A National Study of Writing Instruction in Typical and High-Performing Schools
Overview of the National Study of Writing Instruction
*Arthur Applebee (University at Albany - SUNY)
*Original study was 1979 - this is not a replica, but similar
*Al ot what was going on then, was low-level thinking
* 4 Phases
*Refining issues and procedures thru 6 secondary schools in NY
* Examination of 6 best practices schools - grade 6,8,10,12
*National cross section
*Teacher survey (1520 completed)
*Interview with teachers, principals, chairs
*Students - selected by low, medium , and high achievement
High stakes exams and impact (from survey)
*Most teachers felt the state exam greatly impacted curriculum and instruction
*Open ended response on high stakes exams are not common - not even extended response - which has a major impact on the instructions of writing (it becomes a non-focus)
*Less then half of end of semester exams have short answer or essay responses
*60-85% responded that test-prep was done frequently or very frequently
*Writing - pages per week - about 1 1/2 page per week in English, about 2 pgs in other classes
Classroom Observations High Performing Schools
*Pencil on paper - about 47% of class time
*Paragraph length - about 10%
Changes from 1979 study
*A little more teacher feedback without grade (formative)
*Extending the audience from just the teacher
*More use of rubrics
*Synthesis using primary documents
Writing and Disciplinary Thinking in Math and Science
*Marc Nachowitz (University at Albany – SUNY)
*43% of science students are asked to write 1 ½ pages per week
*70% of science teachers say that reflective, observation etc writing is important
However, in observation, much of the writing is focuses on copying, note making, calculating
18% of class time is used for short answer, 4% of class time is paragraph or more
Science use of writing process
Some prewriting, some sharing – little revision or studying of models
77% of science writing is 1-2 pages long
Lots of other statistics that show that science students are not engaging in extended writing, but focused on short answer, restricted response, and copying.
*Lab reports are less then 1% of writing – yet, support higher thinking
*Lots of “knowledge telling” writing – just copying – little manipulation of the information or knowledge transforming writing.
English Language Learners and Writing Across the Disciplines
*Kristen C. Wilcox (University at Albany – SUNY)
*About 6% of classrooms are ELL
*There is little understanding of how content area teachers are instructing ELL in writing
*There are multiple boarder crossings happening for ELL – not just between their native language and dominant, but through the content and cognitive discourses.
*Ethnographic Case Study – in phase 2 of the national study (1 MS and 1 HS)
*Multi-state study – in Phase 3
*schools with lower densities of ELLs – there was a huge shift in the populations, and teacher engagement with ELLs
*schools with reputations of high achievement – inconsistent instructions for ELLs, some assumptions that ELLs should be at the same level
*Phase 3 to Phase 4
*Schools with higher % of ELL provided stronger support for both teachers and students
Schools with lower % relied on PD initiatives (without coordination)
However, across all schools, there was not systematic way to assess progress other than the mandated tests.
From the survey – in general, content area teachers of ELLs do believe that extended writing and higher level thinking writing is important.
*Inconsistent assessment of ELLs
*Inadequate support for content area teachers
*There are a lot of boarder crossings
*Teachers are assigning writing.
Contrasts in Writing Instruction Among Schools Serving Higher and Lower Proportions of Students in Poverty
*Judith A. Langer (University at Albany – SUNY)
School with 50% or more of students receiving free and reduced lunch - high poverty
schools with 20% or less – low poverty
Plus, comparison of high-Performing and typical
High poverty, high reputation school, spent more time on specific writing instruction
Most writing in classrooms were focused on note making, restricted use (thoughtless forms) with the small amount of time to writing paragraph or more
Teachers know what they should do and what is good for students – but feel that they can't implement it because of high stake testing.
Discussant: Steve Graham (Vanderbilt University)
Why aren't we seeing the actualization of thoughtful practices? Teachers know them, but aren't doing them.
We have way too much disparity in schools – depending on where you live.
The importance of this study is at the policy level – we need to know what is happening
We see that writing instruction is almost non-existent – so, in our move to reform teaching, we are not seeing writing as a major player. It has become too narrowed.
This will continue – especially as teacher pay is tied to testing performance.
The Problem – writing is not just about sharing information, but discovering what you know and understand.
The more students thoughtfully writing, reading comprehension improves
We need to explicitly teach writing
we need to give formative feedback to students
we need to help students assess their own writing.
Machine feedback is not a bad thing – though limited
We need to better prepare teachers to teach writing
Kids need to write at least an hour a day.
Most teachers feel they are not prepared to teach writing
NWP is not enough
This is a shared responsibility – including teacher ed, but the teachers themselves too.