Recent University of Lethbridge alumna Kacie Neamtu (BA/BEd ’11/MA ’20) has been honoured with a prestigious international award offered by the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers. “The J. Estill Alexander Future Leaders in Literacy Award recognizes an outstanding thesis that exemplifies excellence in research in the field of literacy education,” says Dr. David Slomp, Neamtu’s supervisor for the Master of Arts in Education degree. A teacher at Erle Rivers High School in Milk River, Neamtu became interested in literacy research after participating in a study Slomp conducted in her school division on a new method of writing instruction called Writing as Problem-Solving. In keeping with his conviction that the true objective of education is to prepare students for success in life beyond school, Slomp developed the approach to equip them for the wide range of writing tasks they will encounter throughout adulthood.
Up until that point,” says Neamtu, “I didn’t really have a specific background in writing instruction. As an English Language Arts major I had a lot of experience teaching writing, but I had never learned the theory behind it, or why we teach it the way we do. I realized there was a lot there to unearth and a lot more I could be doing in that area.”
Neamtu embarked on an investigation of the literature on writing pedagogies, drawing on solid, evidence-based theories to create a construct model of what it takes to teach writing well. She then spent a semester observing writing instruction in the classroom of a highly experienced teacher who engages in regular professional development. “I was able to see where she was aligning with what the research says good writing instruction is and where there were gaps and limitations,” says Neamtu. Through interviews, she also learned that the teacher was one of many who’d had to figure out on her own how to teach writing when she first entered the profession. “I started to build an understanding of what teachers might know and where we need to do better in terms of undergraduate training and professional development,” she says.
Neamtu’s thesis, Pedagogy in Practice: an exploration of writing instruction in a high school English Language Arts classroom, reveals that as conscientious and diligent as teachers are, there are still many perspectives and methods they are unaware of.
She would like to see greater emphasis on these in professional learning environments. “Kids need to learn how to write broadly and deeply and well, and that’s on our shoulders as Language Arts teachers,” she says. “Integration of writing theory into teacher preparation and development is key.” She encourages teachers to explore the wealth of writing theories and pedagogies available. “There’s so much out there that can help better inform how we approach writing instruction,” she says.
Link to thesis: "Pedagogy in Practice: An Exploration of Writing Instruction in a High School English Language Arts Classroom"
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