Academic journal article International Journal of Applied Educational Studies

Attitudes toward Writing in Fifth Grade Students Preparing for State-Mandated Writing Exam

Academic journal article International Journal of Applied Educational Studies

Attitudes toward Writing in Fifth Grade Students Preparing for State-Mandated Writing Exam

Article excerpt

Review of the Literature

Writing apprehension is defined as "a general avoidance of writing and of situations perceived by the individual to potentially require some amount of writing accompanied by the potential for evaluation of that writing" (Daly and Miller, 1975). Early findings from research on writing apprehension have resulted in generalized and widely accepted perceptions concerning avoidance of writing tasks. People who experience writing apprehension report negative attitudes toward writing in general (Aikman, 1985). Writers characterized as apprehensive report fear of being exposed as poor writers and embarrassment because of their perceived lack of ability. Apprehension and avoidance of writing is similar to the fear of oral communication and public speaking experienced by a large percentage of the population and a parallel exists between apprehensive writers and anxious public speakers (Aikman, 1985). Research in the field of writing apprehension flourished after the publication of the Daly-Miller Writing Scale in 1975. Rigorous instrument development resulted in the valid, reliable, 26-item rating scale with items modeled after those used to measure apprehension of oral communication and public speaking. The relative simplicity to administer and score the instrument contributed to its popularity and widespread use. The Daly-Miller Writing Scale has been revised for use with younger subjects (Silverman & Zimmerman, 1982) but additional writing scales for elementary grades are now being developed for use by researchers as well as classroom teachers (Kear, Coffman, McKenna & Ambrosio, 2000).

Studies on writing apprehension have been conducted on various populations within the U.S. including college students (Onwuegbuzie, 1998), teachers (Claypool, 1980), and children (Millard, 2001), as well as with subjects from other countries (Cornwell & McKay, 1999). More recently, the influence of writing apprehension on English Language Learners (Steinman, 2007) and at-risk students (Schweiker-Marra & Marra, 2000) has become a focus of research.

In general, the research shows that negative attitudes toward writing result in predictable behaviors such as tasks or assignments requiring writing are habitually late or never completed (Aikman, 1985) while writers reporting less stress over writing tasks, produce higher quality work (Petrosko, Kaiser, and Dietrick, 1984) including the areas of theme development (Auten, 1983), using adverbs and adjectives (Daly 1978), and length of compositions (Book, 1976).

Millar (2001) identified differences between boys' and girls' attitudes toward writing in a small-scale study of 18 girls and 17 boys. Girls were more likely to report they enjoy school writing and choose to write for their own purposes at home. Girls were also more confident in writing in a variety of genres including letters and diaries than were boys. In contrast, boys cited drawing and writing involving computers as purposes for writing more frequently than story writing. They also preferred to include more action in their writing while girls preferred more detailed descriptions of people and places. Boys reported a desire to draw as a method of prewriting and expressed frustration over the procedure of requiring writing to be done before illustrating text. Boys as well as girls expressed anxiety over technical accuracy and neatness.

Studies on writing apprehension reveal personal attitudes toward writing have a profound trickle-down effect for those who choose teaching as a career. Studies on writing apprehension have shown 1) a significant correlation between writing apprehension and scholastic achievement, specifically grades (Seiler, Garrison, and Bookar, 1978; Powell, 1984), 2) attitudes toward writing influence academic and career decisions (Daly and Shamo, 1978), 3) a link between avoidance of writing and avoidance of writing instruction (Faigley, Witte, and Daly, 1981), and 4) writing apprehension effects self-image (Walsh, 1986). …

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