The influence of social practices on student decision-making and identity during writing




Philips, Sara

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The purpose of this study was to understand how children construct identity and made decisions during the writing time (writer's workshop) in our first-grade classroom. The theoretical framework for the study was literacy learning as a social practice where children and teachers form Discourse communities. Within those communities children enact identities related to literacy.

Through working with children for a year with the goal of creating a writing community, the teacher/researcher conducted a three strand approach for analysis addressing the following research question during her final three months of the school year: How do different social practices influence children's decision-making and identity construction related to writing? Data included transcripts of audio tapes, field notes, student interviews, writing artifacts, and a reflexive research journal. After identifying the shared and relevant social practices, a constant comparative analysis revealed patterns in decision-making. Finally, a micro-ethnographic approach to discourse analysis was used to examine specific events related to decision-making and identity.

Outcomes indicate the social practices were defined by the type of writing (free-writing or non-fiction) and teacher presence within the social context of the event. Within the social practices, when and what to share and how to construct a text comprised student decisions. The students constructed identities related to the type of writing and whether or not the teacher was a participant in the social practice. Free writing generated a sense of power and an identity as a "storyteller". Children asserted power by resisting when writing related to nonfiction and enacted the identity of "teacher" when sharing non-fiction topics. Finally, the teacher's identity related to power and the purpose of the social practices influenced how children constructed their identity as a writer.



Education, Decision-making, Identity construction, Literacy, Social practices, Writing, Elementary education, Decision making models, Child psychology, Writing instruction