The Complexity of Assignment Design: Functional Dimensions and Semiotic Domains in Assignments Designed by Teachers in the NORM-project
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionThe Journal of Writing Research. 2023, 14 (3), 343-373. 10.17239/jowr-2023.14.03.02
Designing writing assignments for pupils is a complex task. The teacher must make a lot of choices regarding what type of text to write, what the purpose of the writing should be, which audience the texts should have etc. Although formulating assignments is important for writing instruction, there has been limited insight into teachers’ choices regarding these aspects or the significance of the different school subjects when making such choices. We explore findings from a Norwegian intervention study on writing in primary school. The data includes 687 writing assignments designed by teachers for pupils in grades 3–7. Gee’s concept of semiotic domains forms the theoretical scope. Our research question is: What opportunities and challenges arise in teachers’ assignment design regarding different functional dimensions and semiotic domains? We show examples of how semiotic domains can collide, and that the combination of acts of writing, purpose, and audience can lead to assignments that are almost impossible to answer in a good way. We visualize the complexity of assignment design in a model which also is transferable to other contexts of assignment design.