Reflecting with my tribe: L1 educators writing together in hybrid professional learning communities

Lorna Smith, Simon Wrigley

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In the UK, over the past three decades, a wide range of standards-based education reforms - impacting on school curriculum, professional teaching standards, assessment and accountability regimes - have significantly shaped the ways in which L1 teachers have understood their work and learning as teachers and professionals. These impacts have been particularly acute in respect to current L1 (English) teachers’ autonomous professional thinking about the place of student-centred learning and writing practices (Smith, 2018). However, such reforms cannot and do not determine English teachers’ thinking about the possibilities and affordances of writing in young people’s lives and indeed in the teachers’ own lives. Recent research has begun to explore the ways in which English teachers’ awareness of and insights into their own agency as professionals and practitioners have shaped their current practices and identities (e.g., Doecke, Turvey & Yandell, 2016; Smith 2014; Smith 2017). This paper draws on experiences in the National Writing Project (NWP) in the UK (, in which teachers and teacher educators have participated in professional learning communities, with a focus on writing and writing pedagogies. Most recently, this has included a series of ‘writing history workshops and interviews’ in the UK for students, teachers and writing educators, co-designed and run synchronously in Monash University, Australia. Drawing on the spoken and written testimony of 3 groups of NWP (UK) teachers analysed through a hermeneutic lens, the study reports on participants’ views of their writing practices and histories as English/literacy teachers, and examines the spaces within current UK national curriculum and assessment arrangements for their current practices and thinking about writing to be recognised and accommodated. The study compares current arrangements and practices in UK schools and classrooms with writing teachers’ accreted experience as students and writers themselves. Thereby, we trace the evolution of different pedagogic skills and cultural values, and a developing sense of the affordances of writing beyond the testing regime. Our paper describes ways in which experimentation, collaboration, dialogue and reflection characterise effective writing pedagogy (both for student learning and teacher learning) and the evidence that such pedagogy remains at ‘the heart’ of powerful learning. We illustrate this with narratives drawn from participants in different writing communities in the UK NWP.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2019
EventAssociation for Research into L1 Education : Languages and texts: learning and developmental approaches - FCSH Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: 25 Jun 201926 Jul 2019
Conference number: 12


ConferenceAssociation for Research into L1 Education
Abbreviated titleARLE
Internet address

Structured keywords

  • SoE Centre for Teaching Learning and Curriculum
  • SoE Centre for Knowledge, Culture, and Society
  • SoE Language Literacies and Education Network


  • Writing identity
  • Professional learning community
  • Writing history
  • National Writing Project
  • Dialogue


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