National Writing Project

A Snapshot of Writing Instruction in Middle Schools and High Schools

By: Judith A. Langer, Arthur Applebee
Publication: English Journal
Date: October 5, 2011

Summary: There have been many changes in policies and practices influencing the teaching of writing over the past 30 years—the advent of high-stakes testing, the press for evidence-based practice, and the availability of new technologies for writing and research.


Excerpt from Article

Clearly the 30 years since the previous national study have seen a great deal of development in teachers' conceptions of writing and its importance in learning. Across subject areas, teachers voice an understanding of the ways in which writing can contribute to learning, see writing as a valuable tool for assessing students' understanding, and in many cases see unique and particular roles that writing could play within their own disciplines.

At the same time, the actual writing that goes on in typical classrooms across the United States remains dominated by tasks in which the teacher does all the composing, and students are left only to fill in missing information, whether copying directly from a teacher's presentation, completing worksheets and chapter summaries, replicating highly formulaic essay structures keyed to the high-stakes tests they will be taking, or writing the particular information the teacher is seeking. Given the constraints imposed by high-stakes tests, writing as a way to study, learn, and go beyond—as a way to construct knowledge or generate new networks of understandings (Langer, Envisioning Knowledge, Envisioning Literature)—is rare."

Copyright © 2011 National Council of Teachers of English. Reprinted with Permission.
Applebee, Arthur N. and Langer, Judith A. "A Snapshot of Writing Instruction in Middle Schools and High Schools" English Journal 100.6 (2011): pp. 14-27.

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