Strategy Instruction for Teaching Writing: HOW

Title: Evidence-based teaching of essay writing: Intervention at primary school

Authors: Green, K.R.; Topping, K.; Lakin, E.

Source: Educational Psychology In Practice 2021, Vol. 37, No. 3, 303–319

Our Take: This article outlines and evidences the effect of explicit strategy instruction, a technique we use in the Talk to Write program: Explicit strategy instruction means that students can verbalize strategies and apply these. See more about our program on our new Facebook page for 3D Educational Solutions.

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to improve students’ essay-writing skills through a designed intervention. The intervention students followed a program of writing strategy instruction and self-regulation, heavily dependent on peer review, while the control students followed an on-going parallel intervention. The study aimed to answer: “does the implementation of a programme of strategy instruction and self-regulation with peer revision improve compare and contrast essay writing quality?” The program showed large positive effect sizes for writing quality.

Participants/Studies Included: 90 fifth-grade students from two different elementary schools in Scotland were used in the study. Of the 90 students, 43 were female and 47 were male. Each of the two schools (referred to as schools A and B) had both an intervention and a control class. In total, 44 students were in the intervention group, and 46 students were in the control group.

Research Design: Quasi-experimental study. The study used both quantitative and qualitative methods. Students were grouped by their classes rather than being randomly assigned.

Intervention: Intervention teachers first had two two-hour training sessions; they were given the program, support materials and a guide for modeling writing. They then independently delivered two one-hour lessons every week for six weeks. The intervention was created by the researchers. The control classes spent the same amount of time each week on writing.

*GRIST= Goals, Reader, Ideas, Structure and Tied together (transition words/phrases)
*REA/D= Re-read, Evaluate, Alter/Delete

Control: Control students focused on the mechanics of writing as well as some features of good writing and writing planning through the “Big Writing” program. They practiced independent writing once a week and received written feedback but did not revise their work. The control scenario used a knowledge-telling approach, in which the intention was to improve the students’ basic skills and knowledge of features of good writing and planning.

*VCOP= Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers and Punctuation

Measures: The students were given a written task pre- and post- intervention. The tasks were two compare-and-contrast prompts (A and B): texting and phoning for Task A, and playing computer games and playing outside for Task B. The essays were evaluated by the principal researcher using a rubric developed by the researcher and comprised of a four-point scale for the following factors: opening, body, conclusion, conventions (punctuation, spelling, and grammar), transitions and language. The sum of these scores was then used to determine writing quality.

Implications: The study confirmed the positive effects of peer revision, as the intervention schools saw a significant, positive effect, while the control students saw a small, positive effect in one school and even a negative effect in the other.