National Writing Project

Teacher-Writers: Then, Now, and Next

By: Robert Yagelski, Anne Elrod Whitney, James Fredricksen, Troy Hicks
Publication: Research in the Teaching of English
Date: November 2014

Summary: A group of professors and Writing Project site directors discuss the evolution of the teacher-writer, identifying three major stages, and look to the future for ways to research and support the teacher-writer as an activist, advocate, and knowledge creator, a role which creates a much needed way to assert agency and authority in an age of teacher exclusion and blame.


As researchers, we have found that writing can change perspectives that shape teaching practice. For example, NWP writing groups and peer feedback have fomented teacher transformation (Whitney, 2008), and personal and professional writing helped NWP teachers claim identities as writers and make concomitant shifts in teaching practices (Whitney, 2009b). Yet in a culture where teachers are attacked from the outside and sometimes gloss over 'messy' classroom moments from within (Bush, 2000), teacher-writers sometimes feel daunted by the threat of criticism. Our studies suggest that when teachers write for colleagues, they position themselves within the larger arguments they want to make about what it means to teach (and teach well) (Fredricksen, 2008; Zuidema, 2012). The complex rhetorical and political contexts teacher-writers navigate yield links between authoring and authority (Whitney, Zuidema, & Fredricksen, 2014).[...] We see teacher-writers being authors in every sense: professionals who claim authority with their own words and their work."

About the Authors

ANNE ELROD WHITNEY is an associate professor of education at Penn State University.

TROY HICKS is an associate professor of English at Central Michigan University, and is the director of the Chippewa River Writing Project.

LEAH ZUIDEMA is an associate professor of English at Dordt College.

JAMES E. FREDRICKSEN is an associate professor of English at Boise State University, and is the director of the Boise State Writing Project.

ROBERT P. YAGELSKI is an associate professor at the University of Albany, State University of New York, and is the director of the Capital District Writing Project.

Whitney, Anne Elrod, Troy Hicks, Leah Zuidema, James E. Fredricksen, and Robert P. Yagelski. "Teacher-Writers: Then, Now, and Next." Research in the Teaching of English 49:2 (2014) 177-184. Copyright ©2014 by the National Council of Teachers of English. Reprinted with permission.

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