Students are now required to show proficiency in writing through performance on standardized tests. Educators and researchers are looking for ways to improve persuasive and argumentative writing created by students. The writing content conference setting gives educators and students opportunities to discuss student writing in a one-on-one format in which students receive feedback. Ideally, this helps them to create multiple drafts of writing that improve with each revision. Many practitioner guides have been created that offer suggestions as to how conferences can be conducted and what types of interactions can theoretically occur. Few, however, have examined what actually happens during writing content conferences. Two case studies were conducted in an effort to describe with greater specificity key components of effective writing content conferences in a sixth-grade classroom. Students participated in five content conferences over a period of three months. Each conference was video recorded and later transcribed. The teacher-researcher describes the structured and predictable pattern in which students identified the purpose for the conference, examined a main issue of content with their teacher, and planned for future writing and future conference settings. Important issues of ownership also emerged. Effective conferences were student-directed and taken seriously by the students. The atmosphere of the conferences was safe and conducive to students taking risks. As young writers were encouraged to use their writing as means of expression for telling the stories of their lives, they often chose to write about socially taboo and thematically mature subjects. Future research should examine how workshop formats and writing content conferences affect student achievement in argumentative and informative writing.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Teacher Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





writing content conference, process writing, writing workshop, ownership