Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies ETDs

Publication Date

1-29-2009

Abstract

This qualitative study examined how a group of 9, predominately white, middle-school writing teachers thought about struggling student writers and made sense of national and district policy mandates to close the racial and gender achievement gaps present in state test scores. Data from focus group discussions and one-on-one interviews revealed findings about the teachers interactions with school leadership, how they understood and acted upon achievement gaps in writing, and their collaboration as a team of educators. Confusion and frustration typified the teachers' interactions with school leadership as a number of top-down mandates through Professional Learning Teams and disappointing interactions regarding discipline issues failed to support teachers and seemed to run counter to the stated policy goals of closing the achievement gap. Similarly, lacking a coherent message from the leadership, teachers turned to their own conceptions of the role of teachers and education as they struggled to confront the achievement gap in writing. Here, the research participants sought to reframe the gap discourse in broader terms, yet failed to directly address the role of white privilege that operated in the group. These themes intersected in the group's discussion about collaboration. While, at the end of the project, participants clearly desired greater collaboration among their team of writing teachers, they also indicated that the school's tracking system, which impacted both teachers and students, presented daunting challenges to deeper teamwork. The researcher placed these findings within context of the literature in a number of fields, including the gender achievement gap, the teaching of writing, teacher perception of policy, as well as supportive leadership styles, school discipline, critiques of the gap discourse, the role of white privilege, collaboration, and tracking. Ultimately, the findings pointed to the importance of more reflective, collegial conversations—among teachers, as well as between teachers and administrators. The researcher concludes with an argument for the importance of helping teachers develop the capacity to address how issues of identity impact pedagogy, and suggests that the recursive cycles of practitioner action research present one possible way to build this capacity, enhance collaboration, and improve practice towards the goal of heightening student performance.'

Keywords

Sex differences in education

Document Type

Dissertation

Language

English

Degree Name

Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies

Level of Degree

Doctoral

Department Name

Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies

First Advisor

Noll, Betsy

First Committee Member (Chair)

Roberts, Shelley

Second Committee Member

Maguire, Patricia

Third Committee Member

Pence, Penny

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