The portfolio-culture classroom: revealing writers through reflection
Pearse, Stephen James
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This study uses ethnographic methodology to investigate the role 'portfolio-culture'-based instruction plays regarding high school expository writing students' understandings about writing (processes and products), as well as their beliefs and understandings about themselves as writers. The discovery of meaning for high school writers of the nature and significance of what they learn, do, and understand is the central focus. This qualitative, comparative case study was conducted with the intent of illustrating, interpreting, and discovering--as opposed to testing--hypotheses. Two sections (classes) of a pre-college, single-semester course taught concurrently serve as the sites for the study; embedded within each site are multiple case studies of three student-writers whose understandings of writing and of themselves as writers constitute the study's units of analysis. At each site, cases include a lower, middle-, and high-achieving student-writer.Data sources include questionnaires, structured and unstructured interviews, and additional reflective documents. Interpreted according to pattern analysis, student-writer reflections were transcribed, coded, and categorized according to four themes: (1) identities as writers, (2) characteristic writing procedures, (3) writer growth and self-assessment, and (4) understandings of the nature of effective writing. Findings include portfolio-culture students' more specific and frequent talk about their approaches to and strategies for writing, their different use of peer feedback, and their greater acknowledgment of the contributions that classroom activities and personal effort--as opposed to innate ability--make to their respective accomplishments. In addition, the lower-achieving portfolio-culture student expressed a considerably higher degree of confidence in herself as a writer than did her more traditionally-instructed peer. Findings suggest that instruction emphasizing 'sustained engagement'--a recursive process of perceiving, producing, and reflecting--significantly contributes to student-writers' identities, attitudes, and understandings. In addition, study results support claims that the portfolio-culture approach to writing instruction contributes positively to students' sense of control and responsibility, as well as to their ability to apply reflections to future practice.
- Education - Seattle