What Constitutes "Good" Student-written Stories?: A Study of Primary Teachers' and Students' Perceptions

Ang Elsa

English Language Honours AE, NIE, 2004


Perceptions of what constitutes "good" writing play an important role in students' learning of writing and teachers' instruction in writing. This study aims to investigate students' and teachers' perceptions of the features that exemplify "good" student-written stories. In particular, it seeks to discover if students and teachers' perceptions of "good" student-written stories align.

Qualitative and quantitative data were gathered from two groups of primary 5 English language teachers and students through three instruments: comments and ranking of four student-written stories, individual semi-structured interviews and questionnaires. The comments and ranking of stories and interviews were administered to eight students and four teachers from two different schools, while the questionnaire was administered to forty-one students and twenty teachers from three schools. The data obtained were analysed by thematic coding.

The results of this study indicate that students perceived the categories of mechanical correctness, grammatical correctness, diction, plot development, quality of ideas, story length, organisation and handwriting to be features that characterised "good" stories. Their interview and questionnaire responses suggest that they placed a strong emphasis on surface features of writing, such as spelling and grammar. The teachers also perceived these features, with the exception of story length, as features of "good" student-written stories. However, they seemed to be affected by the dualism hierarchy of content and surface features as their stated perceptions consistently revolve around content features while their ranking of stories and some questionnaire responses revealed their preoccupation with surface features. The data also suggest the existence of both congruence and incongruities between students' and teachers' perceptions of "good" writing.

An implication for teaching drawn from this study includes the adoption of an eclectic approach of direct instruction and discussion of what constitutes "good" stories between students and teachers. To further advance knowledge in the field of writing using insights gained from this study, suggestions for future inquiry include the investigation of causes that obstruct teachers from assessing student writing according to their perceptions, the examination of whether students write according to their perceptions of "good" writing and a longitudinal study that investigates how children's perceptions of "good" stories developed.