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Nesting the Neglected "R" A Design Study: Writing Instruction within a Prescriptive Literacy Program

  • Author(s): Morizawa, Grace Hisaye
  • Advisor(s): Mintrop, Heinrich
  • et al.

Teaching writing has long been neglected as in schools. Findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) indicated that most students have basic writing skills, but cannot write well enough to meet the needs of employers or for college. The writing programs in prescriptive literacy programs, which were adopted to ensure student achievement have not proven to be effective for developing proficient student writers. This design study is an attempt to provide teachers trained to teach in a prescriptive literacy program with the writing content and pedagogical knowledge necessary to engage elementary students in writing as a complex, intellectual activity so that they become proficient writers.

From the literature on effective writing instruction and on teacher learning, I developed a theory of action to guide the design. A key feature of the design was to situate teacher learning in the context of a study group led by a facilitator with knowledge about writing instruction. The design emphasized teachers learning from writing themselves, reviewing student work, learning effective strategies and procedures of writing instruction, and developing knowledge through collaborative talk and reflections. Seven teachers, Grades 2 to 5, from a Title I urban school that required teachers follow the script of Open Court Reading (OCR) participated in the study. At the time of this study a window of opportunity had opened up to modify the OCR writing component.

I framed teacher learning in two dimensions--Dimension 1: Instructional Strategies and Procedures, and Dimension 2: Writing as a Process. I investigated the impact of the design and the process of the design's development. Overall teachers' knowledge about writing content increased; their knowledge about writing pedagogy increased to a lesser degree; however their level of growth varied. Moreover growth in the elements of instructional strategies also varied. Growth ranged from 15% for teacher modeling writing and 109% for teacher referring to literature to teach writing strategies. Thus, I found the design basically sound but recommended modifications for future iterations.

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