Writing: Unfinished Business? Back to Finding out What Actually Works in Teaching Writing: John Dixon, Author of the Seminal Growth through English (1967), Traces the History of Research into Student Writing and Suggests a Post-Strategy Return to a Developmental Model
Dixon, John, English Drama Media
Tracing development: a new problematic of the Sixties
In a sense it's obvious that during the years of schooling (and beyond) each of us traces a path of development, as participants in discussion, as writers, viewers, readers and producers--as social thinkers and contributors to an expanding world in which our mother tongue plays a central role. Equally obviously, the class teacher in primary school has a wonderful opportunity to observe these processes in all their complexity, and the specialist in English who follows a class through a few of the secondary years can get repeated glimpses of what's going on. Not surprisingly, then, in the 1960s a developmental model for English got widespread support; indeed, Frank Whitehead, then chair of NATE, produced a critical paper demonstrating the intrinsic value of this model as compared with any others currently available (1).
OK for the general model, but what evidence had we in the Sixties of the way individuals and groups actually developed in their uses of the mother tongue? Most of us could recall moments in class when a student or group manifestly moved on a step, but there was no collection of, say, their writing over a period of years to help us place and study what was happening. In fact, at the time, I don't think any of us realised the complexity and scope of researching writing development--to take just the simplest strand in terms of access to evidence.
Besides, in the mid-Sixties, there was no compelling model for writing, as a social process for thinking, recording, reflecting, arguing ... imagining, and more. This was one of the first facts to hit the London Writing Research group, set up by Schools Council to map writing development in the secondary years, 11-18. Their initial seminars in 1966-7 (which I was invited to …
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Publication information: Article title: Writing: Unfinished Business? Back to Finding out What Actually Works in Teaching Writing: John Dixon, Author of the Seminal Growth through English (1967), Traces the History of Research into Student Writing and Suggests a Post-Strategy Return to a Developmental Model. Contributors: Dixon, John - Author. Magazine title: English Drama Media. Issue: 18 Publication date: October 2010. Page number: 10+. © 2008 National Association for the Teaching of English. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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