Writing Programs Provide Motivation, Identity for Local Elementary Students

HIGH POINT, N.C., Feb. 25, 2016 – High Point University education and psychology faculty joined together to study the benefits of writing programs for local elementary students. They recently shared their results, which found positive psychological benefits for the children, at the Journal of Language and Literacy Education conference in Athens, Georgia.

Dr. Leslie Cavendish and Dr. Sarah Vess, both assistant professors in the School of Education, worked with Dr. Kirsten Li-Barber, associate professor of psychology, to study an after-school writing program in fall 2015 for third- through fifth-graders at Montlieu Academy of Technology. The purpose of their research was to explore how the program would impact the children’s writing skills and sense of belonging in the community.

In each session, HPU education majors enrolled in service-learning classes led 66 Montlieu students in writing and photography exercises. Their lessons, which included writing bio poems and taking photos of their favorite places, helped the students explore who they are and where they are from.

The professors found that through the writing program, the children gained pride in their work and motivation to continue their creative expression

“The qualitative data we collected demonstrated that the program had an impact on the students’ developing identities as writers and their social interactions,” says Cavendish.

In some of the comments they collected, the children said they were inspired by writing about their passions and are interested in starting their own writing club.

“Our scholars were inspired to be creative and write about their very own life experiences,” says Kimberly Scott, principal at Montlieu Academy. “They were able to become photographers of their community and, in turn, write about their day to day lives. As a result of this partnership, many of our scholars now desire to become authors or journalists, which may have been a foreign thought to them previously. HPU has truly helped our scholars to dream big by building their passion for writing one experience at a time.”

The research also allowed the three professors to each study an area of their own interest while working together to improve both writing instruction and the student experience.

“Cross-discipline studies like these allow people with different backgrounds to come together in studying – and maybe solving – real-world issues,” Li-Barber says.

Based on the positive results they shared at the conference, the professors are working on a manuscript of their research for publication.

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