Writing to Learn, Writing to Transfer
This chapter is focused on writing to develop thinking and reasoning about complex phenomena in the elementary school. It introduces a study aimed at investigating whether writing as a learning tool could be used by students first for understanding in history and then for understanding in science by transferring a disposition toward writing as a meaningful activity in knowledge construction. Making writing a meaningful activity for students implies leading them to experience the different functions it can have in the learning process: not only to record information, but also to expose, reflect, discuss, argue, and communicate. Thirty-two fifth graders divided in two groups, experimental (writing) and control (non-writing), were involved in the implementation of a history curriculum unit on the discovery of America and of a science curriculum unit on the human circulatory system. The findings provide evidence that writing can be effectively introduced across the curriculum to support higher-order thinking processes in order to produce understanding. The experimental group students were able to transfer the attitude, which characterized their writing activity in history to the domain of science, reaching a deeper conceptual understanding in both disciplines, as well as more advanced metaconceptual awareness of their learning. It may be concluded that if knowledge construction and reconstruction in the classroom is sustained by activities requiring the deep engagement of students as intentional learners who solve knowledge problems, then such an engagement can be activated by writing as a tool for thinking and reasoning to transform knowledge.
KeywordsKnowledge Construction Meaningful Activity Epistemological Belief Instructional Intervention Writing Task
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