Learner’s Written Work: An Overview of Quality, Quantity and Focus in South African Primary Schools

  • Paul HobdenEmail author
  • Sally Hobden
Part of the Policy Implications of Research in Education book series (PIRE, volume 10)


The focus of this chapter is on the opportunities learners are given to actively learn through engaging with appropriate written work. Our assumption is that the quantity and quality of written work and teacher feedback evident in learner books is a key visible indicator of opportunity to learn. Consequently, our study over the last ten years in functioning township primary schools, is based on empirical data derived from Grades 1 to 7 learner book analyses in which all the writing of selected learners in workbooks, exercise books, notebooks and tests was analysed for a school year. Current analysis indicates that over a full year, the total amount of written work set by the teacher is close to the quantity norms set by the department. However, there is an imbalance in time allocated to curriculum topics; the writing tasks are characterized by being of low cognitive demand; feedback from teachers to help with learning is minimal; and there is little accountability for teachers when insufficient work is done. We argue that these inequalities in opportunity are primarily a consequence of the didactical contracts constructed by teachers, learners, parents and community, rather than specific factors.

keywords*Writing, Mathematics, Learner work, Didactical contract, Feedback, Accountability


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of KwaZulu-NatalDurbanSouth Africa

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