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Teaching Grammar for Writing: Espoused Beliefs and Pedagogical Practices Annabel Watson University of Exeter, UK

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Presentation on theme: "Teaching Grammar for Writing: Espoused Beliefs and Pedagogical Practices Annabel Watson University of Exeter, UK"— Presentation transcript:

1 Teaching Grammar for Writing: Espoused Beliefs and Pedagogical Practices Annabel Watson University of Exeter, UK aw260@ex.ac.uk

2 The ‘Grammar Wars’ Research: Grammar reviews: “insufficient quality of research” (Andrews et al. 2006) Politics: perceived link between standard English and social cohesion (Clark 2005) Policy: UK Secondary schools saw grammar re- introduced & re-framed with Literacy Strategy (1998) sentence and word-level objectives (revised 2008)

3 Beliefs and Practice “in the absence of uncontested conclusions about what constitutes good practice, teachers base instructional decisions on their own practical theories” (Borg & Burns 2008) Context (Pajares 1992)

4 ESRC ‘Grammar, for Writing’? Randomised Control Trial looking at impact of contextualised grammar teaching 32 Schools Qualitative study: teacher interviews, student interviews, writing samples

5 Teacher (espoused) Beliefs “the practical application of rules” “In terms of grammar teaching my heart sinks, in terms of teaching children about language it doesn’t” “It’s all about effects on the reader and have you done that on purpose …is it successful, if it is you need to know how and why, and to be able to articulate it, we need a common vocabulary” “I still panic a little bit about getting it right” “generally with grammar I’m quite confident… to teach it… my confidence is less so” What is ‘Grammar’? Value crafting and effect Concerns about LSK and PCK

6 Case Study Methods 2 Teachers who ‘opted-in’ from the original project 3 Interviews from the original project, coded into ‘belief profiles’; participants commented on these Observed teaching a ‘Writing’ scheme of work that they had created to a class of year 8 (7 th grade) students for 9 hours (recorded and transcribed) 1 Stimulated-recall interview asking them to explain their pedagogical decisions (using lesson transcripts) 1 ‘Think-aloud’ protocol where they marked 2 pieces of writing and offered comments on how to improve

7 Participants Clare Advanced Skills English Teacher 3 city high schools (term-by- term) = non-selective, co- educational, medium ethnic- diversity, medium SEN & free school meals Observed teaching one 7th grade class: mixed ability Teaches this class once a week for 3 hours each time Jane English teacher in charge of A- Level English School = large, rural, non- selective, co-educational, low ethnic-diversity, medium SEN & free school meals Observed teaching two 7th grade classes: Set 2 & Set 5 Teaches these classes 3 times a week for 1 hour each time

8 Participant History Clare Undergraduate: Theatre Degree Teacher Training: GTP (on the job training, school-based) 10 years teaching at secondary school level Previously: Worked at University / 2x colleges / 2x schools in Performing Arts / Art / Drama / English / Psychology. Jane Undergraduate: English & American Studies Degree Teacher Training: PGCE (University-based) 6 years teaching at secondary school level Previously: Only worked in this school. Was a Learning Support Assistant for 2 years before training to be a teacher.

9 Pedagogies Jane: ‘Healthy Body, Healthy Mind: Writing to Analyse / Review / Comment’ WHAT Genre focus Teaches grammatical objectives as main aims e.g. “understand key terms that help to describe and analyse language, such as word classes” HOW Repeated pattern, consisting of: Explicit explanation of grammatical term / pupils write definitions Pupil exercise identifying term (e.g. abstract nouns) Analysis / annotation of text models for grammatical feature Discussion of effects of the grammatical feature, linked to genre / purpose Pupils write in the style of the text model VARIATION Speaking and listening activities debating issues from the texts analysed

10 Pedagogies Clare:‘Inspirational Writing’ WHAT Creative / Personal Expression focus Grammar (sentence variety) is a ‘secondary’ or ‘hidden’ objective in places HOW Repeated pattern, consisting of: Introduction and discussion of stimulus material; idea-generation Students write [sometimes] Teacher reference to sentence variety & statement of effects Revision of writing [sometimes with attention to sentence variety] Peer / self-assessment of writing (initially focusing on gut reaction) VARIATION Stimulus material occasionally takes the form of a text model One activity explicit language focus: using inventive adjectives (e.g. “the silver wind” “the flinty wind”) – included discussion of effects

11 Pedagogies Clare Terminology ‘dropped in’ and glossed by the teacher Grammar only raised in relation to students’ own writing Limited use of models – students write then revise Teacher tends to state effects / recipe approach e.g. ‘adverbs at the start of a sentence grab attention’ Jane Explicit teaching of terminology Some decontextualised exercises (the grammar is put into context later) Close analysis of text models always comes before writing Extended open discussion of the nuances and effects of different words / sentence patterns in context

12 Contexts: School and Curriculum I was asked to write a scheme that would span about 12 lessons. I was asked to write a non-fiction writing scheme, developing students’ ability to analyse, review and comment, so I was given those 3, that triplet Clare: Loosely Controlled I was given the old-style objectives Jane: Tightly Controlled I didn’t want to think about objectives … it’s about them finding their own way there Nobody’s actually asked me what I’m doing. I don’t know if (a) they can’t be bothered or (b) they’re jealous but they don’t even ask me what’s going on in here. I could be teaching them French

13 Identity Jane: Collaborative / Team I wouldn’t have chosen to do this, I would never have done this, but that’s what I was told, or asked to do (referring to earlier project) to be honest a lot of the stuff that I’ve done here is very similar to the kind of stuff that we tend to teach anyway we do teach students word classes Clare: Rebellious / Individual I’m an art stroke music teacher parading around as an English teacher I’m just really bored with the kind of stuff that people do these days in secondary schools You’re not just some knobhead who comes in and just gets a lesson off the system and just stands there and delivers it. A monkey in a suit can do that I was a bit of a rebel really

14 Effects part of understanding is being able to talk about the effect that it produces Use of Models I couldn’t expect a student to write in a particular style if they hadn’t had any experience of it Terminology I still do genuinely wonder how useful it is for them to be given lots of grammatical terminology which they don’t really seem to understand that was the objective. It wouldn’t have been my natural choice Reflections on Pedagogy Jane

15 Pedagogical Knowledge (Reflecting on the central use of close analysis of text models before students write) I’m just trying to think of an alternative approach there. What else could you do? I don’t know, I think maybe that’s the way I was taught, I don’t know, was that the way I was taught to teach? I don’t know. I don’t know why I chose to do that. Jane Reflections on Pedagogy

16 Crafting after Ideas I would only approach that kind of thing after they’ve already thought about it, they’ve already used their imaginations, and now it’s, it is a sort of recipe, it’s a tool to help them get those ideas down in a more sophisticated way Conceptions of ‘Grammar’ anything to do with creative writing is all based on grammar… they’re taught rigorously how to correctly paragraph and use sentences … Need to Contextualise I haven’t got a problem with grammar if it is taught within the context of something. Clare Reflections on Pedagogy

17 Affective factors / values I wanna produce writers The writing isn’t about letters and newspapers, it’s about seeing something or experiencing something and you just wanna get it down on paper I’m teaching these kids the way I wish that I’d been taught Reflections on Pedagogy Clare

18 Jane Constraints Linguistic Subject Knowledge: I’m not sure that I’d get the answers that I’d want, and maybe I wouldn’t be confident enough to say ‘you’re wrong’ or ‘I’m wrong’ School / Department: You’ve got to toe the line… you all have to teach the same thing… people become institutionalized Linguistic Subject Knowledge: I wouldn’t say that my own knowledge of grammar is particularly good, so I’d just teach them what I feel comfortable with and it seems, that that is enough Time Resources (Interactive Whiteboard; Availability of ICT)

19 Belief Change and Developing Pedagogy it’s not essential [to know the terminology] because, as you could see from looking at the students’ work, some of them that hadn’t understood the word classes could still do the task at the end I wouldn’t teach it in the same way It’s been really useful you being here because you’ve forced me to be much more reflective than I would normally be… school life doesn’t allow you time to reflect as much as you’d like to really. Jane

20 Implications: teaching grammar How grammar is taught is influenced by a range of factors linked to teachers’ beliefs, identity, and linguistic and pedagogical knowledge including: How teachers position themselves in relation to the curriculum and their departments / schools: “how teachers learn from policy is closely connected to who they are” (Stritikus 2003:49) Wider educational aims and values Different conceptions of ‘grammar teaching’ Uncertainty about the value of some aspects (particularly relating to terminology) Teacher linguistic subject knowledge Knowledge of the full range of pedagogical approaches to teaching grammar

21 Implications: Beliefs & Practice Reciprocal development (about what and how to teach) Are affective aspects (Clare) more resistant to change? (Rokeach 1968) Influence of ‘high-control’ curricula and ‘tightly-framed’ pedagogies (Lam & Kember 2006 )

22 References Andrews, R., Torgerson, C., Beverton, S., Freeman, A., Locke, T., Low,G., Robinson, A., & Zhu, D. (2006) ‘The effect of grammar teaching on writing development.’ British Educational Research Journal 32, (1) 39–55. Borg, S. & Burns, A. (2008) ‘Integrating Grammar in Adult TESOL Classrooms.’ Applied Linguistics 29 (3) 456–482 Clark, U (2005) ‘Bernstein’s theory of pedagogic discourse: Linguistics, educational policy and practice in the UK English/literacy classroom’ English Teaching: Practice and Critique 4 (3) 32-47 Lam, B-H & Kember, D. (2006) ‘The relationship between conceptions of teaching and approaches to teaching.’ Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, 12 (6) December 693–713 Pajares, F. (1992) ‘Teachers' Beliefs and Educational Research: cleaning up a messy construct.’ Review of Educational Research 62 (3) 307-332 Rokeach, M. (1968) Beliefs, attitudes, and values: a theory of organization and change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Stritikus, T. (2003) ‘The Interrelationship of Beliefs, Context, and Learning: the case of a teacher reacting to language policy.’ Journal of Language, Identity and Education 2 (1) 29–52

23 Thank You Annabel Watson University of Exeter, UK aw260@ex.ac.uk


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