Date of Award

January 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Pamela Beck


This body of work contains three articles that support the need for K-12 teachers to write

professionally and personally. The research sought to explore the questions of initial influences

to write, essentials to sustain writing and the relationship of teacher-writer development to self

authorship. Much of the previous literature produced by scholars, authors and teacher-writers

focus on the benefits for students when teachers are confident as writers. Student motivation to

write rests on the beliefs of the teacher who provides a model for writing as this shapes student

beliefs about themselves as writers. However, there is little research that provides substantial

reasons for teachers to write as a benefit for their own professional and personal lives. The

following articles present research findings to fill this gap.

While few teachers identify themselves as writers or feel confidence in writing

themselves, there are teachers that do. These teachers write with their students, blog, and write as

a daily practice for educational and personal purposes. Once awakened to the writing life, these

teachers become advocates for other teachers to write as well; they promote best practices on

social media, provide professional development, participate in writing conferences and write

books to motivate teachers to write. When teachers write themselves, they discover a sense of

agency in using writing as a tool for both professional and personal growth.

Two of the articles for this dissertation are based on qualitative case studies that explored

the perceptions of ten K-12 teachers who write. These participants provided supportive data

through a series of three interviews, two face-to-face and one through writing. The first study

sought to examine the initial influences of each teacher-writer to understand the necessary

conditions for teachers to be influenced to write, whether in childhood or as an adult. The second

study, more phenomenological in nature, explored the essence of what keeps teacher-writers

writing, including habits of mind and tools to develop these habits. The third study, a literature

review, compared the relationship of teachers’ development as a writer to the phases of self

authorship. Each study intertwines as they support one another and contribute to the overall

finding that writing, for teachers, is a path to discovering a meaningful and purposeful life.

Data analysis revealed that initial influences for teachers to write included positive

feedback from teachers or family members, a love of reading, or the early need to express

creativity or satisfy curiosity. Teacher-writers with strong writing identities as children or young

students received positive feedback that enabled them to continue to grow as writers, while those

who were more challenged with the mechanics of writing or had teachers who were product

focused, had a lack of self-efficacy in writing. If a negative writing identity was developed early

on, revisiting writing histories to reshape their beliefs transformed their identity. Once teachers

take steps to develop a writing identity, sustaining their practice is necessary to their growth as


Findings also unveiled four main purposes that drive teacher-writers to sustain their

writing practices: to discover meaning, connect with others and themselves, as a commitment to

learning, and for emotional well-being. Essential habits of mind included living with a sense of

awareness, overcoming perfection, development of habits and rituals and ample time for

solitude. Participants all described the personal joy writing brought them through discovery

writing, creative play in writing and for expression of thoughts and emotions. Through each

purpose, writing was a path to being alive in the world and in maintaining an energy that brought

fulfillment and personal growth.

Literature review findings in the third study describe the relationships of self-authorship

and teacher-writer development stories of well-known teacher-writers. These teacher-writers

began at an absolute knowledge stage with a limited knowledge of writing until a triggering

moment caused cognitive dissonance. These crossroads propelled teachers to write themselves.

Through writing, teachers cultivated their internal voice and learned to trust this voice over

external authority. In continued writing, confidence and self-efficacy grew not only in writing,

but in other areas of their lives. Their writing voice became their internal voice which was

previously veiled or suppressed due to social contexts and expectations.

Multiple implications are suggested for the integration of writing in teacher education

programs. Ongoing practices can be more likely in a university setting as opposed to shorter

professional development sessions in K-12 settings. Possibilities include creating safe writing

communities in literacy courses and providing authentic purposes for pre-service teachers to

write. Advisers who meet with students can model and suggest journaling as a way to explore

big questions and to nurture an awareness of their thoughts and the world around them. Writing

groups can be established to offer community and connections for pre-service teachers to write

alongside of others. Faculty can teach the writing habits of mind to encourage a writing practice

for pre-service teachers. Finally, teacher education faculty can develop curriculum that includes

tools writers use to nurture the habits of mind that writers find are necessary to achieve their

purpose. More research needs to be conducted in the area of purpose for teachers to write. This

will continue to build supportive data to influence curriculum designers and faculty to place an

emphasis on writing in their teacher education programs.

Keywords: teacher as writer, writing habits of mind, writing attitudes, solitude, awareness,

overcoming perfection, well-being, committed to learning, connection, discover meaning,

essence of writing, joy, fulfillment, reading-writing connection, writing influences, sustaining

writing practices, energy, aliveness