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IES Grant

Title: Development of a Web-Based Writing Partner (Strategic Writing Assisted by intelligent tutoring for 5th grade Youth (SWAY)) to Improve Writing Persuasive Essays for 5th Grade Students
Center: NCER Year: 2013
Principal Investigator: Wijekumar, Kausalai Awardee: Texas A & M University
Program: Reading and Writing      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (7/1/2013-6/30/2016) Award Amount: $1,485,657
Goal: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A130705

Previous Grant Number: R305A130327
Previous University Affiliation: Pennsylvania State University

Co-Principal Investigators: Steve Graham and Karen R. Harris (Arizona State University), Bonnie J.F. Meyer and Pui-Wa Lei (The Pennsylvania State University)

Purpose: Writing is an important skill for learning, communication, and self-expression; however, national assessments indicate that many students in the United States do not write proficiently. Persuasive writing may be an especially important tool for communication, and the Common Core State Standards indicate that students need to be able to write persuasive essays by the end of fifth grade. The goal of this project is to develop and test a fifth-grade writing intervention, called Strategic Writing Assisted by intelligent tutoring for 5th grade Youth (SWAY), which incorporates an intelligent web-based tutor with teacher and peer support. The project intervention is aimed at improving students' ability to write logical, compelling, and coherent persuasive essays, and to use writing as a tool for learning content material.

Project Activities: Researchers plan to iteratively develop a writing intervention for middle school students that combines an intelligent web-based tutor with teacher and peer support. The study will involve five iterative studies and one quasi-experimental pilot study in the final year. Four fifth-grade teachers and their students will participate in the first year iterative development activities, and the same four fifth-grade teachers and their new students will participate in the second year iterative development process. In the third year, 16 new classrooms (with approximately 320 students) will participate in the pilot study. The pilot study will also include a comparison group of classrooms from the same district as the treatment group.

Products: The final product of this study will be the fully developed SWAY writing intervention for fifth grade students. Peer-reviewed publications will also be produced.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will be conducted in urban and suburban school districts in Pennsylvania.

Sample: Participants for this study include approximately 640 fifth-grade students and their teachers.

Intervention: The intervention is a web-based tutor that uses an intelligent tutoring system framework. It will provide modeling, practice, assessment, and feedback through an animated tutor. The Self-Regulated Strategy Development model will be used to teach students persuasive writing strategies including considering their perspective and their audience when writing essays. SWAY will cover writing in two content areas: science and social studies. Peers will provide feedback on each other's writing, and teachers will help with modeling and scaffolding. The intervention will include a complete teacher implementation package with instructions, lesson plans, suggestions for coordinating peer feedback, and suggestions for integrating lessons into the curriculum.

Research Design and Methods: This project involves five iterative studies and one quasi-experimental pilot study. During the iterative studies, students will use the software and take the researcher-developed assessments and teachers will provide feedback on the lessons and content. Based upon the data provided by the students and teachers, the research team will revise all aspects of the intervention between iterative studies. The quasi-experimental pilot study in the third year will use pre- and post-intervention assessments of students' writing and content knowledge to compare treatment students with a matched comparison group.

Control Condition: A matched comparison group will be used in the quasi-experimental pilot study.

Key Measures: To assess students' writing outcomes at pre- and post-intervention, students will complete the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT-III) Essay Composition subtest; a researcher-designed writing prompt assessment; a writing self-efficacy scale developed by Bruning, Dempsey, Kauffman, and Zumbrunn; and a writing approach survey. Content knowledge will be assessed using researcher-developed multiple-choice content knowledge assessments. Reading comprehension measures will be built into the intelligent tutoring software.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will assess whether or not the intervention is associated with improvements in writing outcomes and content knowledge. A two-level hierarchical linear model with students nested within classrooms will be used to test this research goal. Researchers will conduct item analyses on the researcher-designed measures throughout the iterative development process.


Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Wijekumar, K., Meyer, B.J., Lei, P., Cheng, W., Ji, X., and Joshi, R.M. (2017). Evidence of an Intelligent Tutoring System as a Mindtool to Promote Strategic Memory of Expository Texts and Comprehension With Children in Grades 4 and 5. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 55, 1022–1048.