Now in its 40th year as a site of the National Writing Project (NWP), the Greater New Orleans Writing Project (GNOWP) has been housed in the English Department of the University of New Orleans since 1978. Since then, GNOWP’s goal has been to improve writing and the teaching of writing in the New Orleans region through teacher-centered professional development and in-service workshops. The National Writing Project has been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as “the best large-scale effort to improve composition instruction now in operation in this country.”
Research consistently demonstrates that NWP sites like the Greater New Orleans Writing Project have a significant positive impact on both teacher excellence and student achievement. In fact, a 2010 research brief proved these key findings:
- Students in classrooms taught by Writing Project teacher consultants gained more often than their peers in their writing–including significant gains in writing conventions, development of ideas, organization, and stance.
- In holistic scoring measures, in every case, the improvement of students taught by Writing Project teachers outpaced that of students in comparison groups.
Real change in the classroom takes place over time. Therefore, GNOWP’s in-service workshops take place over a series (typically 4-5) of 90-minute workshops designed to meet the host school’s specific needs. GNOWP workshops have helped teachers use writing and close reading to meet the Common Core State Standards–across the curriculum and at all grade levels.
Since 1990, GNOWP teacher consultants have planned and coordinated workshops that have reached over 1500 teachers.
Basic Assumptions of the Writing project
- All of the Writing Projects activities are based on the following assumptions:
- The university and schools work together as partners, believing that the “top-down” tradition is no longer acceptable as a staff development model.
- Successful practicing teachers are the best teachers of other teachers, having credibility no outside consultant can match.
- Writing is as fundamental to learning in science, mathematics, and history as it is to learning in English and the language arts.
- Writing needs constant attention and repetition from the early grades on through the university.
- Teachers of writing must also write; the process of writing can be understood best by engaging in that process first hand.
- Real change in classroom practice happens over time.
- Effective staff development programs are on-going and systematic, bringing teachers together regularly throughout their careers to test and evaluate the best practices of other teachers and the continuing developments in the field.
- What is known about the teaching of writing comes not only from research but from the practice of those who teach writing.
- The National Writing Project, by promoting no single “right” approach to the teaching of writing, is open to whatever is known about writing from whatever source.