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Teaching to the Task: Preservice Teachers' Instruction for Cognitively Demanding Writing Assignments

Benko, Susanna (2012) Teaching to the Task: Preservice Teachers' Instruction for Cognitively Demanding Writing Assignments. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In this study, I examine the instruction of four preservice English teachers (PSTs) for cognitively demanding literature-based writing tasks in order to investigate the types of tasks that PSTs identify as cognitively demanding, how PSTs’ instruction for such tasks maintains or degrades the task’s intellectual rigor, and possible influences and/or constraints during instruction. Data drew from a) classroom observations of instruction that began at the task’s introduction and continued until the students completed the assignment; b) interviews conducted before the task was handed out, after every classroom observation, and after the final task was completed; and c) classroom artifacts such as the tasks, handouts, and other materials used by teachers. Data analysis focused on understanding the teachers’ instructional moves and searching for alignment, or in some cases, misalignment, of this instruction with the demands of the writing task. Findings from this study suggest that even though all of the study’s PSTs demonstrated a high understanding of “cognitive demand” for writing tasks, they presented tasks of varying levels of cognitive demand during their instruction. Additionally, while all PSTs designed task specific instruction, there was a wide range in the types of instruction provided to support student thinking or student writing. While some of the PSTs’ instruction aligned with recommended best practices in writing instruction (e.g., modeling, use of writer’s workshop), it was unclear how such instruction was supporting students to think about the text in relationship to the task and to write in response to the task. Findings from this study suggest that PSTs need the opportunity to closely study writing tasks in order to understand a task’s intellectual work and design instruction to appropriately prepare students to write in response to cognitively demanding literature based writing tasks.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ContributionContributors NameEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Committee Co-ChairScott, Sarahscott22@pitt.eduSCOTT22UNSPECIFIED
Committee Co-ChairThein, Amandaamanda-haertling-thein@uiowa.eduUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Committee MemberMatsumura, Lindsay Clarelclare@pitt.eduLCLAREUNSPECIFIED
Committee MemberColes, NicholasCOLES@pitt.eduCOLESUNSPECIFIED
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairScott, Sarah
Committee MemberThein, Amanda
Committee MemberMatsumura, Lindsay Clare
Committee MemberColes, Nicholas
Date: 6 June 2012
Date Type: Submission
Defense Date: 17 May 2012
Approval Date: 29 August 2012
Submission Date: 6 June 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 307
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Instruction and Learning
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: teaching writing, tasks, writing instruction, cognitive demand, preservice teachers, teacher education
Date Deposited: 29 Aug 2012 18:23
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2019 22:26


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