Design and implementation of appreciative writing assessment in secondary English Language Arts classrooms




Warrington, Amber Sharron

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The purpose of this dissertation was to explore with English Language Arts (ELA) teachers how to design and implement appreciative (Bomer, 2011) approaches to writing assessment in secondary ELA classrooms. This study aimed to counter deficit (Paris, 2012; Valencia, 1997) approaches to assessment that focus on perceived errors in students’ writing. I drew on theories that explain the ways discourse shapes knowledge (Foucault, 1970; Gee, 2014) and identities (Gee, 2014; Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner, & Cain, 1998) in powerful and often hidden ways. These theories facilitated my analyses of the ways in which discourses around writing assessment positioned (Davies & Harré, 1990; Holland et al., 1998) students in deficit (Paris, 2012; Valencia, 1997) or appreciative (R. Bomer, 2011) ways. This research was guided by formative experiment design (Reinking & Bradley, 2008) and case study methods (Yin, 2014). The study consisted of two phases: Phase 1: Collaborative design between the researcher and teacher-participants of an appreciative writing assessment; Phase 2: Teachers’ implementation of the writing assessment in their classrooms. Making use of qualitative, ethnographic methods (Marshall & Rossman, 2011), I collected data around teachers’ design within an inquiry group as well as two teachers’ implementation of the design within their ELA classrooms. I analyzed all data using an inductive approach of qualitative data analysis (Miles, Huberman, & Saldaña, 2014). Analysis revealed that the inquiry group of teachers and myself approached the task of design by constructing a shared repertoire (Wenger, 1998) of concepts, texts, tools, and discourses that served as resources for the negotiation of meaning around appreciative writing assessment. The inquiry group elaborated on appreciative discourses to design a writing assessment that positioned student writers as knowledgeable, in a process of growth, and authorities capable of assessing their own writing and growth. The inquiry group also used physical tools to reify the discourses upon which teachers drew and visualize how these larger discourses could shape classroom practice. To explore the ways in which teachers implemented the writing assessment in their classrooms, I focused on the case of one teacher. As the teacher implemented the inquiry group’s framework document, she redesigned related classroom practices, specifically, writing instruction that focused on student-led genre study, increased peer dialogue within the classroom community, and students’ roles as co-designers of assessment. This study contributes to the literature on classroom writing assessment as well as literature on resource pedagogies (Paris & Ball, 2009) and a multiliteracies pedagogy (New London Group, 1996) that demonstrate ways that teachers can draw on students’ strengths and resources in curriculum and instruction. Furthermore, this study points to teachers’ roles as designers of curriculum, instruction, and assessment in both formative experiment research studies and in schools.


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