ETAP 530: Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Spring, 2011
Guidelines for the Case Study of a Student Writer/Reader

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COURSE INFORMATION

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ASSIGNMENTS

POLICIES

SCHEDULE

GRADING

BLACKBOARD


Overview

Content

Using Published Research

Collecting Sufficient Information

Finding a Student

Permissions and Related Issues

Practical Issues

Interim Report

Style, Length, and Related Matters

Submission Guidelines

Deadlines

Grading



Overview. For this assignment you will conduct an informal case study of a middle school or high school student in order to gain an understanding of the student as a writer and reader and to examine the role of literacy in that studentís life (both in and out of school). Your primary purpose in this assignment is to provide a description of your student as a writer and reader and explore the implications of what you learned about adolescent literacy through this case study. You should assume an audience of professional educators that might include your classmates, teachers at the school where you are student-teaching, and educators in general.

This assignment involves collecting information about your student and the context within which he or she writes. You will collect this information primarily through interviews and observations. You will also need to consult the relevant published research on adolescent literacy and learning. In short, through your research for this assignment, you will try to answer the following questions:

  • What kind of writer and reader is my student?

  • How might I account for the kind of writer/reader this student has become?

  • What role does literacy play in his or her life?

  • What can we learn from this student about adolescent literacy?

  • What implications might this case study have for secondary school teachers?


Content. Your case study will include a description of your student as a writer and reader and the contexts within which he or she engages in literate activities. It will also include some analysis of the studentís writing and reading as well as some discussion of the implications you see for our understanding of adolescent literacy and for your work as a secondary school teacher.

Understanding your student as a writer and reader will require you to get to know that student and his or her experiences with writing and reading--both in school and out of school:

  • What kind of writing and reading does the student typically do, both in school and out of school?

  • What important experiences have shaped the writer and reader that this student has become? What experiences or other factors seem to influence the studentsí attitudes about writing and reading?

  • How does the student use technology in his or her literate activities in school and outside of school?

  • What importance do writing and reading seem to have in this studentís life?

You should plan to collect at least one or two writing samples from your student and talk to the student about those pieces of writing. Your case study should include some discussion of the studentís writing and what it seems to reveal about the student as a writer.


Using Published Research. In your discussion of your student and his or her writing and reading, you will draw on published theories and research that are relevant to the specific issues and questions that arise as you seek to understand your student as a literate person. This use of published research is a crucial and required component of this assignment. You can use any of the course readings, but you should also expect to search for and review other research and professional literature that might help you understand your student and his or her writing.

The purpose of consulting the professional literature is to connect what you are learning about your student with what has been discovered through formal research and what is generally accepted as theory in education and literacy studies. You are likely to find that published studies corroborate what you are discovering about your student. But you may also discover something about your student as a writer and reader that seems inconsistent with published research or seems to complicate what the research indicates. In such cases, you should try to explain your observations and perhaps draw conclusions about our collective understanding of adolescent literacy. The point is to use available sources to help you understand what you observe in your case study student.

You will work with your study group as you develop your case study and explore the relevant literature to help you understand what you are learning about your student.


Collecting Sufficient Information. In order to collect sufficient information to provide an adequate picture of your student as a writer/reader and to gain an understanding of him/her as a literate person, you might consider the following:

Interviews with your Student. At a minimum, you will need to interview your student to be able to answer the kinds of questions listed above and to learn something about him or her as a writer/reader. Doing several short interviews over a few weeks as you get to know the student is likely to yield more useful information than doing a single interview. Also, interviewing your student about a specific assignment or classroom experience can be an effective way to gain an understanding of him or her as a writer/reader.

Artifacts. With your studentís permission, you should plan to collect one or more samples of his/her writing. These writings might include formal school essays or reports, in-class exercises, tests, or similar kinds of school-sponsored writing. You should also consider collecting writing that your student might do outside of school.

Interviews with your Student's Teachers. Talking to the studentís teachers or other important people in the studentís life will likely yield additional insights into the studentís work as a writer or reader.

Classroom Observations. If your student is enrolled in one of the classes that you are student-teaching, then you will have opportunities to observe the studentís work in class. If not, you might consider observing a class in which the student is likely to be involved in some writing or reading activities.


Finding a Student. The student you choose to work with for this assignment can be any current middle or high school student. The only requirement is that the student is willing to participate, which means, at a minimum, that he or she will agree to be interviewed by you and share some writing with you. You may choose someone you know (a relative, friend, or neighbor) who is currently a student in grades 6 through 12, or you can work with a student in one of your classes in your field placement for ETAP 590. If you have difficulty finding a student for this assignment, please see the course instructor, and arrangements will be made to find someone for you to work with. (In your written report of your case study, be sure to use a pseudonym for your student to protect his or her identity.)


Permissions and Related Issues. If the student you work with for this assignment is someone related to you, you will not likely need to obtain formal permission from the student or his or her parents; however, if you plan to work with a student you are currently teaching or who is enrolled in a class in which you are student-teaching, or if you wish to work with a student in your school who is not a personal friend, you will need to obtain that student's written permission along with his or her parent's written permission. The permission form need not be extensive, but it should include the following:

  • Indicate clearly that you are asking for permission to discuss with the student (and possibly his or her teachers or others) his or her writing and reading and how literacy figures into his or her life. Be clear that you are not interested in evaluating the student or the teachers in any way. Emphasize that the purpose of the assignment is only to understand adolescent literacy.

  • Indicate that you are seeking permission only for the purposes of fulfilling a course assignment and not for other purposes, such as publishing a professional article.

  • Be sure to emphasize that the studentís privacy and anonymity will be insured through the use of pseudonyms and the avoidance of any references in your report to aspects of the school, town, or region that might reveal the studentís identity.

  • Also emphasize that the studentís participation in this project has absolutely no bearing on his or her grades or academic work in any way.

  • Finally, indicate that the student is free to withdraw his or her permission at any time without any consequences to him or her.

Make sure to get the studentís signature and a parentís signature as well.


Practical Issues. It is a good idea to use a tape recorder for the interviews you conduct with your student (with his or her permission), but it is not essential. What is essential is taking good notes, whether interviewing or observing the student.

Be sure to allow yourself sufficient time to contact the student, obtain the necessary permissions, and arrange for the meeting (or meetings) you will need to have with the student. Also, of course, allow sufficient time for writing your drafts. Be familiar with the assignment deadlines.


Interim Report. An interim report on your case study is due in class on March 3rd. The primary purpose of this report is to provide an update to your study group members and to your course instructor about your progress on your case study.

By the time of this report, you should have already collected information about your case study student and conducted at least a preliminary interview. Ideally, you will also have examined some of your student's writing and perhaps observed him or her in class.

Your interim report should be a few paragraphs in length in which you include the following:

  • a brief description of what you have have done so far on this assignment (for example, interviews you have conducted, materials you have examined, etc.);

  • a brief description of what you have learned so far about your student as a writer and reader;

  • a list of the three or four major questions that have arisen so far in your study of your student;

  • a discussion of what you still need to learn about your student as a writer and reader;

  • a brief explanation of your plans for completing this assignment.

Please post your interim report to your study group forum on the course Blackboard site.

When you come to class on March 3rd, you should be prepared to discuss your progress on the case study with your study group members and your course instructor.


Style, Length, and Related Matters.

  • The finished report of your case study should be about 1000-1200 words in length. You should follow the conventions of academic writing in your report, but there is no need to be overly formal in your writing style.

  • In your profile, draw on any relevant course readings or other materials you found useful in writing your report, and include a list of works cited (in APA format) if you use any such sources.

  • Also feel free to include relevant anecdotes from your interviews, classroom observations, or visits to the school.

  • One last thing: keep your audience (your classmates) in mind as you write. Academic writing can be dull but it doesn't have to be. Try to make your profile as engaging as possible, within appropriate bounds for academic writing.


Submission Guidelines. The finished report of your case study should be 1200-1400 words in length. You should follow the conventions of academic writing in your report, but you need not be overly formal in your writing style. Be sure to include sufficient background information about your student and his or her school district, but be sure to maintain the studentís confidentiality.

You should submit your finished case study by posting it to your study group forum on the course Blackboard site.


Deadlines.
  • An interim report of your progress on your case study is due in class on Thursday, March 3rd.

  • A complete draft of your case study is due in class on Thursday, March 10th. (Please bring several legible copies of your draft to class.)

  • A revised draft of your case study is due in class on Thursday, March 17th. (Please post your revised draft to your study group forum before coming to class.)

  • A final, revised version of your case study is due on Thursday, March 24th.


Grading. This assignment is worth 20 (out of 100) points. Points will be awarded on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Thoroughness. Your case study should include sufficient information to convey a good sense of your student as a writer and reader and the role of literacy in his or her life. It should include discussion of major issues related to adolescent literacy that emerge from your observations and analysis of your student. It should also include discussion of implications for teachers. (6 points)

  • Substance. Your case study should include some analysis of what you observe and learn about your student as a writer and reader and go beyond simply describing the student and his or her work. It should include an obvious effort on your part to understand the influences on the student as a writer and reader and the role of literacy in his or her life. The discussion of the implications of your case study for secondary teachers should be informative and thought-provoking. (5 points)

  • Use of Published Literature. Your analysis of your student and your discussion of the implications of your case study should include relevant and appropriate references to published professional literacy on adolescent literacy and secondary education. You should use these resources to help you understand what you have observed about your student as a writer and reader. (5 points)

  • Structure, Style, and Convention. Your case study should be appropriately written for the audience described above in ďOverview.Ē Your case study should be effectively organized so that your readers can easily follow your discussion and understand your description and analysis. Your prose should be clear, readable, and appropriate for an assignment of this kind, and your writing should be generally free of error. You should cite sources appropriately and in correct APA or MLA format. (4 points)