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IES Grant

Title: WRITE Center for Secondary Students: Writing Research to Improve Teaching and Evaluation
Center: NCER Year: 2019
Principal Investigator: Olson, Carol Awardee: University of California, Irvine
Program: Education Research and Development Centers      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (3/17/2019– 2/16/2024) Award Amount: $5,000,000
Type: Multiple Goals Award Number: R305C190007

Topic: Writing in Secondary Schools

Co-Principal Investigators: Tanya Baker (National Writing Project), Penelope Collins (University of California, Irvine), Steve Graham (Arizona State University), Young-Suk Kim (University of California, Irvine), Mark Warschauer (University of California, Irvine)

Co-Investigators: George Farkas (University of California, Irvine), Robin Scarcella (University of California, Irvine)

Purpose: In an information society and knowledge economy, writing is a ubiquitous requirement for full civic and workforce participation. The evolution to more source-based, analytic writing can be seen in current educational standards and assessments, including the Common Core State Standards (CCSS); Next Generation Science Standards; and College, Career, and Civic Life Framework. Recent national education statistics indicate that U.S. students are not prepared to meet the challenges of this complex writing genre. Content area teachers across the curriculum must teach the skills of writing in this genre as appropriate for their discipline. The Writing Research to Improve Teaching and Evaluation (WRITE) Center for Secondary Students will conduct a focused program of research on academic writing, particularly source-based argument writing in English language arts, science, and history. The Center will conduct research that explores the characteristics of high-quality source-based argument writing in English Language Arts (ELA), science, and history for secondary school students. Then, the Center will develop and pilot a teacher professional development intervention to improve teaching and learning of source-based argument writing in science and history. In addition to its focused program of research, the WRITE Center will also engage in leadership and outreach activities that will provide resources and training for researchers and practitioners.

Research Projects: There are two major components of the focused program of research for the WRITE Center: one exploration and one development study. In the exploration study, researchers will conduct secondary data analyses of student writing data to identify critical features of high-quality writing and any differences in critical features according to student subgroups and content area. Researchers will survey teacher writing practices in 8th-grade science and 11th-grade history and differences in teacher writing practices according to student subgroups. In the subsequent development study, researchers will develop and pilot an intervention to improve teaching and learning of source-based argument writing in science and history.

Study 1: Exploration Study: The Center will work to identify features of high-quality writing and what intervention strategies are associated with high-quality writing among students in secondary school. First, researchers will analyze writing samples from middle and high school students who participated in two previous studies of literacy interventions (i.e., Pathways to Academic Success Project (Pathway), and the College, Career, and Community Writers Project (C3WP)). Researchers will explore the features of high-quality writing for various subgroups of students. Second, the Center will explore which aspects from the extant interventions might be most effective at improving student writing. Third, the Center will collect and analyze essays from middle school science and high school history classes to determine to what degree the features of high-quality writing in science and history are the same as the features of high-quality writing in English Language Arts. Finally, the Center will survey science and history teachers regarding their writing practices and prior training, collect teacher assignments and student writing samples, and conduct classroom observations to understand current writing practices and needs in science and history argument writing instruction; and field-test source-based argument prompts in science and history.

Study 2: Development Study: The Center will use findings from the Exploration Study to develop, field-test, and pilot a professional development intervention for middle school science and high school history teachers. The Center will use Pathway and C3WP strategies, tools, and curriculum materials most associated with improving student outcomes. The intervention will also incorporate specific self-regulation procedures (goal setting and self-assessment) from Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD). A small-scale randomized control trial will evaluate the promise of this new professional development intervention to improve student source-based argument writing and performance on standardized tests.

Leadership and Dissemination Activities: The Center will build and maintain a website designed for researchers and practitioners. The website will include preliminary findings, progress reports, and methods, which include instruments and measures. The website will also include a blog, annotated bibliographies, a Research Article of the Month, and book reviews. Media kits and infographics will also be available through the Center website. The Center will also use social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) and webinars to reach communities of interest.

The team will reach out to practitioners and scholar trainees. Beginning in Year 1, the Center will add a research strand to the UCI Writing Project's annual literacy conference. This conference attracts over 600 teachers and administrators annually. Also, in the final year, the Center will hold a two-day conference in collaboration with the National Writing Project to provide researchers and practitioners with opportunities to learn about the Center's work and to supplement the Center's findings with other research and practice sessions. The Center will hold a Summer Research Institute for teachers and other practitioners that focuses on research-based best practices for improving secondary source-based argument writing instruction. The Center team will work with their MAT/credential program in English language arts, science, and history to provide training opportunities for teacher candidates and their master teachers. The Center will develop a series of videos showcasing teachers implementing research-based practices that could be used as training modules for implementation. Finally, the Center will create research collaboration opportunities for scholars at other universities through small fellowships, consultation office hours, or lab meetings.

Related IES Projects: The Pathway Project: A Cognitive Strategies Approach to Reading and Writing Instruction for Teachers of Secondary English Language Learners (R305W060016)

IES Program Contact: Wai-Ying Chow
Telephone: (202) 245-8198