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IES Grant

Title: Teaching and Learning Literature-Related Argumentative Writing in High School English Language Arts Classrooms
Center: NCER Year: 2014
Principal Investigator: Newell, George Awardee: Ohio State University
Program: Effective Instruction      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2014 – 6/30/2018) Award Amount: $1,474,242
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A140105

Co-Principal Investigators: David M. Bloome, Alan Hirvela, Tzu-Jung Lin, and Jerome D'Agostino (Ohio State University)

Purpose: Literature-related argumentative writing is defined as critical and analytic thinking about literary texts, rhetorical production, and a social practice involving the identification of a thesis (also called a claim), supportive evidence (empirical or experiential), and assessment of the warrants. Although school writing includes a range of genres and functions, teaching and learning argumentative writing in high school English language arts (ELA) classrooms is of particular significance. There is an emphasis in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) on informative and argumentative writing in secondary schools based on the premise that argumentation and argument writing facilitate success in higher education and career opportunities. However, empirically supported interventions that promote the instructional practice leading to student mastery of argumentative writing are limited.

Building on a previous IES Exploration project investigating teaching practices leading to student argumentative writing, researchers will develop an intervention targeting key teaching skills within 9th- and 12th-grade ELA teachers. Those teaching skills include viewing argumentation as a way of learning, building consensus, or creating new knowledge; gaining pedagogical knowledge for teaching argumentation; facilitating inhibited extended, in-depth, reasoned exchanges; teaching argumentation via integration throughout instructional units; and using specific rubrics for assessing argumentative writing.

Project Activities: Researchers will (a) work collaboratively with ELA teachers from 7 school districts (2 urban and 5 suburban) in central Ohio in Years 1 and 2 to develop an intervention based on an initial version, and (b) to evaluate the intervention’s promise for generating the intended beneficial student outcomes in Year 3. The intervention will include a summer workshop; year-long curriculum plans; formative and summative assessments; video resources that provide teaching demonstrations within the contexts of high school ELA classrooms; recommendations for each lesson to help teachers integrate targeted principles, concepts, and skills; and coaching. The team will also develop measures of fidelity of implementation.

Products: The products of this project will be exemplar curriculum plans for 9th- and12th-grade ELA and formative assessments that document student learning and guide curricular planning. Researchers will also produce “worked examples” of curricula into which formative assessments have been integrated for use in professional development and dissemination, a Trainer’s Manual, and measures of fidelity of implementation by trainers and teacher outcomes. Peer reviewed publications will also be produced.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Schools that will participate in this project are located in urban and suburban districts in Ohio.

Sample: In Year 1 and Year 2, researchers will recruit 16 ELA teachers (eight teachers per year; one targeted class of students per teacher) from seven central Ohio school districts in urban (n=2) and suburban (n=5) communities. In Year 3, researchers will recruit 24 ELA teachers and their 600 9th- and 12th-grade students. Half of these teachers will be selected from two urban districts (across three high schools) and the other half will be from five suburban districts (across nine schools). Each grade level will be represented by two teachers per school.

The participating urban districts represent the third largest student population in Ohio, with 82% of its students economically disadvantaged and 68% ethnic minority. The participating suburban districts have profiles similar to one another, with fewer economically disadvantaged students and much higher percentages of white non-Hispanic students in comparison to the urban districts.

Intervention: The initial version of the intervention consists of a four-week summer workshop, year-long curricular plans, formative and summative assessments, and continuous support during the year in the form of individual and group coaching. The Summer Workshop will include four components to foster adaptive expertise in teaching literature-related argumentative writing: (1) teachers writing arguments to develop a writer’s repertoire for argument writing, including rhetorical (sense of audience and context specific social practices), content, and strategic knowledge of argumentation; (2) developing conceptual tools (principles of a Literature-Related Argumentative Writing approach) and practical tools (activities, instructional conversation, materials, texts, etc.) for teaching and learning argumentation and argumentative writing; (3) constructing a year-long curricular plan for teaching literature-related argumentation and argumentative writing; and (4) developing formative and summative assessments for monitoring student learning, including ways of providing spoken and written feedback as key components of instructional support. Researchers intend to develop video resources that provide teaching demonstrations within the contexts of high school ELA classrooms and recommendations for each lesson to help teachers integrate targeted principles, concepts, and skills.

Research Design and Methods: During Year 1 and Year 2, researchers will conduct multiple design-based research and development projects with collaborating teachers to iteratively design, refine, and adapt a feasible and effective intervention based on the findings from the earlier Exploration study. Researchers will follow teachers longitudinally to examine their developing adaptive expertise, student performance on a test of argumentative writing, and the instructional discourse between teachers and students during discussions of literary texts and argumentative writing. During a four-week Summer Workshop, researchers in collaboration with teachers will develop exemplar curricular units, including formative assessments. Researchers will hold monthly follow-up sessions with the teachers to provide continuous support as they implement their curricular units.

Researchers will also conduct a qualitative study of classroom instruction and discourse over time to generate grounded theoretical constructs about the nature of literature-related argumentative writing in ELA classrooms.

In Year 3, researchers will conduct a pilot study of the intervention with 24 9th- and 12th-grade teachers from six high schools (2 teachers per grade level in each school). Researchers will randomly assign each teacher to either a control condition or a treatment condition.

The overall research design for the quantitative analysis will include a pre-test, mid-year test, and post-test of student literature-related argumentative writing and observational measures of teacher adaptive expertise that will be collected in each classroom.

Control Condition: In the control condition, teachers will receive business-as-usual professional development.

Key Measures: Teaching practice focused on argumentative writing will be assessed using a researcher-developed scenario-based measure, checklist, observation log, and qualitative analysis of classroom artifacts. Student writing performance will be assessed using a scoring rubric for on-demand essay-writing tasks and written portfolios. Researchers will also collect information regarding school urbanicity, academic track, grade level, teacher background characteristics, student background characteristics.

Data Analytic Strategy: Throughout the project, researchers will conduct longitudinal multi-level statistical analyses to examine the effectiveness of the intervention on teachers’ adaptive expertise and students’ argumentative writing, while accounting for teachers nested by school and students nested by teacher. Researchers will also conduct a qualitative study of classroom instruction and discourse over time to generate grounded theoretical constructs about the nature of literature-related argumentative writing in ELA classrooms and time-series analyses (e.g., lag-sequential analysis, statistical discourse analysis to identify the recurrence of discourse patterns that contribute to the effectiveness of teaching.



Newell, G.E., Bloome, D., and Hirvela, A. (2015). Teaching and Learning Argumentative Writing in High School English Language Arts Classrooms. New York: Routledge.

Book chapter

Beach, R., Newell, G.E. and VanDerHeide. (2016). A Sociocultural Perspective on Writing Development: Toward an Agenda for Classroom Research on Students' Use of Social Practices. Handbook of Writing Research. Guilford Press.

Newell, G. E., Bloome, D., and the Argumentative Writing Project, (in press). Teaching and Learning Literary Argumentation in High School English Language Arts Classrooms. In Hinchman, K. and Appleman, D. (Eds.), Adolescent Literacy: A Handbook of Practice–Based Research.