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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Beyond the red pen : searching for authentic audiences Moayeri, Maryam

Abstract

"Writing that is not read is like the tree that falls in the forest with no one to hear it; one wonders whether it creates any sound at all" (Stanford, 1977, p. 11). Writing needs an audience for students to understand its purpose. I suggest that setting real life writing goals would activate classrooms and enhance student motivation and effort. Does offering multiple audiences promote student engagement with their own written work? Does offering multiple audiences give students purpose for their work? Does offering purpose authenticate student work? I interviewed 10 of my former students to learn about their experiences. The students have all participated in at least one class where the focus of the semester was to offer authentic possibilities for students to share their work with a larger audience than the classroom teacher. Many of the opportunities were offered by entering community contests that would showcase student work through media such as print or electronic publication. The findings captured three prevailing themes. First, the students I interviewed thrived with freedom of expression. Tney preferred to have control of their writing. For example, they excelled when the assigned topics, styles, and deadlines matched their liking or if they were given the option to choose their own writing path. Second, the students felt impeded by the restrictions placed on them in a school setting. They were continually faced with onerous writing tasks. Although their teachers’ intentions may have been to improve student writing skills by providing practice, students found it difficult to internalize this genuine attempt at practice. They often saw the assignment as meaningless and had no motivation to complete it. Many painfully carried out the work in the hopes that the teacher, their only audience, would deem their work worthy enough for a desired grade. Third, when the students had the opportunity to write for authentic audiences, they found purpose in their schoolwork, motivation to pursue academic goals, and pride in their talents. Furthermore, their collaboration during group assignments generated a bond between group members not present when a genuine purpose was lacking. Finally, motivation was enhanced as a result of offering students fresh and innovative opportunities.

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