Understanding the Value of Writing – Action Research Project

Teacher:  Robin Shaffer

Building:  Montour High School

Grade Level:  11

Project:  Understanding the value of writing

Background /Purpose:

I would like to explore my inquiry questions by allowing my students complete autonomy in selecting writing assignments.  I will begin by discussing their feelings about writing so that I can use that formative assessment in developing a writing program that will, hopefully, encourage students to not only want to write, but also, give them confidence as writers.  It is my hope that students will focus on the power of writing and the use for it in their everyday lives.  In order to do this, I will sometimes provide students with topics for writing, and they will sometimes decide on their topics for writing.  In either scenario, students will have the autonomy in selecting the type of writing they will use for each assignment.

Implementation Process:

The first thing I did, was to survey my English 11 classes about their attitudes on writing. I then used the survey results to drive the instruction of writing portion of my class. During the second, third, and fourth nine weeks students completed various writing assignments some of which were analytical, creative, and reflective.  I introduced each assignment to students seeking input from them on the grading rubric.  I allowed for extra time for completion of each assignment, conferenced with students, gave extra help after school, and modeled the expectations. With each assignment, I had my students peer edit the papers on Turnitn.com.  I was able to read their comments to each other and use those as teachable material to help students make and understand critical remarks so that their writing could show improvement.

My students will reflect on all of their writings this year and make critical comments in their journals. I will then survey my students again to see if their attitude/confidence in writing improved.

It is my belief that if students take their time and see their growth through the writing process that they will view writing in a more positive light and understand that writing has a connection to everything they will do in life.

Findings / Results:

The survey yielded interesting results by showing many contradictory belief statements from my students.  I realize that students really have no idea how important writing is or how writing even fits into their lives.  This made it very difficult to carry out my action plan in a few months.  I believe that writing has to be a part of a student’s education on a consistent basis from at least middle school through high school.  Most students believe writing is done in isolation, without any connection to the experiences around them.

Interestingly, it did not seem to matter how much time I gave my students for the various writing assignments.  Overall, students still waited until the last minute to complete their assignments and I won’t know until I survey them again if their attitude toward writing has changed or improved from the beginning of the year.

It is evident that students need more authentic experiences with writing so that they feel a connection and ownership to writing.

After reading my reflection log, I want to continue to improve this action research project in future year.  I will be searching out resources to help students better understand the writing process.  I believe in order for me to see real change, I must find better resources that students can relate to, whether it be online sources, an online writing program, some type of writing lab etc.


Suggestions for Teachers:

  • I think it is extremely important for students to become writers in all disciplines so that they learn to have a voice through the written word.
  • It is important for all teachers to model and use the writing process when teaching writing instruction.
  • Try to find or develop assignments that students will enjoy.
  • Encourage students to have a voice through writing.
  • If you already teach writing, consider how education is changing and seek out new ways to teach writing to students.
  • Use the proper writing process so that it is consistent and students don’t receive mixed messages about writing.

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