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How Do Proficient Intermediate Grade Writers Percieve Writing in School? by Tammy Weiss Schimmel A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of Childhood Education College of Education University of South Florida Co-Major Professor: Susan Homan, Ph.D. Co-Major Professor: Jenifer Schneider, Ph.D. James King, Ed.D. John Ferron, Ph.D. Date of Approval: March 9, 2007 Keywords: education, elementary, instruc tion, high-stakes testing, best practices Copyright 2007 Tammy Weiss Schimmel
Dedication I dedicate this document to my family w ho has given me their love, their support, and their constant encouragement. To my husband, Seth, who supported me in my desire to reach my goal of obtaining my doctorate degree and to lerated my many stressful days. To my children, Samantha and Alex, w ho provided their support by trying to understand that I was busy writing a pape r, but would someday be a Doctor. To my Mother, Lourene Weiss, who inspir ed a love of learning and demonstrated perseverance in her own academic achievements. To my sister, Randee Weiss, who al ways expressed confidence in me. To my grandmother, Irene Novak, who at 91 years old serves as an inspiration and role model for me. To my late grandfather, Louis Novak, who always strived to learn more.
Acknowledgments The journey to achieving my doctora te would not have been accomplished without the encouragement and s upport of the following people: Dr Jenifer Schneider who did not allow me to be ABD by providing ideas for my dissertation and sharing her expert knowledge about childrens writing. Dr. Susan Homan who always had an op timistic attitude, listening ear, and confidence that I would eventually graduate. Dr. Jim King who challenged me by aski ng questions and encouraging me to always think outside the box. Dr. John Ferron who was always patient with my statistical challenges. Nancy Conrad who helped me by transcribing interviews, saving multiple editions of my document, and making numer ous copies of my manuscript. Jesse Coraggio and Bethany Bell in USF s CORE office who patiently assisted me with the quantitative analysis of my data. Catherine Fuhrman, Deana Buckley, and Gail Driscoll who helped me with my technological issues. To all of my friends (Leigh, Jill, Lorie, Je nnifer, Mary, and Annie, just to name a few) who helped with Samantha and Alex when I was desperate for time to work on my paper.
i Table of Contents List of Tables v Abstract vi Chapter 1: Overview of Study 1 Assessment/High-Stakes Testing 1 Writing Assessment 2 Writing Assessment in Florida 3 Criticism of High-Stakes Writing Assessments 4 Impact on Instruction 5 Purpose of the Study 5 Research Questions 7 Limitations 7 Definitions of Terms 9 Summary 10 Chapter 2: Literature Review 11 History of National Educational Reform 12 Floridas Educational Reform 15 Assessment 17 Criticism of Standa rds and Assessments 18 Contradictions between A ssessments and Research 19 Impact of High-Stakes Assessments and Standards on Instruction 20 Writing 22 Studies on Students Perceptions of Writing 22 Theoretical Approaches to Literacy 31 Discourse Theory 31 Cognitive Process Model 32 Process Writing 34 Genre Studies 36 Changing Perspectives on Writing Instruction 38 Current Best Practices in Writing Instruction 39 High-Stakes Writing Assessments Impact on Instruction 43 Chapter 3: Method 44 Purpose of the Study 44 Context 44 Design 46
ii Overview of Research 48 Participants 48 Table 1: Students Pseudonyms, Grade, Gender, Race, and Quote 50 Consent 51 Data Collection and Sources 51 Survey 51 Survey Item Development 51 Pilot 53 Return Rate 54 Interviews 54 Sampling 55 Interview Approach 56 Member checking 58 Data Analysis 58 Survey Analysis 60 Interview Analysis 61 Triangulation 62 Results of Analysis 63 Trustworthiness of Research 63 Limitations 66 Summary 68 Chapter 4: Results 69 Participant Demographics 70 Results 70 Table 2: Overarching Data Cate gories and Corresponding Patterns 71 Research Question 1 72 Interviews 72 Students Write for Pleasure 72 Students Write to Express Themselves 73 Students Write Because They Have to 74 Students Write to Acquire and Show Knowledge 75 Students Write Because They are Tested 76 Surveys 76 Research Question 2 77 Interviews 78 Science 78 Social Studies 80 Math 81 Other 82 Survey 83 Research Question 3 83 Interviews 83 Writing Topics 84 Planning 85 Surveys 86
iii Research Question 4 87 Interviews 87 What Teachers Said 87 What Teachers Did 89 Modeling 89 Reading/Writing Connection 90 Conferencing 91 Surveys 93 Table 3: Proportion of Students Who Selected and/or Stated QuestionVariables 95 Table 4: Phi Coefficients for Survey and Interview Responses 98 Research Question 5 99 Interviews 99 Comments 100 Number Grades 1-6 102 Letter Grades 103 Letter and 1 6 103 Letter and Comments 103 Letter and Check, Plus, or Minus 104 Multiple Grading Techniques 104 Rubrics 104 Surveys 105 Research Question 6 107 Interviews 107 Teachers Suggestions Regarding Testing 111 Parental Advice Regarding Writing Assessments 111 Surveys 112 Summary 112 Table 5: Graphic Representa tion of the Research Model 113 Chapter 5: Discussion 116 Conclusions and Implications 117 Students Purposes for Writing at School (Why Students Write) 117 Contexts for Writing at School (Content Area Writing) 119 Decisions Students Make When Writing at School 120 Writing Topics 120 Student Planning 122 Teachers Roles in Writing Instruction 123 Modeling 123 Reading/Writing Connection 124 Conferencing 125 Teachers Role 125 Students Views of Writi ng Assessment (Grading) 126 Students Views of High-Stakes Writing Exams 128 Limitations of the Study 130 Future Research 132
iv Summary 133 References 134 Appendices 148 Appendix A: National Education Reform Timeline 149 Appendix B: Florida Education Reform Timeline 150 Appendix C: IRB 151 Appendix D: Second and Final Revision of SYAC Survey 153 Appendix E: Correspondence betw een Research Questions and Survey Questions 156 Appendix F: First Revision of SYAC Survey/ Pilot Survey 157 Appendix G: Interview Guide 161 Appendix H: Correspondence be tween Research Questions and Interview Questions 163 Appendix I: Interview Coding Categories 165 Appendix J: Students Ps eudonyms and Descriptions 166 Appendix K: Spreadsheet for SAS Program 167 About the Author End Page
v List of Tables Table 1: Students Pseudonyms, Gr ade, Gender, Race, and Quote 50 Table 2: Overarching Data Cate gories and Corresponding Patterns 71 Table 3 : Proportion of Students Who Selected a nd/or Stated Question Variables 95 Table 4: Phi Coefficients for Survey and Interview Responses 98 Table 5: Graphic Representa tion of the Research Model 113
vi How Do Proficient Intermediate Grade Writers Perceive Writing in School? Tammy Weiss Schimmel ABSTRACT The purpose of this study was to examine students perspectives of writing instruction to gain insights into their awar eness of the impact of high-stakes writing assessments on instructional practices and teach ing strategies. Students in grades four and five who attended the 2004 Suncoast Young Authors Celebration (SYAC) served as the sample for this study. Data were gath ered through surveys and interviews with 20 students who attended the SYAC. Survey questions were used to obtain general information about the students perceptions of writing instruction and assessment. Interviews were conducted to gain a rich er understanding of their perceptions of classroom experiences. The participants in this study provided de scriptive data about their perceptions of writing in school. Fourteen distinct patterns emerged from th e data which fell into three overarching categories: Writing, T eacher Instruction, and Testing. Findings suggest that students write for various purposes at school: for pleasure, to express themselves, to acquire and share knowledge, and because they are tested. The participants in this study spent a great deal of time discussing content area writing.
vii During content area writing, students inter acted with their peers which provided meaningful support to their writing development. According to the students, most teachers used a combination of grading methods when assessing writing. The students provi ded a great deal of data regarding the comments their teachers made on their writing assignments. A major finding was the amount of emoti on that the students expressed regarding timed writing assessments. The data from this study do not specify whether or not teachers overtly discussed the significance of the FCAT. I expected the emphasis on high-stakes writing assessments to impact th e individual attenti on that the students received; however, according to the students, their teachers provided a great deal of support and guidance. Although the data did not produce what I expected, when I began analyzing the data it became apparent that FCAT Wr iting does influence many facets of the writing curriculum including grading, feedback, and conferencing.
1 CHAPTER ONE OVERVIEW OF STUDY Assessment/High-Stakes Testing A central concern of the school reform movement is assessment how to best evaluate the progress and growth of students. This is an area of controversy and diverse opinions (Afflerbach, 2002; Costigan, 2002; Graves, 2002; Hillocks, 2002; Kohn, 2000; Linn, 2000; Mathis, 2003; Odell & Hampton, 1992). Teachers and administrators are often judged by the results of state-mandated test s yet these tests rarely evaluate what is occurring in the classroom. Assessment should promote better teaching, but this is improbable when assessment measures are in congruous with best classroom practices. Assessment should provide information that helps the teacher make further decisions about the best learning e xperiences for the child. Yet it is difficult for teachers to remain committed to effective pedagogy when they ar e pressured to prepare their students for high-stakes assessments (Darling-Hammond & Wise, 1985; Hillocks, 2002; Johnston, 2003; Linn, 2000; McNeil, 2000; Miller, 2002; Steeves, Hodgson, & Peterson, 2002; Zigo, 2001). The National Council of Teach ers of Englishs 2000 Position Statement states that High-stakestesting often harms students da ily experiences of learning, displaces more thoughtful and creative curriculum, diminishes the emotional well-being of educators and children, and unfairly damages th e life chances of members of vulnerable groups (p.1). Instead of measuring the success of a states curriculum, the te sts have simply replaced it ( http://www.ncte.org/resolu tions/highstakes2000.htlm ).
2 Writing Assessment The reform movement and the subsequent onslaught of performance assessment in writing have been marked by controversy. In an attempt to fit the art of writing into affordable assessment, a great deal of the r ecursive, passionate, and purposeful nature of writing has been reshaped (Wolf & Davinroy, 1998). A recent writing assessment study conducted by Hillocks (2003) demonstrates how high-stakes writing assessments impact instruction. He found that wr iting assessment drives instru ction by stipulating the types of writing that should be taught, setting st andards for good writing, and setting conditions under which students must demonstrate their pr oficiency. In addition, assessment rubrics diminish the role of language for young wr iters and often sacrifice communication to convention and originality to organizati on (Wolf & Davinroy, 1998). Despite the reported deleterious effects of high-stakes writing assessment, it drives the writing curriculum in many states (Hillocks, 2002). In his text, The Testing Trap: How State Writ ing Assessments Control Learning Hillocks (2002) examines the state writing assessment programs of Illinois, Texas, Kentucky, New York, and Oregon. In each of thes e states, legislation sets the parameters for testing and makes decisions about what th e stakes in testing w ill be. The kinds of writing assessments and the theo ries underlying the assessments vary widely from state to state. As a result, the kind of writing empha sized also differs from state to state. Hillocks (2002) discovered that the Texas, Kentucky, and Oregon theories allow for the inclusion of literary writing in the assessm ents, whereas Illinois excludes it, and New York does not test it. Illinois, Texas, and Oregon explicitly call for persuasive writing and Kentucky includes it under the category of transactional writing. New York does not
3 mention persuasive writing. Hillocks (2002) co ncluded that there are clear differences in the kinds of writing tested in each of these stat es. This results in diverse types of writing instruction. Writing Assessment in Florida Florida currently administers a statewide writing assessment to students in grades 4, 8, and 10 as part of the Florida Co mprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). FCAT Writing uses demand writing (writing to an as signed topic within a specified period of time) to generate writing that can be scored holistically by trained sc orers with a six point rubric scale. As of 2006, a sc ore of 3.5 is considered passin g. The elements considered in the evaluation rubric are focus, organization, support, and conventions. For FCAT Writing, students demonstrate th eir proficiency by producing, within 45 minutes, a draft response to an assigned prompt. Two prompts are developed for each grade level and students are randomly assigne d one of the two prompts for that grade level. Fourth grade students respond to a prompt that asks them to write a story (narrative writing) or to e xplain something (expository wr iting); eighth and tenth grade students respond to a prompt that asks them to explain (exposito ry writing) or to persuade (persuasive writing). Student achievement data are used to report educational status and annual progress for individual students, schools, districts, and th e state. Florida schools are graded according to their students test scores which contribute to the high-stakes of this assessment ( http://www.FLDOE.org ). The formula used to assign schools grades consists of a maximum of 600 points. Up to 100 points can be earned from FCAT Writing scores. The points for the writing portion of the assessment are determined by
4 averaging the percentage of students who score a 3 with th e percentage of students who score a 3.5. The remaining 500 points can be earned from FCAT Reading and FCAT Math results (C. York, personal communication, February 19, 2004). Criticism of High-Stakes Writing Assessments A section in Lessons LearnedFCAT Writing (2003), notes various limitations of analysis of the writing student performa nce data. These limitations include: The difficulty of the prompt may vary some what from year to year and prompt to prompt. The writing assessment is a one-i tem test. The students scores reflect the students performance on this assessm ent under specific testing conditions, and do not purport to reflect the totalit y of the students writing experience, although a students writi ng experience may impact performance on the test (p.87). Critics of large-scale, single sample writing assessments agree with these limitations and feel that this type of assessment provides lit tle indication of a students understanding of writing (Hayes, Hatch, & Silk, 2000; Odell & Hampton, 1992; Wolcott, 1987). Farr (1998) states that a ll prompts are not created equal, so a piece of expository writing is quite different than a persuasive piece. Freedman (1991) states that higher order thinking increases when students take co nsiderable time with their writing, write about subjects in which they have an inte rest and an investment in the writing, and receive response from peers and te achers in revision. It is di fficult for this to occur when students have limited time and a predetermined topic.
5 Impact on Instruction Various studies have been conducted to gain teachers perspectives on the impact of high-stakes writing assessments on instru ctional practices and teaching strategies (Barksdale-Ladd & Thomas, 2000; Brindley & Schneider, 2002; Hillocks, 2003; Lumley & Yan, 2001; Wolf & Wolf, 2002). Although studies have been conducted to investigate students perceptions concer ning the general purposes of writing, what they view as important in writing, and ch ildrens attitudes toward writing( Bottomley, Henk, & Melnick, 1997/1998; Bradley, 2001; Fang, 1996; Kear, Coffman, McKenna, & Ambrosia, 2000; Knudson, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1995; Kos & Maslowski, 2001; Shook Marrion, & Ollila, 1989), few studies have fo cused on students perceptions of writing instruction and test preparati on. Just as students should be encouraged to use voice in their writing, educators should investigate st udents perceptions of high-stakes writing assessments. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study is to exam ine students perspectives of writing instruction to gain insights into their awar eness of the impact of high-stakes writing assessments on instructional practices and teach ing strategies. Students in grades four and five who attended the 2004 Suncoast Y oung Authors Celebration (SYAC) served as the sample for this study. SYAC is an annual writing conference held at a large southeastern university. I sele cted the SYAC as the population for this study because it is a gathering of children from a variety of sc hools who have an intere st in writing and/or have been selected to atte nd because they are good writers. Students who attend SYAC have an opportunity to intera ct with students from other sc hools and grade levels that
6 share this interest. I antici pated that their fascination, ab ility and interest in writing would result in thoughtful and rich survey and interview resp onses. Through their responses, I explored and described how child ren perceive writing instruction and the impact of high-stakes writing assessments. SYAC is attended by children in Kind ergarten through grade five who have written and/or illustrated works, such as st ories, poems, and non-fiction. All public and private schools from two large school district s in the local area are invited to attend. Approximately 114,000 students attend public elem entary school in these districts. Individual schools choose to attend SYAC. These schools are then responsible for selecting students to participate using thei r own criteria. Each year approximately 600800 children attend the event. Data were gathered through surveys and in terviews. The surveys were distributed to the schools prior to the conf erence. The school contact pe rson was asked to distribute the surveys to the students. The students were instructed to complete the surveys at home and bring the completed surveys to the conference. Parents were encouraged to assist students in reading and comprehending the quest ions. The students were instructed to answer the questions with their own hone st opinions and the survey directions emphasized that there were no right or wrong answers. After the writing conference, audio-tape d interviews were conducted with a random sample of the SYAC participants. Inte rviews were held at a library or book store at a time convenient for the parent and student Each interview, with the exception of 1, took approximately 20 minutes to complete. The students we re interviewed individually to avoid peer influence on responses which may have altered the validity of the data.
7 Research Questions The primary research question is: how do pr oficient intermediate grade writers perceive writing at school? The following questions guided my inquiry: 1 What are students views of the purposes for writing at school? 2 What are students views of the di ffering contexts for writing at school? 3 What decisions do children make when they write at school? 4 What are students views of the role of their teachers in writing instruction? 5 How do students interpret writing assessment? 6 What are students views of high-stakes writing exams? 7 Do students interview responses reflect their su rvey responses? In chapter two I examine literacy appr oaches and best practices in existing literature to learn how resear ch defines best practices for teaching writing. In my analysis, I compare and contra st this information with the students perspectives of writing instruction. Limitations This study is limited in several ways. Fi rst, although the sample reflects the population of children who attended the SYAC, it does not accurately reflect the demographic mix of the districts. Another limitation is the academic abilities of the sample. It is assumed that the students selected to attend SYAC are the crme de la crme. As a result, the conclusions are only relevant to the students who attended SYAC.
8 A third limitation relates to the nature of survey resear ch. The accuracy of selfreporting can be questioned because students may not understand the survey questions or they may have difficulty expressing their t houghts (Bell, 1993). What people say they do and what they actually do can be different. The interviews that I conducted should lessen this limitation by supporting the information gained from the survey data. Another limitation is that I did not obse rve the students teachers while they taught. I was unable to see their instructiona l methods. Data for my study came strictly from the students responses on the surveys a nd personal interviews because I wanted to investigate their perceptions of writing in school. There is always the danger of bias entering into interviews. When one interviewer conducts a series of interviews, th e bias may be consistent and therefore go unnoticed. It is easier to ac knowledge the fact that bias can enter than to completely eliminate it. Bell (1993) urge s interviewers who hold strong views about some aspect of the topic to be extremely careful when wording questions. It is easy to lead responses in an interview and the interviewers emphasi s and tone of voice can produce different responses. I utilized member checking and peer debriefing to monitor my bias. This will be discussed further in chapter 3.
9 Definitions of Terms: 1. Demand writing writing on an assigned topic and writing within a specified period of time. 2. High-stakes assessments tests used for leverage; the future of individual students, schools, and school distri cts rise or fall on the results. 3. Suncoast Young Authors Celebration (SYAC) an annual writing conference held at a large southeastern university. SYAC is attended by children in grades Kindergarten through five who have written and/or illustrated works, such as stories, poems, and non-fiction. All pubic a nd private schools in the local area are invited to attend. Individu al schools are responsible for selecting students to participate using their own criteria. 4. Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) the foundation of Floridas statewide assessment and accountability program. The FCAT program includes grades 3 10 assessments in reading and mathematics, and grades 4, 8, and 10 assessments in writing. 5. No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) a federal law created to raise the quality of education by closing achievement gaps, offering more flexibility, giving parents more options, and teaching students based on what works. 6. Sunshine State Standards standards developed in Florida that contain academic benchmarks that students must attain in each grade level. 7. Minimum Competency Tests (MCT) tests that focus on the lower end of the achievement distribution.
10 Summary Chapter one has provided an overview of the study. Chapter two will provide a review of related literature. It begi ns with information on the history of accountability, standards, and assessments, followed by criticisms of standards and assessments and contradictions between assessments and research. The literature review continues with a section on writi ng which includes: a synthesis of recent studies on students perceptions of writing, theoretical appr oaches to writing, writing instruction, current best practices in writing instruction, and high-stakes writing assessments impact on instruction. Chapter two concludes with information on the history of the Suncoast Young Authors Ce lebration. Chapter three describes the conduct of the study and includes the purpose, research questions, design of the study, a description of the research site and sample, sources of data, and data analysis. Chapter four provides the results of the study and chapter five provides a summary and discussion of the study.
11 CHAPTER TWO LITERATURE REVIEW My primary research question is: how do pr oficient intermediate grade students perceive writing in school. I am specifically interested in the st udents views of how high-stakes writing exams impact classroom in struction. Existing re search explores the impact of assessment on instructional practices from an educators point of view (Dyson & Freedman, 1990; Hillocks, 2002; Kohn, 2000; Linn, 2000). Students are directly impacted by classroom instruction and their beliefs can inform teachers instruction; therefore, I examine this issue from the st udents point of view Through this study, I explored students beliefs about writing to de termine whether or not and to what degree they are cognizant of the influence of state-mandated writing assessments on writing instruction. The following questions guided my inquiry: 1 What are students views of the purposes for writing at school? 2 What are students views of the di ffering contexts for writing at school? 3 What decisions do children make when they write at school? 4 What are students views of the role of their teachers in writing instruction? 5 How do students interpret writing assessment? 6 What are students views of high-stakes writing exams? 7 Do students interview responses reflect their su rvey responses?
12 In order to provide a contex t for these research questions in the following section I review the history of th e national educational reform movement (accountability, standards, and assessment), the criticisms of standards and high-stakes assessments and their impact on classroom instruction. This se ction is followed by the history of Floridas statewide assessment program. This chapter ends with a review of the literature on writing instruction, including a synthesis of recent studies on students perceptions of writing, theoretical approaches to literacy, best practices in writing instruction and the impact of high-stakes writing assessments on in struction. These sections, together with a section on the history of the Suncoast Y oung Authors Celebration, frame the present study that investigates students pe rceptions of writing instruction. History of National Educational Reform Historically, state policymakers delega ted authority over publ ic education, in regards to curriculum and instruction, to local sc hool districts. I ndividual schools and teachers were allowed to make decisions rega rding the daily instructional activities that occurred in their classrooms. Over the past few decades, the involvement of states in curriculum matters has changed dramatically. Linn (2000) refers to this phenomenon as the waves of educational reform (p.4). Th is change started in the 1950s with tests utilized for tracking and sele ction of students for different educational tracks. In 1957, the Soviet Union successfully la unched Sputnik I, the worlds first artificial satellite. This event marked the start of the space age and the U.S.-U.S.S.R. space race and led directly to the creati on of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (http ://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/Hist ory/sputnik/indx.html).
13 In the 1960s, tests were used for program accountability. During this time, attention was focused on compensatory educatio n in recognition of large disparities in student performance and educational opportu nities. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was instituted to s upport congressional demands for evaluation and accountability for the funds distributed under Title I of ESEA. In order to evaluate the progress of students receiving Title I funds, the Title I Evaluation and Reporting System (TIERS) encouraged testing student s twice a year. The testing demands of TIERS contributed to the dramatic increase in the use of norm-referenced tests (Linn, 2000). Educational reform efforts of the 1970s included minimum competency testing (MCT). The focus was on the lower end of the achievement distribution and minimal basic skills were accepted as a reasonable requirement for high school graduation. Overlapping with the MCT movement and c ontinuing into the 1980s and early 1990s was the accountability movement (L inn, 2000). The publication of A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) brought to the nation s attention, a rising tide of mediocrity in Americas schools a nd set off an onslaught of reform activity. Former President George W. Bush called an educational summit with state governors in September 1989. During the summit, they agreed on six broad educat ional goals to be reached by the year 2000 (Nationa l Education Goals Panel, 1991). In response to the summit, Congre ss established the National Council on Educational Standards and Testing (NCEST) in June 1991. Six months later, NCEST issued a report recommending national c ontent standards and a national system of assessments based on new standards (NCEST, 19 92). The U.S. Department of Education
14 quickly pursued a strategy of educational re form based on high standards. The U.S. Department of Education determined that ed ucational improvement should begin with an agreement on content standards that could be implemented at both the national and state levels (Wixson & Dutro, 1998). According to Wixson and Dutro (1998), a standards-based view of reform holds that once broad agreement on what is to be taught and learned has been achieved, everything else in the education system can be redirected toward reaching higher standards (p.2). In order to attain this goa l, new policy instruments that aim to foster changes in teaching and learning must be implemented. These policy instruments typically include: new content standards, assessments that focus on intellectually authentic tasks which are aligned with conten t standards, innovativ e curricula that are consistent with new standards and assessments, and changes in teacher education to improve implementation of the new standards (Cohen, 1995). Standards were central to the Clinto n administrations e ducation initiative contained in the Goals 2000: Educate Am erica Act (Linn, 2000). The Act endorsed national education goals and procedures to establish education standards across the country. Standards are general statements about what students should know that remain relatively constant across grade levels. St andard setting involves defining goals, implementing methods for attaining the goa ls, and determining means for assessing whether or not the goals have been met. Overall, standards are in tended to improve the quality of education by focusing attenti on on specific types of learning (DarlingHammond & Wise, 1985; Wixson & Dutro, 1998).
15 In January 2002 President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, a federal law created to rais e the quality of education by closing the achievement gap, offering more flexibility, gi ving parents more options, and teaching students based on what works (http://www.e d.gov/nclb/accountability/in dx.html). Public support for equality, testing, highly qualified teachers, and other provisions of the law was strong. The primary outcome promised by the NCLB is that 95% of all student groups will reach their state standards by 2014. Although it is too early to know if this goal can or will be reached, educators have specific concerns about the success of NCLB These concerns include funding and assessment. Mathis (2003) studied the projec ted costs for ten states to fulfill the NCLB requirements. He concluded that the costs for making these goals a reality are far from being met. Mathis (2003) feared that obtai ning the benefits of NC LB is hopeless if the system is not adequately funded. Graves (2002) felt that it is at the point of measuring progress that the presidents effort will stumble. Instead of raising standards they will be lowered (p.1). Graves (2002) asserts that testing is not teaching. Instead of spending enormous amounts of time preparing for st ate-mandated tests, teachers should be presenting instruction that will improve reading and writing a nd encourage problemsolving. (See Appendix A for a timeline of National Educat ion Reform). Floridas Educational Reform Floridas statewide assessment program was initiated in 1972 and has gone through numerous changes over the years. The original assessment program was based on measuring only a sample of students, but this changed to include all students in selected grades. The initial series of tests measured minimum competency skills. In
16 1976, the Florida legislature enacted a new accountability act that mandated statewide assessment tests for students in grades 3, 5, 8, and 11. The legislature also authorized a statewide Minimum Competency Test (M CT) graduation requirement which was implemented in October 1977. The concept of a required graduation te st was very controversial and led to a number of legal challenges in Florida. The most notable case was Debra P. v. Turlington. This case began in 1978 when ten African-A merican students who failed Floridas MCT challenged its use as a requirement for a diploma. This was an attack on all aspects of the graduation test. They challenged the testing requirement as racially biased, administered to affected students without notice, and de signed to segregate Af rican-American students into remedial classes. The court ruled in favor of the state of Florida and stude nts in the graduating class of 1983 were required to pass the competency test to receive a hi gh school diploma. A student who does not pass the te st will receive a Certificat e of Completion which can be exchanged for a diploma if the student pa sses the test in a subsequent attempt ( http://www.floridaschoolchoi ce.org/doe/sas/hsap/hsap2000.htm ; http://www.myflorida education.com/sas/hsap/hsap1983.htm). In 1995, the Florida Commission on Edu cation Reform and Accountability recommended procedures for assessing student learning that would raise educational expectations for students. These recomme ndations resulted in the adoption of the Comprehensive Assessment Design in 1995. Th e Design specified the development of new statewide assessments and required that educational content standards be developed and adopted. This resulted in the developmen t of the Sunshine State Standards, Floridas
17 curriculum frameworks. The standards a nd frameworks created guidelines for a statewide system that incor porated assessment, accountabil ity, and in-service training. In 1996, the State Board of Education a pproved a contract with CTB/McGrawHill for the development of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). The FCAT was designed to meet the requirements of the cont ent defined by the Sunshine State Standards and the Comprehensive Asse ssment Design. The FCAT was field tested in 1997. In January 1998, the first scored reading and mathematics tests were administered to students in grades 4, 5, 8, a nd 10. The results of the initial administration of the FCAT were not used for accounta bility purposes, but beginning in 1999, school accountability for student performance began with the release of test results. The results were used in assigning school grades. An expansion of the state student assessment program was authorized in 1999. This included additional grade levels and a norm-referenced test component (Stanford Achievement Test-version 9). The updated FCAT was administered to students in grades 3-10 in February and March of 2000. In 2001, achievement for all grade levels was reported for the first time and in 2003 the FCAT became the test required for high school graduation ( http://www.floridaschoolchoi ce.org/doe/sas/hsap/hsap2000.htm ). (See Appendix B for a timeline of Florida Education Reform). Assessment Assessments play a key role in the st andards-based accountability system. Linn (2000) discusses several reasons for the strong ap peal of assessments. First, assessments are relatively inexpensive when compared to changes that entail increasing instructional staff, reducing class size, hiring additiona l teacher aides, or providing professional
18 development for teachers. Second, assessment can be externally mandated. It is easier to mandate assessment requirements at the state le vel than it is to implement change inside the classroom. Third, assessment changes can be rapidly implemented. Fourth, assessment results are visible. Assessment resu lts can be reported to the press. This can greatly benefit policymakers because it is re asonable to anticipate increases in scores during the first years of a program regardless of whether true improve ments in the overall achievements constructs have occurred. Criticism of Standards and Assessments The overall goal of educational standard s and aligned assessments is to improve education by ensuring that teachers teach and students learn predetermined content standards. Although no educator would disagree with the goal of improving student performance, opposition does exis t to the preset, prescribe d, and mandated standards and assessments that are imposed on schools. Tierney (1998) voiced his opposition when he stated in some ways the quest for educatio nal improvement via standards and in turn proficiency testing places a premium on uniformity rather than diversity and favors prepackaged learning over emerging possibi lities (p.387). Many educators agree with Tierneys view, particularly in regards to the issue of student assessment. In response to the accountability movement and the subseque nt implementation of state and national educational standards, standardized testi ng has increased dramatically in Americas schools (Calfee, 1987; Durkin, 1987; Farr & Carey, 1986; Kamii, 1990; Reutzel & Mitchell, 2005; Teale, 1988; Valencia & Pearson, 1987). In Linns (2000) review of educational reform, he concludes that hi gh-stakes tests have become the public
19 benchmark of educational quality; however, the unintended negative effects of the highstakes accountability uses often outweigh the intended positive effects (p. 14). The National Council of T eachers of English (NCTE) passed a resolution in 1999 expressing concern over the prev alence of high-stakes assess ments. A portion of the NCTE resolution states: High stakes testing often harms students daily experiences of learning, displaces more thoughtful and creativ e curriculum, diminishes th e emotional well-being of educators and children, a nd unfairly damages the lifechances of members of vulnerable groups (p.2). Their resolution also encourages other organi zations to support a re consideration of highstakes assessment. Contradictions between Assessments and Research Statewide assessments and educational res earch are growing at comparable rates; however, they are often contradictory. As educators gain a d eeper understanding of literacy processes, these pro cesses are often undermined by th e use of tests that are at odds with theory and practice. For example, current views of reading suggest that prior knowledge and metacognitive strategies have a significant impact on comprehension, yet reading assessments rarely acc ount for these skills (Valencia, Pearson, Peters, & Wixson, 1989). Tensions also arise between classr oom practices encouraged by high-stakes writing assessments and the notions of best practices that emerge from research on writing and writing instru ction (Kelley, 2003). Standards and high-stakes assessments have become a powerful force shaping many aspects of classroom life. Many edu cational researchers have addressed the
20 significant impact of testing on classroom practices (Dyson & Freedman, 1990; Hillocks, 2002; Kohn, 2000; Linn, 2000). As DarlingHammond and Wise (1985) discovered in their study, teachers are dramati cally affected by high-stakes assessments because their teaching ability is often evaluated by how well their student s perform. They found that high-stakes testing effects teacher behavior in the following ways: teachers may alter curriculum emphasis, teach students how to ta ke the test, teach st udents for the test (specific test preparation), have less time to teach, and feel extreme pressure. Teachers reported test preparation resulted in a narrowing of the curricul um. They stated that their effectiveness was often measured by test resu lts which pressured them to teach tested areas of knowledge at the expense of untested areas. Despite their pedagogical beliefs, these teachers were forced to deemphasize import ant types of learning to ensure that their students performed well on mandated tests. In the name of accountability, teachers find themselves forced into teaching methods th ey do not believe in (Calkins, Montgomery, & Santman, 1998). Impact of High-Stakes Testing and Standards on Instruction Many educators agree that holding common standards for all students and mandating highstakes assessments encourages a narrowing of the curriculum. Highstakes tests tend to measure skills that are simple to measure, in an economical and efficient way (Johnston, 2003). The focus is ty pically on lower-order thinking skills. In order to avoid the label of a failing school, teachers and schools will logically focus on curriculum that is most likely to improve test scores (Afflerbach, 2002; Neil, 2003). The test becomes a teachers filter for making instructional decisions. Content and skills that are not on the assessment are often eliminated from the curriculum. This
21 results in narrowing the curriculum and loweri ng student expectations which negatively alters the educationa l environment for teachers and students (Amrein & Berliner, 2003; Coffman, 1993 in Linn, 2000; Jacobson, 2004; NCTE, 2000; Zigo, 2001 ; Mathis, 2003; Miller; 2002; Gordon & Reese, 1997; Graves 2002; Steeves, Hodgson & Peterson, 2002; Johnston, 2003; Shepard, 1989). Thomason and Yorks (2000) book, Write on Target: Preparing Young Writers to Succeed on State Writing Tests, is a resource for teachers who are interested in teaching test-writing as a genre. The au thors stress that by implem enting the ideas and strategies presented in their book, teacher s can set the stage for test success without compromising students growth as writers. They address the negative effects of fo rmula writing and teaching to the test. Thomason and York (2000) compare formula writing to a fad diet. No one doubts that fad diets-and formula writingwork in the short run. They just dont work long-term (p. 66). They suggest that teachers use formula writing as one genre of writing. In regards to teaching to the test, they acknowledge that students need pr actice in writing to a prompt within time limits, yet they emphasize that the best way to prepare students for the test is to build fluency as writers Teachers should help students become comfortable with the writing pr ocess as used for authentic writing (p.65). Students must learn to write without time limits before they are expected to write an effective piece in a predetermined amount of time. Thomason and York (2000) recognize the pressures incurred from state mandated writing tests, but they offer positive approaches instead of criticism. Their book serves as a guide for teachers to create a classroom writing environment that encourages and
22 honors writing while preparing students for st ate writing tests using a writing workshop approach. Writing For the purposes of this study, I focu sed on intermediate grade students perspectives of the impact that high-stake s writing assessments have on instructional practices and teaching strategies for writing. I begin this section by synthesizing recent studies on students perceptions of writing and instruments th at have been developed to access students attitudes. Studies on Students Pe rceptions of Writing Although research in the field is limited, va rious studies have been conducted to investigate students perceptions of the general purposes of writing, childrens perceptions of themselves as writers, what students view as important in writing, and childrens attitudes toward writing (Bo ttomley, Henk, & Melnick, 1997/1998; Bradley, 2001; Fang, 1996; Kear, Coffman, McKenna & Ambrosia, 2000; Knudson, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1995; Kos & Maslowski, 2001; Shook Ma rrion, & Ollila, 1989). These studies utilized interviews, surveys, field notes, and childrens texts to obt ain data on students perceptions regarding th ese aspects of writing. Shook, Marrion, & Ollila (1989) conducted in terviews with first and second grade students to investigate their views about writing in general, personal preferences about writing, and self-concepts of writing ability. They discovered that the children had a definite opinion to share as they responded to the questions. In regards to the general purposes of writing, the data revealed th at the students unders tood the communicative nature of writing and viewed writing as an important activity. Children exhibited clear
23 preferences about writin g activities and topics. In res ponse to questions related to the writers self-concepts, a majo rity of the children (62%) considered themselves good writers, but voiced concerns about the mechanical aspects of writing. Shook, Marrion, & Ollilas ( 1989) analysis of the inte rview data did not show significant sex or age differences; however, the data did indicate that primary age children are able to understa nd the writing process. They concluded that childrens viewpoints are crucial in understanding how young writers develop (p. 138). The results of the analysis suggest im portant implications for educators which include: placing increased value on childrens explora tion of writing, providing an environment that values acceptance and e xpression, modeling reading and writing activities for students, providing time for stude nts to write, and finally, allowing children ownership of their writing (Shook Marrion, & Ollila, 1989). Another study that explored young writers perceptions of writing was conducted by Bradley (2001). She conducted a multi-case study in three first-grade classrooms. Data sources for this study included student interviews, writing samples, and teacher interviews. The students responses to the in terview questions were very similar to the interview responses provided in Shook et als (1989) study. Most students were able to verbalize their thoughts about the meaning of writing (84%) and describe what they considered to be good writing. Another sim ilarity between the studies had to do with the students concern for the mechanics of wr iting. When the students in Bradleys study were asked to evaluate a pee rs writing sample, they focu sed more on mechanics than on the writing process.
24 Bradley (2001) collected writing samples from each child in the study to compare what students said about good writing to what they actually did in their own writing. By comparing the student data, she found that 61% of the students demonstrated that what they articulated about quality writing they could sp ecifically do in their own writing (p.288). Of the remaining students, 36% demonstrated a high correlation between what they said and the writing they produced. Only 3% of the study participants verbalized competencies that they did not demonstrate in their own writing. Based on the evidence in this study, Bradley concluded th at many young writers ar e aware of and can successfully use what they know and say a bout quality writingchildren are far more sophisticated in their understa ndings of the complexities of writing than we often credit them (p.292). Classroom teaching was not observed, theref ore, instructional differences were inferred from the teachers interview responses The three first grade teachers focused on different aspects of writing during their interviews. Br adley (2001) found a noticeable linkage between what the teachers and thei r respective students emphasized throughout the interviews. This study supports and adds to existing research by Fang (1996) about how instructional differences and teach ers articulations do influence student articulations about writing and perf ormance on writing tasks (p.293). Kos & Maslowski (2001) explored primary grade students perceptions of writing by analyzing data from student interviews and student and teacher talk during smallgroup writing sessions. The goal of their study was to gather and analyze data from the students that would inform classroom instruction.
25 Interviews were conducted with the stude nts at the beginning and end of the 5month study. During the initial interviews, students were asked the following questions: What do you need to do to become a good writer? Who is a good writer in your classroom? Why? (p.571). The students responses to the first question focused predominantly on handwriting (53%) and writ ing often (21%). The students were concerned with handwriting and felt that pr actice was necessary for improvement to occur. The practice they re ferred to focused on mechanics and conventions as opposed to organization or idea generation. Responses to the second question also focused on handwriting. They considered classmates to be good writers if they wrote neatly. Students responses to these questions illustrate their intense concern with the physical components of writing. Kos & Maslowski (2001) categorized the talk that took place during writing groups into idea generation, organization, ownership and audience, handwriting, spelling, and mechanics. During the small-gro up writing sessions, the teachers provided scaffolded writing situations (p.567). For example, teachers modeled brainstorming to assist students with idea generation and modeled the use of story maps to help with organization. Conversations about ideas and organization dominated the writing sessions. Conventions of writing were rarely discussed and unlike during the initial interviews, there was little discussion of handwriting. The interviews conducted at the end of the study wer e intended to uncover growth in childrens perceptions of the qualities of good wr iting (p.581). The researchers specifically wanted to see if the talk that occurred during group writing was reflected in the students interview responses References to handwriting, mechanics, and
26 spelling continued to be common responses durin g the second set of interviews. Students infrequently referred to ideas and organizati on in their interview responses even though these writing components were often di scussed during their writing groups. Kos & Maslowski (2001) concluded that th eir students possessed a strong desire to become competent producers of writing. Th is need may have swayed their criteria for judging good writing toward production i ssues (p.584). The interaction and scaffolding that occurred during the writing groups enabled students to expand their criteria for good writing; however, the student s continued to talk about handwriting and conventions when they were away from the group setting. Fang (1996) interviewed fourth grader stude nts and their language arts teacher to determine the relationship between teacher beliefs and student perceptions of good writing. The teacher and students were asked questions about how they perceived a good sample of writing. The teacher responde d by describing a good piece of writing as a work that should simultaneously address subs tance, mechanics, and style (p.251). All of the students responses were consistent with their teachers beliefs. They said that a good piece of writing must have a lot of details be mechanically neat, contain challenge words, adventure, fun, and be interesting a nd effortful (p.253). The emphasis of the students responses varied greatly from th e students responses in the previously described studies in that they went be yond focusing on handwriting and conventions. Fang (1996) concluded that the high correla tion between the teachers description of good writing and the students perceptions of good writing indicate the strong impact that teachers beliefs have on students perc eptions of literacy. He suggests that these results should be utilized to inform the inst ruction of pre-service teachers. Since this
27 influence came through daily instructiona l practices, Fang recommends that teacher educators need to help pre-service teachers effectively translate their beliefs into sound instructional practices (p.256). A limited number of instruments have been developed to measure writers selfperceptions and students attitudes toward writing. Knudson (1991, 1992, & 1993) was one of the first researchers to develop writi ng attitude instruments. Knudson developed and used writing-attitude instruments with students in grades 1-3, 4-8, and 9-12. In 1995, Knudson extended her earlier work (Knudson, 1991,1992, & 1993) and conducted a study to determine the relations hip of writing achievement and attitude toward writing as well as the relationship of grade level and gender to attitude toward writing (p.90). The sample for this study consisted of students in grades 1-6. The students were administered the Knudson Writi ng Attitude Survey for Children (Grades 48) or the Knudson Writing Attitude Survey Fo r Primary Grade Students (Grades 1-3) and they responded to a timed writing prompt. In addition, 12 randomly selected students from each grade level were interviewed. The purpose of the interview was to give students an opportunity to elaborate and/or clarify responses give n in the questionnaire and to provide information about school experiences. The students responses re vealed differences in writing emphasis as students got older. For example, students in grades 2 and 3 emphasized surface features when they responded to the question What would you do if you wanted to write better than you do? The older students responses went beyond focusing solely on the product of writing to expressing an awar eness of the writing process and the need for elaboration.
28 This difference supports Bereiter and Scardama lias (1983) belief that children begin to advance past the focus on surface writing when they reach third grade. Students in grade 3 or 4 have reached automatization in writ ing and can address other demands of the writing task (Knudson, 1995, p.94). Results of Knudsons analysis of students attitudes toward writing and writing competence, suggest that grade level, gender, and attitude toward writing are very good predictors of writing achievement. Specifica lly, students who are in upper grades, are female, and who have more positive attitudes toward writing are more likely to be aboveaverage writers (p.90). The analysis of the interview responses, as described above, indicate that children progress to more advan ced aspects of writing as they get older. Bottomley, Henk, and Melnick (1997/1998) developed the Write r Self-Perception Scale (WSPS) to measure fourth, fifth, and si xth grade students per ceptions of their own writing in order to enhance inst ruction. The WSPS also pro vides educators with data on attitudes toward writing that make indivi dual literacy evaluations more complete (p.287). The WSPS is grounded in Banduras ( 1977) theory of perceived self-efficacy which predicts that a childs self-percepti on of writing ability will affect his/her subsequent writing growth (p.287). The WSPS contains 38 items that deal w ith writing ability in general and more specific aspects of writing including focus, organization, content, st yle, and coherence. The items represent one of the following five scales: General Progress (GPR), Specific Progress (SPR), Observational Comparis on (OC), Social Feedback (SF), and Physiological States (PS). Bottomley et al ., (1997/1998) believe that interactions in the five categories influence one another and do not operate inde pendently. As a result, they
29 view literacy learning as complex and social The researchers recommend that educators use the data obtained from the WSPS for individual and whole-gr oup interventions and assessments in order to make general assessments of their classroom writing climates and more specific appraisals of i ndividual childrens perceptions (p.290). While studying writing instruction, Kear, Coffman, McKenna, & Ambrosio (2000) recognized a lack of va lid and reliable instrument s for determining students attitudes toward writing. In response to this, they developed the Writing Attitude Survey (WAS) to be used by educators to learn about students attitudes toward writing and to inform instructional practices. The items on the WAS were developed after reviewing Knudsons instruments (1991, 1992, 1993) and studying language arts methods textbooks. All of the 28 items begin with the phrase How would you feel Students re spond to the items by circling the picture of Garfield (the cartoon character) that best represents th eir feeling toward the question. The four Garfield pictures that accompany each question display emotions that range from very happy to very upset. Scores are determined by assigning 1-4 points to each response (4 points for very happy, 3 points for happy, 2 points for unhappy and 1 point for very unhappy). The total sc ores can be converte d to a percentile by using the Table provid ed with the survey. Kear et al., (2000) stress that data obt ained from this survey is meaningless unless the information is used to plan instruction (p. 13). They acknowledge that fostering positive writing attitudes in students is a challenging endeavor; however, they assert that effective teaching strategies a nd engaging opportunities to write successfully can make real inroads in st udents perspectives (p.15).
30 These studies and instruments that focus on students per ceptions of writing demonstrate the valuable information that students can provide to educators. Shook, Marion, and Ollila (1989), Bradley (2001), Kos and Maslowski (2001), and Fang (1996) all utilized interviews as a data collection tool The rich data that was obtained in each study, demonstrated the valuable information th at students can provide regardless of their age. Bradley (2001) and Fang (1996) interv iewed students and teachers in their studies. Although there was a three year differe nce between the grades of the students in the studies (first grade and 4th grade respectively), the data from both studies revealed a strong linkage between the students and th eir respective teachers responses. As mentioned previously, Fang (1996) concluded that this correlation indicates the strong impact that teachers beliefs have on students perceptions of literacy. The instruments created by Knudson (1991, 1992, & 1993), Bottomley et al., (1997/1998), and Kear et al., (2000) all meas ure students attitudes toward writing. Knudsons (1991, 1992, & 1993) writing attitude instruments were developed for students in grades 1-3, 4-8, and 9-12 and therefore were appropriate for all grade levels. The main purpose of her surveys was to determine the relationship between writing achievement and attitude toward writing. Bottomley et al.s (1997/1998) Writer Se lf-Perception Scale was developed for fourth, fifth, and sixth grade st udents. Kear et al.s (2000) Writing Attitude Survey was developed for elementary grade students. Bo th of these instruments were developed to obtain data that would enhance and inform instruction. In addition, the data enables educators to assess the climate of their classrooms.
31 As noted above, these studies all resulted in rich data about st udents perceptions regarding various aspects of wr iting. Based on the rich data that was gathered in these studies by utilizing these methods, I also expl ored my research que stions through surveys and interviews. The following section presents theoretical ap proaches to literacy that serve as a framework for this study on students perceptions of writing instruction. Theoretical Approaches to Literacy Discourse theory. Kinneavy (1971) gave a great deal of attention to purpose in discourse. Kinneavy (1971) stat ed that purpose in discourse is all important. The aim of discourse determines everything else in the process of discourse (p.48). He argues that modes of discourse are only import ant as a means of accomplishing a certain purpose. Skills in narrative, expository, or descriptive writing are of minimal use unless those skills serve a larger rhetorical purpose. Kinneavy (1971) assert ed that theories of language and discourse should be crowned with a viable framework of the uses of language (p.38). Kinneavy (1971) identified four major purposes of discourse: expressive, literary, persuasive, and referential. Each of these discourse types are char acterized by different qualities and entail different thinking processe s which result in pieces of discourse that have distinct features as we ll as different organizational patterns. Kinneavy suggested that skills in accomplishing one rhetorical purpose did not guarantee skills in accomplishing another. Kinneavy also claime d that a writers purpose guides his/her choice about diction, organizationa l patterns, and content.
32 Bazerman (1992) honored Kinneavys work in his essay, yet he stated that Kinneavy provides guidance only for recognizing four ideali zed types of text to be produced or interpreted (p. 106). Bazerma n (1992) stressed that Kinneavys discourse theory offers rich and useful information, but does not provide guide lines for the acts of writing and reading, for recognizing ones loca l and cultural rhetor ical situation, for shaping intent, and for pursu ing interaction (p.106). Kinneavys theory is based largely on th e analysis of written product. He is concerned with how text appears (Bazerman, 1992). Odell, Cooper, and Courts (1978) stated, If we are to use this theory in researching the composing process, it seems essential that theory be informed by the analysis of this process (p.6) Odell et al., admit that this sort of analysis may be difficu lt to obtain because the cognitive processes of composing are complex and not directly observable. Cognitive process model. Flower and Hayes (1981) we re the first to present a model of writing grounded in both rhetoric and cognitive psychology. Their model offers a more complex look at processes and sub-pr ocesses of writing and was constructed to demonstrate that writing process elements are interactive and recursive. These processes interact with the task e nvironment, which includes the rhetorical problem and the emerging text. The second element is the writers long-term memory which works to organize stored knowledge of the topic, audience awareness, and writing plans. The third element in their model cont ains the actual writi ng processes of planning, translating, and reviewing. The monitor, which functions as a writing strategist, controls these processes. During the composing process, the monitor decides when the writer moves from one writing process to the next.
33 Flower and Hayes (1981) described the writing process as the organizing of thoughts in a hierarchical, goaldirected way and as the expr essing of this process on paper. They stressed that by placing em phasis on the writer, an important part of creativity is put where it bel ongs, in the hands of the workin g, thinking writer (p.386). Cooper and Holzman (1989) criticized the Flower and Hayes model and the methodology by which data were collected. Th eir main concern was that writing is a social process structured by the environment as opposed to being strictly a cognitive process. They felt the writing should be e xplained in regards to social structure and classroom dynamics. They also questioned the think-aloud protocols utilized by Flower and Hayes, noting the difficulty of completing a task (writing) while verbalizing thought processes. Cooper and Holzman preferred s ituated studies that analyzed composing during classroom activities by look ing at writers processes. Bereiter and Scardamalia (1987) also applied a cognitive framework to writing. Their research suggested that numerous de mands in writing compete for a writers attention. Berieter and Scardamalia (1987) st ated that the writing process is complex because of the interdependency of components, which requires that a number of elements be coordinated or taken into account jointly (p.133). These components are not limited to cognitive or mental processes, they also include the nature of the writing task. Bereiter and Scardamalia (1987) emphasi zed the control processes in writing. They characterized current cognitive theory based on the distinction between fixed structures and flexible control processes. According to Bereiter and Scardamalia (1987) the structures establish the constraints with in which the control pr ocesses can operate.
34 The development of writing skills consists to a large extent in acquiring suitable control strategies (p. xi). Structural changes, su ch as the knowledge structures of the writer, interact with the development of control stra tegies. This interaction creates a rich and complex pattern of observations and experimental results. Process writing. Writing workshop approaches were researched, popularized, and promoted by Graves (1983, 1994, 2003), Calkins (1983, 1994), and Atwell (1987); however, Graves is the researcher most ofte n associated with pro cess writing. In 1975, Graves conducted one of the earliest st udies of primary grade childrens writing processes. He analyzed th e actions of second grade stude nts and discovered that their composing often began during the process of sketching or coloring. In Graves yearlong study, two distinctive types of writers emerged: the reactive child and th e reflective child. The reactive child used erratic problem-solving strategies, needed time to rehearse what he would write, and spoke out loud as he wrote. The reflective child needed little rehearsal before writing, and wrote rapidly and silently. Graves (1975) found that the characteristics of reactive and reflective writ ers exist in varying degrees in all children and can emerge under different writing conditions. Graves (1975) defined three phases in the writing process: prewriting, composing, and postwriting. The prewriting phase immediat ely precedes the writing of the child. The composing phase begins and ends with the actual writing. The third phase, postwriting, refers to all of the behaviors fo llowing the completion of the writing. Graves (1975) stressed that teachers be involved in all three phases of the writing process as they are engaged by individual students. Up to this point, Graves research focused on what writers did during the composing process.
35 Graves (1983) discussed some of the ba sic elements that contribute to learning. He stressed the importance of listening to ch ildren, allowing them to select their own topics, and the process of writing. A decade later, Graves (1994) began focusing on the conditions for learning within l iterate classrooms and how to use time well as a teacher of writing. In rethinking the concept of writi ng workshops, Dahl and Farnan (1998) state that he reconsiders the role of writing conf erences in providing instruction for children, contending that significant instruction in writing also comes through the social interactions among children and their independent experimentation with writing (p.38). Graves (1994) suggests that classrooms move from rigid routines to classroom environments with focused attention on learni ng which allow children to explore writing. Lensmire (1994, 2000) criticized the writing workshop approach. While working as a teacher researcher, Lensmire (1994) both acted in, and refl ected on, the writing workshop in his third grade classroom. Th rough extensive field notes, he followed peer relationships and writing progr ess in his classroom. As the school year progressed, he became increasingly aware of the dominant role of social context in the workshop setting. Student writing became attacks on less-popular students. Teasing was voiced through writing, and genres that entailed personal sharing were avoided. Lensmire (1994) suggested that workshops might work better if students work toward a common purpose in which the focus is shifted away from th e use of writing as a means of playing out power relations among children. He also stressed that teacher guidance is central to the success of wr iting workshops. He supported the idea of teachers and students working together and discussing writing in a supportive environment for all children.
36 McCarthy (1994) agreed with Lensmires criticisms of the writing workshop. She recommended that teachers may need to balance student choice with developing a community in order to avoid the extreme individualism advocated by the Writing Workshop (p. 228). Dyson and Freedman (1990) criticized th e writing workshop format as being too structured and predictable. Many writing classes developed formats in which all students would begin by prewriting (brainstorming a nd outlining), next they would write the complete composition based on their prewriting, and then students would be encouraged to revise. Dyson and Freedman (1990) stated th at writers need flexibility, and they need time to allow the subprocesses to cycle back on each other (p.760). Genre studies. Rhetorical studies of genre prov ide a deep understanding of the dynamic relationship between genr e activities and the historical, institutional, and social contexts in which those activities transpire. Genre studies provide a societal look at writing (Dunmire, 2000). Cope and Kalantzis (1993) documented an educational experiment that began in Sydney, Australia. It presents an approach to issues of writing, access, and marginality. Although the authors of this text debate various consequences and emphases of genre teaching, they shar e a common goal of economic and social access through teaching which explains how te xts work. Genre analysis is concerned with whole texts and their social functions (Cope & Kalantzis, 1993). According to Cope and Kalantzis (1993) all genre theorists would agree that genre literacy should open students educatio nal and social options by giving them access to discourse of educational si gnificance and social power (p .15). Genre literacy uses cultural differences as a resource for access. It also presents the teacher as an expert in
37 language, with an authoritative, not authoritar ian status. Another principle that underlies genre literacy is the use of curriculum scaffolds that support the structure of a discipline and the recursive patterns that encompass cl assroom experience. The final principle in genre literacy is that students move b ack and forth between activity and receive knowledge, language and metalanguage, pr ocesses of induction and deduction, and experience and theory. Progressivists view genre literacy as the return of transmission pedagogy in which classrooms are authoritarian a nd formal language facts are learned. Conservative educators may be suspicious of the concept of equity in education. They may view genre literacy as a threat to Western standards and status (Cope & Kalantzis, 1993). Lensmire (1994), on the other hand, views genre stud ies as an important development that recognizes that children may benefit from pr oducing texts that they would not typically choose or have access to w ithout teacher intervention. The pedagogy that underlies genre theory is supportive to different modes of learning, unlike the rigidly structured traditio nal curriculum and the unstructured, natural progressive curriculum. Also, teachers are rein stated as professionals as opposed to their managerial role in progressivism or thei r authoritarian role in traditionalism. All of these theoretic al approaches to lit eracy: discourse theor y, cognitive process model, process writing, and genre studies, o ffer frameworks for school literacy. They provide what they consider to be effective wa ys for students to develop as writers. Each approach has limitations yet adds to the body of knowledge of child rens literacy. While studying these theories, I reflecte d on my personal beliefs about literacy and how my beliefs support and/or refute th ese approaches. I belie ve that writing is a
38 combination of cognitive and social proce ss that must be supported and guided by a competent teacher. Although I agree with many aspects of process writing, I also agree with Dyson and Freedmans (1990) criticism that the writing workshop format is too structured. Children need flexibility when th ey write. I support ge nre literacys principle of utilizing curriculum scaffolds to support wri ting in the classroom. As stated above, in genre theory teachers are reinstated as profe ssionals who guide students in the process of learning. These theoretical approaches to l iteracy informed the design of this study by painting a picture of writing that I referred to when establishing my interview guide. Following is a section on changing persp ectives of writing in struction that will show where we are today in terms of childrens literacy. Changing Perspectives on Writing Instruction Prior to the 1970s, researchers and e ducators focused on childrens written products and skills (Freedman, Flower, & Chaf e, 1987). In the 1970s there was a major shift away from studying writing products to studying the processes that writers employ during writing (Freedman, Flower & Chafe, 1987; Flower & Hayes, 1981). Researchers and educators emphasized that a skillful product was the result of a composing process consisting of planning, drafti ng, revising, and editing. They began focusing on what people do when they write and how their writing could be best supported in the classroom (Calkins, 1994; Dyson & Fr eedman, 1990; Chapman, 2006; Dyson, 2001; Flower & Hayes, 1981; Graves, 1983; Gr aves, 2003; Scardamalia, 1984; Strickland, Bodino, Buchan, Jones, Nelson, & Rosen, 2001). Twenty years later, the concept of a l iteracy event or practice was emphasized. The writing process unfolds within recurrent kinds of events or practices. Literacy events
39 are energized by particular purposes with a nd for particular people. For elementary school age students, the emphasi s is on learning through participation in events in which oral language plays a domi nant role (Dyson, 2001). Skilled writing is an extremely sophi sticated cognitive task that entails generative thought processes, reflection, an alysis, synthesis, and evaluation (Henk, Marinak, Moore, & Mallette, 2003/2004; Hillocks, 2002). Stickland et al., (2001) define writing as a meaning-making process in which writers gather and or ganize ideas, draft compositions, revise and edit drafts, and publish their final products. They stress that the writing process is recursive, with writers moving back and forth among stages throughout the process. Hillocks (2002) addresses the recursive nature of writing by describing the typical process of a writer: The writer does not move forward in a strai ght lineRather, she is more likely to collect data, make an analysis, begin a firs t draft, return to the data for further collection or analysis, revise the draft while it is still in progress, move forward again only to return once more to the da ta, and revise ideas again (p.29). Current Best Practices in Writing Instruction The shift to a process approach to writing helped teachers understand how to support students writing development and insp ired changes in the writing curriculum (Strickland et al., 2001, p.387). Helping students acquire the abundance of writing competencies is a demanding task for educators. There is a vast am ount of research that identifies best practices in writing instruc tion. These best practices include: providing a variety of kinds of social interaction around writing, allowi ng children choices in their writing topics, and using liter ature (Atwell, 1987; Calkins, 1994; Chapman, 2006; Dyson
40 & Freedman, 1990; Graves, 1983; Graves, 2003; Kern, Andre, Schike, Barton, & McGuire, 2003; Lensmire, 1994; McCo miskey, 2000; Nystrand, 2006; Ray, 2004; Schneider, 2001; Shelton & Fu, 2004; Thomason & York, 2000; Wolf & Davinroy, 1998; Wolf & Wolf, 2002). Vygotskys (1978) research on childrens acquisition of language revealed that learning is a social process; children are initiated in to written language by their interactions with other people. Children acquire knowledge as they participate in social activities. Britton (1993) emphasizes the importance of collaborative relationships between teachers and students. Effective teachers collaborate with students by modeling learning processes and involving st udents in that process. Dyson and Freedman (1991) stress that schoo ls can best promote development if they are social places where students have opportunities to interact with each other and their teacher. Student inte raction can take various forms. Students may talk to one another about their individual writing or as they work together on a joint piece. According to Daiute and Dalton (1988) the pl ayfulness of the verbal interactions among elementary school children encompasses its value because language play involves modeling, exploring, and negotia ting language. Children n eed opportunities to share ideas, collaborate, and respond to one anothe rs writing (Chapman, 2006, p. 38). These social interactions provide meaningful support to the writing devel opment of children. Writing research recommends that students should be allowed to write on topics of their choice (Atwell, 1987; Chapman, 2006; Dyson & Freedman, 1990; Graham, et al., 2007; Graves, 1975, 1983, 1994, & 2003; Ray, 2004; Higgins et al., 2006; Wolf & Wolf, 2002). Writing reflects the unique experiences of children and therefore, writers develop
41 a sense of ownership when selecting a writi ng topic (Atwell, 1987). In his study of the writing processes of seven year old children, Graves (1975) reached several conclusions related to topic choice. He f ound that when children are given a choice of what to write, they write more and in greater length than when specific topics are assigned. Graves (1975) also concluded that an environmen t that requires large amounts of assigned writing inhibits the range, content, and am ount of writing done by children (p.235). In more recent works, Graves (1983, 1994, & 2003) reiterates the importance of topic choice by suggesting that when writers choose topics that they know something about, they can write with authority. Children are able to exercise str onger control of their writing and establish ownership and pride in their written work. When given topic choice, children are often inclined to write in certain genres and styles. Providing students w ith a range of opportunities to write in different genres enables students to draw on other discourses from their lives. Although teachers should encourage their students to expand beyond their particular preferences children will often be more successful if they begin with th eir strengths (Wolf & Davinroy, 1998). To support student expression, Schneider (2001) urge s teachers to provide students with the time to write on topics of their choice, in genres of their choice, without fear of criticism, exposure, or grades (p. 423). Lensmire (1994) suggests that teacher-ass igned topics may not be limiting, but expand chances for growth in writing. He points to his work that emphasizes the importance of risk and peer influences in childrens writing processes. Lensmire (1994) also supports genre studies as a positive development for traditional writing workshop approaches.
42 Literature should be an integral part of all writing curriculums (Calkins, 1994; Chapman, 2006; Elbow, 2000; Fecho, Allen, Ma zaros, & Inyega, 2006; Graves, 1994; Kern, Andre, Schilke, Barton, & McGuire, 2003; Lensmire, 1994; Thomason & York, 2000). Children should be surrounded by literatu re. By exposing children to literature, written by children and adults, they have an opportunity to see examples of good compositions. Literature offers children authentic purposes to write and clear models to follow (Kern et al., 2003). Lite rature can serve as model to help children evaluate their own work and the work of profe ssional writers (Graves, 1994). When students read every day, are read to every day, and write every day, the connection between reading and writing beco mes apparent to them. Chapman (2006) stresses that to promote stude nts writing development as well as their overall literacy growth, children need opport unities to engage with quality literature through listening, reading, discussing, and responding (p.38). Li terature can serve as a scaffold for childrens writing. When teachers and student s examine the techniques that good writers use, students can incorporate these ideas in their own pieces of writing (Dyson, 1990; Lensmire, 1994). The challenge for schools and teachers is to provide support to their students. In their review of the literat ure on teaching writing, Dyson and Freedman (1990) conclude that through supportive and responsive classr oom environments, schoo ls may best help each generation grow into literacy in ways that enable them to use written language productively and fulfillingly throughout their lives (p. 25).
43 High-Stakes Writing Assessments Impact on Instruction Many factors influence classroom writing instruction. Currently, few educators would argue that the most sign ificant of these factors is the high-stakes assessment of writing legislated by most stat e governments. These assessm ents intend to measure the progress of schools, teachers, and students to ward achieving goals set forth in academic standards. Tensions arise between the cl assroom practices encouraged by these highstakes assessments and the notions of best practices that emerge from the domains of research on writing and writing instruction (Hillocks, 1986). Relevant studies have shown a growing understanding for the ways students learn to write and the methods utilized by successful writing instructors (A twell, 1987; Calkins, 1994; Dahl & Farnan, 1998; Dyson, 2001; Elbow, 1981; Graves, 1983, 1994, & 2003; McCarthy, 1994; Strickland et al., 2001; Wolf & Wolf, 2002). Relatively few studies, however, have addressed the impact that high-stakes writing assessments have on instructional practices and teaching strategies. In the last decade, the most popular hi gh-stakes writing assessments have been modeled after the evaluations commonly used by the Educational Testing Service. In these assessments, students write on an assigne d topic, in a set period of time, and in a testing situation (Dyson & Freedman, 1990). Th ese conditions are in stark contrast to what researchers consider best practices for writing instruction (Hillocks, 2002). Are students aware of the impact of high-stakes assessments on writing instruction? This study investigates stude nts perceptions of writing instruction. The Suncoast Young Authors Celebration se rved as the context for this study.
44 CHAPTER THREE METHOD This chapter describes the conduct of th e study and includes the purpose, context, research questions, design of the study, a description of the research site and sample, sources of data, data analysis, and limitations of the study. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study is to exam ine students per ceptions of writing instruction to gain insights into their awar eness of the impact of high-stakes writing assessments on instructional practices and teach ing strategies. Students in grades four and five who attended the 2004 Suncoast Y oung Authors Celebration (SYAC) served as the population for this study. Context The Suncoast Young Authors Celebration (SYA C) is an annual writing event held at the University of South Florida. SYAC was established in 1985 by Dr. Gloria Houston as a forum for students to share their wr iting and learn writin g techniques from professional authors. Since 1999, Dr. Jenifer Sc hneider has been solely responsible for organizing SYAC. SYACs purpose is to hono r the creativity of children and promote lifelong writing, reading, a nd visual expression (http:/ww.coedu.usf.edu/syac/genera linfo.htm, p.1). The conference is not marketed as a writing contest, but as an opport unity for students to share their written and/or illustrated work.
45 SYAC is attended by children in grades Kindergarten through five who have written and/or illustrated works such as st ories, poems and non-fiction. All public and private schools in the local se rvice area are invited to attend the event. Individual schools are responsible for selecting students to pa rticipate in the conf erence using their own criteria. Selection procedures include: school writing contests, student nominations by self and/or peers, and teacher selection. When children come to SYAC, they a ttend a general assembly and break-out sessions. During the general assembly, the students share their work with each other, write letters to the authors, design t-shirts for next years conference, purchase books, receive autographs from the authors and illustrators, and have their faces painted. The break-out sessions are led by professional aut hors and illustrators of childrens books. During these sessions, children participate in ac tivities related to wr iting and drawing. Over the years, the SYAC has grown fr om several hundred children representing 20 schools to over 1,000 children representi ng 90 schools. The USF College of Education, Department of Childhood Educa tion continues to r ecognize the writing, creativity, and effort of local children by supporting the SYAC (http:/ww.coedu.usf.edu/syac/generalinfo.htm). I selected the SYAC as the population for th is study because it is a gathering of children from a variety of school s that have an interest in writing and/or have been selected to attend because they are good wr iters. Students who attend SYAC have an opportunity to interact with students from other schools and grade levels who share this interest. I anticipated that their fascination, ability, and interest in writing would result in thoughtful and rich survey and interview responses. Through their responses, I explored
46 and described how these children perceive writing instruction and the impact of highstakes writing assessments. My primary research question is: how do proficient intermediate grade writers perceive writing in school. The following questions guided my inquiry: 1 What are students views of the purposes for writing at school? 2 What are students views of the di ffering contexts for writing at school? 3 What decisions do children make when they write at school? 4 What are students views of the role of their teachers in writing instruction? 5 How do students interpret writing assessment? 6 What are students views of high-stakes writing exams? 7 Do students interview responses reflect their su rvey responses? Design Although there are different traditions with in qualitative research, the general design of qualitative research is similar across the traditions. The way qualitative researchers precede in their studies is base d on the following theoretical assumptions: meaning and process are crucial in understand ing human behavior, descriptive data are what is important to collect, and analysis is best done inductively. The various stages of qualitative research are not as segmented as traditional research because design decisions are often made throughout th e study (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992). As stated above, the goal of qualitative research is to better understand human behavior and experience. Qualitative researchers seek to grasp the processes by which people construct meaning and to describe what those meanings are (Bogdan & Biklen,
47 1992, p. 49). This study is composed of descri ptive research. The purpose of this study was to describe a selected groups perception on an issue. In this case, intermediate grade students perceptions of writing in school. The studies on students per ceptions of writing that were described in chapter 2 illustrate how vital students perceptions can be to inform classroom instruction (Bottomley et al., 1997/1998; Bradley, 2001; Fang, 1996; Kear et al., 2000; Knudson, 1995; Kos & Maslowski, 2001; Shook et al., 1 989). Survey and interviews were the predominate methods of data collection in thes e studies. Based on the rich data that were gathered in these studies by utilizing these methods, I also explored my research questions through surveys and interviews. I used the SYAC survey because it wa s already in place and had been used previously with students who attended Suncoast Young Author Celebrations. Also, the survey was predominately used as a tool to find participants for th e study. I used the survey questions to obtain general information about the students perceptions of writing instruction and writi ng assessment. I conducted interviews with a sample of SYAC participants who completed the survey to gain a richer understanding of their pe rspectives on classroom experiences. The interviews provided me with an opport unity to question the students about best practices in writing instruction and research -proven methods. I anticipated details to result from exploring/prob ing techniques such as those recommended by Seidman (1991), Bogdan and Biklen (1992) and Patton (2002). According to Patton (2000) probes are used to deepen the response to a question, increase the richness and depth of responses, and give cues to the interviewee about the level of response that is desired (p.
48 372). He suggested using detail-oriented probes, such as when, who, where, what, and how to get a complete picture of an experience, elaboration probes such as gentle head nodding to keep a respondent talking, and clarification probes such as what do you mean and could you say some mo re about that if a statement made by the interviewee is ambiguous. Overview of Research Participants The sample for this study was public school students in grades four and five who attended the 2004 SYAC. These students attended public elementary schools in the universitys service area. FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) Writing is administered to all students in grade 4 who attend Floridas public schools and is therefore a part of their edu cational environment. I included fifth graders in the study because they had taken the FCAT Writing the y ear prior to this study and I was curious to get their views on writing as well as to see if their perceptions of purposes for writing, contexts for writing, decisions they made wh en writing, views of th eir teachers roles, and their views of writing assessment and high -stakes writing exams were different from the fourth graders in the study. One of the local public school districts who participated in the study had an enrollment of 88,542 elementary students when the data were collecte d. This districts ethnic make-up was 44.29% white, 22.34% black, 25.66% Hispanic, 2.38% Asian, .25% Indian, and 5.08% multiracial. Breakdown by gender was not available (Hillsborough County School District, 2003). The other participating local school district had an
49 enrollment of 25,276 elementary students when the data were collected. Ethnic make-up was not available (http: //www.pasco.k12.fl.us). A total of 760 students at tended the 2004 Suncoast Young Authors Celebration. The participants included 225 fourth graders and 191 fifth graders. From the 211 returned surveys, I randomly selected 15 st udents in grade four and 15 students in grade five who attended public schools to serve as potential interv iewees. My goal was to find 20 verbal students (10 fourth graders a nd 10 fifth graders) from the sample of interviewees to participate in the study. The first 20 students who I interviewed were verbal and therefore it was not necessary to interview a ny other students. Table 1 provides information about the students grade, gender, and race. It also includes a quote from each participant. Each student has been given a pseudonym for future reference. See Appendix K for a description of each student.
50 Table 1 Students Pseudonyms, Grade, Gender, Race, and Quote NAME GRADE GENDER RACE QUOTE James 4th Male Caucasian The teacher I had last year was one of the best teachers in writing at the school, so thats one of the reasons Im so good at it. Roberto 4th Male Hispanic Every Thursday we went to the science lab and wed take notes about stuff. We had hermit crabs, all males, and it wasnt a good idea because they killed each other in a fight. Theo 4thMale Caucasian/ African American I would make connections, like if it was an expository and you had to write about what you did, I would connect it to another book that I have read. Karen 4thFemale Caucasian I use lots of detailsI write down ideas before I start writing. Lola 4thFemale Hispanic I like when my teacher gives me a topic because sometimes I really dont know what topic to write about. Mary 4thFemale Caucasian I write because it is claming and its just my hobby and it Is fun to do. Nancy 4thFemale Caucasian I like my teachers t opics, but sometimes I like mine more. Sally 4thFemale Caucasian A demand write is just like FCAT almost. We have prompts, we have 45 minutes to write using that prompt, and we have to write a paragraph in complete sentences and the whole nine yards. Shaye 4th Female African American I like reading and I like writing down words. Vanessa 4th Female Caucasian She (teacher) would read stories that she had written in the past as an example for us. Joe 5th Male Caucasian Because like older peopl e say we could be learning more things in earlier grades. Id rather do writing once in a while than one big test that takes a w eek out of your time. Ryan 5thMale Caucasian Youre really tense when you first start it (FCAT). You dont exactly focus like a normal test because it determines your grade and if you are going to the next grade or not. A lot of people get tense and they dont do real good, like I didnt do real good. Ariel 5thFemale Hispanic/ African American (For planning) We did a triangle like thing and wed put, like, stuff on it like the setting, put in the setting group, problem, problem solving, and characters. Gina 5thFemale Caucasian It (teachers modeling) kind of gave you an explanation and you knew what you were doing. Jen 5thFemale Caucasian Well, all my papers she (teacher) would put stickers and say that youre an excellent writer a nd that made me feel good. Melissa 5thFemale Caucasian I think she (teacher) had conferences one time in class but I wasnt in there. Sharon 5thFemale African American She (teacher) would say that most authors dont give you hints or clues to what any problem is or how they are going to solve it before it is time, so the answer keeps you wanting to read it. Sue 5thFemale Caucasian They (teachers) tell you to do an assignment and they dont give you enough time. And its hard to think when they are talking. Sylvia 5thFemale Hispanic My 5th grade teacher didnt give us a topic. In 4th grade she sort of gave us topics because the FCAT gave you topics and she wanted us to get used to using other peoples topics. Tonya 5th Female Caucasian I just dont like it (teach ers editing) because th ey change a lot of thoughts and I like it the way it was.
51 Consent Prior to beginning this study, I obtained pe rmission from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for the Protection of Human Subj ects. I was added as key personnel to Dr. Jenifer Schneiders existing IRB Applic ation for Continuing/Final Review (See Appendix C). Dr. Schneider is an associate pr ofessor in the College of Education at the University of South Florida. She is also the person responsible for organizing and overseeing the Suncoast Young Authors Celebration. To collect data, the designated school cont acts distributed information packets to the parents of all students who attended the c onference. The packets contained a letter explaining the nature of the study and offici al consent forms. By signing the parent consent form, signing the childs assent statement, and completing the survey, the parents verified that they had been informed about the study and would allow their child to participate in the res earch project. Data Collection and Sources Survey The aim of a survey is to obtain inform ation from a large number of individuals which can be analyzed and patterns extracte d and comparisons made. In surveys, all respondents are asked the same questions in, as far as possible, the same circumstances. Question wording is difficult and piloting is uti lized to ensure that all questions mean the same thing to all respon dents (Bell, 1993). Survey item development. Dr. Jenifer Schneider developed a survey for participants of SYAC to inve stigate students perceptions of writing. The original survey
52 was developed based on Dr. Schneiders personal areas of interest. It was piloted with a class of second grade students at a low SES sc hool. The original survey was used for the three years prior to this study (J. J. Sc hneider, personal communication, February 21, 2004). I used this survey because it was al ready in place and had been administered previously. A content analysis of three years of survey data allowed many of the questions to be converted to categorical responses. This newly revised survey was administered for the first time in 2004. For the purposes of this study, questions #24, 25, and 26, which pertain to writing instruction and assessment, were added to the second revision of the survey (See Appendix D). The survey contained 26 items which cons ist of 4 open response items, 2 items with yes/no responses, 7 Likert items that ask the students to respond by answering never, sometimes or a lot, and 3 items that pertain to personal information about the respondent. There are 10 items that allow students to ma ke a selection from categorical responses (See Appendix D). Although only three questions were adde d for the purpose of this study, all questions that pertain to st udents perceptions of writing exams, writing assessment, the decisions children make when they write, st udents views of the purposes and contexts for writing and writing instruction were analyzed. Questions #6, 11, 13, 17, 18, 19, 23, 24, 25, and 26 on the 2nd revision of the survey addre ss my research questions (See Appendix D). Appendix E presents a chart that displays which survey questions correspond with each research question. Ques tion #25 addresses how students view the purposes and contexts for writing at school. Questions #6, 11, and 13 address the
53 decisions children make when they write at school. Questions #17, 18, and 19, address students views of their teachers roles in writing instruction. Questions #23, 24, and 26 address students views of writing assessment. Pilot. The first revision of the survey was piloted with 25 students from a local public elementary school (See Appendix F). Informed consent was received from the students parents prior to pilo ting. The pilot group consiste d of one Kindergartener, two first graders, four second graders, five third graders, six fourth graders and seven fifth graders. The number of students from each grad e level reflects the percentage of students from each grade level who attended the 2003 Suncoast Young Authors Celebration (SYAC). Their feedback was used to revi se the survey questions. For example, on questions # 5, 6, and 7 (See Appendix F) six students were unsure of the meaning of the term paper. In the 2nd revision of the survey, paper was replaced with writing. Question #20 (See Appendix D) was reworded because students were misinterpreting the question. In the pilot surv ey, question # 20 asked, Does your classroom have a computer you can use to write? A number of students only read the beginning of the question and immediately responde d yes because all classrooms have a computer. In addition, a professor in language arts with expertise in writing and childrens literature reviewed the survey. She suggested that different examples of books should be used for fantasy and realistic fiction. She felt that Because of Winn Dixie was relatively new and not likely familiar to many students and that Harry Potter was high fantasy with such an elaborate make-believe world that students may miss less elaborate fantasies. Based on her suggestions, an additional example of a fantasy ( Charlottes Web ) and a realistic story (Junie B. Jones ) were added to the revised survey.
54 The surveys were distributed to the schools prior to the conference. The designated school contact person was asked to di stribute the surveys to the students. The students were instructed to complete th e surveys at home and bring the completed surveys to the conference. Parents were en couraged to assist students in reading and comprehending the questions. The students were instructed to answer the questions with their own honest opinions and the survey dire ctions emphasized that there were no right or wrong answers. Surveys with stamped self -addressed envelopes were available at the event for children who did not complete one prior to the conference. Return rate. Dr. Schneider e-mailed the school cont act persons to confirm that the surveys were distributed and to remind them to encourage the students to return the completed surveys. In 2003, 39.1% of the SYAC surveys were returned. In 2004, 28% of the SYAC surveys (211 out of 760) were returned for analysis. Interviews Interviewing is a powerful interactive data collection technique. Interviews can be structured or unstructured, casual or in-dep th. Typically, qualitat ive interviews are indepth and can be likened to c onversations with a purpose (Pot ter, 1996). At the root of in-depth interviewing is an in terest in understanding the expe riences of other people and the meaning they make of that expe rience (Seidman, 1991, p.3). Seidman (1991) stresses that preparation, pla nning, and structure, are crucial for in-depth interviewing. This holds true throughout th e entire interview process, including the selection of participants. The purpose of an in-depth intervie w study is to unde rstand the personal perspectives and experiences of those who are interviewed (Patton, 2002; Seidman,
55 1991). For this study, the purpose of the inte rviews was to gain information about students perspectives of writing and to provi de students with an opportunity to clarify and elaborate upon responses given in the surv ey. The interviewer is responsible for posing questions that make it clear to the in terviewee what is bei ng asked (Patton, 2002). Sampling. The purpose of an in-depth inte rview study is to understand the experiences of those who are in terviewed, not to predict or c ontrol that experience. The researchers task is to presen t the experiences of interviewees in enough detail that others who read the study can connect to that experience, learn how it is constituted, and deepen their understanding of the refl ected issues (Seidman, 1991). For the interview portion of my study, I utilized stratified random sampling. The purpose of a small random sample is credibil ity, not representativeness. Samples are randomly selected prior to knowing how the outcomes will appear. The goal of a small, random sample is not to make statistical ge neralizations, but to reduce suspicion about why particular cases were selected for st udy (Patton, 2002). This sampling approach did not allow my bias to enter dur ing the selection process. Stratified samples are samples within sa mples (Patton, 2002). For this study, the sample was stratified by grade level and public and private schools. Students in grades 4 and 5 who attended public schools served as participants in the study. FCAT Writing is administered to all fourth grade students in Floridas public schools and is therefore part of their educational environment. After separating the surveys by grade le vel and public and private schools, I randomly selected 15 fourth graders and 15 fi fth graders who attended public schools.
56 This made a total of 30 potential interviewees This sample reflected the population of fourth and fifth grade students from public schools who attended the 2004 SYAC. Data for this study were primarily gathered through interviews ; therefore, it was important that the students were verbal. Th e following selection cr iteria were developed in order to eliminate non-verba l students as participants. If the interviewee gave one word answers, said I dont know or dec lined to respond for 90% or more of the interview questions, he/she would be omitted from the study. Fortunately, the first 20 students interviewed met the above criteria ; therefore, I met my goal to analyze 20 student interviews. The interview sample consisted of 7 female and 3 male fourth grade students and 8 female and 2 male fifth grade students. Qualitative inquiry is very ambiguous, part icularly in regards to sample size. There are no specific rules for sample size in qualitative inquiry. Sample size depends on numerous factors, including what you want to know, the purpose of the inquiry, what will be useful, what will have credibility, a nd what can be done with available time and resources. Patton (2002) recommends th at qualitative sampling designs specify minimum samples based on reasonable covera ge of the phenomena. The design should be understood to be flexible and may change as the inquiry unfolds. Patton (2002) stresses that qualitative researchers must exercise caution by not over generalizing from samples. Following these suggestions should alleviate concerns re garding small sample size. Interview Approach After the writing conference, audio-taped interviews were conducted at a bookstore or public library at a time convenient for the parent and child. Each interview, except for one, lasted approximately 20 minutes. The students were
57 interviewed individually to a void peer influence on responses which may have altered the validity of the data. In tw o instances the parents elected to sit with us during the interviews. Their presence appeared to have a stifling effect on the interviews. The students were reserved and seemed somewhat uncomfortable. According to Bogdan and Biklen (1992) a key strategy for the qualitative interviewer is to avoid questions that can be answered by yes or no. Details will result from probing questions that require an exploration. I utilized the interview approach that Patton (2002) refers to as the general in terview guide approach. An interview guide lists questions and/or issues that are to be explored during the interview and ensures that a similar line of inquiry is pursued with each individual. The guide helps make interviewing a number of di fferent people more systematic and comprehensive by delimiting in advance the issues to be explored (Patton, 2002, p.343). Pre-determined issues and questions gui ded each interview (See Appendix G). These questions were relatively open-ended and focused on the research question: how do proficient intermediate grade writers perc eive writing in school? Appendix I displays a chart that shows which interv iew questions correspond with each research question. The guiding questions were piloted w ith a primary grade student and an intermediate grade student at a local public el ementary school. Their feedback assisted me in rewording questions to make them more comprehensible. The interviews were audio taped, but this did not eliminate the need for taking notes. Patton (2002) lists four purposes th at notes can serve: notes can help the interviewer formulate new questions as the interview progresses, notes can stimulate early insights that may be rele vant to pursue in subsequent interviews, notes can facilitate
58 later analysis, and notes are a backup in the event the tape recorder malfunctions or the tape is accidentally erased. My written not es included information about the students body language, race, and overall demeanor. I referred to my notes when I read the transcriptions from the students interviews and transferred information from my written notes to the transcripts. The period after the interview is a time for elaboration and reflection that is critical for the validity of qualitative inquiry. I allotted time after each interview to make observations about, reflect on, and learn from each interview (Patton, 2002). In addition, the interviews were transcribed as soon as possible which allowed me to note any nonverbal incidents that occu rred during the interviews, including shrugs, gestures, pauses, and/or interruptions (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992; Seidman, 1991). Member checking. I utilized member-checking at the end of each interview to ensure accuracy of responses. I restated the students responses which provided the interviewees an opportunity to confirm their responses. In addition, after all of the interviews were completed I randomly selected 3 fourth grade students and 3 fifth grade students to contact by phone. When I called the students, their parents answered the phone and I explained who I was and the purpose for my call. When speaking to the students, I briefly reminded them about our interview and proceeded to restate the interview questions that I aske d as well as their responses. All 6 students who I contacted confirmed the accuracy of their interview responses. Data Analysis Qualitative data analysis entails organizing data, breaking data down into meaningful units, synthesizing data, looking for patterns, revealing wh at is important and
59 what can be learned, and determining what w ill be shared with others (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992). Wiersma (1995) describes analysis in qualitative research as a process of successive approximations toward an accurate description and the interpretation of the phenomenon (p. 216). The emphasis is on desc ribing the phenomenon in its context and then interpreting the data. The data of a qualitative study can b ecome quite massive and the task of analyzing the acquired data can seem overwhelming, especially for beginning researchers. Bogdan and Bikl en (1992) offer the following suggestions to help make analysis an ongoing part of data collection: 1. Force yourself to make deci sions that narrow the study. 2. Force yourself to make decisions con cerning the type of study you want to accomplish. 3. Develop analytic questions. 4. Write observers comments about ideas you generate. 5. Write memos to yourself about what you are learning. 6. Play with metaphors, analogies, and concepts. 7. Use visual devices. Bogdan and Biklen (1992) present three additional points regarding analysis in the field. First, they encourage researchers to speculate throughout the study in order to take chances necessary to develop ideas. Th eir second suggestion i nvolves venting. This can be accomplished by talking about ideas with others or by writing memos, observers comments, and eventually a text. Their fi nal suggestion is to mark up data while reviewing it. This includes circling key words, underlining sections, and jotting down
60 ideas in the margins. They stress that th ese points, as well as the seven previously mentioned suggestions, are significan t for both ongoing and final analysis. I followed these suggestions by writing notes in a journal, using a large chart as a visual device to notate patterns in the data, discussing ideas with fellow doctoral students and my committee members, and marking up data while reviewing it for patterns. Another mode of analysis begins after the data have been collected. The large quantity of descriptive information obtained du ring data collection needs to be organized and this process is called coding. Wiersma (1995) likens the organizational part of coding to the preparation for a large rummage sale of used clothing in which donations need to be sorted, organized, divided into categories and then subdivided into additional categories. Developing a coding system entails search ing through data for patterns as well as for topics that the data covers, and then wr iting down phrases and/or words to represent the patterns and topi cs (Bogdan &Biklen, 1992). Survey Analysis Although the majority of the data collected for this study are qualitative in nature, the survey contained items that were analy zed quantitatively. A multi-method approach was used to analyze the survey result s. Responses to the yes/no questions, never/sometimes/a lot questions, and categ orical question #24 were recorded on a summary sheet and tallied to determine genera l trends. The quantitative data provided by these responses are presented as percentages in my results. Three of the categorical survey questions (# 17, 18, and 19) were analyzed in order to index the amount of relationship between the students survey and interview responses. Survey questions 17
61 and 19 contained 11 variables (responses to th e particular question that students could select) and question 18 had 5 variables. I cr eated an Excel spreadsheet that displayed a value of 1 if the students checked a variab le on the survey or mentioned it during the interview and a value of 0 if they did not check the variable on the survey or mention it during the interview (See Appendix K). I created a SAS code to import in the Excel data and created table comparisons to run the phi correlations. Narrative responses for questions 25 and 26 were examined for patterns and topics. I wrote down phrases and words to represent these patterns and topics. These phrases and words became coding categories. Sorting the descriptive data into the coding categories allowed me to summarize the main ideas of the students responses (Bell, 1993; Bogdan & Biklen, 1992; Patton, 2002). Interview Analysis After conducting and transcribing the interv iews, I organized and synthesized the data to make sense of the information. I read the transcriptions several times and searched for patterns of behavior or thi nking, phrases or words, and incidents that appeared regularly or seemed noteworthy. I wrote key phrases on chart paper as categories became apparent. I also listed the transcript number and page number where the phrases appeared. If I saw a comment 3 or more times, I considered it a pattern. After listing patterns that I deemed noteworthy, I randomly selected 3 interview transcripts for a fellow doctoral student to rea d. I instructed her to read the transcripts and note patterns that she saw. Next she was instructed to review my emerging categories/codes and compare them to hers. When we met to discuss her findings, we
62 found a great similarity between our patterns. Based on our discussion, I reworded and combined some of the pattern codes. The words and phrases describing these occurrences became my coding categories (See Appendix I). These categories were assigned abbreviations and a color for highlighting. I read through the transcri pts looking for words a nd/or phrases that corresponded with each coding category. I highlighted the data units with the corresponding color and wrote the c oding abbreviation in the margin. Triangulation Patton (2002) discusses the benefits of data triangulation: using multiple data collection techniques to study the same issue. Patton (2002) stresses that the strategy of triangulation is extremely beneficial to data analysis, not only in providing diverse ways of looking at the same phenomenon but in a dding to credibility by strengthening the confidence in whatever conclusions are draw n (p.556). Triangulation is used to check for consistency, yet various types of data ma y provide different re sults. Finding such inconsistencies ought not be viewed as weakenin g the credibility of results, but rather as offering opportunities for deeper insight into the relationship betwee n inquiry approach and the phenomena under study ( Patton, 2002, p. 556). Triangulation of qualitative data sources provides cross-data consistency checks and enables comparisons between information obtained at different times and by different means (Patton, 2002). In this study, data tr iangulation consisted of comparing survey responses with interview responses. I utilized within case analysis to examine individual students responses to the surveys and in terviews. Through comparative analysis, I analyzed the similarities and/ or differences between the two data bases. The consistency
63 and/or inconsistency of their responses are re ported in my results. In addition, member checking, which is described below, served as means of adding credib ility to the study. Results of Analysis After the data were coded and sorted, I began the final stage of analysis, writing up the research. Writing up qualitative findings is an interpretative craft and can take a variety of forms. The data analysis produ ced a tremendous amount of descriptions that provided a foundation and starting point fo r my writing (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992). I described what I learned by w eaving descriptions, speakers words, survey data and my personal interpretations into a ri ch and descriptive narrative. Trustworthiness of the Research A detailed description of the research process and outcomes provides readers with a basis for judging the credibility of a study. It enables readers to look closely at the sample and procedures for data collection a nd analysis and adds trust in the reported outcomes. Maykut and Morehouse (1994) describe four aspects of the research process that contribute to trustworthiness: multiple methods of data collection, build ing an audit trail, working with a research team, and member checks. Multiple methods of data collection increase the likelihood th at the topic of interest is be ing understood and presented from various points of view. In addition, convergen ce of a major pattern or theme in the data lends to credibility of the findings. The data acquired during the study serve as a permanent audit trail of research. This documentation allows the researcher to walk interested parties through the entire
64 process of his/her research so that they can understand the research path and judge the trustworthiness of outcomes. The trustworthiness of a qualitative study can be increased by working with other researchers. Team members can act as peer debriefers, raising questions of bias when necessary. Member checking is a process of allowing research participan ts to tell you if you have accurately described their experience. Members feedback is very valuable and often helps researchers see things they may have missed. In this study, I followed Maykut and Morehouses (1994) suggestions for credibility by utilizing multiple methods of data: surveys and interviews, building an audit trail, conducting member checks, a nd working with peer debriefers. In addition to utilizing member-checking during the interviews, after all of the interviews were completed I randomly selected 3 fourth grade students and 3 fifth grade students to contact by phone to confirm the accu racy of their responses. All 6 students who I contacted confirmed their interview responses. To help monitor my bias in the interviews a doctoral student in literacy served as my peer debriefer. I shared by negative vi ews regarding high-stake s testing with her so that she would listen for possibl e examples of my bias in th e interviews. She listened to the audio tapes of the first few interviews. When we met to discuss her findings, she stated that no bias was evident. She suggest ed that I increase my probing techniques by expanding more on student responses. She also suggested that I add the following question to my interview guide: Do you write during Reading class? She felt that this would add to my information about content area writing. I used her suggestions in the
65 subsequent interviews. I al so received her feedback on the interview summaries that were utilized during the member-check ing process with the interviewees. I conferred with another doctoral student throughout the analys is segment of my study while developing coding cate gories and interpreting the da ta. To assist with the coding categories, she read several interview tr anscripts and noted patterns that she saw. She then reviewed the codes/ patterns that I had created ba sed on the interview data and compared them with hers. We met to di scuss the patterns and agreed on appropriate wording for the interview codes. She also pointed out three ar eas that she viewed as self generated by the students: FCAT, anxiety, and timed-writing. She felt strongly that student responses related to these areas emerged from the data and were not elicited from protocol questions. Her feedback led to disc ussions about data themes that added to the credibility of this study. I utilized negative case analys is to further reduce researcher bias. According to Patton (2002), the understanding of patterns and trends identifie d in a study is increased by considering the instances that do not fit w ith the pattern (p.554). Analyzing negative cases, or outliers, adds credibility to the study by showing the researchers openness in considering alternative possibili ties. Lola was an outlier in the study. She was the only participant who stated that sh e did not write during subjects other than language arts. I probed and reworded the interview questions, but she maintained the stance that she only wrote during language arts. Compared to the other interviewees, Lolas responses were short and she paused often dur ing the interview. Lola often nodded when responding to my questions instead of ve rbalizing her responses.
66 Limitations This study is limited in several ways. Fi rst, although the sample reflects the population of children who attend the SYAC it does not accurately reflect the demographic mix of the districts due to se lection procedures previously discussed. Another limitation is the academic abilities of the sample. The students who attend SYAC most likely are strong wr iters. Therefore, findings ca n not be generalized beyond the event participants. In addition, the sample size for the study was small (20 participants). As noted above, I used this survey because it was already created and was approved by the University. In retrospect, the survey had a few flaws. The survey questions that referred to teachers were too general. In addition, the wording of question #18 was confusing (What does your teacher do that doesnt help you write?). The wording of this question may have affected the students responses and resulted in the inability to calculate a phi coefficient for two of the quest ions variables (This will be discussed more in chapter 4.). If I had to do this study again, I w ould have utilized the Writer Self-Perception Scale (WSPS) deve loped by Bottomley et al., (1997/1998) because it was created to measure fourth, fift h, and sixth grade students perceptions of their own writing. The reliability estimates fo r the five scales on the WSPS were very high for effective measures. The reliability coefficients for the five scales: General Progress, Specific Progress, Observati onal Comparison, Social Feedback, and Physiological States measured .90, .89, .90, .87, and .91, respectively (Bottomley et al., 1998).
67 A third limitation relates to the nature of survey resear ch. The accuracy of selfreporting can be questioned because students may not understand the survey questions or they may have difficulty expressing their t houghts (Bell, 1993). The interviews that I conducted lessened this limitation by el aborating the survey data. Another limitation is that I did not interview the teachers or observe the teachers while they taught. I was unable to see thei r instructional methods. Data for my study came strictly from the students respons es on the surveys and interviews. There is always the danger of bias entering into interviews. When one interviewer conducts a series of interviews, th e bias may be consistent and therefore go unnoticed. It is easier to ac knowledge the fact that bias can enter than to completely eliminate it. Bell (1993) urges interviewers that hold strong views about some aspect of the topic to be extremely careful when wording questions. It is easy to lead responses in an interview and the interviewers emphasi s and tone of voice can produce different responses. I monitored my bias by working wi th peer debriefers as described above. My personal stance regarding high-stakes writing assessments is negative. I found myself leading students responses during the pilot testing of the interview questions; therefore, I constantly kept Bells sugg estions in mind as I conducted interviews and analyzed the survey and interview data fo r this study. I monitored my bias by working with peer debriefers as described above. One peer debriefer who was a doctoral student in literacy, monitored my langua ge for the presence of bias. She listened to an audiotape of my first two interviews and focused on my voice tone and inflection. She did not report any concerns.
68 Summary The purpose of this study was to ex amine intermediate grade students perceptions of writing instruc tion. I was specifically inte rested in how high-stakes writing exams impact childrens perceptions and experiences in the classroom. I designed a qualitative study that entaile d surveying and interviewing students who attended the 2004 Suncoast Young Authors Ce lebration. I collected and analyzed multiple sources of data, looking for emergi ng themes and patterns. Following data collection and analysis, I wrote a descriptive narrative about the findings.
69 CHAPTER FOUR RESULTS The purpose of this study was to examine students perceptions of writing instruction in order to gain insight into th eir awareness of the im pact of high-stakes writing assessments on instructional practices and teaching strategies. The primary research question was: how do proficient inte rmediate grade writers perceive writing in school? The following questions guided my inquiry: 1 What are students views of the purposes for writing at school? 2 What are students views of the di ffering contexts for writing at school? 3 What decisions do children make when they write at school? 4 What are students views of the role of their teachers in writing instruction? 5 How do students interpret writing assessment? 6 What are students views of high-stakes writing exams? 7 Do students interview responses reflect their su rvey responses? This chapter begins with a brief summar y of participant demographics. Next, I specifically address each research ques tion by pulling informa tion across the three categories that emerged from the patterns. Research question #7 is addressed in a subset under each research question that survey res ponses pertained to (See Appendix E). This chapter concludes with a summary of the results.
70 Participant Demographics The sample for this study consisted of public school students in grades four and five who attended the 2004 Suncoast Young Authors Celebration (SYAC). These students attended public elementary schools in th e universitys service area. A total of 20 students (seven female fourth graders, thr ee male fourth graders, eight female fifth graders, and two male fifth graders) were randomly selected from the total returned SYAC surveys to participate in the study. This sample reflected the population of fourth and fifth graders who attended the 2004 SYAC. See Appendix J for a brief description of each student who participated in this study. Results The participants in this study provide d rich, descriptive data about their perceptions of writing. Thei r responses during the interv iews were particularly enlightening. The following results reveal the participants views on the purposes for writing, the contexts for writing, decisions they make when writing at school, the role of their teachers, and their view s about writing assessment. When analyzing the data, I found 14 distin ct patterns. During this process I noticed that the patterns fell into three ove rarching categories: General Writing, Teacher Instruction, and Testing. Table 2 displa ys the three categories, the corresponding patterns, definitions of the patterns, and a data sample for each pattern.
71 Table 2 Overarching Data Categories and Corresponding Patterns CATEGORY PATTERN DEFINITION DATA SAMPLE Writing Writing Topics Student Planning Definition of Writing Why Students write Good Writing Content Area Writing Topics for students writing assignments Students organizing thoughts before writing What is writing? Reasons students write Qualities and characteristics of good writing Writing during different subjects: science, math, social studies Sometimes he (teacher) would let us pick, but most of the time he would give us the topic. (Theo) I write down ideas before I start writing. A web or something like that. (Karen) It (writing) is a way to express yourself. (Sally) I write because its calming and its my hobby and it is fun to do. (Mary) Use details, examples, some experiences, stuff that was an attention grabber. (James) In social studies, we had to find information on the different coloniesand write a summary.(Sharon) Teacher Instruction Modeling Reading/Writing Connection Conferencing Teachers Role Grading Teacher modeling writing; shared writing Use of literature, authors as examples Students meeting with teachers to discuss their writing What teachers do to help students write Manner in which student writing is evaluated She (teacher) would get an overhead and start writing a story with us. Wed raise our hands and give her details. (Sylvia) She (teacher) encourages me to write a lot and to read books. When you read books you get ideas for your own stories. (Gina) Hed tell us like ideas that we could do to make it (writing) better. (Nancy) She would encourage me. She would say like that was a good sentence or I like that. (Vanessa) She (teacher) gave us a number grade, then the percent, th en the letter grade. (Joe) Testing Student Emotions FCAT Preparation Time Restraints Feelings of tension, anxiety, and stress Emphasis and influence on instruction Pre-set time restrictions for completing a writing task I was afraid that time would run out when Im not finished and they dont let you take it over again. It got me kind of upset. (Sue) She (teacher) would go over topics. We had little cards N=narrative and E=expository. We would flip the right one up. (Roberto) It (FCAT) was difficult because you have to think about things and you only have a little bit of time. (Shaye)
72 Research Question 1: What are students views of the purposes for writing at school? The primary goal of this study was to learn how the students perceived writing in school; therefore, I was very interested to fi nd out why they wrote. I assumed that most of the students enjoyed writi ng because they chose to participate in SYAC. The conference provided an opportunity for the students to share th eir written and/or illustrated work. In addition to writing for enjoyment, I was not sure what other reasons they would provide in the interviews. In a ddition, I was not sure how much information they would provide in our interviews since they did not know me. I was happy with their thoughtful and detailed answers. Interviews According to the students interview res ponses there were five main reasons why they write in school: for pleasure, to expre ss themselves, for assignments, to acquire and share knowledge, and because they are tested. Below, I address each of these reasons and provide data samples from the students interviews. Students Write for Pleasure Almost 50% of the students (9/ 20) stated that writing is fun and they write because they like it. Gina wr ote because sometimes its fun just to make up stuff and I like to write make-believe stor ies because nothing has to be real and it doesnt have to be exactly right. Gina was free to be creative when she wrote makebelieve stories. She enjoyed writing that did not have a predefined format. Gina preferred writing assignments th at allowed her to pick th e characters, setting, problem and solution. Sue also wrote for fun. Sue replied, It is fun and I think Im a good writer and so I want to get bett er at it. Sue was confiden t about her writing ability and expressed a desire to improve her writing.
73 Mary found writing enjoyable for many reasons I write just because its calming and its just my hobby and its fun to do. Ma rys response expre ssed different purposes for writing at school. She viewed writing as a calming and relaxing experience. Shaye also expressed her interest in writing, Becau se I like to. Because I like reading and I like writing down words. Shaye went on to tell me that she liked to write about things that happened in books that she read. Thes e students expressed their enthusiasm for writing and considered wr iting a fun activity. Students Write to Express Themselves A large number of students, 7 out of 20 (1/3), said that they wrote to express their feelings: anger, sadness, happiness. Karen, Sharon, Sylvia, and Ryan all stated that they wrote to express themselves. Several students were more specific about expressing their feelings. To nya views writing as a neat way to express herself. Tonya write s because it is just like watc hing or making a video Tonya equated the act of writing to making a vi deo. As she wrote, she revealed that she would visualize her writing in her mind and im agine that she was creating a video. When her writing was complete she would read he r composition and watch her video in her mind. Sue viewed writing as a means of letting out your feelings. She used writing as a tool for writing down things that y ou dont want to say in words. Vanessa responded, I write if Im sad or ha ppy, or to let out my feelings and be real. Vanessa would often base her writi ng assignments on situa tions that really happened and then add in some stuff that makes it fit and sound better. When I probed her for more details, she glanced at her moth er and chose not to expand on her response. One of the reasons James wrote was just to express my anger. When James was angry, he would often write about the situations in his journal. He said that his mother had
74 suggested that he do this. James did not sh are the specific topics of his journal, but writing helped him to express his anger in a healthy manner. These students expressed various emotions through their writing. Their responses were mature and insightful. In addition to writing for enjoyment, many students used writing as an outlet for their feelings. Thes e examples of students responses revealed their positive thoughts regarding the purposes for writing at school. Students Write Because They Have To. One third of the students (7/20), four 5th graders and three 4th graders, mentioned school/teacher assignments in their responses. Joe stated, Sometimes in school because Im for ced to, other times for fun. When I probed him for more information about where he wrote for fun, he responde d, Every once in a while at school, but mostly home though. Unlike the students who wrote at school for fun, Joe typically wrote at sc hool because he was instructed to. Sally responded, I write mainly because I have to write in school. Sally told me that her sister is the writer in the family. Her sister has lots of ideas. Shes the more creative one. Thats what she wants to do when she grows up. Although Sally viewed herself as a good writer, she wrote at school for assignments. Unlike he r sister, Sally did not do it as a hobby. In addition to writing to express himself, James wrote, Basi cally because my mom or my teacher tells me to. These students responses suggest that th ey wrote at school because they were told to. The tone of their responses was much less enthusiastic than the students who wrote for pleasure and/or to express themse lves. Even Sally who was bubbly throughout the interview was matter of fact when discussing why sh e wrote at school. Sally stated that she wrote well, but it is not something I choose to do unless I have to.
75 Students Write to Acquire and Show Knowledge. The students also wrote at school to learn and to share knowledge with others. Shar on stated, I like to learn about different countries and things. I like to write stories and give them to people because I feel like Im sharing my knowledge. Theo stated that he writes because I can show people what I like to do. I write about sports and animals Writing is a venue for Theo to share his interests with others. Nineteen of the 20 students interviewed stated that they wrote in subjects other than language arts. During science, social st udies, math, and music, these students wrote reports, definitions, summaries, notes, essa ys, projects, reading logs, outlines, and answers to textbook questions. According to th eir responses, they associated writing with numerous subject areas. Mary talked about writing in social studies. We had to read stuff about history and we would have to write the important things about people. Writing facts about historical events and people served as a le arning tool for Mary. Jen wrote answers to math problems in sentence form. Every wor kbook page it would be one that youd have to explain that answer. Then the next day we would go over it in class to see if we got it right. Jen told me that it was helpful to write down the answers. It aided in her understanding of the math con cepts she was working on. Joe shared different examples of writing that he completed during science. In addition to writing paragraphs about the subjects his class was studying, We had a bunc h of projects where we had to do some writing out different steps. And writing li ke kind of little speeches. Joe was enthusiastic when we discu ssed writing in science.
76 Content area writing served as a means for the students to acquire knowledge in various subjects. I will present more exampl es of students respons es that relate to content area writing when I address research que stion 2: What are st udents views of the differing contexts fo r writing at school? Students Write Because They Are Tested. The interviewees viewed testing and test preparation as another purpose fo r writing at school. I expect ed the students to talk more about test preparation when I asked them w hy they wrote at school; however, they did not mention testing until I questioned them about timed writing. Seven of the students (1/3) mentioned FCAT in their responses to questi ons about timed writing assignments. Four of the 5th grade students stated that they co mpleted timed writing assignments in 4th grade for FCAT practice, but they did not ha ve any timed writing assignments in 5th grade. When I asked Sylvia if her teacher ever ga ve her timed writing assignments, she replied, Yeah that was like practice for the FCAT. I did that in 4t h grade like often, really often. We practiced a lot. When I asked her if she completed timed writing assignments in 5th grade, she responded, no. Tonya stated that in 4th grade she completed timed writing assignments a lot more because you had to pass FCAT. As th e FCAT testing date approached the timed writing assignments became more frequent. Usually we had about 2 a month, until a month before the FCAT, and then she woul d give them once or twice a week. Surveys Survey question # 25 (What classroom writing activities do you do every day?) corresponded with this research question. Nineteen of the study participants responded to
77 this question. One of the students answered none. One fourth grade student did not respond. The wording of the question resulted in student responses that dealt strictly with assigned writing. Two 4th graders who happened to attend the same school listed model writes as a daily writing activity. Five of th e nine fourth graders listed genre(s) of writing. These included narrative, expository, poetry, plays, and fantasy. Expository writing was included in 4 responses and narrativ e was included in 3 responses. On the 4th grade FCAT Writing students receive an expos itory or narrative prompt. The students responses indicate that they practiced e xpository and/or narrativ e writing on a regular basis in the 4th grade. In contrast, poetry was the only genre of writing stated by the fifth graders. In addition to poetry, the fifth graders res ponses regarding daily writing activities included wr iting in journals, writing letters, making books, and DOL (Daily Oral Language). Only one students answer specifically addressed testing. Sally, a fourth grader, responded In my classroom we dont do a wr iting activity every day now that Florida Writes is over. But occasionally we will do a demand write or other writing to stay in practice. If the other students were in fact completing dail y test preparation activities, they were not aware of it and/or did not mention it during the interviews. Research Question #2: What are students vi ews of the differing c ontexts for writing at school? As a whole, the students expressed k een awareness regarding the differing contexts for writing at school. I expected the students to associate writing with language
78 arts and not with othe r subject areas; however, with th e exception of Lola, the students were very aware of content area writing. Interviews During the interviews, I asked the student s if they wrote during science, math, social studies and reading. Lola was the onl y interviewee who said she did not write in any of these subjects. I gave her examples of different types of writing that she might have completed in these subjects (reports, st ories, answers to word problems) to get her thinking. After extensive probing, she still responded, In math we wrote things like multiplication. We didnt really do science and social studies. The other 19 students all shar ed examples of content area writing with me. Their responses presented specific examples of writing in science, social studies, math, reading, and music. It was evident from their res ponses, that the students enjoyed content area writing and attained a great deal of knowledge as a result of these writing experiences. Science In regard to science, 18 of the students told me that they wrote summaries, steps for experiments, reports, definitions, projects, notes, and/or answers to textbook questions. Theo was the only student beside s Lola who said that he did not write anything in science. The other students shar ed many examples of science-related writing assignments that revealed their excitement and knowledge. Gina spoke extensively about writing in science. She told me how her teacher made the science room look like underwater an d we had to pick a fish or something and we had to write a report on it. And when we did space, we did the same thingAnd then we did a garden and we had to pick a plan t and write a report on it. She also spoke
79 about science experiments, we wrote what th e materials were, like what the conclusion was and stuff like that. When I asked her if she enjoyed writing in science, she said, Uh huh, cause it is fun and always different. Her enthusiastic responses revealed her excitement about writing in science. Sharon told me about group projects that she completed in scien ce class. We did projects and we had to give a presentation on the board and we had to read the textbook and summarize it in our own words and give a presentation on it. Sharon stated that her class worked in groups of two or three people and that, it took a while (to share) because we had a lot of groups so we only did it twi ce. The amount of time it took for all of the groups to present their projects to the class limited the num ber of group science projects that her class completed. Despite Sharon s disappointment that she only had an opportunity to work on two group projects, she sa id that she enjoyed doing that kind of writing and learned a lot from the other students presentations. Roberto talked about writing in the scie nce lab. Every Thursday wed go down to the science lab and wed take notes about stuff. We had hermit crabs, all males, and later we learned that wasnt a good idea cause they killed each other After I got him back on topic, Roberto told me about the an imal center in his schools science lab that contained guinea pigs, centipedes, crabs, a nd birds. The students would observe the animals and write notes about their observati ons. We would go back to class and share our notes. Our teacher would add stuff we missed. I learned lots. Writing notes about the animals and listening to his classmates observations served as a learning device for Roberto.
80 Writing during science was a positive experi ence for the students. According to their responses, they acquired a great deal of knowledge as a result of these assignments. Social Studies Fifteen of the students interviewed said th at they wrote stories, reports, projects, outlines, essays, time lines, and/or summaries during social studies. The students shared examples of specific social studies writing tasks. Writing about historical events and people seemed to help the stude nts learn and retain important information. Mary told me about class newspapers that he r class read that would talk about the different wars in Florida and like the great discoveries. The class would complete activity sheets after they read the newspapers. Sometimes we wr ote paragraphs, some stories, and some just answers. According to Mary, this aided in her understanding of the wars. Karen said, We have to read important stuff about histor y and we would have to write the important things about people. When I asked Gina if she wrote in social studies, she responded We outline every chapter that we read. One time we ha d to write a report on an explorer. She proceeded to tell me that her teacher assigned an explorer to each student and a format for the report. Shed (the teacher) say like the first paragraph is about the lif e, the other ones about what they did and stuff. The stude nts shared their completed reports with the class. As a result of this assignment, Gina learned lots about explorers that I never knew. Sharon told me about a social studies proj ect in which she had to find information on the different colonies. She (the teacher) gave us a list of questions that we had to answer in our summary. Jen responded In social studies wed do a lot of like in-school
81 projects where we would do writi ng and stuff. Wed do like little time lines and stuff and you had to draw pictures to your writing. We did a lot of writing. Both Sharon and Jen said that they enjoyed thes e activities and that they c ontributed to their learning. The remaining 5 students stated that they did not write in so cial studies. I provided examples of writing th at they may have completed in social studies. I asked them if they wrote reports or essays and they all responded, Not really. Math When I asked the students if they wrote in math, most of the students had a difficult time expressing how they wrote duri ng math. The students were very vague in their responses and I was forced to probe for answers. Sixteen of the students mentioned writing answers to word problems, definitio ns, explaining answers, and/or FCAT. Six of these students responded that they were instructed to answer word problems in complete sentences. Shaye told me that she wrote the definitions that the teacher gave us and some answers to math problems in complete sentences. She would not expand on her responses. Theo said the only writing that he did in math was definitions of math terms. Only one student mentioned FCAT when I asked if they wrote during math. Joe replied, Not really, othe r than FCAT. Just how I got certain stuff (answers to problems). Sue was an exception. She enthusiastically shared details about a career project that she completed in math class. We had to buy a car with fake money and stuff. We had a job online and we had to just do everything like you have to when you are older and we had to write all of it down in our not ebook. Sues teacher incorporated writing
82 into a math project about creating a budget. It was apparent from Sues responses that she both enjoyed and learned a lot from this activity. Sally, Sylvia, Ariel, and Nancy stated that they did not write during math. Gina replied, I dont think we rea lly did writing in math, except for writing down numbers. Further probing did not result in additional responses from any of these students. Other In regards to reading, the ma jority of the students inte rviewed viewed reading and writing as the same subject area, language ar ts. When I asked Je n if she wrote during reading, she replied Reading was kind of like language arts. It was like, I think it was together, reading and language arts. So wed do the same things. According to the interviewees, the only ty pes of writing that they did during reading were book reports and reading logs. To my surprise, two students mentione d music when we were talking about content area writing. Nancy responded not really when I asked her about writing during science, social studies, and math. She proceeded to tell me that she only wrote in music class. In music wed have to write all the notes and wed have to do them until they were right. Nancy viewed writing dow n music notes as conten t area writing. Ariel also shared her experience with writing in mu sic. In music wed watch the movie (The Trumpet and the Swan) and then wed watch the rest of it in class and write like a summary. Overall, the students were very aware of the differing contexts for writing at school. They shared numerous examples of content area writing with me during our
83 interviews. Based on their responses, their teachers incorporated writing throughout the curriculum and the students enjoyed these writing experiences. Surveys Survey question # 25 (What classroom writing activities do you do every day?) corresponded with this research question. The students responses to this survey question did not provide much data about differing contexts for writing at sc hool. As mentioned above in response to research question 2, th e students survey responses dealt almost exclusively with language arts activities. Only one student stated a content area in his response. Ryan, a 5th grader, wrote Write about Hist ory (World War II, Civil War, Presidents). Research Question #3: What decisions do ch ildren make when they write at school? Interviews As I interviewed the students it became apparent that they were not given many opportunities to make decisions about writing at school. Acco rding to the students, the only decisions they were able to make we re related to writing topics and planning devices. I made two incorrect assumptions a bout school writing topics. First, I assumed that most of students would be given assigne d writing topics the majority of the time and not be able to select their own writing topics. I also anticipated that most, if not all of the interviewees would prefer to select their own writing topics so that they could be creative and write about topics that th ey found interesting. The students proved my assumptions wrong. Although many of the students (13) lik ed to choose their own writing topics, seven of the interviewees pref erred assigned writing topics.
84 Writing Topics When I asked the students how often they could select their ow n writing topics at school, nine of the students responded less th an of the time, nine students responded more than of the time, and two students sa id of the time. According to the their responses, more than 50% of the students(11/2 0) were able to make their own decisions regarding what to write about at school at least 50% of the time. Thirteen of the students interviewed (2/3) stated that they like to choose their own topics. When I asked, Why do you like to choose your own topic? Mary responded, Because then I have a chance to be creative and just think for myself. Sue replied, Because you dont have to write about what they tell you. Like if it s not that interesting to you (the teachers topic) you can write about what interests you. Karen said, If we picked our own topic we would know more a bout what we were going to write about and stuff. Roberto did not like the fixed topics that his teacher assi gned. He stated, I dont like it when topics get fixed, like no freedom. Robert o preferred to select his own writing topics. Ryan also liked to choos e his own writing topics. Unlike the other students quoted above who wanted to use their creativity, Ryan did not like the topics that his teacher assigned. Normally I think the to pics she gives us are mainly boring. He felt that he could select more interesting topics. These re sponses are a few examples of why the interviewees liked to decide what they wrote about in school. Seven students (1/3) preferred assigned writing topics as opposed to selecting their own topic. James stated, Im not rea lly a good thinker. Mo st of the time, I ask somebody what to write. Sally replied, Som etimes, I prefer to have a topic because sometimes Im just brain dead and I dont think of anything to write about. Jen liked the
85 topics that her teacher selecte d. I like when I get the topi c, she mostly gave the topics and they were fine. Yeah, they were good ones. Based on their responses, these students had a difficult time deciding what to write about and/or they liked the writing topics that their teacher(s) assigned. They did not view assigned writing topics negatively as I had predicted. Planning Students responses related to planning also addressed this research question. Ten interviewees (50%) shared their planning te chniques with me during the interviews. When I asked students, What makes you a good writer? five students mentioned planning in their responses. These students sh ared various planning techniques that they utilized when writing. For example, Karen re sponded, I write down ideas before I start writing and stuff. A web or something like that . Sally stated, I think of how Im going to put things down (on paper) way before I writethen as I go along, I try to remember sort of what I thought about. James replied, I always plan it and I write almost a whole story on a practice sheet. I draw a picture about it (the topi c), and then wherever I am on the picture while I am thinking about the pa ragraphs, I put a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 as in the paragraphs. They viewed planning as an integral part of the writing process. They decided how to plan their writing and their pl anning was one aspect of how they viewed themselves as good writers. Three interviewees utilized planning tools for timed wr iting and FCAT practice. Sue told me about the planning device she used for timed writing assignments. We usually made a web, where you do the topic, th en 3 main ideasIt helps me remember what I am going to write about Sylvia di scussed planning for FCAT practice. They
86 would give us a plan sheet a nd we would write ideas down be fore we wrote the paper. When practicing for FCAT, Joe also chose to utilize a planning sheet. Joe made a planner to help stay on topic. According to these students, they were encouraged, but not required to use planning devices. These st udents also viewed planning as a vital step in the writing process. Planning prior to wr iting helped them organize their thoughts and stay focused on the writing topic. According to the students interview re sponses, the decisions they made when they wrote at school were about their wr iting topics and planning techniques. Surveys Survey questions # 6, 11, and 13 pertained to topic choice. Question # 6 asked if the students received a prompt for the paper they submitted for SYAC. Eighteen of the 20 participants responded to this yes/no ques tion. Five of the students (28%) responded yes and 13 students (72%) responded no These responses were similar to the students interview responses provided above in which more than 50% of the students stated that they were able to sel ect their writing to pics at school. Survey question # 11 asked How often does your teacher give you topics for writing? The students could select never, so metimes, or a lot. None of the students responded never, 13 students (65%) responde d sometimes, and 7 students (35%) responded a lot. Survey question # 13 asked How often does your teacher let you pick your own topic for writing? Two of the students ( 10 %) responded never, 12 students (60%) responded sometimes, and 6 students (30%) responded a lot.
87 The students responses to survey ques tions #6, 11, and 13 were similar to the students interview responses provided above in which more than 50% of the students stated that they were able to select their wri ting topics at school at least 50% of the time. Research Question #4: What are students views of the role of their teachers in writing instruction? Interviews Overall, the students viewed their teachers as an integral part of their writing development. The students mentioned their te achers frequently dur ing the interviews. When I asked the students what they did that made them good writers, they constantly mentioned writing skills and strategies that th eir teachers taught them. It was apparent that their teachers had a si gnificant influence on their perc eptions of themselves as writers. What teachers said James considered himself a good writer because he followed the suggestions of his teacher. James told me that his teacher w as one of the best teach ers in writing at the school, so thats one of the reasons Im so good at it. I dont want to take all of the credit because she did most of it. He went on to share various writing strategies that he learned from his teacher. My teacher taught me to use fee-po, where f is for fact, e is for explanation or example, p is for personal experience, and o is for opinion. James stated that he thought of fee-po when he wrote wh ich contributed to his good writing.
88 In addition to James, many students shared their teachers writing tips/strategies with me. Lolas teacher taught her about h amburger writing and making the story juicy so that people would enjoy reading it. Mary considered herself a good writer because she followed her teachers suggestions. She told us to paint a picture in the readers mind and just to describe it really well, have it easy to read, and put in organized pa ragraphs. Sally was extremely enthusiastic abou t writing. She had a really good writing teacher. She said its not about quantity but, quality. Its not about how much you write, its about what you write. Sally was enthusiastic about other writing techniques she learned from her fourth grade teache r. These included using her senses and exploding the moment, which is explaining th e different things about one particular moment. Sally gave her teacher credit for her love of writing. Their teachers also encouraged them to us e details in their writing. The majority of the students (14/20) said they were good wr iters because they followed their teachers advice and used details when they wrote. Jen mentioned the importance of using details 3 times during our interview. She (teach er) would always say use a lot of details because thats what helps you. When I asked Jen what she did to earn a good score on a writing assignment, she responded Of course, write a lot of details. The students did not elaborate on their responses about using deta ils; however, the fact th at they constantly mentioned the importance of details suggests that it was emphasized as a component of good writing. In addition to using details, 9 students sh ared that their teachers emphasized the importance of staying on topic when writing. When I asked Gina what made her a good writer, she said that she followed her teache rs advice to stay on topic and focus on the
89 topic. When completing writing assignments, Ryans teacher told him to think happy thoughts and the only thing you should think ab out is the writing. Staying focused on his writing helped Ryan earn good grades on writing assignments. What teachers did In addition to these writing tips, the teachers helped the students writing development by modeling writing, reading orally and conducting writi ng conferences. Modeling. Many students are visual learners which makes it vital for teachers to show students what they are teaching. Br itton(1993) stresses that effective teachers collaborate with students by modeling learni ng processes and involving students in the process. All of the students except one stated that their teacher modeled writing. Ginas teacher would write the topic on the board and write examples of paragraphs and stuff. Her teacher talked about her ideas as she was writing them in front of the class. Gina found this helpfu l because it kind of gave you an explanation and you knew exactly what you were doing. Sharon also found her teachers modeling to be helpful. It showed me different styl es of writing and what and when to use which words The writing examples that Ryans teacher modeled made the writing assignments clearer to him. That (writing examples) he lped me because I would know what she was talking about and I wouldnt ha ve to go up there and ask her. When Ryan actually saw his teacher writing, it made it easier for him to understand. James teacher would often write example stories on the overhead projector. The examples really helped James.
90 The visual writing models provided by the teachers aided in the students ability to write on their own. Seeing an example of what was expected of them, made it easier for the students to complete their independent writing tasks. Reading/writing connection Literature should be an in tegral part of the writing curriculum. Literature can serve as a scaffo ld to childrens writing. When students read and are read to daily, the connection betw een reading and writing becomes apparent (Calkins, 1994; Chapman, 2006; Dyson, 1990; Graves, 1994; Lensmire, 1994; Thomason & York, 2000). Due to mandated curricular requirements and limited time during the school day, I did not think that many of the stud ents would be read to on a regular basis. I was surprised when the majority of the st udents who I interviewed (18/20) stated that their teachers read to them. In addition, many of the students shared specific information about the connections betw een reading and writing. Students mentioned getting ideas from books that their teachers read. Ariel told me that her teacher read big books to her. When I inquired how that helped with her writing, Ariel said that she would get ideas from the books. Gina said, When you read or your teacher reads books you ge t ideas for your own stories and stuff. Sue also used books as a springboard for writing. When you read, you learn new words, and you learn a lot of new situations and stu ff, that you can think about. Nancy and Shaye wrote poems modeled after poetry that their teachers read in class. Nancys teacher read this one poem and it was a story of alliteration. After reading and discussing the poem, Nancy inco rporated alliteration in her own writing. Shayes teacher talked about wh at poets did to make their poe ms interesting. She taught us how to write poems. It was fun.
91 The students teachers discussed what good authors did when they wrote. James teacher told him that the authors of the books she read out loud in class, made sure that they put examples and personal e xperiences in their books. Theos teacher taught him that authors made connections. When I asked him to explain what making connections meant, Theo provided an extremel y detailed response. Like if something that has actually happened to me, like, if you went to the beach, tell what you did. I would make connections to what I did and if it was an expository and I had to write about what I did, I would connect it to another book th at I have read. Theo learned to make connections between events that happen ed in his life to stories he read. The literature presented to the students at school had a tremendous influence on their writing. As the previous quotes illustrate, the students made the connection between reading and writing and displa yed this in their writing. Conferencing. I assumed that all of the student s would be familiar with writing conferences; however, when I asked the students if their teachers talked to them before they completed a final draft, only 12 responded yes. The other eight students said that they did not meet individually with their t eachers to discuss their writing. After Melissa told me that she never had a writing conference with her teacher, I probed to determine if she was unclear about the term conference. I asked if her teacher ever talked with her one on one about her writing and she responded, I think that she did one time in class, but I wasnt there. Of the 12 students who did have writing conferences with their teachers, nine responded that the conferences were helpful. During the conferences, teachers discussed grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, details, a nd offered suggestions to make the writing
92 better. Ginas teacher comp limented her work and offered suggestions. She would say, oh, that is really good or you should wo rk on it. Ginas teacher would give me ideas to make it better. Sharon also thought wr iting conferences were helpful. She (the teacher) would go over it with me, tell me how I could improve, or what she liked. She would give her opinions on things tell me to take things out and put things in Jens teacher helped with editing and offered suggestions, but Jen seemed to benefit more from the praise her teacher gave. Shed say youre an excellent writer a nd that made me feel good. The individual attenti on that Jen received during wr iting conferences seemed to boost her self-esteem. I was also surprised by the frequency of writing conferences. The majority of the students who participated in writing conferen ces stated that they only had conferences sometimes. When I probed to determine exactly what sometimes meant, the students responses included: at least two tim es, a couple of times, a few, and not much. Sylvia and Ariel were the only st udents who recalled having writing conferences on a regular basis. Sylvia had a conference with her teacher every time we wrote a story, wed go up to the teacher and shed go ove r everything and we would re-write it. Ariels teacher would m eet with her every day that we wrote a story. Although it is not feasible to conference individually with ever y student every time they write a paper, I was surprised that conferences did not occur on a more regular basis. It was refreshing to hear what a posit ive influence many of the teachers had on their students writing development. I e xpected the emphasis on high-stakes writing assessments to impact the individual attention that the students received; however, according to the students, their teachers provi ded a great deal of support and guidance.
93 Sylvias teacher was a prime example of this Her advice to Sylvia and her classmates was to enjoy writing. Surveys Survey questions #17, 18, and 19 corresponded with this research question. To index the relationship between students interview and survey responses, phi coefficients were calculated for questions 17, 18, and 19. The phi coefficient is a measure of association between two dichotomous variable s. Phi coefficients range from -1.00 to +1.00, where 0 indicates no relationship between th e variables. The effect size shows the strength of relationship (Kotrlik & Williams, 2003). Da vis (1971) uses the following guidelines to describe effect size of correlati on coefficients: .70 or higher = very strong association; .50 to .69 = substant ial association; .30 to .49 = moderate as sociation; .10 to .29 = low association; .01 to .09 = negligible association. The strength of the association is determined by the absolute value of the phi coefficient, whereas the direc tion of the relationship is in dicated through the sign of the coefficient, positive or negative. For example, if the coefficient is positive, this suggests that students responded the same way on both the survey and the interview (i.e. a positive phi coefficient for the response gives spelli ng help indicates that students who reported this option on the survey also tended to report th is in the interview). If the phi coefficient is negative, the relationship is reverse; student responses on one format tend to be different from their responses on the othe r format (i.e. a negative phi correlation on provides vocabulary help would indicate th at students who reporte d this option on the survey were less likely to report it in the interview or visa versa).
94 Appendix K is a spreadsheet which displays how each student responded to the surveys and interviews. A indicates that th e student did not select that variable on the survey and/or mention it during the interview. A indicates that the student did select and/or mention this variable. For example, student 1 did not select variable 1 (models writing) on survey question #17 (S1_17), but did st ate that his/her teacher models writing during the inte rview (I1_17). Table 3 presents the pr oportion of students who selected each variable during the surveys and interviews. For example, for question #17, variable 2 (assigns topics) 35% of the students selected this response on the survey and 45% of the students mentioned this in the interviews.
95 Table 3 Proportion of Students Who Selected and/or Stated Question Variables Question/Variable Survey Interview # 17 How does your teacher help you write? 1 Models writing 45% 75% 2 Assigns topics 35% 45% 3 Gives me ideas 55% 80% 4 Explains the assignment 95% 20% 5 Gives me feedback 45% 95% 6 Gives practice time 45% 10% 7 Encourages me 55% 55% 8 Reads literature 40% 60% 9 Gives spelling help 40% 45% 10 Gives grammar help 40% 40% 11 Gives vocabulary help 50% 25% #18 What does your teacher do that doesnt help you write? 1 Sets time limits 60% 50% 2 Assigns required topics 10% 30% 3 Assigns required words 0% 0% 4 Talks too much/interrupts my concentration 25% 20% 5 Provides too much information 0% 0% #19 What could teachers do to help kids become better writers? 1 Model writing 40% 70% 2 Give more practice time 40% 5% 3 Provide spelling help 30% 10% 4 Provide grammar help 30% 10% 5 Provide vocabulary help 30% 20% 6 Give more teacher topics 15% 25% 7 Give more ideas 45% 35% 8 Allow more self-selected topics 50% 55% 9 Provide encouragement 40% 55% 10 Give more feedback 35% 40% 11 Read literature 30% 55%
96 Survey question #17 How does your teac her help you write? provided eleven variables for the students to choose from. The phi correlations for this questions variables ranged from .25 ( #4-Explains the assignment) to +0.38 (#10-Gives grammar help). The phi coefficient for variable #4 i ndicates a negative rela tionship. In other words, the students responded in an opposite fashion on the surveys and interviews about the helpfulness of teachers explaining assignments. There was a positive relationship (students responded the same way) between the students responses on the surveys and interviews regarding teachers providing grammar help. Survey question #18 What does your teac her do that doesnt help you write? provided five variables for the students to choose from. The phi correlations for this questions variables ranged from 0.00 (#4-Ta lks too much; interrupts my concentration) to +0.41 (#1-Sets time limits). The phi coefficient for variable #4 was 0.00 which indicates that the variables we re independent (uncorrelated), in other words, there was no relationship between how students responded to the surveys vs. how they responded to the interviews. The strong positi ve correlation for variable #1 indicates that the students responded in a similar fashion on the surveys an d interviews about te achers setting time limits. The statistical program was unable to calculate phi coefficients for two of the variables for this question: #3-Assigns required words and #5 -Provides too much information because none of the students selected these variables on the survey or discussed them during the interviews. This may have resulted from the wording of the survey question which will be discussed in chapter 5. Survey question #19 What could teache rs do to help kids become better writers? provided eleven variables for the st udents to choose from. The phi coefficients
97 for this questions variables ranged from 0.05 (#5Provide vocabulary help) to +0.53 (#1 Model writing). The phi coefficien t for variable #5 indicates a negative relationship. In other words, the students responded in an opposite fashion on the surveys and interviews about the helpfulness of teachers providing vocabular y help. There was a strong positive relationship (students responde d the same way) between the students responses on the surveys and interviews regarding teachers modeling writing. Davis (1971) would describe this effect size as having a substantial association. Table 4 displays the phi coefficient value for each question variable. The results will be discussed and explained further in chapter 5.
98 Table 4 Phi Coefficients for Survey and Interview Responses Question Variable Phi Coefficient # 17 How does your teacher help you write? 1 Models writing +0.29 2 Assigns topics +0.18 3 Gives me ideas +0.05 4 Explains the assignment -0.25 5 Gives me feedback -0.03 6 Gives practice time +0.03 7 Encourages me -0.10 8 Reads literature +0.17 9 Gives spelling help +0.29 10 Gives grammar help +0.38 11 Gives vocabulary help +0.12 #18 What does your teacher do that doesnt help you write? 1 Sets time limits +0.41 2 Assigns required topics +0.14 3 Assigns required words Unable to calculate 4 Talks too much/interrupts my concentration 0.00 (No relationship) 5 Provides too much information Unable to calculate #19 What could teachers do to help kids become better writers? 1 Model writing +0.53 2 Give more practice time +0.28 3 Provide spelling help +0.15 4 Provide grammar help +0.15 5 Provide vocabulary help -0.05 6 Give more teacher topics +0.08 7 Give more ideas -0.03 8 Allow more self-selected topics +0.30 9 Provide encouragement +0.12 10 Give more feedback +0.26 11 Read literature +0.15 Note. N = 20; *= None of the participants selected this variable.
99 Research Question #5: How do student s interpret writing assessment? Assessment is a central component of the current school reform movement. Although writing assessment is subjective, it has become an important part of many states school grading systems. Consid ering the high-stakes of the FCAT, I was interested in how the students in my study interpreted writing assessment. Interviews During the interviews I questioned them about how their teachers graded their writing and about what they we re instructed to do in order to earn a good score on a writing assignment. In response to the question, How doe s your teacher grade your writing? six students initial respon ses dealt with components of thei r writing. For example, James answered, She would grade by the examples that we gave, persona l experiences, stuff like that. Vanessa responded By neatness, organization, and if we stayed on topic. Sues teacher graded on spelling, and like, th e subject we wrote about and if we stayed on topic. Sylvia said She would check it, go over the letters, the spelling. You could get at least 1 or 2 words wronglook at commas and everythingMelissa had a similar response, Spelling, commas, punctuation, and ideas. Ariel referred to her teachers physical act of grading. She would read it and she would get her red pen and like correct some of my stuffspelling and punctu ation. These students did not think about specific grading techniques when I posed this question. After I probed them for information about types of grading, the students shared 4 different types of grading techniques that their teachers used when assessing their writing. These included: comments, number gr ades 1 6, letter grades, and rubrics.
100 According to the students, most teachers us ed a combination of these grading methods when assessing their writing. Comments The majority of students (14/20) stated that their teachers wrote comments on their writing assignments. The teachers comments ranged from positive phrases to specific suggestions. When I questioned the st udents about what types of comments their teachers wrote, they typically shared positiv e/encouraging phrases with me first. If Ginas paper was really good, shed (the t eacher) say like you did a really good job and stuff. When I probed further, Gina told me that sometimes shed (teacher) say to put in more details or change something to make it better. Ryans teacher would write great job or I dont understand something. Ryan stated that he did not have an opportunity to edit his writing if his teacher did not unde rstand something. Jens teacher also wrote positive comments on her writing assignments. Shed (teacher) say like you did a great job, I really like it, it had a lot of detail and stuff. Thes e students reacted positively to their teachers words of praise and encour agement. Although the positive comments were great for the students self-esteem, I question the value these general comments provided in their writing development. Some of the students teachers provided more specific feedback. According to the students, the most common teacher advice pertained to using more details. James teacher always wrote comments on his writi ng assignments. Some of them were more opinions, more examples, better examples, mo re details James found his teachers suggestions very helpful. Sometimes he was able to make revisions based on his teachers comments. Otherwise, James would use her ideas the next time I wrote.
101 Sylvias teacher also wrote comments on her rough drafts. Sylvias teacher would write like use more detail. Her teacher would pr ovide examples of details and Sylvia was allowed to edit her writing. Marys teacher would write good job, but you could use a little more enthusiasm in this part of your writing. Mary said that her teacher would circle the portions of her writing that pertained to her co mments. Mary was them able to revise/edit those portions of her writing. Sharons teacher was extremely specific in her comments. S he (teacher) would tell me that if I used a word more than four or five times, not to use it again. Or tell me it was a good story and why it was a good story. Or tell me if she didnt like it, and tell me why she didnt like it. Sharons teacher made specific suggestions on how she could improve on future writing assignments. Sharon kept her graded writing assignments in a notebook and referred to them when she wrote. The students were very positive about their teachers comments and found them beneficial. The teachers specific comments provided concrete suggestions for the students to refer to when editing their writi ng and/or completing future writing tasks. This supports Standard 1 of the NCTEs Standards for the Asse ssment of Reading and Writing which states The interests of the student are paramount in assessment (p.1). The rationale for this standard stresses that assessment must provide useful information to inform and enable reflection. The inform ation must be both specific and timely (p.2). The specific comments that the students teach ers provided when assessing their writing, promoted learning.
102 Number Grades 1 6 Thirteen of the twenty students shared th at their teachers grad ed some or all of their writing assignments with the numbers 1 6. All of the fourth grade interviewees mentioned this grading technique. The students typically mentioned FCAT in conjunction with their responses. The students assumed that I knew that the scores 1 6 coincided with the FCAT Writing test. Fo r example, when I asked Karen how her teacher graded her writing, she said sometimes 1 6. When I asked her why her teacher wrote these numbers on her writing, sh e replied, Because the grades might be like between a 1 through 6 and lik e if its like above 3, you woul d pass. And to help us know what our grades are so whenever FC AT comes and it says, like 1 through 6 or whatever, we could know our score for FCAT a nd know if we need to make it better so we can pass. Vanessa said that her 4th grade teacher graded her writing with the numbers 1 6 because that is what we woul d use on FCAT. She wanted us to get used to it. Nancys teacher would also grade wr iting with 1 6 so we could practice for the FCAT. Many of the fourth graders teachers appare ntly shared details with the students about this grading technique. Sally shared that her demand writing would be graded for FCAT either a 1 to a 6, 6 being the best one, 1 being the worst. Also, there were unscorables. When I asked her about unsco rables, she said its when she (teacher) cant score it, its so horrible, she cant score it. Theos teacher al so explained the 1 6 grading technique. When I asked Theo why hi s teachers used 1 6, he said because if you got 1, like you need a lot more details, you misspelled a lot of words, you missed punctuation, and 6 would be you were right there, you were big on topic, you had all
103 punctuations, you didnt miss any capitals, and it would be like that. His teacher apparently provided examples and non-exam ples of good writing. Theos phrase you were right there, sounded like he was repeating/echoing what his teacher said. Only three fifth grade students mentioned that their teachers graded with 1 6. Two of them said that their teachers used 1 6 in 4th grade, but not 5th grade. I found it interesting that these students recalled this and shared it with me even though it had been over a year since they were in 4th grade. Joe was the only fift h grader who stated that his 5th grade teacher graded his writing assignments with the numbers 1 6. He associated the numbers with percentages. A 6 is the best you can get, a 100%. Then 5.5 and thats just under that When I asked Joe why his teacher used those numbers, he replied, I think that they score that way on FCAT. Letter Grades The majority of students (13/20) said that their teachers used letter grades when assessing their writing. Accord ing to the students, letter grades were used in conjunction with other grading techniques. Letter and 1 6. A few students stated that their teachers assigned a letter value to the numbers 1 6. In Sallys class, A 1 or 2 is a U, which is worst. And then a 3 is a C, 4 is a B, and 5 and 6 are the best. Shay e was also cognizant of the letter equivalent. If you got a 6, you got an A+. Theo conc urred, If I got a 5 he gives me a B+. Letter and comments. Three fifth grade students stated that their teachers graded their writing assignments w ith letter grades and comments. Their teachers provided specific ideas on ways to improve their wri ting. Sylvias teacher would write like use more details and she would put her ideas in a bubble and I could go back and add that.
104 Each of these students stated that they we re able to edit their writing based on their teachers comments/suggestions. Letter and check, plus, or minus. Melissas teacher used check, plus, or minus in conjunction with letter grades. A + equals an A, a check+ equals a B, a check equals a C, a check equals a D. She was the only student who mentioned this grading technique. Multiple grading techniques Several students stated that teachers utilized a number of grading techniques. Gina and Joe initially stated the same three techniques: percentage, number grade, and letter grade. When I asked them if their teachers wrote comm ents on their papers Gina shared specific suggestions that her teacher made on her pa pers whereas Joe shared comments that his teacher verbalized to the class, but not to him specifically. Rubrics Two fifth grade students stated that their teach ers used rubrics when grading their writing assignments. Tonya replied that she (teacher ) used a rubric. She would have a scale and check things off you did. When I probed T onya for more information about the rubric she could not express any more details. Su e was a little more specific. They would usually use 1, 2, or 3 on each different topic. Like there would be spelling, then each different thing and they would do the highs and the lows. Sue explained that her teacher would give points for different components of her writing, but she had a difficult time verbalizing what type of scale her teacher used.
105 Surveys Questions # 23, 24, and 26 on the survey corresponded with this research question. Survey question #23 asked Does your teacher write comments and suggestions when grading your writing? None of the students responded never, 12 students (60%) responded sometimes, and 8 students (40%) responded a lot. According to the students survey responses all of their teachers wrote comments on at least some of their writing assignments. This is a much higher percentage than during the interviews in which only 14 students stated th at their teachers wrote comments on their writing. Survey question #24 asked How does your teacher grade your writing? The answer choices were: Letter Grade (A, B-, C), Score of 1-6, and Other (Please explain). The directions stated that the students coul d select more than one answer. Thirteen students (65%) selected Letter Grade. Du ring the interviews, the same number of students, 13, stated that their teachers used letter grades when asse ssing their writing. Eleven students (55%) selected Score of 1-6. Nine fourth graders (90%) and 3 fifth graders (30%) selected this respons e on the survey. The students interview responses were similar. Thirteen interviewees shared that their teachers graded some or all of their writing assignments with the numbers 1 6. All of the fourth grade interviewees mentioned th is grading technique. Four students (20%) selected Other. Of the 4 students who selected Other, 3 students wrote % and 1 student wrote minus, check, and plus. Eight students (40%) sel ected more then one response indicating that their teachers utilize multiple grading techniques.
106 Survey question #26 was an open res ponse item. It asked What does your teacher tell you to do to get a good score on writing? The majority of the students responses dealt with the components of thei r writing. Eleven st udents responded that their teachers told them to elaborate and/or use details. Six students responded that their teachers told them to stay on topic/stay fo cused. A few students survey answers were about writing mechanics: punctu ation, spelling, and grammar. These responses were very similar to the students initial responses to the interview question, How does your teacher gr ade your writing? They equated their teachers suggestions with their teachers grading techniques. Only 2 students responded that their teacher s told them to do your best. I was surprised that more students did not write about teacher encouragement when responding to this survey question because the student s talked about their teachers encouraging comments during the interviews. Robertos response to this question was di fferent from the other students. He wrote She (the teacher) tells us to use voice, look back over our wr iting, plan our writing first. Robertos teacher apparently stre ssed the importance of using voice and her instruction had an impact on him. I expected more of the students responses to include planning. The students discu ssed planning frequently during the interviews and viewed it as an important part of the writing process. When responding to the survey question, the students did not asso ciate planning with getting a good score on a writing assignment.
107 Research Question #6: What are students views of high-stakes writing exams? As mentioned previously, the participants of this study all attended public elementary schools in a district that administers FCAT writing to all 4th graders and was therefore a part of their educational e nvironment. The results of Floridas Comprehensive Test are used to calculate th e grades on a state report card and a federal pass/fail measure (Brown, 2006). As the stud ent responses above reveal, many of the students referred to FCAT when discussing how their teachers graded their writing. Interviews In the latter part of the interviews I posed questions about the FCAT to the students. I began with a general ques tion What do you know about the FCAT? I concluded with the question How do you f eel when you complete a timed writing assignment? (See Appendix H for a comp lete list of interview questions.) A number of students descri bed the FCAT as hard. For example, when I asked Ryan, a fifth grader, what he knew about the FCAT he replied Um, just its hard. When I asked him to be more specific his respon se was filled with emotion. First of all, youre pretty tense when you start it so you dont exactly focus on it like you would a normal test because it determines your grad e if you actually go on to the next grade or not. So a lot of people get tense and they dont do real good, like I didnt do real good. Ryan proceeded to tell me that his friends and family thought that his grade was good, but he did not like it. He wanted to do better, but felt tense because there was so much pressure to do well. Sue, another fifth gr ader, replied I know th e county does it (FCAT). I know its hard most of the time. I know that it counts on your report card. James, a fourth grader, echoed this feeling, Its pretty hard for some of the kids who do writing.
108 Personally me, I dont like writing that much so Im not really good at it. But when I want to write, Im pretty good at it. Even though James did not necessarily like writing, when he did his best, he did well. Mary, on the other hand, told me that the FCAT wasnt really that hard. She was extremely confident about her performance on the FCAT. My teacher prepared our class so well that we were ready for it, well at least I was. And, it was really easy cause we had learned all the different things so we could figure it out. Mary viewed the FCAT in a positive light and gave her teacher credit for her preparedness. Some students described the actual component s of the FCAT Writing assessment to me. Joe stated I know that there are two topics given out randomly to be graded with the numbers 1 6 and you have 45 minutes to finish. Theo said You have to get at least a 3 and next year you have to get a 3.5. We ha d 45 minutes to write a paper. Sylvia said You get a topic, they tell you what its a bout, like you are on a desert island, youre stranded, and you just write about it Other students described the FCAT in general terms. Va nessa said I know that it is a test and it grades your school. Also, it would see how well you are doing in school. Gina agreed It tests how much you have improved. Sally and Jen both described the FCAT as a big test. Sally said I know its a bi g test and if you dont pass it, basically, you have to pass it to go to the next grade. Jen replied We have to study for it a lot, and that its just a big test and there are a lot of questions. These students voiced the significance of the FCAT that was relayed to them from their teacher(s).
109 Tonya and Karens responses, on the other hand, were low-key. Tonya said that she did not know much about the FCAT. The y told us it was timed, do your best. Karen stated If you dont pass, it doesnt really matter. It matters about th e grades in school, your behavior and stuff like that. Th ey did not seem to view the FCAT as a major assessment; however, I do not know whet her this can be attributed to their individual personalities or their schools emphasis on the test. The students responses re lated to timed writing assignments and assessments contained a great deal of emotion. When the students discussed how they felt during timed writing assignments, they voiced words such as pressured, nervous, frustrated, uncomfortable, tense, confused, scared, and stressed. Sues response contained a great deal of emotion. I wa s very stressed because I was afraid, like, that time would run out when Im not finished and they dont let you take it over again or anythi ng. And it got me kind of upset. Nancy agreed I felt pressured. Because sometimes you dont get enough time to work on it, and then it just feels uncomfortable because you are going to get a bad grade. Sharon voiced fear about timed writing assessments. I feel a little more scared than when I dont have a time limit. I am afraid I wont be able to finish it or that I wouldnt be able to fit it all in the lines. Joe felt pressured to complete the writing task in the allotted time period. Sometimes I feel stressed when I dont really like the topic, I cant come up with something for it. So I dont have a lot of time when I finally do, so Im under a lot of pressure to complete it. It was upsetting to me to hear them e xpress such emotionally charged responses.
110 The students feelings about high-stakes writing assessments echoed the feelings of the teachers from the Darling-Hammond and Wi se (1985) study in which teachers felt extreme pressure. Their feelings also support the following powerful statement by Shelton and Fu (2004): Educators, teachers, pa rents, and students have never felt more stressed from testing at ever y grade level (p.120). The stude nts in this study definitely internalized the signific ance of the assessment. In contrast, when the students discussed how they felt after they completed timed writing assignments, they used words su ch as proud, good, happy, and relieved. James said I felt proud of myself because I finished it. And I felt proud b ecause I had written a really good paper. Mary echoed James when she replied Id feel really good that Ive accomplished it. Shaye agreed It felt goodbecau se I did it. I did the whole thing and in the time. Several students expressed relief that the test was over. Vanessa said that she felt Happy! It was over with and I didnt have to do it anymore. Sally agreed I felt relieved. When I found out my grade, I fe lt relieved that I knew what it was and I passed and everything. Ginas response was similar Oh, Im glad its over. Sylvia and Tonya expressed pride in their work. Sylvia said I was happy because I went through and thought it was a good story. Tonya agreed I felt like I did a really good job. The students expressed a sense of relief and accomplishment. During the interviews, the students shared various suggestions that their teachers and parents made regarding test preparation and behaviors to adhere to the night before a writing test.
111 Teachers suggestions regarding testing According to the students, teachers stresse d that they get a good night sleep, eat a healthy breakfast the morning of the test, and do their best. Sharon provided a detailed response about her teachers s uggestions. She (t eacher) said to go to bed a little bit earlier than usual and make su re to eat dinner the night befo re and if you took any kind of vitamins, to do that. And she said if you di dnt eat breakfast at home, eat it at school, they would provide something for you. Based on my teaching experience, these suggestions are typical of what schools enc ourage students to do prior to a test. Sallys teacher and school on the other hand blatantly acknowledged the stress that high-stakes assessments put on students. According to Sally On the day of the test, she gave us a worry stone and we would have to rub it. And we also got cards from the other grades for good luck. The fact that the students were gi ven a worry stone clearly addresses the emotional toll that high-stakes assessments put on students. Although the letters of encouragement were ni ce, it seems that they might cause more stress for the students by reminding them of the significance of the test. Parental advice regarding writing assessments The students parents also encouraged the students to get a go od nights sleep and eat a healthy breakfast. Joes parents told him dont eat too much sugar or have too much caffeine, and go to bed early. In addi tion to these suggestions, their parents urged them to relax. Marys mom told her to Be ca lm and just do my best and to really focus on the prompt. Sallys parents urged her to Relax and do your best. Ryans parents also told him to do your best. Sharons pare nts told her not to panic and just pretend it was not a test, but that you were just doing it for fun. They said to use everything that
112 Ive learned. Shayes mother also told he r dont panic. The fact that parents anticipated that their children might panic was a little disturbing. Surveys Once I began analyzing the survey data I realized that none of the survey questions corresponded with this research question. In retrospect, I should have included a question that specifically asked the students about hi gh-stakes writing tests. Fortunately, I obtained a great deal of data about th is during the interviews. Summary The students in this study provided enlightening responses about writing instruction. Their awareness of the importance of high-stakes writing assessments and the subsequent impact on instructional prac tices varied across the sample. The following chapter pulls all of the data together and provides a synthesis of the study. I created a model that displays the three overarching cate gories and corresponding patterns that I found when analyz ing the data as well as what the students said in the study and what the literature says about each writing component (See Table 5). In chapter 5, I refer to Table 5 as I reflect on the major findings of the study.
113 Table 5 Graphic representation of the research model What Students Said What Literature Says WRITING Definition of Writing *10/20 students defined writing as a way to express your feelings. *4/20 students described writing as fun. *4/20 students defined writing as writing down words. *3/20 students defined writing as using your imagination to describe something to the reader. Writing is a meaning making process in which writers negotiate meaning with texts they are producing. The process is recursive rather than linear, with writers m oving back and forth among stages Throughout, they draw on heir life experiences, including their experiences with literature and their knowledge of written language conventions (Strickland, et. al., 2001, p.387). Why Students Write Students wrote for pl easure, to express themselves, for assignments, to acquire and share knowledge, and because they were tested. *NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts (2007) states Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information). Kinneavy (1971) claimed that a writers purpose guides his/her choice about diction, organizational patterns, and content. Good Writing *Students described good writing as staying on topic, using details, using good vocabulary, being organized, and being creative. *The majority of the students (14/20) said they were good writers because they followed their teachers advice and used details when they wrote. *Students and teachers recognize that good writing is a horizon to aim for, knowing that the horizon has a limitless ability to change (Portalupi, 2000, p.33). *Fourth grade students in Fangs (1996) study said that a good piece of writing must have lots of details, be mechanically neat, contain challenge words, adventure, fun, and be interesting (p.253). Content Area Writing *19/20 students discussed writing during science, social studies, math, and music. *Students did not mention writing in art. *Students shared more examples of writing in science than any other content area. *Writing is effectively used as a tool for thinking and learning throughout th e curriculum (NCTE, 2006, p.2). *Fecho et al (2006) found more studies connecting writing to art than any other content area. Of the major content areas, science was the most strongly represented in the studies they reviewed. Writing Topics *13/20 students liked to choose their own topics. *7/20 students preferred assigned topics. *55% of the students were able to select their own topics at least 50% of the time. *In order to create inte rest and promote ownership of their writing, students need to be able to choose the topic and genre (Higgins et. al., 2006). *Children write more on self-selected topics than on assigned topics and have significantly more content knowledge about topics they want to write about than about assigned topics (Chapman, 2006, p.34).
114 Table 5 (Continued) What Students Said What Literature Says Student Planning *10/20 students shared planning techniques. *Five students mentioned planning when responding to the question What makes you a good writer? *Students stated that they were encouraged, but not required to use planning devices. *Research indicates that younger children may not separate planning from text generation and may need to prepare to write in groups. Social interactions with other writers may help young writers think about plans and consider ways to organize their writing (Dahl, 1998, p.135). *Even when explicitly asked to plan in advance, children often have diffic ulty separating planning from writing (McCutchen, 2006, p. 117). TEACHER INSTRUCTION Modeling *19/20 students stated that their teachers modeled writing. *Students expressed the benefits of modeling. *Effective teachers colla borate with students by modeling learning processe s and involving students in the process (Britton, 1993). Reading Writing Connection *18/20 students stated that their teachers read to them. *Students got ideas from the books and poems that their teachers read. *Teachers discussed what good authors did. Literature should be an inte gral part of the writing curriculum. Literature can serve as a scaffold for childrens writing (Calkins, 1994; Chapman, 2006; Dyson, 1990; Graves, 1994; Lensmire, 1994; NCTE, 2004; Thomason & York, 2000). Conferencing *12/20 students stated that they had writing conferences with their teachers. 9 of these 12 students found the conferences helpful. *Children need regular re sponse to their writing from the teacher and other readers (Graves, 2004, p. 91). *In writing conferences, teachers can describe their intentions for providing feedback, offering explanations for comments or asking students for their perspectives (Beach & Friedrich, 2006, p. 228). Teachers Role *Students viewed their te achers as an integral part of their writing development. They were very verbal about things their teachers did to help them progress in writing. The NCTE (2004) offers the following principles to guide effective teaching practices in writing: Everyone has the capacity to write. People learn to write by writing. Writing is a process. Writing is a tool for thinking. Writing grows out of many different purposes. Conventions are important to readers and writers. Writing and reading are related. Writing has a complex relationship to talk. Literate practices are imbedded in social relationships. Composing occurs in different modalities. Assessment of writing involves complex, informed, human judgment.
115 Table 5 (Continued) What Students Said What Literature Says Grading *Students shared 4 types of grading techniques: comments, number grades 1-6, letter grades, and rubrics *14/20 students said their teachers wrote comments on their wri tten assignments. *13/20 students said their teachers graded some or all of their writing with 1-6. *13/20 students said their teachers used letter grades alone and/or in conjunction with other grading techniques. *2/20 students said their teachers used rubrics to grade writing. *Positive feedback, together with specific suggestions and support, foster childrens growth toward writing with competence and confidence (Chapman, 2006, p. 38). *In Hillocks 1996 review of writing research, he found that when teachers comments were focused on a specific issue, students writing quality showed marked improvement (Dahl, 1998). Students seem to find two types of comments most helpful: comments that suggest ways of making improvements and comment s that explain why something is good or bad about their writing (Beach & Friedrich, 2006, p. 227). TESTING Student Emotions Students voiced words such as pressured, nervous, frustrated, uncomfortable, tense, confused, scared, and stressed. Educators, teachers, pare nts, and students have never felt more stressed fro m testing at every grade level (Shelton & Fu, 2004, p. 120). High-stakes testing Students shared suggestions that their teachers and parents made about things to do before a test. *On high-stakes writing assessments, students write on an assigned topic, in a set period of time, and in a testing situation (Dyson & Freedman, 1990). *These conditions are in stark contrast to what researchers consider best practices for writing instruction (Hillocks, 2002). Time Restraints *19/20 students discussed time restraints during the interviews. *The frequency of timed writing assignments ranged from every day in 4th grade to not at all in 5th grade. Students must learn to write without time limits before they are expected to write an effective piece in a predetermined amount of time (Thomason & York, 2000).
116 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION This chapter is divided into three sections. The first section addresses Table 5 that was introduced at the conc lusion of the previous chapte r. I refer to Table 5 while reflecting on the major findings, conclusions a nd implications of this study and how those conclusions helped to answer the primar y research question: How do proficient intermediate grade writers pe rceive writing in school? This section addresses each of the following questions that guided this study: 1 What are students views of the purposes for writing at school? 2 What are students views of the di ffering contexts for writing at school? 3 What decisions do children make when they write at school? 4 What are students views of the role of their teachers in writing instruction? 5 How do students interpret writing assessment? 6 What are students views of high-stakes writing exams? 7 Do students interview responses reflect their su rvey responses? The second section discusses the limitations of this study. The third section discusses areas of possible future research. The chapter concludes with a summary.
117 Conclusions and Implications The purpose of this study was to examine students perceptions of writing instruction in order to gain insight into th eir awareness of the im pact of high-stakes writing assessments on instructional practices and teaching strategies. As Table 5 reveals, the students responses were typically in agreement with what literature says about writing. Below I discuss my predictions and what I found based on the study data. Students Purposes for Writing at School (Why Students Write) During the interviews, the students discu ssed five purposes for writing at school: for pleasure, to express themselves, for a ssignments, to acquire and share knowledge, and because they are tested. Although their res ponses revealed that practicing for FCAT Writing was one of the reasons they wrote durin g school it was not me ntioned as much as I had anticipated. The students discussed testing when questioned about timed writing, but did not emphasize testing as a purpose for writing at scho ol. Since there is such a great deal of emphasis in Florida on achieving good test scores, I assumed the students would view testing as one of the major reasons they wrote at school. A possible explanation for this is that th eir teachers did a great job balancing the writing curriculum. As I pondered this possibility, I thought of Thomason and Yorks (2000) book, Write on Target: Preparing Young Wr iters to Succeed on State Writing Achievement Tests. In their book, the authors provide practical ideas for teachers to implement that promote test success without compromising students growth as writers. York was an elementary language arts s upervisor for one of the school districts represented at the 2004 Suncoast Young Authors Celebration. It is possible that the study participants teachers attended her workshops and/or received materials based on her
118 book. It is obviously impossible to confir m this, but it could explain the students perceptions of a balanced writing curriculum. Another possible explanation is that test preparation is so ingrained in the writing curriculum that the students were not aware of it. If de mand writing is introduced during the primary grades and utilized on a regular basis, students may become socialized into this instructional method. If th is is the way that students ar e taught and/or learn to write they might not associate the purpose as test practice. Another explanation is that the students ma y have been trying to please me during the interviews and their responses were cont rived. I conducted guided interviews and as a result the students responded to my interview protocol. Although the interview questions were open-ended and I avoided le ading questions, the students may have responded with answers that they thought I wanted to hear. Seidman (1991) urges interviewers to avoid manipulating their interviewees to respond to an interview guide. He also states that interviewers must tr y to avoid imposing their own interests on the experience of the participants (Seidman, 1991, p.70). I attempted to step back during the interviews and allow the students to respond to the questions without imposing my views on them; however, this does not guarant ee that students responded in a completely candid manner. According to Graham et al., (2007) one of writings most important features is that it lets people communicate with others. The students in this st udy did not state that they used writing as a tool to communicate with a real audience. They predominantly wrote for their teachers. This supports findi ngs from an investigation of audience which was conducted by Britton, Burgess, Marti n, McLeod, and Rosen (1975). They rated
119 more than 2,000 pieces of school writing by students aged 11 to 18 as being in one of four audience categories: self, teacher, wi der audience (known), and unknown audience. The ratings showed that between 87% and 99% of the writing was written to the teacher as an audience despite the classroom instru ctional objective for young writers to learn to write to communicate with various audiences. Britton et al.s study was conducted over 30 years ago yet the data from this study suppor ts their findings. It appears that FCAT Writing is dictating communication processes in the classroom. Contexts for Writing at School (Content Area Writing) The students spent a great deal of ti me during the interviews discussing and sharing details about content area writing with me. I did not anticipate that the students would verbalize how much they enjoyed content area writing. The students were very enthusiastic when discussing various writing projects that th ey worked on in science, social studies, and math. The students discussed writing in scien ce more than any other content area. Eighteen of the twenty students discussed writing summaries, steps for experiments, reports, definitions, projects, notes, and/or answ ers to questions in science. The students viewed writing during science as a positive experience. I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm and detailed responses that the st udents provided about wr iting in science. The students responses echoed the findings of Fecho et al (2006). Science was the most represented content area in the teacher research in writing classrooms that they reviewed. They found numerous examples of effectiv e writing occurring in elementary school science classes.
120 I assumed that test preparation and /or mandatory curriculum requirements imposed by the state would interf ere with content area writing. This was yet another assumption of mine that was negated by the da ta obtained from this study. According to the students, content area writing did occur in their classrooms and they viewed it in a positive light. The students expressed enthusiasm when talking about content area writing. Content area writing is not as artifici al because students are not given a prompt. They are able to write about real things. There was an obvious difference between their perceptions of language arts writing and content area writing. The students shared examples of worki ng with and learning from their peers during content area writing. Peer interactions were not discussed as part of language arts writing; however, providing a variety of kinds of social interaction around writing is considered a current best practice in teaching writing. Children need opportunities to share ideas, collaborate, and respond to one anothers writing (Chapman, 2006, p. 38). These social interactions provide meaningf ul support to the wr iting development of children. In retrospect, I should have questioned the stude nts specifically about peer interactions and participation in cooperat ive groups during writi ng activities across content areas. This may have produced a grea t deal of data about their perceptions of writing. Decisions Students Made When Writing at School According to the students, the only decisions they made in regards to writing were related to writing topics and planning devices. Writing topics. I made two incorrect assumptions about school writing topics. First, I assumed that the majority of students would be given assi gned writing topics the
121 majority of the time and not be able to select their own writing topics. I also anticipated that most, if not all of the interviewees would prefer to select their own writing topics so that they could be creative and write about topics that they found interesting. The students proved my assumptions wrong. A lthough many of the students (13) liked to choose their own writing topics, seven of the interviewees preferred assigned writing topics. Writing research recommends that stude nts write on topics of their choice (Atwell, 1987; Chapman, 2006; Dyson & Freedman, 1990; Graves, 1975, 1983, 1994, & 2003; Ray, 2004; Schneider, 2001; Wolf & Da vinroy, 1998; Wolf & Wolf, 2002). Graves (1983) stressed the importance of listening to children and allowing th em to select their own topics. Pressley, Mohan, Fingeret, Reff itt, and Raphael-Bogaert (2007) agree that effective teachers provide students with choices about their writing. Rays (2004) research in a first grade classroom supports this recommendation. When Ray observed a student in the class, she determined that one of the reasons he wrote so well in a particular piece is because he was writing about a subject that he was passionate about. Ray (2004) found that the classroom teacher encouraged Cauley and his classmates to choose topics that matter to them In a ddition, the teacher who Ray observed stressed that before she can ever expect them (her students) to care deeply about how they write, they must care deeply about what they are writing (p.101). There is also research that s supports assigned writing topics. When given topic choice, children are often inclined to write in certain genres and styles. Providing students with a range of opportunities to writ e in different genres enables students to draw on other discourses from their lives (Chapman, 2006).
122 As I stated previously, I assumed that the students would express strong negative feelings about teacher selected writing topics ; however, most of th e students did not mind their teachers topics. More than 1/3 of the students in this study preferred assigned topics. Theo was one of the students that preferred assigned topics. When I asked him what his teacher did to help him write, he re plied They give me topics Ive never done before and that helps me give more detail s because I am writing about new things. I found his response to be very insightful. It definitely made me reconsider my position about the negative aspects of assigned writing topics. The phi coefficient of +0.30 for the respons e allow more self-s elected topics for the question What could teachers do to help ki ds become better writers? indicates that students who reported this option on the survey also expressed this during the interview (See Table 4). This supports the literature in favor of writing topi c choice that was cited previously. Student planning. One half of the students shar ed planning techniques with me that they used when writing. Five of these students considered pla nning to be one of the characteristics that made them good write rs. The students said that they were encouraged, but not required to using pl anning devices. As a teacher, I strongly encouraged my students to use planning tec hniques because I thought that it would help them organize their thoughts. Although I pe rsonally plan throughout writing, I assumed that children needed to plan before they wr ote. After reviewing the research on planning by Dahl (1998) and McCutchen (2006) I reconsidered my view of planning. According to their review of writing research, childre ns plans can be made prior to writing or evolve during writing. McCutchen (2006) f ound that even when explicitly asked to
123 plan, young children often have difficulty se parating planning from writing (p.117). Dahl (1998) concurs with this finding. Students plans ofte n become their written text. Dahl (1998) suggests that young wr iters might benefit from soci al interactions with other writers to help them think about plans and ways to organize th eir written work. I incorporated whole class brainstorming in my writing instruction with elementary students, but I did not utilize small group planning. Preparing to write in small groups is a technique that seems valuable because it allows children to learn from each other through talk. This reinforces the importa nce of peer interactions during writing. Teachers Roles in Writing Instruction The students responses illust rate that they viewed thei r teachers as paramount in their development as writers. The model wri ting presented in class, the reading/writing connections, and the writing strategies introdu ced by the teachers had a significant impact on the students. Modeling. According to the students, the majori ty of their teachers demonstrated at least one of the qualities that Graves (2004) uses to define first-rate teachers (p. 92). Graves (2004) states that in addition to ot her characteristics, The y (first-rate teachers) teach by showing (p.92). He further explai ns that students acquire much of their learning by observing as their teacher or their peers share their work in progress (p.92). This supports Brittons (1993) stance that e ffective teachers model learning processes and encourage their students to participate in the process. I am a vi sual learner and agree with the significant benefits of modeling. Good models of writing can enhance students knowledge. In addition, students are given an opportunity to share ideas with the group
124 and receive responses from their teacher as we ll as their classmates. This encourages a supportive writing environment The students in this study liked modeli ng of writing and responded positively to this instructional method. The students were working towards closer approximation to their teachers writing models. The phi coefficient of +0.53 for the response model writing for the question What could teachers do to help kids become better writers? indicates that students who repor ted this option on the survey also expressed this during the interview (See Table 3). The effect size value of .53 is considered a substantial association (Davis, 1971). This correlation wa s high compared to the other correlations which further supports the finding that teache r modeling is deemed an important writing instructional strate gy by the students Reading/writing connection. According to the students, their teachers read orally for pleasure and emphasized the reading/writ ing connection more than I anticipated. Once again, I assumed that the rigid curricula r requirements enforced by the state would interfere with teachers oral reading. Eighteen of the students stated that their teachers read to them on a regular basis and/or disc ussed what good authors did. The teachers used literature as a scaffold for their students writing. R eading is a vital source of information and ideas. The students verbalized the benef its of reading which included: improves vocabulary, promotes idea genera tion, and introduces various genres and writing styles. I anticipated that the students would express more examples of using voice in their writing. Pritchard and Honeycutt (2007 ) define voice as an authors unique style and personality as reflected in his or her writing (p 39). A writers voice is composed of
125 tone, syntax, expression, and vocabulary. The students did not discuss these aspects of their writing during the interviews. Despite the fact that their teachers presented the reading/writing connection and utilized litera ture as a scaffold for their writing, the students did not share many examples of im itating the voice of professional writers. Conferencing. I assumed that all of the students would be familiar with writing conferences. As a former elementary la nguage arts teacher, I believe that writing conferences give teachers an opportunity to offer individual support to their students. According to the students, writing conferences did not occur as frequently as I anticipated. Only 12 of the students stated that they had writing c onferences with their teachers. Literature on best practices in writing stresses that children need regular response to their writing (B each & Friedrich, 2006; Graves, 2004). A primary purpose for responding to students writing is to help improve the quality of their writing. Beach and Friedrich (2006) present the benefits of writing conferences. They state that conferences provide teachers with an opportunity to offer feedback to students as well as providing students with an opportunity to v oice their purposes, prac tice self-assessment, and formulate alternate revisions (p. 228) Although writing conferences are time intensive, they provide needed support to students. Teachers role. The students viewed their teachers as an integral part of their writing development. In addition to mode ling writing and utilizing literature in the classroom, the teachers introduced numerous writing techniques. The students enthusiastically discussed techniques such as fee-po, hamburger writing, and exploding the moment. I was familiar with hamburger writing and exploding the moment, but I had never heard of fee-po prior to this study and was curious to learn about this technique.
126 James explained that f = fact, e = example, p = personal experience, and o = opinion. He went on to share that he always plan s and uses examples, experiences, attention grabbers, and details in his writing. What a vivid exampl e of a student who considers himself a good writer because he uses his teachers ideas and techniques. This further supports Fangs (1996) findings regarding the strong impact that teachers have on students perceptions of literacy. The wording of survey question # 18 What does your teacher do that doesnt help you write? may have affected the result s and/or caused confusion for the students. The word doesnt was not in bold font and it is possible that the students were confused by the question. This may have resulted in th e inability to calculat e the phi coefficient for two of the variables for this question: #3-Assigns required words and #5-Provides too much information. None of the students selected these variables on the survey and none of the students discussed these variables during the interviews In reflection, I should have questioned students about each su rvey question during the interviews. There was a lack of agreement between survey and interview data, but Patton (2002) says that inconsistenc ies are ok. Finding such in consistencies ought not be viewed as weakening the cred ibility of results, but rather as offering opportunities for deeper insight into the relationship between inquiry approach a nd the phenomena under study ( Patton, 2002, p. 556). Students Views of Writ ing Assessment (Grading) The data presented in chapter 4 detail the types of grading techniques the students teachers utilized when assessing thei r writing. According to the students, most teachers used a combination of these grad ing methods when assessing their writing.
127 These included: comments, number grades 1 6, le tter grades, and rubrics. As I stated in the previous chapter, the students assumed th at I knew that the scores 1 6 coincided with the FCAT Writing test. This grading method was only explained when I questioned what 1 6 meant. Although all of these grading techniques were addressed in the interviews and surveys the students provided a great deal of data regarding the comments that their teachers made on their writing assignments. Beach and Friedrich (2006) state that this supports research that fi nds that teachers respond to student writing by making comments. Unfortunately, these comments are often too vague (p. 225). Teachers general comments may boost students se lf-esteem yet provide little guidance for improvement and growth. According to Beach and Friedrich (2006) Students seem to find two types of comments most helpful. Fi rst, they favor comments that suggest ways of making improvements. Second, they prefer comments that explain why something is good or bad about their writing (p.227). All of the grading shared by the students was FCAT based. The teachers verbal and written comments can be traced to FCAT Writing scoring components which emphasis four content areas: focus, organiza tion, support, and conventions. The students said that their teachers emphasized grammar, punctuati on, vocabulary, and details. Teachers may not have overtly mentioned FC AT, but their comments reflected the four content areas. As a result, the students deemed these characteristics of writing to be important. Overall, the students were happy with th eir teachers written comments. Beach and Friedrich (2006) state a primary purpose for responding to childrens writing is to
128 help them improve the quality of their writing (p.222). If comments are predominately based on FCAT Writing, can the overall quality of students writing improve? I also question the helpfulness of teachers written comments to poor readers. If students are unable to read their teachers comme nts, how can their writing improve? Revision is an important aspect of the composing process yet the types of feedback that the teachers provided did not promote revision. MacArthur (2007) says that revision is important for two reasons. First, it is an important part of the composing process. Second, revision provides an opportu nity for teachers to guide students in learning about effective writing skills. If re vision is not occurring, teachers are missing important instructional opportuni ties. As a result, students ar e missing vital instruction to further develop their writing skills. Students Views of Highstakes Writing Exams Testing was not viewed as a major purpose for writing at school like I had anticipated. The students did not dwell on testing in the interviews; however, they expressed various emotions regarding timed writing assessments. They used words such as pressured, nervous, frustrated, uncomfortab le, tense, confused, scared, and stressed when they discussed how they felt during timed writing assessments. Apparently, the high-stakes associated with the FCAT was pa rt of their educational environment. It was upsetting to me to hear them expr ess such emotionally charged responses. The students feelings about high-stakes writing assessments echoed the feelings of the teachers from the Darling-Hammond and Wi se (1985) study in which teachers felt extreme pressure. Their feelings also support the following powerful statement by
129 Shelton and Fu (2004): Educators, teachers, pa rents, and students have never felt more stressed from testing at ev ery grade level (p.120). The phi coefficient of +0.41 for the re sponse sets time limits for the question What does your teacher do that doesnt help you write? indicat es that students responded the same way on both the interview and survey (See Table 3). This high correlation supports the students emotional interview responses as well as the literature on time restraints. The data from this study do not specify whether or not teachers and/or administrators overtly discussed the significance of the FCAT, but based on the students interview responses, the student s internalized the significance of the assessment. Things influencing the students perceptions could be things teachers say to them and/or do for them. How the students parents support and/or talk about testing could also impact their perceptions of high-stakes te sts. I recently received an email from my childrens pediatricians office that contained an article titled Your Kids and School Tests: Dos and Donts for Parents. The article was provided by the US Department of Education and included a list of suggestions for parents. One of the most notable suggestions was Dont judge your child on the basi s of a single test score. Test scores are not perfect measures of what a child can do. There are ma ny other things that might influence a test score. For example, a child can be affected by the way he or she is feeling, the setting in the classroom, and the attitude of the teacher Remember, also, that one test is simply one test. This is a very powerful sugge stion. It seems like common sense, but the current high-stakes of testing makes it di fficult to take test scores lightly.
130 This is a major contradiction. This artic le was created by the US Department of Education which also mandates the NCLB Act which includes state-mandated testing. What an example of conflicting perspectiv es from the same governmental office. Another suggestion that mirrored the students interview re sponses was Make sure that your child is well rested on school days and especially the day of a test. Children who are tired are less able to pa y attention in class or to hand le the demands of a test. These suggestions are very similar to the st udents responses to the interview question What do your parents tell you to do the night before a test? Due to my pers onal interest in the ar ea of testing, I immediately read the article; however, I am curious about how many other pa rents read the articl e and whether or not they instituted any of the suggestions. Als o, did the US Department of Education provide this article to schools? I woul d be interested in the reactions of administrators, teachers, and parents. The data from this study show that te achers have a strong influence on students perceptions of writing. The stude nts in this study shared de tailed information about their perceptions of writing in school Despite the informative da ta that were acquired, this study has limitations which are presented below. Limitations of the Study This study is limited in several ways. Fi rst, although the sample reflects the population of children who attended the SYAC, it does not accurately reflect the demographic mix of the districts. This study can not be generalized to a large population of elementary grade students. The conclu sions are only relevant to the students who attended SYAC. The intent of this study was to determine how prof icient intermediate
131 grade writers perceive writing in school. Data were collected on only 20 students. The intent was to gain insight into their awar eness of the impact of high-stakes writing assessments on instructional practices and teach ing strategies. The data show that highstakes testing is not viewed as a vital component of writing at school. A second limitation is that the students were selected from a group of students that likes to write. It is assumed that the students selected to attend SYAC are the crme de la crme. Different results may have been obtained if the pa rticipants were not interested in writing a nd/or their teachers did not consid er them proficient writers. A third limitation is that during the interv iews, I did not directly question students about each question/ variable that was on the survey. In reflection, I should have asked students about each area under the surveys que stions for correlation/analysis purposes. A fourth limitation is that this study only looks at students perceptions of writing instruction. The students teac hers and parents were not in terviewed for the purposes of this study. However, teachers and parents might influence students in the following ways: things teachers say to them, things teachers do for them, school writing situations, and how parents support them and ta lk about writing and testing. Another limitation is that I did not observ e the teachers while they taught. I was unable to see their instructional methods. Data for my study came strictly from the students responses on the surveys and intervie ws because I wanted to investigate their perceptions of writing in school. Results ma y have differed if I had observed classroom instruction. An additional limitation is that I did not probe specifically about social interactions and writing. Th e students only mentioned peer interactions when discussing
132 content area writing. Numerous studies documen t the ways in which peer interactions support elementary students writing. Writing is a social activity and therefore, writing should be imbedded in social contexts (Chapman, 2006; NCTE, 2006). It is likely that more data would have been obtained if the participants in this study were questioned directly about social interactions and writing. Future Research This study was limited to a sample of 20 students who were perceived as competent writers. Similar work should be conducted with struggl ing and/or average writers. Their perceptions of writing in school may support and/or refute the findings of this study. The study participants were not questioned about working with peers during writing. Literature shows the positive impact th at social interactions can have on writing. The following questions might guide future re search: How does peer discourse influence intermediate-grade students writing? What role does collaboration play in their writing? All of the participants in this study took the FCAT Writing te st in the fourth grade. The students and their parents were provided with the num ber score (1-6) that they earned on the assessment. Are students and/or their parents aware of why they earned that score? How can writ ing be assessed in ways that inform the student, parents, and the teacher? The students talked at great length about writing in various subject areas. Additional research that explores strategies for writing in subject areas is needed. How is writing taught in other content areas? Do teachers follow what literature deems best practices in content area writing?
133 A different and/or expand ed method of data collection for a similar study could include analysis of students talking in groups while they work on writing assignments. In addition, students writing samples could be collected and analyzed. These are all research topics that coul d significantly add to the existing works on writing in the intermediate grades. If I were to look at any of these areas further for a future study, I would be interested in peer interactions and student di scourse in relation to writing instruction. Summary Teachers have a strong influence on st udents perceptions of writing. The students in this study shared information a bout their perceptions of writing in school. It was refreshing to hear what a positive influence many of the teachers had on their students writing development. This may be a result of the participants self-concepts since they were considered good wr iters and they enjoyed writing.. I expected the emphasis on high-stakes writing assessments to impact the individual attention that the students receive d; however, according to the students, their teachers provided a great deal of support and guidance. Although the data did not produce what I expected, when I began analyzing the data it became apparent that FCAT Writing does influence many facets of th e writing curriculum including grading, feedback, conferencing, and general writing instruction.
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Appendix A: National Education Reform Timeline 149
Appendix B: Florida Education Reform Timeline 150
Appendix C: IRB 151
Appendix C (Continued) 152
Appendix D: Second and Final Revision of SYAC Survey 153
Appendix D (Continued) 154
Appendix D (Continued) 155
Appendix E: Correspondence Between Resear ch Questions and Survey Questions 156
Appendix F: First Revision of SYAC Survey/Pilot Survey 157
Appendix F (Continued) 158
Appendix F (Continued) 159
Appendix F (Continued) 160
161 Appendix G: Interview Guide 1. What is writing? 2. Why do you write? 3. What do you do that makes you a good writer? 4. Who helps you write? 5. What do your teachers do to help you write? 6. What do your teachers do that does not help you write? 7. What classroom writing activities do you do everyday? 8. Does your teacher talk with you about your writing before you complete a final draft? 9. What does he/she talk about? 10. What does he/she say that helps you with your writing? 11. How often does your teacher read out loud to your class? 12. Does your teacher talk about what good authors do? 13. Do you write during science? Do you wr ite during math? Do you write during social studies? Do you write during reading? 14. How does your teacher grade your writing? 15. Does he/she write letter grad es, number grades or no grades? 16. What does your teacher tell you to do to get a good score on a writing assignment? 17. Does your teacher assign timed writing assignments? How often? 18. Does he/she grade these assignmen ts? If so, how are they graded?
162 Appendix G (Continued) 19. Do you like to write when you can choose the topic? Why or why not? How often does this happen (more than half the time or less)? 20. What do you know about the FCAT? 21. What does your teacher tell you about prompts? 22. Do you practice taking writing tests? 23. What does your teacher tell you to do to get a good score on a writing test? 24. What do your parents tell you to do th e night before a writing test? 25. Do you practice writing to prompts at home? 26. How do you feel when you complete a timed writing assignment?
163 Appendix H: Correspondence between Resear ch Questions and Interview Questions 1. How do students view the purposes for writing at school? 2. How do students view the differing contexts for writing at school? 3. What decisions do children make when they write at school? 4. How do students view the role of their teachers in writing instruction? 5. How do students interpret writing assessmen t? 6. How do students view high-stakes writing exams? Intervie w Questi on #1 X X #2 X #3 X #4 X #5 X #6 X #7 X X #8 X #9 X #10 X #11 X #12 X #13 X #14 X #15 X #16 X X #17 X
164 Appendix H (Continued) #18 X #19 X #20 X #21 X #22 X #23 X #24 X #25 X #26 X
165 Appendix I: Interview Coding Categories DEFINITION CODING CATEGORY SPECIFIC AREAS WRITING Topics for students writing assignments Writing topics *student choice *assigned by teacher Students organizing thoughts before writing Planning Students views of the meaning of writing Definition of Writing Reasons students write Why Students Write Qualities and characteristics of good writing Good Writing *Students views *Teachers views Writing during different subject areas Content Area Writing TEACHER INSTRUCTION Teacher modeling writing for students/ shared writing Modeling Use of literature, authors as examples of good writing Reading/Writing Connection Students and teachers meeting to discuss writing Conferencing *Editing What teachers do to help students write Teachers Role *positive *negative Manner in which student writing is evaluated Grading TESTING Students feelings of tension, anxiety, and/or stress toward testing Student Emotions Preparing for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Writing Test FCAT Preparation *teaching to the test *influence on instruction *writing prompts *Parent and teacher suggestions for the night before the test Pre-set time restrictions for completing writing assignments Time Restraints
166 Appendix J: Students Ps eudonyms and Descriptions NAME DESCRIPTION 4th Graders James A Caucasian male. He was extremely verbal and expressive. According to his responses, his teacher had a strong po sitive influence on him. Karen A talkative Caucasian female. Her responses were detailed and she used specific vocabulary when discussing writing. Lola An extremely quiet Hispanic female. She as ked me to repeat questions a few times and paused often when responding to my questions. Mary A verbal Caucasian female. She gave her parents and sister credit for her confidence and strong writing skills. Nancy A Caucasian female. Her responses were to the point, but lacked detail. Roberto A Hispanic male. He was extremely verbal and frequently spoke off topic. I spent a great deal of time keeping him focused on the interview questions. Our interview lasted over 60 minutes while the other 19 interviews were approximately 20 minutes long. Sally A Caucasian female. She was very verbal and provided a great deal of information in her responses. Shaye A timid African American fema le. Her mother sat wit us during the interview which seemed to make her nervous. She needed a great deal of probing throughout the interview. Theo An out-going African American/Caucasian male He was very enthusiastic about writing and his responses were animated. Vanessa A reserved Caucasian female. Her mom sat w ith us during the interview which may have contributed to her brief responses. During the interview, I told her mother that it was not necessary to stay, but she wanted to stay. 5th Graders Ariel An African American/Hispanic female. She was very verbal and sometimes went off on tangents about her summer activities when responding to my questions. Gina A shy Caucasian female. She had a difficult time making eye contact, but provided thoughtful responses to my questions. Jen A bubbly Caucasian female. She provided detailed responses throughout the interview. Joe A verbal Caucasian male. He was extremely opinionated about high-stakes tests and expressed his dislike of these assessments. Melissa A Caucasian female. She had a difficult time remembering details about school, but tried to answer all of my questions. Ryan A reserved Caucasian male. His responses were concise and he expressed tension regarding the FCAT. Sharon An enthusiastic African American female. Sh e was verbal and responded to my questions with specific vocabulary. Sue A reserved Caucasian female. She talked a great deal about her emotions, specifically about her anxiety with time limits. Sylvia A personable Hispanic female. When I called her home to schedule the interview, her mother was unable to understand English. Sylvia interpreted our conversation for her mother and expressed her excitement about participating in the study. Her bilingual father signed the consent forms. Tonya A talkative Caucasian female. She expressed her displeasure of her teachers editing her writing.
Appendix K: Spreadsheet for SAS Program 167
Appendix K (Continued) 168
Appendix K (Continued) Appendix K (Continued) 169
Appendix K (Continued) 170
About the Author Tammy Weiss Schimmel earned her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and her masters degree in Counsel or Education from the University of South Florida. She taught elementary school for ten years in Tampa, Florida. While pursuing her doctorate at the University of Sout h Florida (USF), she was a Graduate Assistant for the Ch ildhood Education Department. During her assistantship, she served as editorial assistant for the Florida Reading Quarterly and was a liaison between USF and Pizzo Elementary School (A Professional Development School on the Universitys campus.). She was also a Supervis or of Student Interns for the University of Tampa and the University of South Florida. While completing her dissertation, she was appointed to the position of Reading K-12 Cu rriculum Consultant by the University of Tampa. Her duties entailed developing a content reading comprehension workshop for current and future M.A.T. (Masters of Arts in Teaching) teachers.
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Schimmel, Tammy Weiss.
How do proficient intermediate grade writers percieve[sic] writing in school?
h [electronic resource] /
by Tammy Weiss Schimmel.
[Tampa, Fla] :
b University of South Florida,
ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to examine students' perspectives of writing instruction to gain insights into their awareness of the impact of high-stakes writing assessments on instructional practices and teaching strategies. Students in grades four and five who attended the 2004 Suncoast Young Author's Celebration (SYAC) served as the sample for this study. Data were gathered through surveys and interviews with 20 students who attended the SYAC. Survey questions were used to obtain general information about the students' perceptions of writing instruction and assessment. Interviews were conducted to gain a richer understanding of their perceptions of classroom experiences.The participants in this study provided descriptive data about their perceptions of writing in school.^ Fourteen distinct patterns emerged from the data which fell into three overarching categories: Writing, Teacher Instruction, and Testing.Findings suggest that students write for various purposes at school: for pleasure, to express themselves, to acquire and share knowledge, and because they are tested. The participants in this study spent a great deal of time discussing content area writing. During content area writing, students interacted with their peers which provided meaningful support to their writing development.According to the students, most teachers used a combination of grading methods when assessing writing. The students provided a great deal of data regarding the comments their teachers made on their writing assignments.A major finding was the amount of emotion that the students expressed regarding timed writing assessments. The data from this study do not specify whether or not teachers overtly discussed the significance of the FCAT.^ I expected the emphasis on high-stakes writing assessments to impact the individual attention that the students received; however, according to the students, their teachers' provided a great deal of support and guidance.Although the data did not produce what I expected, when I began analyzing the data it became apparent that FCAT Writing does influence many facets of the writing curriculum including grading, feedback, and conferencing.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2007.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic dissertation) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 170 pages.
Adviser: Jenifer J. Schneider Ph.D.
x Early Childhood Education
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.