Writing for Learning

January 10, 2017

 

Academic writing is believed to be essential to a student’s academic development – what about its impact on professional development in life-long learners?

 

Learning is a life-long process. Academic writing is an important strategy for learning and competency building. This study considers how using academic writing as well as feedback about the writing facilitated reflecting and learning about theoretical concepts and research results in a group of school leaders enrolled in a professional development course.

 

Relating academic writing and professional competence development

 

Two researchers from the Department of Education, associated with the Centre for the Science of Learning & Technology (SLATE), recently undertook a study to investigate the relationship between academic writing and professional competency. Researchers Helene Marie Kjærgård Eide and Astrid Tolo used a combination of socio-cultural and cognitive perspectives within writing research to study how formative assessment could affect professional development.

 

In particular, they used both writing assignments and interviews to assess whether the course’s writing activities would enable this group of adult learners to teach themselves; what aspects of feedback were perceived as being most important for competence development; and how the learning experiences could impact the students’ teaching and leadership activities back in their schools.

 

 

Eide and Tolo focussed on the learning potential of the school leader students: what types of feedback were most effective for their learning process? While the impact of writing on learning is well documented, Eide says that there are gaps in the research in this area between the theoretical aspects and the more practical ones. It is a gap that this study aimed to help address by integrating theory, research and reflection more closely. Through the writing of their own texts, the school leaders were better able to relate theory and research to their own reflections on practice and their professional role.

 

The school leader “students” found that being given precise feedback on their writing several times for each submission, at appropriate times over the course period, and in appropriate amounts was the most relevant to their learning. The hope is that this learning will be a “take home message” and that it will impact their own feedback processes with their staff and classrooms in their own schools. The action of writing about the material being learned involved the students becoming more active in their own learning and competency building.

 

This study identifies a need for more research and reflection on feedback in learning. This particular example involved higher education, and adult learners. However, the type of feedback, amount and timing are all issues that can be studied further. Other aspects can also be considered including, different feedback mechanisms relating to the age of learners, subject area (arts vs science, for example), different professional activities etc.

 

Read the article (in Norwegian; abstract in English)

 

 

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