Thesis (Ph.D)

Teaching and learning writing at primary school: an exploration of writing environments, transcription and text generation


Introduction: Children’s writing skill continues to cause concern. While research into interventions is on-going, little is known about writing in natural classroom environments or the effects of individual differences on everyday performance. This project examined real-life handwritten work in primary school, focussing on transcription and its relationship with text-generation in different classroom writing environments (i.e. whether content is teacherdetermined, child-determined, or generated jointly by teachers and children). Method: Nine Year 5 teachers were interviewed about their classroom practice, training, and beliefs relating to writing tuition. All handwritten work by 135 children from one week was photographed and transcribed. Amount written and spelling accuracy were compared between children, classes and writing environments. Relationships between transcription and word-level text generation were examined. Compositional quality of child-generated writing was scored and factors drawn from the entire project evaluated as predictors of quality. Results: The teachers felt that handwriting tuition should occur throughout primary school. Though compositional quality was considered to be more associated with handwriting speed rather than its neatness, teachers emphasised neatness. The most productive child wrote 16 times more than the least. Lower-productivity classes were typified by a greater proportion of teachergenerated writing. Compositional quality and lexical richness of childgenerated writing were positively associated with amount of teacher + childgenerated writing, but the link with amount of teacher-generated writing was non-significant. Spelling-errors in copying tended to be phonologically implausible whereas in child-generated writing plausible errors were more frequent. Better genre-writing scores were achieved by children who had written more word-types during preparation for the tasks. Strongest predictors of scores were teachers feeling well-prepared for writing tuition and more recent qualification, and larger amounts of teacher + childgenerated writing carried out. Discussion: The national curriculum for handwriting does not require tuition throughout primary school, contrary to motor learning research. More recently qualified teachers were less critical of writing performance being judged against specified criteria than those qualified for longer. Many teachers were unaware of how much copying occurred and copying may be an ineffective means of acquiring vocabulary knowledge; increasing the amount of teacher + child-generated writing may be beneficial. Other theoretical and practical implications are discussed and limitations and future research considered.

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Molyneaux, Annabel Margaret


Supervisors: Barnett, Anna; Connelly, Vincent

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Education


Year: 2019

© Molyneaux, Annabel Margaret
Published by Oxford Brookes University
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