "writing habits are a part of personal writing," and "reasons for writing are a part of personal writing" under the domain "personal writing."

Once the domains are established, Spradley says the next step in analysis is preparation of a domain analysis worksheet which is designed to organize and offer a visual structure for viewing the data. His example places the included terms on the left side of the page, the semantic relationship in the middle, and the cover term on the right side. The next step in my analysis process was preparation of a domain analysis worksheet, but mine looks slightly different from the one Spradley suggests because I constructed it with two purposes in mind: (a) I wanted





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to follow the established procedures cited by Spradley, and for this reason I included most of the elements he suggests, but (b) I realized that the sheet was for my use. So, besides the included terms and domains that Spradley suggests, I also included location within the protocols for each domain and included term, but because I had internalized the semantic relationship by this point in my analysis, I did not write out that relationship on each page.
In the next stage of analysis, I began comparing categories based on what Merriam (1991) calls convergence and divergence, which assumes that the investigator will sort the data according to the way units and categories or domains fit together, as well as how the units separate or how they are different. Thus, the focus shifts from a comparison within categories to a comparison among the categories. This kind of analysis focuses the continued data collection so that the researcher can determine areas that need additional data and further develop important domains (Merriam, 1991). Spradley (1980) discusses the process of broadening the perspective of the data by moving the analysis toward finding how the domains are related to an emerging whole. He calls this step a taxonomic analysis. During this stage I established relationships between initial domains and developed general categories. In this classification step, two similar domains, "part of writing instruction" and "purpose of writing instruction," come under a more general title, "beliefs about teaching writing." In another part of analysis at this stage, I found that an important comparable domain showed that the





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teachers were not implementing the writing-instruction techniques learned during writing-project participation. Subsequently, a portion of the collection of data focused on this topic, specifically the guiding questions used in interview seven.
Toward the end of my analysis, I began to compare domains among the participants. Significant and similar patterns emerged across the domains that became the basis for the discussion of the participants that can be found in the next chapters. Some of those domains are "personal writing," "practices in instruction," and "experience in and influence of the writing project." What also emerged was that each participant had a significant domain that was not comparable across participants. These unique domains act as the identifying category which allows discussion of the differences among the participants.

The continued analysis of data assumes two levels at all times, Spradley (1980) says, and this analysis provides the framework for the presentation of the findings from this research project. The first level includes analysis of the details and intricacies of the culture; the second includes analysis that expands the first into the broader picture or the holistic view of what Spradley calls the culture or the recurring principle found across several domains. These principles may be tacit or explicit, and they act as a unifying theme among domains. While it may appear that data analysis is a linear process, that is not the case; rather, it is a recursive act that could continue indefinitely but ceases when generalizations about the data cease to offer new insights (Merriam, 1991). The process involves





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progressing from data gathering to drawing generalizations from the data into inclusive categories. These categories are then combined and subsumed under themes. From the themes, Merriam (1991) says, come speculations as outgrowth of the data about what might occur in future educational practice. This section of the data analysis is detailed in later chapters.


Validity and Reliability
Kirk and Miller (1986) state that "[o]bjectivity is the essential basis of good research [which is] the simultaneous realization of as much reliability and validity as possible" (p. 20). Merriam (1991) writes that for the case study to have any effect on theory or practice, studies "must be believed and trusted; they need to present insights and conclusions that ring true" (p. 164). The idea is that reliability and validity are instrumental in all research and to assess both, the components of the study including the way it was conceptualized and the way the data were "collected, analyzed, and interpreted" (p. 165) must be addressed.

Internal validity "deals with the question of how one's
findings match reality" (Merriam, 1991, p. 166). Merriam uses Taylor and Bogdan's argument that the researcher's job is to present as nearly as possible an honest account of how informants view themselves and their world. Toward that end, six strategies are presented that can guide the researcher to ensure internal validity: (a) triangulation--using multiple investigators, sources of data, or multiple methods to verify





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emerging findings; (b) member checks--taking data and interpretations back to the informants throughout the research process; (c) long-term observation--gathering data over an extended period of time; (d) peer examination--having colleagues comment on emerging findings; (e) participatory modes of research--involving the participants in all areas of the research from conceptual ization to writing up the findings; (f) researcher biases--specifying the researcher's views on related areas at the beginning of the research (Merriam, 1991, p. 169-170).
In an attempt to account for internal validity, I have applied as closely as possible Merriam's six strategies. I was the only investigator in the research, and I returned to the subjects throughout the process to have them verify the emerging findings. I also interviewed writing project leaders and district languagearts supervisors as a means of triangulation. Each interview after the first began with questions of clarification and verification of my understanding from the previous interview and observation. In a summative interview, the questions verified my understandings of information from earlier interviews. Classroom and actual writing project observations were also employed as another form of triangulation. Throughout the entire research process my colleagues and mentors offered insight and advice on the direction of the investigation. Biases are addressed in the next section of this chapter.

External validity, concerned with how well one study can be applied in other situations, does not fit the purpose of this work, which is aimed toward "understanding, extension of experience,





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and [an) increase in conviction in that which is known" (Stake, quoted in Merriam, 1991, p. 176). My purpose is understanding thoroughly decisions for classroom practice and articulating the authentic teacher voice through a believable research process.

Reliability in a research design "is based on the assumption that there is a single reality which if studied repeatedly will give the same results" (Merriam, 1991, p. 170). Generally, qualitative research will not yield the same results upon replication, if in fact replication is even a possibility. Merriam notes that "rather than demanding that outsiders get the same results, one wishes outsiders to concur that, given the data collected, the results make sense--they are consistent and dependable" (1991, p. 172). It is my plan to carry the reader carefully through my research and analysis process in order to substantiate interpretations and lend credibility not only to the work done but also to the conclusions drawn. Toward that end, I followed Merriam's structure for investigators to ensure that results are dependable. First, she calls for the investigator to explain the assumptions and theory behind the study (See Chapters 1 and 2), and to include the basis for and description of participants, both of which are detailed in this chapter. Second, Merriam states that triangulation should be used in the work; those methods are explained in this chapter. Finally, Merriam urges researchers to detail how data were collected and analyzed, the organizing focus for this entire chapter.





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Validation and Safeguards against Bias

Initial interviews and observations grew from the research questions, but over time both were guided by things seen and heard in earlier observations and interviews. Having been a middle school classroom teacher and a participant in a writing project several years ago, I realized I had some preconceived notions about both and that I needed to be aware of my biases at all points in the research. McCracken (1988) warns against active listening which would encourage the researcher to "read" hidden meanings into either spoken or body language. In place of active listening, the researcher should design interviews to encourage the participants to tell their own stories. He suggests the use of structured prompts, but the problem with strict adherence to specific questions is that the "humanness," the essence of the participant story, can be missed since set questions leave little room for personal variance. Merriam (1991) offers a solution to this dilemma. The researcher needs to be a reflective listener which includes more listening than talking with occasional rephrasing to check for clarification and understanding. The researcher does not put words into the participant's mouth but makes certain the words heard are the ones meant. In this project I followed this advice by using a semistructured interview process.
Additionally, I followed Merriam's (1991) advice during the interviews. She states that the interviewer can minimize distortion of a respondent's message by "being neutral and nonjudgmental no matter how much a respondent's revelations





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violate the interviewer's standards" (p. 75). 1 made every effort to allow the participant to answer with as little direction as possible from me. I kept an audit trail, documented throughout this chapter, (Guba, 1980) to act as verification of my research process. Merriam (1991) says that "for an audit trail to take place, the investigator must describe in detail how data were collected, how categories were derived, and how decisions were made throughout the inquiry" (p. 172). In order to accommodate this need, the interviews were audio taped and transcribed. Each was dated and labeled according to the place of the interview. Observations were likewise labeled and dated. My research notes were kept in conjunction with the interview or observation that prompted them. All of my data analysis worksheets are kept with the participant's notes and data analysis and my entire research process is explained in this chapter.

The use of various data sources and interviews with
participants, writing project directors, and county language-arts supervisors act as elements of triangulation, and as the work progressed during data gathering and during data analysis, I presented tentative findings to the participants as well as to colleagues as a way to gauge whether I had correctly captured the essence of each participant's voice.


Theoretical Frame
Three theoretical perspectives converge in this research: writing project theory, composition theory, and staff development theory. Two considerations for teacher development





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following writing-project attendance (Blau, 1988, 1993, & Nelms, 1991) act as a framework for discussion of how the teachers in this study relate to the larger population of teachers who have attended writing projects. To discuss these teachers only in terms of writing project theory, however, negates two important areas related to this research. The first is the connection between the teachers and the larger issue of writing instruction as an element within composition theory (Berlin, 1988). The participants in this study attended a writing project and they are teachers of writing, but to fully explore their experiences in the writing project, a connection to both writing project and composition theories adds depth to the discussion. Finally, in analyzing how the composition teachers in this study are affected by their writing-project attendance--a highly regarded staff -development program--it is important to consider how their experiences offer insight into the third theoretical perspective that drives this research--staff development theory.

The next four chapters summarize and report the

information gathered in this study; they are organized in a casestudy format with separate chapters devoted to each teacher. The information on these teachers is drawn from my observations of their classrooms, interviews with the participants, and interviews with project leaders and county language arts supervisors. The interviews with project leaders and language arts supervisors were designed primarily to corroborate and triangulate the data that I collected from observations of and interviews with the participants. Furthermore, these data were





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supplemented by examination of writing samples from students in each teacher's classroom and by my reading of written products from the participants' writing project folders.

Each chapter begins with a brief description of the context in which the teachers act out their beliefs about writing and the teaching of writing. This is followed by a detailed description of one sample class observation. Next is a description of the teachers as writers with the understanding that their own experiences as writers, their writing processes, and their attitudes toward writing may influence their teaching of writing. Zancanella (1988) found that this was true of teachers in the teaching of literature.

Following the personal writing are sections devoted to the practices and principles of writing instruction. Then the description moves from the individual stories of the participants as writing teachers to the story of each one's involvement in the writing project and the subsequent professional development with particular attention to the roles they assume as teach er/co nsu Itants or teacher/leaders in their own school districts and elsewhere.













CHAPTER 4
MS. ROTH--TEACHER WHO WRITES


School Context
School Description

Ms. Roth teaches in a rural middle school which has a slight cosmopolitan air. Many of the students are from farming families, but some are from professional families because several upper-end neighborhoods feed the school's population. The school is located at the edge of a large campus next to beautiful spreading oaks native to the area. Grades five through eight are housed in the building, but the fifth grade is separated from the other grades. Ms. Roth's classroom is on the back wing and has a wall of windows facing the woods. On the adjoining wall is a chalkboard, and the adjacent wall has an unused coat rack and the teacher's desk. Behind that is a classroom sink and a door which connects Ms. Roth's room to the next classroom. The fourth wall has two closet doors. A large carpet remnant for class gatherings is in front of those doors. Student writing and projects hang from the ceiling and from the walls, and the student work areas are individual tables placed together in groups of four so the students face each other. Nanci Atwell (1986) advocates what she calls "discussion around the dining room table," and Ms. Roth's class exemplifies this concept. On her


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desk sits a small lamp and a soft pillow lies in her chair. While the students do not actually sit around a table to talk, Ms. Roth gathers her students into a comfortable "dining room discussion" offering each student the opportunity to join the writing and reading family which develops during the school year. The following section contains a detailed description of one day in this classroom.


Class Observation
When I arrived Ms. Roth was bustling around the room
preparing for the day. She gave me a brief review of the class schedule so I would know what was going on during the class period. Then she explained that at her school the students wait outside the classroom before school starts. This allows the teachers some planning time. Then she left the room to get her students. I could hear them quiet down as Ms. Roth began talking. She led the group back inside. All of the students entered quietly, removed their chairs from the tables, sat down, and began work on the daily "Caught 'Ya."


I attend Northside Middle School. this is my second year in
Middle School."


Ms. Roth may have told them to begin work on the Caught 'Ya while outside because when they entered she did not have to explain what they were to do. They all started to work, and Ms. Roth walked around the room. She stamped the students' papers indicating that they had corrected the mistakes in the Caught 'Ya.





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When she completed her rounds, Ms. Roth and the class went over the Caught 'Ya. The sentences were projected onto a screen in a corner of the room. Ms. Roth began the work by asking, "Okay. What's the problem today?"

"The T at the first of the sentence needs to be a capital letter," one student answered.
Ms. Roth said, "RightH What's the rule that supports that?"
Another students said, "All sentences begin with a capital letter. Always!!"
"You've got it! Now anything else?"
"The 'middle school' in the second sentence doesn't need capital letters," answered a third student.
"Wow! You guys are great this morning. I haven't heard anything but right answers. I'm going to have to make these Caught 'Ya's harder. That's right--no capital letters in the second sentence. Now who knows why? Maybe I'll stump you here."
"Because that's not a major noun."
Ms. Roth corrected the student by saying, "Well, that's close. Very close. Who can tell her what we call those major nouns?"
Several students responded by saying, "Proper nouns."
"That's right, but that's not how we answer. Just one of you at a time. Okay? Well now. We've had a pretty good start to our day. What is the rule about proper nouns and common nouns--the name of nouns that don't need a capital letter?"
This time the students raised their hands, and Ms. Roth
called on one who responded, "Proper nouns need capital letters.





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They are about particular things, but common nouns aren't. They are just about anything."
"That's right. Does everyone understand that rule?

Particular places, things, and people are proper nouns and use capital letters to begin the words. Common nouns are just any place, thing, or person and they begin with small letters. That's a very important rule. Let's try to use it and not forget it."

With the Caught Ya completed, Ms. Roth moved the students to their next activity. "Okay. It's time to move into our minilesson for today. Are you ready? You can all answer this time."

"Yes! Yes!" came the reply.
One thing I noticed throughout the day was that Ms. Roth

called on all of the students. If one did not know the answer, the student was allowed to say so and then call on a classmate to answer. This technique seemed to include everyone in the class discussion. No one was put on the spot, but all students knew they might be called on and so they needed to give some attention to the discussion.
The day's mini-lesson was on the symbols for the statusof-the-class technique Ms. Roth uses. The idea came from the book In the Middle (1986) by Nanci Atwell, and the purpose of the symbols is to give the students and teacher a common language so they can discuss the progress of student writing. Ms. Roth simply explained the purpose of each symbol: TS--topic search, Dl-First draft, D2--Second draft, SC--Self conference, PC--Peer conference, TC--Teacher conference, PC Di--Peer conference on





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first draft, SE--Self edit, PE--Peer edit, TE--Teacher edit, PC-Polished copy, P--Publish.

At the end of the mini-lesson, Ms. Roth explained to the students that each day they wrote she would call roll, and they would answer by calling out the letters that corresponded to the status of the writing they would do that day. After the simple explanation, Ms. Roth and the students tried out the process. She asked, "Okay. Are you ready?"
All of the students replied "Yes!!"
"Now, when I call your name, call out--using the status-ofthe-class letters--what you will work on today when we write. Now we will try to do this in 90 seconds. I'll set the timer. Let's see if we can beat the timer. On your mark. Get set."
And she began calling out each student's name. I thought

they did very well. The students were not confused by the letter codes, and they knew what they would work on during the writing time. Eventually the time ran out before they had completed the roll call.

"Oh!! We didn't beat the timer, but we did a very good job. I'm so proud of the way you handled that. That was hard and you went through that like pros. Do you understand what we are doing?" asked Ms. Roth. The students replied that they did.
"Okay. During our next writing time we'll do that again, so
don't forget how to run through the status-of-the-class. And next time, I'll bet we beat our time! Don't you?" The students responded confidently that they would. Time seemed very important to Ms. Roth. Later she told me that the object of timing





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the class is to teach the importance of time. When she and the students did an activity, they tried to beat their last time. This was training for the remainder of the school year because Ms. Roth wanted the class to be structured tightly to move smoothly from activity to activity.
At this point Ms. Roth sent the students to do their writing. Each knew what writing needed to be accomplished during the writing time. Some went to a carpet area for quiet writing while others stayed at their desks to write. A group hovered over the baskets filled with pictures for topic ideas. Two students went to a conference corner to discuss their work in progress. The students were completely free to go work wherever they wanted. I was impressed with how quickly they began working and how intent they were on their writing.
The students were quiet and well behaved. From my experience with this age students, I think they were also independent. The ones in conference corners whispered and seemed to be discussing a writing. Ms. Roth made contact with several students. At one point she spoke to a student close by me.
I see on my status-of-the-class roll that you are working on a first draft. What is your topic?"
"Well, I want to write about the trip my dad and me took on Saturday. I went with him when he bought two cows. We ate at a really neat restaurant on the way there. They made a lunch for us to take with us because we couldn't stop on our way back because we had the cows. I had fun and want to write about that," explained the student.





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Ms. Roth replied, "I like the sound of that story. That's a
wonderful experience you had with your dad. You should save it in your writing. Try to remember what you saw, how the food tasted, the smell of the place where the cows stayed. Think of the details and include them. Take your chair outside under that tree. Think about what your senses experienced that day and let that lead your writing. See what you can do to create a picture of what you and your dad did. I can't wait to see how the day really looked to you." She gave the student some direction for the writing without dictating what had to be included.
Toward the end of the class Ms. Roth called everyone to the carpeted area in the front of the room. She sat on a chair, and the students sat around her. I was reminded of circle time in elementary school.
"While I was walking around the room talking to you today, I noticed that one student was ready to share with us. Honey, would you like to read now?" Ms. Roth directed the question toward a young lady in the class.
The student said, "Sure, I'm ready," and she read her paper about one of her good friends. Included in the text was a description of the friend's physical appearance and the friend's home, several experiences the two shared, and a final paragraph that explained how important the friend is to the reader. When she finished the reading, the students were supportive of the writing.

One student said, "I liked the way you described your friend's room. It sounds like a nice room."





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Another said, "My favorite part was the way you told about how you have been friends for your whole life. Here at school and at church."
And a third responded, "Yeah, and the part where you two got into trouble because you didn't take your brother with you when your mom told you to. That made me smile."
After the reading and comments from the students, class time was almost over. To close the class Ms. Roth said, "Good comments from you today. The paper was full of real experiences. That's part of what made us like it. Thank you for reading. And thank you, audience, for being so attentive during the reading and for your comments. They showed you were really listening. Good job!! We need to prepare for leaving class. Let's get the room ready for the next class. That's the right way to listen. Good work today. Have a good day."


Personal Wfttg
As important as the instructional setting is, its purpose and direction are defined by the educational leader in the classroom. Ms. Roth leads her class, but a part of who she is as a teacher is determined by who she is as a writer. Personal writing began for Ms. Roth in fourth grade. Her teacher gave the students time for writing, an element Ms. Roth believes is critical to writing development. The teacher pushed Ms. Roth at times, but an atmosphere of trust developed between the two of them and Ms. Roth says, I was free to do what I wanted, and I did it." She wrote on topics that pleased her, and she read and wrote about





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the books she read. I remember sifting under a desk on a piece of carpet. I felt so free. I could do just what I wanted. The experience of being able to write where I wanted to write and what I wanted to write was important to me." This teacher nurtured Ms. Roth as a writing student and as an individual. Besides the writing instruction, another important element in that writing classroom was the interaction between Ms. Roth and her teacher. "What I can remember is this fat lady putting her arm around me and squeezing me real tight. I remember that." This meaningful classroom experience was the only time Ms. Roth felt a teacher actually taught her how to write, and Ms. Roth attributes her growth in writing to the connection between reading and writing and ample time for writing. She says that the fourth-grade teacher provided books for the students to read. Then she allowed each student to select interesting titles for personal reading; and finally, the teacher scheduled "so much time to write and we were allowed to sit on the floor and chat with our friends about our writing." Ms. Roth did not mention any particular elements of writing that she learned, but this classroom experience offered her the opportunity to discover reading and writing at her own level and then progress from there.

As an adolescent she says she escaped from the realities of the world through writing. "I went to the park to write. That was the only quiet place to go." Ms. Roth says she wrote pages and pages of poetry, which "are my life." They tell her who she was then, and they offer direction for her as she works with





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adolescents today. She posts some of her early work on the bulletin board in her classroom each year so that her students can begin to know her as a writer and as a person. She says of those pages, "When I read those things I wrote, it helps me know what my students need in our class."
In college she wrote and did fairly well, but she does not feel she "knew how to fix the writing" she wrote. She says that academic writing "was stressful sometimes because I waited until the last minute. If I'd been graded on process writing in college, I'd have failed" because she usually wrote only a single draft. Writing was also stressful because she knew so little about writing. "I wrote one research paper in high school. Luckily [in college] I had a few friends who told me some things. 'State your thesis here and do this here.' Basically they said this is the five-paragraph essay, and I plugged that in every time." Eventually, however, she says she discovered how to write because teachers offered feedback on papers done incorrectly. Presently she uses the writing process as her writing guide. "I use a modified process of writing like the one I teach my students. I don't go through the process exactly like I show them, but I want them to have that so they will know how to fix their own writing. I wish someone had shown me that earlier." She says she does not always write down her brainstorming process. Instead, she deliberates over what to say and then goes straight to the drafting stage. This saves her time and allows her to focus more on her ideas.





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Ms. Roth says that when she writes now and "really gets

into the writing," the feeling she gets is like the athlete who is "in the zone." Everything is working together and the world is tuned out so that when she returns from this "writing zone" it is like waking from a dream. The experience of meeting herself as a writer is the most exciting part of writing for Ms. Roth. This experience is so important to Ms. Roth that she mentions it several time during our interviews. At one point she struggles to clarify her thoughts, perhaps as much for herself as for me, but she says that the interior rewards of writing stem from "the power of writing." She goes on to say that the "power that comes from the experience of writing" is based on "reliving what you've done or living what you are creating. [When writing] you may go anywhere you want to go and do anything you want to do. And that's a powerful thing." One aspect of this power was difficult for Ms. Roth to explain, but she did say this:

You are writing about an experience, but that process .
of writing it and doing the thinking that's connected [with
the writing] and the remembering that's connected [with the writing] --having the sensory images in your mind as you're writing--so that whole experience [of] writing
and the reading or sharing of your writing or whatever you
do with your writing when you're done--that whole
experience, not only the experience from which it came
but the experience of getting it down on the paper and
doing whatever you do with it. When that experience
changes M somehow, then you are a writer. For some
reason it clicks with you and it makes a significant change
in you as a person, I really feel like [then] the writer
senses the power of writing (emphasis hers).
Right now, time constraints keep Ms. Roth from doing all the writing she would like and from experiencing the rewards






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available to her through writing, but the desire to write is strong. "I would like to do more [writing]. Those feelings when I've written something good can't be taken away from me or from anybody. That's a powerful feeling. When you take the time to [write] and you do it regularly and you make it become a habit, and your writing gets better and better, that's the best." These are the feelings she'd like to foster through more personal writing.

Ms. Roth is a developing writer; it is not her life, but she does enjoy the work and actively pursues personal writing. She says that "I'd have killed to have had a writing class like mine," when in school--a class that offered her time to pursue her own writing. The fourth grade class came close, but that was only one year. She desired more school time for writing and structures her class around this need.


Writing Instruction
This section is devoted to Ms. Roth's practice in writing instruction. To look carefully at her work, this topic is divided into three areas. In the first section, her actual classroom practice is explored. In the second section, principles underlying her practice are detailed; and in the third section, the areas within instruction that reflect qualities of practice unique to Ms. Roth are described.


Practices in Instruction

Ms. Roth is concerned that her students have ample time for their writing and that she has worthwhile instruction for them





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during their time together. She does her own search for appropriate strategies for instruction within that writing time. One place she looks for direction is from the district-level, middle-school curriculum guide. She says, "I was really surprised at how nonspecific it was. In a way it really scares me that a student is not required to accomplish a certain skill and we're not held liable to that in a real specific manner." Although the lack of direction bothers her to some extent because teachers are not held accountable for their writing instruction, she has learned to live within that structure, or lack of structure, and makes curriculum decisions based on her understanding of what best constitutes a good writing classroom. Because Ms. Roth feels that students "need time to write and an opportunity to express themselves and to find different ways to express themselves," she uses a writing-workshop environment for her instruction. She carefully leads her students to understand that one part of their job as writers includes behaving and working appropriately in the writing workshop. When describing the importance of the learning environment, Ms. Roth says:

I spend the first two to three months working on the
procedures for writing workshop. And if we don't get it
right, we do it again and again. It's a temptation to let
something small go the wayside; I want to get some writing done today. But, I know if I do not hold them
responsible, it will never be done right. I can remember [one day] after the mini-lesson. They went to the writing
areas noisily. I asked them "How do we go to the carpet and get the clipboard and do our thing? We do it quietly
and don't run." So I made them go back to their desks.
"We've got to do that again." There are days when we do
that three, four, five times.





89



Ms. Roth is convinced that the environment is a predecessor to a well-run writing classroom and works with her students until they understand exactly how the classroom should operate.

Within that writing environment, Ms. Roth instructs through the use of the mini-lesson. Because she writes with her students, Ms. Roth is able to show the young writers by word and deed that she believes in writing as a process. She shares her writing process with the students as a model, but then she uses class time to teach that process so it can become the students' own. In class the emphasis is not "about that final piece, it's about how we get to that final piece." The point is to "make sure they understand the process." Simply teaching the students the steps in the writing process is not the goal.

To assist students as they work toward understanding writing as both a product and as a process, Ms. Roth puts the students in charge of their work by asking them questions about their writing such as, "What are you doing here today? Why did you make that choice? Where are you going with this piece? What do you think you need to do next?" These questions require student ownership of the writing. Ms. Roth is not telling the students what they must do to repair their work, but she guides their thinking and offers questioning techniques that they can later apply to other pieces of writing.
Their work begins with prewriting, where the "point is to
put words on paper." Ms. Roth says the students are not to "worry about punctuation or capitalization, only getting words on paper."





90

They must write. "I'm pretty structured with them [at the beginning of the year] because I feel they need that structure at f i rst. Writing scares them." For example, ideally, writing topics may come from within the writer; but for students having trouble deciding on a topic, Ms. Roth consistently gives support. She says, "I set up lots of topic search centers in my room. I change them every six weeks" to help students find subjects of personal interest for their writing. During my observations I saw the students use these centers. Often there were pictures for students to browse through, but there were also poems and seemingly simple sayings that could prompt student thinking. Newspaper articles and cartoons were available once, and another time Ms. Roth had placed an empty construction paper frame on the window with the word "Look" above it. Students could gaze out the window at the beautiful scenery for writing inspiration. Besides the individual search possibilities, Ms. Roth also guides students toward topic selection during teacher-student conference time. Even after topics are selected and students are well into their writing, Ms. Roth continues to offer her guidance and support. She remembers what it was like to be a young writer. "I can remember the feeling when I didn't really know what to do with a piece of writing, so I put some structure to this [writing classroom] by helping them with their process," not just at the end by writing comments on final drafts but also at other stages in the process.
When Ms. Roth describes herself as "zig zagging" around the room, she means that she constantly moves about from one





91

student to another, not as a distraction but as the educational leader. During my observations I never saw her relax. She knows what each student is doing because of the status of the class report completed at the beginning of class; so when she stops to work with a student, she and the student can begin work immediately. Perhaps because she works with the students individually almost daily, Ms. Roth knows each one's needs as a writer and can focus comments toward particular student needs. She is convinced that she "can do more teaching with a short lesson directed [toward] the individual." When we discussed this curriculum choice she said that whole-group instruction would probably be sufficient for high-school students but that "this age group needs my whole attention, and I can't do that if I talk all d ay. "

In order to allow a sufficient amount of time for writing during the class period, Ms. Roth teaches writing techniques, mechanics, and usage through daily mini-lessons. These lessons, which last "twenty minutes tops," are designed around the needs of the students as demonstrated in their writing and from their questions about writing. She says that "after reading the first set of papers this year, I saw some things we needed to work on like-- how we write an introduction, how we summarize a piece we read, how we narrow a topic, and how to add more description." During my observations I saw the content of the mini-lesson presented several different ways. Ms. Roth used the overhead projector to demonstrate an English convention; during another observation I saw her use an oral reading to introduce a





92

possible writing topic; and I saw her use a handout she had prepared with examples of a particular skill to support student practice before application to individual writing. Ms. Roth also uses a technique called Caught 'Ya designed by a colleague in her district to teach mechanics. This teaching tool allows Ms. Roth to keep students aware of the conventions of language while avoiding repetitious drills often present in English classrooms. As in the mini-lesson, she uses student errors as the basis for the Caught 'Ya and says that "hopefully over the year I'm going to see those skills transfer into their writing. That's the main reason I use it. When we get to that polished copy stage, I'm going to begin seeing those skills transfer over."
The students in Ms. Roth's class spend time discussing their writing with the teacher, but they also spend time talking about writing with their peers. One corner of the room is set up for the students so they can go there and feel free to talk about their writing. I watched several groups of students use that corner. I expected them to spend their time talking, but I was not sure that I would find them working on their writing, since their teacher was often in another part of the room. What I found was that although Ms. Roth was not standing right by the conference corner, she kept a close watch on the area. The students seemed to know that they were supposed to discuss their writing. All of the groups that I saw went prepared to talk about writing. They took their current draft, sat quietly, and appeared to take notes from what their partner offered as suggestions. Ms. Roth says that these discussions are vital to developing student writers





93

because "they give students time to learn what writers say about writing." The students also discussed their writing with Ms. Roth as she walked around the room, and from time to time I saw her go to the conference corner with several students. She and the students sat on the floor and discussed their writing just like the students did. Once I saw Ms. Roth ask for help with a piece of her own writing. Later she told me that she sometimes uses that technique with students who have trouble talking about writing. These students go to the conference corner reluctantly and offer few suggestions. She says that when she takes a student to the conference corner, she can "give the student some ideas about what writers might talk about."
Ms. Roth works with her whole class on writing techniques through the mini-lesson and the Caught 'Ya, but when the students go into the writing portion of the class, each student writes as an individual. At the beginning of each grading period, Ms. Roth and her students specify goals for the coming nine weeks. Students are accountable for their work and decide how they will achieve their writing goals. She says that her goal is to have a writing class

where everybody in my room is working on something that
is of interest to them. I don't need to say a word to
anybody. I can look up at any time and see that everybody
is on task, that they know how the procedures of writing
workshop work. No one needs to ask me if they can get up
and go to a conference corner to conference with so and
so. I don't hear a voice louder than a conference voice,
and I have kids coming up to me saying, "Hey, Ms. Roth. I want to work on this." Telling me what they want to do.




Full Text
THE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF FOUR TEACHERS
PARTICIPATING IN A WRITING PROJECT
By
CAROL P. HARRELL
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1 997

Copyright 1997
by
Carol P. Harrell

TABLE OF CONTENTS
page
ABSTRACT v i
CHAPTERS
1 BACKGROUND 1
Background for Study 2
Statement of the Problem 3
Significance of the Study 6
Overview 1 1
2 REVIEW OF RESEARCH 1 3
Staff Development 1 4
National Writing Project 20
Project Connection to Research 3 7
3 METHODOLOGY 4 2
Site Selection 4 4
Subjects 46
Data Gathering 51
Analysis of Data 6 4
Theoretical Frame 7 3
4 MS. ROTH-TEACHER WHO WRITES 7 6
School Context 7 6
Personal Writing 8 3
Writing Instruction 87
Ms. Roth-Writing Project 103
Professional Role 113
iii

5 MRS. HAMMOND-TEACHER OF WRITING 1 1 6
School Context 1 1 6
Personal Writing 122
Writing Instruction 1 27
Mrs. Hammond-Writing Project 145
Professional Role 150
6 MR. MCNEW-WRITER WHO TEACHES 1 55
School Context 155
Personal Writing 161
Writing Instruction 166
Mr. McNew-Writing Project 184
Professional Role 191
7 MR. MARRIET-TEACHER/WRITER 193
School Context 193
Personal Writing 202
Writing Instruction 207
Mr. Marriet-Writing Project 233
Professional Role 241
8 THEORETICAL ANALYSIS 244
Berlin's Three Views 245
Blau: Stages of Development 252
Nelms: Patterns of Response 254
Placement of Participants within Existing
Categories 257
Teacher Maturity 263
Individual Response to Writing Project and
Connection to Staff-Development
Principles 266
Emerging Categories for Writing-Project
Teachers 275
9 CONCLUSIONS 279
Participant Summary 279
Implications 284
Direction for Future Research 290
1 v

APPENDIX-INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
292
REFERENCES 299
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 307
v

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF FOUR TEACHERS
PARTICIPATING IN A WRITING PROJECT
By
Carol P. Harrell
May 1997
Chairman: Ben F. Nelms
Major Department: Curriculum and Instruction
One of the most respected staff development programs today
is the National Writing Project designed to improve student writing
by improving writing instruction. That improvement usually places
an emphasis on teaching writing as a process and puts teachers in
the role of active participants working with students during their
writing. This active role is different from the one teachers assume
in traditional writing classrooms where they act as givers of
assignments and graders of final papers but interact minimally with
students as they work on their writing. Although teachers in
traditional writing classrooms may realize that their instruction
does not produce improved student writing, changing from
traditional, product-oriented instruction to process-oriented
instruction is difficult.
VI

To help teachers make this pedagogical change, substantial
support during the period of transition is necessary. Implied in that
level of assistance is an understanding of how teachers transform
their current pedagogy to accommodate what they learn, but
currently little discussion of what individual teachers experience
during this pedagogical change is forthcoming.
The purpose of this research project was to explore the
responses and implementation processes of four teachers as they
traversed the process of pedagogical examination and the eventual
incorporation of the offerings of a writing project into their
practice. The findings suggest that teachers at different levels of
professional maturity respond differently to the process of
pedagogical change and that follow-up assistance should reflect
those differences.
Vll

CHAPTER 1
BACKGROUND
What a writing-project inservice is and what it teaches is
well studied and well documented (Gomez, 1988; Scriven, 1979),
but the process through which teachers pass as they apply what
they learn during the writing project is relatively unexplored.
This leaves a gap in understanding how to assist teachers during
the transition period that follows their writing-project
experience. Swensson (1992) says that plans need to be
developed to help teachers overcome inhibitors as they implement
instructional changes initiated by writing-project participation.
Knowing how to help teachers presupposes knowledge about how
they deal with their process of change. Some researchers have
studied teachers' implementation of the writing-project spirit in
individual classrooms (Blau, 1993; Zbikowski, 1991), but
currently little is known about the individual teacher's critical
response to and subsequent implementation of new writing
instruction techniques. This research project is designed to
explore the responses and implementation processes of four
teachers as they traverse the process of examining their own
pedagogy during the year following their writing project
experiences.
1

2
Background for Study
During the last 25 years, a dichotomy of sorts has emerged
in composition instruction. Although traditional writing
instruction continues, an increasing number of teachers choose to
teach writing in new ways. By far the largest vehicle for teacher
retraining is the National Writing Project (NWP), an innovative
staff development program designed to broaden teachers'
understandings of writing instruction. This grass-roots staff-
development program uses what is currently considered best
about composition pedagogy as the foundation for preparing
teachers to become better at their instructional tasks and to
become trainers of fellow teachers in proven methods of writing
instruction. The pedagogical focus is usually on teaching writing
through a process which places teachers in the role of active
participants working with students throughout their writing.
This active role is different from the one teachers assume in
traditional writing classrooms, where they act as givers of
writing assignments and graders of final papers but interact
minimally with students as they work on their writing.
Determining the reason that teachers offer a minimum
amount of guidance to students is relatively simple. In the past
teachers themselves were taught this way; they were given little
instruction on how to teach writing in their teacher-preparation
programs, so by default they taught with the same methods they
encountered as students. Although teachers may realize that
their current practice does not produce better writing, it may be

3
difficult to change their approaches. Swensson (1992) points out
that altering any behavior is difficult but that the change from
traditional, product-oriented pedagogy to process-oriented
pedagogy is a major change, and this sort of turn-around is
difficult indeed. What seems to follow, then, is that when
teachers are presented with the writing-project approach to
pedagogy, a logical next step in the instruction process is
substantial support during the period of transition. Offering
teachers support and guidance through the transition requires
knowledge of what is inherent in that change, but currently little
discussion of what individual teachers experience during this
pedagogical change is forthcoming.
Statement of the Problem
Stotsky (1993) expresses concern over the lack of the
teacher voice in the issue of pedagogy in particular and in other
issues generally. She says that "it's as if highly touted
pedagogical ideas cannot be criticized or evaluated by K-12
teachers until university researchers or scholars begin to
criticize or evaluate them" (p. 14). Stotsky urges professional
organizations to encourage on-going critical dialogues by K-12
teachers about pedagogical beliefs and practices. Gomez (1988)
notes the paradox that while the NWP is based on a body of
pedagogical knowledge determined by practitioners, their voices
are not often heard in literature about the writing project.
The concern over the absence of the practitioner's voice in
the dialogue acts as the opening statement for this present

4
research project, which is designed to allow a few practitioners
to speak from their personal experience as they navigate a
writing project, deal with implementation of pedagogical
strategies, and analyze the writing-project experience as it
applies to their teaching. Both Stotsky and Gomez argue for the
teacher voice, unfiltered by university-sponsored research, but
that voice is currently not heard; therefore, this research acts as
a bridge until the teacher voice is directly heard.
A bibliography recently produced by the NWP shows over
300 entries since 1976, and this list by no means includes all
that was written during the period. In this extensive list,
however, fewer than 10 references are directed toward teachers'
experiences following the project. While one researcher
describes the support group used by teachers as they began
changing their teaching styles, no researcher attends to the
individual teacher's progression through the difficult process of
changing pedagogy.
Ultimately, the purpose of this staff development program
is to improve student writing, but before that can occur,
individual teachers must reorder their philosophy of writing
instruction. Between the end of the writing project and the
expression of that experience in the classroom, individual teacher
must personalize the ideas presented. Provision needs to be made
for this transitional period. Blau (1993) says that the key to
helping teachers is a follow-up program that allows teachers to
stay up to date with developments in the field and keeps them
exposed to the spirit and character of the learning environment

5
established in the writing project. Though follow-up programs
are an essential part of the writing project experience, presently
the focus is on teachers as part of a group rather than on their
individual progress after participation. What needs to be added to
the current body of knowledge is the individual teacher’s
experience through the process of pedagogical assimilation and
change.
Much can be accomplished by way of support for the writing
project graduate through a group, but ultimately the individual
deals with the dissonance that results from a redefined
educational philosophy. Guidance and support are offered during
this period, but a detailed record of what occurs during the
process is needed. This study is designed to examine the
individual teacher's experience of assimilation and
implementation. The teachers' experiences detailed in this
research project act as only one part of a critical dialogue; a few
voices are hardly representative of all teachers, but this research
project is a beginning.
One major question and several subquestions guided the
investigation: How did the teachers in this study develop
professionally during the year following their participation in a
writing project?
(1) What do teachers report as their beliefs about writing
and the teaching of writing?
(2) What is their theory of writing instruction?
(3) How do these teachers classify their practices of
teaching writing?

6
(4) What connections do these teachers report between
their beliefs about writing and the teaching of writing,
their theory of writing instruction, their practices in
writing instruction, and the experience of the writing
project?
(5) What do teachers report they gained, if anything, from
the summer writing project?
(6) What other factors appear to influence teachers as they
teach writing?
Significance of the Study
For scores of teachers, the NWP is an important source for
professional development. As these teachers mature, they reflect
and speculate on traditional methods in ways that challenge
existing theory and suggest new pedagogical possibilities (Blau,
1988). They focus not on student writing errors but on the
reasons behind these errors and on the meanings of the errors;
their interest is on how students might learn and how students
think (1988). At the institutes held each summer, selected
teachers work on personal writing, critique each others' writing,
share writing instruction practices that have worked effectively
for them, and discuss research about writing and the teaching of
writing (Marsh et al., 1987). This summer experience is a
validation of teacher knowledge during which professionals who
claim an area of expertise and successful classroom practice
come together to train and learn from each other (Nelms, 1979).
The instructional strategies for writing that these teachers

7
share with each other are not techniques from a generic state-
adopted textbook curriculum or from a curriculum passed down by
earlier generations of teachers; rather, what is offered reflects
the needs of the teachers' student writers.
Teachers who attend a writing project share their best
practices, which means they return to their classrooms with a
cadre of new instructional strategies. As positive as that
outcome is, figuring out how to assimilate the strategies and
finding colleagues in their school who might assist this process
are not simple tasks, especially since "institutional requirements
and conditions often militate against excellence in the teaching
of writing" (Nelms, 1979, p. 133).
Nevertheless, over the past decade the number of teachers
using the process approach to teaching writing, an approach that
includes teacher and student involvement throughout the writing
process, has increased steadily. Moss (1990) reports that
according to a survey done by Applebee and presented at the
meeting of the National Reading Conference, 40% of the English
teachers surveyed reported they use the process approach in
teaching writing. While much is known about the broad subject of
process writing because of the work done by the Center for the
Development of Writing associated with the NWP at Berkeley, not
as much is known about the work of individual teachers in
classrooms. The Applebee survey and others like it are
informative, but studies like these summarize information from
groups of teachers rather than analyze information from the
individuals who make up the large groups. Although the group is a

8
vital vehicle in support for teachers as they mature
professionally, the individual teacher is the essence of
successful pedagogical change. The guiding of teachers, new to
the practice, through the process of change demands intimate
knowledge of the experience.
Newly acquired knowledge rests in a precarious position
until firmly embedded in long-term memory. When humans
assimilate new knowledge, learners must practice "elaborative
rehearsal" during which they take new information and do
something with it (Bourne, Dominowski, Loftus, & Healy, 1986).
Writing teachers learning new teaching strategies are no
exception. Typically, writing project participants experience
each presenter's practice as the presenter's students would,
which offers some rehearsal but not elaborative rehearsal. Then,
the participants return to their classrooms to use the teaching
strategies they learned during the summer project.
This inservice model has generated positive feedback.
Teaching is considered lonely work, but the NWP offers an what
Gomez calls the "potency of the group experience" (1988, p. 12),
so that a teacher's connection to a writing project goes beyond
just learning new teaching techniques for professional
enhancement and includes belonging to a group of like-minded
colleagues. Marsh (1987) commends the project for being
effective without following staff development models exactly,
and says the NWP enriches staff development literature with a
successful variant. The Fellows, as the writing project teacher
participants are called, praise the unique effectiveness of this

9
teacher-directed inservice project. One teacher wrote a letter to
her colleagues and described her experiences at a summer
institute. "After five weeks ... I'm fired up about teaching
composition, and I'd like to share some ideas" (Sears, 1981, p.
45). Marashio, a curriculum coordinator for a school district in
New Hampshire, commented on his writing experiences in a
summer writing project. "A sense of pride rushed through me at
my first attempt to think poetically." He reports that his writing
project colleagues share his feelings. "Our enthusiasm remained
high . . .[and] we all gained from the experience" (1981, p. 465).
Moffett describes teachers as "fired up after attending a summer
institute in the NWP" and goes on the declare the NWP "the best
curricular movement" (1985, p. 52) of which he is aware.
Despite these glowing reports, the NWP is criticized for
ignoring the steps required to move teachers from being
recipients of knowledge to users of knowledge. After praising
the NWP, Moffett says in the next sentence, "somehow, the means
and the occasions for using what they have learned in that
summer institute never materialize" (1985, p. 52). Capper and
Bagenstos (1984), working for the Office of Educational Research
and Improvement, said the NWP is an "in-service effort [that] gets
teachers to try new approaches and techniques but fails to
transfer these skills into teachers' active repertoires,
presumably from lack of further reinforcement" (p. 10). They
recommend that the inservice be structured to include school-
year inservice programs to enhance what is learned during the
summer workshops.

John Mayher (1990) notes that while the NWP has positively
changed some aspects of teacher attitudes concerning writing, it
has neglected to offer a substantive framework from which
teachers can reconstruct their patterns of writing instruction. In
essence, these writing project participants take what they learn
during the summer institutes and simply add the new techniques
to what North (1987) calls the "House of Lore," a pedagogical
structure generations of teachers have added onto but have rarely
pared. Mayher (1990) says that to break the cycle of accepting
unevaluated practice, which causes the house to grow but offers
no structure for dropping off ineffective practice, teachers must
don the stance of the reflective practitioner and draw on their
"experience in classrooms, on the best [they] can discover through
theory and research about how writers write and how writing
ability develops . . (p. 132). Then, teachers can reflect on their
classroom, on sound theory, and on pertinent research to generate
practice that works for their student writers.
During a writing project, teachers are bombarded with
strategies for teaching writing. Personal reflection on and
analysis of teaching strategies presented during the summer
institute and structured feedback from others as they implement
new teaching strategies (Joyce & Showers, 1980) seem missing
from the current writing project agenda. Those of us who are
interested in helping teachers improve their practice need to
know more precisely what is transferred from the summer
institute to the classroom teaching experience, and we need to
know more about the process involved in that transfer if we plan

to successfully aid teachers as they implement new teaching
strategies. In an effort to more fully understand the teacher's
needs during the implementation experience, this research study
is designed to offer an in-depth look at four teachers as they
progress through this process.
Overview
One way to discover the effects of a staff development
project upon teachers as they return to their classrooms is to
observe and question individuals as they make sense of and apply
to their practices what they learned during a summer institute.
Obviously, four participants at two writing sites do not represent
teachers at all sites, but analysis of pedagogical transfer from
the staff development experience to actual practice requires
close attention to the experience of the individual. Some work
has been done in this area at the high-school level. Zbikowski's
(1991) study focused on what a writing project offered its
participants. His findings showed that upon returning to their
classrooms, the participants attempted to recreate the
atmosphere of the project, but none was entirely able to do so.
The purpose of the present study is to look more closely at how
four teachers synthesize and incorporate the offerings of a
writing project into their instructional practices. Through this
research, the teachers' voices can be heard as a reflection of
their experience in the writing project.
Chapter 2 details the current literature as it converges on
this subject, and Chapter 3 explains the methodology used in this

study. Chapters 4 through 7 offer an in-depth look at the four
teachers' experiences as they returned to the classroom after
summer writing project. Chapter 8 connects this research to
current theory and research, and Chapter 9 provides
recommendations for future research and a summary of the
present research findings.

CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF RESEARCH
In an extensive research project including classroom
observations in more than 1000 schools, Sirotnik (1983)
describes the typical classroom as one where there is
a lot of teacher talk and a lot of student listening, unless
students are responding to teachers' questions; little
corrective feedback and no guidance; and predominantly
total class instructional configurations around traditional
activities—all in a virtually affectless environment.
(p. 29)
He concludes by urging educators to disconnect themselves from
their mediocre educational processes if they desire to move away
from the dismal picture in so many classrooms.
Transforming the classroom from a place of mediocrity to a
place of excellence requires change, and staff-development
programs are designed to bring about change by altering teacher
beliefs and attitudes, teacher instructional practices, and
student learning (Guskey, 1985). In this chapter, recent trends in
staff development are examined; a specific example, the National
Writing Project, is detailed, and finally, the convergence of the
two is examined. The literature review is divided into three
parts: staff development, National Writing Project, and
conclusion.

Staff Development
Generally, desired outcomes from staff development Include
an increase in student learning (Joyce, Showers, & Rolheiser-
Bennett, 1987) while meeting the needs of both teachers and
institutions (Love, 1991). In a research summary published by the
New York City Public Schools (1991), staff development is viewed
as the major strategy for school improvement. While the central
purpose for staff-development programs may vary dependent on
the needs of the students, teachers, and institutions, they are the
foremost improvement technique in today's schools (Fullan,
1990).
Castetter (1986) places staff development in the larger
framework of personnel development. His assumption is that
staff development ought to be something that teachers do for
themselves rather than something they have done to them, and
that self improvement, not deficiency, should prompt the personal
urgings. Castetter (1986) provides a model to guide staff-
development plans. This model includes diagnosis of current and
future staff needs, development of plans to meet found needs,
implementation procedures, and evaluation of programs and their
outcomes. Castetter urges program planners to view the overall
school system's expectations as they develop individual school
plans in order to promote balance in the system. This dual focus
provides guidance in planning school staff development to reflect
the needs of the individual teachers working within specific and
emerging school district plans. This element is necessary for the
overall health of a school district's curriculum so that no staff-

development program stands alone but instead becomes an
integral part of the district's curriculum goals.
Determining staff development needs is the beginning point
for inservice. Developing worthwhile programs to assist
teachers as they learn new pedagogical strategies is also
necessary. Joyce and Showers (1980) did a comprehensive
analysis of over 200 inservice studies to glean guiding principles
for general inservice practice. They categorized their findings
into two sections. The first, which they call Levels of Impact,
deals with content knowledge acquired from the inservice
experience. They note that teachers' acquisition of knowledge
progresses through four levels. In level one, awareness, teachers
become cognizant of some educational principle. When inservice
participants move to level two, concepts and organized
knowledge, teacher/learners gain control over the content of an
educational principle. In level three, principles and skills, the
learners prepare for action, and in level four, application and
problem solving, learners transfer the content of the concept to
classroom practice. The forth level is critical because
application of newly acquired pedagogical knowledge requires
teachers to transform principles and integrate and combine these
with old teaching strategies so that transfer and practice of new
methods is set. Helping teachers traverse through these levels
should be a major goal of inservice planning.
Joyce and Showers' (1980) second section in the research
synthesis focuses on the principles of inservice training. These
principles include the following: (a) present the underlying

theory to support cognitive growth in training, (b) demonstrate
the teaching skills presented, (c) provide appropriate practice of
the teaching skills, and (d) provide opportunities for structured
or unstructured feedback so teachers are aware of their actual
teaching behavior. Inherent in the fourth principle are alternative
teaching options for teachers facing difficulties with
implementation. From their research synthesis, Joyce and
Showers found that these elements are essential for inservice
programs if teachers are to transfer newly acquired strategies to
successful classroom practice, the point of staff development.
Guskey (1985), like Joyce and Showers, contends that
neither training alone nor training and implementation supply the
impetus needed to initiate real change in practice. Guskey
proposes that genuine change in teachers' beliefs and attitudes
follows an identifiable change in student learning. Guskey's
staff-development model has three implications. First, because
change is slow and often difficult, inservice programs should
offer well-defined incremental steps toward change and
immediate student improvement. In addition, frequent feedback
helps teachers see their impact on students' learning process.
Finally, Guskey says that support after initial training is
essential. Teachers need guidance, support, and an arena for
sharing both successes and difficulties during implementation.
Ellis and Kull (1991) used Guskey's staff-development
principles as the basis for a research project. Their study was
designed to explore teachers' thinking as they learned a new
teaching strategy. Volunteer teachers attended a conference.

They were selected based on school-district commitment to the
project, availability of release time for teachers, principals'
recommendations, and the teachers' interest in the topic. Through
modeling, these teachers were trained to use small-group
techniques and discovery learning to facilitate concept
development and problem solving. The purpose of the group work
was to give teacher/students experiences that forced them to
rely on their own knowledge and problem-solving abilities.
During the staff-development program, time was provided for the
teachers to figure out problems on their own. This experience
helped participants to see the teacher as a guide rather than a
director of learning. Each of the 21 teachers who attended the
inservice kept a journal to record personal feelings about the
staff-development experience. All of the teachers received six
weeks of summer instruction followed by two one-day inservice
workshops given during October and March in the following school
year. Nine of the teachers were observed and interviewed during
the school year. Issues related to teacher selection and
observation procedures were not described.
In the final report, the experiences of four teachers were
selected for in-depth analysis. These four represented different
levels of commitment to the inservice teaching techniques. Two
were model students of the program and implemented the
inservice principles with little difficulty. A third was initially
unsure of the effectiveness of group work, but as the
implementation period proceeded, so did his ability to use groups
effectively, although he never attained the level of success

reached by the first two. The fourth teacher refused to relinquish
her role as director of all learning in her classroom.
Ultimately, Ellis and Kull (1991) concluded that these
teachers had periods of growth shortly after periods of intense
frustration. They also found that many of the teachers' practices
reverted to pre-inservice levels by the end of the first year of
implementation. In this case, it appears that most inservice
knowledge is ultimately lost. This a major concern when
evaluating the usefulness of a staff-development program, but
knowledge retention and subsequent implementation of
pedagogical strategies was not the focus of the study. Kull and
Ellis recommended that inservice programs include follow-up
opportunities to supplement and reinforce what is learned during
inservice. Their conclusions, though, focus on Guskey's proposal
that belief in the learned teaching technique does in fact follow
practice and observation of student improvement.
The most current work on staff development places it
within the framework of school improvement plans (Fullan &
Hargreaves, 1991; Huberman, 1988; Joyce, 1991). Within these
plans, the focus is on improving all elements within a school
rather than isolating elements of instruction, an idea reminiscent
of Castetter's (1986) notion that district-wide improvement
should be the ultimate goal for staff development.
Joyce (1991) reiterates the point by stating that
restructuring the school, another name for school improvement,
involves several components, only one of which is teacher
inservice. Fullan notes:

It is essential to understand both the small and the big
pictures. We have to know what change looks like from
the point of view of the teacher, student, parent, and
administrator if we are to understand the actions and
reactions of individuals; and if we are to comprehend the
big picture, we must combine the aggregate knowledge
of these individual situations. . . . (xi)
Making staff development a part of school restructuring gives
authority to the role teachers play in school. Their work does
take place behind closed doors, but the impact is felt throughout
the school and the community.
Hargreaves and Fullan (1992) say that school leaders are
beginning to recognize that what happens inside the classroom is
closely connected to what occurs outside the classroom. Looking
at staff development through the single lens of teacher growth
limits a school's potential; therefore, personnel development
calls for a systematic, continuous program to enhance skills
toward some agreed upon goals central to the belief system of
the entire organization.
Based on the literature reviewed, several guiding principles
for staff development emerge. First, staff development must
provide worthwhile educational objectives for teachers, within
the framework of the larger context of the school and district.
Second, administrative support must accompany any call for
changed practice following an inservice experience. Third,
teachers learning new pedagogical skills progress through several
stages of understanding and development, and staff development
must facilitate that passage. Fourth, worthwhile pedagogical

feedback for teachers must occur during the inservice and also
following the program. Fifth, teacher belief in the learned
teaching technique is essential.
Placing these principles into the context of an actual staff-
development program gives them meaning, for principles without
practice are lifeless. Applying principles of staff development to
an existing inservice model offers the opportunity to test
realistically the emerging principles. One of the most successful
staff-development programs is the National Writing Project
(NWP) (Capper & Bagenstos, 1987). This program is anything but
lifeless. During the last twenty years, teachers from all over the
world have attended the summer inservice workshops that
Goldberg (1984) claims may be the most successful. The fact
that staff-development principles are not consistently applied in
this program (Capper & Bagenstos, 1987) offers an interesting
possibility for inquiry.
National Writing Project
Teacher retraining is often the focus of staff-development
programs, and one of the most effective programs is the NWP
which functions at sites throughout the United States and in
several foreign countries (Capper & Bagenstos, 1987). In this
staff-development program, teachers encounter an intense
inservice experience designed to enhance their methods of
writing instruction and prepare them to train other teachers of
writing. Simply stated, the purpose of a writing project is to
enhance writing instruction in order to improve student writing.

Certainly the issue is much more complicated than this, but as
Pisano and Tallerico (1990) conclude after a seven-year study of
a writing project, the main purpose of the writing project is to
prepare teachers to be better writing instructors. Besides
improving student writing through improved instruction, the NWP
undergirds teachers' professionalism and expands the use of
writing from the English classroom into all curriculum areas
(Office of Policy and Planning: US Department of Education, 1992).
Delineating the overall purpose of a writing project is possible,
but determining the specifics is more complicated. James Gray,
the project's founder, vehemently refuses to name a theory of
writing or writing instruction to which the NWP pays allegiance
(Blau, 1988), yet he clearly advocates specific guidelines under
which the staff-development project operates. No one curriculum
or instructional method undergirds the thinking of a project, but
an openness to what is best about practice and teaching is the
guiding philosophy. It is not that the philosophy lacks substance
but that teachers, their professionalism, and their best practices
are the significant elements. As these areas develop, the NWP
philosophy is free to embrace new professional directions.
Gray and Myers (1978) indicate that a concern about the
decline in writing scores in the California schools gave a small
group of elementary through college level teachers the impetus to
join together to study traditional writing instruction's
ineffectiveness. These teachers agreed that one reason for
unsuccessful writing instruction was poorly trained writing
teachers. Further, this group agreed that in order to improve

writing instruction, inservice programs were needed to act as a
bridge between research and practice (Gray & Myers, 1978).
Eventually, these meetings in the early 1970s resulted in calling
together successful writing teachers who demonstrated to other
English teachers their successful composition instruction
techniques.
This grass-roots staff-development movement, devoted to
instruction throughout the writing process unified; and in 1974,
under the leadership of Gray, the Bay Area Writing Project was
formed. Because of the movement's growth across the country,
the name was later changed to the National Writing Project
(NWP). Gray (1991) summarizes the general assumptions on
which the movement is based. University and school personnel at
all levels of instruction must work together as partners because
the "top-down" tradition is not an acceptable staff-development
model. The multi-grade inclusion allows for constant attention
to writing all through school. It is possible to identify
successful teachers of writing. These teachers should come
together to further their own professional development and to be
trained to prepare other teachers to be good writing instructors.
Training of teachers in an on-going process, thus teachers need to
meet throughout their careers to continue their training in
writing instruction. Since writing is an essential element in all
disciplines, the summer institute should include teachers of all
subject areas. Teachers of writing must be writers since they
can best understand the demands of the task through first-hand
experience with writing. The NWP does not adhere to any single

correct way to teach writing but remains open to instructional
possibilities as they are developed by knowledgeable
practitioners. Despite the lack of an undergirding theory, local
sites gain strength from affiliation with a larger national
network and from the ability to meet the specific needs of the
local community. Underlying the entire project is the
understanding that the goal of the NWP is improved student
writing. (Gray, 1991).
Application of NWP inservice principles has been highly
successful, according to Goldberg (1984), who visited writing
programs across the country and noted that the NWP may well be
the most successful inservice program in history. In a joint
effort, Binko and Neubert (1984) studied the effectiveness of the
NWP but limited their focus to teacher status within the writing
project. Working from the hypothesis that to be good, inservice
education should include successful classroom teachers working
as equal partners training other teachers, Binko and Newbert
conclude that the NWP is an effective collaborative effort.
Whether the inservice actually improves instruction or learning
is not addressed, but they note that the collaboration provides
university professors and elementary and secondary teachers
opportunities to share responsibility for funding, scheduling, and
activity implementation. Additionally, university faculty and
classroom teachers are allowed equal association in the staff-
development program
This staff-development program revolves around the
equalization of university and school instruction toward the

"essentiality of the classroom teacher" (Binko & Newbert, 1984,
p.17). This essentiality of the teacher figures into the formula
for professional respect on both the K-12 and college sides of the
academic community and may "represent a new professionalism in
English--a professionalism that transcends what practicing
teachers perceive as the narrow academicism of college English
departments and the intellectually suspect pragmatism of
colleges of education" (Nelms, 1979, p. 132). Empowering
teachers with confidence in their worth prepares them to be the
staff-development personnel to whom other teachers will listen.
Watson (1981) says that teachers begin to understand their own
strengths, intuitions, and needs, and this influences their
language which becomes centered on "curiosity, community,
intensity, discovery" (p. 97). This is the language of motivated,
involved teachers; teachers concerned about the learning of their
students; teachers who see their own efforts influence the
education community of which they are members.
In a study done by Thompson (1979), teachers were
questioned at the beginning and end of a writing project institute
about why they felt students do not write well. At the beginning
of the institute, the teachers blamed external factors for their
students' poor writing and named things over which teachers have
little or no control as reasons for the poor writing. They blamed
such things as watching too much television and the decline of
writing in society. At the end of writing-project participation,
the teachers named factors which they control as the reasons
students are poor writers. For instance, they recognized that

students need guidance during the writing process and that they
need writing practice without the demands of grades. This shift
supports Watson's (1981) conclusion that writing-project
graduates see themselves as capable agents directing the
educational experiences of their students. The teachers become
curious; they wonder how to fashion educational opportunities for
students so that optimum learning occurs. They develop a sense
of a community of learners during the inservice experience, and
they seek to reproduce that in their own classrooms. They
become constructors of knowledge rather than consumers of
information. An intensity builds toward leading students to
writing and self-discovery along the same paths the teachers
took during their inservice experience. They become teachers
who understand that they do influence the learning of their
students (Blau, 1993).
This self-discovery and consequential confidence in
constructing knowledge has the potential to transform the
teaching and writing which occur in classrooms. Olson and
DiStefano (1980) studied the effectiveness of writing-project
teaching techniques in the classroom and found a substantial
improvement in the writing of students exposed to the
instruction of writing-project graduates. The findings of this
study were not substantiated by the Scriven (1979) study,
however. In this three-year study, Scriven and his colleagues
found it difficult to sustain a long-term study of writing project
effects for several reasons: control groups with equivalent
relevant variables are unlikely to occur from year to year;

2 6
teacher/student relationships over time are difficult to predict
since students change teachers yearly; and consistent assignment
of teachers to academic subjects from year to year is unlikely.
The results of their study, however, indicate generally poor
results from writing samples of students taught by writing-
project graduates.
In a later well-designed, quasi-experimental study,
Pritchard (1987) found conclusive evidence that middle school
students who had been taught by NWP teachers consistently over
a three-year period were indeed better writers than were
students taught by teachers not trained in a writing project. Her
research project used a pretest-posttest design that consisted of
essay topics to which the students responded. She gave a pretest
to more than 2000 junior- and senior- high students in the fall of
one year. The same students were tested that spring and in the
spring of the two following school years. During each posttest,
the students listed their English teachers of the previous three
years. Students who had received instruction from at least two
teachers trained in a writing project were considered a part of
the experimental group, and those with one or no trained teacher
were the control group. Their writings were holistically scored
by trained English teachers from a school district outside the
experimental school district, and the results showed that middle
school students taught by writing project teachers outperformed
students of untrained teachers. While not all studies
demonstrate conclusive evidence that NWP trained teachers
produce superior writers, it is well documented that writing

project graduates have a solid understanding of writing
instruction (Binko & Neubert, 1984; Blau, 1988; Office of Policy
and Planning: US Department of Education, 1992; Marashio, 1981;
Sears, 1981; Watson, 1981).
Despite these successes, there are those who question the
NWP model. In an article based on his experience with a writing
project, Newkirk (1983) makes several interesting points about
the five writing project assumptions he identifies. (Gray says
that teachers of all subject areas should be included in writing
projects, but otherwise, the two lists are comparable.) Newkirk
begins by supporting two of what he considers five essential NWP
assumptions: teachers should be writers, and teachers of all
grade levels should participate equally in the writing project.
While generally agreeing with the three remaining assumptions he
identifies, Newkirk addresses ways he thinks each might be
enhanced. One of these assumptions is that teachers who attend
the writing project are expert teachers of writing and that each
teacher has some knowledge about writing instruction worthy of
being shared with other teachers. Newkirk contends, however,
that some teachers come to the writing project as good writing
teachers but with expertise in areas they have begun to question.
Their attendance is geared toward change rather than
continuation of practice. When this is the case, writing-project
leaders should take more responsibility for the project
curriculum and lead participants in new instructional directions
rather than expect the teachers to share teaching techniques they
no longer believe are pedagogically sound.

Another NWP assumption questioned by Newkirk is that no
theoretical model should be imposed on the participants.
Newkirk's philosophy is that those who attend a writing project
need to share a common theoretical base so that informed
decisions can be made about what should be stressed or ignored in
the inservice.
The final assumption deals with the role of writing project
participants after summer attendance. The NWP model is
designed around the idea that trained participants will lead
workshops to train other teachers in proven teaching techniques
learned during the writing project and implemented in their own
classroom. Newkirk (1983) disagrees with this notion and
defines follow-up specifically as classroom visits by project
instructors who are also classroom teachers. These visits
include guidance for newly graduated writing project teachers as
they work toward successful change in writing instruction. His
emphasis is on redefining the way writing-project participants
teach rather than on consultant training, the NWP focus.
Teachers' willingness to change indicates a desire to support the
NWP assumption that professionals are open to what is
pedagogically new and sound and Castetter's (1986) assumption
that staff development should be designed from the felt needs of
the teachers involved. This willingness to continue growth
warrants support during the difficult change process, and
Newkirk contends that the best place to receive appropriate
classroom support is from project instructors.

Mayher's discussion of the NWP parallels Newkirk's. In the
book, Uncommon Sense (1990), Mayher directs educators away
from assumptions imposed by current practices toward uncommon
thinking about what education might be. It is in this context that
Mayher questions the NWP. He says that it is appropriate for
teachers to share questions and to celebrate their expertise, but
the irony of the Writing Project approach as a basis of
instructional reform is that the approaches and lessons
being shared are inevitably based on the teacher's practice
before they have had the positive writing experience of
the institute. So, for the most part, although not
exclusively since many teachers have been the source
of uncommon sense theories and practices, the lore they
share fits comfortably within the commonsense frame¬
work. (emphasis his, p. 231)
Thus, a large portion of what is gained in writing-project
attendance is domesticated upon teachers' return to the
classroom (Mayher, 1990), and while the experience does alter
some elements in teachers' beliefs about writing, the NWP
experience is not thorough enough to "reform the overall pattern
of instruction in uncommonsense directions" (p. 231-232). Before
that can happen, says Mayher, educators must come to understand
more fully the "theoretical framework which underlies the
uncommonsense position on writing, and to sufficiently
deconstruct the commonsense framework of schooling to be able
to fight against its domesticating power" (p. 232). For these
changes to occur, teachers need more than one summer workshop
experience.

Zbikowski (1991) studied a writing project and concluded
that the project experience was fruitful and provided the impetus
for altered classroom instruction. Implementation of writing
strategies learned from colleague presentations was possible,
but replication of the writing project spirit, the camaraderie
between writers-the essence of the writing classroom--was
almost impossible to reproduce during the year following
writing-project attendance. Zbikowski says that the question to
ask when assessing writing projects does not center on student
gains in traditional measures of writing but to what extent the
"romantic" messages of the writing project make sense in schools
as they are. The "romantic" messages (Zbikowski, 1991) and the
spirit of the writing project (Watson, 1981; Zbikowski, 1991) are
elements critical to the successful replication of writing-
project ideas in authentic classrooms. The point of writing-
project assessment should, therefore, be effectiveness of
implementation of academic strategies and the classroom spirit
in which the strategies are implemented.
Stroble and Bratcher (1990) studied how well rural
teachers implemented new writing instruction strategies
following writing project attendance. They used Guskey's (1985)
assumptions about staff development to support their findings
related to pedagogical change following writing project
participation. Like Guskey, they found that changing a teaching
style is a difficult process that occurs over time. In their
conclusions they say that the teachers in the study grew in their
use of some critical elements in writing instruction, but the

change was not complete after the inservice, hence the teachers
needed continued training and support long after the summer
institute ended to enable them to completely implement writing
process instruction with their students. Newkirk and Mayher
clearly made the same point: teachers may make philosophical
changes during the summer institute, but complete pedagogical
changes must be well supported over time.
Bayer (1985) did an observational study of five teachers'
growth undergirded by group support after a writing project
experience. The group which represented four schools included
two English teachers, two teachers from other content areas, and
one elementary teacher. The focus of Bayer's study was the
supportive oral language used by the group as they helped each
other during the change process following writing project
participation. Like others, Bayer concluded that modifying
teaching practice is difficult, and she contended that group
support during that process can undergird the change efforts.
Results from the study point to the fact that a collaborative
group can, through dialogue, help teachers to initiate, clarify, and
expand their thinking about writing. Change is difficult and slow,
but the study of this group effort shows that a collaborative
experience can facilitate growth in a way isolation from
colleagues does not allow.
Sharing ideas and understanding writing as a process is
often at the heart of teacher change following writing-project
participation. McCarthey's (1992) study focused on three
elementary teachers' changing conceptions of writing instruction

techniques after writing project participation. She identified the
teachers' changing understanding of writing and the actual
teaching of writing and how those changes linked to writing
project participation. Using three interviews given
intermittently during the two-year study, McCarthey traced
changing beliefs about the teacher's role in writing instruction.
McCarthey (1992) interviewed three teachers who
participated in the New York City Teachers College Writing
Project. The participants were selected because they had
implemented some of the strategies learned in their writing
project experience. The writing project included ongoing
workshops and training designed to aid the teachers in their
transition toward using the workshop format to teach writing. In
this project, a part of the teachers' training, much like Newkirk
suggests, included modeling done in the teachers' classrooms
after they attended a writing project so the teacher/learners
could view a lesson in their own classrooms and then discuss the
strategy and implementation of the strategy at work in their
actual classroom.
The first teacher in McCarthey's (1992) study, Erica, a
fifth-grade teacher, did not enjoy teaching language arts before
her writing-project participation, but she did consider herself a
writer. During the project experience, her teaching was
transformed from lessons that concentrated on ditto sheets and
simple routine assignments to instruction that focused on
teaching writing as a means to prepare students to communicate.

Elma, who taught sixth grade, was an experienced writing
teacher but directed her students' writing rather than guide it
toward personal writing experience. Although this teacher did
not consider herself a writer before participating in the project,
she did afterwards. Her pedagogical growth stemmed from a
found belief in the empowerment of writers who use writing for
their own needs.
The third teacher, Emily, who had taught both literature and
language arts and directed a creative curriculum before
participating in the writing project, was a first-grade teacher
during the study. She engaged in personal and professional
writing and participated in a course designed to offer an
overview of process writing several years prior to her writing
project experience. Changes in her teaching were less pronounced
than Erica's or Elma's, but she did learn that she needed to become
more deeply involved in her students' writing process and to
teach grammar within the content of the students' papers.
Ultimately, each teacher's change is as individual as her
background. McCarthey attributes variances to the differences in
background knowledge and writing beliefs each teacher brought to
the project. These teachers, like the ones to whom Newkirk
refers, attended the writing project at a point in their career
when they were ready to alter their teaching style rather than
continue existing practices.
It becomes evident that the change in beliefs and in
instructional strategies resulting from the inservice experience
is strategic to the outcome in actual classroom practice. To

understand thoroughly the process in which teachers were
engaged from their writing-project experience to their practice
following their NWP attendance, Zbikowski (1991) participated in
a writing project as a Fellow and as an observer. During the
school year following the project, he observed in four high-school
teachers' classrooms to understand how the participants used
writing project ideas in their classrooms. He also questioned
students about their reactions to the teacher's writing
instruction and found that the writing project offered an ideal
unattained in the actual classroom the year following project
participation. Nonetheless, the experience energized the teachers
and in turn the students. The findings are substantiated by Blau's
(1993) synthesis about writing project graduates' progression
after participation. In his discussion of teachers' change
processes, Blau points out that even the most exemplary teachers
require three years to establish a classroom learning community
like the one experienced in a summer institute.
Blau tracked the development of writing project Fellows
over several years and determined that teachers implementing
writing project philosophies in their classrooms progress through
three stages which reflect the levels that Joyce and Showers
(1980) define in their staff development analysis of the
progression of knowledge acquisition. In the first stage, which
Blau calls the "show and tell" stage, successful teachers show
other teachers what they do and then tell the teachers how they
came to do it. In the second stage, which he calls "show and tell
why," teacher-presenters begin explaining the principles behind

their demonstrated practices. In the final developmental stage,
Blau defines teachers as researchers. Teachers reflect on their
own teaching much as a researcher does, and they no longer "focus
as much on their own practice or on student behaviors or outcome
data as they do on what they can infer from behavior or other data
about what is going on in their students' heads" (1988, p. 33). The
teachers are more concerned with what or how students might
learn or think as a result of instruction. As a consequence of this
professional development, Blau contends, the education
community has also been revolutionized in that the job of writing
teachers has been elevated; classroom teachers are no longer
seen as a deterrent to change. Instead, they are "seen as (or
potentially seen as) expert practitioners, writers, agents of
change, teacher-consultants, classroom-based researchers,
contributors to the pool of current professional knowledge,
trainers of administrators, curriculum specialists, and publishing
authors" (Blau, 1984, p. 35).
These studies support the notion that change comes slowly
and that when teachers make changes in habitual behavior they
need to see new behaviors modeled (Zemelman & Daniels, 1986).
Permission for change and movement away from what Mayher
calls common sense notions about teaching is echoed by
Zemelman and Daniels (1986), but they call this the "social-
psychological-political context of the schools" (1986, p. 221).
This concept is built around the notion of "top-down" politics and
requires time and a complete knowledge of the difference
between "an 'authority' as one who controls a situation and

'authority' in the sense of one who is consulted because she has
valuable ideas" (p.225). They argue, and rightly so, that often
teachers completing work on "new" approaches to writing
instruction simply return to their classrooms to reconstitute the
teacher-centered classroom with a few process-oriented writing
activities but without the tools necessary to reconstruct their
classrooms in schools filled with "a strong institutional grain" (p.
220). These teachers are ill prepared to assume the role that
Blau says comes in the final stages of change.
Zemelman and Daniels (1986) suggest that teachers in the
throes of instructional change need instruction in areas beyond
content knowledge and this includes information of "psychology,
sociology, politics, and recent social history of American
education" (p. 229). Shulman (1987) points out that
"comprehended ideas must be transformed in some manner if they
are to be taught. To reason one's way through an act of teaching
is to think one's way from the subject matter as understood by
the teacher into the minds and motivations of learners" (p. 16).
These facets of change resulting from knowledge acquired in a
writing project deepen the nature of the staff-development
program. Included in the change process is more than just
alteration of writing instruction strategies. Integral to these
changes are also the issues of the institutional grain, recent
social history, and the learner. These issues are vital elements
in the process of teacher change.
At this point the individual teacher in the learning process
is the key, and the experiences of the teacher are foremost in the

educational cycle. As Freedman, Warshauer, Dyson, Flower, and
Chafe (1987) conclude in their directions for future writing
research:
We want to understand the literacy demands learners
encounter across time and space as they progress from
home to school to university and workplace; we aim to
identify more completely the resources learners have to
draw upon to meet these ends and the resources teachers
have as well as they seek to mediate between the learners
and the ends. Thus, although we have reviewed research
in the traditional areas of context, process, and development
(much of which traditionally focused on product), we
propose program areas that focus on teaching and learning,
(p. 43)
Viewing the teachers' experiences in the writing project staff
development program produces a window into the teacher
perspective to which Freedman, et al. refer. The effectiveness of
a staff-development program becomes an integral element in that
program so that actualization of practices, in this case the
emphasis on writing instruction following an experience in a
writing projects, becomes the focus.
Project Connection to Research
The writing project as a worthwhile tool to retrain
teachers is supported by all those connected to it, even its
critics. Writing projects are, however, tools in the hands of
human beings, thus permitting questions to be raised about
whether particular practices are best in every situation.
Research may provide some direction about possibilities for new
writing-project options. The purpose of this research project is

to add to examine the individual teacher experience with the
staff-development program in such a way as to enhance the
opportunities for professionals as they strive toward altering
their existing instructional practices.
When applying the five staff-development principles
outlined in the final paragraphs of the staff-development section
in this chapter, it becomes clear that the NWP is a well-designed
program. First, staff development must provide worthwhile
objectives for teachers within the larger context of school and
district educational objectives. Writing projects provide this
pedagogical freedom and direction as evidenced by the essential
element of local projects developing around the felt needs of the
teachers involved. As pointed out by Blau (1993), teachers who
pass through a writing project are seen as expert practitioners
and gain the respect of administrators thus ensuring, in essence,
administrative support, the second staff-development principle.
Also important to staff development is a belief in the presented
teaching technique; the writing project is developed around the
notion that good writing teachers have something worthwhile to
share with their colleagues and that each will present a
successful writing lesson to the larger group. It can be argued
that participants believe in the inservice offerings even before
they begin the project since they are unlikely to attend and
present unless they believe in the inservice. The remaining two
principles suggest the need for support during traversal through
the stages of growth in a new teaching technique. Currently, the
writing project functions to enhance writing instruction and to

train teachers to become teachers of teachers who are in search
of better instructional methods in writing. The path teachers
traverse on their way toward pedagogical change, the fourth
principle, is not clearly addressed in discussion of the writing
project. Feedback following writing-project attendance, the
final staff-development principle, is important but gets little
attention in the literature.
Some research has been done in these areas (Bayer, 1985;
McCarthey, 1992; Stroble & Bratcher, 1990). Newkirk (1983)
suggests that follow-up should come through scheduled
classroom visits by program instructors and that this should be
geared toward transforming classroom instruction. Blau (1993)
advocates the need for follow-up programs to help teachers as
they become constructors of professional knowledge; however,
Newkirk does not focus on the individual teacher perspective, and
Blau reports only the view of exemplary writing-project
teachers. The teacher perspective on the process of change and of
implementation following writing-project participation needs to
be heard, not as a summary of many experiences but as individual
reports on the journey. As a result of writing project attendance,
teachers change their writing instruction strategies, and
students like the approach to writing brought to the classroom
(Zbikowski, 1991); but measurable improvement in student
writing is minimal (Scriven, 1979; Stotsky, 1993). Perhaps
individual teacher's reflection on the writing-project experience
may offer insight into writing instruction and writing
improvement. The individual is missing from the current picture,

40
and in a staff-development program designed to meet the ever-
changing needs of the professionals, this voice needs to be heard.
Sunstein (1994) studied the culture that grows within a
writing project and found that participants act as folk groups
that possess two defining characteristics. According to Toelken,
says Sunstein, folk groups accept a conservative core of ideas,
but they also develop dynamic features around growth. The
writing project participants in Sunstein's study reflect this
acceptance of a core and then, as expected, develop new versions
of the old. Although the study reflects the individual teacher in
the three-week writing project, it does not reflect the teachers'
experiences as they work through the school year following the
writing project.
Dialogue exists within the research community concerning
the effectiveness and appropriateness of the NWP, and some
teacher voices are heard in testimonials. The authentic voices of
teachers as they use knowledge gained in the writing project
experience are missing, however. A close look at individual
teachers as they implement writing project principles in
classroom settings after attending a writing project may
determine the kind of support, if any, they need. This
investigation is designed to focus on the individual teacher.
Tracking individuals as they reconsider their practice after
attending a writing project might show whether teachers find
ways to create a network outside the inservice that could provide
strategies for others who want to do the same. To continue the
search for a better way to teach writing, this research project

4 1
focuses on the individual teacher as a way to offer a new
dimension in writing-project and staff-development research.

CHAPTER 3
METHODOLOGY
This study was designed to examine individual teacher's
experiences with assimilation and implementation of knowledge
gained during participation in a summer writing project. Drawing
from each teacher the knowledge gained and the articulated
implementation of that knowledge requires a research design that
allows the individual voice to describe personal experience; thus,
qualitative methods are the most appropriate. Learning how
these teachers' beliefs about writing and their theories of
writing instruction were influenced by the writing project,
discovering which of their writing instruction methods were
influenced by the writing project, and determining what they
believe they learned from writing-project attendance requires
intensive research. Merriam (1991) emphasizes that the
qualitative case study focuses on "discovery, insight, and
understanding from the perspectives of those being studied [and]
offers the greatest promise of making significant contributions
to the knowledge base and practice of education" (p. 3). She also
points out that the case study examines a specific phenomenon
where "researchers are interested in insight, discovery, and
interpretation rather than hypothesis testing" (p. 10). The
emphasis is on depth of understanding surrounding a single focus.
42

43
Such an emphasis is needed to support the purpose of this
research.
Four subjects were selected for this one-year study. The
interview was the major form of data collection because it
focuses on "discovery, insight, and understanding" from the
subjects, exactly the kind of data needed for this research
project (Merriam, 1991). This research used the interview
method to discover: (a) the participants' beliefs about writing, (b)
their theory of writing instruction, (c) how they thought their
beliefs and theory were influenced by the writing project, and (d)
how they reported that their beliefs, theory of writing, and
practice changed because of writing-project attendance. The nine
interviews, spaced over an eleven-month period, were set up to
suit the schedule of the participants, and each followed a common
interview form-the "person-to-person encounter in which one
person elicits information from another" (Merriam, 1991, p. 71). I
used both formal and informal interview techniques so that
insights and information could emerge based on the answers each
teacher gave (Merriam, 1991).
Besides the interviews, I observed in each teacher's
classroom and in the writing projects the teachers attended.
Classroom observations focused on practice. Having been a
classroom teacher, I know that when students are unfamiliar
with a teaching method or classroom practice, their behavior and
questions are signs that new things are occurring. I used these
indicators as a guide to verify that the teaching methods I saw
were not just implemented on the days I observed. My

44
observations focused specifically on writing in the classroom
because my interest was in how each teacher engaged in writing
instruction. Through observation I saw firsthand what these
teachers did in their classrooms (Merriam, 1991). The intent of
the writing project observations was to give me a sense of what
the teachers experienced during attendance. An account of the
research process is detailed in the following sections.
Site Selection
The participants in this research study attended one of two
southeastern writing project sites located within 80 miles of
each other. I chose to work with graduates of these projects
because they were near my residence and were easily accessible.
To gain insight into the writing projects that the participants
would reference during the research process, I observed one
writing project for four days, one day per week during the four-
week writing project. These observations allowed me to view
firsthand the writing project my participants experienced. I
simply observed one day, and on the other days, I targeted one of
the three participants. Each day, I sat with a different
participant and then observed the participant's writing group.
I observed the other four-week project two days, once at
the end of the second week and once at the end of the third week.
As with the other project, one day was devoted to writing project
observation, and the other was participant and writing group
observation. I spent each of the days fully absorbed in the
writing-project experience. This included, among other things,

45
listening to writing instruction demonstrations given by several
teacher/participants and participating in large-group writing
activities. On one of the days, I went with the whole group on a
field trip to a small museum dedicated to a local writer. I also
observed in each participant’s writing group and experienced
first-hand their writing processes and the discussion of their
personal writing. Each of the six writing-project observations
lasted about six hours for a total of approximately 36 hours.
The first writing project was founded in 1982 at the state's
major university. Throughout the four-week project, fresh
flowers decked the tables and tempting morning snacks became
the symbols around which the camaraderie of the participants
was generated. Three participants attended this project. The
second project had been in operation only three years; and while
the teacher in this research project initially intended to attend
the first project, the project leader and district language arts
coordinator convinced him that he could be more influential in his
county if he attended the writing project closest to his home
school. Like the first writing project, this site focused on the
development of personal relationships within the group, but the
effort was less noticeable. No flowers decorated the tables and
food availability was minimal; nevertheless on the days I
observed, the participants appeared to have developed a positive
working environment.
Besides the two writing project sites, the schools in which
the participants teach were also sites for the research project.
The sites where these teachers work are unique; indeed no two

46
schools are similar enough for a real site comparison. Each,
however, allows the participants great freedom in curriculum
implementation thus allowing and even encouraging the four
teachers to experiment with pedagogical possibilities from their
writing-project experience.
George and his colleagues (1992) suggest that in a true
middle school the curriculum should focus on thematic units that
intersect with adolescent concerns and issues. Usually an
interdisciplinary team addresses these issues through a
constructivist approach which suggests that students build
knowledge from collaborative inquiry, research, and writing, thus
allowing students to generate knowledge related to personal
needs and experiences. None of the schools in this study could be
defined as a true middle school, but each makes some attempt in
that direction. These schools use the team approach to enhance
student personal growth while continuing separate subject
learning. Each does include some interdisciplinary thematic units
that typically revolve around some broad topic such as drug use or
career possibilities. Each school is briefly described in the
following section and fully described in the next chapter.
Subjects
Four middle-school language-arts teachers, two male and
two female participated in the study. Selection was based on
their reputation as writing teachers. Inherent in teacher
selection for writing-project participation is the idea that
teachers who are selected are exemplary writing teachers. In

4 7
both of the sites for this study, teachers were recommended by
the district-level language arts coordinator, the school
principals, and their peers. Final selection for participation was
made by the project director. Three criteria were used to select
teachers for this research project: (a) participation in a 1992
summer writing project, (b) identification as an exemplary
middle school writing teacher according to administrative and
peer recommendations, and (c) accessibility to teachers
following the writing project. Several other middle school
teachers attended this writing project but were eliminated
because they were not considered exemplary writing teachers by
the university director of the writing project or because the
distance to their school prohibited accessibility. I wanted good
middle school writing teachers because that is the NWP
expectation for writing-project participation. Because it was
impossible to obtain an ethnic mix due to the make up of the
writing-project participants, I attempted to include some
diversity through the status of male/female, years of experience,
rural/city, and new and repeat writing-project participation. For
the purposes of this research project, the teachers' names have
been changed to ensure their privacy.
The participants' teaching experience ranges from one to
ten years; two teach in a rural setting and two teach in a mid¬
sized city school. The four participants represent four different
middle schools. One of the teachers was an English and
philosophy major in college and holds teaching certification but
was not an education major during college preparation; another

48
was elementary trained; the third has a degree in creative
writing; and the fourth has a degree in English education.
Mrs. Hammond (fictitious names are used throughout)
teaches in a city middle school that caters to the educational
needs of upper middle class students. The school has transformed
the English department so that all teachers must structure their
curriculum around a reading/writing workshop. She reports that
a feeling of collegiality exists among the language arts teachers
who share ideas and experiences while learning their way through
this new approach to teaching.
The year of this study was Mrs. Hammond's seventh year as
a teacher. Despite the fact that she held a teaching certificate,
she was forced to begin her post-college career in education as
an elementary school aide because teaching jobs were scarce.
She worked in that capacity for four years. When her family
moved, she worked as a permanent substitute in a high school; and
when her family moved to their present location, she taught three
years in a rural school and then transferred to her current
position which she has held for three years. Her educational
background was in English and philosophy, not education; but she
did add teacher certification to her credentials while in college.
A few years ago she attended the school district writing project
led by the county language-arts supervisor and several
teacher/consultants trained during a writing project. This
workshop is not as intense as the summer writing project, but it
acts as the county training ground for teachers of writing.

49
Like Mrs. Hammond, Mr. Marriet also has an undergraduate
degree in English, but he completed a master's degree program in
English education prior to beginning classroom teaching. During
his education training, Mr. Marriet embraced the philosophy that
writing is a process and this belief guides his classroom
practice. During this study Mr. Marriet completed his second year
of teaching.
Mr. Marriet teaches in a newly-renovated middle school
situated at the edge of the mid-sized town in which he resides.
During the school renovation, Mr. Marriet's room was outfitted
with state-of-the-art computer equipment which he uses daily.
Several years ago the principal brought in a consultant who
completely restructured the school's scheduling and teaching
practices. Rather than the traditional 50-minute class period, Mr.
Marriet sees his students for blocks of 90 minutes two times
each week and then for one regular 50-minute class period once a
week. This arrangement allows the revised curriculum, based on
the assumption that reading and writing are interrelated and
require extended periods of time for integration and exploration,
to be implemented. Mr. Marriet prefers this arrangement but
stated that his colleagues are not as satisfied.
Ms. Roth works in a middle school that serves middle-class,
rural students. Her room connects physically with her team
colleague, but the connection stops at the door. Ms. Roth
practices innovative writing instruction, but she says she acts
alone-apart from her colleague and apart from the other
language arts teachers in her school. Despite the philosophical

50
differences, Ms. Roth reports that she has a pleasant relationship
with her colleagues.
Ms. Roth is trained in elementary education, although she
has never taught at that level. Her three years of teaching
experience have been in the middle school. She taught one year in
a large, city school system before moving to her present position.
Like Mrs. Hammond, she attended the school-district writing
project led by the county language-arts supervisor and
teacher/consultants before attending the summer writing
project.
Mr. McNew works in a small middle school. The school is
rural, like Ms. Roth's, but the student population is lower middle
class. He is one of only two middle-school English teachers at
the school, but he reports that his teaching practice is
completely independent of his colleague's. They share neither
teaching philosophy nor teaching ideas.
Mr. McNew has taught for ten years, but not all of the
teaching experience is in the public school system. He worked
three years as a teaching assistant during graduate school. His
public school teaching career spans seven years, three in his
current position and four in a coastal, tourist community. He
attended the writing project for the second time and acted as
group leader or facilitator for the small writing group to which
he belonged.

51
The following table summarizes each participant's
demographic information.
Table 1
Demographic Information
Age
Sex
Ethnic
Background
# of Years Tchg/
in Middle Schl.
# of Yrs. in
Present Sitúa.
New/Repeat
Wtg. Proj.
Participation
Roth
27
F
W
3/3
2
New
Me New
42
M
W
1 0/6
4
Repeat
Hammond
4 1
F
W
7/6
3
New
Marriet
27
M
W
1 /1
1
New
In addition to these identified participants, four minor
participants were also included. I conducted a telephone
interview with the language-arts supervisors in the two counties
where the participants teach and with one of the directors from
each of the writing projects the participants attended. The
purpose of these interviews was to gain another perspective on
the writing-project experience and to validate the writing-
project purposes and central themes.
Data Gathering
Procedures
Following approval by the Human Subjects Committee at the
university where the research was conducted, related personnel

52
at the district county office where the schools are located, and
the appropriate building administrator at each school, I contacted
the teachers and set up observations and interviews convenient to
their teaching schedules.
All of the interviews were conducted similarly. I asked
several prepared questions to begin the discussion, but then I
allowed the issues raised by each teacher to direct the interview
as it progressed. When an issue was exhausted, I returned to my
prepared questions to stimulate more discussion. The questions I
asked were designed to elicit responses of knowledge, opinion,
feeling, and teacher personal background, and while they were
similar for each teacher, the data supplied during each interview
stimulated questions for further interviews (Merriam, 1991).
Classroom observations usually occurred on the same day
as the interviews. I sat off to the side of the classroom activity
and took notes on what I saw that related to the domain of
writing. This included not only teaching and student writing but
also any evidence of student writing such as writing folders,
work displayed on the board, and indirect references to writing
such as reminding students of writing done during a previous
class period or discussion of writing techniques during
nonwriting lessons. I also searched for verification of what the
participants reported in interviews during actual writing
instruction and in writing instruction philosophy manifested in
teaching practice.

53
Interviews
I used in-depth interviews to examine the way teachers who
attended the summer writing project made sense of their
workshop experience. This technique allowed me to find out from
them how they believe they used what they learned in their
teaching after attendance. The interviews also acted as a source
of information concerning the teachers' beliefs about their
personal writing experiences and their beliefs and understandings
of writing pedagogy. The main purpose of this qualitative
research technique is to gather unobservable information from
the participant perspective (Merriam, 1991). Spradley (1980)
says informants "speak in their own language . . . [and] are a
source of information!.] [Laterally, they become teachers for the
[researcher]" (p. 66). Since the purpose in this study was to learn
how the teachers made sense of their summer learning experience
and how they changed their pedagogical stance following
participation, the interview method which allows the source of
information to become the teacher and encourages entrance by an
outsider into the perspective of another person seemed an
appropriate research technique.
My purpose during the interviews was to "discover,
understand, [and] gain insight" (Merriam, 1991, p. 48) from the
participants. This purpose places the participant in the role of
authority over the criteria established by the researcher. In this
emic mode, or insider perspective, the researcher's role is one of
information gathering from the expert. This role encourages
participants to give personal responses rather than ones they

54
might feel the researcher wants. Merriam (1991) proposes that
the semistructured interview is more "open-ended and less
structured" than the traditional research survey, and provides a
guiding framework when "certain information is desired from all
the respondents" (p. 74). The questions in the semistructured
interview allow for individual responses, but they are
standardized enough so the responses are comparable.
I used this technique in the interviews I conducted. The
discussions were "guided by a list of questions. . .to be explored,
but neither the exact wording nor the order of the questions [was]
determined beforehand" (Merriam, 1991, p. 78), which allowed the
participant's expertise to lead the discussion under a general
framework. As I prepared for each interview, I incorporated not
only my inquiries that reflected the guiding questions for the
research but also those that grew from previous interviews and
classroom observations. In a synthesis of information about good
questions, Merriam (1991) notes that different questions elicit
different kinds of information. Experience/behavior,
opinion/value, feeling, knowledge, sensory, and
background/demographic questions are all possible question
types. In the interviews, I used questions from all these
categories except the sensory which seemed irrelevant to this
research. Merriam also suggested the use of hypothetical, devil's
advocate, ideal position, and interpretive questions; I used
questions from all of these categories (See Appendix).
Each teacher was interviewed between nine and eleven
times. The interview process began during the summer prior to

55
their writing-project experience and continued until the final
month of the school year that followed. Except for interview six,
which lasted about thirty minutes, the interviews lasted between
an hour and an hour-and-a-half each for a total of 10 to 15 taped
hours per teacher. All interviews were audio taped and
transcribed verbatim. The typed protocols were between 10 and
18 pages, so that each participant's interviews produced about
120 to 150 pages of text for analysis.
During interview one I attempted to learn about each
participant as a writer and a writing teacher. I prepared ten
questions for the interview, but allowed the respondents freedom
to discuss a topic in more detail when they guided the interview
in that direction. Generally, participants seemed pleased at the
opportunity to share their views with a willing listener, and I did
not have to prompt their participation. I conducted this interview
just as the summer writing projects began. The teachers had
been selected for writing-project attendance, but they had not
been influenced by the project. I wanted to intrude as little as
possible on the participants' summer vacation, but I wanted to
capture their understandings of writing instruction and of
themselves as writers before the writing project.
During interview two my guiding questions centered on the
participants' educational background and on their personal beliefs
about what they learned from their summer writing-project
participation. I also tried to gain a deeper understanding of their
teaching practices and why they selected those practices.
Interview three was designed to draw from the participants their

56
unfulfilled expectations from the writing project and a writing
theory on which their current instruction techniques were based.
The focus of interview four was on clarification of
information given during the first three interviews and
information gained during the accompanying observations. It was
at this time that I began to know the participants, and when
something I read from the transcribed tapes seemed at odds with
my growing understanding of each participant's beliefs about
writing instruction, I wrote that down and used that information
as the basis for questioning. For example, in one participant's
classroom, I observed the students begin a writing in each of
three classes; but I never saw what became of the writing, so
during the fourth interview I asked the teacher what the students
did with their writing after the initial draft. I knew from our
interviews and from evidence around the classroom that this
teacher spent time guiding the students' writing, but because I
had not observed that process in the classroom, the interview
allowed me to learn how that element of writing was
incorporated into instruction. Therefore, what was unobserved
was explained through an interview.
For an in-depth look at the physical arrangement of the
classroom, I took photographs during the observation prior to
interview five. As the class activities shifted, I took
photographs and recorded the activity in which the class was
involved. Since none of the teachers used the traditional row
configuration, I was curious about why that might be, and I
wanted a concrete way to discuss the various physical

57
arrangements generated by classroom instruction. To do this, I
felt I needed examples of changes that occurred in each class to
use as prompts for our discussions, so I chose to use photography
in this research project in conjunction with and as an extension
of the interview.
In quoting Collier, Fang (1985) says photography can "serve
as a stimulus during an interview" (p. 13) to prompt further
discussion of a topic. Tucker and Dempsey (1990) say that "the
verbal interview tend[s] to elicit general perceptions, [while] the
photographs shared in small group settings [elicit] more specific
perceptions" (p. 5). In his paper presented at the Annual Meeting
of the Evaluation Network and the Evaluation Research Society,
Fang (1985) said that "[p]hotography can be seen as an extension
for observation and as a complementary technique for
interviewing. As such it is another strategy for collecting data"
(p.11). He further stated that "[t]hrough procedures similar to
content analysis, photographs are examined on the basis of
specific themes or events" (p. 11). Because one purpose of this
study was to explore the in-depth thinking of teachers following
summer participation in the writing project, photography seemed
a good approach into the teacher thought process which neither an
observation nor an interview alone could stimulate.
During interview five I displayed the photographs taken in
the teacher's classroom and asked the teacher to respond to what
was represented in the pictured learning environment. Then I
showed a photograph of a traditional classroom setting to
stimulate comparison and expand discussion. I asked several

58
specific questions about the photographs, but then I allowed the
discussion to be directed by the teachers' comments. Each
participant eagerly viewed the photographs and used them as a
comfortable beginning for discussion not only of their own
classroom but also of their own personal experience in school as
a writer. I had tried on several occasions to elicit from the
participants memories of writing experiences during their school
years, but no one was able to draw much to mind until I showed
the photographs of their current classroom. Interestingly, the
photographs drew from each participant a detailed childhood
writing experience, data I wanted but had been unable to elicit
through direct questions.
Interview six occurred just after the winter holidays. I
was aware that my interviews took large chunks of the
participants' time at school, and so I shortened this interview to
give them a respite and to ease them back into the interview
schedule following the holidays. In this interview I focused on
only one thing: articulating perceptions of the positive aspects
from the summer writing project. This was important because
few of the writing instruction strategies that were presented by
fellow teachers actually made their way into the participants'
instruction repertoire. The participants mentioned that the
writing-project presentations were interesting but of little
value for their own classroom writing instruction. Since the
presentations took up a large portion of the writing-project time,
but were not useful in their practice, I used the interview to
probe for an explanation concerning the variance.

59
Interview seven was designed to determine how the
teachers were influenced beyond their classroom by writing-
project attendance. The next interview centered on how middle-
school considerations influenced instruction. During the final
interview, I focused on the participants as writers. This theme
was repeated throughout the interviews, but I wanted to
concentrate on this issue specifically. During this interview I
was interested in the participants as writers only, not as writing
teachers.
Throughout the interview process I telephoned the
participants and asked them for clarification or expansion on
issues discussed during the taped interviews. In this way I
validated my understanding of their thoughts as I made decisions
about the direction for the research. The interview information
is summarized in the following table.
Table 2
Interview Summary
Interview # Date Teachers Involved Interview Focus
One early McNew * Information on each as a
June 1992 Marriet
writer and as a teacher
of writing
Roth
Hammond
Two
mid
Oct. 1992
McNew
Marriet
Roth
Hammond
Educational background/
beliefs about what was
learned in the summer
writing project

60
Table 2--continued
Interview #
Date
Teachers Involved
Interview Focus
Three
late
Oct. 1992
McNew
Marriet
Roth
Hammond
Unfulfilled expectations
and personal writing
theory
Four
early
Nov. 1992
McNew
Marriet
Roth
Hammond
Clarification from first
three interviews;
photographs taken
Five
mid
Nov. 1992
McNew
Marriet
Roth
Hammond
Discussion of photographs
Six
mid
Jan. 1993
McNew
Marriet
Roth
Hammond
Articulation of positive
aspects of summer
project attendance
Seven
early
March 1993
McNew
Marriet
Roth
Hammond
How professionalism was
influenced beyond the
classroom by writing
project attendance
Eight
late
March 1993
Marriet
Roth
Hammond
Middle school considerations
when teaching writing and
applying ideas learned in
writing project
Nine
early
May 1993
Marriet
Roth
Hammond
Participants as writers
‘Because of Mr. McNew's schedule, 1 spread out the last two interviews over
four interview sessions which meant he was interviewed 11 times. His last
four interviews were early March, middle March, late March, and late May.
Observations
Because the purpose of this research project was to give a
voice to the individual experience of four teachers as they

61
progressed through pedagogical examination and change following
their writing-project experience, the interview acted as the
primary data source. However, the teachers in this study are
practitioners who--to one degree or another-applied what they
learned during the project. Merriam (1991) says that "methodical
triangulation combines dissimilar methods such as interviews,
observations, and physical evidence to study the same unit" (p.
69). The point of study from multiple directions is to strengthen
weaknesses inherent in a single direction of study. As a means of
strengthening the interview data and as a way to triangulate the
categories emerging from the interviews, I also included
observations of each participant's classroom.
Classroom observation began in September and continued
through May. I observed each classroom between seven and ten
times with each observation lasting one class period. The
observations occurred on the same day I interviewed the teachers.
I acted only in the observer role; I did not participate in any class
activity or discussion. During the observations I noted the nature
of the writing done by the students and teachers, the students'
familiarity with writing in the classroom, evidence of past and
future writing activities, teacher actions and behaviors related
to writing, and student actions and behaviors related to writing.
In the majority of the classes I observed, student writing was the
primary activity. I asked the teachers to allow my observations
to occur on writing days since my purpose was to view them as
writing teachers. During my observations I recorded everything I
saw related to writing. Generally, the typed notes from an

62
observation were from two to five pages which added 30 to 50
pages to each teacher's data gathered from the interviews.
All of the classes were heterogeneously grouped. Two were
seventh-grade classes; the other two were sixth-grade classes.
Although the observations did include two grade levels, county
curriculum goals for the two grades are similar. The writing
goals for both classes include increased fluency, better command
of English language conventions, introduction and practice in
different writing types with a concentration on the narrative
form using a variety of audiences, and possibilities for writing
experiences across the curriculum. Grade level is a factor in
making choices for curriculum, but for the purposes of this
research project, which centers on overall pedagogical
examination and change, grade level is less important than the
development of the teaching philosophy following writing-project
participation.
During the classroom observations I noted and recorded as
much of the teachers' behaviors as possible. I observed both their
behavior and their discussions during the classes. I tried to
record their words exactly, and most of my notes were as close
to verbatim as possible. I recorded information about bulletin
boards of student work and learning stations (discussed more in
the following section), which gave me information concerning the
teachers' classroom practice, prior writing activities, and overall
classroom approach; thus, a part of my observation is a
description of the classroom. I sat away from the center of
activity so I could watch but not intrude on the classroom

63
activities. During my initial visits the students inquired about
my presence, but each teacher explained my purpose and the
students quickly forgot about me.
Artifacts
In addition to the interviews and observations, I
investigated several artifact sources. Three of the teachers
wrote a position paper about their philosophy of writing and
writing instruction as part of the writing-project experience. I
was able to copy the papers and use them to check their written
expression against their verbalized and practiced philosophy. For
the fourth teacher, I obtained a similar written statement of
philosophy completed during a graduate course taken the year
before the writing project. Further, I received a copy of the
handouts the participants prepared to accompany their writing-
project presentations, and I made a display of photographs that
were used to prompt interview discussion (see Interview
section).
I also used classroom artifacts to aid in the "holistic
understanding" (Merriam, 1991, p. 169) of patterns and
generalizations that emerged from analysis of the interview data.
I made careful note of student writing displayed around each of
the four classrooms. My purpose was to see whether the
practices the participants proclaimed during our interviews were
applied in the reality of the classroom when I was not observing.
Other important classroom artifact sources were bulletin boards
and learning stations. Both reflected the teachers' purposes of

64
instruction and added to my data several verifiable displays of
the teachers' philosophy of writing and writing instruction.
Analysis of Data
According to Spradley (1980), analysis of any kind is a way
of thinking which involves systematic examination of the whole
to find its components, the relationships among the components,
and the relationship between the components and the whole in
search of patterns and meaning. Merriam (1991) states that data
gathering can become unfocused and repetitious without analysis
throughout the process. The principles from these statements
guided the work in this project. In addition to the guiding
research questions, the focus for each interview and observation
was based on what emerged from earlier interviews and
observations determined by initial analysis and emerging
categories, a process called for by Spradley (1980) and Merriam
(1991).
As part of the initial analysis process, I chose to transcribe
the taped interviews and hand-written observations. This act can
be performed by someone other than the researcher, but I found
that the task allowed me to recount in slow motion the
experience viewed during the data collection process and provided
me with an opportunity for valuable manipulation of the data. In
a sense, the words that belonged to the participant during data
collection became mine for data analysis. During this etic stage,
the point at which data moves from the insider perspective
(emic) to the more general and scientific setting (Sandstrum &

65
Sandstrum, 1995), I coded every section of each observation and
interview and made choices about direction for future interviews.
Merriam (1991) advises identifying the units, defined as the
smallest piece of information about some topic that can stand
alone, within each document and assigning a code to each.
Following this initial identification, the researcher should place
these units into categories based on some unifying theme. At this
initial point in data analysis, I followed Merriam's advice and
named each segment of data. In one interview Mrs. Hammond
talked about students who balk at working through each stage in
the writing process and related their sense of the writing
process to her own by saying, "Sometimes in my own writing it
just hits me, and I want to go with it; that's okay." The larger
discussion was about student writing, which I labeled as such,
but the embedded statement quoted here was about her personal
writing, and I labeled that statement to reflect Mrs. Hammond's
personal writing process.
Once that initial analysis was completed, I grouped all
related references. These initial groups acted as a beginning
place for data analysis as I combed through each list and
identified more specifically every reference. Under "personal
writing," some of Mrs. Hammond's references were specifically
about her own writing. She said that she became interested in
writing "because my teachers let me be creative, read aloud what
I wrote. We got excited about writing." That statement describes
her own writing, but in the statement mentioned above,
"Sometimes in my own writing it just hits me," the meaning

66
refers to how her own writing process influences practice. As
my data analysis progressed, sharper distinctions of meaning
became evident, and this increasing focus guided my coding in
more specific directions. In the example found in this paragraph,
I changed the category for the second reference from "personal
writing" to "evidence of personal writing techniques in practice,"
while the first reference stayed simply "personal writing."
Spradley (1980) calls the categories "domains" and says
they are composed of three elements: the cover term, the included
terms, and the semantic relationship between the two. For
example, in data analysis for this research, "personal writing,"
the cover term, includes several terms such as "early writing
experiences," "writing habits," and "reasons for writing" each of
which is connected to the cover term by the semantic
relationship "are a part of." Together they become "early writing
experiences are a part of personal writing," "writing habits are a
part of personal writing," and "reasons for writing are a part of
personal writing" under the domain "personal writing."
Once the domains are established, Spradley says the next
step in analysis is preparation of a domain analysis worksheet
which is designed to organize and offer a visual structure for
viewing the data. His example places the included terms on the
left side of the page, the semantic relationship in the middle, and
the cover term on the right side. The next step in my analysis
process was preparation of a domain analysis worksheet, but
mine looks slightly different from the one Spradley suggests
because I constructed it with two purposes in mind: (a) I wanted

67
to follow the established procedures cited by Spradley, and for
this reason I included most of the elements he suggests, but (b) I
realized that the sheet was for my use. So, besides the included
terms and domains that Spradley suggests, I also included
location within the protocols for each domain and included term,
but because I had internalized the semantic relationship by this
point in my analysis, I did not write out that relationship on each
page.
In the next stage of analysis, I began comparing categories
based on what Merriam (1991) calls convergence and divergence,
which assumes that the investigator will sort the data according
to the way units and categories or domains fit together, as well
as how the units separate or how they are different. Thus, the
focus shifts from a comparison within categories to a comparison
among the categories. This kind of analysis focuses the continued
data collection so that the researcher can determine areas that
need additional data and further develop important domains
(Merriam, 1991). Spradley (1980) discusses the process of
broadening the perspective of the data by moving the analysis
toward finding how the domains are related to an emerging whole.
He calls this step a taxonomic analysis. During this stage I
established relationships between initial domains and developed
general categories. In this classification step, two similar
domains, "part of writing instruction" and "purpose of writing
instruction," come under a more general title, "beliefs about
teaching writing." In another part of analysis at this stage, I
found that an important comparable domain showed that the

68
teachers were not implementing the writing-instruction
techniques learned during writing-project participation.
Subsequently, a portion of the collection of data focused on this
topic, specifically the guiding questions used in interview seven.
Toward the end of my analysis, I began to compare domains
among the participants. Significant and similar patterns emerged
across the domains that became the basis for the discussion of
the participants that can be found in the next chapters. Some of
those domains are "personal writing," "practices in instruction,"
and "experience in and influence of the writing project." What
also emerged was that each participant had a significant domain
that was not comparable across participants. These unique
domains act as the identifying category which allows discussion
of the differences among the participants.
The continued analysis of data assumes two levels at all
times, Spradley (1980) says, and this analysis provides the
framework for the presentation of the findings from this
research project. The first level includes analysis of the details
and intricacies of the culture; the second includes analysis that
expands the first into the broader picture or the holistic view of
what Spradley calls the culture or the recurring principle found
across several domains. These principles may be tacit or
explicit, and they act as a unifying theme among domains. While
it may appear that data analysis is a linear process, that is not
the case; rather, it is a recursive act that could continue
indefinitely but ceases when generalizations about the data cease
to offer new insights (Merriam, 1991). The process involves

69
progressing from data gathering to drawing generalizations from
the data into inclusive categories. These categories are then
combined and subsumed under themes. From the themes, Merriam
(1991) says, come speculations as outgrowth of the data about
what might occur in future educational practice. This section of
the data analysis is detailed in later chapters.
Validity and Reliability
Kirk and Miller (1986) state that "[o]bjectivity. . .is the
essential basis of good research. . .[which is] the simultaneous
realization of as much reliability and validity as possible" (p. 20).
Merriam (1991) writes that for the case study to have any effect
on theory or practice, studies "must be believed and trusted; they
need to present insights and conclusions that ring true" (p. 164).
The idea is that reliability and validity are instrumental in all
research and to assess both, the components of the study
including the way it was conceptualized and the way the data
were "collected, analyzed, and interpreted" (p. 165) must be
addressed.
Internal validity "deals with the question of how one's
findings match reality" (Merriam, 1991, p. 166). Merriam uses
Taylor and Bogdan's argument that the researcher's job is to
present as nearly as possible an honest account of how
informants view themselves and their world. Toward that end,
six strategies are presented that can guide the researcher to
ensure internal validity: (a) triangulation--using multiple
investigators, sources of data, or multiple methods to verify

70
emerging findings; (b) member checks-taking data and
interpretations back to the informants throughout the research
process; (c) long-term observation-gathering data over an
extended period of time; (d) peer examination-having colleagues
comment on emerging findings; (e) participatory modes of
research-involving the participants in all areas of the research
from conceptualization to writing up the findings; (f) researcher
biases-specifying the researcher's views on related areas at the
beginning of the research (Merriam, 1991, p. 169-170).
In an attempt to account for internal validity, I have applied
as closely as possible Merriam's six strategies. I was the only
investigator in the research, and I returned to the subjects
throughout the process to have them verify the emerging findings.
I also interviewed writing project leaders and district language-
arts supervisors as a means of triangulation. Each interview
after the first began with questions of clarification and
verification of my understanding from the previous interview and
observation. In a summative interview, the questions verified my
understandings of information from earlier interviews.
Classroom and actual writing project observations were also
employed as another form of triangulation. Throughout the entire
research process my colleagues and mentors offered insight and
advice on the direction of the investigation. Biases are addressed
in the next section of this chapter.
External validity, concerned with how well one study can be
applied in other situations, does not fit the purpose of this work,
which is aimed toward "understanding, extension of experience,

71
and [an] increase in conviction in that which is known" (Stake,
quoted in Merriam, 1991, p. 176). My purpose is understanding
thoroughly decisions for classroom practice and articulating the
authentic teacher voice through a believable research process.
Reliability in a research design "is based on the assumption
that there is a single reality which if studied repeatedly will
give the same results" (Merriam, 1991, p. 170). Generally,
qualitative research will not yield the same results upon
replication, if in fact replication is even a possibility. Merriam
notes that "rather than demanding that outsiders get the same
results, one wishes outsiders to concur that, given the data
collected, the results make sense--they are consistent and
dependable" (1991, p. 172). It is my plan to carry the reader
carefully through my research and analysis process in order to
substantiate interpretations and lend credibility not only to the
work done but also to the conclusions drawn. Toward that end, I
followed Merriam's structure for investigators to ensure that
results are dependable. First, she calls for the investigator to
explain the assumptions and theory behind the study (See
Chapters 1 and 2), and to include the basis for and description of
participants, both of which are detailed in this chapter. Second,
Merriam states that triangulation should be used in the work;
those methods are explained in this chapter. Finally, Merriam
urges researchers to detail how data were collected and analyzed,
the organizing focus for this entire chapter.

72
Validation and Safeguards against Bias
Initial interviews and observations grew from the research
questions, but over time both were guided by things seen and
heard in earlier observations and interviews. Having been a
middle school classroom teacher and a participant in a writing
project several years ago, I realized I had some preconceived
notions about both and that I needed to be aware of my biases at
all points in the research. McCracken (1988) warns against
active listening which would encourage the researcher to "read"
hidden meanings into either spoken or body language. In place of
active listening, the researcher should design interviews to
encourage the participants to tell their own stories. He suggests
the use of structured prompts, but the problem with strict
adherence to specific questions is that the "humanness," the
essence of the participant story, can be missed since set
questions leave little room for personal variance. Merriam
(1991) offers a solution to this dilemma. The researcher needs to
be a reflective listener which includes more listening than
talking with occasional rephrasing to check for clarification and
understanding. The researcher does not put words into the
participant's mouth but makes certain the words heard are the
ones meant. In this project I followed this advice by using a
semistructured interview process.
Additionally, I followed Merriam's (1991) advice during the
interviews. She states that the interviewer can minimize
distortion of a respondent's message by "being neutral and
nonjudgmental no matter how much a respondent's revelations

73
violate the interviewer's standards" (p. 75). I made every effort
to allow the participant to answer with as little direction as
possible from me. I kept an audit trail, documented throughout
this chapter, (Guba, 1980) to act as verification of my research
process. Merriam (1991) says that "for an audit trail to take
place, the investigator must describe in detail how data were
collected, how categories were derived, and how decisions were
made throughout the inquiry" (p. 172). In order to accommodate
this need, the interviews were audio taped and transcribed. Each
was dated and labeled according to the place of the interview.
Observations were likewise labeled and dated. My research notes
were kept in conjunction with the interview or observation that
prompted them. All of my data analysis worksheets are kept with
the participant's notes and data analysis and my entire research
process is explained in this chapter.
The use of various data sources and interviews with
participants, writing project directors, and county language-arts
supervisors act as elements of triangulation, and as the work
progressed during data gathering and during data analysis, I
presented tentative findings to the participants as well as to
colleagues as a way to gauge whether I had correctly captured the
essence of each participant's voice.
Theoretical Frame
Three theoretical perspectives converge in this research:
writing project theory, composition theory, and staff
development theory. Two considerations for teacher development

following writing-project attendance (Blau, 1988, 1993, &
Nelms, 1991) act as a framework for discussion of how the
teachers in this study relate to the larger population of teachers
who have attended writing projects. To discuss these teachers
only in terms of writing project theory, however, negates two
important areas related to this research. The first is the
connection between the teachers and the larger issue of writing
instruction as an element within composition theory (Berlin,
1988). The participants in this study attended a writing project
and they are teachers of writing, but to fully explore their
experiences in the writing project, a connection to both writing
project and composition theories adds depth to the discussion.
Finally, in analyzing how the composition teachers in this study
are affected by their writing-project attendance-a highly
regarded staff-development program-it is important to consider
how their experiences offer insight into the third theoretical
perspective that drives this research-staff development theory.
The next four chapters summarize and report the
information gathered in this study; they are organized in a case-
study format with separate chapters devoted to each teacher.
The information on these teachers is drawn from my observations
of their classrooms, interviews with the participants, and
interviews with project leaders and county language arts
supervisors. The interviews with project leaders and language
arts supervisors were designed primarily to corroborate and
triangulate the data that I collected from observations of and
interviews with the participants. Furthermore, these data were

75
supplemented by examination of writing samples from students in
each teacher's classroom and by my reading of written products
from the participants' writing project folders.
Each chapter begins with a brief description of the context
in which the teachers act out their beliefs about writing and the
teaching of writing. This is followed by a detailed description of
one sample class observation. Next is a description of the
teachers as writers with the understanding that their own
experiences as writers, their writing processes, and their
attitudes toward writing may influence their teaching of writing.
Zancanella (1988) found that this was true of teachers in the
teaching of literature.
Following the personal writing are sections devoted to the
practices and principles of writing instruction. Then the
description moves from the individual stories of the participants
as writing teachers to the story of each one's involvement in the
writing project and the subsequent professional development
with particular attention to the roles they assume as
teacher/consultants or teacher/leaders in their own school
districts and elsewhere.

CHAPTER 4
MS. ROTH-TEACHER WHO WRITES
School Context
School Description
Ms. Roth teaches in a rural middle school which has a slight
cosmopolitan air. Many of the students are from farming
families, but some are from professional families because
several upper-end neighborhoods feed the school's population.
The school is located at the edge of a large campus next to
beautiful spreading oaks native to the area. Grades five through
eight are housed in the building, but the fifth grade is separated
from the other grades. Ms. Roth's classroom is on the back wing
and has a wall of windows facing the woods. On the adjoining
wall is a chalkboard, and the adjacent wall has an unused coat
rack and the teacher's desk. Behind that is a classroom sink and a
door which connects Ms. Roth's room to the next classroom. The
fourth wall has two closet doors. A large carpet remnant for
class gatherings is in front of those doors. Student writing and
projects hang from the ceiling and from the walls, and the
student work areas are individual tables placed together in
groups of four so the students face each other. Nanci Atwell
(1986) advocates what she calls "discussion around the dining
room table," and Ms. Roth's class exemplifies this concept. On her
76

77
desk sits a small lamp and a soft pillow lies in her chair. While
the students do not actually sit around a table to talk, Ms. Roth
gathers her students into a comfortable "dining room discussion"
offering each student the opportunity to join the writing and
reading family which develops during the school year. The
following section contains a detailed description of one day in
this classroom.
Class Observation
When I arrived Ms. Roth was bustling around the room
preparing for the day. She gave me a brief review of the class
schedule so I would know what was going on during the class
period. Then she explained that at her school the students wait
outside the classroom before school starts. This allows the
teachers some planning time. Then she left the room to get her
students. I could hear them quiet down as Ms. Roth began talking.
She led the group back inside. All of the students entered quietly,
removed their chairs from the tables, sat down, and began work
on the daily "Caught 'Ya."
"I attend Northside Middle School, this is my second year in
Middle School."
Ms. Roth may have told them to begin work on the Caught 'Ya
while outside because when they entered she did not have to
explain what they were to do. They all started to work, and Ms.
Roth walked around the room. She stamped the students' papers
indicating that they had corrected the mistakes in the Caught 'Ya.

78
When she completed her rounds, Ms. Roth and the class went over
the Caught 'Ya. The sentences were projected onto a screen in a
corner of the room. Ms. Roth began the work by asking, "Okay.
What's the problem today?"
"The T at the first of the sentence needs to be a capital
letter," one student answered.
Ms. Roth said, "Right!! What's the rule that supports that?"
Another students said, "All sentences begin with a capital
letter. Always!!"
"You've got it! Now anything else?"
"The 'middle school' in the second sentence doesn't need
capital letters," answered a third student.
"Wow! You guys are great this morning. I haven't heard
anything but right answers. I'm going to have to make these
Caught 'Ya's harder. That's right--no capital letters in the second
sentence. Now who knows why? Maybe I'll stump you here."
"Because that's not a major noun."
Ms. Roth corrected the student by saying, "Well, that's close.
Very close. Who can tell her what we call those major nouns?"
Several students responded by saying, "Proper nouns."
"That's right, but that's not how we answer. Just one of you
at a time. Okay? Well now. We've had a pretty good start to our
day. What is the rule about proper nouns and common nouns--the
name of nouns that don't need a capital letter?"
This time the students raised their hands, and Ms. Roth
called on one who responded, "Proper nouns need capital letters.

79
They are about particular things, but common nouns aren't. They
are just about anything."
"That's right. Does everyone understand that rule?
Particular places, things, and people are proper nouns and use
capital letters to begin the words. Common nouns are just any
place, thing, or person and they begin with small letters. That's a
very important rule. Let's try to use it and not forget it."
With the Caught Ya completed, Ms. Roth moved the students
to their next activity. "Okay. It's time to move into our mini¬
lesson for today. Are you ready? You can all answer this time."
"Yes! Yes!" came the reply.
One thing I noticed throughout the day was that Ms. Roth
called on all of the students. If one did not know the answer, the
student was allowed to say so and then call on a classmate to
answer. This technique seemed to include everyone in the class
discussion. No one was put on the spot, but all students knew
they might be called on and so they needed to give some attention
to the discussion.
The day's mini-lesson was on the symbols for the status-
of-the-class technique Ms. Roth uses. The idea came from the
book In the Middle (1986) by Nanci Atwell, and the purpose of the
symbols is to give the students and teacher a common language so
they can discuss the progress of student writing. Ms. Roth simply
explained the purpose of each symbol: TS-topic search, D1--
First draft, D2-Second draft, SC-Self conference, PC-Peer
conference, TC-Teacher conference, PC D1-Peer conference on

80
first draft, SE--Self edit, PE--Peer edit, TE--Teacher edit, PC-
Polished copy, P-Publish.
At the end of the mini-lesson, Ms. Roth explained to the
students that each day they wrote she would call roll, and they
would answer by calling out the letters that corresponded to the
status of the writing they would do that day. After the simple
explanation, Ms. Roth and the students tried out the process. She
asked, "Okay. Are you ready?"
All of the students replied "Yes!!"
"Now, when I call your name, call out-using the status-of-
the-class letters-what you will work on today when we write.
Now we will try to do this in 90 seconds. I'll set the timer. Let's
see if we can beat the timer. On your mark. Get set."
And she began calling out each student's name. I thought
they did very well. The students were not confused by the letter
codes, and they knew what they would work on during the writing
time. Eventually the time ran out before they had completed the
roll call.
"Oh!! We didn't beat the timer, but we did a very good job.
I'm so proud of the way you handled that. That was hard and you
went through that like pros. Do you understand what we are
doing?" asked Ms. Roth. The students replied that they did.
"Okay. During our next writing time we'll do that again, so
don't forget how to run through the status-of-the-class. And next
time, I'll bet we beat our time! Don't you?" The students
responded confidently that they would. Time seemed very
important to Ms. Roth. Later she told me that the object of timing

81
the class is to teach the importance of time. When she and the
students did an activity, they tried to beat their last time. This
was training for the remainder of the school year because Ms.
Roth wanted the class to be structured tightly to move smoothly
from activity to activity.
At this point Ms. Roth sent the students to do their writing.
Each knew what writing needed to be accomplished during the
writing time. Some went to a carpet area for quiet writing while
others stayed at their desks to write. A group hovered over the
baskets filled with pictures for topic ideas. Two students went
to a conference corner to discuss their work in progress. The
students were completely free to go work wherever they wanted.
I was impressed with how quickly they began working and how
intent they were on their writing.
The students were quiet and well behaved. From my
experience with this age students, I think they were also
independent. The ones in conference corners whispered and
seemed to be discussing a writing. Ms. Roth made contact with
several students. At one point she spoke to a student close by me.
"I see on my status-of-the-class roll that you are working
on a first draft. What is your topic?"
"Well, I want to write about the trip my dad and me took on
Saturday. I went with him when he bought two cows. We ate at a
really neat restaurant on the way there. They made a lunch for us
to take with us because we couldn't stop on our way back because
we had the cows. I had fun and want to write about that,"
explained the student.

82
Ms. Roth replied, "I like the sound of that story. That's a
wonderful experience you had with your dad. You should save it in
your writing. Try to remember what you saw, how the food
tasted, the smell of the place where the cows stayed. Think of
the details and include them. Take your chair outside under that
tree. Think about what your senses experienced that day and let
that lead your writing. See what you can do to create a picture of
what you and your dad did. I can't wait to see how the day really
looked to you." She gave the student some direction for the
writing without dictating what had to be included.
Toward the end of the class Ms. Roth called everyone to the
carpeted area in the front of the room. She sat on a chair, and the
students sat around her. I was reminded of circle time in
elementary school.
"While I was walking around the room talking to you today, I
noticed that one student was ready to share with us. Honey,
would you like to read now?" Ms. Roth directed the question
toward a young lady in the class.
The student said, "Sure, I'm ready," and she read her paper
about one of her good friends. Included in the text was a
description of the friend's physical appearance and the friend's
home, several experiences the two shared, and a final paragraph
that explained how important the friend is to the reader. When
she finished the reading, the students were supportive of the
writing.
One student said, "I liked the way you described your
friend's room. It sounds like a nice room."

83
Another said, "My favorite part was the way you told about
how you have been friends for your whole life. Here at school and
at church."
And a third responded, "Yeah, and the part where you two got
into trouble because you didn't take your brother with you when
your mom told you to. That made me smile."
After the reading and comments from the students, class
time was almost over. To close the class Ms. Roth said, "Good
comments from you today. The paper was full of real experiences.
That's part of what made us like it. Thank you for reading. And
thank you, audience, for being so attentive during the reading and
for your comments. They showed you were really listening. Good
job!! We need to prepare for leaving class. Let's get the room
ready for the next class. That's the right way to listen. Good
work today. Have a good day."
Personal Writing
As important as the instructional setting is, its purpose and
direction are defined by the educational leader in the classroom.
Ms. Roth leads her class, but a part of who she is as a teacher is
determined by who she is as a writer. Personal writing began for
Ms. Roth in fourth grade. Her teacher gave the students time for
writing, an element Ms. Roth believes is critical to writing
development. The teacher pushed Ms. Roth at times, but an
atmosphere of trust developed between the two of them and Ms.
Roth says, "I was free to do what I wanted, and I did it." She
wrote on topics that pleased her, and she read and wrote about

84
the books she read. "I remember sitting under a desk on a piece of
carpet. I felt so free. I could do just what I wanted. The
experience of being able to write where I wanted to write and
what I wanted to write was important to me." This teacher
nurtured Ms. Roth as a writing student and as an individual.
Besides the writing instruction, another important element in
that writing classroom was the interaction between Ms. Roth and
her teacher. "What I can remember is this fat lady putting her
arm around me and squeezing me real tight. I remember that."
This meaningful classroom experience was the only time Ms. Roth
felt a teacher actually taught her how to write, and Ms. Roth
attributes her growth in writing to the connection between
reading and writing and ample time for writing. She says that the
fourth-grade teacher provided books for the students to read.
Then she allowed each student to select interesting titles for
personal reading; and finally, the teacher scheduled "so much time
to write and we were allowed to sit on the floor and chat with
our friends about our writing." Ms. Roth did not mention any
particular elements of writing that she learned, but this
classroom experience offered her the opportunity to discover
reading and writing at her own level and then progress from
there.
As an adolescent she says she escaped from the realities of
the world through writing. "I went to the park to write. That was
the only quiet place to go." Ms. Roth says she wrote pages and
pages of poetry, which "are my life." They tell her who she was
then, and they offer direction for her as she works with

85
adolescents today. She posts some of her early work on the
bulletin board in her classroom each year so that her students can
begin to know her as a writer and as a person. She says of those
pages, "When I read those things I wrote, it helps me know what
my students need in our class."
In college she wrote and did fairly well, but she does not
feel she "knew how to fix the writing" she wrote. She says that
academic writing "was stressful sometimes because I waited
until the last minute. ... If I'd been graded on process writing in
college, I'd have failed" because she usually wrote only a single
draft. Writing was also stressful because she knew so little
about writing. "I wrote one research paper in high school. Luckily
[in college] I had a few friends who told me some things. 'State
your thesis here and do this here.' Basically they said this is the
five-paragraph essay, and I plugged that in every time."
Eventually, however, she says she discovered how to write
because teachers offered feedback on papers done incorrectly.
Presently she uses the writing process as her writing guide. "I
use a modified process of writing like the one I teach my
students. I don't go through the process exactly like I show them,
but I want them to have that so they will know how to fix their
own writing. I wish someone had shown me that earlier." She
says she does not always write down her brainstorming process.
Instead, she deliberates over what to say and then goes straight
to the drafting stage. This saves her time and allows her to focus
more on her ideas.

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Ms. Roth says that when she writes now and "really gets
into the writing," the feeling she gets is like the athlete who is
"in the zone." Everything is working together and the world is
tuned out so that when she returns from this "writing zone" it is
like waking from a dream. The experience of meeting herself as a
writer is the most exciting part of writing for Ms. Roth. This
experience is so important to Ms. Roth that she mentions it
several time during our interviews. At one point she struggles to
clarify her thoughts, perhaps as much for herself as for me, but
she says that the interior rewards of writing stem from "the
power of writing." She goes on to say that the "power that comes
from the experience of writing" is based on "reliving what you've
done or living what you are creating. [When writing] you may go
anywhere you want to go and do anything you want to do. And
that's a powerful thing." One aspect of this power was difficult
for Ms. Roth to explain, but she did say this:
You are writing about an experience, but that process . . .
of writing it and doing the thinking that's connected [with
the writing] and the remembering that's connected [with
the writing]--having the sensory images in your mind as
you're writing--so that whole experience . . . [of] writing
and the reading or sharing of your writing or whatever you
do with your writing when you're done--that whole
experience, not only the experience from which it came
but the experience of getting it down on the paper and
doing whatever you do with it. When that experience
changes you somehow, then you are a writer. . . . For some
reason it clicks with you and it makes a significant change
in you as a person, I really feel like [then] the writer
senses the power of writing (emphasis hers).
Right now, time constraints keep Ms. Roth from doing all the
writing she would like and from experiencing the rewards

87
available to her through writing, but the desire to write is strong.
"I would like to do more [writing]. . . . Those feelings when I've
written something good can't be taken away from me or from
anybody. That's a powerful feeling. . . . When you take the time to
[write] and you do it regularly and you make it become a habit, and
your writing gets better and better, that's the best." These are
the feelings she'd like to foster through more personal writing.
Ms. Roth is a developing writer; it is not her life, but she
does enjoy the work and actively pursues personal writing. She
says that "I'd have killed to have had a writing class like mine,"
when in school--a class that offered her time to pursue her own
writing. The fourth grade class came close, but that was only one
year. She desired more school time for writing and structures
her class around this need.
Writing Instruction
This section is devoted to Ms. Roth's practice in writing
instruction. To look carefully at her work, this topic is divided
into three areas. In the first section, her actual classroom
practice is explored. In the second section, principles underlying
her practice are detailed; and in the third section, the areas
within instruction that reflect qualities of practice unique to Ms.
Roth are described.
Practices in Instruction
Ms. Roth is concerned that her students have ample time for
their writing and that she has worthwhile instruction for them

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during their time together. She does her own search for
appropriate strategies for instruction within that writing time.
One place she looks for direction is from the district-level,
middle-school curriculum guide. She says, "I was really surprised
at how nonspecific it was. In a way ... it really scares me that a
student is not required to accomplish a certain skill and we're not
held liable to that in a real specific manner." Although the lack
of direction bothers her to some extent because teachers are not
held accountable for their writing instruction, she has learned to
live within that structure, or lack of structure, and makes
curriculum decisions based on her understanding of what best
constitutes a good writing classroom. Because Ms. Roth feels
that students "need time to write and an opportunity to express
themselves and to find different ways to express themselves,"
she uses a writing-workshop environment for her instruction.
She carefully leads her students to understand that one part of
their job as writers includes behaving and working appropriately
in the writing workshop. When describing the importance of the
learning environment, Ms. Roth says:
I spend the first two to three months working on the
procedures for writing workshop. And if we don't get it
right, we do it again and again. It's a temptation to let
something small go the wayside; I want to get some
writing done today. But, I know if I do not hold them
responsible, it will never be done right. I can remember
[one day] after the mini-lesson. They went to the writing
areas noisily. I asked them "How do we go to the carpet
and get the clipboard and do our thing? We do it quietly
and don't run." So I made them go back to their desks.
"We've got to do that again." There are days when we do
that three, four, five times.

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Ms. Roth is convinced that the environment is a predecessor to a
well-run writing classroom and works with her students until
they understand exactly how the classroom should operate.
Within that writing environment, Ms. Roth instructs through
the use of the mini-lesson. Because she writes with her
students, Ms. Roth is able to show the young writers by word and
deed that she believes in writing as a process. She shares her
writing process with the students as a model, but then she uses
class time to teach that process so it can become the students'
own. In class the emphasis is not "about that final piece, it's
about how ... we get to that final piece." The point is to "make
sure they understand the process." Simply teaching the students
the steps in the writing process is not the goal.
To assist students as they work toward understanding
writing as both a product and as a process, Ms. Roth puts the
students in charge of their work by asking them questions about
their writing such as, "What are you doing here today? Why did
you make that choice? Where are you going with this piece?
What do you think you need to do next?" These questions require
student ownership of the writing. Ms. Roth is not telling the
students what they must do to repair their work, but she guides
their thinking and offers questioning techniques that they can
later apply to other pieces of writing.
Their work begins with prewriting, where the "point is to
put words on paper." Ms. Roth says the students are not to "worry
about punctuation or capitalization, only getting words on paper."

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They must write. "I'm pretty structured with them [at the
beginning of the year] because I feel they need that structure at
first. Writing scares them." For example, ideally, writing topics
may come from within the writer; but for students having trouble
deciding on a topic, Ms. Roth consistently gives support. She
says, "I set up lots of topic search centers in my room. I change
them every six weeks" to help students find subjects of personal
interest for their writing. During my observations I saw the
students use these centers. Often there were pictures for
students to browse through, but there were also poems and
seemingly simple sayings that could prompt student thinking.
Newspaper articles and cartoons were available once, and another
time Ms. Roth had placed an empty construction paper frame on
the window with the word "Look" above it. Students could gaze
out the window at the beautiful scenery for writing inspiration.
Besides the individual search possibilities, Ms. Roth also guides
students toward topic selection during teacher-student
conference time. Even after topics are selected and students are
well into their writing, Ms. Roth continues to offer her guidance
and support. She remembers what it was like to be a young
writer. "I can remember the feeling when I didn’t really know
what to do with a piece of writing, so I put some structure to
this [writing classroom] by helping them with their process," not
just at the end by writing comments on final drafts but also at
other stages in the process.
When Ms. Roth describes herself as "zig zagging" around the
room, she means that she constantly moves about from one

91
student to another, not as a distraction but as the educational
leader. During my observations I never saw her relax. She knows
what each student is doing because of the status of the class
report completed at the beginning of class; so when she stops to
work with a student, she and the student can begin work
immediately. Perhaps because she works with the students
individually almost daily, Ms. Roth knows each one's needs as a
writer and can focus comments toward particular student needs.
She is convinced that she "can do more teaching with a short
lesson directed [toward] the individual." When we discussed this
curriculum choice she said that whole-group instruction would
probably be sufficient for high-school students but that "this age
group needs my whole attention, and I can't do that if I talk all
day."
In order to allow a sufficient amount of time for writing
during the class period, Ms. Roth teaches writing techniques,
mechanics, and usage through daily mini-lessons. These lessons,
which last "twenty minutes tops," are designed around the needs
of the students as demonstrated in their writing and from their
questions about writing. She says that "after reading the first
set of papers this year, I saw some things we needed to work on
like- how we write an introduction, how we summarize a piece
we read, how we narrow a topic, and how to add more
description." During my observations I saw the content of the
mini-lesson presented several different ways. Ms. Roth used the
overhead projector to demonstrate an English convention; during
another observation I saw her use an oral reading to introduce a

92
possible writing topic; and I saw her use a handout she had
prepared with examples of a particular skill to support student
practice before application to individual writing. Ms. Roth also
uses a technique called Caught 'Ya designed by a colleague in her
district to teach mechanics. This teaching tool allows Ms. Roth
to keep students aware of the conventions of language while
avoiding repetitious drills often present in English classrooms.
As in the mini-lesson, she uses student errors as the basis for
the Caught 'Ya and says that "hopefully over the year I'm going to
see those skills transfer into their writing. That's the main
reason I use it. When we get to that polished copy stage, I'm
going to begin seeing those skills transfer over."
The students in Ms. Roth's class spend time discussing their
writing with the teacher, but they also spend time talking about
writing with their peers. One corner of the room is set up for the
students so they can go there and feel free to talk about their
writing. I watched several groups of students use that corner. I
expected them to spend their time talking, but I was not sure that
I would find them working on their writing, since their teacher
was often in another part of the room. What I found was that
although Ms. Roth was not standing right by the conference
corner, she kept a close watch on the area. The students seemed
to know that they were supposed to discuss their writing. All of
the groups that I saw went prepared to talk about writing. They
took their current draft, sat quietly, and appeared to take notes
from what their partner offered as suggestions. Ms. Roth says
that these discussions are vital to developing student writers

93
because "they give students time to learn what writers say about
writing." The students also discussed their writing with Ms. Roth
as she walked around the room, and from time to time I saw her
go to the conference corner with several students. She and the
students sat on the floor and discussed their writing just like the
students did. Once I saw Ms. Roth ask for help with a piece of her
own writing. Later she told me that she sometimes uses that
technique with students who have trouble talking about writing.
These students go to the conference corner reluctantly and offer
few suggestions. She says that when she takes a student to the
conference corner, she can "give the student some ideas about
what writers might talk about."
Ms. Roth works with her whole class on writing techniques
through the mini-lesson and the Caught 'Ya, but when the students
go into the writing portion of the class, each student writes as an
individual. At the beginning of each grading period, Ms. Roth and
her students specify goals for the coming nine weeks. Students
are accountable for their work and decide how they will achieve
their writing goals. She says that her goal is to have a writing
class
where everybody in my room is working on something that
is of interest to them. I don't need to say a word to
anybody. I can look up at any time and see that everybody
is on task, that they know how the procedures of writing
workshop work. No one needs to ask me if they can get up
and go to a conference corner to conference with so and
so. I don't hear a voice louder than a conference voice,
and I have kids coming up to me saying, "Hey, Ms. Roth. I
want to work on this." Telling me what they want to do.

94
She does not want them to direct her so that she can sit back and
relax; instead, she wants her students to have an interest and
involvement in their writing so intense that they take on the
responsibility for their own learning. In fact, she says that she
sees herself "as the manager of a writing workshop. Not that I
say 'You will write this and do that,' but that I direct less and
less as the students learn more about their writing process."
She also expects that during a grading period each student
will take some pieces of writing through the entire writing
process. "I require a first draft. I need to see that second draft,
and I need to see that growth has occurred." During any class
period, students are at various stages in their writing, and Ms.
Roth guides them wherever they are. "You need to be able to
explain to me why you've made those changes. And I need to see
that you've self-edited and peer-edited your paper." The students
are required to work their way through the writing process before
turning in a completed paper.
For students to receive their grade they must show that
they have honestly worked on their writing. Ms. Roth says:
In my classroom I give the students so many points
for each step in the process. For example, I'll give them
so many points for writing that first draft. Then I'll give
them so many points for writing that second draft; and
then I look to see if they have incorporated some new
ideas into this, have they taken out something. And they
need to explain why. If they have done that and I can see
that, they get those process points. If they self edited, if
they had a peer edit, if I edited it and they have taken care
of all the things the editors point out, then they get their
process points. They also get a grade for the writing they
do.

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Ms. Roth is very much a part of the students' process of
writing and by structuring class time so they have opportunity to
write, she also guarantees time for working with her young
writers. Her students need time in class for their personal
writing, and when she can give them that time, it is possible to
"see a difference in their writing." For Ms. Roth, watching the
students take a personal interest in their writing "is exciting!!
When they find that, you can't stop them." During this writing
process, the teacher plays an important role which includes
directing student-teacher conferences and insuring classroom
opportunities for students to share their writing, but the
students are responsible for their own writing. Ms. Roth says
that for these activities to be successful the teacher must
"create a community of learners who accept each other as
writers." This community does not develop on its own. It is the
product of much work on the part of the teacher.
She must teach them the vocabulary of the writer and model
not only writing but also discussion of writing, so the students
will know how to ask questions about their work. She must also
teach them how writers behave and treat one another. She works
with the students all year long in the training process and as the
year progresses, Ms. Roth says that the students get to a point
where she can "let go as they develop into writers." Even though
the students learn to identify their own writing needs, she
continues to be the steadying force in the classroom. She is
always the teacher; sometimes as the director but at other times

96
as a source for students who are directing their own learning
process.
Principles of Writing Instruction
Ms. Roth began her teaching career in an inner-city school.
Her students were not responsive to traditional instruction, so
Ms. Roth searched for alternative teaching strategies. She began
her experimentation based on her reading of In the Middle by Nanci
Atwell (1986). This book served as the prescription for Ms.
Roth's early teaching of writing. She says, "In the very beginning
it kind of told me what to do," but as she worked with her
students and grew more confident in her ability as a writing
teacher, Ms. Roth began dropping Atwell's procedures while
searching for techniques that supported her particular teaching
needs. Thus began the process of elimination and the search for
substantial elements to fill in the gaps. She says "that's when I
went to the county writing workshop" which offered some
specific teaching techniques designed to draw students into
writing. In addition, Ms. Roth joined the county association
devoted to whole-language instruction. This group offered more
ideas about how to teach writing and helped Ms. Roth "see the
connections between the reading and writing" in which her
students engaged.
Ms. Roth attended the writing project and during time
allotted for personal writing, she realized the importance of
apparent idleness for writers. They may be, as she says she was,
intensely contemplative. "Sometimes during our writing time [in

97
the project] I would just sit and think. Now I allow students to
do the same thing" during the time they need for incubation before
transforming ideas into words.
Ms. Roth also reads about writing instruction. She mentions
that she reads professional journals like the English Journal and
books on topics like student conferences. This combination of
influences--Ms. Roth's attendance in inservice programs designed
to help teachers enhance their writing instruction practices and
professional reading--has converged toward a theory of writing
instruction based on the assumption that the process of writing
is more important than the final product and that students need
time to develop into writers. As firmly as Ms. Roth believes this,
she also believes that her theory will continue to develop as she
reads more professional literature, interacts further with other
writing teachers, and continues to learn about the teaching of
writing through trial and error. "Oh, I never stop changing. I learn
something at this meeting; I get a new idea from a book on
conferencing; I just always get new ways to make my classroom
develop."
To develop a writing classroom, Ms. Roth believes adequate
time must be provided. Throughout all of our interviews, she
made references to time. Time acts for and against her teaching
efforts. In the first semester of school, Ms. Roth saw her
students for one period each day. During that semester she
frequently voiced concerns about inadequate time for writing
instruction and practice. "I need more time in class for students.
. . . I don't have time to sit and conference. . . . There's no time for

98
questions. ... no time for group share. ... I don't have time to do
what I need to do to guide them. . . . They need time to find their
writing purposes." But at the beginning of the second semester,
her schedule changed and time was no longer such a negative
element for her practice. She told me that the previous year's
schedule, which allowed her to see each class two days a week
for two periods and one day a week for one period, offered a
better time frame for a writing workshop. "Last year I had a
block of time and did [writing workshop] all out. . . . Because the
students had time, their writing improved." During the first
semester she voiced her concerns to the principal who agreed and
changed her schedule to the two-hour blocks. As we discussed
the effects of the change after the semester break, she again
referred to time but with a different attitude. "The students are
doing well in their writing groups because they have had the time
to mold. . . . When we have time to commit to writing, I just can't
stop them. They need time to become writers." For Ms. Roth,
writing time is crucial to writing development.
Ms. Roth's Role in the Classroom
Ms. Roth is the pivotal point in the classroom. She
generates the energy and the purpose, and her enthusiasm for the
task at hand pushes the class forward. She constantly watches
the students, reading their faces and attitudes for clues about
where to steer them next. An intensity toward the lesson builds
as Ms. Roth questions, probes, smiles, nods, walks about,
reinforces, and guides. A few students participate with a

99
minimum of enthusiasm, but they remain as important as the
most involved students, and perhaps because of Ms. Roth's
inclusive aura, the class moves as a whole toward the day's
objective. I felt I was a part of the class each time I observed
and found I wanted to answer questions Ms. Roth asked or share
my ideas for the writing topic being discussed. Interestingly,
though, when the whole-class lesson stopped and the students
began writing, the focus shifted to their personal writing; the
group enthusiasm faded into internal excitement over application
of what was taught in the group lesson.
Without Ms. Roth's guiding hand the face of instruction in
her class would be greatly altered, and she recognizes the
significance of her presence in the class. "I don't think it's as
much the way I structure my writing lessons. I think it's more
my style and my relations with my students . . . that keep my
students on task." She says she must "bop around the room to help
students," then "zig zag around the room to" conference with them
and "teach them how to conference with each other." She teaches
the children how to be writing students, she decides curriculum
based on needs determined from student writing, she coordinates
the classroom each day, and she gives herself completely to her
task. This classroom is totally dominated by the teacher's
personality, yet she adjusts the tone of the room so that it
resonates with the voices of the students.
While observing her classroom, I watched the students who
appeared idle. These young people sat passively or wandered
around the room, stared out the window, sat with their legs

1 00
propped up on a chair, or read the posters around the room; most
were off-task for a short time but then returned to work. Only
one student, Sandra (not her real name), stayed off-task and
required teacher intervention before resuming work. This student
came to class during the mini-lesson, entered with a noticeable
flair, and sulked when asked to join the class. Ms. Roth never
gave up on Sandra. She included her in the class discussion
although Sandra slouched in her chair and grunted when she was
asked a question. After completing the whole-group lesson, Ms.
Roth went over to Sandra, put a hand on her shoulder, leaned over
to her, and whispered in her ear. I could see Sandra relax and
soften as Ms. Roth talked. Within minutes Sandra opened her desk
and pulled out her writing folder. Before the class ended she had
done some writing, and I noticed she asked for Ms. Roth's approval
of the work. Ms. Roth read Sandra's offering, pointed to a section,
and I later learned from Ms. Roth, asked her how she might make
the section more real for the reader. Sandra said that she could
add some detail. Ms. Roth told me that Sandra "would do that, too.
At the beginning of the year [Sandra] wouldn't write at all, but as
she learned to feel safe in [the class], she writes some days and
never looks up. It's like writing is her way to release the awful
things inside her." Ms. Roth told me that Sandra has encountered
severe family problems and that a little extra attention in class
works well for this writer. "I can spend a few minutes with her
like that and she will usually work. If I don't give her a part of
me each day, she can get out of hand."

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Giving the student a part of herself is almost a summary of
Ms. Roth. Most students are not as needy as Sandra, but that does
not keep Ms. Roth from finding ways to make personal contacts
with her young writers. She leans toward the students when she
talks to them, she sits on the floor with them when they discuss
a piece of writing, she jokes with them as she moves around the
room. She even uses her voice to assist her as she builds a
learning environment. In her class a spoken "good job" becomes a
moment of celebration between Ms. Roth and a student. "Good"
begins on a note in one octave and ends on the same note an
octave higher. "Job" rolls about on her tongue before completion
and is accompanied by a heart-felt smile, hug, or both. This
special moment between teacher and student is not reserved for a
favored few, nor is it dispensed without warrant. Anyone is
invited into the realm of reward and acceptance at any time,
provided good work is produced or honest attempts at something
new occur. The establishment of the personal element is a key to
this classroom where the teacher believes that "the learning
environment is so important to what happens in the classroom
learning." Equally important, it seems, is the teacher.
Remaining an observer in Ms. Roth's room is almost
impossible. From before the tardy bell rings, it is obvious that
her classroom is special; an enthusiasm pervades the environment
that makes it difficult not to participate. Our first interview
was scheduled before school, and as it grew close to the time for
her students to arrive, she leaned toward me, put her hand over
mine and said, "Please, excuse me. I have to go get my kids." I

could hear the warmth in her voice and see her excitement. She
was ready to begin her day. I stayed in the room while Ms. Roth
went outside to get her students. She greeted the entire group in
the hallway and then each student as the class filed in. While
they were outside, Ms. Roth gave the students an overview of
their day as preparation for the class period so that even before
they entered the room, the class mood was set.
Gere et al. (1992) discuss the need for teachers to love
their students as learners. Having observed Ms. Roth, I believe
she understands and practices this concept. One of the first
things I noticed upon entering Ms. Roth's classroom is her ability
to invite students into the writing community. As seen in the
class observation, Ms. Roth connects personally with her students
even before the class begins. She leaves her room and meets
them on the sidewalk. Then she ushers them into the class where
she cheers on the students, pats them on the back, applauds their
efforts, includes classmates in celebration of good student
writing, and supports every worthy writing effort. Ms. Roth
gathers the students around her, nurtures them as writers, and
then sends them off to find their own writing voice. The class is
a dynamic place filled with strict guidelines and abundant
positive reinforcement. All of the support and instruction is well
grounded in theory, but an important element is the positive
environment she builds through her skill in working with people.
She is the educational leader, and it is an understatement to
say that she cares about her students as learners. Beyond the
academic is the contented bond that reigns within the room. The

atmosphere is not an infatuation between the teacher and the
students as might be seen in an elementary classroom. Instead, it
is a mutual respect between a patient artist and her apprentices,
between one who sees potential within and those whose potential
is being developed with respect that includes discipline and love.
Ms. Roth is emphatic when she says, "I feel very strongly that my
kids need to feel loved before I can teach them." The business at
hand in this classroom is becoming better users of the English
language, but the students working toward the goal realize both
their worth and their ability to improve under the able hand of
their teacher.
Ms. Roth--Writinq Project
Ms. Roth expects her students to grow as writers. She
challenges their thinking and writing and pushes them toward
new levels of writing expertise, but she demands no less of
herself. She reads professional books and journals, and she
attends county meetings where she discusses practice with other
professionals. Because of her status as an example of a good
writing teacher identified by the county language arts supervisor
and her participation in district-level inservice projects, Ms.
Roth was invited to attend a summer writing project institute--a
staff development program designed to enhance writing
instruction practices. That inservice program is one focus of this
research project, and the following sections describe Ms. Roth's
experience in the project, the influence of the writing project on

her teaching, her evaluation of the project, and her professional
role after the writing project.
Experience in and Influence of the Writing Project
One part of the writing project for Ms. Roth was a writing
and reading group. Each fellow belonged to a group that met
several times a week to discuss common readings and to discuss
their personal writing. I observed Ms. Roth's group and found her
eager to share her writing and to discuss the writings of others
in the group. When she responded to work done by others, she was
supportive yet challenging. One of the group members is a writer,
and when that member read, everyone was inspired. The group
members seemed shy about offering suggestions, but Ms. Roth
asked questions and demonstrated that even perfect-sounding
writing can be discussed.
When Ms. Roth read her writing, she apologized because the
story was incomplete; even so, she honestly sought input from her
group. She had written herself into a corner and was unsure how
to move forward. She asked the group members several questions
to stimulate the discussion. "I've written this much, but now I
don't know which direction to take. I don't want this to be too
easy for [the main character], but I also don't want the ending to
give the impression that there is no hope for her either. What
could I do?" For a time, these questions centered the group's
discussion on Ms. Roth's defined needs as a writer, but the group
eventually moved away from Ms. Roth's questions to the political
issue she wrote about. Nevertheless, before she relinquished her

position as reader, she again focused the discussion on her
writing needs. She said jokingly, "I enjoy watching Home
Improvement while avoiding my work. I think I need direction
before I begin writing again. Any suggestions?" One group
member said she might try writing when favorite television
programs were not on. Another suggested a specific direction for
her story, but Ms. Roth did not seem interested in the idea. A
third member mentioned that Ms. Roth should search the world for
a real direction for her story. The idea was to read the
newspaper or watch the news and find a story with an ending that
fit her own story. Ms. Roth wrote down the members' suggestions
for further development of her writing and although she did not
leave the group with a set ending, she seemed to have found areas
for thought as she continued her writing.
When Ms. Roth discusses the positive aspects of her writing
project attendance, the first thing she mentions is that "the
writing project gave me the time to write that I wouldn't have
had if I hadn't gone. The emphasis was on writing." The project
forced her to make time for personal writing. She often does
personal writing during class when students write, but she says
that she "can't go there [to the writing experience] as intently as
I need to in order to say I am really writing." The writing time
allotted during the summer project allowed her to rediscover her
love of writing, and she "experienced what her students
experience as writers." Now, when students write in class, she
recalls from her recent writing experiences "perceptions of what

is happening for them," which offers her a more accurate
understanding of their needs as writers.
1 06
Engaging in the writing activities presented by project
colleagues helped Ms. Roth realize that an important element in
the writing process is time spent thinking, and she willingly
carries the concept into the classroom, thus allowing her
students the freedom to engage in what may seem like off-task
behavior to the casual on-looker. She says, "I realize that when I
write I don't always connect pen to paper, and that's okay. I found
out [during the writing project] that my students need that time
to just think. They need to look like they aren't working." During
my classroom observations I occasionally noticed students
engaging in this think time. The students seem to understand
they are allowed some space for thoughts to grow. Ms. Roth
moves around the room efficiently checking the work of students.
As she passes the thinkers, I noticed that she does not stop to
talk. She walks by them, seemingly offering an invitation to
think. Students participate in that offering and then usually
return to active writing on their own instead of at Ms. Roth's
urgings.
As part of the writing project requirement, Ms. Roth was
required to present a successful writing assignment. Her
presentation was on the use of onomatopoetic words. The topic
grew out of a classroom activity she did that led students to
manipulate language effectively. Ms. Roth says that her students
frequently use the same words over and over so that their poetry
lacks vitality. The writing lesson she presented to the project

107
fellows is one she used with her students when she tried to teach
them to think about words and their sounds. To begin her
presentation, she involved the teachers in a discussion of sounds
in their lives. She told me that she wanted the teachers to
experience poetry writing like their students might, so she
tailored her writing activity to include the teachers as she
included her own students. Then Ms. Roth read some "noisy"
poems, the term she and her students use in reference to
onomatopoeic words. She asked the fellows to find similarities
among the poems. As they discussed the use of words that make
sounds, the similarity among the poems, Ms. Roth passed around a
basket of items that make noise. Each teacher was supposed to
listen to the item and make up a word to represent the sound.
Next, Ms. Roth put the fellows in groups of five and gave each
group a card with an item in the house that makes noise. The
group was told to create and use a noisy word to represent their
household item. The groups shared their new words, acting out
the sound as well as making the sound of the word, and listeners
were guided to add new words to their growing list as they heard
words they liked. Once a list of words was compiled, each small
group wrote a noisy poem which was shared with the entire group.
The writing project philosophy does not adhere to any
specific theory base, but teachers are encouraged to tie their
writing instruction demonstration to appropriate pedagogical
theory. Ms. Roth chose to connect her work to both learning and
writing theory. First, she says that not everyone learns
sequentially; some people see the whole picture before seeing the

1 08
pieces, and by involving students in color, images, and sound, they
can focus on larger patterns before moving to the smaller issue
of selecting words for poems. She connected this learning theory
to the theory that writing is a process and instruction should
occur at all stages.
Ms. Roth led the teachers through active steps toward
production of a poem, first by creating new words about sounds,
then by connecting new words to meaningful text to form a poem.
One thing Ms. Roth emphasized to the teachers was, "If a student
wants to use his list of words to write on another topic [besides
the household tiem], encourage that." She did not want the
teachers to think that if they used her ideas in their own class
then they must copy them without alterations. Her presentation
stimulated discussion among the fellows as they worked and
shared their ideas. Several reported that the idea would work
well in class as a way to stimulate writing in general and as a
way to stimulate a discussion of word choice in poetry study.
Ms. Roth enjoyed giving the presentation, but she says that
she needed more time to talk about what was presented each day
and more help as she tried to define a unifying purpose behind all
of the presentations; she needed "help to validate the experience."
Just as she presented an isolated example of her writing
practice, all of the other participants did so too. Ms. Roth's
frustration with the project is that the isolated presentations
were never connected by the leaders or by the participants. At
the end of the project she felt "piecemeal," as though she had the
parts to a puzzle but no guide to help her put the pieces or

presentations into place. This meant that she left the project
with a multitude of ideas about the teaching of writing but
without a direction for how those ideas might find their way into
the actual teaching of writing. She found her own unsuccessful
attempts to find connections puzzling because she felt as though
she already "knew what 'they' [the leadership] wanted" her to
know about teaching writing. Ms. Roth works with the project
leaders as a supervisor of student teachers and as a respected
colleague and engages in dialogue with all of them about writing
instruction. Understanding a shared philosophy of writing
instruction, demonstrating that understanding well enough for
selection as a supervisor for preservice teachers, and having a
comfortable professional relationship with those in leadership
roles led Ms. Roth to feel she would slip easily into professional
discussion of writing instruction; but that did not occur. She
understood the instructional ideas presented each day through the
individual teacher presentations; however, what made her feel
outside the writing project community was her inability to find
connections between the presented writing activities and her own
practice designed to lead students toward better writing.
The confusion about how the pieces of the project come
together and how the presented activities connect to her
developing practice led Ms. Roth to virtually ignore the
presentation offerings as a means for expanding her practice.
When one-fourth of the school year had passed, I asked how she
implemented the ideas for writing instruction into her teaching.
She shook her head and said, "I don't think I've used any yet. ... My

1 1 o
goal right now is to get the [writing] environment created. Later
in the year I will begin to pick and choose." Even when she does
begin to find ways to use some of the demonstrated teaching
techniques from the writing project, she says that she "won't use
the whole thing [any one complete presentation], but I'll use a
piece here and there." Ms. Roth does not simply implement a
writing project idea because it was presented; instead, she
selects from the menu according to her teaching needs. "A lot of
what happened, I heard something and I got my own idea. I might
say, 'I don't buy into that whole thing, but that part--yeah, I can
buy that and use that. That fits my style, my classroom, maybe a
mini-lesson." The measure, then, of whether an idea finds its
way into her teaching repertoire depends on a decision she makes
about her own developing practice.
The experience in the writing project also gave Ms. Roth
time to do some professional reading, time she says is important
because she needs help coordinating student conferences. "How
do I do conferences with so many students? I've been struggling
with how to do that with so little time. My reading gives me
some ideas about that so I don't feel I'm hanging onto the side of a
mountain without help." Ms. Roth continues to struggle with the
element of time, especially finding time to meet with each
student. "I feel like I should meet with each one thirty minutes
each grading period." Although she has not found a way to make
that happen, she has learned from her reading of Reif's (1992)
book, Seeking Diversity, that she can meet with students more
frequently and for shorter time periods. That compromise does

not completely solve the problem, but the reading done during the
project allowed her to discover another writing teacher's way of
handling the situation. This discovery offers her an alternative
to the thirty-minute conference style she attempted in the past.
Evaluation of the Writing Project
Ms. Roth speaks highly of her experience; she would
participate again if given the opportunity, and she would
recommend that her colleagues attend. She enjoyed being with
like-minded colleagues, and she rediscovered how important
writing is. She talks about "the whole experience [of writing].
Not only the experience from which it came, but also the
experience of getting it down on the paper and doing whatever you
do with it," and she explains how significant that experience is to
her as a writer. Despite these positive comments, Ms. Roth does
have a few concerns about her writing-project experience. She
left the project with a "piecemeal feeling," mentioned earlier.
This, she says, is caused by the lack of connection among the
presentations. She would have liked a continuing dialogue among
writing project fellows about "how the presentations connected
to each other." Even though each presentation seemed to stand
alone, Ms. Roth enjoyed them, and she delighted in the writing
generated by each. A problem, though, is that "preparation for my
presentation and reading for the reading group took time away
from my personal writing." She says that more "time [for
writing] would have been good because the piece I was working on
did not get the attention I wanted to devote to it."

1 1 2
Ms. Roth is constantly concerned about time. She fears that
her students do not receive ample time to develop as writers; she
does not have enough time to pursue her personal writing; and
professional development and curriculum improvement are
important, yet each consumes time. As a result of her experience
in the writing project, Ms. Roth's file drawer is filled with
interesting ideas that might support her instruction; but finding
the time to evaluate and integrate the materials into her teaching
requires time not available to practicing classroom teachers.
This dilemma brings Ms. Roth to say, about midway through the
school year, "What would be wonderful would be to have several
days now for planning." She would like to develop some of the
things she learned during the writing project, but that work
demands time and the daily expectations of her teaching will not
allow that development.
For example, Ms. Roth is concerned about "reading the
[students] lots of good literature and weaving that into this
lesson on writing." She recognizes the need for writers to read
good literature; she also understands the amount of time it takes
to develop writers. What causes her distress is figuring out how
the two goals can be mutually supportive. Ms. Roth is capable of
addressing the situation and finding a workable solution, but her
profession does not support her efforts toward better pedagogical
practices. Her evaluation at this point is perhaps directed to the
larger issue of professional development, but her immediate
focus is on the way she and all teachers might receive support.
What she covets is more time that could be used to develop her

1 1 3
teaching. Perhaps because the writing project offered her
several areas of support, she feels that time for curriculum
development--an area where she needs assistance-might be
provided as part of professional development.
When we talked in January, Ms. Roth still had not used any
of the teaching activities offered by her colleagues during their
presentations because she either found the ideas lacking or she
"had not found time to work them in." As we discussed the issue,
she offered this suggestion: "They [writing project directors]
could have had a teacher who has struggled with this thing, and
they could have shared those struggles with us." Ms. Roth does
not expect someone to do the work for her, but she does say that
listening to someone's handling of the situation would offer her
some direction and perhaps some possibilities as she struggles
with altering her practice to accommodate teaching strategies
from the project. The writing project did not support her in the
inclusion of the new ideas in her current practice, only in the
discussion of good practice.
Professional Role
Important to Ms. Roth's professionalism is time for
discussion of practice with colleagues. She said that these
conversations were a significant part of the writing-project
experience; they are important in her whole-language group; and
the conversations she and I had about her writing practice are
also meaningful. In a way, these conversations become a place
for Ms. Roth to practice her teaching ideas before their

1 1 4
implementation. Toward the end of our discussions she said, "A
lot of times when we talk, its really makes me think about some
things. Thoughts about the things we discuss extend further than
our conversation. Something will mull over in my mind for
several days. Whether it's about my classroom, me as a teacher,
me as a person, my school, my principal, the students, or writing."
Discussion with colleagues offers Ms. Roth a place to think
through her teaching which enhances her professionalism.
A part of the writing-project philosophy says that
graduates of the program should teach other teachers the things
learned in the project, another way to enhance professionalism.
That is the principle, but the reality for Ms. Roth is somewhat
different from principle. She senses that her immediate
colleagues are unwilling to learn from her. One example is the
teacher right next door. That teacher is a reading teacher. Ms.
Roth says "we could work closely together, but she is not
willing." That colleague's instruction comes mostly from the
basal reader which does not support "sharing ideas about reading
and writing." Ms. Roth would willingly share her knowledge with
this teacher but does not because of the teacher's hesitancy to
engage in pedagogical conversations. Ms. Roth feels that part of
the resistance may be "fear of doing something new" which would
mean that the teacher would have to relearn what it means to be
a teacher, and "that takes lots of time."
The experience with the teacher next door is not an isolated
incident when working with school colleagues. Ms. Roth has
attended a county writing project, the writing project associated

1 1 5
with the NWP; she is a member of a professional group that
supports her efforts as a writing teacher; and she has studied the
teaching of writing on her own. It might appear that these
professional qualifications would validate her as a teaching
colleague, but that is not the case. Ms. Roth mentions that one
time she tried to share some teaching techniques in her school
through an informal workshop, but her colleagues were not
receptive. "The entire time--how shall I say this politely—I got
the words and the looks and the phrases like, 'Who are you trying
to tell me something?1 So, I gave them the material [she prepared
for the presentation] and left." Ms. Roth willingly accepts roles
of leadership in the county, she guides colleagues from schools in
other districts, and she presents her teaching ideas in university
classes, but she has not been given the opportunity to position
herself as a teacher of teachers in her own school. She has,
however, continued to work as a supervising teacher for student
teachers, and she has also decided to pursue an advanced degree,
thus continuing her professional development.

CHAPTER 5
MRS. HAMMOND-TEACHER OF WRITING
School Context
School Description
The middle school where Mrs. Hammond teaches serves the
growing side of a midsize metropolitan town recently ranked
seventh in a list of most livable cities. Many of the families
served by the school are professionals who are actively involved
in their children's education. They influence the development of
curriculum and fiscal spending. The racial and socio-economic
mix is designed to represent the overall make-up of the city, so
Mrs. Hammond's classes include a combination of ethnic
backgrounds.
At the time of this study, the school was an open school by
design but closed in practice. Between Mrs. Hammond's room and
the three rooms surrounding hers were floor-to-ceiling
bookshelves and a thin wall made of wood. The activities from
the rooms around hers were easily heard. During one of my
observations, a neighboring class was viewing a video, not loudly,
but from my vantage point I could hardly hear Mrs. Hammond's
directions. At the same time, people were cleaning an adjacent
room. Their voices were easily heard above the video, adding
116

117
another element of distraction to the learning environment.
Fortunately, the school had been targeted for improvement.
I met with the assistant principal when setting up my
observation schedule, and he explained the goals for restructuring
the physical plant. The plan calls for the school to be gutted and
rebuilt to offer quiet places for teaching and learning. While the
school is under construction, the students will attend classes in
portables, and when construction is completed, they will move
back into the newly designed building while additional work is
done to enlarge the existing school. This procedure will take at
least a year and is the topic of interest to everyone on campus.
Class Observation
Students entered Mrs. Hammond's room from several
directions since the classroom has no solid walls. Some came in
the door, others entered from another room, and the rest squeezed
through between the bookcases that separate Mrs. Hammond's
room from other rooms. The students sat around tables and
turned their attention to the day's Caught 'Ya that was displayed
on the board, "melissa is not too young to be effected by the
movie."
Many of the students began work on the Caught 'Ya as soon
as they entered the room, but a few needed to be prompted. One
student left the room for his notebook, but otherwise the group
seemed prepared for class. Mrs. Hammond walked around speaking
to individual students. Occasionally she pointed to the work on a
student's desk and nodded toward the Caught 'Ya, but the

118
discussion was so quiet that only the one spoken to heard the
comments. When she had been around the room, Mrs. Hammond
returned to the front and began the lesson.
Mrs. Hammond used the overhead to display the Caught 'Ya.
The students quickly raised their hands in response to her
question, "Who'd like to begin our editing? Okay. Right here.
Rob."
"It needs a capital letter at the first of it."
"Yes," replied Mrs. Hammond. She used the proofreading
symbol of three lines under the letter to show capitalization was
needed.
"What else? Anyone?" No one responded immediately, and
Mrs. Hammond waited. "What about the words? Are they all used
correctly?" After a minute a student raised her hand but then
lowered it. Mrs. Hammond filled in for the students. "Well, the
word 'uneffected' is used incorrectly. Does anyone know why?"
Again no one answered. "Well," said Mrs. Hammond, "the
words 'affect' and 'effect' are often confused. 'Affect' is usually
a verb and usually means to have some influence on something.
'Effect' is usually a noun, and it means that there is some result.
So, what should we use in this sentence?"
One students answered tentatively, " 'Affected' instead of
'effected'."
"That's right. Good. Does everyone see that? Because
Melissa will be influenced by the movie the word we should use is
'affected'. If we were looking at the results of the movie those

119
would be the 'effects'. I know this is sort of hard, but be careful
with this when you use these words in your writing."
The Caught 'Ya papers were collected from each student.
After several days' worth of Caught 'Ya sentences, Mrs. Hammond
grades them to be sure the students correct the errors. She told
me she checks to be sure students make the corrections discussed
in class and that they use the appropriate proofreading symbols.
In Mrs. Hammond's class, the students sit at tables. Each nine
weeks a new leader is selected for each table. On this particular
day, the table leaders gathered all of the Caught 'Ya papers and
placed them in a basket in the back of the room. While this took
place, Mrs. Hammond explained that the class was bumped from
their day in the computer lab. She promised to reschedule them
so they could complete the final copy of their latest papers. The
students did not respond; no one seemed surprised or
disappointed.
Mrs. Hammond told me before class that the day before my
observation the students had done a writing about their prized
possession from childhood. During my observation Mrs. Hammond
complimented the students on the good job they did putting into
words their thoughts and feelings about their possessions, but
the papers were not distributed nor were any specific references
made to the writing. Later when Mrs. Hammond and I discussed
that writing, she said that she collected some of them the day
before, read them, made comments on them, and planned to place
them in the students' folders.

120
After the quick reference to the writing of the previous day,
Mrs. Hammond said, "I found this poem about a teddy bear, and it
reminded me of your work. The poet has a prized possession that
is lost and then found. I'll read it aloud while you follow along."
Mrs. Hammond put the poem on the overhead so everyone in the
class could see it. Then she read the poem about a little teddy
bear a young woman thought was lost. The bear was later
discovered when the girl cleaned out her childhood bedroom.
"Isn't that a lovely poem? Can you remember finding a lost
treasure? Isn't that a nice feeling?"
A student responded, "One time I lost something of mine and
when I found it, I was so happy."
"I know how you felt and so does this poet. I'm sure
everyone in the room can identify with that feeling." With that
comment the discussion about the poem was over, and Mrs.
Hammond said to the class, "Be sure that the writing you did
yesterday about your prized possession is in your writing folder,
so I can give you credit for writing number three." I was confused
by this, since she told me earlier that she had collected them the
day before. She explained to me later that some students had not
completed the writing when she collected them, so they would
place their finished paper in their folder for her to read later.
Then Mrs. Hammond said, "I'm going to do a prompt with you
to help you get started, but you can go in lots of directions with
it. Our topic for today's writing is careers. That will connect to
our unit on careers we will be emphasizing next week." Mrs.
Hammond explained to the students that she wanted to see how

121
many different words they could think of from the word "careers."
She wrote the word in the center of a blank overhead sheet. Next,
she explained that they should form a cluster of their ideas.
"For a few seconds, I want you to think of all the careers
that are available in the whole world. Now to help your thinking,
I want you to think of all the careers that are available just in
the school cafeteria."
The students thought of several. They mentioned the people
who wash dishes, cook, buy the food, clean the tables and floors,
and the ones who clean the trays. She wrote these careers on the
overhead. Then Mrs. Hammond asked them to concentrate again on
the word "career." The students were told to generate several
general categories from which many specific careers might come.
On the overhead Mrs. Hammond broadened the web and wrote the
career topics generated by the students: medical, entertainment,
education, designers, sports, law, and writers.
Mrs. Hammond instructed the students to use the ideas to
begin their poem on careers. She removed the class cluster and
placed on the overhead a rough draft of a poem about careers she
had written the night before. The idea of the poem was that we
need to have different careers to meet the needs of differences
inherent within human nature. Mrs. Hammond showed the rough
draft to the students and showed them the elements that bothered
her. She was unsure of a word choice. She explained that she was
unsure whether she should use "career" or "job." "Do both words
mean the same thing?" she asked her students.

122
One student replied, "Not really. A career is something you
keep doing for a long time, but a job is something you have for
awhile and then move on to something else."
"Good!! Since our unit will be on careers, I believe I'll use
that word. Thank you for your help." Then she told the students
that after rereading the poem she moved one idea from the second
stanza to the first to add emphasis to the idea. Mrs. Hammond
showed the students her second draft, and then the draft where
she had made some editorial notations. She promised the class
that she would work on her poem that night and hoped they would
do the same.
"Now it's time to begin your own writing. Begin your poem
on some career. You can use one on our web, or you may want to
use another kind of career." The students began their writing but
since there were only five minutes left in the period, the
students did not write in earnest. As they packed up, Mrs.
Hammond reminded them to work on their career poems for
homework.
Personal Writing
Mrs. Hammond is a teacher of writing, but she actually
writes very little. In fact, even with my questions directed to
find out about her writing habits and experiences, Mrs. Hammond
barely spoke of her own writing. When I asked a question, she
answered but quickly turned the discussion to her role as a
writing teacher. For example, in one interview I asked Mrs.
Hammond if she used the writing process when she wrote. In my

123
protocol, seventeen lines, out of over 100 pages of text, are
devoted to her answer. The first two lines are devoted to her use
of the writing process but then she changes the direction of her
answer by saying, "I do teach [the writing process] as a tool
students can use," and the remaining fourteen lines of her
response are devoted to her use of the process in instruction.
Another time, as we discussed a positive experience in her school
writing, she told me briefly about her own writing and then
switched to her students' writing by saying "I like to encourage
the students to also realize they are good writers." Then she
went on to explore the ways she helps them come to that
realization, but she mentioned no more about her writing
experience.
In discussing Mrs. Hammond's personal writing, it is
important to report that I gathered considerably less information
about her as a writer than I did about the other participants in
this study. Probably the reason for this is simply because, of the
four participants, Mrs. Hammond writes the least. Also
significant is that while the other participants discuss writing
as an expression of who they are, Mrs. Hammond's discussion
centers around the connections to others as a result of her
writing. She mentions her first memorable experience with
writing as an incident that occurred in middle school. "I guess my
first moment of enjoying writing came in seventh grade when I
wrote descriptive papers. Those writings were enjoyed by the
other students and used by the teacher as an example. I felt proud
that I had done a really good job. It was something I was good at

124
and I began working harder at it." When I asked her what she did
to work harder, she could not give me a specific example.
Apparently this event was significant to Mrs. Hammond, however,
because she mentioned it to me during another interview when I
returned our discussion to her as a writer. During the second
telling she mentioned again that the teachers "read aloud what we
read, and we could get excited about it." In neither telling does
Mrs. Hammond mention how the writing made her feel; rather, she
focuses the story on the way her teacher and her classmates
responded to the writing. In a sense it was the reaction of others
that made the experience worthwhile rather than the act of
writing.
In high school the importance of the reaction of others is
implied. Mrs. Hammond says, "In high school most of the papers
were dealing with subject matter, and I learned how to do that
pretty well. I learned that there was a technique that someone
taught me." The telling of the story is about the correctness of
the writing not the connection to the writing; again, Mrs.
Hammond makes the shift from her own writing to her work as a
teacher by continuing the thought this way, "I learned that there
is a technique that someone taught me, and I would like to teach
someone else so they could go on to college or do whatever they
wanted to do." This time, however, she shifts back to her own
experience with writing and says, "Then when I got to college and
into liberal arts, the first two years and then in my English
classes the last two years, I found it so interesting that I could
grasp an idea and really research it and write about it and get

125
help from my professors." At this point she mentions the
personal satisfaction that came from taking a subject,
researching it, and producing a piece of writing, but still the
connection to those around her, the professor in this case, is an
important element in her writing.
The need to make a connection between her writing and
those around her is evident even when she discusses her current
writing. "I do like to model some of my writing for the students,
so they can see how I changed things. I'm not afraid to show them
my mistakes." The discussion is not about her writing as much as
it is about how writing offers a way to build connections to those
around her.
Mrs. Hammond says that people teaching now were taught
that "the emphasis in writing is on the end product rather than on
the thoughts that went behind the writing," and that for her
anyway, no emphasis was placed on "training teachers in how to
teach writing." Without training Mrs. Hammond has little basis
for the development of her own writing. She has learned about
writing as a process since beginning her teaching career, and that
knowledge offers some guidance for her own writing. She says, "I
use the writing process when I write because it works for me. I
like to check myself, although I do it unconsciously." By that Mrs.
Hammond means that she goes through the stages of the process
"without even knowing it. I get an idea and write. Then I revise.
I don't start out to go through the writing process; I just do it
without thinking." As important as the process is, sometimes

126
Mrs. Hammond says she does not need the process. "An idea will
just hit me and I want to go with it, and I think that's okay."
Those times when the idea just pulls her along do not come
often, and for that reason she feels strongly that prompts are
important to her personal writing.
I need prompts-somebody to say something that gets me
started or a trip outside to look around. It's really hard for
me to write with a clean sheet of paper and no idea. What I
liked about the writing project was that it gave us so many
opportunities to link onto an idea. Then I could see how
easy it was for someone to give me an idea and then for me
to come up with something when that happened.
Mrs. Hammond feels she should write daily, but she is not able to
accomplish that task because of the demands on her time. "I
should make myself sit down every day and write regardless of
whether I have the time or not, but I don't." The reason she
doesn't have time to write, she says, is that "as a teacher I'm
preparing for classes." Another problem she faces as a teacher is
that "when I'm reading their writing and talking to them about
their writing—and I'm doing that everyday—I guess I am
saturated. And then to turn to your own writing, it's like more
than you want to do that day."
Mrs. Hammond does claim to have writing topics ready for
her attention should she find the time for personal writing. She
says, "I've come across a couple of ideas I'd like to work on. I've
written them down, though I don't remember them off the top of
my head. But I've written them down and I've said to someone,
'That's something I'd like to work on'." Good intention is not a
problem for Mrs. Hammond and her pursuit of writing. Time and

127
energy are, and for her, overcoming these problems is not easy,
especially when working in a middle school classroom.
Writing Instruction
The beginning point for understanding Mrs. Hammond's story
is through a discussion about the professional climate of the
school where she teaches. Several years before our work, a team
of English teachers and the assistant principal decided that the
English curriculum should embrace the Atwell-style reading¬
writing workshop. The team's decision stated that the
changeover would begin with the sixth-grade curriculum and move
up one year at a time. With the blessing of the administration,
this agenda went into effect. The year I worked with Mrs.
Hammond, the sixth-grade team officially implemented the
reading-writing workshop, but unofficially those teachers had
been working within this curriculum design for several years.
Reports were that the parents and students liked the format, and
they wanted the workshop to continue into the upper grades.
As might be imagined, the change was not without critics.
When teachers in the upper grades realized they would have to
change their teaching style, some were less than enthusiastic and
transferred to other schools; one teacher took early retirement.
Mrs. Hammond embraced the challenge, she says, because she had
seen the teachers on the leadership team model the
reading/writing workshop for several years and she "really liked
what they were doing." In preparation for implementing the
workshop, Mrs. Hammond attended the district-level class

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designed to offer teachers instruction in how to teach writing.
The class is given for university credit; the county language-arts
supervisor is involved and graduates from the writing project
present their demonstrations to the students so the class has a
writing-project air about it.
Mrs. Hammond follows the lead of the team of teachers who
have redefined the language-arts curriculum. During our
interviews, she often refers to herself as part of this team so
that her references are often to what "we" do rather than to what
"I" do. With this information as background, the following
sections detail Mrs. Hammond's professional pursuits. The first
section is about her actual practice.
Practices in Instruction
During most of my observations in Mrs. Hammond's class,
she and the students began their day with a Caught 'Ya. When I
asked her about the use of the format, she said:
We use it two to three times a week, and we start class
with that. It's on the screen when the students enter the
room. We tried using it everyday, but trying to fit in a
mini-lesson and the Caught 'Ya kept the students from
having time to write as much as we think they should.
So, we just have them do one a few days a week.
I wanted to know more, so I asked her what made her decide to
use this format. She answered:
It seems like a real quick way of reviewing the things the
students already know. They stay in practice, and also
they pick up skills they do not know. We do not spend a lot
of time on it, but we let them know that this is how you do
this, and then we hit it later in a mini-lesson. Letting

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them see that skill again and again throughout the year--
sooner or later they are going to catch on.
At this point, I asked her the difference between a Caught 'Ya and
a mini-lesson. She said that a Caught 'Ya quickly reviews
something actually taught in mini-lesson. Writing the Caught 'Ya
is shared by the teachers on Mrs. Hammond's team, she told me.
Each one includes "several errors found in student writing" and
follows "a story line to keep the students' interest." I noticed
hand-drawn pictures of the characters in the Caught 'Ya hanging
on the wall, so there is some evidence that the students are
interested in the characters.
The Caught 'Ya lesson detailed in the class observation
mentioned earlier is a good example of the way this lesson
progresses. The students complete the Caught 'Ya as soon as they
enter the room, they tell the teacher where mistakes are, and the
teacher makes those corrections on the projected sentence so
students can see the corrections and correct any mistakes they
missed on their own papers. Little discussion occurs about the
reasons for the corrections. For instance, when Mrs. Hammond
makes the capital letter correction on the first word of the
sentence in the reported Caught 'Ya, she made the correction but
offered no discussion about why the correction was needed.
Instruction, Mrs. Hammond says, comes during the mini¬
lesson, "the time for a small amount of teaching . . . which is
important because the teachers need the time to get things
across to the students. Sometimes there is knowledge that needs
to go to everyone at the same time rather than in conferences." In

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the detailed class observation, the mini-lesson is used to teach
students about Mrs. Hammond's process of writing a career poem.
She solicits class assistance in choosing between the use of
"career" and "job." Here she prompts, and in doing so offers the
students a method for word selection. She asks, "Do both words
mean the same thing?" Obviously they do not, but placing the
question out for student thinking models what writers do when
working with words and sentence meaning. During another mini¬
lesson observation, I saw Mrs. Hammond offer students a second
way they might think about writing. She did this by having them
recall personal experiences with strong emotions. Her lesson
was preparing the students to write about a time in their lives
when they had experienced comforting talk. After class she
explained to me that during the previous day's writing, the
students had written about being angry, therefore they understood
the context for her question, "What do we mean when we say 'mad
talk'?" After the question, a student responded, "It expresses
what our feelings and our voice want to say."
"Right," replied Mrs. Hammond. "Sometimes our real voice
sounds happy or mad. Remember what we read yesterday? We
could tell how Hal felt by what he said—by the words he used.
Then we wrote for seven minutes about the things that make us
very angry. We showed our energy and discontentment in our
writing. Well, today I want you to write about 'soft talk'." During
this mini-lesson, Mrs. Hammond explained the difference between
the two emotions, teaching the students that through writing,
language can express both.

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After the introductory instruction, students received time
to write. During each of my observations the students wrote, but
their writing occurred only after Mrs. Hammond gave them a
prompt to get them started. In the lesson just mentioned, Mrs.
Hammond referenced an earlier writing that was prompted by a
reading about Hal, an angry person. The day of my observation,
the students were prompted by the discussion of angry talk
compared to comforting talk. Mrs. Hammond told the students to
"think of a person or thing that needs comforting. What would you
do or say to make it better? This can work with a sad person,
someone with a problem, an animal. You decide." Only after Mrs.
Hammond's introduction were the students allowed to begin their
writing, and then they wrote on the prompted topic.
On another day, the students did a "pass around." Mrs.
Hammond explained to me that the idea is to get the students to
be creative. To refresh their memories about the procedure, she
referred the students to another time they had done a pass around.
She explained to the class after getting the students in their
writing groups, "I will read a story and stop before the end. The
first person in the group will write for two minutes. We'll pass
the paper to the next person who will write for two minutes. The
next person will do the same until everyone in the group has had
time to write." Mrs. Hammond read a few paragraphs from a story
and then directed the students to write. As their turn came the
students wrote but as they waited for the paper, they enjoyed
each other's company, as middle schoolers are likely to do. Again,

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the students wrote, but only after Mrs. Hammond prompted and
directed their topic.
The use of prompts is Mrs. Hammond's practical way to
start student writing but philosophically she says, "Teaching
writing to me is allowing a child to investigate thoughts, to find
a way to express what he is thinking, learning about himself,
trying creative things he has never tried before." She also says,
"I want to encourage them to write and explore at the middle-
school level," but during my observations I saw the students
writing only from teacher-directed prompts. During the pass-
around just mentioned, they listened to the start of a story and
wrote their group story. Each student added some to the
developing plot, and they all seemed to enjoy the activity, but
whether they actually explored writing might be questioned. In
the earlier example where the students wrote about comforting
someone, they were descriptive and they did write but again,
whether they were actually investigating the act of writing is
questionable.
Mrs. Hammond might desire to have her students focus on
investigation and expression, but she says she finds herself
focusing on "grammar and spelling correctness rather than on the
idea the student is trying to get across. ... I do tend to look at
the mechanics." As a middle-school student, Mrs. Hammond was
taught to place an emphasis on grammar and spelling and she has
carried that into her teaching style, yet she says she wants to
develop more than just that narrow view in her students.
I would like for them to know the basics. I want them to

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be able to talk about the parts of speech and punctuation—
and be comfortable with that-but I want them to use that
as a tool in their writing. I want them to know that people
have different ideas and this room is a place to be creative
and get excited about writing and to try new things. [I
want them to know] that writing is a life-long thing. That
they won't stop writing when they leave my class or
school, and I want them to pass that excitement on to
others.
The medium for growing excited about writing in Mrs.
Hammond's class is through a teacher-directed writing activity.
Each time the students begin to write, Mrs. Hammond pulls them
into the writing with a prompt toward a writing activity. She
says that "the students need a variety of activities—they also
need quiet time for writing—but that comes after the activity."
During each class I observed, Mrs. Hammond took the
responsibility for the students' writing topic and by doing so, she
also claimed responsibility for the kind of writing the students
experienced. Rather than allowing students to discover writing
as a process that writers define as they progress, Mrs. Hammond
searches for the best way to present writing to her students. Her
belief is that the teacher is responsible for finding "the one [way]
that will benefit the students most with their writing, the one
that they will enjoy and will encourage them to become self-
motivated writers."
In claiming that responsibility, Mrs. Hammond places
instruction in the writing process as a priority. "I think that in
their education there is a writing process, and when they are
talking to other people about their writing they can maybe talk

134
using those terms. They should be aware of those things." For
students to be comfortable talking about their writing, they must
feel comfortable in the class, so Mrs. Hammond begins the year by
establishing an environment of trust.
I think it's very, very necessary to set up at the beginning
of the year an open atmosphere, a very trusting atmosphere.
This takes a while for the students to realize that they can
trust me as a teacher, and they can rely on the other
students not to make fun of their work or hurt them in any
way. I do this through a video I found, by talking to the
students, and by role-playing with them.
Mrs. Hammond knows the environment is right when "the students
feel comfortable sharing and writing, and they aren't frustrated
with their writing or at least they feel comfortable that they can
get help if they need it."
Within that environment, Mrs. Hammond prompts student
writing, motivates writing through activities, teaches mechanics
and grammar through the Caught 'Ya and mini-lesson; and she also
works students through the writing process. One part of working
through the process is publication. Mrs. Hammond told me that
the students were required "to write five pages a week. If they
write only a half page in a freewrite, it won't count as one of
their pages unless they bring it to the full page. That way we can
say, 'You can either use class time or take it home and write'."
One day Mrs. Hammond told the class that by Friday they would
have started three pieces, and that the next week would be used
for "taking one of them through the writing process." Students
were told to select the start they liked best, complete a rough

135
draft, and then meet in response groups to work on the draft in
preparation for publication.
Mrs. Hammond likes the use of response groups because this
is a place that the "students can act as an audience," and it is a
place where they can "learn to get along with other people."
These groups also place some responsibility for the writing on
the students. "Last year the responsibility was on me because I
did all the teacher editing. I was their audience doing all the
correcting. Now, they are correcting each others', they are
listening to each other for suggestions." Listening to others is
important because Mrs. Hammond "doesn't want [all input] to come
from me. I think they pay better attention if a friend says, 'What
are you doing here? You didn't capitalize any of these words.' If
they know a peer will be reading the paper, they may work a little
harder on it."
When students turn in their final papers, they turn in the
response group comments with the papers. Mrs. Hammond says
this is so "we can write comments on the paper about what your
group's doing. We can say, 'Look at these wonderful comments.
You really helped each other.' " Besides comments on the response
sheets, Mrs. Hammond also assesses the student writing. This is
based on a number of things. She begins by focusing "on the
student's effort." Then she looks for the "thoughts that go into
the ideas, and the way the student has tried to approach
communicating that idea to others. If it looks like the student
has taken time to work out problems with the paper and he has
gone to others for help, then that's probably an 'A' paper." On the

136
other hand, if the student "just whipped out something and didn't
show much revision—that may not be a failing paper, but
something that shows very little effort and that the student
doesn't care or that the assignment didn't mean very much to him-
-well, that's probably a failing paper." In essence, Mrs. Hammond
says, "I look at the content and the effort, and then I look to see
if the person has taken the time to try to go through that last
step to make that paper as perfect or correct as he can."
Mrs. Hammond also says, "If I see someone who is capable of
developing much more and they are not [doing so], then I go after
them. Then if they don't produce, I give them a lower grade
because I know they can do better." Conversely, she says that if
"I see someone at a lower level make progress, I would give that
person a higher grade because they came so far. Even if it wasn't
perfect."
During our discussion about assessment, I asked Mrs.
Hammond to explain good writing to me. She told me that good
writing and writing improvement can be measured by how well
details conjure a picture in the reader's eye and how well the
writer uses correct language. As an example she mentioned a girl
whose writing had grown nicely during the year. "Her paragraph
started with a topic sentence and had development and exam¬
ples. . . . She didn't even realize she'd done it. It came natural for
her. Organizing her thoughts and using that development." Mrs.
Hammond says she wants to foster excitement and creativity in
her writing students, but her practice does not support that
statement. The tightly structured writing activities and the

137
example of the student whose paper was well organized rather
than creative show some of the conflict Mrs. Hammond
experiences as she aligns her past beliefs about writing with the
concepts she now espouses.
Principles of Writing Instruction
Mrs. Hammond's theory for writing instruction is the least
articulated of the four participants. During an early interview I
asked her what theory she subscribed to when making decisions
about her instruction. She gave me no answer, and because her
silence on the topic made the situation uncomfortable, I changed
the subject. I did return to it from time to time; however, even
at the end of the year, the issue of theory bewildered her. In the
last interview I asked again about applying theory as support for
writing activities. Here is her reply. "When you said 'theory'
then, I had history of. . . . What are you talking about exactly?" I
asked her what history she meant. "Well, in my education classes
I had the history of education and the theory ... do you mean like
learning styles or something like that?"
I explained to her that I wondered if teachers might be
helped in preparation for explaining writing to students if they
knew, for instance, that writing is a recursive act and that you
may start in one spot, but then you might move back and forth in
writing process so that the theory might explain partly how
writing works. She responded, "I think then that they are both
important—the theory and then you just need some practical
methods for out here in the classroom."

138
Since I was unable to draw from Mrs. Hammond her own
theory of writing and writing pedagogy, from our interviews and
from my observations I have gathered pieces of information and
derived a theory from which she seems to work. Scholes' (1985)
notion of teachers teaching from implicit theory holds true for
Mrs. Hammond, whose concern with order of presentation seems
to drive her curriculum. She believes that if good writing
activities-those she learned in the writing project and those her
colleagues say are helpful to their writers—are offered to her
young writers in a particular order, then the students'
progression through the activities will assist their writing
growth. In questioning her about this issue, I asked if she thought
understanding writing theory might assist a teacher who was
trying to help a student having difficulty with writing. She
responded by saying, "I think methods would probably help."
Besides order of activity presentation, Mrs. Hammond also
seems to believe that the modes of discourse should be
introduced in a definite order. Mrs. Hammond says, "I do not know
what that order is," but she believes some good order exists out
there somewhere and if someone would specify the order, then
she would follow that sequence so she could be more helpful to
her writers. Mrs. Hammond also works from the premise that
writing is a process.
By spending time on prewriting activities, Mrs. Hammond
prepares her students so that they are ready to write. Her
lessons are well planned; she specifies a topic; and through the
prewriting, she directly shapes the students' thinking in

139
preparation for writing. While they write, Mrs. Hammond walks
around the room helping students who summon her. Occasionally
she reads over the shoulders of students and talks briefly with
them. She monitors their behavior making certain the students
are writing. When students read aloud from their writing, Mrs.
Hammond makes positive comments and directs classmates to do
the same. She carefully plans the writing assignments done by
her students; but all of this works from her unwavering sense
that one best way to teach writing exists.
Underlying all of Mrs. Hammond's curriculum search is the
pursuit of the way to teach writing, and she hopes someone will
help her find that way. "I'm capable of curriculum development,
but I don't have time," which is an important element in
curriculum development to be explored later in this section. Mrs.
Hammond feels competent and capable of teaching writing as a
process in a school designed around a reading/writing workshop
format, and she recognizes that "what works for one teacher
won't work for another." But, she also is concerned that
"curriculum building is all our own view of how it fits together--
which may be right or wrong," and Mrs. Hammond has not
developed a clear sense of what she thinks is the best path to
take when teaching her writing students. Assuming that there is
a "best" way to teach writing, but not knowing what it is, causes
Mrs. Hammond to rely on others to construct that knowledge for
her.
Mrs. Hammond is not the only professional who searches for
one right answer. Sommers (1993), a leader in the field of

140
writing instruction, understands the quest for finding an answer-
-hers is concerned with personal writing more than the teaching
of writing, but nonetheless, she details a library search in which
she sought the answer to one of the puzzles life held for her. At
the beginning of her search she said, "I want to walk into the
fields of writing, into those eleven million books, and find the
one book that will explain it all" (p. 422), but she learned "to
expect less from such sources" (p. 422) because "they seldom
have the answers" (p. 422). Instead of finding the answer,
Sommers learned that "We need only be inventors. . ." (p. 428).
Mrs. Hammond searches for someone to tell her the answer
to the curriculum puzzle she faces in the classroom.
I wish the planning was already done so I could enjoy
[teaching] more instead of taking so much time figuring
out which path is the best one to take. I don't know if
anyone has the answer, but I think that people who are
studying should get together and figure out a couple of
ways teachers could present [writing] or different orders
we could present [writing in] and then let teachers
select.
She says her focus is on the needs of the students she encounters.
"I go by what students need ... I choose based on what my
students need ... I look for a path that will most benefit students
. . . I think about what the kids need." But interestingly, her
curriculum decisions are also directed by "the [writing] contests
that come up in the county," a focus quite different from the
interior needs of individual writing students. She is searching
like Sommers, but Mrs. Hammond has yet to realize that she "need
only be [an inventor]" (p. 428).

141
The search for meaning in her writing curriculum is bound
by what others say. "People who are studying should tell teachers
the ways we could present activities." These people, who are
more knowledgeable than she, should tell her and her colleagues
how to teach writing because she says, "not all teachers can
handle teaching" without some guidance. Admittedly her school
curriculum provides some direction, but "they don't tell you
specific activities that would work well to teach a certain thing."
Mrs. Hammond has a "notebook filled with ideas as they were
presented [at the writing project], but [she doesn't] think they fit
together in that order." What she would like for the educational
community to provide is "a group to study what's best and let us
know."
Ideas are plentiful, but using those ideas within the
curriculum based on the real needs of students places Mrs.
Hammond on shaky ground. Sommers' (1993) search for the
answer produced a personal dilemma. "Borrowing words from
authorities had left me without any words of my own" (p. 423).
Mrs. Hammond may be at the same point Sommers was before she
discovered that "I know that I can walk into text after text,
source after source, and they will give me insight, but not
answers" (Sommers, 1 993, p. 424).
At the end of our series of interviews, Mrs. Hammond had
not made that discovery. She was still seeking the one right way
to teach. "Someone should find the best examples [from writing
samples] and put them on overheads for us [teachers]." Along with
the help of others, Mrs. Hammond senses a need for more time for

142
personal reading and research, but even that time is the
responsibility of some outsider. "We [the teachers in the school]
should be given a research day where people read about things
that are new and evaluate what they are doing. And maybe there
should be some kind of form people fill out and hand in which
shows some reflection on what they've been doing." Mrs.
Hammond needs direction from those in authority.
It's nice that you have a choice, but like I said, it would
also be nice if there were a group that would study needs
of middle school students and study what's available and
what activities as far as what's presented in the writing
project or other places, and find a couple of avenues that
we could really use to get to where we want to be. I
think that's what the writing project has tried to do to a
certain extent and some of the other writing classes I've
taken in the county which were very, very good, but
I want answers! (emphasis hers).
For Mrs. Hammond the answers come from outside the
teacher because "there is so much information that curriculum
development is difficult because I don't have time" to devote to
the lengthy process involved with genuine curriculum preparation.
"This [reading/writing] program is so time-consuming. All the
reading of papers and working with kids," and "with so many other
things I've got to do," such as paper work for the administration,
"there's only so much time to try what you've learned." The
problem of time keeps Mrs. Hammond frustrated because "there
isn't enough time in the school year to try everything, so I'd like
to select the [activities from the writing project] that seem to
work the best," but "time is not provided [for activity selection]."

143
Difficulties arise as Mrs. Hammond determines where new
activities might fit into an existing curriculum, searches for
professional development time, and seeks answers for
pedagogical strategies from those in authority. She says she
struggles with finding time to "do all I should do," organizing and
using "everything I have learned to this point." She made time
"each week to try something" new in her curriculum, to try the
activities presented during the writing project; but now she
needs time to "figure this out after [going] through the year." She
does not see that the time will be provided by those in authority,
nor will her personal schedule allow time for the professional
development and growth necessary to become the kind of teacher
she admires. She "wants answers," but she is unable to find them.
She views activities as the key to teaching writing and until she
finds the way to present them to her students, she senses that
her writing instruction will not be as good as the instruction of
those around her. Understanding writing in terms of a well-
defined writing theory or philosophy is not the key element for
Mrs. Hammond. Instead, what she sees as important is fitting the
activities, given to her by respected, apparently knowledgeable
colleagues, in some cohesive order so that, in essence, the
activities do the teaching. The motivation comes from outside
the writer and the writing teacher.
Mrs. Hammond's Role in the Classroom
The responsibility for positive writing experiences belongs
to Mrs. Hammond, who relies on the activities she selects and

144
presents to motivate and instruct students in their writing. She
takes this responsibility seriously and works hard to find and
present these important activities. She believes motivating
students to write must begin with the teacher who is responsible
for connecting an activity to students' needs. Mrs. Hammond
believes that the power behind motivating students to write lies
outside the student. Because she is the teacher, the motivation
becomes her responsibility. A vital part of her job comes before
writing even begins. She says that in order to help students have
something to say, she must prompt their thinking. "Prompts are
important. I heard it said that it's like typing information into
the computer. You have to put something in before you can get
something out," and the teacher is the one responsible for putting
something into the computer, or in this case, the student's mind.
After students begin their writing, finding their way from the
start to the finish is also her responsibility. Mrs. Hammond uses
the writing workshop as the time to discuss the steps through the
process writing.
When she defines her role within her classroom, Mrs.
Hammond says she tries to "kind of encourage the [students] to
write and explore writing at the middle school level." Activities
are the avenue for student exploration. Once a writing is
underway, Mrs. Hammond wants to encourage an atmosphere of
acceptance among her student writers so they will share their
writing and will ask for help. She establishes this environment
early in the year so students will feel her "class is a safe place."

145
Mrs. Hammond's role places her in charge of all learning in
her class. Students do the work she presents to them, but
whether or not they are learning to take the responsibility for
their own writing is not clear. It might be said that just as Mrs.
Hammond waits on those around her to provide direction for
teaching, the students wait on her to offer guidance for the work
they do in her class.
One particularly compelling section in Mrs. Hammond's story
is her strong desire to be connected to the professionals around
her. Attendance in the writing project offered Mrs. Hammond a
place where she could find connections to colleagues. That part
of her story and her responses to the writing project are found in
the following sections.
Mrs. Hammond—Writing Project
Experience in and Influence of the Writing Project
Mrs. Hammond's need to find commonalties between her
practice and the practice of teacher/colleagues was validated by
her experience in the writing project because it was there that
she met teachers whose professional needs mirrored her own.
She says the unifying theme for the project was "the fact that
everything there was new and that we were all there to learn
something new; that was the common thing that held everything
together." She found colleagues interested in reading/writing
workshop implementation but in need of a "a little more help with
the direction." Belonging to a group of teachers willing to admit

146
a need for professional guidance lent credibility to Mrs.
Hammond's professional concerns and questions.
Her attendance at the writing project offered a new
perspective on what it is like to be a student. "Since [sic] I was
sitting all day and I'm not used to that, I realized that by doing
activities like writing and things that required movement every
once in a while, I could experience what my students experience
during the day." Mrs. Hammond found that sitting for long periods
of time was difficult, and this understanding led her to say that
"when teachers select writing activities, they should consider
how long an activity will take." She says she enjoyed the
occasional physical activity which broke the strain of extended
sitting and writing. She also says that if she had "just sat there
and listened or read a book, I wouldn't have had the same
experience." In essence, then, Mrs. Hammond found that the active
learning offered in the project made being an all-day student a
more positive experience, and this knowledge acts as direction as
she develops lessons for her students. Being an active
participant was also important because Mrs. Hammond was able
to see firsthand how each writing activity "should be presented."
According to Mrs. Hammond, an authority on the activity
presented the idea, and seeing the activity in use is vitally
important because "I actually saw someone present the activity,
and I tried it before I presented it to my students."
The activity Mrs. Hammond presented to the writing-project
Fellows was on guided journal writing designed to assist
students as they share their judgments about a particular

147
character. She said that what prompted the activity was the
limited way her students wrote about literature which often
included "discussing only their opinion of the book and the plot."
The idea of the activity, called a "Character Wheel," is that a
character's name goes in the center of a wheel and judgments
about the character are placed on the spokes. After the class
reads a text in common, the teacher places the name of a
character in the center of a wheel projected by the overhead.
Then the students offer judgments about the character which the
teacher writes on the spokes. Then the students/Fellows write a
reaction to the character using the specific information from the
spokes as either support for ideas or as direction for writing
possibilities. Once this class wheel is completed, students r
repeat the exercise independently using a character from a book
they are reading. Mrs. Hammond's presentation was structured
around the short story the Fellows read, "The Monkey's Paw." The
Fellows contributed several characteristics to the mother in the
story. They said she was "selfish, not too bright, short-sighted,
and loving." After receiving these descriptions, Mrs. Hammond
explained that the Fellows should write a short reaction to this
character based on the knowledge each now had about the mother.
They wrote for ten minutes and then read their work to a
colleague.
After the writing and reading, Mrs. Hammond explained that
the wheel activity guides students in their writing about books so
that they write on a more sophisticated level. She used brief
quotes from Atwell (1986), Kirby and Liner (1981), and Rief

148
(1992) as research support for the presentation. The premise of
her quotes is that teachers need to set up experiences when
discussing reading that will enable students to learn meaningful
ways to discuss text. On the handout that accompanied the
character wheel, Mrs. Hammond offered several other ideas for
directing journal writing, such as writing a letter to a character
in the book; writing a dialogue between two characters in a book
who do not communicate well; and writing a poem about a
character, an idea, or a theme in the book. The Fellows seemed
interested, and several commented that the idea could lead their
students to think about characters in new ways.
Potentially the biggest influence of the writing project on
Mrs. Hammond were the presentations she witnessed. She says
she wants to use all of the teaching strategies she learned about
during the writing project. Her concern is not about which
techniques she should use; she assumes they are all worthy of
implementation. Her concern is in "figuring out how to use all the
ideas from the writing project in the classroom." Although Mrs.
Hammond has not yet settled that issue, she did "gain a basic
feeling and philosophy [about the teaching of writing] to carry
back and use." This philosophy includes the belief that "writing is
a process, and I should not look so much for mistakes until the
end of writing, right before the students turn in the papers." Mrs.
Hammond says she knew this before the writing project, but
"hearing so much about waiting to look at mistakes until later in
the writing process" made her realize how important it is for

149
writers to concentrate on ideas before they worry about
mechanics.
Evaluation of the Writing Project
Mrs. Hammond completely enjoyed her experience in the
writing project. Probably the most positive element was the
"network of people to talk to and be friends with who I can call if
there's a [teaching] problem." These colleagues allow Mrs.
Hammond to feel a part of the profession. She feels that the
writing teachers in her school know more about the teaching of
writing than she does, so finding other teachers who are at the
same stage of pedagogical acquisition offers Mrs. Hammond a
sense of place within the profession.
Another positive element about attending the writing
project is that Mrs. Hammond gained "lots of ideas [for teaching
writing] from other people," and she learned some ways to
present writing tasks to her students. "I showed on the overhead
to my students my first draft and how I typed it on the computer,
and I took them through all of the things I did. I didn't know how
to do that before the writing project." She also says she
discovered the benefits of using research to support her teaching
efforts. "I got back into the research part of it. Now I know
where to look [for pedagogical support]." Although knowing where
to find support does not seem to help develop an understanding of
the theory that supports her practice, she claims that the writing
project prompted personal growth in using research to support
her practice.

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What Mrs. Hammond found troubling about the writing
project is the lack of time available for discovering how to use
all of the things she learned about in the project. Mrs. Hammond
says, "It takes time to organize and use everything [you learn]. So
much information came so fast." What also concerns Mrs.
Hammond is how she should order the presentation of the
activities she learned. As stated earlier, she would feel more
secure if someone designed an order for her; and she feels that
her writing-project experience could have been enhanced if
someone had shown how the elements presented by the Fellows
actually connected.
Despite these concerns, Mrs. Hammond's personal writing
prompted by the writing-project presentations "rekindled her
interest in writing" and motivates her enthusiasm for offering
students writing time in class. Mrs. Hammond says that her
positive experience with writing during the project "is reflected
in my teaching in that I like to encourage them [the students] to
also realize they are good writers and to use them as examples so
they will feel good about themselves and about what they are
doing."
Professional Role
While steadfastly claiming to have had a positive
experience in the writing project, Mrs. Hammond struggles to
define herself in a profession that brought unsolicited change to
her practice. In a way, Mrs. Hammond is borrowing a practice
from others. She has incorporated new teaching activities, and

151
she espouses a belief in teaching writing as a process in a
writing-workshop environment; but she has not made cognitive
connections between what she does and the reasons she does
them. Without the theoretical connection to an understanding of
practice, she lacks the ability to synthesize what she learns into
substantive teaching strategies. Her reliance on activities rather
than on understanding methods might explain, at least in part, her
desire to find the best way to present what she hears from
colleagues.
One identifying characteristic of Mrs. Hammond is her
devotion to supporting the English teachers in her school.
Although she is not part of the curriculum leadership, she claims
allegiance to their beliefs. I never sensed that Mrs. Hammond
wants to alter her position in the school hierarchy; in fact, it is
the connection to the group that seems to bring satisfaction. In
our interviews she usually referred to group beliefs rather than
to her own personal beliefs. "Will it fit our philosophy? ... We
have been talking about that, and we can't think of a way to make
this easier. . . We meet on Thursday and talk about what we do and
what we need to do. . . We did our first one last week, and I feel
like we are starting a little bit late. . . I was just all excited that
our school was going to do this after we had talked about it a
little this summer." In several quotations included throughout
this document, Mrs. Hammond refers to "we" rather than to "I."
She is a part of the group, but as she readily admits, she is not a
leader. She has not presented her writing project demonstration
to the teachers at her school. Her ideas are not worthy of

152
consideration by those who act as leaders in the school, she
seems to believe.
Despite her tentative position, whenever possible Mrs.
Hammond willingly adds to the communal knowledge among her
school colleagues. During one of our interviews she told me that
she is feeling good about adding an idea to the bank from which
she has drawn while learning to teach in the writing-workshop
classroom. She said, "I'm trying out something this year I read
about in a magazine where you require kids to write a certain
number of pages each week. All of a sudden I'm finding two other
teachers are starting to do that too." Interestingly enough,
however, Mrs. Hammond's pride in the technique comes from its
acceptance and implementation by colleagues rather than from
the increased student writing.
Besides seeking a connection between herself and her
colleagues, Mrs. Hammond seeks support for her curricular
choices from the larger community of English professionals.
When developing curriculum she feels "more confident and secure
if [she] uses something seen in a book," so she has selected a
"grammar book that [she] sort of follows. I figure that those
people who wrote the book know something about the best way to
present materials to kids this age, and I don't. I basically use my
grammar book as some kind of check to see that I'm covering
things seventh graders should know." The grammar book acts as a
link to the larger professional community by offering assurance
that what Mrs. Hammond teaches is covered by other seventh-
grade English teachers.

153
For some teachers a lack of knowledge might be a source of
embarrassment, but Mrs. Hammond uses it to bring her thinking in
line with those she considers more learned. "By hearing other
ways people deal with the same problems I deal with, it makes
me feel a part of the group of writing teachers and gives me
courage to continue on with what we are doing here with writing."
She mentioned reading In the Middle (Atwell, 1986) in
preparation for implementation of the writing workshop. She
learned some things about teaching writing, but she also points
out that:
reading In the Middle showed me I'm not the only teacher
who thought you had to be organized. She [Nanci Atwell]
goes on to show you how to set up the program. It was
helpful in that she gives specific lists and examples. It
was a support although it was a little frustrating in that
it was the perfect situation—closed classroom, small
group of eighth graders. I don't think we have exactly the
same situation. That made it a little bit hard to follow.
I couldn't follow it completely, and we have talked about
that here, and we've come to the conclusion that it is
okay if you don't follow it exactly because it isn't the
same.
The interesting point is that Mrs. Hammond does not trust her own
instincts unless they are reinforced by colleagues.
Mrs. Hammond's constant reference to colleagues who
believe in the same pedagogical strategies she believes in seems
to act as the buffer between her and taking a stand about her
beliefs on writing instruction. If, for some reason, the elements
of instruction she claims are appropriate for the teaching of
writing actually turn out to be wrong, by flanking her belief with
the beliefs of others, she lessens the likelihood that she will be

154
criticized for inappropriate beliefs. In the meantime, the
connection between her beliefs and the beliefs of others allows
her to be near the people who represent the practice that Mrs.
Hammond borrows rather than constructs.

CHAPTER 6
MR. MCNEW-WRITER WHO TEACHES
School Context
School Description
The little country school where Mr. McNew teaches lies
about 20 miles from the closest metropolitan area. The town has
only one or two traffic lights, a branch library, several churches,
a hardware store, a barber shop, a flower shop, and several other
small stores. A railroad track runs through the middle of town,
and the trains stop traffic several times a day. Old southern
homes sit comfortably just beyond the small business district,
but the homes quickly thin out as the farms which support this
town take over. Recently an article in the local newspaper
indicated a desire to bring life to the small town, but no concrete
plan was detailed.
This rural middle school is different from the city schools
located within the same district, and so are the students. Unlike
their city counterparts, the students in this school are interested
in agriculture, hunting, and raising livestock. Most of them live
out from town on farms, and the value of school is questioned by
the parents as well as the students. The middle school is housed
on the same campus as the high school, but the buildings are
separated by a long, open sidewalk. Mr. McNew's middle-school

156
English classroom Is situated in a portable, trailer-like building
designed to temporarily accommodate the growing population in
the county schools.
The wooden ramp leading to Mr. McNew's classroom
announces the arrival of both students at the beginning of class
and visitors during class, and the wall of windows facing the high
school building allows Mr. McNew and the students a view of
those who approach the class. Inside the classroom, thin carpet
covers the floor. Student desks, half on one side of the room and
half on the opposite side, face each other in short rows of three.
A chalkboard covers one wall, a wall of windows is adjacent to
the chalkboard, a wall with a bulletin board flanked by two doors
is opposite the windows, and the teacher's desk and shelves line
the last wall. Photographs of the students in various sports
activities hang on one of the bulletin boards. The room is small,
but it is sufficient to meet the needs of the class and its
activities.
Writing is required in Mr. McNew's class. The teacher
expects that the students will write, but the students also expect
that their teacher will write. Mr. McNew teaches through
example. He always writes when the students write. Everyone
practices writing because class time is for writing. Little
discussion about grammar or topic selection occurs on writing
days; the assumption in this class is that a person becomes a
writer by practicing the craft.

Class Observation
I observed in Mr. McNew's class the day before Halloween.
The students filed in; some came in quietly, others tumbled in the
open doors. They were all in high spirits because they had just
left a costume contest in the auditorium. They discussed loudly
why so and so should have won the contest but did not. They
seemed to like the winner's costume but not as much as a friend's.
Just as Mr. McNew started to settle the students into the
day's work, the guidance counselor walked up the classroom ramp.
Mr. McNew joined the students in observing the counselor's
advancement toward the classroom. The counselor came to the
class to award a poetry prize. He found the winner and asked her
to stand. When the student was beside him, the counselor looked
at the class and announced that the student had won the school
poetry writing contest. With the award came a $50 prize. The
class cheered, unable to believe the winner's good fortune. Mr.
McNew read the poem and announced that the winning poem, along
with several others from the school, would move to the county
writing contest. The students were excited about the possibility
of their classmate winning a county contest.
When the counselor left, class began in earnest. Mr. McNew
announced, "Today we will write for fifteen minutes instead of
the usual ten minutes because I'm on page 193 of my ninth
composition book, and I want to finish it today. If I write a few
extra minutes each period I figure by the end of the day I'll have
filled in each page in this composition notebook." The students
seemed impressed that the teacher was about to complete

another book. Several whispered that completing the book was
"cool."
Instead of offering the students an activity to help them
prepare for their writing, Mr. McNew simply told them that it was
writing time. The students seemed to know the procedure. They
took paper from their notebooks or borrowed some from friends.
Pencils and pens began to appear. Mr. McNew took roll while the
students readied themselves for their writing. He opened his
notebook and turned to his most recent writing. Apparently he
had read from it the day before, so the students knew about his
topic and asked, "Why don't you publish that story?" Mr. McNew
replied that he did not because it was "a first draft and it needs
to go through several drafts." He stopped the discussion at that
point and said, "Right now you need to write while I write."
Just as the students began their writing, one of them called
out, "What are we supposed to write about?" Without hesitation
Mr. McNew said, "Problems-yours, those in the world. Jokes,
funny stories, what you remember from this morning, last week,
five weeks ago. Something scary since this is Halloween." With
that simple comment the students began to write, and Mr. McNew
moved toward the record player. He started a classical record
and the students began writing. As he walked back to his place in
front of the room he told the students to follow the rules of
writing practice. He did not read them aloud, but everyone knew
the rules. Should someone forget the rules, they are posted on a
bulletin board. They tell students: first, keep your pen moving;
second, don't stop to reread, rewrite, or correct mistakes; and

159
third, don't think--just write. The students knew what they were
to do and everyone wrote.
One boy almost lay on his desk. His stomach was on the
table section of the desk, and he wrote on the paper placed in the
seat of the desk in front of him.. Another boy lay on the floor
with his paper and pencil in front of him. A tiny girl wiggled her
legs trying to touch the floor with her toes, while another girl
turned around in her seat and put her paper her neighbor's desk
top. The students who shared a desk wrote. In unison the
students wrote. No one slept or talked or bothered a neighbor.
They just wrote. Perhaps they were showing me how cooperative
they could be, but the speed with which they prepared for the
writing could not be faked, and they appeared interested in their
writing.
As the students wrote, I wrote. The expectation was that
everyone was to write, so I joined in. I tried to keep careful
attention on the young writers while I wrote, and what I saw was
simply a group of students writing. Several stopped writing for a
few minutes and quietly whispered or pulled out another piece of
paper, but they quickly returned to their writing. About half way
through the writing time, up the sidewalk came a "political
campaign." An assistant principal brought banners into the class
on which were written the words "Vote: MEE for YOU!!" In his
campaign speech, given over the classical music still playing, he
promised no homework, Pepsi in the water fountains, and a two-
day work week. His antics were part of the Halloween

celebration, and everyone took the interruption for what it was
worth--just some school fun.
But this was an interruption in a middle school writing
class just a few minutes before the bell rang. To my surprise, as
soon as the politician left, Mr. McNew directed the students to
resume their writing, and they actually began writing again. They
were not as intense in their pursuit. Three paused and read their
work and two stopped working, but most of the students appeared
to pick up where they had left off. Again, though, I noticed that
the students were directed simply to write but were given no
instruction about what to do with their writing.
When the bell rang a few minutes later, some students put
their papers in notebooks to take home for additions. Others
turned in their writings to Mr. McNew, but the work they did that
day did not seem connected to work done during any other time.
They did not discuss the writing or what would become of the
writing. One student was interested in Mr. McNew's writing and
shouted as he left, "Hey, Mr. McNew. Did you finish your writing
book?" Mr. McNew responded, "Not yet, but I will before the day
is over."
In this class narrative, it is possible to see two themes
present in Mr. McNew's classroom. First, activities do not act as
the motivation for writers; and second, Mr. McNew is dedicated to
his own writing. Every minute the students wrote, Mr. McNew
wrote. Nothing seems as important as Mr. McNew's writing.

161
Personal Writing
Above all else Mr. McNew is a writer. He is a writer inside
and outside his classroom. He fills pages in his writing notebook
when his students write. He writes when he is at home, and he
writes during the summer when school is not in session. He
believes that the power of writing is sufficient to motivate
writing and that gimmicks designed to entice people into writing
are unnecessary. Only writing counts as writing; thinking about
and discussing writing are just that-thinking and talking about
writing. To Mr. McNew, only the physical activity of writing is
writing.
Mr. McNew "can't really remember any time when [he] wasn't
writing-making letters and words tell stories." He began
writing when he was in middle school because he received
"positive reinforcement for it." He wrote a story and his parents
read it. "[They] could not believe I wrote it. So I had to prove it
to them. They made me sit down at the kitchen table and write
them another one. And I did, on demand." His parents liked the
story, and since that time Mr. McNew has felt an urge to write.
During high school, he put his creative writing aside and studied
the structure of language. English class was about grammar and
diagramming sentences which he enjoyed. "I find diagramming
useful only because it helps me [structure sentences], and it was
one of the first things I really enjoyed in the study of language. I
found I had a flair for it. I would sit around with a book and paper
and a ruler and just diagram like crazy-the way some kids put
together model airplanes."

In college Mr. McNew began writing in earnest "out of
loneliness or something. [It was] a way to create a world of [my]
own, and that's why I got into it." Since then he has developed a
passion for writing. He says that "I do it for fun, and I do it
because I feel I have to; I can't avoid it." During one of our
interviews we discussed the ideal writing environment. Mr.
McNew says that some people need environmental support for
their writing but for him that is not necessary. "It doesn't matter
where I write. When I lived in Chicago I used to write on the EL
during rush hour. So the circumstances surrounding you don't
really matter." What does matter is writing, and one way Mr.
McNew chose to develop his writing is through a graduate program
in creative writing.
Throughout our interviews, Mr. McNew frequently mentions
the creative writing program. That one experience seems to have
affected his writing more than any other. He begins his
discussion of the program by saying that he "got to work with
real-live, great writers . . . and they taught me some very
important things about good writing. I knew what writing was
before, but now I think I know what good writing is" (emphasis
his). Mr. McNew defines good writing as a sentence that:
tells a reader something he doesn't already know, and it
can be something very simple. ... If you start off a story
by telling me, "My dog likes to bark" and the next thing you
tell me is, "My cat likes to eat fish;" we already know
that. And if you've got a third sentence like that, we're
going to stop reading. But if you tell me, "I hate macaroni,"
I didn't know that. It can be that simple. Lots of times

people think good writing is writing that impresses the
reader--that takes his breath away, and sometimes that
happens. But that doesn't need to happen all the way
through the story.
A good story you don't pick up and say, "Oh no, oh no!!"
No, a good story is one you pick up and say, "Yes, yeah."
You are in agreement and you can follow it sentence by
sentence. Good writing can be beautiful and can make you
laugh, but the first thing is it must tell you something
you don't know. It can be simple.
According to Mr. McNew, good sentences are not written
every time a person writes. In fact, a writer may need to write
"one hundred pages before two or three good sentences are
discovered." Mr. McNew tells of going to a writing class and each
student was required to turn in new writing before class each
week. He says "I'd pray that [the professor] would find just one
good sentence" in the work.
Mr. McNew also learned from the creative writing program
that you should "always write to your strength, never write to
your weakness. And you should write what you want to write
because if you lock yourself into a schedule, plot, or a topic then
when you sit down to write, you'll say, 'Oh no. I've got to write
about the part where . . . .' It's not going to be good." Mr. McNew
says that once writers begin writing to their strength and about
things that interest them, then when anticipating a writing
session the writer will be "freed up because you realize I'm only
writing the part I want, the part I like."
When he describes himself as a writer Mr. McNew says, "I
write mostly for fun. If I could stop, I probably would. That's the
way I express myself. Other people get into dancing or bowling,

and that's the way they find their release, but I write." As he
continued to explain his approach to writing, Mr. McNew repeated
the importance of writing to your strength. "The key, [a
professor] told me, is that you always write to your strength, to
what comes easily. Write so that it's fun, so that you are never
forced to follow an outline or fill in gaps or do things that don't
come easily. That's one principle I follow when I write." Mr.
McNew writes about things that interest him which makes the
writing easier for him. His ideas come from a variety of places,
but he says that "lately I've found a lot of ideas for fiction in the
newspaper. I wrote a story about a church burner. He'd been
cropping up in the papers for over a year. I've been clipping it out
and trying to get inside the head of the church burner like why
would he do such a thing."
Another principle for writing, and Mr. McNew says it is the
main one he practices, is "that you at least try everyday . . .
because you need physical practice. It's a physical act, so you
need to keep up with it just like shooting free throws or anything
else. If you lose contact with it, then it becomes that much more
difficult." Again Mr. McNew refers to a professor in his creative
writing program who says that he must literally handcuff himself
to a chair to make himself complete some pieces. Mr. McNew says
he does not need that because "I'd just as soon be in the chair as
anywhere else." Writing for Mr. McNew is fun. He says that "if I
could, I would not be teaching. I would support myself with my
writing." But for now writing does not bring in enough money, so
he keeps writing and submitting while teaching.

As we discussed this process of submission, I asked if it
took courage to send in pieces. Mr. McNew said, "Yeah. I submit
them and get them back. It annoys me when they come back, but
I'm averaging two a year getting them accepted." I asked if that
were enough to reward his efforts as a writer. "Yeah," he replied.
"I won't trot out the averages," but Mr. McNew says that really the
writing is "not for them [the publishers]" (emphasis his). It is a
"means of expression-mostly for fun." Ultimately, though, Mr.
McNew says he receives enough positive feedback to continue
writing and to feel he may someday support himself with his
writing.
Something was different about Mr. McNew's class compared
to the other three classes in this study. For a time I puzzled over
the difference; but after interviews, observations, and extensive
work on the data gathered, I sense that this classroom is less
about the teaching of writing and more about the practice and art
of writing. The focus is not on internalizing a writing process so
that students will have a personal structure to build upon after
leaving class, like it is in Ms. Roth's room, nor is it participation
in writing activities that could prompt personal writing, like it
is in Ms. Hammond's class. The other three classes in this study
are about teaching writing, but Mr. McNew's class is about
writing. The other classes are structured around assisting young
people as they develop as writers; Mr. McNew's class is simply
about writing. In his class, students who are devoted to writing
are comrades; those who are not are people in the classroom.
This basic difference is, of course, what makes Mr. McNew's class

his own, just as all teachers' classes reflect their pedagogical
idiosyncrasies; but beyond that it defines a lens for viewing what
happens in his classroom.
In the next section, Mr. McNew's practice is explored. What
he allowed me to see during my observations was not so much the
writing instruction as the writing practice. What he shared
during our interviews was also about writing. During all of my
observations and in all of our interviews, the central issue was
writing. Even when I asked him pointed questions about his
instruction, he led the conversation away from instruction
toward a discussion of writing. So, the following section, labeled
"writing instruction," is really more about the writing practice in
Mr. McNew's classroom than writing pedagogy.
Writing Instruction
Practices in Instruction
Mr. McNew is a writer and a student of writing. In his
creative writing program, he and his fellow writers worked with
a master writer/teacher. Together everyone, master teacher
included, struggled with writing. They wrote together, shared
together, improved and regressed together. They worked in a
writing workshop around a large, round table. The teacher was
perhaps more experienced than the students, but the struggles
with writing were the same. Mr. McNew models his classroom

1 67
after the ones he had during his university work. He is the master
writer, and he and his students experience writing together.
Mr. McNew's practice is based on his unwavering belief that
"only writing is writing." He is disdainful of writing activities
and during an early interview he made this point clear when he
said that English teachers do "a lot of marginal writing
activities." I asked him to explain that statement, and he
expanded on his position by saying:
Oh, teachers do all kinds of crafts; they put all kinds of
emphasis on prewriting almost to the point where the
art--the finished product--is less important. I want to
create child artists because that's what I think we are
supposed to be doing. Giving them the chance to express
themselves.
"Giving them the chance to express themselves" is what guides
Mr. McNew's writing classroom.
Mr. McNew divides his teaching time three ways. Typically,
he says, one day a week is devoted to grammar instruction, two
days are given to literature study, and the remaining two days are
used for writing practice. Grammar instruction is included
because Mr. McNew says, "I would like them to know grammar
because they should be literate human beings." He sees grammar
knowledge as an equalizer because an understanding of the
structure of language "is something anyone can achieve if they
want to. It is not determined by economics and class; it's
determined by their own will to achieve." He teaches them "some
pretty traditional grammar like diagramming . . . and the four
basic sentence patterns: subject-verb, subject-verb-direct
object, subject-verb-indirect object-direct object, and subject-

verb-subject compliment." With that knowledge, Mr. McNew feels
his students are equipped to recognize sentences. "That way they
can vary sentences . . . and they'll know what a sentence is so
they'll be able to write in sentences." He feels they avoid "a lot
of fragments and run-ons if they realize what a sentence is, if
they know it must be one of those patterns."
When Mr. McNew presents literature to his students, he
selects readings from great writers. Then he and the students
"analyze them the same way we would our own writing." In class
one day he was directing the class as they discussed "To Build a
Fire" by Jack London. The focus was not on the story told but on
the words used to tell the story. He questioned the students.
"Find a good sentence in this story." As two or three volunteers
pointed out various sentences, Mr. McNew agreed and then asked
them what made the sentences good. The students echoed Mr.
McNew's philosophy by saying that they were a new way to look at
something they already knew. One student mentioned that he
"didn't know some of the stuff in the story." His indication was
that maybe a good sentence might also tell him something
altogether new. Mr. McNew supported the students by saying,
"Yeah. Sometimes they'll tell you something completely new.
That's good, too."
During my observations I saw little carry over between the
grammar and literature instruction to writing practice.
Apparently their purpose is to enhance writing, since literature
study is really the study of great writers and their writing
styles, and grammar study is designed to enhance writing so that

1 69
it fits the conventions of standard English, but few visible
connections among the three curriculum elements are evident.
The students did not seem perplexed by this subject isolation,
perhaps because they are accustomed to departmentalized
learning, but on writing days students wrote and no mention was
made of what was learned during earlier literature and grammar
study.
Mr. McNew says he uses a "writing workshop style" in his
classroom "pretty much on a weekly basis." By that he means that
he and his students write during class. The students also help
each other when it is time to "edit their papers." When I observed
this activity, the students were directed to read their neighbor's
paper and help him find proofreading errors. Everyone
participated in the activity at the same time. Whether or not a
student needed to edit did not seem to be an issue; rather, the
point of the time spent on editing seemed to be the process of
editing. Some of the students took the work seriously, but others
used the time to discuss the latest gossip or rest after their
writing session.
To set the mood for writing sessions, Mr. McNew starts
some music at the beginning of each writing class. He owns an
extensive collection of classical music, and he plays a record
each time the students write. I asked him if the students were
allowed to bring in their own selections, and he said only if they
have no words. "I don't think they need to be hearing someone
else's words when they are trying to think of their own words."
The students seem comfortable with the routine. In fact, they

even asked for particular artists. One young man requested "that
Beethoven piece. I like that one." Mr. McNew agreed and played
the requested record.
When he and I discussed his use of classical music as a
background for the writing practice, Mr. McNew said he uses it
"because it's got rhythm and it's connected to sound. I always tell
the kids they need to read their writing aloud or they won't know
what it sounds like. So, yeah, I think there's a connection
between writing and music-creating images, pictures."
Listening to the sounds of the words on page is an important
element in Mr. McNew's class. During most of my classroom
observations the students read aloud a portion of their day's
writing. Several times the students simply read their writing to
each other. Once they were to find the best sentence their
partner had written during the class period. Another time they
selected their favorite piece of writing in their group and turned
that in to Mr. McNew; but during one class period I was the
audience for a play read by several students. Mr. McNew actually
wrote the play version of Rumplestilskin. and four students and
Mr. McNew performed the play for me and five students who
joined me as the audience. The other students in the class either
wrote or enjoyed having the teacher occupied elsewhere in the
room, allowing them an opportunity to pursue their own interests
during class time.
After the performance, the readers critiqued the play. They
told me that they plan to "take it on the road down to the
elementary school," and they want to be sure it is ready for the

171
journey. The readers and the audience discussed the way sound
effects might enhance the words of the story and how the
presentation might be improved with costumes and scenery. They
agreed that they would wear their own clothes but differentiate
among the characters with headdress. Two students agreed to
further study the possibilities for sound to enhance story
meaning. Either the readers were satisfied with the writing or
the students felt uncomfortable analyzing the teacher's writing
because the story was not discussed.
Whether working on this play or some other piece of
writing, a topic must be selected before some actual work can
occur. Mr. McNew told me that student writing is usually based on
the students' interests. During one of my observations, two
students needed assistance with a topic. He suggested that they
write about whatever interested them. "Write about the closest
holiday, what you had for breakfast, what happened on the way to
school, or anything else" he told them. When we discussed how he
guides students toward subjects for writing he said, "They've got
to write what they want to write!" Mr. McNew does not seek
creative ways to involve his writers in writing; he does not need
to, he says, because "everybody has a story to tell," and the
telling of the story can only come through actual writing.
During another interview, however, Mr. McNew told me that
the students often end up writing what he tells them to write:
I try to reflect in my teaching things that are effective
for me. I very much believe in writing with the kids. I
don't want to ask the kids to write something I wouldn't
want to write myself. That way I avoid some pitfalls.

They sometimes end up writing about things I want to
write about, but they don't care too much about that. It
doesn't bother me very much.
1 72
In a way, it seems that Mr. McNew is sending two messages.
Students may write about what they want, but they must write
what he tells them. I did not see a time when Mr. McNew dictated
a writing topic, but he told me that when students neglect to
pursue the "topics for individual assignments," their grades are
negatively influenced. When I asked him about this discrepancy,
he was unable to offer an explanation.
Whatever the topic, though, time for writing is the driving
force in Mr. McNew's writing class. Everything, whether
literature discussion, grammar study, or reading aloud student
writing, is focused toward writing. Mr. McNew does not see that
writing must focus on "something that is meaningful or
memorable," the emphasis, he says, for many teachers of writing
and the purpose for many writing-project activities. Instead,
writing itself allows the writer to discover the importance of
writing, and when a student writes "about hating macaroni," not
inherently meaningful or memorable, the writer may find meaning
within the writing "because of the power of writing. Once they
get into it I think the power will be revealed to them unless they
put up a resistance."
Perhaps the power of writing is at work in Mr. McNew's
class because during most of the classes I observed, the central
theme was writing and everyone wrote. Some students seemed
genuinely absorbed by the task. One girl asked to stay in class
after the bell rang so that she could complete an important

thought. Mr. McNew let her stay. Another student insisted that he
be allowed to read some of his writing to a classmate while the
class was writing. That, too, was allowed; but as might be
expected, some students were not as interested in their writing.
Several students slumped in their desks behind a tall neighbor or
propped up behind a large book so that Mr. McNew would not notice
their idleness, effective devices, since they were not bothered
about their inattentive behavior. Generally, however, the
students seemed to be interested in their writing, even those few
that searched a while before finding a suitable topic for the day's
work.
I watched one young girl, Nancy, after Mr. McNew told her to
write about what she had for breakfast or whatever she thought
was important. At first Nancy just sat in her chair and stared at
the back of her neighbor, but then Nancy poked the girl in front of
her and said something to her. They talked for about a minute.
The neighbor gave Nancy some paper, and another neighbor gave
Nancy a pencil. Then she stared around the room another minute
or so, jumped up in her seat, hit the girl in front of her, and began
writing. Nancy never seemed as intent on her writing as Mr.
McNew or some of the other students in the class, but she did
write for the remainder of the class and shared with her group at
the close of the writing time.
I discussed with Mr. McNew how he graded his students'
writing. He told me that at one point in his career he felt
uncomfortable making decisions about grades, but he found that
he was rating works of art and therefore gives grades

1 74
accordingly. "I give them an A, B, or C based on my own critical
judgments" which include "the principles of art-Aristotle's
poetics." He has decided that he is the class expert which allows
him to bestow grades based on what he reads. Little discussion
about the grade occurs. "If I'm supposed to be the expert and I say
it's a B and you [the student] say it ought to be an A—if you knew
then you ought to be teaching."
To receive a failing grade, Mr. McNew says papers are
usually "hastily written, have one draft, and no evidence of
rewriting. Maybe there are things like fragments and run-ons or
no work was done at all." Or perhaps the writer is "careless in
proofreading and spelling. That's an indication that the writer
does not have much respect for the work. And that's failing."
What is interesting about Mr. McNew's grading of papers is that
not once during any one of my observations did I hear him mention
to the students the need for them to complete a writing for
grading.
During one of my observations he gave me a stack of student
papers to read. He told me that the students had volunteered to
have me read their papers and that they wanted me to respond to
their writing. I took the papers home, read them, made comments
on post-it notes, and returned the papers the following week; but
when I returned the papers to Mr. McNew, he gave them
immediately to the students. I do not know whether he actually
read and graded them or whether my comments were the only
feedback the students received. When I returned the papers to
him, I mentioned casually that evaluating student writing takes

1 75
much of an English teacher's time and asked how he handled that
problem. Mr. McNew responded that teachers spend far too much
time grading papers. "I know when I see something good, and a
minute and a half for a kid's paper to me is plenty of time." He
feels that teachers "need to get on with it. Certainly if they
[other teachers] are grading and evaluating a student's work, can't
they recognize a good sentence when they see one? Doesn't it
stand out?" During a later interview I returned our conversation
to the amount of time Mr. McNew spends on each student's paper.
I asked him if he ever spent longer on grading by marking
grammar and spelling errors. "No," he responded. "Usually what I
do is circle their mistakes, and then they have to come to me to
find out what the mistakes are. As far as just evaluating, coming
up with a grade--that's practically instantaneous." In our final
interview Mr. McNew said "if someone writes a good sentence, it
jumps out at me; and if they write sloppily, you don't need to
spend a lot of time on that."
Principles of Writing Instruction
Just minutes into our first interview, Mr. McNew said that
he wrote "mostly for fun . . . and as a means of expression, but
mostly for fun." He followed that statement by saying "that's
what I look for in kids. Kids who write because they want to."
The importance of these words does not become evident until
more is known about the principles behind Mr. McNew's class
leadership, the issue in this section.

1 76
During one of our early interviews, I asked Mr. McNew if he
felt bound by the curriculum imposed by an authority like the
county or the school. He replied that he is not bound because he
"is the department chairman" (emphasis his). Then he explained,
"I kind of make up the rules as I go along. And also, I rely heavily
on the fact that I teach language arts (emphasis his). The fact
that it is an art makes it subjective. So, if they ask what
standard I go by, I go by my own. I don't feel compromised
because I make up the rules." Then, Mr. McNew provided me with
an example so that I would understand his position.
I tell the kids an anecdote about John 0'Hara--how he was
consulted by Webster's dictionary about the definitions of
several words. And then on one occasion he turned in a
manuscript, and an editor had the gall to question a word
choice. The editor asked O'Hara if he had consulted a
dictionary to which O'Hara replied, "I do not consult the
dictionary, the dictionary consults me."
In a real sense, this anecdote describes Mr. McNew. Whereas Mr.
McNew is a writer and O'Hara is a lexicographer, like O'Hara, Mr.
McNew does not consult a source. Because he is a writer he
believes he intuitively knows about writing, and that knowledge
acts as the basis for writing instruction in Mr. McNew's class.
Mr. McNew says, "I try to reflect in my teaching things that
are effective for me" as a writer. He feels completely
comfortable designing his curriculum within the boundaries he
defines as a writer and as a teacher of language arts rather than
an English teacher. An essential point in understanding Mr.
McNew's philosophy of instruction is seeing clearly his
differentiation between an English teacher and a language-arts

1 77
teacher. He says that teachers of English "teach proficiency.
They teach people the mechanics of expressing themselves, and
you can teach grammar." That kind of teaching, he says, is done
by a technician. On the other hand, the teaching of language as an
art requires that the teacher be an artist. "You can't teach people
to be artists without being an artist," and because Mr. McNew is a
writer and considers himself an artist, he is not bound by a
curriculum designed to be used by a technician/English teacher.
Like O'Hara, Mr. McNew points out, he does not need to consult.
For Mr. McNew, the theory that supports his classroom
pedagogy is his belief in the act of writing--not the act of
teaching. He believes in the importance of the writer's ability to
provide a creative look at the common or mundane; he also
supports the need for the writer to recognize that his writing
will become reading for someone and in doing so the writer must
follow the conventions of formal English. In some respects it
might seem a contradiction that Mr. McNew teaches the technical
aspects in his artist workshop, but he makes it clear that the
mechanics of language are an important part of publishable art.
The most important aspect in this writing classroom is practice
so that students produce many pages. Then from the large
quantities of writing come bits and pieces of good writing on
which to build more writing. As Mr. McNew says, "Not much else
matters but writing" and from my observations, there is
considerably less emphasis on pedagogy than on practice.
When I asked him what best illustrated his approach to the
teaching of writing, he said without hesitation, "Writing practice.

We go by the clock. Sometimes it's ten minutes, sometimes it's
forty-five. I describe some parameters, some things we want to
concentrate on . . . and then we follow the rules of writing
practice." The rules, mentioned in an earlier section, were
followed carefully during writing times I observed. In Mr.
McNew's class, thinking about writing does not count for writing.
Only writing counts as writing.
I was interested in Mr. McNew's separation of writing and
thinking so to further his discussion of the topic, I told him that
on the drive to his school I had composed a letter in my head. I
asked him if that thinking was a part of my writing. He said,
"Maybe. But you can't tell until you write. Then you can say, 'Yes,
when I was considering this and that, it affected what ended up
on paper.' But the only evidence is what you have that actually
gets on the paper. That's where the real writing is." So, as Mr.
McNew points out, for him only writing is writing. Other things
may be involved, for instance thinking, but in this class only the
physical act of making words on paper counts as writing.
In support of Mr. McNew's emphasis on practice, ample time
is provided for writing. What seems missing from the
curriculum, however, are invitations into writing. Each time I
observed Mr. McNew's writing class, the students were
unbelievably on task-almost as if the day's activity were staged.
When I asked him how he was able to motivate the students to
write in unison, he replied that it is "not because of anything I do
as an individual but just because of the power of writing." When I
asked him how long it took for this power to grab the students he

179
said, "A couple of days." I was curious as to why this process
took such a short time, and Mr. McNew told me it was "because of
the power of writing. Once they get into it, I think it is revealed
to them--unless they put up a resistance." Defining the power of
writing comes from his own writing experience. Mr. McNew says
that the power comes in the writer's opportunity "to express
himself." In a sense the writer creates someone to talk to,
almost an "other" who acts as a companion. When Mr. McNew says
he began writing out of loneliness, he says that as the reader of
the words he wrote, he became a listener to himself. Finding that
self expression and receptive companion within the writing
becomes the power Mr. McNew feels and knows his students may
find. Once they, like he, find that listening self, the writing
captures the students.
No students resisted writing during my observations, but
some students will. These are not the students that concern Mr.
McNew. He is interested in "kids who write because they want
to." Theirs is an internal motivation, students called to write by
the power of writing and who can be made into child artists. In
our discussions, and repeated in Mr. McNew's paper written for
the writing project in support of his beliefs about the teaching of
writing, he told me the stories of two students. One girl grew
significantly in her writing while in his class. He says in his
paper that she loved to write and that as she wrote, he discussed
her work with her. He says that she was after some kind of
"feeling [in a play she was writing], I knew she was talking about
catharsis, and the only way you can have one is by constructing a

tragedy. [Tina] had to come to the realization herself. And she
did, the only way she knew how, by telling a story."
Unfortunately, says Mr. McNew, this young writer became involved
in high-school activities and stopped writing.
Another of Mr. McNew's students, this time a young man, is a
gifted writer. His work, done in Mr. McNew's class, won a county
contest. Mr. McNew says Alfred has learned that "there is a
morality to art that reflects what is both noble and base about
man, and the more truly reflected, the sharper the image, the
finer the cutting edge, the greater the aesthetic satisfaction."
These two students, discussed with me and written about in his
position paper, clearly reflect his beliefs about student writers.
Mr. McNew says that "to create x-number of works of art is what
we are supposed to be doing" as language-arts teachers. By
attaching his pedagogical philosophy to that stance, Mr. McNew
places himself in a position to focus on the students who want to
write. He says you cannot make artists of all students,
particularly those who do not want to become artists. Yet, Mr.
McNew is intent upon producing child artists of capable students.
That means that the classroom instruction leaves behind many
students. He discusses two students he describes as child
artists. One was in his class one year; another was in his class
another year. That leaves many students outside the artistic
circle.
Mr. McNew is aware of the conflict that results from his
philosophical stance about the teaching of English vs. the
teaching of language arts, but he mentions this only in passing.

181
He says, "One concern that's bothered me is if you have a small
percentage of your students that are finding some class work to
be successful, what about all of the other kids? That's a
quandary for me. I'm not sure how to answer that." Mr. McNew
wrote an article for a journal about his teaching philosophy and
the making of child artists. He reported to me that one of the
reviewers asked in his comments, "What use is this [philosophy]
to 98% of your students? If you have 2% of the kids who are very
successful, what of the others?" As the maker of child artists,
Mr. McNew replied, "My instinctive answer is, 'Who cares? We get
two works of art, then that's success." But as a teacher of 150
students he answers, "I don't know what to say about that. I
guess you try to find some middle ground where you have stuff
that you are doing that is successful for the most kids." Perhaps
this is the reason Mr. McNew concentrates on grammar one day or
two days a week. In that time he is teaching the mechanics of
language, and he says, anyone can learn this; but when he turns
his attention to writing, he seems intent upon creating child
artists, no matter how many students that might exclude.
During one interview when we discussed writing
instruction, Mr. McNew questioned whether one can actually teach
writing; for a fleeting moment his words reflected doubt about
the ability of one person to influence the writing of another, but
he spoke with little conviction. He quickly recalled the people
who influence his writing and the students whose writing he
influences. He concluded that he could not "teach anyone who
didn't want to learn," but because of his belief in his ability to

influence the writing of those willing to learn, he defines his
classroom as a place for writing. "I want them writing when the
bell rings on the last day [of school]. I want their pencil to be on
paper from [school's] beginning to end. They can't write enough."
Mr. McNew is a writer and his beliefs about leading students to
writing and sharing his expertise with students come from the
voice of a writer clearly defined by his experience as a writing
student in the creative writing program.
Mr. McNew's Role in the Classroom
Mr. McNew does not fret about students who choose not to
write. Writing is a privilege, and if a student selects to exclude
himself from writing practice, the student is the loser. Mr.
McNew does not define his role as one who must motivate
writers. He is a writer who works with self-selected writing
apprentices. He builds his curriculum around his needs as a
writer and his understanding of writing instruction defined in his
graduate school writing program. The course he follows with his
personal writing routes him toward writing that will be
published, and it is on that premise that he builds his curriculum
and defines his role in the classroom.
Mr. McNew acts much like he describes the professors in his
creative-writing program. These writer/teachers pushed writing
practice and the search for a few good sentences in the pages of
writing produced during endless practice. Mr. McNew says he and
the other writers "sat around a large table and wrote." They
turned in their work and "prayed that [the professor] would find a

good sentence," and this is what happens in Mr. McNew's class.
This connection to writing-above-teaching means that Mr.
McNew's role within the classroom is that of a writer rather than
that of a teacher. He acts in a teaching role on grammar and
literature days, but on writing days he drops out of that role and
becomes a guiding mentor for willing students. It is no surprise
then, that for Mr. McNew, writing drives the curriculum instead of
what he calls "fancy teacher activities." In fact, this is so much
the case that Mr. McNew is leery of all activities designed to
produce "meaningful and memorable" writing because the kind of
writing those activities produce "signal" for him that the focus of
the writing assignment is weak and centered on some element
unrelated to the meaning of writing.
In reality, activities act in opposition to the role Mr. McNew
defines for himself. An activity that draws in writers assumes
the lure of writing is outside the writer, quite opposite from the
philosophy that drives Mr. McNew's place in the classroom. He is
a more advanced artist than the students, but he is a fellow
writer drawn in by writing's power. In this classroom, writing
grows from the inner nature and experience of the student. Mr.
McNew knows that "everyone can't be an artist," but he expects
each student to produce pages of writing because "everyone can
become a better writer." When I asked him the goal he has for the
writing students in his classroom he said:
I would like them not to be afraid of [writing], I tell them
ideally, should they get to the college level and be given a
blue book and be told they have three essay questions and
two hours, I would like them not to be afraid. In fact,

1 84
ideally, I'd like them to say, "Oh good. This is my ball
game."
Mr. McNew's role is to offer students time for writing
practice and to discuss writing with those interested in the
discussion. He recognizes that he is successful with only a few
students. When I asked him how many he feels become artists, he
shrugged his shoulders and sighed. When I asked how many reach
the place where they call writing their ball game, he smiled and
indicated a few more. In the writing class, Mr. McNew views
himself as one who shapes artists. A difficult job with few
rewards but an easy way to place the responsibility for student
writing improvement somewhere besides on the teacher. After
all, in this environment, student writers are not motivated by Mr.
McNew's skill as a teacher but by a desire to mine a few good
sentences within pages of writing practice.
Mr. McNew-Writina Project
As might be expected, Mr. McNew, a writer, experienced the
project differently from the other participants. He attended the
writing project with a single goal in mind: engagement in
personal writing. He says that although some time was allotted,
not enough was given to writing.
Experience in and Influence of the Writing Project
Mr. McNew's dedication to writing is evident in everything
he brings to his classroom and is also visible in the presentation
given during the writing project. His presentation, "Make Your

1 85
Own Play!" was about writing scripts for radio drama shows. Mr.
McNew's interest in script writing grew from a yearly contest for
students sponsored by a local educational radio station. One of
his students won the contest the year before Mr. McNew was a
participant in the writing project, and that student's script was
produced and presented over the air. When Mr. McNew talked to
me about the student who wrote the winning play, he discussed
the student's growing understanding of character based on the
developing story; the emphasis was on the individual student.
Certainly the point in education is to consider the individual
student, but the reality of the classroom requires that teachers
deal with numbers of students, and what Mr. McNew did not
mention was his role as a teacher explaining script writing to 30
middle school students.
During the writing project, when he explained to the
fellows the process of script writing, he repeated the
explanation; the focus was on the writing of one student rather
than on teaching. To address the issue of teaching, he gave the
fellows a handout with eight steps that act as structure for the
process of writing a radio script, but Mr. McNew did not discuss
how to work students through the eight stages (Idea, Collection-
elements of drama, Working Title, Scenario, Dialogue,
Submission, Rehearsal/Rewrite, and Performance), nor did he
make connections between the eight stages of writing
development and what occurred in his classroom during the
writing of radio scripts.

1 86
I sensed during the presentation that Mr. McNew was
uncomfortable. I think he realized that writing a radio drama,
while potentially a motivating assignment, was an in-depth
project difficult to describe in a presentation. Because his
pedagogical strategies were not explored, the teachers seemed to
gather that the intense work involved in the writing task was not
possible as a classroom project. Mr. McNew was able to
accomplish the task in his class because he worked with only one
student at a time, but teachers interested in learning about a
writing-instruction technique applicable to an entire class were
disappointed in the singularity of the instructional task.
Initially, the teachers were enthusiastic about the topic, but as
Mr. McNew described his experience with the student and then
played the finished product, the teachers grew quiet. After the
presentation, several fellows asked informational questions
about the writing contest for radio scripts, but no one asked
substantive questions regarding the presented topic.
The theory Mr. McNew used to support his presentation
related to writing rather than to pedagogy. The emphasis in the
book he used for a theory base centered on the ease of writing for
radio (lack of expense, little need for production extravagance)
and the usefulness of drama writing for developing a writer's
sense of story. Mamet (1986) says that "the essential task of the
drama is to offer a solution to a problem which is nonsusceptible
to reason." Drama for radio teaches the "writer to concentrate on
the essentials" of story rather than on the peripheral aspects of
ordinary drama. This important element in writing became the

point of Mr. McNew's presentation so that his discussion was
about writing rather than teaching writing.
Besides being a presenter, Mr. McNew was also a group
leader in the writing project. These groups act as support and
guidance for the writing-project Fellows as they work on their
personal writing and discuss professional reading. I observed Mr.
McNew's group one day as they discussed their personal writing.
He questioned the writers, asked them where their writing topics
originated, and discussed direction for their current topics. Two
writers in the group complained that writing was hard work;
finding a topic and then building the topic into a writing worth
reading to the group was difficult. Mr. McNew encouraged them to
"write to [their] strength [to] what's fun and what's easy," a
theme echoed in his classroom practices and learned in his
creative-writing program. Both of the group members responded
that writing is not fun for them. Mr. McNew simply shook his head
and asked sincerely, "Where's the enjoyment?" One of the
dismayed members replied that the enjoyment comes only after
the writing is completed because the process is hard work. Mr.
McNew did not reply, but his facial expression showed pain that
writing does not bring the writer strength and a desire to write
like it does for him.
What people do in the writing project is important, but so is
how they use what they learn while there. Reading and
interpreting a writing project is as individual as the person who
attends the project. For some, a writing-project experience
transforms their writing pedagogy and their philosophy of

education. For others the experience enhances their current
practice and broadens their philosophy of education. Another
group completely rejects the offerings, but in each case the
teachers have been influenced by the writing-project experience.
In truth, Mr. McNew seems to be virtually unaffected by his
attendance to the extent that the time spent with teaching
colleagues was almost a non-experience. Mr. McNew is a writer,
and as he often mentions, he is about the task of writing.
When asked what he learned or gained from the project, he
quickly mentions a presentation that included Bettelheim's
(1976) book The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance
of Fair Tales. The book was the important element for Mr. McNew.
"Fairy tales and myths-l think that was my big discovery from
the summer." He says the inclusion of fairy tale and myth in the
writing curriculum places the focus on the "basics in the art [of
writing] itself" back to the story elements of beginning, middle,
and end-part of the essentials of writing Mr. McNew points out
in the theory he uses to support his writing project presentation.
When I asked Mr. McNew why he found this idea important,
he replied:
It has to do with my own writing, I'm sure. Trying to
write better plays and stories and realizing that the model
was an ancient, that it goes back beyond the poetics all the
way back to the roots of civilization. That this is the way
people create works of art. By starting with your beliefs
and solving problems that can't be solved with reason.
Interestingly, his answer focuses on his writing instead of on
teaching students. As we further discussed this topic, Mr. McNew
pointed out that solving life's dilemmas through writing is

paramount and that solving problems "is what fairy tales are all
about. A kid will latch onto a fairy tale because it solves a
problem for him. For instance, 'Jack and the Beanstalk' is a story
about growing up. Children latch onto the fairy tale that solves
their problems. You know it because they want to hear it a
thousand times" (emphasis his). Thus, he says that if writers
understand writing at this most basic level, then they will find
their beliefs and become better story tellers.
Mr. McNew also mentions that the writing project offered
him time to do a presentation. Because of the practice required
before presenting, this task fostered his growth as a speaker.
The important point in both of these positive experiences is that
in the telling, each relates to Mr. McNew personally rather that to
him as a teacher. With so little influence on Mr. McNew, it might
follow that he would negatively review the writing project, but
interestingly that is not the case.
Evaluation of the Writing Project
About midway through our interview process, I asked Mr.
McNew to evaluate his experience in the summer project. From a
person who so obviously values writing and disregards talk of
writing pedagogy, I expected Mr. McNew to offer many negative
comments about the project. Instead, he told me that the writing
project was a productive experience for him because of writing.
"Writing is positive. It has nothing to do with the individuals at
the writing project. It is the power of writing. The lure of
writing. I got to do a lot of writing. It was like writing camp,

and that was wonderful." The time available for writing, although
never enough, he mentions, made the elements of the project that
were less that satisfying, somewhat tolerable.
As stated earlier, Mr. McNew says that he attended the
writing project to do personal writing. That part of the
experience was good, but he feels the problem with the project he
attended is that it "became more about the teaching of writing
than about writing itself." During the time that his colleagues
talked of writing as a process and considered ways to guide their
students through that process using a variety of activities and
teaching strategies, Mr. McNew yearned for a discussion of
"catharsis, conflict, antagonist, protagonist, rising action,"
words that are the center of writing for him--words that are
about writing instead of about writing instruction and the place
he says discussion about becoming a writer should be. Some
would argue that writing instruction is the focus of a writing
project, but that is not so for Mr. McNew.
Mr. McNew reports that he made no changes in writing
instruction based on his project experience, and his often-
discussed view that the only way to become a better writer is by
writing was not challenged. He is certain of his teaching
strategy and found nothing offered that is sophisticated enough to
enhance or devalue his practice. The writing activities other
teachers presented are valueless to Mr. McNew's teaching. He
considers most of the presented activities to be "marginal," less
about writing and more about "connecting to writing in a
meaningful way" which he says means nothing because the

191
writing itself is what brings people into the craft. Mr. McNew
also says that although "most people don't use much from what
they learn," the act of presenting is useful because it provides "a
way to train and get better at the process of presentation." He
says that the presentation process offers teachers a way to
develop their own professionalism, and that part of the project is
positive. Though for Mr. McNew, extensive writing practice and
discussion of the one or two good sentences found within a
writing are more important and should be given considerably more
attention.
Professional Role
Attendance in a writing project may affect the professional
role teachers play. After learning a variety of ways to present
writing to their students and participating in public sharing of
their best practices, some teachers begin to move out from their
classrooms into the role of teacher of teachers. Mr. McNew has
not embraced this path. In his class he acts as a mentor for those
interested in writing, and this role seems to be one that fits his
definition of how best to develop student writers. He has done
some writing about his philosophy regarding the teaching of
language arts, and that could be described as a developing
professional role. I think, though, that his intent is less about
joining the ranks of teachers and more about making a case for
his way of thinking. In the classroom, Mr. McNew models the
school experience he had in his creative writing program; and he
leaves the teaching of teachers to others.

Mr. McNew rejects the idea of training teachers in his
school. He believes the attitude in his school is "if it ain't broke,
don't fix it." This assumed attitude tells him that teachers in his
setting are not interested in new ways to think about writing
instruction. With little felt need and assuming colleagues would
resent it if a colleague "imposed something," and this is how he
thinks the teachers in his school would feel, Mr. McNew says
little room exists at the local level for him to act as a teacher of
teachers.
Mr. McNew states that the presentation he gave at the
writing project would be better received at another school, but I
saw no evidence that he might take that presentation beyond the
writing project. Possibly Mr. McNew feels he is a model for those
around him. His belief that you "can't teach people to be artists if
you aren't one" allows him to develop his own artistic sense and
act as the artist who nurtures the few willing and able child-
artists he discovers in his class. The focus is on the self and the
few students with artistic potential and this, better than a
specialist in writing pedagogy, describes Mr. McNew. He has
found a niche as a mentor for willing students.

CHAPTER 7
MR. MARRIET-TEACHER/WRITER
School Context
School Description
The school where Mr. Marriet teaches sits on the edge of one
of the fastest growing areas in the country. The city where the
school is located is an interesting combination of metropolitan
growth and serious equestrian breeding. During the summer I
began working with Mr. Marriet, the school completed a
reconstruction project that modernized the entire physical plant.
As a result, soft, muted tones color the school, a computer lab is
stocked with the latest technology equipment, and expanded
classroom and work areas give the school a spacious feel. The
room where Mr. Marriet teaches is one of four that branches off a
common area housing a student restroom and a work area for the
four teachers in that section. The entire area is carpeted, new
desks are in place for the students and teachers, and fashionable
vertical blinds cover all of the windows.
Mr. Marriet's desk is at the front of his room, and the
chalkboard hangs on the wall behind the desk. A Macintosh
computer is centered along that wall just to the right of the
teacher's desk. On the adjacent wall is a bank of windows that
looks out to another wing of the school. Under the windows is a
1 93

1 94
row of cabinets that house the students' work and various unused
textbooks. The back wall is a bulletin board covered with
inspirational posters and student writing and projects. On the
remaining wall are two doors. One leads to the student restroom
area, and the other opens into the teacher workroom. Beside the
second door is a large glass area that allows Mr. Marriet to keep
visual contact with the students from the teacher work area. In
between the two doors is a bookshelf that contains the classroom
library.
Class Observation
Mr. Marriet begins each day with a Caught 'Ya designed to
improve some found problem in the students' writing. The
sentence used as the vehicle for this lesson is typed into Mr.
Marriet's computer and projected onto the wall by way of a
display unit attached to the overhead. Mr. Marriet uses the
overhead projector connected to the computer so the discussion
includes not simply talk about the conventions of the English
language but also computer technology and computer use. Mr.
Marriet selects a student to make corrections to the sentence. He
told me this role enables the student to act as classroom leader
and to learn how to use the computer.
As the students filed in, Mr. Marriet directed them to work
on the Caught 'Ya. One asked to do the Caught 'Ya on the computer;
but Mr. Marriet recalled that the student had done the corrections
before, so he selected another student for the privilege.

On the board was written the day's agenda which included
the following:
1. Caught 'Ya (Mini-lesson) Projected on the screen
through the computer: Yesterday the boy from the
horse farm send the letter to miami.
2. Show Don't Tell
3. Mini-Lesson--Vague Pronouns
4. Review: Portfolio and Story Ideas
5. Writing Workshop
As the students worked on the sentence, one asked, "How
many mistakes?"
Mr. Marriet answered, "I don't know." He told me later that
he sometimes tells them how many corrections they need to make
but not always. He walked around the room checking the Caught
'Ya work. He looked to see that students found and corrected the
errors. He gave individual attention, made comments to several
of the students, and told me later that he directs the students to
the errors if they do not find them so the class discussion will
have more meaning to them.
When it appeared that most students were finished, Mr.
Marriet asked, "What's the problem today?"
"'Miami' should be a capital letter."
The student at the computer looked to Mr. Marriet for
approval before making the correction. Mr. Marriet nodded, and
the student changed the small letter to a capital letter.
Then Mr. Marriet said, "Right. Why should we do that?"
A student responded, "'Cause it's the name of a town."

"Right. Who knows our rule that makes us use a capital
letter here?"
"Umm, something about a proper word," said a student.
"A proper noun," coached another.
"That's right. Proper nouns begin with a capital letter.
Anyone confused about that?" guided Mr. Marriet. He waited for
several seconds before continuing. "Well, what else is wrong
with the day's sentence? Anything?"
The student who pointed out the problem with the capital
letter raised his hand again, but Mr. Marriet paused and asked
again, "Does someone else see a problem?"
Finally another student raised her hand. Mr. Marriet called
on the girl, and she said, "I'm not sure, but is the 'send' right?"
"No," said Mr. Marriet. "What's wrong with it?"
The young lady answered, "Well, I don't know what you call
it, but I think it should be 'He sent the letter' instead of 'He send.'"
"Yes. Now why might that be?" Several seconds passed and
no one answered. Finally Mr. Marriet prompted the students.
"When did the boy put the letter in the mail box?"
The same young lady answered, "Yesterday."
"Right. Now, was that in the past or the present?"
"In the past," she said.
"Yes. And when I send something I'm doing it . . .?"
"Now."
"Okay. And when I have sent something . . .?" prompted Mr.
Marriet.
"You've already done it."

"Right! So, what are these verbs? They are what verb
tenses?" Mr. Marriet slowly moved the students from what they
knew to the concepts he wanted to use in the English classroom.
Several seconds passed before a student answered his question.
"Past and present," said a student.
"Yes. And we must be careful in our writing to use past
tense when we are talking about something that happened in the
past, and then we must use present tense when we are talking
about something that happened in the present. Remember that
rule about using past and present tense?" The students nodded
and seemed to remember. "Look in your grammar notebook and see
it you can find that rule. Does anyone see it?"
The grammar notebook is a compilation of the rules they
discuss through the Caught 'Ya. Students write the grammar rules
in a section of their English notebook.
Several indicated that they saw it, and then Mr. Marriet
said, "When writing your papers, be careful about using present
and past tense to indicate that something is happening now or
that it has already happened. If you don't have that rule in your
notebook, be sure to get it from someone. It should be in there.
Now, look at our vocabulary word 'pompous'. What does it mean?"
(At the end of the Caught 'Ya each day the students and Mr. Marriet
discuss one vocabulary word.)
"Conceited," replied a student.
Another student asked, "Can I look it up and read it?" The
student was holding the open dictionary in her hand. This seemed
common practice.

"Full of pomp; stately; magnificent."
"Good. Now what is 'pompous'?" asked Mr. Marriet.
Several students called out, "Stuck up!"
Smiling, Mr. Marriet said, "Yes, it is. Enter the word in your
vocabulary notebook. And notice that it's number nineteen. That
means number twenty is coming. What does that mean?"
In unison, "A vocabulary quiz!!"
"Right. Start studying now so you'll be ready."
Mr. Marriet changed the direction of the class by saying,
"Let's look at today's Show Don't Tell (SDT)." ('Everyone was at the
party.' The point of the SDT, Mr. Marriet explained to me, is to
give students practice in writing for detail. They are like finger
exercises for writers. They are short pieces that direct attention
to a specific area of writing and offer a way to discuss larger
pieces done later because students learn how to discuss
appropriate use of detail in the short writing and can continue
that discussion when they write longer pieces.) "I want you to
think about a real party. Look at who is there. Who do the people
talk to? How do they stand? How will they act? Who will they
be with? Think about real people and describe them so we can
see those people. Ready?"
The students responded, "Yes."
"Okay, you have ten minutes for your writing." He wrote
with the students for about four minutes but then walked around
the room. He bent low and talked to several students. He nodded
his head, asked questions, pointed to words on the papers, smiled,

and pulled at his eyelashes as he met with students. After
several minutes he told them they had about three minutes left to
write, reminded the students to go back over their writing and
proofread, continued to walk around the room, and then called for
the papers. Some students asked if they might keep the writing,
write more at home, and turn in the paper the following day. Mr.
Marriet allowed that.
After the SDT, a story written by Mr. Marriet was
distributed to the class. The story was filled with vague
pronouns and was designed to offer the students a common text
from which to discuss this recurring problem found in their
writing.
Whitney lives with her grandmother. She owns a
beautiful white horse. Each day she is groomed and
exercised because she wants to enter her in the county
fair that occurs each spring. One day while brushing her
hair, she noticed that there was a sore on her leg. She
called the vet who came to the barn that afternoon. She
was concerned about the sore and told her that if she
didn't carefully apply the salve provided, she might be
lame.
She was careful to apply the salve until one night
she was ill herself. Fortunately, her close companion
cared for her. After several days she was better. They
were able to attend the fair where she won the blue
ribbon for her beauty and poise.
The first two sentences were discussed to model correction of
vague pronouns. "Whitney lives with Grandmother. She owns a
beautiful white horse." Mr. Marriet asked, "Who owns the horse?"
The students replied simultaneously, "Grandmother-
Whitney.

200
Mr. Marriet nodded his head and said, "It's difficult to tell,
isn't it?"
"Yes."
"That's because it isn't clear whether the pronoun "she"
refers to 'Whitney' or to 'Grandmother.' When we write we want
to be very clear, so the reader can understand what we mean.
How might the writer correct this pronoun problem?"
One student said, "Well, you could say, 'Whitney owns a
beautiful white horse'. Then you'd know."
"Yes, you could. Is there another way this could be fixed?"
"Grandmother owns a beautiful horse," said another student.
"Yes. Either way makes it clear who owns the horse. What
happens to the story when we make it clear that Grandmother
owns the horse?"
A student replied, "Then it's all about her."
"Umm. (Nodding.) I'd like for you to decide whether
Grandmother or Whitney owns the horse, and then go through the
story and correct the vague pronouns." Students were given time
to correct the pronouns. Some seemed to understand the
assignment, but others were obviously confused. Mr. Marriet
walked around the room and gave individual attention to those
who required it.
When the students were finished with their corrections, Mr.
Marriet and the class revised the story. First, they rewrote it so
that Whitney owned the horse, and later they revised it with
Grandmother as the owner. Mr. Marriet made corrections on the
computer screen as the students made suggestions. The image

201
was visible just as it was for the Caught 'Ya. Each pronoun
clarification required corrections within the content of the story.
When the class revisions were complete, Mr. Marriet gave the
students their writing folders and directed them to their latest
drafts. He had marked vague pronoun references, and the students
corrected those. He had also marked correctly used pronouns.
Students were given time in their small groups to discuss the
correctly and incorrectly used pronouns. They worked on this for
about ten minutes. Several laughed at the confusion the vague
references produced. One young man yelled at Mr. Marriet and
asked of the paper he wrote, "Hey, Mr. Marriet. This sounds really
dumb. Who wrote this?" After the small-group time, Mr. Marriet
directed the students to begin working on their current piece of
writing.
Mr. Marriet circulated the room as the students worked. He
referred to a notebook with his notes about each student's
writing while discussing specifics with the students. The
students wrote for about twenty minutes before the bell rang.
Most students were on task. One young lady, Joann, had difficulty
settling down to her work. Mr. Marriet made his way over to her
and spoke to her from his notes. While he was talking, Joann
reached into her folder and pulled out a paper. Mr. Marriet pointed
to something, made a comment and then when he walked away,
Joann began writing. When he and I later discussed her, Mr.
Marriet said, "Some students need more teacher direction than
others. Maybe that's because they feel less secure in class or
with their writing, but Joann likes for me to lead her pretty

directly. I am trying to give her less and less direction, but for
now I still try to help her."
202
Personal Writing
The student artifacts around the room indicate that Mr.
Marriet and his students use the classroom as a place for writing,
but these reflections of writing belie the kind of writing Mr.
Marriet experienced as a student. Like the other participants in
this study, Mr. Marriet's writing instruction in school was
minimal although the instruction that was provided acted as a
basis for his later growth as a writer.
In the first question of our initial interview, I asked Mr.
Marriet to tell me about himself as a writer. He pondered the
issue for a moment and then said, "That's a good question. Even
before you contacted me I had been thinking about this question
very deeply." The reason he had contemplated this issue, he says,
is because he wondered if an understanding of his own experience
with school writing might offer ideas about the instruction he
offers his students. He says he believes that "remembering my
own experiences as a young writer could suggest direction about
what students need." With that in mind, he went on to discuss
more about his own school experience. "Writing in high school,
middle school, and elementary school was very difficult. I went
to a parochial school and English basically consisted of grammar
and literature. Writing was secondary, if even that." Mr. Marriet
says that when his teachers included writing, he and his
classmates were taught to follow the five-paragraph essay form.

203
Mr. Marriet says, "I remember the catch phrase they used was
'bing-bang-bongo.' The first paragraph was 'bing,' the second was
'bang.' and the third was 'bongo.' That was the body. Then there
was the introduction and the conclusion, and that's the way I
learned to write everything." Mr. Marriet explains that by
following this organizational pattern, he was able to be
considered a successful writer throughout high school. The form
failed to support the demands of his college classes, however,
and he reports that "when I arrived in college, I was destroyed.
The formulaic writing did not work, so I had to struggle and for a
while I thought being an English major was not what I was cut out
to be."
"The first time I wrote a paper for a teacher and she said,
'This isn't really what I'm looking for--it lacks creativity, or you
need to take this angle.' I didn't have any other approaches. I was
stuck." Mr. Marriet kept working, though, and finally figured out
through "late-night writing and getting my thoughts down on
paper," that he did have some writing skill. He feels that the
emphasis on grammar in high school, while not directly helpful in
improving his writing, ultimately proved to be important because,
"When it came down to improving my writing [in college], when
teachers said that I had a dangling modifier, I wasn't confused. I
knew what they were talking about." Grammar then, became the
common language Mr. Marriet and his teachers used to discuss
writing.
Nevertheless, even with the grammar instruction in high
school and some writing instruction in college, Mr. Marriet says

204
that "When I graduated [from college] I knew my writing skills
were not strong enough to do anything in the writing field. So I
took a job [with a small magazine publisher] as an editor doing a
lot of proofreading." While in that position and with the
encouragement of the senior editor, Mr. Marriet wrote and
published several pieces. With this success, Mr. Marriet and a
friend went out on their own and for a short period, they
published a newspaper in a small town. In that position Mr.
Marriet says, "I was a writer, proofreader, editor-1 did
everything but nothing well."
During the time Mr. Marriet worked for the magazine and
published a newspaper, he realized that part of his struggle as a
writer was due to inadequate training. As he contemplated how
his writing career might have gone had he received good
instruction while in school, Mr. Marriet decided he wanted to
offer young people the instruction he missed. With this goal
firmly in mind, he returned to school for teacher education in a
graduate program. He says that finally at this point in his
education he began receiving writing instruction designed around
what he calls the "essence of writing."
It really wasn't until graduate school that I focused in on
what I do well as a writer or what I like to do as a writer.
And really what that meant was the free writing and free
response we used. I started using less technical language.
I had a very harsh, rigid style of writing that was very
cold, and it wasn't until graduate school that I started
putting some emotion in it.
In this graduate program the students frequently did five-minute
freewriting. No restrictions or requirements were imposed, and

205
something in those freewrites allowed Mr. Marriet to grow as a
writer. He is not completely certain what triggered his new
perspective on writing but offers this possibility. "Maybe it was
the whole idea that it was free writing. I didn't have to stay
within any perameters. I didn't have to worry that my first
sentences told what the middle three paragraphs would talk
about. I didn't have to stick to that structure [of the five-
paragraph essay], and this gave me a new feeling about writing."
Whatever the reason, Mr. Marriet says his writing began to
improve during graduate school. Besides the freedom to write
with feeling, he also believes "reading good literature" helped
improve his writing. The comparisons he makes between his
writing and the writing of published authors keeps him from
feeling he has attained the status of a good writer. He says, "I
don't mean to knock people who read bad works, but I tend to read
difficult books. I think that if I had experience with Clancey or
Steele, I think it's pretty safe to say I write as well as they do.
But I compare myself to higher literature," and this comparison
keeps Mr. Marriet humble about his abilities, although he
recognizes that his writing continues to improve.
As Mr. Marriet's confidence in his writing has evolved, so
has his definition of good writing. During high school he defined
good writing as adherence to a structure defined by teachers.
Today his definition has moved away from structure to meaning
and hard work. He says, "Good writing is writing with a creative
edge to it." His philosophy is similar to Mr. McNew's in that good
writing may do no more than look at the usual in a new way. When

206
defining good writing done by his students he says, "If I can look
at [the writing] and I can see the story and I can visualize--even
if the spelling is wrong--that's good writing." The ideas and the
detail used in describing the ideas are important to good writing,
but good writing "achieves whatever the writer sets out to do." It
also:
is something you are working towards. It isn't necessarily
finding answers, although that's part of research writing,
but it's getting better [at writing]. It isn't finding answers,
it's searching for answers. It's a growth process. It's
pushing yourself and challenging yourself to do even
better--to constantly improve. [A professor] once
described it as "workmanlike." Good writing is hard work.
That hard work does not scare Mr. Marriet, who says "writing is
not easy for me. I'm still not to the stage where it's perfectly
natural. I'm not where I can sit down or spend a whole lot of time
doing it. I like to write more than I used to--and I write more
than I used to--it's much easier," but writing is still work.
He likes the work, particularly writing screen plays. I
asked Mr. Marriet to explain what he does when he writes a screen
play, and he told me that:
I will get an idea and I'll write it on a napkin or on a
post-it, and I'll hang it up or put it in a cup. Then on
my computer I have a folder called "Story Ideas." I have
different folders inside that folder. One is for conver¬
sations. ... I'm in the accumulating stage right now. I
gather ideas, settings, characters, conversations and
put them in my folders. If I hear something, I'll put it
there. For example, I overhead a conversation last night
between my friend and his girlfriend. I thought it
would be a cute line if I did a play on a relationship, so
I wrote that down.

207
Conversation is an important part of Mr. Marriet's current
writing because "that's part of my generation. We are bombarded
with radio and television. People aren't as detail or description
oriented because of the visual." The writer cannot just say that
"he was mad. The writer must show what he said and that will
show that he was mad. What did he do? How did he feel? Then
you can describe his face, his hair--things like that." At this
point in our conversation, Mr. Marriet leaned back, smiled, and
redirected the conversation toward the students he teaches.
These students, he says, have "trouble with showing something
instead of just saying it." As quickly as that, the interview focus
changed from Mr. Marriet's interest as a writer to his interest in
his students and the teaching of writing.
Mr. Marriet is in the midst of writing a screen play and as
he said, he has a file with ideas for future writing; but Mr.
Marriet is as serious about teaching as he is about writing. He
likes to talk about his own writing, but he also likes to discuss
his students and his work as a teacher.
Writing Instruction
Practices in Instruction
As a beginning point for his young writers, Mr. Marriet says
that he wants students to get their inner feelings down on paper.
This element was missing from his own writing instruction until
graduate school, but he says pulling what is inside--the feelings
and stories in each writer--to the outside is vital. "Getting kids
to articulate how they feel about themselves, the world around

208
them, about the topic at hand" is the beginning point in his
writing instruction. He points out that "Writing a grammatically
correct, perfectly punctuated sentence is not the initial goal--
although that would be wonderful. Getting kids to that point is
the goal, but that isn't where they start." Mr. Marriet recognizes
the importance of classroom instruction for developing his
writers because the structure for putting down thoughts and
feelings can eventually come from "within the writer, but
initially the structure comes from outside." So, Mr. Marriet's
writing class is driven by his desire to move students to a point
where they write from their own experience; "they have
established their own writing goals; and they are working on
those goals."
Establishing a learning environment suitable for the
fruition of his goals for the writers and the writers' goals for
themselves provides a challenge for Mr. Marriet. Ideally, he says,
the middle grades are where students would encounter the
writing workshop, the classroom format he uses. "I like to think
of elementary, middle, and high school as a progression. In
elementary school they learn individual skills, in middle school
we put them together, and in high school, when their writing is
good enough, they can analyze literature." Structuring writing
instruction at the middle-school level in a writing workshop
allows curriculum goals to revolve around "fluency and ownership
in a variety of modes of writing," but for Mr. Marriet, the guiding
principle is the provision of time so the middle school students
can "sit down, write for themselves, explore their writing, and

209
try new techniques." Mr. Marriet points out that ultimately
students will move to a position where they will indeed write on
their own, but while they are in middle school "they need time to
sit down and talk to the teacher about what's in the writing."
Despite the fact that Mr. Marriet is the only teacher in his school
pursuing the writing workshop, he believes the format allows him
to offer his students the instruction that best develops their
writing.
To create the environment, Mr. Marriet allows daily class
time for students to write. He does not, however, allow them to
write haphazardly, hoping for improvement. He carefully
structures class, so the students receive the instruction
pertinent to the writing task on which they are working. "I break
down almost everything so they can get it. I put things on the
overhead or discuss or do both. Whatever it takes." During the
class observation detailed earlier, the discussion of vague
pronouns acts as an example of how Mr. Marriet focuses
instruction around student needs. Mr. Marriet explained to me
that the purpose of this mini-lesson was twofold. The students
were not simply discussing the use of pronouns; they were also
"making internal revisions that made the story's outcome reflect
either an old or a young woman." Mr. Marriet said he used this
model so that students could hear a discussion of the grammar
issue and also be involved in a discussion of revision. After the
whole-class instruction, Mr. Marriet told the students to check
their most recently returned draft. On each person's paper, Mr.
Marriet had marked places where pronoun-antecedent problems

210
occurred and needed correction or where pronouns were used
correctly. The students were directed to explain to their writing
group why the marked pronouns were correct or how they might
be corrected. Then Mr. Marriet met with each group for a quick
discussion of the correct and the corrected pronouns. Following
the whole-group and small-group instruction, Mr. Marriet met
with the students individually "because I like to see if they
understand what we have discussed during my presentation.
Usually they can show me that they do understand, but sometimes
I find places of misunderstanding, and that directs my next
lesson."
Mr. Marriet says that his students are unaccustomed to
working in a workshop environment, so another element in
creating the environment is preparing students to function in a
workshop. This means that he moves students by stages from
what they are accustomed to toward what he hopes to promote.
Mr. Marriet says that he started out the year with the desks in
rows because students are used to that, but since that
arrangement does not support his goal to provide a workshop, he
rearranged the desks into clusters as the students became more
comfortable with the workshop concept. The reason he provides
this physical arrangement is because "when artists work, they
work together and they sketch and they maybe do fifteen sketches
of a hand until they get something they like. They are in their
environment. That's what I'm trying to do. Create an environment
for them-and to create as best as I can-what writers think and
do when they write." One way that happens is by providing a

space that supports artistic movement and discussion. He says
that work-area clusters provide opportunities to share work
easily, and the resulting floor spaces provide clear ways for
movement between work areas.
Mr. Marriet says that he spent "a whole nine weeks [working
students into the writing workshop]. The first nine weeks we did
a dress rehearsal, so to speak, and I told them what was expected
of them and what they would do." Initially, Mr. Marriet says he
defined the writing assignments for his students and looked for
"how creative, how experimental they got, how correctly they
wrote, and how they punctuated, just [so I could] get a feel for
[their writing]." He says that at the beginning of the year he "got
them prepared. I introduced terminology and the procedures and
writing strategies, then slowly moved into bigger chunks of time
devoted to writing." From that point he was able to understand
the students as writers and offer instruction based on either
their collective or individual need. Mr. Marriet points out that
initially he directed all elements of the class, but within that
direction his goal was to teach the students to take over their
own writing.
During several observations, I watched these young writers
at work, and over the course of the year I saw the students and
Mr. Marriet discuss writing at different levels. At the beginning
of the year, Mr. Marriet reminded the students that they needed to
have a conference with him about the direction of their writing.
He gave them a writing topic and then only allowed twenty
minutes for writing. I noticed that the students complied. By the

212
end of the year the students were given few directions at the
beginning of the writing time, few asked for a topic and Mr.
Marriet offered almost no suggestions, and the students wrote for
about forty minutes. During one of our final interviews Mr.
Marriet said of his students:
I don't have to take time to talk about what goes on at
this [writing] time of the day. I don't have to tell them
what revision is. If I say I want to do a quick mini¬
lesson on revision, I don't have to explain that. When
I tell them to get in their response groups, they know
how to do that and how to act in their groups. I don't
have to cut into instructional time with routine
explanation. That frees up time to write.
Within the workshop environment developed over the course
of a school year, Mr. Marriet instructs the students about the
process of writing. He is careful, however, not to lead students
to believe that there is only one way to approach writing. He does
not want students to think they must memorize steps and follow
them like a recipe. That approach is no more effective than the
five-paragraph essay he was forced to follow while in school. He
says that "taking them through the steps and letting kids know
not every piece will make it through all the stages" is important.
He hopes that students will understand and "feel comfortable"
with the notion that "some pieces might go to prewriting, [and]
some might go all the way through" the process.
Working through a lock-step program is not important, but
learning that writing is more than just putting some thoughts on
paper is. Mr. Marriet says, "I spend a lot of time teaching the
difference between editing and revising and doing a first draft."

213
He teaches not just the definition of these terms, but he also
teaches what writers do in each of the stages of the process.
While I observed class one day, I saw Mr. Marriet as he worked on
the idea of revision. He explained to the students that he wanted
them to carefully consider improvement of text. In describing
what he hoped the students would do in revision, he compared the
tangible revision of the school to the more intangible revision of
writing. He began by asking the students, "When the builders
worked on our school, did they just paint the walls?"
In unison the students responded, "No!"
Then Mr. Marriet asked them what the builders did when
they remodeled the school. The students listed several specific
building changes including the new work area for teachers, the
new wing of the building for special education classes, and the
redesigned area in the front office. Mr. Marriet followed that
response by asking the students the difference between the work
they mentioned and simple wall painting.
"Bigger," replied one student.
"Well, yes," responded Mr. Marriet, "but what do you mean by
'bigger'?"
"That means that the workers changed things. They didn't
just change the color. They changed the walls and stuff."
"Exactly!" said Mr. Marriet. "But how did they know what to
change?"
"I don’t know, exactly," said another student. "Maybe the
school board told 'em what to do."

214
"The teachers said." exclaimed a student.
"And how would the teachers know what needed to be
redone?" responded Mr. Marriet.
"'Cause it's their school," said one student.
"No, it ain't!" proclaimed another.
"Yeah, it is," the first replied.
"Well, it isn't the teachers', but the teachers work here and
know more about what is needed than many people. In a way they
do own it. Could you all agree with that?"
The class agreed, and Mr. Marriet went on. "When we revise
we act something like the teachers did when this building was
renovated. We think about what is working and what could be
improved in the paper we own, and we devise a plan to help us
revise the existing paper. Then, we change areas that we decide
can be improved."
Guiding student understanding of the terms used in the
writing process is one area Mr. Marriet develops, but he also
offers opportunities for them to see what writers actually do in
the writing process. Toward that end, he models writing behavior
for students from time to time. One way he does this is by
talking about his own writing:
I've talked to them about the four ways to start a story:
conversation, flashback, describing a scene, or describing
a major event. And I've shown them how I might use
several of these beginnings when I am stuck. I think if
they can see me struggle and see how I resolve my
problems, then they have something to fall back on when
they have problems.

215
Mr. Marriet says, however, that as important as it is for his
students to see what writers do and to learn the vocabulary and
processes of a writer, he faces the dilemma of having the
students copy his own work. "I run into the problem where I get
models back. Models out--models in." To avoid this situation, Mr.
Marriet says he tells students to "remember, this is something I
wrote--this is a process I go through. But what's most important
is that you begin to develop your own ways of dealing with
writing problems." He says that sometimes it takes some
individual work with students to move them from his model to
their own, but he also feels that "the students may need to work
within a structure before they are comfortable going out on their
own."
This development as a writer is important because students
are defining themselves as writers. Mr. Marriet says that his
instruction is not about imparting knowledge even though that is
what students and parents often expect to find in classrooms.
Instead, he says, "I give my students strategies [for writing]. I
give them revision strategies, for example. I don't ever say, 'The
way to make this better is this.' I tell them that in the response
groups they might talk about this and find out from their peers
how they might improve an area they question." He also says, "I
want them to control their writing process," but at the same time
Mr. Marriet knows he is the teacher and must structure the
learning environment so that students can grow not only as
writers but as users of language.

216
To ensure that the students in his class learn the
conventions of English, Mr. Marriet uses mini-lessons for
instruction in mechanics and grammar. Usually, says Mr. Marriet,
"the material for the mini-lesson comes from problems I see in
the students' writing." The lesson comes before writing time so
that students can locate the language principle in their own
writing. As stated earlier, Mr. Marriet often marks either a
correct use of the principle or a place to be corrected so that
students can see what was taught in relation to their own
writing.
To assist students in their development as independent
learners, Mr. Marriet has them keep the Caught 'Ya sentences and
the language rules generated through the day's exercise in a
language notebook much like a spelling notebook some teachers
use. Then, when a question arises about some element of
language, Mr. Marriet can refer the students to their own
handbooks. The students can keep the books at the end of the
year. Mr. Marriet says, "They are learning that a question in
language means you look for an answer, not that you just put
down anything," and he hopes "they are learning that they are
responsible for finding that answer."
As important as the conventions of language are, Mr. Marriet
structures his class not around these issues but around the use of
the conventions. That use comes during the two-hour blocks of
class time scheduled twice a week. The extended time allows for
literature study and "some instruction in writing and some
practice." Mr. Marriet likes the variety in course content, and he

217
also likes the connection between literature and writing. At the
beginning of the year when students are not yet trained in the
educational expectations of writing workshop like self-selected
topics, Mr. Marriet says he "gives the students writing starts." He
says:
I like to pick writing activities which grow from the
class. I’ll leave a blank in my plans for the writing topic,
and I will select an activity based on what is generated
in class. If we've got a real good discussion going on
something, I'll stop and say, "Great, let's write about
that." I'll tell them to tell me how they felt about what
Tony said about so and so; or, "If you were Rikki Tivi,
would you have killed all of the eggs?" I like for the
writing to come out of the classroom.
At this point students must define the issue they have read about,
decide their stance on the subject, and then articulate their point
of view. This procedure acts to "train students how to think
about topics." Mr. Marriet takes students to topics with an
inherent conflict which, he says, offers a nice place to begin a
writing. "More interesting writing grows from this than from
topics like, 'Why I Love My New Horse,' a topic I've read many
times."
Although he does find strength in allowing topics to grow
from class-generated discussion, Mr. Marriet is careful not to tie
students to a topic. He was bothered by the specified writings he
was forced to develop during presentations while attending the
writing project, so he tries to allow students to write on their
own when they feel strongly about a topic. He often leads
students into writing possibilities before offering them time for
their own writing. During one of my observations, he and the

218
students were reading Face on the Milk Carton (Cooney, 1990), a
story about a young woman who discovers that as a baby she was
kidnapped from her real family. The students were excited about
the developing plot, and Mr. Marriet suggested that they write
how they might feel if they found themselves in that situation.
Some of the students picked up on that writing task, but others
went their own way. Mr. Marriet's classroom is structured so
that students feel comfortable using or not using his writing
suggestion.
At the first of the school year, students wrote about the
topics presented by the teacher, but about midway through the
year things changed. As an example he told me about an incident
in class. "Yesterday I told the students to write on a topic. I
presented a topic, and they didn't like it. I understood how they
felt, and so I told them they could write on the topic I suggested
or on one of their own." Mr. Marriet says, "The fact that they like
the freedom to write about whatever they want lets me know that
aspect is very important." He further says that, "I've come to
realize that kids know more than they think they know, and . . .
when you just sit and think about a topic you realize you know
more about it than you thought you did." This means for Mr.
Marriet that sometimes the topics he suggests act as a
springboard for extended student thought, but sometimes they do
not, and either direction is fine.
Mr. Marriet says that his "focus is teaching students to be
better writers. I stay away from worksheets because I don't
want to tell them. I want them to pull it out" (emphasis his); and

219
for this kind of writing to take place, Mr. Marriet structures class
time so students have writing time during each writing class.
Each week Mr. Marriet requires that his students turn in some
piece of writing. He then reads each student's work and makes
notes to himself and to the student specifically about the piece
turned in and generally about the student's writing progress. I
asked Mr. Marriet what he used as criteria for noting student
strengths and weaknesses. He told me that, "each student is at a
different place, so I look at each student individually. Some
students in any class can have similar weak areas, so I can meet
with them in small groups for some instruction; but to work with
kids on their personal writing, I have to know exactly where each
one is."
In order to keep up with the growth of each student, Mr.
Marriet keeps notes in a notebook about the writing done by his
students. Then, as mentioned earlier in this section, he meets
with each student once a week for a writing conference. During
writing time Mr. Marriet moves around the room. His initial
sweep through the room is his way "to check and be sure everyone
is getting to work." Then, he goes back through the room and
meets with individuals. He checks his notebook while talking to
the students and makes notes about the conference. During the
one-on-one conference Mr. Marriet says he does "some of his most
important teaching. Kids react differently to suggestions and
praise when they know I will be talking with them one at a time.
I know this [keeping track of each student] is a lot of work, but I
feel it lets the students know how important their writing is." I

220
watched the students during the conference time. No one seemed
nervous or uncomfortable as the conference progressed. They
showed Mr. Marriet their work, and several wrote comments as
Mr. Marriet talked. Mr. Marriet told me that students seem to like
the conference time. "Maybe because they know I have a pretty
good understanding of them as writers, they trust me to offer
comments that are important to their writing needs."
During writing time not all students are always on task;
they are more attentive some days that on others, but when they
talk in groups about writing they seem to know how writers talk
about writing. As I observed a class one day, I overheard students
discussing a piece of writing. Mike said to Terry, "Why don't you
use some strong verbs in that part about the baby?"
Terry responded, "I don't know. Guess I didn't think about it.
Like what?"
"Like--threw. Yeah. 'Little Amy threw the pillow' instead
of 'Little Amy has the pillow.' "
"That don't mean the same thing."
"So, it sounds better. Then you could change the story some.
It's your story, ain't it?"
After the group talked a bit more, Terry decided that Mike
was right. She moved her desk aside and began writing. As Mr.
Marriet moved through the room, Terry stopped him and read her
changes to him. He talked to her briefly, but told me later that
Terry started out the year writing one paragraph papers. To see
her concerned about strong verbs in a paper that was a full page
offered him assurance that "writing practice is important." He

attributes student success with writing to ample writing time
and, he says, to "allowing them to see and experience what real
writers see and experience."
221
One thing that real writers receive is feedback on their
work. Mr. Marriet offers feedback through comments on papers
and during student-teacher conferences but, like Terry, students
can also receive feedback during response group time. Mr. Marriet
says he places great emphasis on this feedback technique even
though he knows that he "spends some time keeping them on task.
This is middle school, after all, but the groups can be a support
base, an encouragement, and a place for critique. This is also a
place where kids can learn how to talk about writing." Because
some social elements are a part of any group of middle-school
students, Mr. Marriet is not surprised when students request
group time. Sometimes, though, Mr. Marriet believes the students
"want to meet with their groups to do some real talking about
their writing. They really act upset because the bell is ringing
and they didn't get to meet in their groups."
Knowing that students find the groups helpful encourages
Mr. Marriet to use this technique, but he also believes the
response groups are beneficial because the students "generate and
take ideas from each other. I had a student who wasn't writing,
but he and a friend began writing together and discussing their
work. I think that the discussions helped build his confidence,
and that alone was good for him." Also important is hearing
suggestions from peers.

222
It's just a different source. They get tired of hearing
only me. There's a tendency to think, "Oh, there he goes
lecturing again." But when it's your friends and they
are telling you, students tend to listen more. The per¬
son who knows more, they get a sense of confidence in
explaining and talking to others. It helps their process
of writing-the higher order thinking.
Eventually students must finish conferences on their work,
complete the writing, and turn in their papers for a teacher
assessment. For assigning grades, Mr. Marriet uses a rubric
designed to assess the expectations for a particular teaching
unit. If he has emphasized the use of dialogue or description,
then the rubric will reflect this expectation. Besides the rubric,
which Mr. Marriet feels "is specific and a fair way to grade," he
also looks for individual growth. "I will look for a visual growth,"
where the measure is simply fluency. "Has the student written
more than he did last time? This does not mean that the writing
is good, that's what the rubric is designed to do, but getting more
ideas on paper is also a sign of improvement, and that should be
noted in the grade."
Sometimes Mr. Marriet feels he is not doing all he should do.
When he reflects on the papers he received as a student, the
papers that "came back all marked up," he thinks that perhaps he
should point out all of a student's errors. That feeling vanishes
quickly when he remembers that the evaluation method he
experienced "did not allow him to grow because I never had a
chance to change anything. The errors were marked, but I just had
to live with them." When responding to papers, Mr. Marriet says,
"I put little to no marks on their paper. I'll put a check or a circle

223
or I will write 'transition' if there's a problem. I do the same
thing if I see problems with spelling or punctuation, but I don't
mark up the paper." The idea is that the student will be aware of
the error, and then when Mr. Marriet has a conference with the
student the two of them can discuss the problem toward growth
for the next writing.
Mr. Marriet says he feels sometimes like "I'm not doing my
job because I don't put red marks all over everyone's paper, ... but
the idea that what you write isn't going to be all wrong and the
work isn't going to get marked up, . . . that even the assessment is
a time for growth," provides an environment free for
"experimentation in writing." Mr. Marriet says that middle school
should foster that feeling in students.
Mr. Marriet mentioned a problem he encountered while
finding his way between the type of writing instruction he
received as a young student and the type he would like to offer
his students. As a student, most of his writing instruction dealt
with the details of writing toward a perfect finished product. As
important as a technically perfect paper is, Mr. Marriet says
today that "having the skills to articulate thought is also
important. I've always thought that ultimately what [students]
will be evaluated on is how well they can articulate their skills-
-verbally or in writing." Toward that end Mr. Marriet designs his
class around his belief that students need instruction in
mechanics and that they need to "know some grammar so they"
understand the way language works, but that these issues should
not drive writing instruction or writing practice. He feels that

224
good writing should be the goal. Mr. Marriet says "there needs to
be a connection between the writer and the topic [because] you
are going to get people, not just kids, to learn something when
they want to learn it." For Mr. Marriet this means that before his
students can be in a position to become good writers, he must
design the learning situation so that it connects with the
interests of his students; however, this sets up a paradox of
sorts in his thinking. As important as the classroom is in
offering students the opportunity to practice writing, Mr. Marriet
says he "hates to think [writing] starts with an assignment. I'd
like to think, and I know I have some students who are like this,
that students have their own idea about what they want to say
about certain topics."
Ultimately, he realizes that not all students come to class
excited about writing, and he takes the responsibility for
presenting experiences that will foster writing. "I think true
writing occurs when the student is able to somehow identify with
the assignment, when it strikes a chord and means something to
him, and what it means is expressed down on the paper." Mr.
Marriet believes it is his responsibility to invite students into
the writing experience.
Principles of Writing Instruction
For some teachers, curricular choices are based on
availability of teaching materials. Two books are on the adopted
textbook list, and the teacher selects one of those books. A new
film is ordered by the media specialist, and the teacher chooses

225
to use that film in class. Other teachers feel they have curricular
decisions imposed upon them and make no choices about
curriculum. In a particular school, a formal term paper is
required during the third nine weeks, so the teacher requires a
term paper during the third quarter. Mr. Marriet falls into neither
of these categories. His curricular decisions are made from a
growing understanding of writing instruction and his perceived
needs of the middle-school learners he encounters. This is not to
say that Mr. Marriet has developed a perfect classroom. He faces
curricula challenges and deals with student difficulties just as
all teachers do; but Mr. Marriet pursues the teaching of writing
cognitively, and in the telling of his story, particular attention
must be given to his developing awareness of the intellectual
aspects of instruction because it is this element that is
significant.
During the process of discussing current practices with Mr.
Marriet, I learned that he does not leave to chance what takes
place in his classroom; instead he evaluates and manipulates
instruction toward the development of a learning environment
that offers students the best situation for their growth as
writers. For example, during an interview midway through the
year, Mr. Marriet mentioned that writing workshop-the
classroom format he has chosen for writing instruction and
discussed in greater detail later in this section-works best with
middle- and above-level students, and that "writing workshop is
less effective with lower-level kids." When I asked him why he

felt that was true, he told me that he was not absolutely sure,
but that he "was thinking about why that is so."
226
By the end of the year when we discussed this issue again,
Mr. Marriet said he was still not completely certain why his more
advanced students were better participants in writing workshop,
but one problem he surmised after working with the lower-level
students was that "doing writing workshop every day was boring"
for them. Thus, while revising the curriculum for the coming
year, Mr. Marriet realized he must "provide interesting ways to
promote writing." He went on to list seven ways he planned to
modify his curriculum. One thing he hopes to do in the coming
year is "get things more visual. Most of these students are visual
learners, so I've go to connect to that more." Mr. Marriet says
that might happen through video so that students can write and
produce videos. Another way he plans to alter his curriculum is
through the use of music. "Maybe they could take their favorite
song, fill in the missing story or dialogue. They can go from song
to story to maybe they could act it out."
The choices he has made about his instruction are not based
on what the teachers in the building are doing. When he discusses
his practice, Mr. Marriet discusses the theoretical elements that
support his practice as well as the practical considerations
inherent in day-to-day teaching. As we discussed the alterations
mentioned above, Mr. Marriet said one idea was from a journal
article he had read, and the other grew from his understanding of
offering students a variety of ways into writing. Mr. Marriet has
read the work of professionals and has synthesized his reading

227
into a cognitive base from which to develop his own writing
pedagogy theory. The theoretical stance connects Mr. Marriet
with the teaching and research communities, thereby bridging his
instructional practices, direction for research discussion, and
theory building to a greater educational community where he is
finding his way into leadership roles beyond his school setting;
but Mr. Marriet's theory base is by no means static nor is it
without frequent evaluation in pursuit of the elements that need
to be tuned, dropped, or enhanced.
When discussing writing theory used to support practice,
Mr. Marriet's theory is clearly visible and easily articulated. He
says that the underlying theory that supports his practice, "grows
from my recent educational experiences, the writing project, and
from my knowledge about the students I teach." Scholes (1985)
says that teaching implies a theory, but Mr. Marriet does not
teach from an implicit theory; his is explicitly stated. He says
that for him "the best way to get students to understand writing
or the writing process or to develop their own writing skills is by
showing them how other writers do it." Underlying this
theoretical base is much reading and observation beginning with
Macorie's (1980) belief that students need to become familiar
with the actual physical process of writing. Mr. Marriet recounts
an experience with a nonwriting student in his class and the use
of Macorie's idea. "One student refused to write for the first half
of the year. 'I can't think, I can't write,' he would say. I used
Macorie's idea of having students like that write 'I have nothing

to say,' until they have something to say. Gradually by the end of
the year, the student was writing paragraphs and more."
228
Mr. Marriet also uses techniques other professionals
suggest. "I used Rebekah Caplan's book Writers in Training (1985)
and do a weekly SNT [Show Not Tell--Mr. Marriet calls this a
Show Don't Tell] to get students to be more descriptive. ... I like
the idea of the l-Search paper. . . . Inside Out (1981) by Kirby and
Liner is one of my favorites. It helps me know how to get
students to write about their feelings. That's something I needed
help with when I got to college so I can help them with that kind
of writing early. . . . The Heinemann Reader (Powers & Hubbard,
1991), that's a collection of articles and book chapters that
describe theories of writing. I've read that and used some from
that book. . . . Teaching English (Martin, 1977) and Encountering
Student Texts (Bruce, Ryan, & Winterowd, 1989), I haven't read
those books yet, but I will; and that helps me as I think of theory
in my classroom."
Besides books about writing, articles in professional
journals are also important to Mr. Marriet's developing theory of
writing. He teaches grammar and is concerned that he is outside
the accepted practice of the professionals in the journals he
reads who say that "formal grammar lessons are pretty
ineffective." But he teaches grammar anyway through the Caught
'Ya technique and mini-lessons because he says, "I feel a need to
somehow get them exposed to grammar and the whys and hows of
the language" so they can understand the structure of the
language they write. Mr. Marriet does not simply accept a

229
teaching technique because it is in a book or a journal article. He
reads for knowledge and then applies what he learns and knows
from his own experience as a writer to what he knows about his
students. Being up to date about why a teaching technique is used
or why a concept should be taught guides how he implements
beliefs about practice. Mr. Marriet is finding a place for himself
among writing teachers, but in doing so he defines his own
expression in the field. Mr. Marriet is a thinker. He accepts
nothing at face value; he considers, ponders, discusses, reflects,
compares, thinks, feels, and synthesizes as he melds all he has
heard, read, and experienced into a form of knowledge he can call
his own. In our interviews I saw a teacher defining his picture of
teaching as a convergence of knowledge, personal experience, and
practice.
Mr. Marriet's Role in the Classroom
Identifying the needs of writers so that assignments can
"strike a chord" places Mr. Marriet in an active leadership role in
his classroom; and it might seem that designing assignments of
this sort would define his role as the person in charge of all that
occurs in the classroom, but that is not so. The work done in
class is significant and can potentially lead students into
writing, but Mr. Marriet views his role as twofold: he guides and
directs, and then he moves out of the way and supports. When he
describes himself at an advantage in curriculum building because
he knows current research, he recognizes the importance of the
teacher who guides the educational experiences of students. Mr.

230
Marriet says about his classroom activity, "I monitor, . . . ask
questions, . . . and go around the room and check on students." The
close proximity to the working of each student offers Mr. Marriet
the knowledge he needs to make good decisions about the
direction for curriculum. Then, he says, "If I see something they
don't understand, I work on that with them." He also offers
guidelines where needed because "the students can't function
[without them]. Giving them complete freedom to choose their
own topic, work at their own pace, and work in response groups"
is not beneficial because "these are middle schoolers and they
need some guidance."
As important as it is for Mr. Marriet to offer structured
guidance in curriculum, he told me that he seeks a balance
between guiding his writers and forcing them. He says that he
tries to stay out of their way when possible during all stages in
the writing process, but sometimes "I interrupt and offer
suggestions when I shouldn't, and that breaks the student's
commitment to the writing." He is working toward finding a
balance between his ownership of the classroom and the students'
ownership. "Hopefully [my guidance] leads the students to
determine what they want to say instead of leading them to
search for what I want them to say."
During several classroom observations, I saw Mr. Marriet
provide structure for the students to discover their personal
connection with a new topic and then move out of the way as the
students began directing when they knew the way. On one day in
particular, Mr. Marriet was beginning a unit on mythology, and

231
rather than simply lecture about the topic, he had the students
cluster the term "myth" on their own papers. Several students
moaned that they knew nothing about mythology. Mr. Marriet did
not seize the opportunity to explore what he knew about the
topic; instead he asked the students some questions to help them
discover their own knowledge. "Have you ever heard of Zeus?" he
asked. The students responded that they had. Mr. Marriet then
asked, "What do you know about him?" The students mentioned
that he was a god and had many powers. Mr. Marriet acknowledged
their answers and then directed their thinking by asking
questions about Zeus such as "Where did Zeus live? Why did Zeus
overthrow his father, Cronus? Who were some of Zeus' siblings?
What were their stories?" After the students answered the
questions as well as they could and completed their personal
clusters, Mr. Marriet directed the class toward forming a
composite cluster that included a great deal of information about
myths. Besides Zeus the students discussed "that guy that flew
too close to the sun and got burnt" and Medusa, "the snake-hairdo
lady."
Initially, the students complained that they found the topic
beyond their reach, but after Mr. Marriet supported their thoughts
with substantive content questions, the students found they were
capable of handling the topic and took the responsibility for
filling in the informational gaps. Mr. Marriet guided and then
allowed the students to discover an understanding of the topic he
felt needed class attention. Then, he moved out of the way and
allowed the students to direct their own learning. After the

232
class cluster was completed, the students were instructed to
read a myth in their literature book. During our discussion that
followed the class, Mr. Marriet told me the next step was to have
the students find and read their own myth. Then they would
generate a class list of the characteristics of myth based on
their shared experience with the literary form. Once discovered,
the students would begin two options for writing. They might
write a myth following the theme found in a myth read by the
class, or they might write an original myth. Mr. Marriet says,
"This allows the students to direct their own writing," but the
direction is within the guidelines defined by the teacher based on
directing a learning experience.
Mr. Marriet defines his role as one who guides and offers
freedom based on what the students need in their curriculum.
Knowing what students need is in part based on knowledge about
the research on teaching writing, but Mr. Marriet says it is also
based on his own experience as a writer. With no hesitation he
says, "I think it helps tremendously to be a writer . . . [because] I
can work [as a teacher] from the knowledge and frustration that
only another writer can know." Without firsthand writing
experience, Mr. Marriet believes teachers are teaching from the
"other side of the fence." They are not teaching from personal
understanding but from others' knowledge about the subject. "I
think that being a journalist before teaching has helped me
understand writing better and to become a better writing
teacher" because it offered knowledge from experience instead of
just knowledge. As a result of the personal writing, Mr. Marriet

233
says, "When I sit down with kids to help them with their writing,
I can offer suggestions like that," and he snapped his fingers to
emphasize how quickly he can come up with a suggestion. He goes
on to say, "I can point them in a direction, or if they are stuck, I
can give them a strategy because it's something I use. If I
weren't writing, that might not be so readily available."
In the classroom, Mr. Marriet acts as the knowledgeable
teacher and experienced writer who blends these two aspects of
his role into the educational leader in the classroom. This act is
not without considerable thought from Mr. Marriet; he is a
professional searching for the best way to direct the learning of
his students. A part of that professionalism is his interest in
learning more about the pedagogy involved in writing. One way
Mr. Marriet has opted to grow is through involvement in a writing
project.
Mr. Marriet-Writing Project
Experience in and Influence of the Writing Project
As a student in parochial school, Mr. Marriet experienced
writing instruction with an emphasis on the final product. He
was expected to write well with little instruction to guide his
way. As a preservice teacher, he learned about teaching writing
as a process which meant he would be actively involved with
students as they worked their way from brainstorming to the
final draft. He heard about this from professors, student
colleagues, and mentor teachers during preservice field
experiences. Mr. Marriet embraced the teaching idea, but not until

234
he attended the writing project did Mr. Marriet become
completely convinced that teaching writing as a process was best
for him and his students. In essence, the overall theme from the
writing project he attended acted to affirm Mr. Marriet's beliefs
about writing instruction. After the writing project Mr. Marriet
was no longer tentative about instructional practices that
involved treating writing as a process. He became bold in the
application of his beliefs and in his growing body of theoretical
knowledge.
One aspect of Mr. Marriet's attendance in the writing
project was his participation as a member in a reading and
writing group. The groups were challenged to select materials
pertinent to their teaching concerns, read the selections
privately, and then discuss the importance of the selection for
their practice. Mr. Marriet was a part of the middle-school group.
During my observation of his group, one member brought an
article about the progression of reading instruction from the
1950s to the 1990s. The point of the article was that instruction
has shifted from skills to reading workshop. Everyone read the
article and commented on the content. Assessment was the most
discussed issue. Several teachers commented that they were
easy graders. "Just do the work and I'll give you credit," they
said. When Mr. Marriet and I discussed the importance of the
group related to his writing-project experience, he commented
that the group was sometimes helpful in offering comments about
his personal writing, but professionally the group offered him
little. "We get to select what we want to read, and I guess

235
because I have so recently finished school I find our readings less
helpful than they could be. We have a cart filled with good books,
but our group never seems to read from there. It's usually an
article from journals I don't read." Mr. Marriet's point was that
the group rarely did in-depth reading. He stated that "each
reading stands alone so no issue is ever really resolved."
Certainly the small groups were an important part of the
project, but the presentations given by the Fellows act as the
center. The purpose of Mr. Marriet's presentation was to offer a
writing that would lead the Fellows to a better understanding of
the multicultural world in which they live. Mr. Marriet used a
short story in his presentation to make the point that we all think
our home is the center of the world and that as we explore our
center and compare it to the center for others, we grow in
understanding of ourselves and the culturally diverse world. The
story, "The Green Banana," is embedded within a larger work
designed to heighten the cross-cultural awareness of the reader.
The sections that come before and after the story define the
importance of leading all readers, not just school-age readers, to
"discover [themselves] and to be discovered in turn" by the world
around them. Mr. Marriet explained to the Fellows that in his
middle school class he used the reading as a segue so that
students might begin to find their own "center of the universe"
and in doing so, realize that each person defines the center of the
world differently.
Before giving the teachers the prepared handout containing
the story and the teaching material, Mr. Marriet read "The Green

236
Banana" to the Fellows. After the reading, he discussed the
center of his universe, and then he had the participants write
about the center of their own universe. He explained to the
teachers that he used this activity as a way to "push the kids
beyond the county line," and he hoped they would look beyond their
own county line when discussing the writing. The teachers were
quiet during their writing. Each seemed intent on discovering a
personal "center of the world." After writing, the teachers
formed small groups, shared their work, and discussed how their
knowledge of the world grew from learning about other people's
center. Everyone thought the presentation was over at this point,
but Mr. Marriet surprised them.
He gave each person the full text, which included the
teaching material and the story. He told them what he had given
out and asked that they read the entire text. The Fellows
complied, and then Mr. Marriet turned the discussion away from
their personal writing toward a second purpose of the
presentation which was teaching about multiculturalism. By
making this move, Mr. Marriet was able to accomplish two tasks
in his presentation. He made significant connections between the
reading and writing as presented in the first half of his
demonstration, but he also managed to lead the teachers into a
discussion of an important element in the teaching of writing:
finding purpose for the writing task beyond just writing practice.
Obviously, writing growth is paramount, but writing can also
offer other opportunities. In this particular presentation, Mr.
Marriet allowed the Fellows to see that writing could improve

and students might also develop an appreciation of others'
cultural centers as a result of the writing.
237
The Fellows gave Mr. Marriet only positive feedback on his
presentation. They commented that he had "given much to think
about" and he had included "meaty material," but the positive
comments did not mean much to him because "everyone received
good reviews." He would have liked some "specific feedback that
could have helped me improve the demonstration," but that was
not forthcoming.
Like the others in this study, Mr. Marriet found some
elements of the writing project useful and others not useful.
Because only small amounts of time were scheduled for writing,
he was frustrated with the personal writing he did during the
project and did not want to share his work with group members.
He feared they would think the pieces he produced from the
prompts were the best he could do. From that experience he
gained a "better awareness of what the student who says he can't
write goes through. Sometimes there's a topic, and you just can't
write on it."
This realization has redirected his assignments. I observed
in a class where Mr. Marriet used the children's book, The Real
Story of the Three Little Pías (Scieszka, 1989), as a beginning
point for a freewrite. At the end of the lesson Mr. Marriet said,
"Go ahead with the writing, but if hearing the story has prompted
another kind of writing, go with that instead." When we
discussed the class Mr. Marriet said, "Last year I would have just
told everyone to write about the fairy tale, and I would have

238
looked for everyone's writing in the portfolio. This year they
have a choice." The impetus for student freedom in topic
selection comes from the lack of choice he experienced during the
writing project.
Besides the influence on Mr. Marriet's handling of topic
choice for writing, Mr. Marriet also was influenced by the
writing-project leader. At the opening of each day during the
project, "the leader read a piece of writing-sometimes his own
work in progress and sometimes a published writer's work." The
leader read "to show how response groups should work. He read
something he worked on. Then he just sat there while we--not
critiqued it-we discussed it. That I thought was so helpful
because [when] ... I heard how other writers addressed dialogue
or setting, I got ideas." From the technique used as an opener for
the day's writing project, Mr. Marriet learned an important aspect
of writing that he now uses in his classroom: begin writing time
with a piece for general discussion and allow that general
discussion to be a model for response groups. He maintains that
general class discussions provide a depth of understanding about
writing talk which enriches the discussions that occur in the
response group.
The writing project also reinforced what Mr. Marriet
learned in his teacher-education program so that the two meshed
to offer greater belief in particular methods of writing
instruction. He says that although "there were really no new
instructional activities that I took from the writing project," the
experience reinforced what was learned in the teacher education

239
program and in essence the two reinforced each other. The idea
of teaching writing as a process with class time for writing
supported by teacher and student intervention throughout the
process is the basis for his current practice. Although the
method of instruction is not supported by his teaching colleagues,
Mr. Marriet feels secure in his decision to follow the methods of
instruction proposed by both his teacher education program and
the writing project.
Evaluation of the Writing Project
During the project Mr. Marriet was able to experience
writing from the perspective of a student giving him a better
understanding of what his student writers go through when he
gives them an assignment. Having lived through the frustration
that comes from a forced writing, Mr. Marriet says the project
offered a "valuable experience that has helped me as I think about
writing topics for my students." He realizes that some teacher-
defined topics work and some do not. Mr. Marriet claims that
understanding that not all topics work for all writers is one of
the positive results of his attendance in the writing project.
Another positive result is finding teacher/colleague support
for selected classroom practices. "It's being in a community of
teachers who are doing the same thing. You don't feel like an
outsider. . . . Knowing that 30 people are doing the same things
you are doing gives you a crutch you need for support." For that,
Mr. Marriet is grateful, but he did leave the project with several
concerns.

One area of concern was the feedback he received on his
presentation. He explained to me that after his demonstration,
240
each person in attendance wrote a note to him. Initially, the
Fellows were instructed to give constructive criticism so that if
the presenters wanted to use the demonstration in a workshop,
they would know how to improve, but Mr. Marriet said that he did
not receive any helpful feedback. Because most of the presented
ideas "were not geared toward what [Mr. Marriet] is doing," in his
middle-school classroom, he says he is unsure of any benefits
offered by the presentations. "There were some things I could
pull out of some [demonstrations] but not much." Mr. Marriet says
that in order to use the found ideas, he offers them in occasional
mini-lessons; but generally, he is uncertain that the
presentations have been beneficial for his practice.
Another area of concern is that the project did not have an
"identified theme to address. There was no cohesive theme that
helped pull it all together." He told me that the project was to
have focused on the themes of memoir writing, writing with
computers, and multiculturalism. During one of my visits to the
writing project Mr. Marriet attended, the Fellows and I went to
the Zora Neal Hurston Museum which supports the multicultural
theme of the project. Mr. Marriet says, though, that after the
first day of presentation, it became clear that the Fellows were
not addressing the themes. "I felt there was a lack of focus.
Maybe if we had addressed just three areas it would have been
better." He goes on to say that if a limited number of themes had
been addressed, connections among demonstrations could have

241
been discussed and these might have given the Fellows a direction
for integrating into their curriculum the writing ideas presented.
Overall, Mr. Marriet enjoyed the writing project. He says
one of the writings offered during the demonstrations prompted a
piece of which he is proud. Mr. Marriet also says he gained some
ideas for mini-lessons from several demonstrations, but the
sense of community gained while working with like-minded
colleagues was the most significant part of the project and acts
as the basis for Mr. Marriet's growing professionalism discussed
in the next section.
Professional Role
Unlike the others in this study, Mr. Marriet sees himself in
the role of one who trains other teachers. During this study he
led a workshop for the teachers in his school designed to teach
the use of computers in the classroom. He says that initially the
teachers were resistant, but as they became involved with the
possibilities for the classroom, they stayed hours after the
workshop asking questions and trying out new ideas. Mr. Marriet
thinks that because no one in the school is an expert in computer
use, he can be accepted as a leader. He feels hesitant, though, to
offer advice about writing instruction.
Mr. Marriet is on several committees at the school and
district level, and he thinks his "motives are being questioned
right now . . . [because the teachers wonder] if I'm trying to get
ahead." An outside consultant came to the school fours years
before this study, and "some of the teachers are trying to follow

242
the model that was set up." Mr. Marriet says, "for me to say, 'No,
this way is better,' would be unwise. The English teachers have
been here a long time. I'm new. They aren't interested in what
they call my 'fad' teaching."
Mr. Marriet is comfortable leading teachers in writing
workshops outside his school, however. He has led workshops on
writing instruction in conjunction with his county language-arts
supervisor in his own school district and in several other
districts. The group, put together by the county supervisor, is
actually a writing-across-the-curriculum team that includes two
science, two social studies, and two language-arts teachers.
Their goal is to "come up with ideas for writing across the
curriculum. We put together ideas for all subject areas, . . . and
then we came up with general writing ideas any teacher could do.
Exit slips are one. Students must write their reasons for leaving
class. That's not big, but they practice their writing."
Mr. Marriet is also interested in writing articles about his
own experiences as a writing teacher applying theory to practice.
During the course of the school year, he brought together the use
of response groups and what he read about student talk. "What I
think has really worked this year is response groups and peer
editing. Of course kids this age love to talk. I've just read and
reviewed a few articles in English Journal on classroom talk. I
figure that I've channeled this talk that goes on in a productive
manner, and I want to write about that." From that synthesis Mr.
Marriet plans to write an article offering his experience and
knowledge to other professionals for use in their own practice.

243
Besides writing, Mr. Marriet also plans to return to graduate
school at some point in the future. "I want to keep growing. I can
read on my own, but working and thinking with others is another
important way to expand." Mr. Marriet makes curriculum choices
based on his increasing knowledge about writing pedagogy. This
knowledge grows with workshop attendance, with personal
reading, and with discussion of curriculum and content with
colleagues. That ever-changing knowledge is combined with his
understanding of students, past successes and failures in
teaching, and his personal experiences with writing to form a
curriculum that continually grows more refined. Mr. Marriet is
recognized by his principal and by the county language arts
supervisor as a teacher whose curricular choices are well
developed, and they rely on him to help other teachers develop
their curriculum expertise. Mr. Marriet has worked in his own
school to offer guidance and suggestions to colleagues as they
work on the integration of technology into their curriculum, and
he has gone as part of a county team led by the language arts
supervisor to assist teachers in other parts of the state as they
redefine their writing curriculum. He is the only one of the four
participants who has been intensely involved in training other
writing teachers.

CHAPTER 8
THEORETICAL ANALYSIS
One purpose of this research project is to give a voice to
the individual, which is done in the previous chapters. Important
to all research, though, is the connection of the small to the
large, so the following section is designed to accomplish this
task. Berlin (1988) identifies three versions of the writing
classroom, and it is to his work that this project begins a
connection to established research. Each participant will be
described in terms of Berlin's categories. Obviously, no one can
be identified as fitting exclusively into any category, but it is
difficult to discuss the experiences of these teachers in light of
the writing project and staff development without placing them
within the larger context of the community of writing teachers.
Besides placement within the context of the writing instruction
community, the teachers are discussed in terms of Blau (1988)
and Nelms (1991) and their comparable stages of teacher
development following writing-project attendance. At the end,
the four teachers, identified within the communities of writing
teachers and writing project participants, will be connected to
the larger issue of general staff development related to the five
objectives discussed in Chapter 2 of this project. Then, as all of
these elements come together, new categories that explain the
convergence will be explored.
244

245
Berlin's Three Views
of Writing Pedagogy
Berlin (1988) identified three ways of thinking about
writing instruction. His definitions are by no means the only ways
to consider the possibilities inherent in writing instruction, but
Berlin offers a comprehensive review allowing the writing
teachers in this study to be seen in relation to the overall
community of writing teachers. He has labeled his three views of
writing instruction as cognitive rhetoric, expressionistic
rhetoric, and social-epistemic rhetoric.
Cognitive Rhetoric
Of the three ways to consider writing, Berlin describes the
cognitive as the most scientific. Teachers who adhere to this
approach see "the structures of the mind [as corresponding] in
perfect harmony with the structures of the material world, the
minds of the audience, and the units of language" (p. 480); and
these structures of the mind can be divided into three stages that
include planning, translating or giving words to thoughts, and
evaluating or the revising stage (p. 481). Important to this
structure is that "the process [of writing] can be identified . . . ,"
and within that structure is a process that works as a "
'hierarchical network of goals and these in turn guide the writing
process' " (Flower & Hayes, quoted in Berlin, p. 481).
Berlin points out that the "business of cognitive psychology
is to enable us to learn to think in a way that will realize goals,
not deliberate about their value" (p. 482). This way of thinking

246
sets the stage for seeing problems as things to be solved rather
than evaluated, and Berlin says that "strategies to resolve . . .
problems are called 'heuristics' " (p. 482) and that "heuristics are
only as good or bad as the person using them, so that problem
solving is finally the act of an individual performing in isolation"
(p. 482). Within this system of problem solving is a linear view
of the world where "the very nature of things as indisputable
scientific facts" (p. 483) exists.
Mrs. Hammond is most closely associated with the cognitive
rhetoric category. She strongly identifies with the belief that
writing is a process that should be identified and adhered to in
order to aid writers as they work. She says there is a
hierarchical order through which students should pass if they
hope to become good writers. She cannot identify that order, but
she believes it exists, and she believes that if she could identify
it, she would be better prepared to lead student writers.
She also views writing as a problem to be solved. Her
strict adherence to the use of prompts to lead students into
writing suggests that she sees getting started as a problem. If
the writer does not have something to say, she fears he will not
be able to write. This problem is solved through the use of
prompts acting as the heuristic that guides the writer into a
piece of writing. Berlin says that each of the three views of
writing identifies a placement of power. In the cognitive
rhetoric, power comes from outside the writer and the teacher--
clearly characteristic of Mrs. Hammond.

247
Expressionistic Rhetoric
Berlin explains that in expressionist rhetoric, writing was
once considered a "gift of genius" (p. 484) but now it is
considered an art of which everyone is capable (p. 484), and it is
an art in which the writer may discover the self. It is also
possible that the reader may actually discover the self through
the words produced by the writer (p. 485), but the most
"important measure of authenticity, of genuine self-discovery, . . .
is in the presence of originality in expression" (p. 485). This
search for self often requires that the writing experience break
with the "dominant social, political, and cultural practices" (p.
485). One way that might occur is to have writing students listen
to music in a variety of settings while writing (p. 485).
Viewing writing from this vantage places power within the
writer rather than outside. Berlin quotes Elbow to make the point
that the power of writing " 'comes from the words somehow
fitting the writer' " (Elbow, quoted in Berlin, p. 486; emphasis
Elbow's). Despite the emphasis on the self, the expressionist
view "acknowledge^] that communal arrangements must be made"
(p. 486) so that the writer may learn to distinguish what is most
important to his developing voice. Through this developing voice,
the writer expresses the old in a new way (p. 487). An inability
to find and express the self is not a result of the environment but
of the individual's "unwillingness to pursue a private vision" (p.
487). Finding the position from which the self may be discovered
and expressed most often occurs "by divorcing the self from the
alienation of work, separating work experience from other

248
experience so that self discovery and fulfillment take place away
from the job" (p. 487).
Such a close connection exists between expressionistic
rhetoric and Mr. McNew that I might argue he had read Berlin,
agreed with him, and then applied the characteristics of this
category to his writing and writing classroom. Mr. McNew's focus
is on the teaching of writing as an art. He mentions often that he
teaches language arts, emphasizing the art, and he gears his
instruction toward the principle that any interested student may
search with him for the self visible through writing. Mr. McNew's
use of classical music as an accompaniment to the students'
writing experience offers a break from the traditional and
provides an unconventional writing environment for students to
discover their own expression or voice. Within that discovery
comes the power that Mr. McNew so frequently references--the
power of writing that captures the writer.
Within that power is the writer's path to self discovery.
Because this writing takes place inside the classroom, a ready¬
made community exists. From that group comes the discussion
about what works best within a piece of writing, but ultimately
the act of writing and the results of the writing are what define
the writer. Through this meshing of writing and self comes the
ability either to say something new or to say something old in a
new way, an issue Mr. McNew emphasizes in his discussion of
good writing. This process allows the writer to eventually
"pursue a private vision," (p. 487) which happens best away from
the work place. Mr. McNew's private vision distances him from

249
students. He frequently mentioned his desire to write rather than
teach, and the personal writing done throughout the school day
indicates that he would pursue his private vision of expression
outside the workplace if it were at all possible.
Social-Epistemic Rhetoric
In this final category, Berlin posits that in the act of
writing, three elements come together: "the observer, the
discourse community (social community) in which the observer is
functioning, and the material conditions of existence" (p. 488).
The dialectic that results in the connections forms what is real.
Inherent in this process is language and its role in assisting the
formation of what becomes real as the three elements negotiate
(p. 488). No universal truth exists in the social-epistimic
rhetoric; therefore, "what is good, what is possible, and how
power is to be distributed" are not decided by a "class or group or
individual" who might have "privileged access to decisions on
these matters" (p. 490).
Berlin suggests that what occurs within the social-
epistimic classroom is that the existing dialogue between the
teacher and the students "makes teacher and learner equals
engaged in a joint practice that is '[Ijoving, humble, hopeful,
trusting, critical' " (p. 491). From the interaction between the
teacher and the students comes the created texts for study, a
reuniting of "pleasure and work, thought and feeling, and ... a
resourceful use of the space of the classroom to encourage
dialogue that provides students with information withheld

250
elsewhere on campus" (p. 492). Further, Berlin says, in this kind
of learning environment both students and teacher learn to expect
the unexpected. They understand that "success . . . can never be
guaranteed . . . and the outcome is always unpredictable" (p. 492).
It is unlikely that a public school teacher is ever free
enough to completely integrate the ideas inherent in Berlin's third
category, but Ms. Roth and Mr. Marriet embrace the ideas while
working within the confines of school, district, and state
mandates. Both teachers share classroom power by allowing
their students to make choices about what they will write, what
form they will use in their writing, and how they will engage in
peer review. Ms. Roth considers a class successful when students
come to her and request that she teach a particular topic, and Mr.
Marriet measures success by students finally moving beyond a
topic on which they have written numerous times or when they
choose a new mode of discourse.
Both teachers allow their students to have a voice in the
classroom, but each also realizes that students need guidance
from time to time. By establishing an environment of trust, these
teachers are able to show that they love their students as
learners and that their critiques are intended to guide, not
diminish, the learner's writing attempts. Mr. Marriet and Ms. Roth
are also ready to change the direction of a day's lesson as the
need arises. They come to class with an agenda but if an
interesting side issue arises, neither hesitates to redirect
instruction to accommodate. This means that neither the
teachers nor the students are guaranteed success every day, but

251
each teacher is willing to provide students with room for trials
and error in their work. From time to time confusion may be the
result, but from the confusion teachers and students can seek a
new reality or truth that springs from the failed lesson or
writing.
Each teacher in this project acts out beliefs and practices
generally in a writing classroom as described by Berlin, but each
also is a writing teacher who more specifically attended a
writing project. In the following sections each teacher is
identified according to the patterns of response to writing-
project attendance defined by Nelms (1991) and the stages of
development of a writing project fellow defined by Blau (1988).
Over a number of years both Nelms and Blau, in their positions as
directors of writing projects, watched teachers advance in
pedagogical expertise as a result of their writing-project
attendance. Nelms looks at the patterns of response among
teachers who completed a writing project. Blau looks at the
parallel development between teachers and writing projects as
both mature: one as instructor, the other as instruction. Since
this research is concerned with the teacher, I have chosen to de-
emphasize Blau's description of the writing project development
in this discussion of the individuals. Initially, I describe Blau's
stages of development and Nelms's patterns of responses. Then I
combine their findings and place each participant within these
general categories. Embedded within this section is the answer
to the guiding question for this research project: How did the

teachers in this project develop professionally during the year
following their attendance in a writing project?
252
Blau: Stages of Development
Show and Tell
Blau (1988) divides teacher growth into three categories:
Show and Tell, Show and Tell Why, and Teacher Research. In the
first category, Show and Tell, Blau says that writing project
graduates do exactly that; they "train colleagues in their schools
in the best new techniques for teaching writing. These
colleagues ... in turn, share their knowledge with additional
colleagues in a widening show-and-tell network" (p. 32). At this
initial stage, searching for new teaching ideas in the classroom
is the goal. Teachers at the show and tell stage focus on student
fluency in writing and on developing a classroom community that
fosters writing, a community like the one they experienced during
writing-project attendance. The teachers may be struggling with
personal writing just as the students are because the teachers
may not have done much writing on their own prior to writing-
project attendance. At this stage, writing-project fellows need
to meet with colleagues several times a year so they can "get
booster shots of enthusiasm and new ideas" (p. 32).
Show and Tell Whv
In the second stage, Show and Tell Why, teachers are likely
to offer research to support the writing practices they share
with their writing project colleagues in order to guide and

253
support as they generate their own instructional practice. These
teachers are also at a stage in their own writing where they can
"write, respond, revise, and publish" which places them in the
position of becoming a contributor to the field of teaching (p. 32-
33). The teachers in the second stage of development become
more active in influential positions within the school district and
beyond. These roles are offered because of the teachers'
recognized professionalism and expertise (p. 33).
Teacher Researcher
Teacher researcher is the third stage of teacher growth.
Teachers in this stage reflect on their practice much like a
researcher might, but their goal is directed toward classroom
pedagogy rather than theory building and how their instruction
plays out in the thinking of their students (p. 33). Thus, "their
primary interest as practitioners ... is in generating and testing
hypotheses about what it is that students are learning or might
learn and how students are thinking or might think as a
consequence of instruction" (p. 33). These teachers are likely to
see the importance of both the process of learning and the
product produced from the process. Blau says that teachers shift
their emphasis during their professional growth from "a focus on
classroom practices, [to] a focus on practice in the context of
principles, [to] . . . reflecting and speculating on practices and
principles in ways that challenge theory and suggest new
hypotheses" (p. 34).

254
Blau likens the progressive ladder that teachers ascend to
the intellectual development that Moffett (1968) defines about to
the cognitive demands of the discourse types. Blau says that the
show and tell stage mirrors Moffett's "what is happening" stage
in which description and narration are used by the writer for
reporting. The show and tell why stage correlates to Moffett's
"what happens," which asks the writer to use the discourse of
narration and exposition. These tasks require the writer to
engage in the "intellectual operations associated with reporting,
reflecting, classifying, and generalizing" (Blau, p. 34). Blau's
final stage, teacher-researcher, involves Moffett's entire schema,
and this includes not only the reporting of what is occurring but
also includes description of what could or might occur and
employs "every sort of discourse type from description to
argumentation or persuasion" (p. 34). Cognitively, those at this
level of development engage in "recording (observation notes and
journals), reflecting, reporting, generalizing, speculating, and
theorizing" (p. 34). Blau says that "Moffett's hierarchy of
discourse types coincides so precisely with the model of teacher
development that is emerging from our writing-project
experience . . . [that it] confirms the pattern of development"
described for writing-project Fellows (p. 34).
Nelms: Patterns of Response
Personal
Within a framework that offers suggestions for the work of
future writing projects, Nelms found four patterns of response

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from teachers who attended writing projects. In the first
category, Nelms discovered that most attendees found the
experience "profoundly personal" (p. 6). They worked on their own
personal writing, and they participated in a variety of teaching
experiences centered on writing instruction. The teachers also
found a sense of collegiality among peers with whom they shared
similar beliefs about writing; most Fellows responded
enthusiastically about their experience with the writing project.
A small number of the Fellows, however, did not show a
noticeable change in direction in their classroom practice
following attendance. Their experience was positive but seemed
to impact minimally their actual practice.
Technical Proficiency
A second group of participants detail alterations in their
"technical proficiency" (Nelms, 1991, p. 7). These teachers
"accumulated literally stacks of handouts: writing assignments,
stimuli, instructional strategies, editing checklists, evaluation
rubrics, unit plans, writing models, procedures for conduction
conferences and peer groups" (p. 7). Nelms says the list is almost
endless, but this group of teachers returned to their classrooms
"and grafted these onto the hardy roots of their established
curricula" (p. 7) so that their own teaching style was enhanced.
Curricular Achievement
A third group of teachers were involved with "curricular
achievements" (Nelms, 1991, p. 7). These teachers began to look

256
reflectively at their entire curriculum. Teachers saw the
significance of writing instruction and found ways to reorganize
the structure of their curriculum in order to place a new
emphasis on writing. Generally, says Nelms, these teachers
moved toward a process approach to teaching.
Professional Maturity
A final group achieved a higher degree of "professional
maturity" (p. 8). These teachers grew so competent in instruction
and understanding that "they became leaders in effecting change
in their own districts and assumed leadership roles in statewide
and national professional groups" (p. 8). As a result,
unfortunately, teachers in this group often leave the classroom.
Nelms suggests that while all four patterns of response are
satisfying, the work of writing projects should be to aim toward
developing teachers into the third and fourth levels.
The participants in this study are representative of Nelms's
and Blau's patterns of response and stages of development. The
next section traces the placement of the four participants in
relationship to their patterns of response and stages of
development following the writing project. As in the previous
section about writing pedagogy, a perfect match between the
defined patterns and stages to the participants is not possible.

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Placement of Participants Within
Existing Responses and Stages
Mr. McNew--Outside the Framework
Finding a placement for Mr. McNew within the Patterns of
Response or Stages of Development is difficult. Mr. McNew made
no pedagogical changes based on his writing-project attendance,
and Blau's stages of development assume instruction is affected
by the project. Since this is not the case for Mr. McNew, there is
no place for him in Blau's stages of development. Nelms notes
that in his first pattern of response-personal--some writing
project participants make no noticeable change in practice after
project attendance, easily a description for Mr. McNew. Nelms
also declares that some writing participants find working on
personal writing beings satisfaction, another connection between
Mr. McNew and Nelms's personal category, but an interesting
consideration about Mr. McNew's response is that he seems to
intentionally respond in ways opposite from his colleagues.
Whether this is the case is beyond the scope of this research
project, but the implication sets the stage for disconnection from
colleagues.
Finding "a remarkable sense of collegiality with like-
minded teachers" (Nelms, 1991, p. 6) is another characteristic of
teachers in the personal category, but obviously this is not
applicable to Mr. McNew, who never discussed any connection to
fellow writing project participants. Nelms also mentioned that
teachers in the first response group gained a sense of
"enthusiasm, dedication, and sensitivity" (p. 7) about their work

258
as writing instructors. Mr. McNew is certainly dedicated to
writing, but I do not believe his writing-project experience
caused growth of enthusiasm, dedication, or sensitivity to the
teaching of writing. He came away with an interest in fairy tale
and myth, but his enthusiasm is over his growth as a writer
rather than as a teacher. Mr. McNew's writing-project experience
is that of a writer who attended a staff-development program.
He found some interesting ideas that support his beliefs about
writing, but there is little evidence that the project influenced
his writing instruction. Altogether, Mr. McNew's response to the
writing project negates his placement within either Blau's or
Nelms's category.
Mrs. Hammond-Personal/Show and Tell
Mrs. Hammond falls neatly into the Personal category
defined by Nelms. She found the project "profoundly personal"
(Nelms, p. 6). She enjoyed working on her personal writing and
thrived on the collegiality. Mrs. Hammond also gathered many
ideas for her practice, but unlike teachers in the Technical
Proficiency group who graft ideas onto existing practice, Mrs.
Hammond simply adds teaching techniques into her curriculum, a
significant difference. Blau says teachers in his Show and Tell
stage can explain a technique that works for them, but they are
unable to explain why the strategy is successful. Mrs. Hammond
is at this stage. After attending the writing project, she
attempted to use all of the ideas she gathered during the summer
in her writing curriculum, not because of their pedagogical worth,

but because they were demonstrated at the writing project. She
has not yet developed a critical eye for the writing curriculum
she uses.
259
Ms. Roth--Curricular Achievements/Show and Tell Why
Blau suggests that teachers at the Show and Tell Why stage
begin to be influential outside their own classrooms. Nelms
describes this outgrowth of development in his final stage; but
both say that at this point in professional development, teachers
begin to completely rethink their instructional practices. Theory
begins to be an issue, and teachers restructure strategy
suggestions to fit the needs of their particular students. Ms. Roth
is at this stage of development.
Her move into the realm of district-level work is beginning.
She recognizes that colleagues in her school are not challenging
her growth as a teacher; hence, she looks to those outside the
school to support her advancement. Ms. Roth attends county
whole-language meetings and discusses with colleagues ways to
implement/graft strategies. She also acts in a leadership role
within the county-level class designed to train teachers to
become better writing instructors.
Ms. Roth considers the significance of theory in curriculum
building. When I questioned her about the theory she uses in
support of her writing instruction, she answered without
hesitation, unlike Mrs. Hammond who was unable to discuss
theoretical issues related to her practice. Ms. Roth's theory may
not be fully developed but she is aware that practice can and

perhaps should be supported by theory, and she is making an
effort to enhance her present knowledge of theory in writing and
in writing pedagogy.
260
Ms. Roth articulates her concern for rethinking and
restructuring her teaching strategies based on her supposition
about her students' needs, characteristic of teachers in the
curricular achievement/show and tell why categories. She
mentions that after reading the first set of papers each year, she
finds areas of need and uses that knowledge to guide the direction
of instruction. Ms. Roth said that as she develops a curriculum
for her students, few of the teaching suggestions presented
during the writing project will find their way into her practice
because the majority do not work for her students or for her
teaching style. She knows who she is as a teacher, and she has
learned her students. Only when a strategy complements both and
fits into her curriculum will she use it.
Important in discussing Ms. Roth's placement is the fact
that she is making hypotheses about what is occurring in her
classroom, a detail Blau uses to describe his final professional
development category. For example, Ms. Roth speculates about
what her students are thinking based on her own reactions as a
student in the summer writing project. She realized that while
she composes she needs time to contemplate writing direction.
Based on her own experience, her students do not have to be
actively involved in their writing at all times for her to believe
that they are writing. She observes their behavior and speculates

261
about what the students are doing and what they need, and then
she adjusts her practice accordingly.
Mr. Marriet-Professional Maturitv/Teacher Researcher
Interestingly, the teacher in this study with the fewest
years of experience is the one who best fits the category
representing the most mature professionals. Nelms says that
teachers at this level begin to lead effective change in their
school district, and they take leadership roles beyond their school
at the state and national levels--a step beyond the district leader
Blau describes in an earlier stage. Blau points out that teachers
at the higher level begin to reflect on their practice in the same
light that researchers might. They think about professional
practices in ways that challenge existing theory and practice
aimed at formulating new hypotheses for reflection and
discussion. These teachers also exhibit the characteristics of
formulating and testing hypotheses about what students are
thinking and learning based on the instruction they receive.
Mr. Marriet's entire approach to teaching is contemplative.
He constantly thinks about his practice and where it is moving.
He ventures to look at what he might want to do with his practice
in years to come rather than just next week or next month. He
bases his deliberations on theory, experience, student responses,
and his growing knowledge about his profession. Mr. Marriet
seems to be growing beyond the classroom as predicted by Nelms.
He is leading teachers in his own school in their attempt to
integrate computers into their curriculum, he is working closely

262
with the county language arts supervisor to offer writing
instruction for teachers in the community, and the director of the
writing project he attended solicits assistance in presenting
writing instruction workshops around their region. In a sense he
is taking his show on the road and by doing this, he challenges his
own practice each time he presents his beliefs and instructional
strategies. In the explanation Mr. Marriet gives to other teachers,
he must evaluate and reflect on why he does what he does. He
must constantly formulate hypotheses and test those against the
needs of the teachers he meets. He must be certain that what he
presents is true, at least for his understanding of instruction.
Mr. Marriet is by no means a completely mature
professional. On one occasion he told me about working with a
student teacher who wanted to try a teaching method Mr. Marriet
had heard about but had not tried. Although Mr. Marriet was
uncomfortable trying the new strategy, he allowed the student
teacher to explore the possibilities the method might offer, and
as he watched her work with a class, he found that the student
teacher and the students were able to take writing to a new level.
After watching the student teacher, he realized that he had let
fear get in his way and this had kept him from growing
professionally. He seemed bothered by the situation, but the
experience provided him with an opportunity for contemplation
and from that came growth; he vowed never again to hold back on
a possibility for either him or for his students.
Mr. Marriet is a teacher who applies what he learns, but he
does not put into practice new teaching strategies without

263
careful evaluation and planning. He considers the teaching
possibility until he finds a match with his personal values as a
teacher of writing. Mr. Marriet is not a completely mature
professional, but he has moved to the highest level defined by
Nelms and Blau.
Teacher Maturity
Ms. Roth and Mr. Marriet are obviously different from Mrs.
Hammond and Mr. McNew. Ms. Roth and Mr. Marriet base their
instruction on their personal writing knowledge, as Mr. McNew
does, but they also include practices based on the needs of their
students and on educationally sound principles of writing
pedagogy. Berlin says this kind of writing teacher is a
"transcendent self, a subject who directs the discovery and
arrives through it finally only at a better understanding of the
self and its operation" (p. 489). This teacher realizes that the
environment, the people with whom he works, and his own
personality must come together to form a whole, and this whole
is defined by the meshing of the elements within a structure that
"contains within it the means for self-criticism and self¬
revision" (p. 490). It follows that professionals like Ms. Roth and
Mr. Marriet, who are aware of the need for discovery, criticism,
and revision in their understanding of writing theory and
pedagogy would be able to describe and explain their practice
(Blau, 1988) and that they would be influential in their profession
(Nelms, 1991), thus supporting their placement in stages of
development reserved for mature teachers. Although Berlin does

264
not offer a hierarchy of development like Blau and Nelms, within
his description of three ideologies he clearly states his
preference for the final category, social-epistemic, the
placement for Ms. Roth and Mr. Marriet (p. 492).
On the surface, it appears that three elements separate the
more mature teachers in this study, Ms. Roth and Mr. Marriet, from
the less mature teachers, Mrs. Hammond and Mr. McNew: their
understanding of writing theory, their knowledge about writing
pedagogy, and their contemplative nature concerning their
instruction. Grossman (1990) discusses "principled practice,"
which implies that theory supports practice for the professional
teacher "who must exercise judgment in a complex environment"
(p. 121). The professional described by Grossman, who is similar
to the mature teacher described by Blau (1988) and Nelms (1991),
makes decisions based on the needs of the ever-changing
classroom including the needs of the teacher and the needs of the
students. Grossman, it seems, assumes a theoretical awareness
on the teacher's part, quite different from Crowley's (1989)
discussion of an underlying theory that the teacher "consciously
subscribe^] to or not" (p. 28) but that nevertheless directs
practice. Fulkerson (1990), like Crowley, claims that "teachers
[are often] unaware of the philosophy they more or less" adhere to
(p. 410); thus, he says, the teachers "either lack a consistent
view of the ends sought or follow paths that will not reach them .
. . [so] that the unexamined course is not worth teaching" (p. 410)
and sends students a "contradictory message" (p. 410). In

265
essence, an inarticulated, unexamined theory does not lay the
groundwork for good practice.
Fulkerson describes a theory for writing instruction that
contains four components. The first says that writing teachers
must have a ready definition of good writing or their instruction
"is useless since you can't know whether a change in student
writing represents progress" (p. 410-411). Next, Fulkerson says
that a teacher's writing theory must include a "procedural
component describing the means by which writers can reach the
ends specified by the axiology" or the beliefs adhered to by the
teacher (p. 411, emphasis his). The third component in the theory
of writing instruction, is the teacher's means or procedure for
moving students toward good writing (p. 411). Finally, the theory
contains an epistemology that Fulkerson defines as "[the
teacher's] perceptions of how texts are created and of what
classroom methods are effective [which] depend on assumptions
about what counts for knowledge" (p. 411). Essential to the
theory is frequent teacher examination of the four parts working
within the theory (p. 410). So, while it might appear that three
elements-an understanding of writing theory, an understanding
of writing pedagogy, and a contemplative nature about practice-
separate the teachers in this study, based on Fulkerson's
discussion of theory, only one element acts as a variable: an
understanding of the theory that supports practice.
Ray (1993) places the teacher as theorist at the center of
the discussion in her book, The Practice of Theory: Teacher
Research in Composition, by specifically supporting Fulkerson's

266
composition theory and then insisting that theory building, which
includes classroom teachers, will force compositionists to
"broaden their concept of 'research' and 'researchers,' opening up
the field to practitioners in a multitude of settings, listening to
what they say, learning from their observations, and
acknowledging the importance and credibility of what they know"
(p. 23). That can happen, however, only if teachers develop a
substantial understanding of the concept of theory building.
In this research project, the issue of theory behind practice
becomes important to the discussion of staff development
becauseit is in these programs that teachers supposedly become
more effective in their profession. If teachers are to mature and
progress in their profession, development of the theory that
supports their practice must be a part of staff development. In
the next section, the five principles of staff development
outlined in the second chapter are discussed in relation to the
specific experience the participants had in their staff-
development program, and in the following section is a discussion
of the issue of theory related to the projects the participants
attended.
Individual Response to Writing Project and
Connection to Staff Development Principles
In reviewing the literature about staff development, five
guiding principles emerged: staff development must provide
worthwhile educational objectives for teachers within the
framework of a larger issue including both the school and the
district needs; administrative support must accompany changed

267
practice following inservice; teacher belief in new techniques is
essential; staff development support must facilitate teachers as
they progress in the use of new expertise; and worthwhile
feedback must occur during and after inservice. In the following
paragraphs, each of these general staff development issues is
explored in relation to the research done in this project.
Educational Objectives and Support
The first principle for staff development states that an
inservice program must provide worthwhile educational
objectives for participants based upon the needs of the school and
the district. As stated earlier, a strength of writing projects is
that they allow for diverse objectives within the larger
framework of overall writing improvement (Gray, 1991). The
teachers involved in this particular research project came from
school districts that support the writing project ideal of good
teachers applying what they learn while sharing the elements of
practice with other teachers. In addition, they have school
administrators who support their efforts to improve writing
instruction through changed instructional strategies, the second
principle of staff development, but only Mrs. Hammond returned to
a school that has in place an articulated plan to guide writing
instruction (Castetter, 1986).
Besides being the only teacher whose school had an overall
direction, Mrs. Hammond is also the teacher who most completely
embraced the writing project offerings. At first glance it might
appear that a larger curriculum design is a pivotal point in

268
teacher response to writing project offerings. Important to
remember, however, is that Mrs. Hammond did not incorporate
writing ideas into the curriculum based on a conscious decision
directed by her or her students' needs. Instead, she simply added
into her curriculum the teaching activities demonstrated in the
writing project. On the surface, Mrs. Hammond's day-to-day
instruction was altered; but importantly, her underlying
pedagogical theory remained unchanged.
Mr. McNew's school site is almost the opposite of Mrs.
Hammond's. Unlike Mrs. Hammond who works with like-minded
colleagues, Mr. McNew works separately from the other English
teacher at his grade level; and he knows of no overall program
goals within his school. Upon his return to the classroom, Mr.
McNew demonstrated his disregard for presented ideas by
incorporating none into his practice. It might appear that his
disinterest in curriculum is related to the lack of overall program
direction, but the cause seems related more to his point of
reference-a decided belief in his existing program-than to a
poorly defined directional strategy for writing improvement.
Ms. Roth and Mr. Marriet, who also returned to schools
without overall guidelines for writing instruction, actually look
beyond local school and district objectives for curriculum
direction and search for connections between what they learned
in the writing project and how that might enhance their
instruction. These two see themselves as part of a community of
professionals that includes teachers from the local community,
teachers at the state and national levels, and writing pedagogy

269
theorists. Poorly defined instructional objectives at the local
level seem to have little effect on the way these mature
professionals react to the staff development program because
they have internalized worthwhile educational objectives at a
level beyond the one defined at home.
Teacher Belief
The third principle of staff development, belief in the
staff-development program, may be viewed from two
perspectives. In reference to the belief about what constitutes
good writing and whether writing is a teachable process, the four
participants are similar in their acceptance; but in reference to
the usefulness of the writing activities presented, differences
arise. Mrs. Hammond believes in and accepts all offerings at face
value, but the others reject most presented techniques. Mr.
McNew rejects them because he feels no need to incorporate
activities as support for his curriculum; Ms. Roth and Mr. Marriet
reject them because they discover that most do not support their
current instructional goals. Initially, it might appear that Mrs.
Hammond believed in what was presented more than the other
participants, but that level of belief combined with the
participants' professional maturity according to Berlin and
Nelms/Blau and Fulkerson's discussion of pedagogical theory
directs attention toward the principle issue related to the
teacher's professional maturity rather than belief in a particular
teaching method. Belief in an underlying theory, that writing is a
teachable process, is uniform for the teachers regardless of

270
maturity; but a match between an articulated theory and a
demonstrated practice causes the more mature professional to
believe only in presented techniques that are pedagogically sound
and applicable to their considered practice.
Stages of Development and Feedback
The final principle of staff development states that when
teachers learn new pedagogical strategies, they progress through
several stages. Effective staff development should facilitate
that passage, and meaningful feedback should occur during and
after the inservice. Passage through the stages defined by
Blau/Nelms is a critical point; but the participants receive little
feedback on the development of their pedagogical theories or on
how to appropriately implement demonstrated teaching
strategies, although the writing projects do attempt to address
this issue. The projects in this study offer a monthly renewal
meeting that is designed to provide follow-up time for
professional development. Mrs. Hammond, Ms. Roth, and Mr. McNew
are required to attend several of these meetings, but they seldom
attend beyond the requirement. What I found when I attended a
follow-up meeting is that the purpose seems to be sharing
teaching ideas and supporting each other during difficult times--
more like another day during the writing project than a time for
pedagogical examination and discussion of an action plan for
growth.
What is missing is feedback specific to the needs of the
developing professional. Mrs. Hammond desires a great deal of

271
interaction with colleagues as she implements teaching
techniques learned during the writing project. Being a part of the
professional community reinforces her implementation efforts,
but she does not receive the level of support she needs. She
knows the monthly meetings can offer important contact with
colleagues, but time constraints keep her from attending as often
as she would like. Since the monthly meeting is the only time she
meets with project leaders, she is not likely to receive the
feedback she needs to mature professionally. Mr. McNew does not
attend the monthly meetings either. Perhaps, he says, if more
time were spent on writing, he might be inclined to attend, but he
doubts he would go no matter what was offered. Certainly, Mr.
McNew cannot receive feedback on his professional development
without attending the meetings.
Ms. Roth and Mr. Marriet respond differently to the idea of
feedback following the writing project. Ms. Roth is developing a
sense of what must occur in a conference for the time to benefit
the student, and Mr. Marriet is learning that his presence can
interrupt rather than assist young writers. Neither has received
feedback from writing project participants or leaders because
they have not attended follow-up meetings. They desire time to
discuss ideas and implementation techniques with colleagues, but
without it they progress in these areas by relying on their
knowledge about the teaching of writing combined with
professional reading and occasional conversations with
colleagues.

272
Findings and Staff Development Principles
Important to this study is that the less mature professional
responds to staff development differently from the more mature
professional. Also important is that some teachers are virtually
unaffected by attendance; therefore, they offer no response to
staff development. Mr. McNew changed little about his practice
after attending the writing project. He considers the project a
positive writing experience but not worth much in offering
direction for his practice. Mr. McNew indicates that he is
comfortable with his practice and is not seeking outside
affirmation or direction for growth. He does not discard
presented ideas, he simply does not act on the offerings.
The other teachers in this project respond in varying
degrees. Mrs. Hammond, a less mature teacher, desires and needs
frequent feedback to assimilate what she learned. She wants to
be a good writing teacher, but locating an appropriate placement
for new teaching strategies and developing an articulated theory
of instruction is difficult. Since she is in the beginning stages of
professional development, Mrs. Hammond needs more assistance
and she needs that support from multiple sources: from
colleagues, administrators, and staff development leaders.
More mature teachers seem to draw the administration into
their considered change instead of relying on that support prior to
change. Mr. Marriet's principal supports his teaching strategies
even though they differ from the teaching techniques used by the
teachers who have practiced longer. Ms. Roth's principal changed
an entire schedule to accommodate her beliefs about practice in

273
writing. Perhaps these two teachers work with people who
support change, but another consideration is that the mature
teacher who can articulate a full theory of instruction is able to
facilitate change and draw support to accompany beliefs and
practices.
These more mature teachers seem less concerned about
school and district goals (the focus for Mrs. Hammond). They tend
to focus on their strengths and their students' needs as they
refine their practice. That means that if an idea presented at an
inservice program offers possibilities, it may make its way into
the teacher's practice, but only if it supports a pedagogical
purpose. Like anyone making changes, Mr. Marriet and Ms. Roth
need feedback, but they need collegial discussion more than
specified direction, which is Mrs. Hammond's need.
This means that attention to the principle of feedback
following a staff development experience might be variable
depending on the professional maturity of the teacher. McCarthey
(1992) found that teacher change after attending a writing
project was in part dependent on the background knowledge and
beliefs about writing prior to the project. The teachers in this
project certainly support her conclusion. They came with
variable needs and that defined how they responded to the staff
development experience. Zemelman and Daniels (1986) point out
that teachers return to their classrooms after attending a
writing project without a full understanding of how to change
their practice to accommodate what they discover. Mrs. Hammond
exemplifies their point. She returned to a supportive environment

274
and believed in what she learned, but the inservice did not provide
instruction in how to redefine her practice, and she lacked the
knowledge to restructure on her own, so whether she was able to
grow professionally following attendance is questionable.
Mayher (1990) expands on the issue by saying that to alter
existing teaching strategies, the theoretical underpinnings for
the new practice must be understood. Mrs. Hammond's inability to
articulate a theory of instruction lends support to Mayher's
assumption, especially in light of the existing consideration of
theory underscored by writing-project staff development, which
states that each project is encouraged to explore the theory
that accompanies the presented teaching strategies or best
practices of the Fellows-almost a laissez faire approach
that apparently left Mrs. Hammond without the tools to
restructure her writing instruction. On the other hand, Ms. Roth's
and Mr. Marriet's ability to articulate and their subsequent change
in a considered practice based on needs defined by the teachers
rather than by outsiders also supports his point. These more
mature teachers know not only what they do but also why, but
this is knowledge they brought to the writing project. Mrs.
Hammond lacked that theoretical base. With no direction on how
to build the base during the staff-development program, she left
with new activities so that outwardly her practice seemed
changed, but theoretically she remained unchanged.

275
Emerging Categories for Writing Project Teachers
In the last four chapters, case studies of teachers have been
presented to answer the question: How did the teachers in this
study develop professionally during the year following their
attendance in a writing project? The present chapter provides an
opportunity to see how these case studies connect to the theory
that provided the research question. The remaining sections in
this report move the discussion from the known to the possible,
but in that move it is critical to recall that this research project
reflects the experiences of only four teachers' experiences in
only two writing projects.
An assumption underlying writing-project attendance is
that teachers who attend are good writing teachers. If the
teachers in this study are representative of writing project
participants, and that is a fair assumption since both Nelms and
Blau developed categories that describe three of the four
participants, calling writing project participants the best in the
field may be misleading. What this means is that when planning a
summer staff-development program, leaders should consider the
varying professional levels of the participants.
Some teachers, like Mr. McNew, will elect to place
themselves outside the discussions surrounding the theoretical
underpinnings used to develop more sophisticated, considered
practice; and some, like Mrs. Hammond, will need assistance in
developing an articulated theory before evaluation of their
practice in light of the offerings presented at the writing project
can occur. Other teachers, like Ms. Roth and Mr. Marriet, will use

276
discussions during the staff-development program to evaluate
current practice and devise methods for pedagogical development.
In fact, more mature teachers may need little guidance from
leaders in this area. Without knowing the participants well,
addressing their individual needs will be difficult, but
consideration for the way each might experience the project
should be addressed. What follows are categories that describe
possible writing project participants. These categories were
developed by using the work of Nelms (1991) and Blau (1988) as a
beginning point, but neither addresses the teacher, like Mr.
McNew, who disregards the writing-project experience; and
although each explores writing project participants, their work
focuses on the participant following staff development. Berlin
(1988) addresses the theoretical framework guiding the entire
writing community but not the development of the professional
who leads the classroom. Therefore, the following categories are
derived from the work done by Nelms, Blau, and Berlin, in
conjunction with the individual voices of the teachers in this
study, to identify three types of teachers who might attend a
writing project.
Isolationist
In this category teachers have discovered a teaching style
that they believe works, and they are unlikely to consider
changes. They can defend their instructional methods, but the
strategies they use may or may not be supported by the larger
professional community. An articulated theory may support

277
practice and at one time these teachers may have analyzed their
practice but because they have distanced themselves from other
professionals, they may fail to see a reason to engage in ongoing
evaluation of their theory or their pedagogy.
Acceptant/Conformist
Teachers in this category cannot articulate a theory for
their pedagogy. They view good instruction as an identity to be
adopted rather than as small possibilities carefully gathered and
fit together by a professional searching to meet the challenges of
an individual teaching experience. When confronted with several
options, they become frustrated because they lack the knowledge
necessary to discern the best direction for their particular
classroom needs. Without the knowledge to decide how to direct
their practice, they see teaching options as a dichotomy: either
they are acceptable or not acceptable, and adoption is based more
on who presents the strategy or where the strategy is presented
than on the merits of the strategy. Because these teachers have
not developed self-confidence in their pedagogical skills and have
insufficient subject-area knowledge, so they seek the expertise
of respected colleagues to guide the course of their instruction.
They are concerned about their practice and wish to improve, but
they lack the depth of knowledge necessary to make sound
professional judgments.

278
Contemplative/Analyst
Teachers in this category have begun to trust their own
professional judgment in matters of pedagogical development
because they have developed both content matter knowledge and
pedagogical knowledge, and they see how the two are
interrelated. These teachers can articulate the theory from
which they work. They may work within a school or local plan,
but they also look beyond the local level to include ideas from the
professional community. They recognize that a variety of
classroom formats are available to the writing teacher and may
prefer one format to another, but they recognize the merits in
other classroom configurations and may borrow from them to
strengthen an area in their practice they decide is weak. Within
this category there is an increasing dependency on an interrelated
triad consisting of the expertise and knowledge of the individual
teacher, the needs of the students to be taught, and the content-
in the case of writing instruction, how the teacher discloses and
carries out direction toward good writing-directed by a theory-
based pedagogical stance.

CHAPTER 9
CONCLUSIONS
In drawing conclusions about the participants in this
research study and their experience in the writing project, two
issues are important. First, individual writing appears to make a
contribution to practice; and second, the participants' depth of
understanding about a theory that supports practice defines the
direction and maturity of practice. The purpose of this chapter is
to offer conclusions about these participants and the findings of
this research project. Though these participants may or may not
be representative of other writing teachers, what we learn from
their experiences will have implications for other teachers of
writing. The following sections offer a participant summary,
implications from the findings of this research for the education
community, and some direction for future research.
Participant Summary
Pedagogy
Mrs. Hammond identifies herself as a teacher. She writes
some, but usually her writing comes after a prompt. When we
talked, our conversations always drifted from considerations
about her writing to discussions about her teaching. Practice
stems from her needs as a writer; because she requires a prompt
before writing, she anticipates that her students need the same.
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280
Mrs. Hammond believes that writing is a process and she
concentrates on prompting students to write. Her undeveloped
writing theory (Fulkerson, 1990), her scientific view of writing
(Berlin 1988), and her inclusion within the ranks of novice
writing-project graduates (Blau 1988, Nelms 1991) indicate that
Mrs. Hammond is at the beginning stages in understanding the
complex task of teaching middle-school students how to write.
Mr. McNew is a writer, and he believes this fact separates
him from his teaching colleagues. In class he focuses on how
artists produce good writing. His has designed a class that is an
expression of his needs (Berlin 1988), and in that expression he
stands outside the categories of professionals defined by Blau
(1988) and Nelms (1991). Mr. McNew's understanding of writing
might indicate maturity as a writing teacher, but when one
describes him in terms of Fulkerson's (1990) discussion of
theory, Mr. McNew lacks important characteristics of a teacher
with a full understanding of theory. He has a clear vision of what
good writing is, how he goes about producing good writing, and
how he goes about making a good text. What is lacking is an
understanding of how students move through the process he
knows so well. By his own admission, most students in his class
are not reached by his artist-apprentice program. Also missing
from Mr. McNew's practice is the contemplative nature of
the teacher-an essential element in Fulkerson's discussion of
theory. Mr. McNew knows he does not reach students, yet he
is still confident about his teaching style. Hence, he
cannot be described as a mature professional in this area.

281
Ms. Roth's emphasis is on teaching, but she also pursues her
own writing. She would like to spend more time on writing, but
her students come first. Ms. Roth creates a positive learning
environment for her students. She nurtures them and supports
their efforts, but she does so expecting that they will learn how
to be writers and move away from a dependence on the teacher
toward becoming independent writers. She accomplishes this by
emphasizing that students develop their own process for writing.
She loves her students as learners (Gere et al., 1990) and
emphasizes that they learn better if they feel that love. Berlin
(1988) says that instruction like Ms. Roth's is his preference (p.
492). Her understanding of theory encompasses all elements of
Fulkerson's definition, including frequent teacher examination of
practice. In terms of her writing placement within the
categories of writing project graduates, Nelms (1991) and Blau
(1988) would consider Ms. Roth a more mature teacher.
Mr. Marriet demonstrates characteristics that indicate his
growth toward the professional end of the developmental
continuum. He considers his practice in terms of the research
that supports it and how his practice might inform research. His
influence is becoming apparent beyond his classroom. Blau
(1988) and Nelms (1991) say teachers at this level are mature
professionals. Mr. Marriet also firmly understands and practices
the principles in Fulkerson's (1990) theory. Mr. Marriet considers
his practice at all times, he clearly knows what good writing
looks like, and he recognizes that different texts can require
varying inroads to production. He is a writer and a teacher, and

282
he can make his writing process visible to his students,
understanding that his process will need redefinition as each
student discovers a personal process. Like Ms. Roth, Mr. Marriet's
approach to the teaching of writing is sanctioned by Berlin (1988)
as the most appropriate.
Writing-Project Experience
Each teacher in this research project experienced the
writing project differently, but three generalizations emerged
about their attendance. First, all participants had a positive
experience in the writing project. The degree of influence varies,
but they all felt their participation was worthwhile. Because the
project takes a considerable amount of a teacher's summer, being
able to offer all participants a positive experience means that
good things occur in writing projects. The participants mention a
variety of reasons for enjoying the project. Ms. Roth and Mr.
Marriet say the project offered them opportunities for
professional growth. That growth includes improvement as a
writer and as a teacher, but it also includes opportunity for
professional growth beyond the classroom. Mr. McNew focuses on
the time provided for personal writing, and Mrs. Hammond cites
excitement over the many writing activities she discovered. Ms.
Roth, Mrs. Hammond, and Mr. Marriet also mention positively their
experiences with like-minded colleagues who are as involved in
teaching writing as they are.
The second point related to the participants' experience in
the writing project is that their acceptance of, or rejection of,

283
presented ideas seems related to their professional maturity.
Mrs. Hammond, the least mature teacher in this study, accepts
almost all of the presented writing activities as potential
lessons for her classroom. On the other hand, Mr. Marriet and Ms.
Roth, the more mature professionals, and Mr. McNew, at least
confident if not mature, find the activities presented to be
interesting but of little value to their practice.
A third point is that acceptance or rejection of presented
ideas seems related to personal writing habits. The participants
make curriculum choices and set up their classroom learning
environment to reflect their personal needs as writers.
Zancanella (1988) found in his study, which focused on the
relationship between teachers' personal approaches to literature
and the way they actually teach literature, that teachers'
discussion of what they "would like to do in their classes or what
they wanted their students to take away from their classes"
relates to the "attitudes and beliefs present in their personal
approaches to literature" (p. 250). The participants in this study
also show a tendency to balance personal beliefs with
instructional practices, so the writing-project offerings that
support existing beliefs about their own writing are likely to be
incorporated into practice. Mr. McNew believes the power of
writing motivates writers. Because he thinks that nothing at the
project reflects his beliefs and because he confidently believes
his practice is best for nurturing writers, he rejects writing-
project offerings. Mrs. Hammond needs prompts in her writing.
Each writing activity presented acts as a writing-prompt

284
possibility, so she accepts all of the ideas for use in her practice.
Mr. Marriet discusses his needs as a writer in terms of the
environment that supports his growing awareness of what
writers do and how they produce writing, and so does Ms. Roth.
As writers they do not need prompts as much as they need a
teacher who creates a positive environment to facilitate their
growth as writers. Neither of these participants finds much in
the writing project to enhance practice, but both enjoy writing
with the supportive group of colleagues.
Implications
Practitioners
Teachers are bombarded with ideas for their practice from
a variety of sources. Deciding which ideas to include in practice
and which to exclude can be difficult, particularly if pressure to
try a teaching strategy comes from the top down. The findings
from this study suggest that if teachers have a well-articulated
theory of instruction, they are in a better position to accept or
reject an idea. If writing teachers understand the implication of
a suggested practice because they have an understanding about
what constitutes knowledge in their subject area; if they know
what a good written product looks like; if they know how one
becomes a good writer and how the teacher can assist students to
become good writers; if teachers contemplate their practice in
search of strengths on which to build and ways to improve areas
of weakness (Fulkerson, 1990), then practitioners can approach
the inclusion of new ideas confidently. Instead of rejecting or

285
accepting an idea because it is new or sent down from above,
teachers can analyze it based on an educated, articulated theory
of subject content and pedagogy.
Teacher Education
In teacher-education programs, a reflective element is
important (Clift, Houston, & Pugach, ed., 1990), but it should be
accompanied by subject-area knowledge demonstrated through an
understanding of the processes involved in mastering the
knowledge base. In essence, preservice teachers need adequate
content knowledge, and then their program should provide time
and direction for building the theoretical base necessary for
beginning the process of life-long professional development.
As seen through the teachers in this research, practitioners'
pedagogies may reflect their needs as students of the content
taught. Assuming that this is true, another important element of
the teacher-education program is the opportunity for preservice
teachers to make a detailed analysis of the personal processes
involved in their learning the content of the subject under study
(i.e., How did I learn what good writing is? How did I learn what
a good writer does?) and in applying that process to the
development of that content (i.e., What processes do I go through
to become a better writer? What processes do I go through to
know more about good writing? How might I make these
processes available to my students?). Understanding and
articulating their own learning processes could act as a starting
point for preservice teachers to analyze the learning processes of

286
students, which could then enhance instruction as teachers
learned to accommodate the various educational needs of their
students.
Writing-Project Staff Development
In a conference on "Teacher Thinking, Teacher Knowing in
Language and Literacy," held in 1992, one strand related to
inservice for English teachers. Beach, the author of the inservice
strand report, makes some important connections between the
general area of inservice and the specifics of inservice to English
education. He discusses several goals for inservice which reflect
the general staff development principles mentioned earlier in
this study: educational goals are an important element in
successful inservice; teacher belief in and the addition of their
expertise to the program are important; feedback during and after
participation are vital to successful inservice.
What this research project suggests, in addition, is that not
all writing-project participants may need the same staff-
development experience. In fact, the categories of participants--
acceptant/conformist, isolationist, and contemplative/analyst-
suggest different needs in several areas. Newkirk (1983) points
out that project leaders should guide new writing-project
graduates as they work through change in their instruction. The
participants in this study support that suggestion. All four of the
participants wanted more time devoted to one element or another
regardless of their maturity level, but Mrs. Hammond verbalized a
strong desire for direct support from writing-project leadership

287
in finding and using that time. She wanted direct guidance on how
she could restructure her instruction based on what was offered
in the project.
What that means in terms of staff development generally
and in terms of the writing project specifically is that time and
attention might be devoted to fostering teacher growth based on
the professional maturity of the teachers in the project.
Expecting teachers to implement what they learn is appropriate,
but when they learn strategies that do not have an obvious fit
with their existing curriculum, direction from staff development
leaders might help bridge the gap. Such attention should occur
during the writing project, especially for less mature
professionals. In so doing, time would need to be provided for
teachers to reflect on their current practice and possible changes
based on what they learn. Discussion of the proposed changes
with colleagues and with project leaders would act as a beginning
point for reflective changes in practice. More mature
professionals and project leaders could work as group leaders to
guide less mature group members as they reflect on direction for
their practice.
Another possibility for future writing projects is more
direct attention to formation of theory that would support
practice. Although the writing project does not support a
particular theory (Gray, 1991), some principles of theory, like
Fulkerson's (1990), could be used to direct discussion and act as a
way to ground principled practice with a substantial theory base
learned during the project. Beach (1994) suggests that a

288
disparity exists between the university and K-12 schools: the
focus at the university is theory; in the K-12 environment, the
focus is practice. During inservice, Beach says, teachers could
talk about theory and how they apply that theory through a
discussion of case studies. The writing project already applies
this principle to some degree; each participant presents a current
teaching technique backed by theory, and then the participants
consider how it might be applied in the classroom-a practice
that could be considered a discussion of a case study. But when
considering theory development based on the participants in this
study, the case-study approach is perhaps less effective than an
more direct approach.
Mayher (1990) supports the idea of attention to theory first
and then to instruction-building based on theoretical
underpinnings. He is concerned about teachers who attend a
writing project, present teaching practices before they have
benefited from what is learned, and then-without sufficient
understanding of what drives their practice-return to the
classroom virtually unchanged. Mrs. Hammond is a prime example
of this teacher, and although Mr. McNew can articulate the theory
that supports his practice, perhaps if he had engaged in a
discussion of theories of writing and writing pedagogy, he might
have remained true to his belief in the power of writing while
learning that his pedagogy could be broadened to include more
students than just the few he now reaches. To encourage theory
building, a conscious effort could be made to articulate a growing
theory of writing instruction from the general discussion of

289
theory that now exists. That might occur through a more direct
attempt to help participants articulate a personal theory of
writing instruction based on the texts read during the writing
project and the theory used as support for participant
presentations.
Beach (1994) continues his description of good inservice by
pointing out that teachers might reflect on their practice through
writing in a journal and by discussing their own video-taped
practice. These additional elements offer potential for
discussions between participants and writing-project leaders
during the monthly renewal institutes. The experiences of the
participants in this study indicate that in leading such
discussions, consideration for professional maturity would need
to be addressed. From taped classroom sessions of the
participants, writing-project leaders and participants could
discuss the theory from which the practice grew. Although less
mature professionals might benefit most from this kind of
follow-up, discussions like these would offer teachers at all
levels of professional maturity opportunities to consider
development of theoried practice.
The changes suggested offer ways for a writing project to
address the needs of professionals at different levels of
maturity, but they also suggest that the levels of maturity be
addressed as writing projects are formed. In attending to the
needs of potential participants, writing-project leaders could
recruit and select based on the formation of a group balanced
between more and less mature professionals. Project leaders

290
might also consider, as some are already doing, offering different
levels of projects based on the professional maturity of the
teachers served. For instance, a project for teachers like Mrs.
Hammond would be highly structured and offer abundant guidance
in theory and curriculum building, whereas a project developed
for Mr. Marriet and Ms. Roth would allow direction to be guided by
participants based on their felt need.
Direction for Future Research
Expecting the work done in any research project to answer
questions is appropriate, but with answers comes questions. This
research study is no exception. Several findings emerged, and
with them come some thoughts on how this research might
continue. The writing project is a positive experience for the
participants in this study, but whether the experience had a
significant influence on their practice can be questioned.
Assisting teachers with their personal writing, offering them a
sense of collegiality, and outlining a number of activities for
student writing are worthwhile outcomes, but one question that
arises and suggests future research is this: How might the
positive experience in the writing project support more
considered practice?
Another direction for research grows from the following
question: How could more discussion of theory--the why and how
behind the demonstrated teaching strategy--be included in the
writing project? As teachers learn how to discuss their own
theory of instruction as well as the theory that supports the

291
writing strategies they select for their students, a deeper
understanding of practice could emerge. Within a discussion that
might come from looking at theories of pedagogy and writing
might come the another research question: How could better
connections be made between teaching strategies and the
development of good writing?
The final direction for future research deals with the time
professionals need in which to develop their practice. The
question that might direct this research is twofold: How might
time be provided during a writing project for teachers to analyze
their current practice in relation to what they learn about the
theory of writing instruction, and how might time be arranged so
that teachers could make practical links between their current
practice and the writing instruction strategies suggested by
demonstrations?

APPENDIX
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Interview One
1. Tell me about yourself as a writer. When did you begin
writing? How did you feel about writing? How is that experience
reflected in your teaching?
2. When do you think writing occurs in the classroom?
3. What does teaching writing mean to you? To other teachers?
4. Describe a perfect writing classroom. How can one be
attained? What keeps one from being attained?
5. What do you know about the writing process? Do you
personally use it? Do you teach it?
6. On what do you focus when you grade a paper? Why? How do
you decide an "A" paper? An "F" paper?
7. Is your teaching of writing bound by the curriculum? Is that
in any way a compromise? How? How do you feel about that
compromise?
8. What activities best illustrate how you teach writing?
9. What would you like your students to know about writing
when they leave your classroom?
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293
10. When have students written enough for the school year? When
have they read enough?
Interview Two
1. How long have you taught?
2. Do you use Caught 'Ya? What made you accept or reject that
instructional technique?
3. How much time per day in a regular writing class is directed
teaching where you are actually in front of the class?
4. When we talk about the reading-writing workshop, how do you
think that teaching style reflects the need of the middle school
student? Does it fit the needs of all the learners?
5. Would this work in the high school? Why?
6. What did you gain from the summer writing project?
7. How do you incorporate those new ideas into your existing
curriculum?
8. Does the knowledge you gained in the summer writing project
frustrate you in any way? How?
9. What else about your writing project should I know?
Interview Three
1. What did you need from the writing project but didn't
receive?
2. What would be a help as you incorporate new ideas into your
existing curriculum?

294
3. How did you decide what to reject from all you heard at the
writing project?
4. Have you read In the Middle?
5. How/Does it help you in your writing classroom?
6. What else have you read that has made an impact on your
writing instruction?
7. Do you prescribe to any writing theory?
8. Do you think that helps your students? How?/Why not?
9. What, if anything, have you dropped from your curriculum
since attending the summer project? Why?
10. If you were going to set up a perfect instructional day, what
would it look like?
11. How does time factor into your curriculum? Does a single
period or a block of periods work best for you and your students?
Why?
Interview Four
1. Why was it valuable to learn that teachers in other states
were having problems? (Mrs. Hammond only)
2. When you include new ideas in your curriculum, from where do
those ideas come?
3. How do you fit in all the ideas you gained in the writing
project?

295
4. If you were doing this curriculum without the support you
currently receive from your colleagues, what kinds of problems
would that make for you?
5. Have you ever taught in a traditional school? How is that
different from the current situation?
Interview Five
1. Which of these photographs most exemplifies your
classroom? Why?
2. What evidence do you have that the students in this
photograph (the one chosen as most representative of the
classroom) are productive?
3. Which one least represents your classroom? Why?
4. What about the remaining photographs? How do they fit into
your classroom set up? Explain.
5. How would you feel if your principal came in and saw this
setting (represented by the most representative photograph)?
6. What would parents say?
7. How do your students feel about the set up in this photograph
(most representative)?
8. How would your students react if they came in tomorrow and
found their desks in rows like this?
9. When you think about the students, parents, and principal;
does that influence what you choose to do in your classroom?

10. I wasn't taught like this (reference to most representative
photograph). How was your experience as a student similar or
different?
296
11. Sometimes people talk about a pendulum swing in the field of
education. Do you feel like what is happening is a swing and in
five years we will be into something else?
Interview Six
1.You went to the summer writing project and spent all day
every day for four weeks sitting in one room listening to teachers
talk about writing. That means you gave up about half of that
precious summer time in school. And yet, when I look back at our
earlier interviews, I see that you feel you've really only used one
or two things from the summer material. Why do you have such a
positive feeling about the summer writing institute when on the
surface it appears as though the time could have been spent more
productively?
Interview Seven
1. The writing project is designed so that teachers who attend
are good writing teachers. The assumption is that you will go
back to your school and recreate some of the learning experiences
you encountered for the teachers in your school. Have you had
that opportunity in your school?
2. What about your own presentation. Have you presented that to
the teachers at your school?
3. How were you taught to teach writing during your teacher
preparation program?
4. How is writing taught in your present teaching situation?
5. What is the most important writing instruction topic to you
right now?

297
6. During the writing project, was there anything that held all
the presentations together for you?
7. Would some time for curriculum planning been beneficial
during the summer project? Why?
Interview Eight
1. How is the middle-school English classroom different from
the high-school English classroom?
2. What is unique about teaching in the middle school?
3. How do you adapt ideas to the middle-school environment?
4. What special considerations must you address when dealing
with this age student?
5. Tell me about yourself as a writer.
6. When you write, do you mostly write fiction, narrative,
reflection on your day . . . ?
7. Where do you get your writing ideas?
8. What is good writing to you?
9. What kind of practice do you do? Do your students do?
Interview Nine
1. When you make your lesson plans and consider the teaching
techniques you learned in the summer writing project, how do you
adapt them to the middle-school student?
2. Is writing different in the middle school from writing in the
elementary school? The high school? How or why not?

298
3. How are middle-school students different from other ages?
4. Is there anything about the middle-school setting that gets in
the way of learning?
5. Do you think elementary, middle, or high school is harder to
teach? Why?
6. Atwell is a middle-school classroom researcher. Do you know
anyone else who has done research in this area? If so, are the
findings important to you?
7. Is it a problem to take a teaching idea and adapt it to the
middle-school student's needs?

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Carol P. Harrell graduated from the University of South
Florida with an undergraduate degree in speech and English
education and from the University of South Carolina with a
master's degree in reading education. She taught middle school
and high school in South Carolina and middle school in Florida.
Currently she teaches in the English Department at Kennesaw
State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta.
She teaches courses in English and English education.

I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion
it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and
is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the
degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Ben F. Nelms, Chair
Professor of Instruction
and Curriculum
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion
it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and
is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a/d)ssertation forithe
degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Robert G. Wright
Associate Professor of
Instruction and
Curriculum
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion
it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and
is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the
degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
true, oo.r
Lee J. Mullally V
Associate Professor of
Instruction and
Curriculum



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