research

Expanding the Reach of Education Reforms: Scaling Up and Scaling Down

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Author: Joseph P. McDonald, Judy Buchanan, and Richard Sterling

Summary: How does the NWP simultaneously impact individuals and school communities? What can local sites learn about strategies for scaling up their work? Teacher leaders and project directors involved in developing grant proposals, partnerships, or research focused on scaling up professional development or school reform efforts may find this chapter a useful resource and rich perspective on NWP’s successful “improvement infrastructure.” The authors describe what is meant by “scaling up by scaling down”: “to succeed in a new environment, a reform that is spreading geographically must also challenge and, eventually, penetrate habitual practice in new contexts.” NWP has promoted both spread and depth of change via three elements: an annual site review process; specialized cross-site networks; and a commitment to both internal, site-based, practitioner-directed research and external, national, and independent research. These elements, separately and together, enable the NWP to generalize from the diverse experiences of local sites and chart new directions for the work.
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Preaching What We Practice

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Author: Shelbie Witte

Summary: In what ways do teachers of writing use revision in their own writing? How do digital writing environments impact revision and its instruction? What are teachers’ perceptions of revision in their own writing and in writing instruction in the classroom? Shelbie Witte’s research investigated these questions among teachers who participated in National Writing Project summer institutes and contributed to the NWP E-Anthology. This insightful and accessible article on revising practices and habits can become a part of any writing teacher’s repertoire about best instructional choices for student writers based on teachers’ own writing practices.
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Book Review: The Testing Trap: How State Writing Assessments Control Learning

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Author: Carl Nagin

Summary: This review of George Hillocks’ 2002 book, The Testing Trap: How State Writing Assessments Control Learning, is still a relevant read, providing history and research connected to the issues involved in high stakes state writing tests. The review details the validity and reliability of such tests, the scoring processes, the variety of tests from state to state, and the lack of involvement in teachers who score. Worthy of a teacher book group or a schoolwide reading, this review could be used a gateway to the book written by a distinguished researcher in the field of composition.
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Improving Students’ Academic Writing: Building a Bridge to Success

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Author: Juliet Wahleithner, Jayne Marlink

Summary: This report would be of interest to those embarking on college-preparatory reading/writing initiatives; it describes the statistically significant impact of a statewide professional development program designed to improve students’ understanding and ability to write academically in high school, and specifically in grades 11 and 12. The authors clearly lay out the study’s purpose, methods, and guiding frameworks, including one for forming sustained professional learning communities.
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Culturally Mediated Writing Instruction for Adolescent English Language Learners

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Author: Leslie Patterson, Carol Wickstrom, Juan Araujo

Summary: Sites looking for examples of how to design a study and/or plan professional development focused on the impact of culturally mediated writing instruction (CMWI) for adolescent English learners may find this report by the North Star of Texas Writing Project a helpful resource. Findings suggest that positive effects are more likely to occur when inquiry-based professional development includes follow-up support as teachers learn ways to effectively mediate and differentiate instruction to meet particular needs of diverse learners in language and literacy learning.
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Negotiating Academic Discourse

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Author: Linda Flower

Summary: This report discusses the difficulties experienced by many college freshmen as they seek to negotiate the transition from a writing process based on comprehension and response to a more fully rhetorical, constructive process. Summarizing a series of research studies on student responses to a reading-to-write task, the report concludes that the deficit model (“lack” of skills) and developmental model (“stages” of growth) are incorrect characterization of the transition between these two processes. Instead, the report supports a discourse community model, which views students as attempting to negotiate their entry into academic discourse by learning the conventions, expectations, etc. expected by this community. Although this study took place in the 80s, the report still offers important food for thought as teachers work with students negotiating the academic transition. The report would be useful in contexts related to high school-college transition.
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Promises of Coherence, Weak Content, and Strong Organization: An Analysis of the Student Text

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Author: Margaret Kantz

Summary: This report looks at ways in which college freshmen interpreted and negotiated an assignment calling for writing based on reading, along with how teachers then judged the abilities and preparation of the students based on that writing.The study discovered that students and teachers had different understandings of the expectations of the task and that such tasks are more difficult and complex for students than teachers realize. Although an older article, the conclusions of this research are still relevant in understanding the difficult transition from high school writing to college academic discourse. This article would be a useful starting point for discussions on how teachers must examine their assumptions about students’ interpretations of assignments. In addition, it might serve as a model of inquiry into the writing process of students.
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Writing and Reading in the Classroom

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Author: James Britton

Summary: Within this foundational piece, Britton describes examples of K-university classroom practice, as well as theory and research supporting learning environments where reading, writing, and talk become catalysts for communication, collaboration and learning. The depth and breadth of this chapter might lead to some intriguing opportunities for study groups to draw parallels and contrasts between 1987 and today; to historically and theoretically situate practices such as dialogue journals, free-writing/free-reading, collaborative learning, and real world learning; and to explore further suggestions for teachers and administrators.
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Literacy, Technology, and the Underprepared: Notes Toward a Framework for Action

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Author: Glynda Hull

Summary: After introducing cases of underprepared students using computers in a community college literacy course, Glynda Hull raises important issues and tensions related to the role of technology in the teaching of writing. While she argues for the democratizing potential of “information technologies” to support a liberatory pedagogy, she also acknowledges that greater access within structural constraints of schools and writing centers must also be addressed to best support the diversity of these students. Although there are a few terms and technologies representative of its 1988 publication date, this piece may be explored from an historical perspective, perhaps as part of a study group or retreat focused on equity, access, social justice and advocacy.
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Lessons from Tony: Betrayal and Trust in Teacher Research

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Author: Sharon Miller

Summary: In a compelling narrative laced with details of a teacher’s relationship as a co-researcher with Tony, a student in her class of seniors with special needs,
and her own ethical struggles as a teacher-researcher, Sharon Miller provides insights into questions such as ownership of data, and the relationship between vulnerable populations and consent forms. The honest and respectful portrayal of her own experience provides lots of fodder for teacher inquiry communities to grapple with, whether students participate as informants or co-researchers.

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