Working with Struggling Adolescent Writers: One Teacher's Reconceptualization of the English Language Arts Classroom Using Third Space Theory

Heny, Natasha A., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Figgins, Margo, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Covert, Robert, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
McKenna, Michael, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Williams, Joanna, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This qualitative study examined one teacher's interpretation and enactment of Third Space theory in his 7 th grade English Language Arts (ELA) classroom in an effort to transform the writing experiences of culturally diverse students who are at risk of failure in academic literacy. It contributes to and makes connections between two areas of existing literature: (a) struggling adolescent writers (e.g., Ball, 2006; Fisher & Frey, 2003; Kiuhara, 2012), and (b) Third Space theory in the classroom (e.g., Barton & Tan, 2009; Cronje, 2010; Flessner, 2009; Lysaker, Wheat, & Benson, 2010; Schillinger, 2007). It does so by addressing three areas left underexplored in the extant literature related to writing instruction for struggling adolescents: (a) writing instruction conceptualized through the lens of Third Space theory, (b) the complexities of the classroom context as a research territory for investigating adolescent writing instruction, and (c) writing instruction in middle school ELA classrooms. The study's primary research questions inquired how Third Space theory was enacted in a 7 th grade English language arts classroom of students identified as struggling; the pedagogical decisions made in the enactment process of enacting Third Space Theory; and the resultant teacher understandings. This study's conceptual framework influenced its construction. Complexity theory (Davis & Sumara, 2010), Critical Sociocultural Literacy theory (Moje & Lewis, 2007), and Third Space theory (Moje, Ciechanowski, Kramer, Ellis, Carrillo, & Collazo, 2004) focused attention on the multiple simultaneities that occur in a complex learning system. Data collection occurred predominately during the first semester of the 2012-2013 school year and consisted of field observations, audio-recordings of the observed classes, teacher debriefings and interviews, student documents, and teacher instructional documents. Data analysis, an on-going, iterative process, began with data collection in the field (Charmaz, 2006). Data were incorporated into a developing data corpus to which constant comparative analysis methods (CCA) (Charmaz, 2006; Glaser & Strauss, 1967) were applied. To identify key concepts in the data describing the Third Space enactment, emerging patterns were analyzed through coding and theme analysis, using a three-staged coding process: Initial coding, focused coding, and theoretical coding. memo-writing was systematically woven into each stage of analysis. Upon completion of data analysis, findings were developed in relation to the research questions. Findings derived from this study provide insight into the transformative nature of the participant's enactment of Third Space theory. Finding one explains the overarching understanding of the shift in Forrester's pedagogy as moving from the explicit enactment of Third Space theory to its implicit embodiment. Findings two and three explain specific processes that emerged as central to Forrester's pedagogy: Finding two, involving the evolution of Forrester's conceptualization of a "safe space"; and finding three, involving the evolution of feedback in the classroom.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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