Discussion Boards and Boys' Writing — Tracy A. Ewing, The Phelps School, United States

  • Writing (2009-10)

Twelve students, ages fifteen to twenty, with non-verbal or language-based learning disabilities in the Academic Support Program (ASP) at The Phelps School in Malvern, Pennsylvania participated in a study to measure the use of discussion boards as a means of becoming more powerful, prolific and confident writers. Students were assigned various journal prompts during class and for homework, and they had to provide responses on a discussion forum. As a follow-up assignment, each student was instructed to provide peer-editing comments on a classmate’s journal entry. Finally, students completed revisions to their original writing. Data were collected from writing samples, pre- and post-surveys, and focus group discussions. Results indicated that students’ confidence in writing improved most, but there were also slight improvements to the quality of writing as well as the ease in meeting or exceeding minimum length requirements. Peer-editing also proved to be a valuable factor in the overall improvement in the boys’ writing, in addition to having classmates’ writing samples easily accessible. The results also suggested that using a discussion forum might not have been the most appropriate medium for the type of journal assignments given, but finding another technologically interactive avenue may be beneficial for future practice. 

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