Preservice Teachers’ Learning About
Writing Instruction Through the
Multigenre Digital Inquiry Project
Dr. Amy Piotrowski - Utah State University
Dr. Marla Robertson - Utah State University
How to engage preservice teachers in authentic inquiry about writing instruction
and to get preservice teachers writing?
One must be a writer in order to be a teacher of writing!
● Inquiry (Wells, 1994; Wilhelm, 2007)
● Multigenre writing in real world genres (Allen, 2001: Duke, Caughlan, Juzwik,
& Martin, 2012; Romano, 2013; Wickstrom, 2013)
● Using technology that may be useful in future classrooms (Kist, 2009; Mishra
& Koehler, 2006)
● Write and create in a broad study of real world genres that are more hybrid and
multimodal (Bezemer & Kress, 2016; Prain & Hand, 2016; Richardson, 2010)
● Teacher self-reflection (Schon, 1995)
● How do preservice teachers participate in a multigenre inquiry project?
● How do preservice teachers choose to represent their learning from their
● How do preservice teachers reflect on their learning from their participation in
the multigenre digital inquiry project?
● How does participation in the multigenre digital inquiry project influence
preservice teachers’ knowledge and beliefs about writing instruction?
● Writing courses (elementary and secondary) – focus on writing instruction and
being a writer
● Interactive Video Conference (IVC) courses with students in many locations
around the state - some sites with one student, others with up to seven
● Multigenre Digital Inquiry Project was the final project for the courses
● Preservice teachers participated in the study - S17, S18
● Choice of inquiry topic about teaching writing
● Minimum of 8 resources
○ 2 could be from internet
○ 2 could be chapters from previous readings from the semester
○ the remainder from databases – peer-reviewed journal articles (The
Reading Teacher, Language Arts, Voices From the Middle, English
● Pre- and post open-ended survey questionnaire (reflections related to the
● Brainstorming assignment as part of preliminary work to determine inquiry
● Annotated bibliographies from resources relating to the inquiry project
● Website created for the project including Dear Reader letter, essay, 2
substantial pieces and 3 shorter pieces of writing – including memos for each
● Constant comparative method
● Explores how the nature of the project influenced pre-service teacher’s
○ beliefs about writing
○ knowledge of writing pedagogy
○ writing in specific genres
○ use of technology
Student MDIP Topics
● Students chose a topic related to writing instruction.
● Of the 23 participants, only a few had similar topics: teaching writing with ELLs(2),
writing creatively(2), and writing and spelling(2).
● Other topics: writing and music, writing with technology, writing across the curriculum,
writing in science, writing daily, writing poetry, 1
st grade writing, math and writing
connections, writing for real purposes and audiences, maintaining culture in ESL writing,
how to teach writing in kindergarten, writing with voice, getting students to care about
writing, how to teach writing to students with disabilities, writing and personalized
learning, and getting students engaged in writing.
There were five choice
genres in this project per
person: substantial pieces
and shorter pieces.
These were written in 45
different genres. Many
were created using
technology; some were
handwritten or hand
● Participants found constructive criticism to be helpful - feedback that pointed
out what their reader liked about their website as well as things that could be
improved or clarified. Important to also have opportunity to then go and revise
and edit piece in order to actually use the feedback.
● Participants liked getting to workshop their project with their peers and
appreciated opportunities to “bounce ideas” around with others.
● Participants said that seeing other projects as examples and models of different
genres was helpful.
● When asked about how they planned to respond to their own students’ writing,
participants said many of the same things that they found to be helpful
responses to their own writing: honest, constructive feedback that builds
writers’ confidence while providing areas for improvement.
● “Learning how to set expectations for my future students has allowed me to set
expectations for myself in writing.”
● Participants acknowledged the power teachers have over their students and the
impact their work has to encourage or discourage students.
● Teaching is an incredible responsibility!
● Through this project, participants saw the value of having a real audience and
purpose for writing, getting students passionate about writing, providing
students’ choices in what and how they write, and how writing is a means of
creativity and exploration of ideas.
● “I believe that all teachers should try to bring authenticity to writing instruction
for all grades.”
● “Students should not be given cookie cutter writing prompts.”
● Participants realized how there are many different genres and ways to write.
● Participants found writing in different genres was a challenge, but that it
enabled possibilities for their writing that only writing a standard essay
● The project “opened my eyes to just how varied you can be...it allowed me to be
creative and choose exactly how I wanted to show my work.”
● Different genres conveyed different ideas from their research: “Every genre had
a little different insight from my research than the other one.”
● Writing (and writing instruction)can be authentic and enjoyable!
● Writing instruction can go beyond the standard essay.
● The MDIP opened preservice teachers to new kinds of writing and to the vital
importance of good writing instruction for all students.