Connected Learning Professional Learning

Changing Times: Adapting the Invitational Summer Institute to an Online Environment


Ken Martin, director of the Maine WP, shares lessons learned as the site transitioned from a traditional face-to-face summer Invitational Institute to a year round, online institute. This thoughtful and comprehensive study reviews the rationale for moving to an online institute documenting the successes, struggles, and modifications implemented during the first several iterations; the changes in roles and relationships as a result of the move; and the ways in which the touchstone activities and rituals of the Summer Invitational Institute translate to an online environment. In addition, helpful examples of and protocols for how to translate writing groups, writing marathons, peer response groups, and mentoring to an online environment are included in the appendices. Whether looking to simply incorporate more online components into a professional development experience or to transition to a fully online institute experience, site leaders will find this report to be an invaluable resource.


Both the traditional ISI and the new, hybrid format were oriented toward three core values of the National Writing Project:

  • Teacher as writers: In any discipline, teachers who write themselves are the most effective teachers of writing;
  • Teachers as colleagues: A reflective and informed community of practice is in the best position to design and develop comprehensive writing programs; and,
  • Teachers as leaders: Teachers who are well informed and effective in their practice can be successful teachers of other teachers.

These principles are reflected in fellows’ institute activity: writing and sharing their writing; reading and discussion of current issues in education; and, sharing their own effective practices through the teaching demonstration. Students or fellows in the institute are K-University teachers and administrators drawn from many disciplines, although historically English Language Arts have been more highly represented. Many fellows enroll in the MWP as nondegree graduate students interested in professional development and then go on to enter a masters degree program in education.