Deakin University

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Writing for life: A student perspective on the writing workshop

journal contribution
posted on 2019-11-01, 00:00 authored by Lucinda McKnightLucinda McKnight
s a pre-service teacher educator on and off over the last twenty years, I have monitored how school writing has become ever more systems and teacher-directed and inauthentic, especially when linked to high stakes testing. Pre-service teachers ask why it has to be like this. The answer is that it doesn’t. As my own children approach senior English, and are taught to write in formulaic ways devoid of choice or authentic purpose beyond exam performance, I consider the removal of the Writing folio from English to have been a tragedy.This is not to call for a return to the past, but an honest assessment of the current VCE English course as not fit for purpose. As secondary English teachers we spend six years of young people’s lives working with them. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (OHCR, 1989) requires us to develop each child’s personality and talents to the full, to support children in thinking and believing what they want, to provide access to appropriate mass media and to prepare children for responsible life in a free society.Writing fill-the-gap, semi-memorised exam essays (usually) on print texts, learning to ventriloquise teachers, consuming texts rather than producing them, and purchasing professional learning that narrows English to mastery of grammatical metalanguage do not fulfil these aims. Neither does the ghastly tick box comparative essay on texts. Why would we inflict such a form on students? We need to work together as a community of practice to create a meaningful and authentic English that is engaging, pleasurable, personal and useful. Some lessons from the past may be useful in finding our way.









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Victorian Association for the Teaching of English


Melbourne, Vic.





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