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Looking in: Mapping representations of teachers' discursive writing practices

Over the past four decades changes in political, social, and educational curriculum policies have created discursive shifts in writing theory and practice. While these policies have historically privileged a particular view of writing over others, very little is known about how New Zealand teachers engage with discourses of writing. Research in the field of literacy has traditionally favoured reading, creating variable opportunities for building knowledge of writing theory and practice, and often leaving teachers querying how to teach writing now. Employing an interpretive methodology and a qualitative approach, this study sought to understand how a group of New Zealand primary school teachers taught writing in their classrooms at a particular time. The research was conducted in two phases. Phase One employed thematic analysis to identify how the teachers taught writing in their classrooms. The teachers’ self-reported practice described their beliefs about teaching writing, the ways they grouped students for writing, the practices they valued, planning decisions they made and assessment strategies they employed in their writing communities. It became evident that while there were strong commonalities, as a group the teachers demonstrated discursive practices. The development of a conceptual tool enabled further analysis of the teachers’ talk. Three Writing Discourses, Writer, Text and Social, each representing different ideologies, beliefs, theories and practices, provided a framework to analyse why teachers subscribed to different Writing Discourses. The findings revealed that the teachers engaged in various ways, taking dominant, merging and often conflicting positions which created complex identities for them as teachers of writing. The study argues that when teachers confidently work from a dominant Writing Discourse they present a narrowed perspective that may exclude their students from opportunities to participate in other writing experiences. Enhancement of teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge, in particular an awareness of the available Writing Discourses, is required for self- reflection and a deepening understanding of “ways of working and being a teacher of writing”. Phase Two of the investigation, a case study, closely observed one teacher’s enacted practice in her classroom. The case study focused on how this teacher apprenticed her Year 2 and 3 children (6-8 years old) to write a character description. A participatory scaffolding framework (PSFW) was developed for analysis. Key indicators signifying characteristics of scaffolding practice identified in the literature were adjusted to accommodate student responses from the data to interpret teacher-student learning interactions. An analysis of the teacher’s pedagogy demonstrated that dialogic conversations, student participation and negotiation of the task developed powerful learning. A further analytical framework was developed to investigate how the teacher systematically scaffolded learning writing over time. Five factors were identified as crucial for signifying a synergy of participatory scaffolding (SPSFW). The study revealed that the teacher wove layers of scaffolding at the macro, micro and close-up levels. These scaffolding interactions were flexible, complex but connected and responsive to the students’ participation. When students and teacher collaborated in the construction zone, a magical place where minds could meet, it became evident that learning was enhanced but for each of the participants learning was different.
Type of thesis
Dix, S. M. (2014). Looking in: Mapping representations of teachers’ discursive writing practices (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8663
University of Waikato
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