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3 Project design

Exceptionally, application is made here for funding for a four-year research project. This is based on considerations regarding the aims and the design of the research. The core of the project is a longitudinal study of the development of students’ writing over their three-year gymnasium courses. It is crucial that the students are followed through all three years since the study will shed light upon the ways they realise and interpret the Gymnasium reform’s writing concept as a whole against the background of their experiences at secondary school. In the students’ biographical narratives (Giddens 1991, Ivanič 1998) about their writing development, both their transition from secondary school and their graduation from gymnasium must be taken to reflect crucial writing experiences.

The project design links longitudinal studies from a student perspective with thematic studies from a subject perspective. The design has, therefore, an in-built triangulation (Bryman 2004). Methodologically, ethnographical data collection methods will be combined with textual studies. The analytical approach to the ethnographical data will be discourse analysis (Gee 2005), while the textual analysis will be based on functional theories about text and communication. Using the concept of mediational means borrowed from activity theory, the student perspective will be linked to the subject perspective of the textual analyses (Blåsjö 2004, Hobel 2009). The empirical data, which will include classroom observation, interviews, writing assignment instructions and student texts, will be collected in a single electronic bank, to which all project members will have access. In meta-studies the mediational means in the subjects will be examined with a view to developing a common descriptive tool for texts, and relations between writing ability and subject-specific attainment criteria for quality will be explored.

Synergy between sub-studies is an in-built feature. Research interest in the triadic relation between student, subject and use of writing means that the longitudinal studies are reliant on the subject-related ones and vice versa. At the methodological level synergy is ensured through use of the common data bank and through common approaches to and concepts for analysis.

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