I am just beginning an action research project under the guidance of Dr. Barrie Bennett who is working with our board for one more year.
Last year, in my role as a learning coordinator, I helped facilitate a similar project for a larger group of elementary teachers, and I remember wishing that I had a classroom so I could do my own project. Well now I’m lucky enough to be asked to participate in this project as a classroom teacher. If feel particularly lucky because it’s as though I’m doing a mini Masters with Dr. Bennett for free!
I had hundreds (okay 5) of ideas floating around in my head for this project but decided to settle on this question: How does having an authentic audience for student writing impact student motivation and writing quality?
Due to tight timelines I wanted to pick a topic that I could already integrate into what I was working on, namely the student “This I Believe” oral essays. So I created a writing attitude survey and tried to gauge where students were in terms of their attitudes about writing and whether or not they thought it was important to have a real audience for their writing. Most students agreed that having a real audience would probably improve the quality of their writing, but a number of them said that they would not be willing to post their “This I Believe” oral essays to our blog.
So I’m wondering about a couple things. First of all, is it the content that makes them uncomfortable about sharing? Based on the rough drafts I’ve read so far, there are some students who don’t yet seem to understand the connections between audience, purpose, and content, even though they’ve analysed a number of model essays. Some students think that the only type of writing worth doing is that stream of consciousness ranting about how unfair the world is. Also, even though I have stressed that this is meant to be personal but not private, some students are still confused about that line.
I also wonder if some students are confused about what we are talking about posting. I am using this project to assess their oral communication skills, so they are recording their essays and posting the MP3. I think some students are concerned that their spelling and grammar is going to be criticized by others (even though I’ve told them that we will work on those skills a little later).
For now, I think I will go ahead with this project and invite those who said they were willing to post to do so and then interview them to see what their responses are to the process. I would like to invite teachers and students from other schools and perhaps other countries to comment on their essays (moderated comments of course). If the response is positive, then hopefully that will encourage other students to post their work next time. I wonder if a more informal type of writing would garner more student participation. After all, the ones who are most anxious about their writing abilities tend to also be the ones who need the most help.