Motivation and the Young Writer: Reimagining John Dewey’s Theory of Experience

Billy J Cryer, University of Texas at El Paso


Issues of motivation remain a perennial topic among teachers of English Language Arts and first-year college composition courses. While modern evidence-based research in educational psychology has yielded fruitful avenues for harnessing motivation in writing instruction, in recent decades, industrious composition scholars have also turned to history for insights on composition pedagogy. In this study, I also embark on a historical excavation to glean from our composition forebears regarding motivation in writing instruction. In particular, I examine how the educational writings of John Dewey were translated into the English classroom during the Progressive Era. More specifically, I seek to recover how Progressive Era compositionists have theorized John Dewey’s writings on experience and its practical pedagogical applications. Finally, I advocate for a reimagining of John Dewey’s theory of experience as a way of providing insights for conceiving new pedagogical practices for addressing motivation in writing instruction in today’s English Language Arts and college composition course. I will show that in reimagining John Dewey’s theory of experience, teachers of writing today can construct a pedagogy of experience that engages students with writing in ways that tap into natural sources of motivation.

Subject Area

Language arts|British and Irish literature|Rhetoric

Recommended Citation

Cryer, Billy J, "Motivation and the Young Writer: Reimagining John Dewey’s Theory of Experience" (2021). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI28495624.