Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

Middle School Students' Perspectives of and Responses to Strategic Revision Instruction

Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

Middle School Students' Perspectives of and Responses to Strategic Revision Instruction

Article excerpt


The 2007 and 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress data indicate that a significant percentage of American students struggle with writing. In 2007, only 35% of eighth grade students performed at or above the proficient level and in 2011, only 27% of eighth graders reached this goal. A consistent and significant achievement gap exists: white students outperform Black and Hispanic students; females outperform males; and students who do not qualify for free and reduced lunch outperform those who do. This disparity has significant implications; writing is a "threshold skill" (National Commission on Writing for America's Families, School, and Colleges, 2004, p. 3) for both employment and promotion. Further, the Common Core standards (National Governors Association & Council of Chief School Officers, 2010) provide a new emphasis on writing instruction with ten writing standards explicitly devoted to preparing students for college and career writing demands. Standards, assessment, and accountability have been named the "most powerful drivers of education systems" (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2013) indicating increased assessment pressure on writing and posing challenges for teachers previously working under the reading and math emphasis of the No Child Left Behind Act. These national reports and reform initiatives reveal a critical need for effective writing instruction that can empower struggling adolescents.

Research indicates that the writing workshop "has become the prominent paradigm for the teaching of writing in the United States" (Harris, Graham, & Mason, 2006, p. 300). Although there is no single definition of the writing workshop classroom, general characteristics include: teaching writing as a process; writing for real audiences; high levels of student choice, interaction, and ownership; examination of model texts; teacher modeling with a focus on writing craft; and classroom publishing (Atwell, 1998; Fletcher & Portalupi, 2001, 2007; Portalupi & Fletcher, 2001; Pritchard & Honeycutt, 2006; Ray, 1999). Composing, drafting, and revising texts, inherent parts of the workshop approach, are also emphasized by the Common Core standards. Writing standard five requires students to "develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach" (National Governors Association & Council of Chief State School Officers, Standard 5, 2010). Taken as a whole, all ten standards require students use a process approach to write a range of texts for a variety tasks and purposes and establish the goal of teaching students to compose complex texts independently by the end of high school. Revision is essential in helping students leam to write independently because it pushes students to critically consider the effectiveness of their work, yet research indicates that revision is frequently overlooked by students and teachers (MacArthur, 2013; Witte, 2013). This study used a pragmatic approach to examine the experiences of one eighth grade teacher and five of her students during instruction designed to foster independent revision behaviors.

I begin with a discussion of the research surrounding teaching revision and share the theoretical framework guiding the research design. I then present findings from this qualitative research project and conclude with a discussion of implications for teachers, teachereducators, and future research.

A Well-Established Challenge: Teaching Revision

The extant literature about revision acknowledges the cognitive demands of the process, its underemphasis in classroom instruction, the ineffectual approaches of struggling students, and its inextricable relationship with reading skills (Graham & Harris, 1993; Graham & Perrin, 2007a; Hayes & Flowers 1986; MacAruthur, 2013; Sommers, 1982; Witte, 2013). Studies of adult writers found that revision involves recognizing a dissonance between what is written and what is meant then using specific knowledge about genre, form, organization and idea development to make effective changes (Hayes & Flower, 1986; MacArthur, 2013; Sommers, 1982). …

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