English Teaching: Practice and Critique

The influence of of peer group response: Building a teacher and student expertise in the writing classroom

Volume 10 Number 4 December 2011

Stephanie Dix (Faculty of Education, University of Waikato)

Gail Cawkwell (University of Waikato, New Zealand)

New Zealand students in the middle and upper school achieve better results in reading than they do in writing. This claim is evident in national assessment data reporting on students’ literacy achievement. Research findings also state that teachers report a lack of confidence when teaching writing. Drawing on the National Writing Project developed in the USA, a team of researchers from the University of Waikato (New Zealand) and teachers from primary and secondary schools in the region collaborated to “talk” and “do” writing by building a community of practice. The effects of writing workshop experiences and the transformation this has on teachers’ professional identities, self-efficacy, and their students’ learning provided the research focus. This paper draws mostly on data collected during the first cycle of the two-year project. It discusses the influence of peer group response – a case study teacher’s workshop experiences that transformed her professional identity, building her confidence and deepening her understandings of self as writer and ultimately transforming this expertise into her writing classroom practice.