New study examines how writing can empower early childhood educators

By Laurel White

For early childhood educators, engaging in creative and professional writing, particularly in a small group, can promote personal and professional development, according to a new study co-authored by a School of Education faculty member. 

The study, published in the March issue of the American Educational Research Journal, focused specifically on how writing might support educators in preschool through third grade classrooms as they sought to process and center themes of social justice and progress in their teaching. It found that creating a sustained, small group community that engaged in professional and personal writing led to fresh and reinvigorated approaches to lessons, classroom management, and parent outreach.


“We found that the teachers’ writing forwarded and began to enact a pedagogy that interrogated dominant narratives, redistributed power, and centered joy and repair,” researchers wrote. 

Emily Machado, an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, co-authored the study with Maggie Beneke, an assistant professor at the University of Washington, and Jordan Taitingfong, a doctoral student and continuing education specialist at the University of Washington. 

The researchers said they wanted to focus on a possible method for supporting and encouraging the growth of early childhood educators because of the particular weight those educators bore during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and during the social and political unrest of recent years. 

“Early childhood teachers and caregivers have been particularly affected by these crises as they have navigated program closures, abrupt changes in their working conditions, and increased demands for their labor during a global pandemic, uprisings for racial justice, political turmoil, and other intersecting events,” they wrote. 

Throughout the study, the educators worked individually and collaboratively to write creative essays, poems, lesson plans, and letters to students’ families. 

“As they composed in community, the teachers found ways to center their values in their teaching and leadership and begin to bring their liberatory pedagogical visions into the present,” researchers wrote. 

The study suggests similar methods could be used effectively in teacher education programs. It also contends additional research into educators’ writing processes and an observational study of how these methods affect and inform work in classroom settings could be widely beneficial. 

The full study is available here.

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