Teacher perceptions of gender

Early in the research when teachers were asked to identify reluctant writers in their class a common feature was teachers' tendency to name only boys. The gendered identity of the reluctant writers was questioned with reference to research in gender studies which suggests girls tend to subvert teacher directed learning by means of covert behaviour. Even though girls were included in the final sample, boys outnumbered girls on a ratio of 2:1.

Physical factors: sensory, motor

For adults, it is easy to forget that writing is a physical process. Several younger pupils in the study had difficulty containing their work on a single sheet of paper because their diagrams and writing tended to be too large. It was felt that this would improve over time as these pupils refined their fine-motor control and spatial awareness. One teacher noted;

'It made me realise how impediments such as poor fine-motor skills and spelling impact on writing.'

Cognitive processes

The following is drawn from the literature providing the foundations for the study. See Gardner( xx) for details. Writing involves the integration of complex mental operations such as memory, motor-control, creativity and language processing. Poor orthographic memory or an inability to correctly spell a new word in the pupil's developing vocabulary can significantly constrain writing because of the pupil's fear of making a mistake. As a result the writer resorts to a repertoire of familiar words.

Pedagogic factors

This set of factors covers methods of teaching, teacher attitudes to writing and thinking about children as writers. One teacher, with wide experience of schools over many years, stated that children taught by the method of 'emergent writing' were generally more motivated to write than children in classrooms where secretarial or transcription skills are privileged over compositional ones, thereby leaving children with the view that writing is primarily concerned with the skills of handwriting, spelling and punctuation.

Context - Influencing factors

The project investigated possible factors that might influence a propensity towards a child's reluctance to write. Five factors were identified. A central feature is the child's feeling about writing and self view as a writer.

Identification - characteristic behaviours

The following characteristics may indicate that a pupil needs help to overcome barriers to writing (not all pupils will exhibit all these characteristics):

Reluctant writers

A reluctant writer is one who experiences one or more barriers to the writing process on a regular basis. Barriers may be exhibited during the process of writing as well as, or instead of, the start of the process. In addition, a reluctant writer may be defined as one whose writing is habitually superficial, either because ideas are not expanded or because the writing is executed in haste. Before identifying a pupil as a reluctant writer careful observation is required to differentiate between characteristics of reluctance and compositional styles.

Writing: Reluctant Writers

Reluctant writers: Image

Increased use of technology for learners across all subjects

The volume of technology use in a school expands significantly when students have a personal iPad but more importantly its use to support learning in lessons on a daily basis also increases enabling teachers to plan new and more creative types of activities they could not previously adopt.

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