Henderson, Daphne Carr (2016-03). Triangulating Teacher Perception, Classroom Observations, and Student Work to Evaluate Secondary Writing Programs. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • This study triangulated multiple sources of data to evaluate a secondary writing program and determine the professional development (PD) needs of secondary writing teachers. The researcher began by designing a needs assessment survey for writing teachers based on practices in writing instruction that yield high to moderate effect sizes on student learning, particularly among struggling writers. The survey was then administered to writing teachers at a socio-economically disadvantaged high school in Texas after conducting classroom observations and analyzing samples of student work. Triangulating data from these three sources revealed a need for future professional development activities to focus on: teaching grammar and conventions in the context of writing; modeling self-regulation strategies while drafting, revising, and editing with students; providing specific, meaningful feedback to students about their writing; and organizing ideas according to the purpose and mode of the writing task. These findings are significant because classroom observations and student work samples revealed instructional weaknesses in the school's writing program that teachers did not perceive as high areas of need on the survey. The discrepancies between teacher perception and actual classroom practice suggest that campus leaders should avoid exclusively basing PD programming and evaluation on subjective data from participants. Furthermore, the triangulation of data from three sources established a reference point for future PD programming in writing and enabled the researcher to identify PD needs that more clearly aligned with students' instructional needs. While the specific PD goals that evolved from the study are not generalizable to other secondary schools, the process of collecting multiple forms of data to determine the quality and needs of a school's writing program can be applied in other campuses. If used appropriately, the methods employed in this study can help campus leaders close the gap between theory and instructional practice to facilitate improvements in student writing outcomes.

publication date

  • May 2016