Rhetoric, the practice and study of human communication, has existed for millennia and is one of the oldest academic subjects. The study of writing is one of the most universally required subjects from kindergarten through college. Writing research and theory has brought us to the current understanding that writing is a complex set of skills that is contextually situated and socially influenced. Extensive theory and research has focused on the acquisition and teaching of these skills and yet there is much we do not know about the transformation to writer. We do know that writing apprehension hinders this transformation and writing self-efficacy helps it. This mixed methods study focused on the transformation of 17 teachers attending a National Writing Project Summer Institute into writers and addressed the following questions. First, what is the impact of immersion on writing apprehension. Second, how does immersion influence the sources of writing self-efficacy which include mastery experience, vicarious experience, social persuasions, and physical/emotional state. Third, what other aspects of immersion influence writing apprehension and writing self-efficacy. This study spanned more than a year and includes recording the writing apprehension of the participants before, during, and after their transformation and studying writing reflection journals kept by the participants for the sources of writing self-efficacy and other aspects of writing apprehension and writing self-efficacy.
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 majority of the teachers immersed in the Summer Institute this research addresses experienced a long-term decrease in writing apprehension. Most significantly, writing apprehension levels remained stable during the year following the Summer Institute. While study of the participants’ references to the sources of writing self-efficacy indicated that mastery experience and their physical/emotional state were the strongest influences, this information did not offer insight into the question of why some participants experienced a greater decrease in writing apprehension than others. Instead, it was participants’ references to goal-setting and discussion of plans to achieve those goals that differentiated between the two groups. My research contributes to our understanding of the process of becoming a writer and the roles of agency and writing self-efficacy in that transformation.