Writing Conference Interaction and Scaffolding: The Possible and the Actual
Type of DegreeDissertation
Curriculum and Teaching
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Writing conferences during the freshman composition course are characterized by role-based, dyadic interactions between a teacher and his or her students that have implications for students’ development in academic writing. Scaffolding, a type of interaction associated with the novice-expert role dyad, is considered to be among the most widely used pedagogical strategies in composition instruction. Data were gathered during a single semester’s freshman composition course and included audio recordings of conferences, conference observation field notes, and post-conference interviews with student participants. Features described as possible by current literature in composition studies were synthesized into operational categories and compared with transcriptions of actual teacher-student writing conference interactions. The transcripts of actual conferences revealed that scaffolding as described in current literature was not a pervasive type of interaction during teacher-student writing conferences. Many of the features of scaffolding described by the literature were evident, but the potential for scaffolding during the interactions was hampered by limited student contribution to dialogue, missed opportunities at critical decision points, and the inability to discern student demonstration of comprehension or increased competence as a result of the interaction. The transcripts revealed a student preference for directive instruction, a recognition of the teacher’s authority, and a hesitance to question authority that are characteristic of the developmental stage associated with college freshmen. Implications for teacher-student interactions during writing conferences and the ability of such interactions to facilitate instruction in academic writing are discussed.