Writing has become a gateway for employment and promotion, especially in salaried positions (National Commission on Writing, 2004). More than 90 percent of mid-career professionals recently cited the “need to write effectively” as a skill “of great importance” in their day-to-day work (National Commission of Writing, 2005). In most jobs, writing emails has surpassed the use of the telephone as the primary means of communication. Employees in business and government alike are expected to produce written documentation–memos, technical reports, visual presentations, and the like. Of the 32% of high school students who are college-bound, 78% will struggle in writing (Cavanaugh, 2004b). Writing has occupied too narrow a place in school as compared to the enormous role that it plays in children’s cultural development (Vygotsky). A cornerstone of the Common Core Standards for Writing is students’ ability to write logical arguments based on substantive claims, sound reasoning, and relevant evidence. According to the Standards, each year in their writing, students should demonstrate increasing sophistication in all aspects of language use, from vocabulary and syntax to the development and organization of ideas, and they should address increasingly demanding content and sources. Their topics should be developed with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples. The Standards for Writing are to help prepare students for real life writing experiences at college and in 21st century careers. So how best do we teach students how to write?
Graham and Perin (2007) conducted the most recent meta-analysis of the research literature pertaining to writing intervention. They reviewed 582 research studies. Of those studies, 123 were deemed of sufficient quality to be included in the meta-analysis. Below, in order of effectiveness, are the conclusions of their research.
Meta-Analysis Conducted by Graham and Perin (2007) Reveals Effective Writing Instruction (ranked in order of effectiveness with effect size in parenthesis):
- Strategy instruction (.82): The primary goal for strategy instruction is to teach students’ specific skills, knowledge, or processes that they can use independently once instruction has ended. The goal of instruction is to place the targeted declarative and/or procedural knowledge directly under the writer’s control as soon as possible.
- Summarization (.82): This instruction involves explicitly and systematically teaching students how to summarize texts. This can include teaching strategies for summarizing text or instructional activities designed to improve students’ text summarization skills.
- Peer assistance (.75): This involves students working together to plan, draft, and/or revise their compositions.
- Setting product goals (.70): These involve assigning students specific goals for the written product they are to complete.
- Word processing (.55): This involves students using word processing computer programs to compose their composition. This involves students using word processing computer programs to compose their composition.
- Sentence combining (.50): This instruction involves teaching students to construct more complex and sophisticated sentences through exercises in which two or more basic sentences are combined into a single sentence.
- Inquiry (.32): This involves engaging students in activities that help them develop ideas and content for a particular writing task by analyzing immediate and concrete data (e.g., comparing and contrasting cases or collecting and evaluating evidence.
- Prewriting activities (.32): This involves students engaging in activities (such as using a semantic web or brainstorming ideas) designed to help them generate or organize ideas for their composition.
- Process writing approach (.32): This approach to teaching writing involves extended opportunities for writing; writing for real audiences; engaging in cycles of planning, translating, and reviewing; personal responsibility and ownership of writing projects; high levels of student interactions and creation of a supportive writing environment; self-reflection and evaluation; personalized individual assistance and instruction; and in some instances more systematic instruction.
- Study of model (.25): This involves students examining examples of one or more specific types of text and attempting to emulate the patterns or forms in these examples in their own writing.
- Grammar instruction (-.32): This instruction involves the explicit and systematic teaching of grammar (e.g., the study of parts of speech and sentences
Graham and Perin (2007) elaborate on effective strategy instruction, specifically Self Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD):
“In a previous meta-analysis by Graham (2006a), SRSD yielded larger effect sizes than the other methods of strategy instruction combined. The SRSD model includes six stages of instruction: (a) Develop background knowledge (students are taught any background knowledge needed to use the strategy successfully), (b) describe it (the strategy as well as its purpose and benefits are described and discussed; a mnemonic for remembering the steps of the strategy may be introduced too), (c) model it (the teacher models how to use the strategy), (d) memorize it (the student memorizes the steps of the strategy and any accompanying mnemonic), (e) support it (the teacher supports or scaffolds student mastery of the strategy), and (f) independent use (students use the strategy with little or no support). SRSD instruction is also characterized by explicit teaching, individualized instruction, and criterion-based versus time-based learning. Students are treated as active collaborators in the learning process. Furthermore, they are taught a number of self-regulation skills (including goal setting, self-monitoring, self-instructions, and self-reinforcement) de-signed to help them manage writing strategies, the writing process, and their writing behavior.”
Research clearly points to a strategy-based approach to teaching writing. The most effective strategies follow the Self Regulated Strategy Development Model. ACES writing stategy is one such approach.
- Cavanagh, S. (2004a, Jan. 21). Barriers to college: Lack of preparation vs. financial need. Education Week, 23(19)1.
- Cavanagh, S. (2004b, Oct. 20). Students ill-prepared for college, ACT warns. Education Week, 24(8)5.
- Graham, S. & Perin, D. (2007). A meta-analysis of writing instruction for adolescent students. Journal of Educational Psychology. 99(3), 445-476.
- Kameenui, E. & Carnine, D. (1998). Effective teaching strategies that accommodate diverse learners. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.
- National Commission on Writing. (2004, September). Writing: A ticket to work…or a ticket out. Retrieved from www.writingcommission.org/prod_downloads/writingcom/writing-ticket-to-work.pdf
- Vygotsky, L. (1989). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
© 2013 Rogowsky