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Writing assignments – a challenge to writing orientated didactics
• How do teachers in social science education invite students to write in the classroom?
• A sociocultural based study taking its data from a longitudinal study of writing practices in upper-secondary education
• The most important finding is that most writing assignments invite the students to write in order to structure and organize given knowledge in a decontextualized way
• It is discussed how other kinds writing orders can prepare the students for extended and problem orientated writing
This paper examines how students are positioned in writing assignments addressing writing activities during the lessons given by teachers in the mandatory social science subject in the Danish upper secondary school. The writing practices (Hamilton 2000) embedded in the writing assignments are examined too. The paper examines writer identities (Ivanic 1998) offered to the students and to what extent they are invited to knowledge construction, creativity, problem-solving and self-expression. Previous research suggests that students most often are invited to reproduce knowledge (Graham 2007).
Taking the starting point in socio-cultural theory the paper defines the writing assignment as a social, directive act initiating a literacy event and constructing the student with a specific identity.
Data is taken from the Danish research project Writing to Learn, Learning to Write. Methodologically, this project has a culturally and text orientated ethnographic approach. Ten students were observed for four years and written products were collected as part of the data collection (Krogh 2015).
Analysis finds that the students primarily are positioned to organize and structure given knowledge.
In the presentation, some of the rare examples of writing assignments inviting students to knowledge construction and problem-solving (Olinghouse 2012) will be analysed. In continuation, it will be discussed how a reshaping of writing assignment practices can be implemented in order to support more extended writing addressing social key problems.
Graham, S. & Perin, D (2007). Writing Next. Washington DC: Alliance for Excellent Education
Hamilton, M. (2000). Expanding new literacy studies: using photograhs to explore literacy as social practice. I Barton, D. et al. (ed.). Situated literacies. Reading and writing in context. London: Routledge
Ivanič, R. (1998). Writing and identity. The discoursal construction of identity in academic writing. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company
Krogh, E. et al. (2015) (ed.). Elevskrivere i gymnasiefag. Odense: Syddansk Universitetsforlag
Olinghouse, N.G. et al. (2012). State writing assessment: inclusion of motivational factors in writing tasks. Reading & Writing Quarterly 28
Key words: Writing to learn, writing assignments, writing orientated didactics, subject orientated didactics, social science education