Essay-writing as social practice: Implications for work with

ADSHE Conference Workshop
Christine Carter June 2014
Background Problem
Mainstream social
practice approach
to writing
Our requirement to
relate writing
problems to dyslexia
Background problem
dilemmas of all
student writers
and dyslexiarelated factors
 Essay-writing and dyslexia
 Essay-writing as social practice: what does it mean?
 Outline of research study
 Issues for our practice
Essay-writing and dyslexia
 Connections with cognitive markers of dyslexia
 Doesn’t explain writing difference
 Interactions between genes, environment and
 Deficit/difference within the individual
 Dyslexia as culturally defined
 Focus on individual experience within different discourses
Essay-writing as social practice
 Ways we write emerge from social and cultural context
 Writing as culturally driven as opposed to a set of skills
 Less emphasis on cognitive activity and development
Essay-writing as social practice
 Social practices are the ways we act, speak, write, feel,
value, believe in particular settings
 Practices are regulated by surrounding discourses
 Writers are enabled or constrained differently in different
disciplinary discourses
Essay-writing as social practice
 Disciplinary discourses influence:
 how knowledge is constructed
 the kind of writing identity that is acceptable
 social relationships (with tutors, disciplinary ‘ways of being’,
other texts)
Much of this remains implicit
Essay-writing research
 To understand more about the writing differences
amongst this group
 To embed writers identified as dyslexic within a social
practice view of writing
Essay-writing research
 11 undergraduates from schools of archaeology, history
and philosophy
 7 identified as dyslexic, 4 not
Essay-writing research
Part 1
 Interest in how students experience essay writing, how
they identify as writers
 3 interviews per student: before; when ready to write an
essay; afterwards
Essay-writing research
Part 2
 Analysis of pre-writing plans (where done), evolving
essays and final version submitted
 Use of model of coherence to analyse global paragraph
and sentence structure
Essay-writing research
Coding framework
 Coding framework informed by ‘academic literacies’
(Ivanic and Lillis) and Burden’s thinking on ‘self-efficacy’
 Allows constellations of individual difference to be
articulated in an organised way
(See hand-out 1)
Essay-writing research
 Dyslexic difficulties mitigated or exacerbated by the
writing culture. Tacit agendas a problem for all
 Importance of meta-affective and meta-linguistic as well
as metacognitive (‘solution-finders’, ‘able to create
comfort zone’ ‘awareness of own language’)
 Need for more nuanced understanding of how students
structure essays
 Made visible dyslexia-related issues
Essay-writing research
 Compare with the national discourse:
 Writing as a skill
 Lack of skill can be remedied over time.
 Problems within the individual
 Emphasis on specialism
Implications for : a)content
b)concept of support
Content: How do the findings, as shown in hand-out 2,
affect the content and priorities of writing support?
Concept: How can we meet expectations about ‘specialist
dyslexia support’ and still meet our students’ actual
writing needs (hand-out 3)?

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