The will to write: Students' and teachers' perceptions of writing

Sarah McManus Nielsen, Florida International University


This study investigated the perceptions of writing among secondary and post-secondary students and their teachers. The focus was on students' writing philosophy and influences, perceptions of the writing process, and perceptions of student writing skills, high stakes assessment tests, and writing across the curriculum. An ethnographic case study was used to investigate the perceptions of writing among ten students and their English teachers in two high schools, a community college, and a university. To establish balance and ethnic plurality, seven females and three males representing the four large ethnic groups in South Florida—African American, Haitian American, European American and Latino—participated. During one four-month term, data from written samples of students' writing, formal and informal interviews, a student focus group, field notes, classroom observations, and a “think-aloud” protocol were collected. Four themes emerged. First, Florida's writing assessment test has a negative influence on students' perceptions of writing. Students' motivation and attitudes as well as their confidence in their abilities were affected by practice and preparation in “recital writing.” Second, writing is a vehicle of social and personal transformation. Students believed that writing is a mean to connect to others and to create change in schools and communities. Third, students lacked the ability to connect writing, thinking and learning. Although students and teachers agree with statements about this connection, students failed to see the relevance of thinking and learning through writing in current or future courses, or in their future careers. Finally, writing context, teachers, schools, peers and gender influenced writing perceptions. Students believed that their writing philosophy, writing process, and perceptions of writing in academia and in the workplace are connected to these five factors. The effect of the Florida writing test pervades students' and teachers' writing perceptions, making a stronger case for writing across the curriculum than previous research. Writing should help students see knowledge as interrelated, honor students' interests and values, and build relationships between and among students, schools and communities. In designing and implementing methods that support and sustain student writing, teachers should provide students with multiple opportunities to expand knowledge, learning, and connection through writing.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Language arts|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Nielsen, Sarah McManus, "The will to write: Students' and teachers' perceptions of writing" (2002). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3076652.