University of Tasmania
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Writing for change : persuasion across the school years

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posted on 2023-05-27, 11:15 authored by Damon ThomasDamon Thomas
This thesis is about young people and their attempts to persuade others. It explicates valued language choices in the highest scoring persuasive texts written by Tasmanian primary and secondary school students for the 2011 NAPLAN writing test. In the new Australian Curriculum: English, persuasive writing is expected to be taught from Year 1, and this form of writing becomes increasingly prominent as students progress from primary to secondary school and beyond. As a result, research into valued persuasive genre and language choices in educational settings has been skewed to the upper secondary and tertiary levels. While educational linguists like Frances Christie and Beverly Derewianka have outlined the sorts of language choices primary school students can make to meet the social purposes of a range of genres, how they structure texts and use resources of language specifically to persuade others remain unknown. Fuelled by a high-stakes national testing program, the pressure to support students to produce cogent arguments has never been greater in Australia, and knowledge about valued genre and language choices in the primary and secondary years would provide educators with clarity and direction to achieve this. Beyond the needs of the curriculum, there are many benefits in helping young people to understand the use of persuasive writing in sustaining democratic rights and freedoms in Australia. A majority of young Australians lack interest in and understanding of Australia's political system, and are not actively engaging in democratic practices at a grassroots level. With much persuasive writing instruction in Australian schools focusing on NAPLAN-like tests that are disconnected from authentic, real-world issues facing students, there is much potential to reinvent how we engage young people in persuasive discourse. This study features the creation of an analytical frameworks composed of systems and principles from classical rhetoric and systemic functional linguistics (SFL) to unpack students' genre and language choices from two perspectives. High scoring texts from each year level that completed the 2011 NAPLAN test are unpacked at the levels of genre and discourse to make visible the valued choices in their writing. The study's findings suggest ways that educators can better prepare students to think and write persuasively. A range of frameworks are provided that map the increasing complexity of students' persuasive genre and language choices across primary and secondary school years, highlighting the sorts of rhetorical strategies deemed by markers to warrant high scores. The study has been designed to assist educators and researchers to promote and analyse the production of high quality persuasive texts for authentic purposes.


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