Writing with their whole being: A cross study analysis of children's writing from five classrooms using process

Crumpler, T., & Schneider, J. J. (2002). Writing with their whole being: A cross study analysis of children's writing from five classrooms using process. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 7(1), 61 - 79.

Abstract:

Researchers used a cross-study analysis to synthesize the results of five individual studies to determine how drama contributes to students’ literacy processes. The researchers also investigated what student’s writing reveals about their engagement with and understanding of text. Overall, the five studies involved 113 first through third grade students of mixed ethnicity in multiple schools and communities, some of whom were English Language Learners (ELL). Specifically, the researchers focused on the relationship between writing and process drama, a type of drama in which the teacher and students take on roles and interact in order to explore literature or other texts. From the five initial studies, researchers collected raw data in the form of video and conversation transcripts, observations, researcher notes, student writing samples, and interviews. Researchers compared data across studies and identified themes and patterns from the pool of raw data. Results suggest that participation in process drama facilitates reflection, perspective-taking, textual understanding, and the making of connections for students. In addition, writing during or after drama expands student learning and enables educators to better understand student experiences of text and their involvement in process drama.

Key Findings:

Students’ written reflections suggest that participation in process drama helped them reflect on and evaluate their own actions and navigate plot and story lines.

The reflections suggest that process drama helped students take on multiple perspectives, especially when teachers allowed students to make choices about the direction and content of the drama. Writings further revealed that participating in process drama facilitated students’ making of personal, textual, and imagination-based connections, and that process drama enriched students’ language in writing.

The research further suggests that process drama provides an avenue for students to negotiate meaning on multiple levels when composing and writing responses. Specifically, students negotiate meaning in the text, in relationships between the text and the reader, and in their own personal meaning systems.

Significance of the Findings:

The research suggests that the use of process drama is a way to develop imagination, perspective, stance, and language in student writing. Effective communication is one of the 21st century skills lauded in current education reform discourse. Process drama facilitates the development of children’s writing and literacy skills in imaginative and thoughtful ways. Additionally writing in conjunction with process drama can help teachers see how a child’s cultural experiences inform both their writing process and product.

Methodology:

Researchers examined five studies involving writing and process drama in a cross-study analysis, in which they created a large pool of raw data from student writing samples, observations and interviews from the five original studies. The first three studies involved a two day process drama activity based on Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, including three first grade classrooms totaling 60 students, some of whom were ELL students The fourth study consisted of 25 second and third grade students participating in a two-month long immigration unit that utilized process drama and frequent and varying writing response activities. The fifth study included 28 third grade students in which students listened to and participated in story-based drama around the American Revolutionary War. The researchers collected raw data from all five studies which included observations, researcher notes, student writing and drawing samples, and student and teacher interviews.

To look at all that studies together, the researchers utilized a method called pooled case comparison which allows for the comparison of data from unique studies. They created a new data set that contained all of the raw data from each of the studies and culled this data set for themes and patterns. Student writings samples were compared against research observations and notes to ensure alignment.

Limitations of the Research:

The study is limited in that it does not compare student writing after participation in process drama units with writing before the process drama intervention. Including pre-and post-data would strengthen the findings and isolate process drama as a variable affecting student writing. The study could also look at writing samples from students in matched groups who do not participate in process drama units to compare growth in writing for treatment group students.

Questions to Guide New Research:

What specific aspects of process drama influence student writing and how? How do the findings hold up when incorporating matched control groups and a pre- and post-test quasi-experimental research design? How can the benefits of a drama integrated writing pedagogy be maximized? To what extent do the results of this study hold true for other groups of students and students of varying cultural backgrounds? Is the effect more pronounced for ELL students?