Composing Literary Arguments in an 11th Grade International Baccalaureate Classroom: How Classroom Instructional Conversations Shape Modes of Participation

Authors

  • George E. Newell The Ohio State University
  • Theresa Siemer Thanos The Ohio State University
  • Matt Seymour University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Keywords:

literary argumentation, US English language arts classroom, community of practice

Abstract

In U.S. secondary schools there is an overriding emphasis on formulaic approaches to argumentative writing instruction in English language arts that tends to trivialize disciplinary norms of argument and evidence because of institutional pressure to bolster students’ test performances.  This paper seeks to provide an ethnographically-informed framework for understanding for whom, how, when, and to what extent it is possible for students to participate, through writing, in the study of literature as the central disciplinary content of English language arts. The corpus of data used in this study of an 11th grade International Baccalaureate (IB) classroom (26 students) consisted of classroom instruction (video-recordings and field notes) that occurred across an initial instructional unit (September 8th to November 3rd). Of particular importance is a summative writing assignment, teacher interviews and collaborative data analysis (with video clips), student interviews about instruction and their writing, samples of student writing, and related documents. We also analyzed two essays written by the two case study students in response to a writing assignment that the teacher, described as an IB “literary commentary with an unspecified topic” that she reframed as a literary argument.

Discourse analysis of a series of events within instructional conversations revealed that rather than prescribed forms, the teacher offered “possible” writerly moves for her students’ arguing to learn. Consequently, her students enacted their writerly moves in a variety of patterns suggestive of disciplinary ways of knowing in English language arts rather than in a pre-set formula that they had learned in previous grades. In order to trace how the students enacted modes of participation (procedural display and deep participation) in disciplinary activity (literary argumentation) as writing practices and shifting writer identities  we also conducted a multi-phased and multi-layered analysis using procedures based off of previous intertextual analysis scholarship and backward mapping processes.

Author Biographies

George E. Newell, The Ohio State University

George E. Newell is Professor of Adolescent, Post-Secondary and Community Literacies in the Department of Teaching and Learning at The Ohio State University. Beginning in 2010, he was the  principal investigator of the Ohio State University Argumentative Writing Project, a federally funded research program that studied the teaching and learning of argumentative writing in high school English language arts classrooms. He currently studies the teaching and learning of scientific argumentation and teaches courses in literacy research and theory, research on written composition and theories of argumentation across the academic disciplines. 

Theresa Siemer Thanos, The Ohio State University

Theresa Siemer Thanos received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University in 2020 and served as a teaching associate in The Ohio State University’s Department of Teaching and Learning.  For 4 years she was a field researcher for the Ohio State University Argumentative Writing Project, collaborating with classroom teachers and researchers. She has taught courses for pre-service teachers in writing methods and she has supervised student teachers. Her current research interests include explorations of literacy practices in English language arts classrooms, dialogic literary argumentation, and teacher-research.

Matt Seymour, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Matt Seymour is an Assistant Professor of English language arts education at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. From 2016 to 2019, he served as a field researcher for the Ohio State University Argumentative Writing Project, collaborating with classroom teachers and researchers. He has taught courses for pre-service teachers in writing methods and he has supervised student teachers. His current research interests include early career teacher education, argumentative writing, and dialogic approaches to teaching literature and writing.

Published

2021-02-12

How to Cite

Newell, G. E. ., Thanos, T. S., & Seymour, M. . (2021). Composing Literary Arguments in an 11th Grade International Baccalaureate Classroom: How Classroom Instructional Conversations Shape Modes of Participation. Literacy in Composition Studies, 8(2), 81-108. Retrieved from https://licsjournal.org/index.php/LiCS/article/view/904

Issue

Section

Articles