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IES Grant

Title: Cross-Sectional Examination of Writing Quality in Elementary School Students: An Exploration of an Empirical Based Model of Writing Factors Across Grades 1 to 5
Center: NCER Year: 2019
Principal Investigator: Costa, Lara-Jeane C. Awardee: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Program: Literacy      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (07/01/2019 - 06/30/2022) Award Amount: $1,399,296
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305A190405

Co-Principal Investigator: Hooper, Stephen R.

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to develop an empirical framework to improve elementary school writing assessment and instruction. By understanding writing constructs, teachers can help students develop the corresponding skills. Furthermore, a writing framework will provide a strong foundation for creating age-specific measures and more effective tools for monitoring progress. Teachers can then apply specific constructs when planning instruction or providing feedback.

Project Activities: The researchers will explore: 1) the relations between writing skills and writing performance, and 2) how the importance or strength of these writing skills differs across grades 1 through 5 and how writing skills relate to writing quality. Researchers will explore these aims across two different text genres, narrative, and opinion.

Products: The research team will produce a conceptual framework for written expression. This framework can inform professional development for educators. The researchers will also produce peer-reviewed publications, including practitioner-oriented journals, and present at national conferences and meetings with elementary school educators and leaders.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in grades 1 through 5 in public elementary school classrooms in Florida.

Sample: The sample will include at least 400 students per grade for grades 1 through 5. Participating schools are diverse with over 45% of students identified as ethnic minority and over 32% of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch.

Malleable Factors: The researchers will examine the relationships between malleable factors of writing (that is, constructs of writing including conventions, productivity, and syntactic complexity) and writing quality across two text genres, narrative and opinion.

Research Design and Methods: The researchers will use a cross-sectional design to conduct primary data collection and analysis. Primary classroom teachers will collect student writing samples in Years 1 and 2 and will ask their students to respond to four writing prompts over a two-week time period. The written responses will be coded using 16 different writing scoring methods. The researchers will model latent constructs of writing performance (Conventions, Productivity, and Syntactic Complexity) and examine relations with writing quality (Text Organization and Development) for two genres at each grade from grades 1 through 5. The researchers will also examine differences by grade level among the models using cross-sectional methods, thus providing a systematic examination of how written expression compares from one grade to another and across different genres.

Control Condition: There is no control condition for this study.

Key Measures: The constructs of writing will be specified by 3 domains: Conventions, Productivity, and Syntactic Complexity. Conventions will be indicated by Correct Capitalization, Correct Punctuation, Correct Word Sequences, Handwriting Legibility, and Spelling. Productivity will be indicated by Handwriting Fluency, Long Words, Unique Words, Total Number of Ideas, and Total Number of Words. Syntactic Complexity will be indicated by Clause Density, Complete Sentences, Mean Length T-unit and Length of Correct Word Sequences. The outcome variable, writing quality, will be assessed on two dimensions: Text Organization and Text Development.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will test these models with measurement invariance analyses comparing each grade level to the previous grade level and across text genres, narrative and opinion. Finally, researchers will expand this model to a full structural equation model in order to examine the relationships of these variables to the writing outcomes.

Related IES Projects: An Examination of Response to Intervention in the Early Writing Skills of At-Risk Preschoolers (R305A170529); Attention, Memory, and Executive Functions in Written Language Expression in Elementary School Children (R305H060042); Written Language Problems in Middle School Students: A Randomized Trial of the Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) Model Using a Tier 2 Intervention (R305A120145).

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