Use of childrens literature in improving standards of writing

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The landscape of literacy in contemporary primary education is continually evolving, with increasing focus on what is taught, and how best this is to be conveyed, in order for children to learn. Government initiatives have provided both direction and structure for teachers (as well as a challenge to their creative application,) whilst continually changing curriculum implementation requires the teacher to adapt and refocus on new academic and pastoral directorates. The role of research in enabling this learning is therefore crucial, in order to propose and test new ways of thinking, to improve the quality of both learning and teaching. My interest resides in how research and theories of education can facilitate such improvements in the literacy curriculum. Traditionally, the three elements of literacy: reading, writing, and speaking and listening, have often been considered discrete entities, with a basis for learning founded primarily on technical aptitude. Such separation is still currently reflected in the three strands of the National Curriculum references: the challenge lies, therefore, in how best to deliver an holistic literacy curriculum that nourishes a child's learning. Ultimately, the ability to read, write and talk fluently is a life skill that underpins communication:

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language reflects and extends every kind of human intention and aspiration;

there is no part of our lives in which it cannot be productive (Smith, 1982, p. 13).

My area of focus is 'examining the use of children's literature in improving standards of writing in key stage 2'. I am interested in how, as children have steadily acquired language, this can be extended by enabling a joint experience and relationship between reading and writing, to provide both a cognitive expansion, development of process-skills, and the establishment of the motivation and enthusiasm that is needed in order for the development to be sustained. The two articles I will examine during the course of this essay focus their research on suppositions of progress based on using literature and reading as a way of developing writing.

The importance of the reader-writer relationship:

a literature review

A child's ability to write is a multi-layered process, but is essentially a fundamental quest to make meaning. Writing provides the means to discover, interpret and communicate knowledge and concepts across the curriculum. It does, however, seem to be a perennial cause for concern in primary schools: Ofsted's annual report articulated the weakness in the teaching of writing, particularly development and evaluation of composition, with 'too little emphasis on the skills of drafting, editing and redrafting' (Ofsted, 2007). (Barrs, in her article, succinctly introduces the concept of writing as a 'poor relation'.) This is reflected in key stage 2 SATs, where only 67 % of pupils achieve the expected level for their age (DCSF, 2007). As a teacher, therefore, my role in enabling successful literacy learning is crucial for children to access the wider curriculum, as well as providing them with a secure basis to frame lifelong learning.

Before examining the chosen articles, I will detail other research and theories against which they may be considered. The articles' pedagogical premise can be seen as a reaction against the findings of a study by Galton, who found key stage 2 teaching to be 'very much a matter of teachers talking and children listening', and an environment that did not encourage open questions (Galton, cited, Wyse, McCreery and Torrance, 2008, p. 3). Instead, strategies to aid teaching and learning are emphasised in a way similar to Dombey's research into the learning needs of children and reading, and teachers' imperatives to facilitate this. These needs are categorised as attitudes, strategies, knowledge and tactics, and experiences (Dombey, 1993, pp. 2-7), and are transferable in their use across the literacy spectrum.

Another applicable model is posited by Guppy and Hughes. A synthesis of 'reading between the lines' and 'reading beyond the lines' (Guppy & Hughes, 1993, p. 29) can be applied across the literacy curriculum as children are encouraged to interpret, make meanings, and relate them to other contexts. Further research into reading and writing practices demonstrate both logistical and emotive teaching strategies, the latter being a reflection of the five aspects of motivation to reading detailed by Guthrie and Wigfield, where the teacher's role is to encourage 'curiosity, involvement and challenge' (cited, Sainsbury & Schagen, 2004, p. 373).

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Mortimore's definitions of successful teaching are specifically applicable within this field of research. The features of high expectations from teachers and pupils, cross-curricular learning, and teacher-pupil interaction (Mortimore et al, cited, Wyse, McCreery and Torrance, 2008, pp. 3-4) feature strongly in the ethos of the articles.

There has been much recent research on the use of storytelling in raising standards in literacy, with an emphasis on encouraging progress through motivation. Fraser's thinking on the use of story within literature as a way of representing the link between speech and reading progression (Fraser, 1998, p. 27) can be seen as underpinning Barrs' and Nicholson's research on writing. As a way of understanding narrative as a means to aid writing, the Story Making Project conducted by the National Literacy Trust defines three stages of language acquisition through exposure to literature: 'imitation; innovation; invention' (Corbett, 2004). This is strengthened by the link between storytelling and writing development, through contextualising imaginative connections (Ellis, Brewster & Mohammed, 1991, p. 1). Harold Rosen attaches the significance of storytelling as a way of developing knowledge in literature to the theories of Bruner, emphasising its role in dual narratives making meaning across different discourses in life (Rosen, 1989, p. 169). Rooks echoes the significance of working with stories, as a way of establishing an environment where children have the freedom to experiment with both cognitive ideas and develop their process skills (Rooks, 1998, p. 24). In key stage 2, children have increasing awareness of their own 'inner life', as well as their role in a wider context; Sainsbury and Schagen determine the use of literature for them to 'experience through imagination other worlds and roles' (Sainsbury & Schagen, 2004, p. 375), thus fostering motivation as well as their creative skills in literacy.

Current legislation regarding Every Child Matters, where emphasis is placed on the importance of inclusion, demonstrates the importance of teachers' responsibility in their own continuing professional development to undertake their own research, on whatever scale, to determine how they can enable every child to achieve their potential (DCSF, 2005). As a product of critical reflection, research is thus an important aspect of improving classroom practice. What is challenging is the role of research to provide integrated teaching and learning strategies that raise standards, without the focus for children being on summative testing.

The potential of using literature to encourage confidence and progression in writing, is one that I am interested in exploring in my own classroom practice. The two research articles chosen demonstrate how research can be beneficial as a means of developing teaching practice, and its learning outcomes. They provide a frame of scope that the teacher can investigate within their own classroom. The most important feature of the articles is that they are representative of evidence-based research: the propositions have been clarified and explored through classroom activities over a length of time, in order to inform their conclusions.

The articles elucidate current educational thought: a move away from the systematic, prescribed nature of the National Literary Strategy (NLS) and the literacy hour, to a more thematic approach as reflected in the new primary framework. This aligns with the 'process writing' approach, where writing is concerned with development, involving 'thinking and shaping meaning' (Graham & Kelly ed., 1998, p. 7). A key exponent of this approach is Donald Graves, who advocates collaboration by which to instil ownership and reflectivity in a child. Among the trends he identifies is the 'surge' pattern, where a writer has time to read and listen to text, to discover information, and to write every day, to inform composition and evaluation. (Graves, 1983, p. 265). The interaction between teacher and child as a gateway to enabling freedom of choice and creativity is further espoused by Frank Smith, who stresses the impact of modelling: 'It is necessary to see (or hear) something being done, and to understand why it is being done.' (Smith, 1982, p. 170).

The basis of both articles stems from the supposition of the relationship between reading and writing, a genesis born of Smith's identification of their combined relevance: 'reading seems to me to be the essential fundamental source of knowledge about writing' (Smith, 1982, p. 177). Such an approach is evocative of Ofsted's account of effective lessons, where there is a successful transfer of literacy concepts being applied to different subjects, through 'developing links between reading and writing' (Ofsted, 2007). With the initial stages of the 'Every child a reader/writer' (DCSF, 2007) schemes underway, and the government's green-lighting of a national roll-out of 'Reading recovery' (DCSF, 2007) schemes, it will be interesting to see if the collaborative strategies from recent research (including the two articles) will further strengthen this, or if, in structuring the elements separately, the benefit of immersion across all aspects of literacy will be lost.

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As a teacher, evidence-based research demonstrates validity of suggestions through implementation. The two articles chosen are both examples of evidence-based research, their philosophy stemming from social interactionist theories of development, found particularly in Vygotsky. His emphasis on testing whether learning has taken place by transferring application to other contexts (Wyse and Jones, 2001, p. 27) can be evidenced through the topic-based approach to the use of literary texts. This also links to the theory of 'child-centered' learning: Dewey encouraged the concept of teacher as facilitator, in encouraging decision making and discussion, as children become involved in their work and 'own' it (Wyse and Jones, 2001, p. 28). A result of giving writing such purpose subsequently enables a 'reinvigorated and refocused' curriculum (Graham & Kelly ed., 1998, p. 9).

Article analysis overview

Articles being evaluated:

'The Reader in the Writer' Myra Barrs

'Putting literature at the heart of the literacy curriculum' Deborah Nicholson

N.B. Quotations from the articles are not cited, though their attribution within the text is made clear.

The articles I am examining both explore how reading 'powerful' literature has the potential to develop standards of writing, in key stage 2 children. The originating research article is conducted by Myra Barrs, which later formed the basis of a book of the same name, which expands study of the subject. Deborah Nicholson's article arises from the genesis of Barrs' original research, utilising criteria from the original article and the book as elements used in conducting her own study. Both articles focus on teaching strategies, such as teacher modelling, extensive discussion and interaction, through involving the study of specific children's literature, to encourage the development of writing, particularly authorial voice, narrative and composition.

Basis of research

In order to evaluate the articles it is important to acknowledge the pedagogical basis underpinning the methodology of the research, to better understand the assumptions contained therein. The research articles are both indicative, epistemologically speaking, of anti-positive assumptions, with knowledge seen as 'personal, subjective and unique' (Cohen, Manion, Morrison, 2007, p. 7). In exploring the relationship between children, teachers, and their learning and teaching environment, the articles are working under a voluntarism approach. The teaching strategies are designed to enable children to become 'initiators of their own actions with free will and creativity, producing their own environments' (Cohen, Manion, Morrison, 2007, p. 8). Yet within such a definition, it is apparent that the research also contains elements of the counter-opposite assumption; determinism. Its supposition can be reflected in the articles, where children are products of their environment, for they are, essentially, dependent on which teaching strategies are conveyed, to dictate the development of their learning.

As stated in Nicholson's abstract, both articles address qualitative and quantitative aspects, perceptible in their concern with how children can best be enabled to create, modify and interpret their learning environment, specifically their experience of reading literature in order to improve their writing (Cohen, Manion, Morrison, 2007, p. 8). Though in applying such concepts, the emphasis is placed on individual rather than general understanding (again, a possible weakness, as the articles form statements of applicability regarding all children in key stage 2), the aim of the approach is to understand individual behaviour, a feature of idiographic research (Cohen, Manion, Morrison, 2007, p. 8). Fundamentally, the articles encapsulate subjectivist research, based on its principles of 'the search for meaningful relationships and the discovery of their consequences for action' (Barr Greenfield, cited, Cohen, Manion, Morrison, 2007, p. 10).

Though the research is evidence-based, the influence of critical theory is clear in both articles: Nicholson cites Smith, and both authors cite Vygotsky, in underpinning their suppositions, and the strategies suggested in working with challenging literature enable a child to work in their zone of proximal development, where 'children must go beyond what they themselves can write' (Smith, 1982, p. 195). Barrs emphasises such social constructivist ideas in using the theory of Bakhtin to underline her point about the closeness of relationship between reader and writer: that in reading we are creating our own 'inner speech' as writers. (Though a wonderfully poetic notion, I doubt that it would be a concept children with lower ability reading or comprehension skills would understand, and therefore be able to access.) In viewing reading and writing as Vygotsky's 'two halves of the same process', it cements the notion that connections need to be made across the two areas, in order to make broader meaning, yet some children could, in not being able to access understanding of inner speech, be prevented from forming this connection.

The Barrs article was written in 2000, when perhaps greater emphasis was placed on meeting the criteria set out in the NLS. Nicholson's article, written in 2006, can be seen as moving on from Barrs' original research, towards examining more about both sides of teaching and learning, in order to facilitate writing development. Barrs, as director of the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE), demonstrates her expertise in literacy-focused research, whilst Nicholson, in taking the genesis of her article from Barrs' eventual book that documented her research, and again using the CLPE to carry out the project, highlights the validity of the foundation. Nicholson's research, unlike Barrs, seems to angle itself more towards how teachers can alter their classroom practice to enable better learning, rather than the pure use of reading as a focus.

Both articles are most useful when viewed as a tool-kit of ideas that teachers can implement, in order to foster the writing process. The notion of 'powerful' literary texts that can be 'experienced' by children on a long-term scale, and across the subjects, is one that fits well with the return to a topic-based approach that is currently being advocated. Imbuing confidence in teachers and pupils through strategies including discussion, drama, and collaborative learning, are also excellent ways to encourage whole class participation, and are representative of Smith's three conditions of learning: demonstration, engagement, and sensitivity (Smith, 1982, p. 170).

The frailty of the texts as wholly transferable research models, is demonstrated in their fundamental structure. The use of such a subjectivist approach is exemplified in modern modes of research, as in 'accounts, participation observation and personal constructs' (Cohen, Manion, Morrison, 2007, p. 8) A weakness of this approach is the lack of tangible, specific data, with which to assess and inform. In using an holistic way of researching modes for improvement, the statistical data analysis used in both articles to quantify their assumptions and generalisations is scant and subjective. Very little argument is underpinned by a valid justification, while extraneous variables make reliable conclusions difficult.

I have clarified limitations in detail, by sectioning my analysis under the broader headings 'validity', 'reliability' and 'inference'.

Validity

Nicholson creates general assumptions of a child's knowledge, which seems to negate any form of inclusion or catering for abilities. Barrs' wish is for children to access the two halves of reading and writing as a whole: to find an inner voice, determined by Donald Graves as crucial for writing progression: 'voice breathes through the entire process... not only is it the dynamo for the writing, but it contributes most to the development of the writer' (Graves, 1983, p. 229). Nicholson's 'voice', accessed through 'aesthetic reading' that 'involves an appreciation of the sounds of the words', is connected to Rosenblatt's advocating 'sensing, feeling, imagining, thinking under the stimulus of words'. This seems a highly conscious act that may be difficult for children to access, if they do not comprehend the process. Examples used to back up the basis of Barrs' research are also out of context: in citing how reading can forge a relationship between their inner sense of authorial voice, the evidence is taken from a French teacher in a secondary school system. Is it feasible to expect all children in key stage 2 to make this connection?

Determining that 'writers who are readers are people with a large number of tunes and structures in their heads', Barrs seems to discount those children who do not, implying that these other children are more passively consumers of the teaching, rather than co-constuctors of their own learning. Nicholson briefly acknowledges lower ability readers by asserting the opportunities the project gave for re-reading of texts. In re-reading, and re-drafting when writing, the research demonstrates opportunities for children to develop higher order thinking skills, through evaluating and modifying work. This is also shown in the teacher's assessment of the children 'drawing not only what had just been read, but also on what they had previously heard and thought about', where the children are synthesising meaning and understanding.

Confusion of intent in Barrs' research stems from the deviation from its original assumption. Documenting the positive effects of writing in role as initiated through a drama workshop, propagates the idea that speaking and listening are equally relevant in aiding progress. This suggests that it is not simply the reading of the text, but how it is conveyed and explored through speech that brings it alive in a child's mind. In suggesting the importance of overlap between reading and writing, it would have been more credible to include speaking and listening as part of this holistic cohesion, in the original assumption. It seems logical that use of drama throughout the stages of reading and writing could make more direct inroads to the essence of the books, for the children to interpret and transfer to their own writing.

Another significant weakness in Barrs' article is that the actual 'reading of the text' is glossed over, despite being framed as the pivotal catalyst. There is no suggestion as to how the reading was conveyed; whether the teacher was reading to the class over a period of time or to focus groups; whether the children read independently as individuals or in pairs. No mention is made of the leap from reading the text to writing in role. It would have been helpful as a teacher to know how the reading was imparted. Although drama is purported to enable children to write in role and 'access language that is beyond their normal range', the article does not demonstrate how this was determined. I wonder if a year 3 lower ability child could so easily make connections as a 'different persona' and interpret these in writing, without practice and extra scaffolding.

A further flaw in Barrs' research is the validity of the data tools used for analysis. Using 'T-unit length' as a measure of 'syntactic complexity' is at odds with the holistic, creative and compositional emphasis placed on the writing. Barrs acknowledges this limitation, and, despite stating how it was an interesting way of revealing influence of literature on writing, it seems that a better measure would have been a form of analysis which interpreted the detailed elements of the project.

A feature common to both articles, which undermines their validity, is that no alternate test sample is offered. We are not informed of the literacy teaching strategies to teaching reading and writing already in place, nor of the school standards or policies. It would have been ethically viable to implement an alternate test, particularly in Nicholson's research where teaching strategies are thought to be the essence of implementing changes, but additional teaching strategies were not in place.

Reliability

The difficulty with assessing emotive, holistic interpretations of learning, is that there is little tangible evidence to inform the generalisations made in the articles, as to what is enabling development. The sample pieces displayed in Barrs' article, demonstrate empathy, but it is not clear how, although 'children were absorbed in the world of the text', their writing had progressed. Nicholson has carefully considered previous research in selecting her texts for study. Using Barrs' evidence on the use of traditional tales, which itself builds upon Carol Fox's earlier research, adds validity to the choice. The claim that children were engaged 'emotionally as readers' is statistically unverifiable: there is no reflection or other quantification from, for example, talking or writing about the texts. Nicholson asserts the main criteria demonstrated in the three chosen books, yet these were the same books used in Barrs' original research project, six years previously. That one of them was out of print can be seen to question the relevance of the chosen texts in their power to engage children. Perhaps other examples may have been more motivating, especially if children could be involved in their selection. In her study, Barr similarly determines that the classes were already demonstrating use of 'high quality literature', but how this is demonstrated is not clarified, making the assumption unreliable.

Despite the project's target of a key stage 2 focus, Barrs' research group was only focused on a year 5 group, in only 5 primary schools, in greater London. Such a small focus group, in a distinctly urban area, compromises its application on a nationwide level. There is a wide gap between learning progress in writing between years 3-5. The study in Nicholson's article also has a very urban focus, with specific ethnic minority input, which might only have particular local relevance. As acknowledged in Nicholson's abstract, the focus of her study is again years 5 & 6, which she does not generalise to key stage 2.

Inference

Both articles are working under the effect of bias, which ultimately weakens the validity of the assumptions. This is specifically found in the collection of data, demonstrative of the Hawthorne effect. An external project co-ordinator made visits to assess progress, interviewing (selected) children, observing activities, and talking the project over with teachers. It would be difficult not to have a positive bias towards someone from the research project asking direct questions; an 'outside' person entering the classroom would always provokes some change in dynamics. It seems that the focus of the results is more about what is being taught and how, rather than what is being learnt as observed through the content and quality of the work being produced.

The nature of Nicholson's project is demonstrative of the halo effect in its positive bias. As the schools 'made the decision to buy into the project', they are likely to have a vested interest in making it work. The materials provided emphasis this, in particular the promotional RaWpower materials, which are essentially marketing tools. Both projects also included visits from a CLPE advisory teacher, rather than an objective observer. The tracking scale used to quantify both pieces of research was also created from the CLPE rather than an independent source, and it is not stated as to how this scale was created. It would have been preferable that use of the national levelling for literacy would have demonstrated the potential of the project within the national framework. In using their own scale of assessment, there remains a possibility of it being tailored to meet the research assumptions. The scale does, however, allow for a more formative way of assessing progress: its 'model of learning and what best supports it' emphasises interaction between teacher and child, recognising the role that collaborative learning can achieve.

Concluding observations on the research

Though generically surmised as a study of how reading literature affects writing development, it is clear that the main catalyst for effective development is not the quality of the literature being taught, but the teaching strategies in place to ensure that it is well learnt: the success of the children's learning is dependent on the skill with which it is imparted. Nicholson asserts that the most success was found where teachers were enthusiastic and confident.

Nicholson details ways in which the research project aimed to enable teachers to elicit development through their teaching, using previous research to guide them (specifically Aidan Chambers' book on open questions). This illustrates the importance of speaking and listening skills as a complement to reading and writing: providing 'experiences [that] could make it easier for children to write about with involvement' demonstrates how connections can be made between text and thought, through their articulation. This crucial aspect is further developed through a workshop, for teachers to learn how drama through storytelling can develop writing. The project is thus also an important area of professional development in enabling them to access the strategies.

The importance placed on the continuing professional development of teachers to elicit such learning from children by both research articles, gives as much emphasis to the education of the adult facilitators, as to creating new ways to develop the progress of children. Although Nicholson concludes by stating that 'teachers need to build children's enthusiasm for writing', it seems that the focus of the research was equally to build such enthusiasm in teachers.

There are ultimately two ways of judging the validity and outcomes of the research articles. Firstly: that it is not possible to assess the effectiveness of a variable in isolation, because so many features of daily classroom practice were changed - from teaching strategies to lesson content. Secondly: if literature is the gateway to improving writing, then its ability to create powerful learning must be enabled through confident, skilled practitioners, who can draw from a range of teaching strategies which enable this.

Implications for classroom pedagogy

Reflecting on the key points of the research (both the implementation of the project as well as its findings), has involved a wider reading of action-research theories of learning. These highlight the necessity for me as a teacher, to be a researcher, in order to deliver the most effective teaching for learning. As Graves determines, the best kind of teacher has 'an insatiable appetite for learning' and can recognise that 'when teachers learn, the children learn' (Graves, 1983, p. 128).

For children to progress their writing, (and their reading and speaking and listening skills) they are dependent on me to implement teaching that excites, engages, challenges; that provides the basis for them to learn. As Smith specifically articulates, the role of a teacher is fundamentally two-fold: 'They must demonstrate uses for writing, and they must help children use writing themselves' (Smith, 1988, p. 26).

Despite flaws in methodology, the articles demonstrate successful teaching strategies that encourage a child's fullest involvement, which I would wish to envelope within my classroom practice. Some of this, such as modelling writing, is already a feature of my lessons, but could be enhanced by a more collaborative effort between myself and the children, perhaps instigated through a class brainstorm of ideas that are structured into a writing frame or concept map. To meet the needs of all abilities, however, would require individual modelling, which could be planned by teacher and teaching assistant on a most-needed basis.

My experience of reading in key stage 2 has involved reading to the whole class as a teacher, yet there has been no verbal or written discourse following this. Evans determines the key element of encouraging links between reading and writing through providing 'texts that extend children's opportunities to respond in written form'(Evans, ed., 2001, p. 50). It is an area of potential for me to transfer contextual themes from reading literature into discussions and written work. Although I take a topic-based approach to my medium term planning that encompasses subjects across the curriculum, I would welcome a piece of literature being a catalyst.

Whilst acknowledging the potential of associating the learning of reading and writing in my teaching of it, I do wonder about logistical considerations if being attached across the curriculum. I will have to think through the time of day I devote to written work; in my experience, some children in key stage 2 are less able to focus on writing in the afternoon, and I would, perhaps, devote afternoons instead to reading and discussion-focused activities, encouraging the use of talk partners along with whole class discourse.

What will need practice is the perception of writing in the children's minds. The emphasis on 'neat' handwriting at all times may cause confusion to beginner authors, when suddenly encouraged to focus on composition. Demonstrating how we can improve both the content of our 'voice' and structural matters through drafting, however, should come with practice.

The ability for texts to create 'experiences' for children to immerse themselves in, must be facilitated by a language-rich classroom, that demonstrates the necessity of language and its ease of acquisition, through making materials easily available. I have already instigated a poetry corner in my placement school, where children can read books as well as their own poetic works, which I have 'published' in an ongoing poetry book. A 'poet of the week' is also selected: an honour in which the children take great pride.

Interactive displays of learning as well as resources could also aid the cultivation of the optimum learning climate, with leaflets, brochures, fiction and non-fiction books, posters, and labels presenting language in different forms and concepts: displays as 'work in progress' that require engagement and revision, rather than being fixed.

The use of a text as a medium-term plan to span the wider curriculum can be seen as an extension of the topic-based work I have implemented, which would enable the children to make deeper connections and transfer these to other contexts, through being able to study a book over a longer period of time. This would also help establish and consolidate the purposes for writing, so that children are aware of its different uses in a wider environment of learning.

To deliver ideas effectively, it is crucial to dedicate sufficient time. Interruptions could distract from the flow of learning, a point admitted by the year 6 teachers in Nicholson's study who had to break away from the project due to pressure of SATs revision, and as a result, had a 'less consistent experience'. A medium term, cross- curricular plan using literature as the focal point, is vital for children to make established meanings.

Conclusion

Following my article analysis and wider reading, my original focus of examining the use of literature in developing the writing of key stage 2 children, has been clarified. The two articles support, and, to some extent, validate the assumptions that using literary texts as a basis for teaching literacy holds equal value as a cross-curricular tool, and that a child's enjoyment of the text is reflected in the creativity of their writing. The motivating factors of this fall into two areas, and appear mutually dependent in order to achieve successful learning: the choice of literature studied and its immersion into classroom life, and the teaching strategies that enable a deep level of understanding and development.

The frailty of methodology in the articles demonstrates the omnipotent nature of doubt in research. Any research always has an element of conflicting priorities of educational, political, theoretical or philosophical considerations. In order to honour such demands, it will always be prey to frailty of validity and bias. The use of action research, evidence-based findings in education, found in the articles, does enable one to extract new possibilities. Taken generally, or in isolation, the role of research in this respect is to make suggestions for best practice. My role as teacher is to trial them, undertaking my own research into what strategies and methods of teaching can enable the development in a child of what C. S. Lewis determined as the 'quality of response' (cited, Evans, ed, 2001, p. 47).

What has been demonstrated as vital for meaningful learning is the enthusiasm and confidence of the teacher imparting it. More than mere academic research, then, in order for children to feel engaged and passionate about their learning, I must communicate this through my teaching, to elicit 'the thinking, feeling, and reflecting' (Evans, ed., 2001, p. 48) in their writing.

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