A symbolic interactionist account of secondary teachers' perspectives on literacy: A focus on writing

Doctoral Studies Completed Theses – 2014 Archive

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Elizabeth Kim

PhD thesis, conferred 2014

Despite the general acknowledgement that writing is an indispensable literacy skill, prior studies have identified significant discrepancies between what is expected of teachers by research and literacy policies intended to guide their practice and the teaching and learning of writing in secondary schools. This is highly concerning because studies have found that both teachers and students face an increased likelihood of developing apprehension about writing, low levels of writing proficiency and disengagement from learning.

Guided by the assumption that teachers’ perspectives influence and shape student learning experiences and have a significant impact on what and how students learn, this study explored the lived experiences of ten secondary school teachers from a New South Wales Government school. In order to examine and document the individual voices and Lebenswelt of the teachers, this study drew on the theoretical assumptions of symbolic interactionism imbued with sociological phenomenology. Through semi-structured interviews as the principal method of data collection, this study did not take for granted the relationship between literacy, writing and literacy policies. Instead, by building on the teachers’ perspectives, interpretations and definitions of these terms, the study illuminated the assumptions underpinning teachers’ pedagogical practices and also the myriad factors contributing to discrepancies between research, policies and practice.

The study brought to light concerns about what is taken for granted as well as what is perceived or not perceived by teachers, researchers and policymakers. Although writing is an aspect of literacy, the teachers’ descriptive accounts suggested that teachers do not always perceive a teacher of literacy as a teacher of writing. Overall, the study’s findings highlighted the need for more effective communication between teachers, researchers and policymakers to redress misalignments between research, policies and practice.

Supervisor: Dr Lesley Scanlon