Enhancing boys' writing through transformational eLearning pedagogy

WMIER, University of Waikato Research Team: Elaine Khoo, Bronwen Cowie, Stephanie Dix
Principal of St Peter's Catholic School, Cambridge: Debra White

Project Dates: 2015 - 2017

This project was about developing boys’ writing.

Teachers across years one to eight engaged in cycles of collaborative inquiry to facilitate Information and communication technology (ICT)-supported writing pedagogy. ICTs could offer struggling writers access to a wider and more authentic audience, encourage student voice and allow more timely and responsive feedback.

The project was innovative in its intention to develop a more nuanced understanding of the ways different achievement levels in writing can be evidenced in different inquiries within our schools. More specifically, it was innovative in its focus on supporting the writing of at-risk boys through the use of ICTs to access a wider pool of people to provide feedback, and act as an authentic audience for student writing. ICT-mediated collaborative and dialogic strategies allowed co-construction of writing (Higby, 2015). This allowed us to develop a deeper understanding of the kinds of linked teaching activities that were effective in integrating ICTs to support student writing.

Why conduct this research?

The educational need addressed in this project was raising the achievement of boys' writing in our schools. National Standards achievement data collected over the last three years demonstrated progress is being made but not at the accelerated progress rate needed to raise achievement to age-appropriate levels. Approximately 30% of our boys needed to make accelerated progress to meet National Standards in writing.

How could this research help to inform?

The outcomes for this project  included ideas for how teachers might:

  • collaborate across a school to understand and enhance the teaching of writing;
  • use ICTs to transform student writing experiences in ways that motivate them and offer them access to a more authentic audience;
  • engage a wider community of supports to engage in dialogue and feedback about student writing - peers, more senior students, siblings and family members;
  • develop a deeper understanding of student thinking and writing so they can make more sophisticated evidence-based decisions on the strengths and weakness of student writing and design actions to accelerate student writing achievement, particularly for boys;
  • empower students in their writing; and,
  • more nuanced understanding of ICT-supported teacher writing pedagogy through a whole school teacher collaborative inquiry in this particular context.

Project Outputs/Publications

Cowie, B., & Khoo, E. (2018, February). An Ecological Approach to Understanding Assessment for Learning in Support of Student Writing Achievement. In Frontiers in Education3, 11.

White, D., Cowie, B., Khoo, E., & Dix, S. (2016). A whole school teacher collaborative inquiry approach to enhancing boy’s writing. Presented at NZARE 2016 conference, Wellington, NZ.

19th November 2016. Buddy system boosts literacy. Cambridge Edition Press release. See

Dix, S., & Bam, M. (2016). Writing about bugs: Teacher modelling peer feedback and response. Teachers and Curriculum, 16(1), 57–65