Writing their lives : exploring the connections between high school English teachers' life histories and writing instruction

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Lawrence, Brian Lee, 1973-

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This multiple case study (Merriam, 1988) examined the relationships between the life stories of six high school English teachers and the ways those teachers think about and practice writing instruction. Multiple interviews were conducted with each participant over a period of two months, during which the participants shared stories from their lives and talked about themselves as writing teachers. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, broken into story units, and analyzed using the constant comparative method (Strauss and Corbin 1990). Classroom observations and artifacts served as additional forms of data. The perspective that teachers' personal narratives can contribute to an understanding of the complex influences that help shape their beliefs about teaching and their resulting classroom practices was used to inform the analysis (Clandinin and Connelly, 2000; Goodson and Cole, 1993). Findings suggest that the participants frequently perpetuate or act against specific past writing experiences in educational settings by intentionally adopting or avoiding the practices themselves as part of an ongoing process of identity construction; the participants' beliefs about the essential nature of writing ability influence the ways they think about their students and interact with them during writing instruction; and the predominant themes in the participants' life stories are consistent with the professional teaching identities they construct in their classrooms. This study suggests a strong relationship between the life stories of high school English teachers and their beliefs and practices, which indicates a need for university-based teacher-educators involved in English education programs and inservice professional development to empower teachers to reflectively, intentionally, and effectively integrate the personal and the professional in writing instruction.