Research Project 7
Adolescent Males: Developing students into prolific, powerful and confident writers!
Kathy Porteous's research has been included in a 2010 International Boys' School Coalition Action Research Report entitled Ready, Willing and Able: Boys & Writing.
How can we help boys become prolific, powerful and confident writers?
In what way can the use of an online discussion board help senior Upper School boys become more prolific, confident, and powerful writers?
We live in a fast-paced world where information is at boys' fingertips and accessible information is updated by the second. Similarly, much of the written information that boys receive, especially electronically, is fact-efficient and language-truncated. Given this, it is still necessary for boys to understand that effective writing is not instant, it takes time and it is hard work. It is important for boys see the value of their own written words and to honour their thoughts by choosing the best words with which to express them.
The English classroom is a place that is rich in the exploration of ideas as well as abundant in its oral discourse. However as Elliot Eisner states in his work, The Kinds of Schools We Need (1998), "There is nothing so slippery as a thought." Perhaps some of those rich ideas and thoughts are not fully developed in oral discourse. It is also conceivable that not all boys’ ideas are heard as the discussion changes course and often discussion threads are left loose. Certainly, writing ideas down can help to give those "slippery thoughts" a more sure footing in the boys’ minds.
The use of a discussion board will allow boys to respond to the comments by their peers on their own time and out of chronological order. The rationale behind using a discussion board as an intervention in the writing process is evident through the following questions:
- How will an online discussion board help boys to flesh out their ideas with respect to a topic more thoroughly thereby leading to more prolific writing?
- How will written responses and feedback from their peers and teacher help strengthen their convictions by forcing them to adjust their thinking or defend their ideas thereby leading to greater confidence in their writing?
- How will having to explain themselves in writing force boys to search for appropriate (possibly more powerful) vocabulary? and then how does this translate into their writing in general?
The research will be qualitative. The boys will be asked to participate in the project and to make comments on the intervention. They will also be asked to be meta-cognitive with respect to their own writing. It is important to hear the boys’ own voices as they reflect and make comments on writing and the intervention. Consent to participate is voluntary, will be explained to both the boys and their parents and will follow informed consent procedures as outlined through institutional review board principles found at research universities such as the University of Toronto.
Two grade 11 classes (16 and 17 years of age) and approximately 30 students. Although this is a larger sample than is often found in qualitative research, the amount of contact time with the boys as well as the culture of the school makes this approach feasible and beneficial.
Data Collection Methods:
Observation/field notes, surveys, journal writing, anecdotal writing, video-taping small group and individual interview/feedback discussions, personal writing from students
Data Analysis Methods:
Thematic analysis garnered from the various data collection methods through triangulation and cross-checking.
Validity and Reliability Checks:
- The use of various data collection methods will support validity of the results.
- Students will be given the opportunity to review the results as it applies to each and to confirm or comment upon them through debrief sessions.
- Personal biases will be made clear to the reader in order to differentiate between opinion, research results and consequent impact upon recommendations.