Perceptions of choice in writing of university students
Keywords:writing motivation, writing instruction, university students, argumentative writing, choice
There is an assumption in education that allowing students to choose their writing topics and positions is beneficial; however, there is little research to support this belief, particularly from the students’ perspectives. In the present study, we conducted 20 semi-structured interviews with students at a large university in the Southwest of the United States after they completed two in-class argumentative writing assignments in a course on exceptional children, one where they chose their writing position and one where they were assigned their writing position. As a group, these 20 students (13 female, 7 male) were above average writers in their first to third year of study, and the majority of them were education majors (70%), followed by arts and sciences (25%), and design and the arts (5%). The interview protocol focused upon their shifting perspectives on the underlying motivational construct of choice related to this and other writing assignments. Taking a grounded theory approach to thematic analysis, findings indicated that having choice in writing was important because it allowed students to write about topics that they find easier, more interesting, and possess greater knowledge. Choice also allowed students to demonstrate their autonomy, which they believed, influenced their motivation and writing quality/grades. While the university students in this study generally preferred choice, a majority of them identified benefits of not choosing, including opportunities to improve writing tenacity, enhance their writing skills, and achieve new perspectives.
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