Summary:A key reading, this award-winning research study may serve equally well as the focus for a group studying writing process pedagogy or for teacher leaders developing and leading a professional development program. Based on two contrasting case studies, the overall study provided evidence for the importance of inquiry in transforming teaching practice and student performance. While each teacher discusses how she interpreted and implemented a process-centered theory of writing, the comparative data suggest that inquiry-based inservice may lead to more nuanced thinking about teaching writing and increase a teacher's sense of responsibility for improving curricula and interrogating her own practice. The study also includes detailed descriptions of the inquiry-based professional development in which one of the teachers participated.
The differences in how teachers approach samples, topics, and prewriting are important in that they help to frame writing tasks as governed by communicative needs rather than classroom needs. In classrooms such as Ms. Barrera’s, rhetorical situations presented themselves much as they do in the world outside the classroom, and it was up to students (with the teacher’s support) to navigate those situations by developing ideas, choosing tools for invention and planning, and making all of the other decisions writers must make. In Ms. Gonzales’ classroom, writing was usually framed as necessary for school assignments more than for communication, and tools and support were made available to assist students in meeting the requirements of these school assignments.