Finding your voice: A critical investigation, using approaches drawn from action research, into the use of dialogue and discussion to support A-Level students’ production of sophisticated academic writing

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Lopez, Lauren
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Educational Level
ISCED Level 3 Upper secondary education
Geographical Setting
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Background and purpose: A-Level Literature students’ constant use of structured scaffolding techniques had resulted in limited analysis and exploration in their academic writing.

Aims: This study investigates the use of dialogue and discussion to support A-Level Literature students’ production of sophisticated academic writing.

Methodology: My investigation draws upon approaches from action research, using McNiff’s (2016) ‘action-reflection’ model. This research consists of a two-phase enquiry, with the initial phase investigating students’ experience of the teaching of academic writing throughout secondary school, and the second phase entailing the crafting of a lesson intervention to investigate the impact of dialogic teaching strategies in the teaching of academic writing. A qualitative methodology which is underpinned by a constructivist ontology and interpretivist epistemology adheres to the personalised nature of academic writing and dialogic strategies.

Findings: The 15 Year 12 Literature students involved in the study, recalled their experiences of the teaching of academic writing throughout secondary school as involving predominantly teacher-led lessons and an overwhelming use of structured scaffolds. This influenced students’ attainment as they struggled to craft coherent arguments and explore their ideas, in addition to stifling their confidence and independence. Through the second phase of my action research investigation, promising evidence emerged that dialogue and discussion has the potential to transform students’ attitude towards academic writing. 80% of students in the research group saw their grades increase or remain within the A-A* bracket as a result of the dialogic intervention. The intervention granted students the confidence and independence needed to explore texts critically and creatively through the means of academic writing, thus creating ‘informed, personal responses’ (AQA, 2021). These findings have been summarised in ‘The Maximus Model of Academic Writing’ (Model 2).

Conclusions, originality, value and implications: This study indicated the need to move away from structured scaffolds in the teaching of academic writing, particularly in the KS5 classroom. Dialogic strategies offer a promising alternative, by inviting detailed analysis and exploration by encouraging students to share their ideas and perspectives, while considering those of their peers. This approach allows for complex thought and personalised scaffolding, thus aiding in the development of written composition.
Keywords (free text)
dialogic education , discussion , academic writing , A-level English Literature , independence
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