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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Writing their world : conceptions of literacy in a remedial behavioural classroom Stalker, Aileen Muriel


The specific research question of this study was: What are the intermediate grade children's conceptions of literacy within their remedial behavioural classroom? Research into the literacy activities of children in the past has been dominated by an exploration of the development of "skills" needed to progress from a novice to an expert writer. Developmental frameworks have provided guidelines and resulted in expectations of a sequential progression in both cognitive and affective growth. Constructs such as "audience awareness" have been identified as skills that demonstrate the developmental process of writing. Children labelled by both educational and medical systems as "severely behaviourally disturbed" are frequently placed in remedial behavioural classrooms where they receive instruction on an individual and basic skills level. Their access to instructional techniques such as advanced writing strategies is hindered both by the reductionist teaching approach and by the use of behavioural modification techniques to alter. The present study responds to more recent research in literacy instruction by using a qualitative perspective and related methodologies to investigate the conceptions of literacy held by children placed in a remedial behavioural classroom. The study accepts as a basic premise a socio-cognitive view of literacy that recognizes writing as a communicative event representing interactions between the writer and their audience and also between the writer and their context. By using a qualitative perspective and a case study technique, categories were developed that represented the ways the children viewed the meaning and use of both writing and their writing and learning context. Shifts in personal verbal and written expression were enabled by use of scaffolded teaching strategies and by encouraging more freedom of oral expression. Two questionnaires were administered to collect data about the children's initial conceptions of themselves as writers and their ability to determine the needs of their reading audience. The use of stories written by the children and compiled for a booklet about their classroom and audiotapes of each writing session resulted in additional conceptions in the four major areas as follows: 1. the definition and meaning of good and bad behaviour within their classroom 2. the meaning of classroom rules and regulations and the effects of compliance or resistance 3. the potential and repercussions of honest communication with peers and adults 4. the potential for children becoming teachers for their peers and adults. By exploring these areas as viewed by the children, new insights into the issues of equity in education are discussed. As well, it was shown when provided with both active intervention and a more liberated context in which to write the children used writing both to construct and explore the meaning of their world and to resist and transform situations which place them at an educational and social disadvantage. Insights from this study were integrated into three major areas of relevance to the study of literacy instruction and equity in educational opportunities. These issues were highlighted in the areas of 1) the pathology deficit model, 2) the role of the remedial classroom and 3) conceptions of literacy within a remedial behavioural classroom. Suggestions for further research and implications for practice when working with children who are described as "severely behaviourally disturbed" are included.

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