Teaching it "Write": Teacher Perspectives on Writing Instruction Within English and French Immersion Classrooms
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Writing today is a means of communication: a medium through which we learn, share and self-express (Graham, 2006). In the classroom, writing is used to acquire, remember, and share knowledge; writing aids in the process of discovering, shaping and refining ideas about a topic (Durst & Newell, 1989). Although writing instruction is a fundamental component of both Academic English and French Immersion language courses at the Grade 9 level (Ontario Ministry of Education, 1999, 2007), concern remains that many adolescents do not develop the skills necessary in writing to be successful in academic, workplace or personal life domains (Graham & Perin, 2007). Yet, little research has been conducted to determine what teachers are doing instructionally at the high school level. This study investigated the described individual pedagogies of teachers regarding writing instruction within two Grade 9 language contexts: English and French Immersion. I interviewed seven teachers, one-on-one, about their approach to writing instruction and the function of writing within their classroom, either in person or over the phone. A corresponding document of teaching materials referenced by teachers during the interviews was conducted. The data were thematically analyzed individually, by participant, and then subsequently analyzed within and between language contexts. The data analysis yielded four recurring themes: (1) Perceived Individual Experiences and Beliefs Informing Practice, (2) Role of Curriculum, (3) Individual Teaching Practice, and (4) Assessment. The findings from this study suggest that teachers, based on their beliefs and experience, make informed pedagogical decisions within their classrooms to meet the needs of their students. Writing is used in a variety of forms, and is utilized as a vehicle for assessment of other strand requirements.