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date: 16 November 2019

Summary and Keywords

In the field of writing in education two strong, even common-sense, views exist, drawing largely on everyday logic rather than evidenced justification: first, that to teach writing effectively teachers must be writers themselves and second, that professional writers, those who are writers themselves, have a valuable role to play in supporting young writers. But rarely have these views been brought together to explore what teachers can learn about being a writer from those who are writers. Nor are these perspectives unquestioned. The positioning of teachers as writers within and beyond the classroom has been the subject of intense academic and practitioner debate for decades. For years professional writers have visited schools to talk about their work and have run workshops and led residencies. However relatively few peer-reviewed studies exist into the value of their engagement in education, and those that do, in a manner similar to the studies examining teachers as writers, tend to rely upon self-reports without observational evidence to triangulate the perspectives offered. Furthermore, the evidence base with regard to the impact on student outcomes of teachers’ positioning themselves as writers in the classroom is scant. Nor is there a body of evidence documenting the impact of professional writers on student outcomes.Historically, these two foci - teachers as writers and professional writers in education - have been researched separately; in this article we draw them together.

Predominantly professional writers in education work directly with students as visiting artists, and have been positioned and positioned themselves as offering enrichment opportunities to students. They have not therefore been able to make a sustained impact on the teaching of writing. Moreover, while writers’ published texts are read, studied, and analyzed in school (as examples for young people to emulate), their compositional processes receive little attention, and the craft knowledge on which writers draw is rarely foregrounded. In addition, writing is often viewed as the most marginalized creative art, in part due to its inclusion within English, which itself has been sidelined in the arts debate.

Notwithstanding these challenges, research and development studies have begun to create new opportunities for collaboration, with teachers and professional writers sharing their expertise as pedagogues and as writers in order to support students’ development as creative writers. In such work the challenges, constraints, and consequences of students and teachers identifying themselves as writers in school has been evidenced. In addition, research has sought to document the practices of professional writers, analyzing for example their reading histories, composing practices, and craft knowledge in order to feedforward new insights into classroom practice. It is thus gradually becoming recognized that professional writers’ knowledge and understanding of the art and craft of writing deserves increased practitioner attention for their educative possibilities; they have the potential to support teachers’ understanding of being a writer and of how they teach writing. This in turn may impact upon students’ own identities as writers, their understanding of what it means to be a writer, and their attitudes to and outcomes in writing.

Keywords: identities, teachers, professional writers, pedagogy, craft knowledge

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