Re-viewing writing: Teacher and learner perspectives in three adult literacy classrooms

Mary O'Donnell Russell, University of Pennsylvania


The focus of this study is on the perspectives on writing that teachers and learners bring to the adult basic literacy classroom. The argument of the study is that we need to consider what we need to know about teaching writing to adults, and that a productive way of acquiring that knowledge is to look systematically at what teachers and learners think about it as they engage in the process. While the study focuses on the teaching of adult basic literacy learners, the questions and issues raised have application to other groups of “novice” writers as well—those seeking higher education, improved workplace opportunities, or a better understanding of their children's needs. The study utilizes a collaborative process framework through which teacher participants explored two models of how writing might be learned and taught. Model 1, the “distributed expertise” model, is based on the concepts of cognitive research, and explores the teaching of writing from a skills acquisition perspective. Model 2, the inquiry model based on the methods of practitioner research and inquiry, explores the teaching of writing from a practice perspective. Approaching the teaching of writing from these two different perspectives highlights not only their theoretical differences in concepts of teacher learning, but in the kinds of knowledge that might be generated through the two processes. The study is situated in the classroom, and explores how theories on adult learning, teacher learning, and knowledge creation intersect in the context of practice. The data for the study include student and teacher pre- and post-interviews, samples of student writing, transcripts of meetings and teacher-learner conferences, and background data. The kind of information about learner perspectives that emerged from this study can help teachers to address a number of problems that arise from misconceptions about learning to write. This study also explores strategies that may assist teacher educators to integrate theory and practice through applying research in the classroom, providing contrasting models and concepts for consideration, and using collaborative process and inquiry to investigate those models.

Subject Area

Adult education|Continuing education|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Russell, Mary O'Donnell, "Re-viewing writing: Teacher and learner perspectives in three adult literacy classrooms" (2001). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3014303.