Teaching Writing Informed by Systemic Functional Linguistics
Writing is an essential tool for creating meaningful communication and as such it must be taught beginning in elementary school. Although in the past 100 years writing has become more common in our everyday lives, methods of teaching writing and teacher education have not kept pace with changes (National Commission on Writing, 2003). As a result, teachers are underprepared to teach writing and do not teach it enough (Gilbert and Graham, 2010). The goal of this study is to understand how teacher-researcher relationships can facilitate the development of a teacher's knowledge of the theoretical foundations of teaching writing through systemic functional linguistics (SFL) and the teaching and learning cycle (TLC), and how that understanding affects the implementation of meaningful writing instruction that supports bilingual students as they learn to write. Using a modified action research methodology (Herr and Anderson, 2005; Reason and Bradbury, 2001; Zeichner, 2001) the data were collected over the course of one school year and analyzed utilizing the action research spiral by examining interactions between a teacher and a researcher through seven vignettes, including planning lessons, teaching, and reviewing lessons. These vignettes reflected particular instances of support, the evolution of the teacher's understanding of teaching writing informed by SFL, and changes in instruction relating to the TLC. Student writing was also analyzed using rubrics informed by SFL theory. The findings suggest that a complex relationship exists between teachers and researchers and that multiple factors are involved in successful change initiatives. The factors include the process of change through individualized support over time, negotiation, and two types of tension: disequilibrium and resistance. In the current study, these factors helped develop the teacher-researcher relationship in ways that promoted changes in the teacher's practices and, to some extent, her beliefs about writing instruction which resulted in the creation of a hybrid pedagogy. While this pedagogy did not demonstrate a full implementation of instruction informed by SFL theory, it did improve the quality of writing instruction and the resulting student writing.