What is Letter Writing in Narrative Inquiry?

2013-08-18 10.01.47

The Impact of Letter Writing

Through writing letters in research, I have previously explored areas of inquiry latent with my own understandings of culture, teacher education and (re)visions of teacher identity.  But exchanging these letters with others has made all the difference when it comes to expanding my research ideas.  Often, I include letters and letter excerpts weaving them throughout the text.  The notion of writing letters stems from my classes with Dr. F.M. Connelly as a graduate student introduced to narrative inquiry, “the study of how humans make meaning of experience by endlessly telling and retelling stories about themselves that both refigure the past and create purpose in the future” (Connelly & Clandinin, 1988, p. 24).

Letters create a space of negotiation, an ongoing written dialogue that is both expressive and personal.  In the past, I responded to colleagues through letters.  I further used the letter format to address my reader and I exchanged letters with research collaborators.   As Connelly and Clandinin (1988) assert, “letter writing is similar to journal writing except here you are engaged in a written dialogue with another practioner.  You have control of the dialogue.…It is an ongoing dialogue, a written conversation” (p.24).

As I wrote more letters to colleagues, I realized the potential of this form and now, as a teacher, I use letter writing with my own students too.  Sometimes, if I have to get them organized, if I assign work or if I just want them to think about an issue, the letter format becomes a means of conveying information without sounding as if I have the final word.  I encourage my students to write letter responses when they cannot find the words to convey their thoughts.  And with the wave of web mail communication in flight, I believe we constantly negotiate with others through a technological variation of this form.


Clandinin, D. J. & Connelly, F.M. (1988). Teachers as curriculum planners: Narratives of experience. Toronto: OISE Press.