Senior school writing : a study of the content and form of writing in senior secondary English

  • Anthony Patis

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    This study focuses on the writing of senior students in the subject English at an ACT secondary col1ege. Several features of the ACT education system are relevant. There is a high retention rate, so the sample is a broad one. The curriculum is school based, as is assessment. There are separate courses for those seeking tertiary entrance (TE) and those seeking to complete their education at Year 12 (Accredited). The theoretical basis of the study is provided by the work of a number of linguists with an Interest in school language, in particular Graham Little. 255 samples of writing have been analysed, taking account of the function and forms of language. The function, or meaning, has been analysed in terms of content, abstraction, purpose and audience. The writing in the Accredited course is evenly distributed between the human and material worlds, three quarters is informational and one quarter imaginative. The level of abstraction shows a predominance of reporting and generalising. Writing in the TE course is 60% concerned with the human world and reaches higher levels of abstraction such as speculation and hypothesising. The audience is academic. Compared with earlier findings, this study shows more human content and higher levels of abstraction.
    Language functions through selective use of forms. The aspects of form analysed are vocabulary, abstraction of noun phrase, sentence length and sentence sequencing. Figures produced were largely consistent with earlier studies; however the TE group shows higher syllable counts, greater abstraction of noun phrase and longer sentences than the Accredited group. Creative writing brings the groups closest together. Handwriting, spelling and punctuation are examined. Handwriting is always legible, spelling close to 98% correct and 84% of full stops are correctly used. A small number of scripts produce most of the errors in both spelling and punctuation. The achievement of students as revealed by this study of writing is consistent with earlier studies although the students represented here demonstrate higher levels of abstraction. The curriculum contains more human content and is commendably comprehensive, although there is less poetic and expressive writing than might be expected. This form of language analysis is recommended for its concentration on the language actually produced in class, the insights it provides for teachers and the information it provides for meaningful public discussion of education.
    Date of Award1987
    Original languageEnglish

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