How Does Community Writing and Feedback in Online Forums Benefit Teenage Authors?


Recently, Heather Birch, contacted us here at WEbook to find out if she could ask the community to volunteer information about themselves and their writing habits for her research survey.

Heather's research project aims to examine the experience of high school students as they submit pieces of their creative writing to online communities in order to receive feedback on their writing. This sounded so up WEbook's street, that we've encouraged Heather to post a link to her survey on the Water Cooler area of the forums here.

We had a quick chat to Heather to find out some more about what inspired her to undertake this research and what she thinks that the outcome of her research will show:

WEbook: Hi Heather. Could you tell us how far you've got with your project and what you plan to do with your findings?

Heather Birch: I have collected some data and come to some preliminary findings, but I am still looking for more participants to complete the survey so that I can gather a wider range of data. Once I've completed my project, I hope to present my research at the Canadian Society for the Study of Education Conference in May 2014, and then have the article published in an academic journal.

WB: That sounds really exciting Heather, could you give us a bit of background about the project, and about yourself too?

HB: I live in Niagara Falls, Canada, and have been a teacher for 14 years. I have taught Kindergarden though 8th grade, and mostly in the subjects of Drama, Music, Dance and the Visual Arts. I finished my Masters at the University of Toronto earlier this year, with a focus on using technology to facilitate student motivation and student learning. My research interests include connected learning, ramification of learning, assessment of learning and knowledge media design.

WB: What inspired you to look to online writing communities to widen your pool of research?

HB: My own teenage daughter is a writer, and she is and has been a part of four different online writing communities, including WEbook. Her involvement piqued my interest in what potential benefits such communities can have on writing ability and self-efficacy. I am currently taking a course at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) called 'Teaching Writing in the Classroom', and for a course project I decided to tackle the question of whether what happens in online writing communities can inform the practice of teaching within classrooms.

WB: What have you discovered so far about the connection between community writing and the development of people's writing?

HB: Well, the question is a tough one because the people who post to online writing communities do so voluntarily, the writing they post is not generally writing they've done in school, but rather writing they have done in their own time. In classrooms they are likely to be reluctant writers. Yet I am interested in how the sense of community that is established, and the range of perspectives available in an online writing community help to facilitate writing - one survey respondent indicated that she writes a lot more since being part of an online community.

WB: How do you think that this research can be used to encourage younger people to write more?

HB: I am interested, not only in how it can be used by teachers to take ideas from what happens in an online writing community and apply them in their writing classrooms, but how in fact, teachers might wither use online writing communities, or even set up their own, in order to maximise feedback on student writing, and provide a variety of perspectives and reader responses to student writing.

WB: Thanks for taking the time to explain this to all of us here at WEbook, Heather. We hope that you are able to get some really great research data from our community, and all the best of luck with your research project.

If you would like some more information about Heather and how her research is going, take a look at her website and blog:

The WEbook Team

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