Alexandria Digital Research Library

Common Core Argument Writing Practices in an Upper Elementary Classroom

Choi, Jane Younga
Degree Supervisor:
Richard P. Duran
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
Education, Elementary and Education, Language and Literature
Common Core State Standards
Elementary Students
Diverse Students
English Language Arts
Argument Writing
Online resources and Dissertations, Academic
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. Education
Ph.D.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2014

Argument writing is a complex and challenging endeavor that requires the ability to build logical, effective arguments while following writing conventions of an argument writing genre. While challenging, argument writing is critical for academic success and college entrance. Argument writing is even more imperative with the wide adoption of the K-12 Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which prioritize argument writing across content areas beginning in elementary grades (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, 2010a). However, the CCSS do not provide the methods or curriculum to achieve the stated goals for argument writing. Moreover, there is a paucity of empirical, context-specific information about the argument writing practices of elementary grade students who have been historically marginalized and minoritized in educational institutions due to their race, ethnicity, language background and socioeconomic status. With this lack of information it is unclear what students are able to do with argument writing and what areas may present challenges for them. Therefore, there is an imperative need to study the argument writing practices in elementary classrooms, a need I addressed in this study.

From the social practices of literacies perspective, it is imperative to study literacies by examining the writing practices students engage in and jointly construct as meaningful in their social contexts. To enable a context-specific, process-oriented study of literacy practices in classroom contexts, I utilized the sociocultural perspective of second generation Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) to frame learning as a social process occurring in specific historical and cultural contexts. I observed the classroom practices for over seven months and captured 80 hours of video- and audio-recordings; wrote detailed fieldnotes; conducted interviews with teachers, students and the principal; and collected classrooms texts, including student writing. I analyzed the participant interactions and student writing using ethnographic and discourse analyses, while considering a variety of cultural, historical and contextual factors over time to understand argument writing practices that occurred during the argument writing unit.

Through these analyses, I found that the definitions and expectations implemented by the teacher matched the CCSS curricular goals, but the ambiguous and unclear presentation of the terminology and expectations made it difficult for students to understand clearly what these goals were and/or how to meet them. Moreover, despite the limited opportunities for dialogic conversations related to argument writing, conversations that featured moments of dialogic discussions offered potential and actualized pedagogical possibilities related to students' argument writing practices. From analyses of thirteen students' argument essays, I found that the majority of the students demonstrated a sophisticated command of many of the teacher's expectations for the argument essay and demonstrated understandings of argument structure. Lastly, I found that some students faced challenges meeting some of the teacher's expectations, however, these challenges were not due to linguistic or cultural barriers, but largely due to external issues. For example, none of the students used facts as data in their arguments. This was because, due to rigid scheduling constraints, the teacher did not provide instruction on how to use facts, opportunities to conduct research or time to practice building arguments. Therefore, in lieu of facts as data, several students relied on their prior knowledge of math and science concepts to support claims in their argument. Despite several external limitations, many students demonstrated a sophisticated command of the teacher's expectations for the argument essay and understandings of argument structure.

I argue for the examination of broader contexts and a move away from static conceptualizations of students' linguistic and heritage culture to recognize what historically marginalized and minoritized students are able to do in classrooms. Moreover, I argue that an examination of broader contexts is necessary in order to accurately identify and address external challenges to support students' academic success. Recommendations for practice, policy and research are provided in the discussion.

Physical Description:
1 online resource (244 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Jane Choi
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