Writing stories: an exploration of the personal writing histories of trainee English teachers and the impact of these experiences on their writer identities.

This study is an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), exploring the writing histories of trainee English teachers and the impact of these histories on their identity as teacher-writers. Data collection methods included a qualitative survey and participants’ creation of a ‘writing river’, a visual representation of their writing journeys. The study concluded with semi structured interviews where participants discussed interpretations of their writing rivers with the researcher.

This research draws on discourses of writing and the pedagogy of writing for pleasure. It explores various conceptions of a teacher as a writer and starts to identify some of the challenges inherent within the expectations of this role within a neoliberal educational context.

Data analysis of participant stories led to the creation of a metaphorical ‘map’ of participant writing journeys where key events and themes were represented visually.

Evidence from this study suggests that trainee teachers’ writer identities are strongly influenced by formative experiences. Earlier writing experiences, outside of school, are agentic and volitional. Once participants start formal education, writing becomes associated with assessment and judgement. The impact of feedback on burgeoning writer identity is also significant. Findings suggest that feedback on students’ writing, both positive and negative, has consequences far beyond the immediate context. Some participants reported long term discomfort with writing. These findings have implications for writing pedagogies and course design in schools and teacher education settings.