Designing critical, humanizing writing instruction : exploring possibilities for positioning writers as designers




Land, Charlotte Lee

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The purpose of this study was to better understand how teachers across elementary, middle, and secondary grade-levels (re)imagine possibilities and translate them into critical, humanizing writing instruction. Across the study, I drew on sociocultural theories of identity, learning, and language while considering perspectives on interdisciplinary design, humanizing pedagogies, and teachers as curriculum-makers. Following multicase study and participatory design research traditions, I met with four teachers in a cross grade-level inquiry group and followed them into classrooms for one academic year. I generated data through recording conversations and teaching, creating fieldnotes, collecting artifacts, and conducting interviews with teachers and students. I analyzed data using inductive qualitative analysis and then, using theory alongside emerging findings, selected examples to closely examine using discourse analytic methods. The following questions guided this study’s design and analysis: How do teachers in a cross grade-level inquiry group (re)design humanizing writing instruction together? What aspects of writing and writing instruction are most visible in teachers' discussion about design and writing? And how do teachers’ discussions of design and writing translate into their classroom practice? Analysis revealed that teachers’ inquiry group discussions explored connections between design and writing while reflecting on current writing instruction and ways teachers and students were positioned within schools. Co-constructing this “figured world” made space to reimagine possibilities and reframe constraints as design conditions. As teachers took up design work, they also appropriated narratives of students that illustrated the “love, faith, and humility” Freire (1970/2005, p. 91) noted as necessary for collective effort towards humanization. The findings also highlighted the emergence of purpose and audience as central concepts for rethinking writing and writing instruction. These terms were redefined within the group space to include embedded subject positions for students as active designers. In classrooms, one teacher used these tools to transform units to center purpose and audience for writers; another used them as entry points into new practices and subject positions within her growing critical, humanizing writing pedagogy. Overall, findings contribute to understandings of generative, humanizing teacher learning experiences for teachers and for researchers/teacher educators. Additionally, findings suggest tenets for enacting critical, humanizing writing instruction.


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