Teachers’ and students’ metatalk about written text production and negotiation of concepts of writing
This symposium builds on recent research within writing pedagogy that focuses on the role of talk as a mediational tool for learning about writing” (Jesson et al. 2016:155). It takes a micro-analytic perspective on teachers’ and students’ interactions about written text production in primary and secondary classrooms. The aim is to uncover the interplay of different “discourses of writing” (Ivanič 2004) and the negotiation of concepts of writing (cf. Jesson et al. 2016) between teachers and learners.
Previous studies that have examined metatalk about written text production in (language) classrooms have enhanced our knowledge as to what aspects of writing are made relevant (e.g. lexical appropriateness, accuracy) for instance in peer interaction (Herder et al. 2018). Also, they point to the role of teachers’ professional knowledge and management of dialogic exchange (cf. Jesson et al. 2016; Myhill et al. 2016). Yet the question of how exactly teachers’ and learners’ understandings of writing are interactively brought about and individually appropriated by learners across learning situations, deserves further analysis.
Therefore, this symposium sets out to examine how children and teachers verbalize, negotiate and align underlying concepts and (tacit) norms of writing in actual sequences of metatalk on. In doing so, we assume that the “ways in which people talk about writing and learning to write, and the actions they take as learners, teachers and assessors” (Ivanič 2004:220) are instantiations of particular “discourses of writing and learning to write” (ibid.), and open up insights into processes of individual concept formation. The papers in the symposium will integrate (1) a longitudinal perspective on how teachers’ and students’ talk about linguistic decision-making in writing develops across time (Myhill), (2) a focus on reflective practices and instantiations of writing norms in collaborative writing among peers (Herder), and (3) a comparative analysis of concept formation in whole-class discussion with students’ group work (Morek). Our examinations on divergences and convergences in students’ and teachers’ talk about writing may contribute to a theory of the acquisition of writing skills that incorporates processes of negotiating and appropriating explicit and implicit learning offers in the language classroom.
Key words: metatalk, writing education, micro-analysis, classroom interaction, conceptual learning
Herder, Anke; Berenst, Jan; Glopper, Kees de; Koole, Tom (2018): Reflective practices in collaborative writing of primary school students. In: International Journal of Educational Research 90, S. 160–174.
Ivanič, Roz (2004): Discourses of Writing and Learning to Write. In: Language and Education 18 (3), S. 220–245.
Jesson, Rebecca; Fontich, Xavier; Myhill, Debra (2016): Creating dialogic spaces. Talk as a mediational tool in becoming a writer. In: International Journal of Educational Research 80, S. 155–163.
Myhill, Debra; Jones, Susan; Wilson, Anthony (2016): Writing conversations. Fostering metalinguistic discussion about writing. In: Research Papers in Education 31 (1), S. 23–44.
Prof. Dr. Miriam Morek
University of Duisburg-Essen
Department of German Language and Literature
University of Groningen
Center for Language und Cognition
Prof. Debra Myhill
University of Exeter
Graduate School of Education
Prof. Dr. Sören Ohlhus
University of Hildesheim
Department of German Language and Literature
- Debra A Myhill
Despite claims for the importance of the relationship between talk and writing, the learning relationship between talk and writing is relatively unexplored. This paper will report on a study which addresses through adoption of the concept of ‘metatalk’ from second language learning, where it is theorised as using language to reflect on language use in purposeful learning contexts where the relationships between form and meaning are explored. It is a ‘deeper level of attention’ which supports learners’ developing knowledge about the relationship ‘between meaning, form and function’ (Storch 2008:96). We have re-conceptualised metatalk for the L1 classroom, seeing it as talk about writing which helps to make visible the processes of linguistic decision-making in writing. Such metatalk creates opportunities for children to verbalise, explain and justify their linguistic decision-making writing as writers. In this way, children are supported in developing metalinguistic understanding of the subtle effects realised by different linguistic choices, and are better able to match linguistic choices with their authorial intentions for a piece of writing. Our re-conceptualisation also draws on the body of international research signalling the importance of dialogic talk as a tool for learning and participation in the classroom (Wells 2006; Alexander 2018) to think of metatalk about writing as dialogic metalinguistic talk (Myhill and Newman 2016).
The presentation draws on a data from a four-year funded longitudinal study, which traced how four classes (n=109) developed metalinguistic understanding about language choices in writing. The data set included: student writing samples, writing conversation interviews, and lesson audio and video recordings. This presentation draws on the lesson observation data (n=112). The analysis indicates that how the teacher orchestrates and facilitates dialogic metatalk is critical in shaping learning, particularly in moving young writers from merely echoing the teachers’ thinking in their responses to making independent, and autonomous language choices. The results also indicate that this kind of talk is not yet familiar in the teaching of writing. Overall, the outcomes point to the significance of high-quality classroom talk in supporting learners’ capacity to think metalinguistically about writing and to enact that thinking in the composing of text.
Alexander, R. (2018) Developing dialogic teaching: genesis, process, trial. Research Papers in Education ´
Myhill, D.A. and Newman, R. (2016) Metatalk: Enabling Metalinguistic Discussion about Writing International Journal of Education Research. 80 (177-187)
Storch, N. (2008) Metatalk in a Pair Work Activity: Level of Engagement and Implications for Language Development, Language Awareness, 17:2, 95-114
Wells, G. (2006) Monologic and Dialogic discourses as mediators of Education Research in the Teaching of English 41 (2) 168-175
- Anke A. Herder
In educational contexts in which students learn to become skilled writers, ‘dialogic spaces’ may function as sites for learning about using language for writing. Metatalk is then considered to be a tool for learning about writing and developing thinking about shaping meaning in writing (Jesson et all, 2016). Primary school students may benefit from explicitly reflecting on writers’ choices, in order to meet both conceptual and rhetorical goals in a text (Camps & Milian 2000). However, not many studies have focused on the manifestation of metatalk about writing in peer interaction during collaborative writing events, when no teacher is involved. Main question for our study was: how do reflective practices function in naturally occurring peer interaction in the context of collaborative writing events?
This presentation will report on an exploration of reflective practices in conversational data of 28 collaborative writing events. Video data were taken from middle and upper grades of 6 primary schools in The Netherlands, where students (n=74) were writing various texts in the context of inquiry learning: plan of action, reflection, mindmap, list of questions, letter, notes, story, report, poster. The video recordings (5:54h) were transcribed for the analysis, that was predominantly informed by applied Conversation Analysis (Antaki 2011).
We found that students display different reflective practices at specific points in the interaction (Herder et al, 2018). When generating ideas, students address the appropriateness of proposals for the text, shaped through comments on redundancy, relevance, and style. During and after the writing, students address correctness of spelling, grammar and punctuation, through recruitments for help, instructions and other-corrections. The responsive ways in which metatalk occurs sequentially point out that students share an orientation to basic communicative principles and writing norms. Linguistic knowledge and knowledge of writing conventions is exposed and discussed explicitly.
Our findings indicate that collaborative writing creates dialogic spaces, which provides a fruitful context for enhancing conditions for developing writing proficiency. We will discuss how naturally occurring metatalk may be a key starting point to orient primary school children more explicitly to writers’ choices.
Antaki, C. (2011). Applied Conversation Analysis. Intervention and Change in Institutional Talk Palgrave Macmillan.
Camps, A., & Milian, M. (2000). Metalinguistic Activity in Learning to Write: An Introduction. In A. Camps, & M. Milian (Eds.), Metalinguistic Activity in Learning to Write (pp. 1-28). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
Herder, A., Berenst, J., Glopper, K. de, Koole, T. (2018). Reflective practices in collaborative writing of primary school students. International Journal of Educational Research 90, 160–174.
Jesson, R., Fontich, X., & Myhill, D. (2016). Creating dialogic spaces: Talk as a mediational tool in becoming a writer. International Journal of Educational Research, 80, 155-163.
- Miriam Morek
Recent research in language education and applied linguistics has acknowledged the role of “talk as a mediational tool for learning about writing” (Jesson et al. 2016: 155). Traditionally, however, research on written language education has strongly been focusing on the development of writing tasks and their evaluation as to their effects on students’ learning how to write good texts. How teachers and students actually bring about a particular writing task by and through interactional processes in the language classroom has seldom come into view (but cf. Dix 2017).
Conversation analytic research into classroom discourse in particular, however, has demonstrated that a ‘task’ cannot be separated from what participants actually do with that task; rather, they emphasize teachers’ and students’ interpretative and interactive practices from task instruction to task accomplishment (cf. Pochon-Berger 2011). Therefore, this paper sets out to provide an exploratory case study on how participants in a language classroom interactively bring about a particular writing task along the trajectory of different interactional sequences in whole-class discourse as well as collaborative peer-interaction.
Drawing on a set of four successive language lessons video-recorded in a German secondary classroom it examines how one teacher and her students (aged 11-12 years) talk about the task of writing an argumentative letter. The analysis combines a fine-grained description of the interactional, linguistic and multimodal details of classroom discourse as put forward by Conversation Analysis with perspectives from research into the learning and teaching of writing and metatalk about writing. Including the instruction and reviewing phase in whole-class talk as well as sequences of collaborative planning and writing, it seeks to uncover what orientations to a writing task and its accomplishment the different participants bring in.
Findings demonstrate, that the teacher’s foregrounding of generalizable formal features of a text collides with students’ communicative take at the task that centres around the functional contextualization of the text to be produced. With regard to these results, it will be discussed, how students’ irritations during talking about a task might me made an entry point for more fruitful linkage between formal and functional dimensions of written text production.
Dix, Annika (2017): Berichte und Berichten als didaktische Gattung. Eine Textform zwischen Erwerb und schulischer Norm. Baltmannsweiler: Schneider Hohengehren.
Herder, Anke; Berenst, Jan; Glopper, Kees de; Koole, Tom (2018): Reflective practices in collaborative writing of primary school students. In: International Journal of Educational Research 90, 160–174.
Jesson, Rebecca; Fontich, Xavier; Myhill, Debra (2016): Creating dialogic spaces. Talk as a mediational tool in becoming a writer. In: International Journal of Educational Research 80, 155–163.
Pochon-Berger, Evelyne (2011): A participant's perspective on tasks: from task instruction, through pre-task planning, to task accomplishment. In: Novitas-ROYAL (Research on Youth and Language) 5 (1), 71-90.