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The Institution of Education Sciences Funds Exploration Research to Improve Students' Writing Abilities

Nicholas Butler | June 25, 2020


Dr. Alyson Collins (left), Dr. Stephen Ciullo (center) and Dr. Steven Graham (right)

The Institute of Education Science awarded Dr. Alyson Collins (PI), Dr. Stephen Ciullo (Co-PI), and Dr. Steven Graham (Co-PI from Arizona State University) with a new grant to support their research project, “Comprehensive Meta-Analysis of Writing Interventions for Students in Grade K to 5.” The purpose of this project is to identify strong evidence-based resources and interventions that can be utilized to improve students’ writing. The project’s abstract states, “The purpose of this two-year project is to conduct a comprehensive meta-analysis to explore what writing interventions are effective on what writing outcomes, for whom, and under what conditions for students in Grades K to 5.”  The analysis will focus on existing past and present research to find a broad range of writing resources.

The meta-analysis will present effective writing tools to be recommended for teacher preparation programs within the state of Texas and across the country. Dr. Collins states, “There are surveys that say many teachers don’t feel prepared to teach writing. We need to know what types of instruction improve students’ writing capabilities. By knowing what works, we can better prepare teachers to use the writing strategies and tools with their students.” This exploratory research project will analyze effective writing components that are beneficial for both teachers and students. Informing teachers of beneficial writing resources will allow them to be more confident and prepared to provide quality writing instruction. Furthermore, the project findings will present useful writing interventions for students with and without learning disabilities. The project’s abstract states, “Findings will provide guidance for developing new writing interventions and informing professional development for teachers. Furthermore, the project will support research to practice efforts that will improve writing achievement for all students.”

Dr. Ciullo, Co-PI on this project, is interested in the extensive information that this project can produce and disseminate to others. Dr. Ciullo states, “This is an exploratory project to synthesize contemporary and historical literature on writing instruction to identify a broad range of interventions.” This allows the researchers to identify useful writing components that can be refined by researchers in the future. The project team will collect research studies from electronic databases, journals that publish studies on writing, reference lists, and consultation with prevalent national and international writing researchers. The results from this meta-analysis will be available as a resourceful database for other researchers, but also elementary-level educators.

This will enable teachers to utilize more comprehensive methods for instructing writing curriculum. Dr. Collins states, “Many researchers have focused on specific writing outcomes such as spelling, grammar, and handwriting. Our research will analyze all aspects of writing to find out what works best and for which students.” This exploratory research approach will also allow writing interventions to be presented at a national and international level. The meta-analysis will examine various evidence-based research methods to improve students’ writing capabilities. Dr. Ciullo states, “We’re extremely passionate about helping to improve the writing outcomes and abilities of students. We are excited to find out what interventions are effective and to share our findings as broadly as possible.”