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Ask A REL Response

September 2019


What research has been conducted on evidence-based strategies for teaching writing?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on evidence-based strategies for teaching writing. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed evidence-based strategies for teaching writing The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. These references are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist."

Research References

  1. Clark, S. K., & Neal, J. (2018). Teaching second-grade students to write sequential text. Journal of Educational Research, 111(6), 764-772.
    From the abstract: "With the adoption of the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards, writing has become an increasingly important area of instruction. Moreover, there has been an increased sophistication in the types of writing required of young children and the use of textual evidence expected in student writing. Historically, children have not been routinely taught explicit strategies for writing, but have been exposed to less rigid writing instruction such as Writer's Workshop. The current study examined an explicit writing strategy, the "Read-to-Write Strategy," to determine its effectiveness in teaching young children how to write sequential text. A single subject design (N = 40) was used to compare the writing of second graders before and after instruction. Results indicated that the "Read-to-Write Strategy" significantly increased the quality of sequential text from the pre- to post-instruction with a large effect size reported. Implications and recommendations for educators and researchers are provided."
  2. Flanagan, S. M., & Bouck, E. C. (2015). Supporting written expression in secondary students with a series of procedural facilitators: A pilot study. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 31(4), 316-333.
    From the abstract: "Written expression is a critical component of the academic curriculum that is needed across content areas and grade levels. Despite the importance of writing, secondary students are struggling to write effectively across the phases of written expression, beginning with prewriting. This research sought to support students' written expression and sustain their written expression improvements by gradually reducing the amount of support provided by procedural facilitators. This study presented 3 procedural facilitators from the most to the least support to 54 eighth-grade students. Results indicated that the procedural facilitators significantly supported written expression. When the amount of support was gradually reduced, students maintained their improved written expression through posttest measures."
  3. Graham, S., Bollinger, A., Olson, C. B., D'Aoust, C., MacArthur, C., McCutchen, D., & Olinghouse, N. (2017). Teaching elementary school students to be effective writers: A practice guide. (NCEE 2012-4058). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences.
    From the abstract: "Writing is a fundamental part of engaging in professional, social, community, and civic activities. Nearly 70 percent of salaried employees have at least some responsibility for writing, and the ability to write "well" is a critical component of being able to communicate effectively to a variety of audiences. Because writing is a valuable tool for communication, learning, and self-expression, people who do not have adequate writing skills may be at a disadvantage and may face restricted opportunities for education and employment. Students should develop an early foundation in writing in order to communicate their ideas effectively and efficiently--yet many American students are not strong writers. In fact, less than one-third of all students performed at or above the "proficient" level in writing on the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress Writing Assessment. The authors believe that students who develop strong writing skills at an early age acquire a valuable tool for learning, communication, and self-expression. Such skills can be developed through effective writing instruction practices that provide adequate time for students to write. This guide, developed by a panel of experts, presents four recommendations that educators can use to increase writing achievement for elementary students and help them succeed in school and society. These recommendations are based on the best available research evidence, as well as the combined experience and expertise of the panel members. Appended are: (1) Postscript from the Institute of Education Sciences; (2) About the Authors; (3) Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest; and (4) Rationale for Evidence Ratings. A glossary is included. (Contains 15 tables, 2 figures and 346 endnotes.)"
  4. Graham, S., Bruch, J., Fitzgerald, J., Friedrich, L. D., Furgeson, J., Greene, K., Kim, J. S., Lyskawa, J., Olson, C. B., & Smither Wulsin, C. (2016). Teaching secondary students to write effectively. Educator's practice guide. (NCEE 2017-4002). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences.
    From the abstract: "The goal of this practice guide is to offer educators specific, evidence-based recommendations that address the challenges of teaching students in grades 6-12 to write effectively. This guide synthesizes the best publicly available research and shares practices that are supported by evidence. It is intended to be practical and easy for teachers to use. The guide includes many examples in each recommendation to demonstrate the concepts discussed. Throughout the guide, examples, definitions, and other concepts supported by evidence are indicated by endnotes within the example title or content. For examples that are supported by studies that meet WWC design standards, the citation in the endnote is bolded. Examples without specific citations were developed in conjunction with the expert panel based on their experience, expertise, and knowledge of the related literature. This guide provides secondary teachers in all disciplines and administrators with instructional recommendations that can be implemented in conjunction with existing standards or curricula. Teachers can use the guide when planning instruction to support the development of writing skills among students in grades 6-12 in diverse contexts. The following are appended: (1) Postscript from the Institute of Education Sciences; (2) About the Authors; (3) Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest; and (4) Rationale for Evidence Ratings."
  5. Graham, S., Harris, K. R., & Beard, K. (2019). Teaching writing to young African American male students using evidence-based practices. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 35(1), 19-29.
    From the abstract: "Studies that specifically test the effectiveness of instructional procedures for improving the writing of young African American males who experience difficulty learning to write are almost nonexistent. Although writing intervention studies include these children, researchers rarely disaggregate their data to determine whether the writing treatment enhanced the writing of this group of students. For this article, we reanalyzed the data from 5 true experiments conducted with mostly young African American students experiencing difficulty learning to write. Each of these studies taught 1 or more fundamental writing processes or skills using evidence-based writing practices validated in previous research. Our reanalysis of each of these studies focused only on students who were male, African American, and experiencing difficulties learning to write. We found that teaching fundamental writing processes and skills using evidence-based practices improved these children's writing performance, including their performance on skills directly taught as well as on other writing or reading skills not directly taught in some instances."
  6. Hacker, D. J., Dole, J. A., Ferguson, M., Adamson, S., Roundy, L., & Scarpulla, L. (2015). The short-term and maintenance effects of self-regulated strategy development in writing for middle school students. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 31(4), 351-372.
    From the abstract: "Our purpose for this quasi-experimental study was to evaluate the short-term and maintenance effects of the self-regulated strategy development writing instructional model by Graham and Harris with 7th-grade students in an urban, ethnically diverse Title I middle school. We compared the writing skills of our intervention students with those of students in a control school. For 5 weeks, we coached teachers at the intervention school in a strategy for persuasive writing. Teachers at the control school also taught persuasive writing but used traditional instruction. We used a pre/posttest design to measure short-term growth, and we collected a maintenance writing score 2 months after the intervention. We used gain scores from pretest to posttest and from posttest to maintenance in a hierarchical linear modeling analysis. We found no differences between the 2 groups from pretest to posttest; however, scores between posttest and maintenance showed that the self-regulated strategy development students scored significantly higher than students in the control school."
  7. Ricks, P. H., Morrison, T. G., Wilcox, B., & Cutri, R. (2017). Effective writing content conferences in a sixth grade classroom: A cross-case analysis. Literacy Research and Instruction, 56(2), 114-131.
    From the abstract: "Conferencing gives teachers and students opportunities to discuss student writing and provide feedback in individual settings. Practitioner guides offer suggestions on how conferences can be conducted, but little is known about what types of interactions occur. Two case studies, including a cross-case analysis, were conducted to describe key components of effective conferences in one sixth grade classroom. Results showed that a structured and predictable pattern emerged in which students identified the purpose for the conference, examined a main issue of content with their teacher, and planned for the future. These students took ownership of their writing conferences by directing the conferences, maintaining a serious tone, and establishing a safe and positive atmosphere."


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Writing instruction, evidence-based strategies
  • Teaching writing
  • Writing strategies

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2003 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.