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An analysis of boys’ and teachers’ experiences in a Grade 6 writing programme, using a positioning perspective.

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Existing research shows that in South Africa there are reasons for concern regarding the achievements of a large proportion of Grade 6 learners in language learning. The impact of this poor language achievement affects their success rates across learning areas and in higher grades. It has also been found that historically, Grade 6 boys have achieved, and continue to achieve, lower results than their female peers in national language assessments. However, boys’ language learning in the Intermediate Phase in South African schools is surprisingly under-researched, particularly their writing skills development. This study contributes to understanding Grade 6 boys’ writing development by providing descriptions of two English Home Language classroom contexts, in two different schools, in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The study aimed to 1. analyse the strategies, perceptions, challenges and experiences of two Grade 6 teachers’ and their male learners’ teaching and learning of writing in English Home Language; 2. provide a holistic account of the development of the boys’ writing skills, presented in terms of the process genre approach to writing, theories of teacher knowledge and positioning theory; 3. determine the role that formative assessment plays during the stages of the writing cycle; and 4. draw from the findings suggestions for further study and improved classroom practice. To this end, in each school, a cycle of the Grade 6 writing programme, as prescribed by the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) (DBE, 2011a), was analysed. The experiences, perceptions and challenges of the two participating teachers and their male learners were analysed using exploratory and comparative case study approaches. This interpretative, qualitative, theory-seeking case study was bounded by time (2015), space (Grade 6 classrooms in two mainstream schools in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) and theme (how boys and their teachers experience and perceive the learning and teaching of writing and their positions and challenges during these writing lessons). Data were gathered from classroom observations, teacher interviews, activity-based questionnaires and the boys’ written submissions with their teachers’ feedback. Classroom and interview data were analysed from the perspective of positioning theory and the process genre approach to writing, and document analysis was conducted on learners’ written submissions. Although these teachers had similar schooling backgrounds and training and followed the same policy statement (the CAPS), it was found that their scaffolding approaches within the stages of the writing cycle differed significantly. This thesis argues that there are significant links among three key elements: teacher knowledge, teachers’ and learners’ positioning in the writing process, and the quality of the final written product.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.