Pamphleteering: The Academic in the Public Debate

Year: 1995

Author: Knight, Tony

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

State education in Victoria has been subjected to radical policy change since the election of the Liberal state government in 1992.

Self-Managing (`Schools of the Future') legislation, school closures and teacher reduction, plus large scale budget cuts have impacted powerfully on all aspects of state government schooling.

How academics with divergent views can engage the public debate, and influence school policy and public knowledge is taken up in this presentation.

Drawing upon an old tradition of pamphleteering (Dryden, Swift, Pope) and more contemporary examples, (The Hillgate Group, London, and ACT Research Network, Bristol Polytechnic and Centre for Educational Studies, Kings College London)) the Centre for Democratic Education was formed in Melbourne, 1994. Its purpose is to publish in clear language, enlivened comment analysis and data, on issues directly related to contemporary schooling.

A total of 3000 pamphlets in each printing run are forwarded to every State School Parent Association, to major teacher education institutions, members of parliament and members of the general public.

Membership of the group is informal and presently includes 19 academics (primarily) from four Victorian Universities.

Topics published include:- `Cutting Into the Bone'- `Kennett's Damage to Government Schools'- `School Closures and Student Drift'- `Just Testing?'- `Who is Qualified?'- `Educating Children With Disabilities'- `Marketing In Schools'KRAUK95.147. The Relationship Between Writing Apprehnsion and the Writing competence of Secondary School Students Kerri-Lee Krause. This paper reports preliminary results of an intervention study aimed at improving the essay writing skills of secondary school students.

Writing apprehension, or writing anxiety, is a trait widely experienced by novice and expert writers alike. The premise of this study is that excessive writing apprehension inhibits the composing process and thus the writing competence of students. If teachers are aware of the varying degrees of writing apprehension in their students, they may take steps to alleviate excessive anxiety. The intervention undertaken incorporates possible strategies which may be employed.

Year 10 students from two Sydney schools were allocated to Control and Experimental Groups respectively. At pre-test, writing apprehension levels of students from both groups were determined using the Daly-Miller Writing Apprehension Inventory and some additional items.

Student writing competence was assessed using an in-class argumentative essay which was marked using pre-determined criteria. The Experimental Group underwent the intervention programme over eight weeks. The Control Group continued with regular English classes during this time.

At post-test the two groups completed a second in-class argumentative essay and the Writing Apprehension Inventory. Think-aloud protocols were also conducted.

Results suggest that, at post-test, those who had been taught specific strategies including planning and step-by-step approaches to the composition of text, demonstrated a lower mean level of writing apprehension than those in the Control Group. With increasing importance being attached to secondary school and tertiary qualifications, a concomitant stress is placed on written essay-type examinations. This study, with its focus on the apprehension so often experienced by young writers, has implications for the enhancement of student writing competence and the classroom practices of today and tomorrow.