WAC, WID and WHY writing can contribute to professional development for teachers

Lillis, Carmel and Farrell, Alison (2017) WAC, WID and WHY writing can contribute to professional development for teachers. Literacy News, Spring.


At all levels of education, reading and writing matter. In Reading News,
unsurprisingly, many articles are published about reading, not least because of the
essential nature of reading in all our formal education systems. Occasionally,
colleagues contribute to this publication on the topic of writing. Valerie, Kurkjian
and Turner in Reading News Autumn 2014 begin with the bold statement ‘Writing
helps’ (12). They continue, ‘We need our students to develop as readers, writers,
and thinkers … Writing helps our students to accomplish [the] Herculean tasks’ of
becoming problem solvers, good citizens, and individuals who can positively engage
with content (12). Valerie et al. also comment on process: ‘To become effective
writers, students need myriad opportunities to develop their craft’ (12). We agree
with them and commend their National Writing Project work. We assert that writing
is a key component of students’ lives and also of their education particularly when it
comes to assessment within formal education setting. This is certainly the situation
in higher education, where much assessment in text orientated disciplines, for
example, English, History, Sociology, Anthropology, Classics, etc., can be almost
entirely through either a written exam or written assignments of one type or
another. Outside of education settings and in the world of work, writing continues
to matter. Deborah Brandt in her 2015 book The Rise of Writing. Redefining Mass
Literacy, notes that ‘While until recently it would have been difficult to fathom how
people could be writing more than reading, it is indeed happening for many’ (3-4).
She notes that ‘For perhaps the first time in the history of mass literacy, writing
seems to be eclipsing reading as the literate experience of consequence’ (3).
The piece of research that we report on here exists against this landscape of mass
authorship. In this research, the students are also teachers in the formal sense of
their professional lives. Our work is based on our experience of integrating more inclass
and out of class writing into a Level 9 programme for teachers; we wanted to
assess the various impacts of additional, low-risk writing for participants, not least in
terms of their understanding of the course material.

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