Date of Submission
Graham, M. A. (2019). Writing pedagogy in the early years: A study of teacher beliefs, classroom practices and influences (Thesis, Australian Catholic University). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.26199/5ddf4f601bd8d
The research problem underpinning this study concerns the paucity of research examining teacher beliefs about the teaching of writing and associated classroom practices. Consequently, the evidence is elusive concerning what contributes to the enactment of teaching writing and how teachers engage students and foster writing development. This research explores writing pedagogy with a focused exploration of teacher beliefs, practices and influences relating to the teaching of writing in the early years of schooling. Three contributing research questions focus the conduct of the study: 1. What do teachers believe about the teaching of writing in the early years of schooling? 2. What practices do teachers employ in the teaching of writing in the early years of schooling? 3. What influences teacher writing pedagogy in the early years of schooling? This doctoral research is significant because: • It contributes to the limited research in the domain of writing by documenting teacher beliefs and practices, providing important insight into what happens at the micro-level of the classroom; • It contributes to the quantum of knowledge about writing practices from the perception of the classroom teacher; • It contributes to the pedagogical understandings about what promotes students’ writing development; and • It contributes to an understanding of what influences teachers’ writing pedagogy. An epistemological framework of constructionism underpins this study, as it explores teacher beliefs and practices about the teaching of writing in a context in which teachers reflected on their own understandings and the meanings they constructed (Crotty, 1998). An interpretivist design is adopted to interpret and understand both how the teachers construct their practice and the meanings they attach to their actions in the teaching of writing (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011). Symbolic interactionism is adopted, allowing the research to be conceptualised within these contexts, to comprehend how teachers understand their writing pedagogy within their worlds (Charon, 2007). Case study (Miles & Huberman, 1994) is the methodology chosen to orchestrate the data gathering strategies of teacher interviews; participant observation including writing lesson observations, field notes and teacher interviews; and teacher artefacts. Participants in this study included primary school teachers from Catholic primary schools in the archdiocese of Brisbane who were teaching early years classes during the time of this study. Purposive selection (Patton, 1990) was employed to select teachers purposively for their specialist knowledge and experience concerning writing pedagogy in the early years of schooling. Therefore, a number of purposive processes were adopted in order to engage with informed participants. Constant comparative analysis (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) was employed to examine the data. Further, Approaches to Writing Pedagogy: A Conceptual Lens (Graham, 2009), was utilised in further analysis and synthesis of the data within this study. The conceptual lens identifies four approaches that inform teachers’ writing pedagogy, including pragmatic, eclectic, philosophical and epistemological approaches. The conceptual lens and subsequent discussion about the six teacher participants’ approaches are presented in this thesis, illuminating important influences on teachers’ writing pedagogy. This research generates conclusions that contribute new knowledge and understandings about the teaching of writing in the early years. This study concludes that: 1. there are a multiplicity of beliefs underpinning an individual teacher’s writing pedagogy. These beliefs are informed by teachers’ own education, teaching experience and their understandings about how children learn to write and how children learn more generally; 2. teachers believe students are the primary influence on their writing pedagogy and and differentiate writing instruction to respond to the needs, interests and abilities of their students; 3. there are multiple influences informing teachers’ writing pedagogy. These influences include personal beliefs, knowledge of theory, systemic influences, their personal journey, students, and personal approaches; 4. similar influences inform teachers’ pedagogical choices, but they do so differently; 5. teachers are influenced by their own individual approaches to teaching writing and these approaches are underpinned by a complex dynamic of personal beliefs, knowledge, self-knowledge and vision. Teachers may be categorised according to their approach using Approaches to Writing Pedagogy: A Conceptual Lens (Graham, 2009). The teachers in this study identify as being pragmatic, eclectic, philosophical or visionary in their approaches to teaching writing; and 6. teachers make sophisticated pedagogical choices which include engaging in multiple practices that they believe are fundamental for teaching writing in the early years of schooling. Teachers: • cater for individual differences by offering children opportunities to write at their developmental levels and considering varying abilities when teaching writing; • engage children in writing as a social practice; • employ the learning environment creatively to foster writing development; • teach writing as an integral part of literacy; • teach explicitly the skills and strategies needed to write; • employ a functional approach to teach grammar; • employ a multifaceted and functional approach to teach spelling; and • teach children to write digitally alongside print literacy through engagement with new technologies and new literacies. The collective orchestration of each of these practices increases student motivation, fosters writing development and contributes to students being successful writers.
Doctor of Education (EdD)
Faculty of Education and Arts