“Write-on!”: Investigations into relationships between teacher learning and student achievement through writing

Funding year: 
1 year
University of Canterbury
School sector
Project start date: 
January 2006
Project end date: 
January 2007
Principal investigator(s): 
Ruth Boyask
Research team members: 
Kathleen Quinlivan, Mary Goulter
Research partners: 
University of Canterbury, with Aranui High School

Project Description

Originating in a policy context where evidence-based practice is associated with best practice (cf. Ministry of Education, 2005), a proposal for a project to address student writing literacy was developed by a group of Heads of Departments at Kakariki College, (a decile 2 co-educational ethnically diverse suburban secondary school in one of New Zealand’s main centres) concerned at the level of students’ achievement in writing within their school. The teachers recognised that NCEA has increased the significance of written language to the senior secondary curriculum, making attaining national qualifications dependent upon competency in writing. This was an especially challenging prospect for their students whose attainment in literacy fell short of others in similarly low-decile schools. The teachers’ response was to initiate a programme of professional development on evidence-based teaching interventions that recognised and built upon the strengths of their students. In partnership with researchers from the School of Education, University of Canterbury, the project was expanded to include critical examination of the interrelationships between research evidence, teacher learning, and student outcomes in writing.

The findings reported here relate to the pilot study situated within a proposed longitudinal study, and consequently make limited claims about the effects of the project on learning outcomes, yet provide an important evidential base for considering the role of research evidence in supporting teachers’ practice decisions. In general, the project built upon existing classroom and literacy studies that suggest it is crucial for teachers to examine the unintended consequences of their own actions in order to intervene in student literacy and achievement (McCarthey & Moje, 2002; Nuthall, 2001). However, we also find that this premise is complicated by the challenging sociopolitical conditions in which both schools and researchers work.

Project Outputs


Presentations, conferences and workshops

Quinlivan, K., Boyask, R., & Carswell, S. (2006). Dynamics of power and participation in transforming the knowledge and practice of schooling. Paper presented at European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), Geneva, 2006. 96.pdf.