Note: This is the most current version of my dissertation abstract. Dissertation successfully defended May 25.
Writing is an essential professional skill as well as important life skill. The goal of writing instruction is to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to successfully meet future writing challenges. However, despite years of writing instruction, many writers struggle to transfer skills and knowledge from one context to another. One reason for this struggle is that even after years of instruction most people are highly apprehensive about writing and do not consider themselves writers. In order to overcome the problem of transfer, we must improve our understanding about writing apprehension and the role it plays in the transformation to writer. Writing research and theory has brought us to the current understanding that writing is a set of complex skills that is contextually situated and socially influenced, and yet most writing instruction focuses on general, basic skills. As a result, instruction does little to lessen writing apprehension and foster the transformation to writer. This mixed methods study focused on the transformation into writers of 17 teachers attending a National Writing Project (NWP) Summer Institute and addressed the impact of immersion in this learning community on writing apprehension. This research spanned a year and studied the writing apprehension of the participants before, during, and after their transformation by focusing on the role that agency and self-efficacy played in the transformation to writer.
NWP’s mission is to improve the teaching of writing, and central to that goal is the belief that teachers who write are better writing teachers. This makes the transformation of teacher into writer the primary purpose of the NWP Summer Institute. The Summer Institute is organized as a learning community focused on professional development, research, and leadership as well as writing. Most of the 17 women involved in this learning community experienced a decrease in writing apprehension while undergoing the transformation to writer and maintained that confidence level during the following year. The writers’ reflection journals reveal that as apprehension decreases evidence of self-regulating activity, such as goal setting and metawriting, increases as does agency and self-efficacy. These findings contribute to our understanding of the transformation to writer and how this transformation connects with writing apprehension as well as how this transformation can be fostered in a learning community which attends to agency and writing self-efficacy.