Daily Writing in the Content Areas: A Look at How Secondary Teachers Explain Their Experiences with Writing Integration
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Examinations of adolescent literacy practice over the last 10 years have illuminated the significance of an integrated approach to literacy and content area instruction (Bean, 2000; Applebee & Langer, 2013; IRA, 2012). Considering writing specifically, writing in the content areas has positively impacted both students’ writing quality and their disciplinary understandings (Graham & Perin, 2007). Despite this, recent years have not shown increases in writing time or depth in the secondary classroom (Applebee & Langer, 2011a; Gilbert & Graham, 2010). Using a multicase study design (Yin, 2014) informed by sociocultural theory (Vygotsky, 1978) and zone theory (Goos, 2005), this study explored commonalities across the reflections of teachers who integrate writing daily. Four secondary teachers participated in the study, one from each primary content area. Collected over one academic quarter (10 weeks and approximately 50 instructional days), multiple data sources provided an in-depth look at each case – initial meeting notes, surveys, instructional logs, written reflections, journal prompts, observation protocols, and interview transcripts. A four-phase iterative process to thematic analysis was employed to find patterns and relationships among the four teachers’ experiences with writing integration, as well as constraints and affordances related to writing integration and sustainment (Merriam, 1998; Stake, 2006). Findings revealed that teachers who integrate daily writing valued the student benefits of writing integration – independence on writing tasks, disciplinary understanding, and future preparation. The teachers also faced various challenges related to writing integration, which involved both internal conflicts and instructional dilemmas. Lastly, the teachers recognized the pedagogical benefits of writing integration, including better understanding their students’ learning processes and planning instruction more attentively. Dismantling dichotomies related to literacy in the content areas, teachers negotiated the seemingly productive tensions around writing integration and prioritized their students in their decision making.