Iowa Writing Project celebrates 35 years of writing well

"If people can't write well, they don't think well. If they don't think well, other people will do the thinking for them." 
- George Orwell, English novelist and journalist.


This quote embodies the foundation of the Iowa Writing Project (IWP) located at the University of Northern Iowa. For 35 years, IWP has been improving the practice of the teaching of writing from kindergarten through college.

Iowa Writing Project
 Educators interact and share their writings during an IWP workshop.

Jim Davis, director of the IWP and associate professor of English at UNI, founded IWP more than 30 years ago as a consortium of the state's Area Education Agencies, the University of Iowa and the Iowa Department of Education. Today, UNI hosts the program with collaborative support from UNI's Continuing Education division and the Department of Languages and Literatures, and is federally supported by the National Writing Project Network.

To date, more than 9,000 Iowa teachers have participated in summer institutes, seminars and workshops. Participants are able to gain knowledge and skills to help them teach writing better, including concrete strategies and up-to-date research to teach a wide range of students.

"People really learn to write by writing instead of being taught to write," said Davis. "The amount of writing you do trains you as a writer, which is why writing is a foundational part of the institute."

"The Iowa Writing Project experiences taught me new and exciting ways to teach creative writing and have writing play a much larger role in all of my classes," said Shaelynn Farnsworth, a high school English teacher in Conrad, Iowa. "I gained ideas, examples and strategies to implement in my own classroom."

IWP prides itself on teaching educators in an interactive group atmosphere with professional material.

"You'll see very little of an instructor talking at the group," said Davis. "We're very interactive and diverse, we try to use practices that the literature advocates. Teachers are experiencing what it's like to be a writing student."

The effect of IWP on teachers that participate in the program is evident. IWP is widely recognized as an exemplary statewide structure for professional growth and teacher support, and has a reputation for producing well-educated students across Iowa.

"I enrolled in the Iowa Project Level I, and I can honestly say that nothing has impacted the way I teach and the way I teach writing as this course has," said Anne Williams, a teacher in Dubuque, Iowa.

For more information about IWP, visit or contact Davis at 319-273-3842 or