Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)

Evidenced-Based Writing Practices

by Marianne Dudek

The ability to use written language to communicate with others is crucial in the 21st century since internet and email demands have risen remarkably and newly created jobs require a certain level of precise skill. The Common Core State Standards have placed additional demands on classroom teachers and students and have focused on increasing students’ ability to write three types of essay writing- argumentative, informational, and narrative. In our educational settings ranging from elementary to college levels, many students have difficulty expressing themselves coherently and succinctly and do not write at a competent level, often needing remedial courses in writing. The 2011 NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores indicate that only about twenty-five percent of students in grades 8 and 12 performed at the proficient level in writing. Forty percent of high school students who took the 2016 ACT writing exam lacked the reading and writing skills necessary to complete a college-level English composition class.

Limited implementation of evidenced-based writing practices in many classrooms is one of the reasons that our students are not achieving higher levels of proficiency in writing. Recent research has provided the educational field with the knowledge to teach writing and to ensure that students become skillful writers. We know from research that writing can enhance student learning, as well as increase their ability to read more effectively with higher comprehension levels. As educators, one of our goals is to incorporate findings from evidence-based research practices and begin to implement them into high quality instruction that will result in improved student outcomes.

Steve Graham, Charles A. MacArthur, and Jill Fitzgerald, editors of Best Practices in Writing Instruction, C. 2013, summarize five reasons why writing is important:

  1. Writing provides a mechanism for maintaining personal links with family, friends, and colleagues.
  2. Writing provides a powerful tool for influencing others.
  3. Writing is a critical tool for learning and communicating.
  4. Students comprehend material they read better if they write ab out it.
  5. Teaching students to write improves their reading skills.

The National Center for Educational Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), Institute of Education Science (IES) has published two relevant guides which rely on evidenced-based practices in writing:
Teaching Elementary Students to Be Effective Writers
Teaching Secondary Students to Write Effectively

For Elementary students, the following recommendations were made:

  1. Provide daily time for students to write -one hour a day to include 30 minutes to teach writing strategies, and 30 minutes to practice.
  2. Teach students to use the writing process for a variety of purposes by explicitly teaching the stages of the writing process. These include specific strategies for planning, drafting, sharing, evaluating, editing and publishing. Students should also be taught to write for a variety of purposes, which the Common Core advocates as well.
  3. Teach students to become fluent with handwriting, spelling, sentence construction, typing, and word processing. Students need to be fluent in these micro skills before they can achieve fluency in macro skills.
  4. Create an engaged community of writers by encouraging students to collaborate as writers, share their writing, give and receive feedback.

For Secondary students the following recommendations were made:

  1. Explicitly teach appropriate writing strategies using a Model-Practice-Reflect instructional cycle. This includes planning, goal setting, drafting, evaluating, revising, and editing, and to teach cognitive strategies both to improve students’ writing and to encourage strategic thinking.
  2. Integrate writing and reading to emphasize key writing features. Students need to understand that both writers and readers use similar strategies, knowledge, and skills to create meaning.
  3. Use assessments of student writing to inform instruction and feedback. Students’ progress can be monitored by utilizing formative assessment strategies during writing which can indicate necessary changes in teaching writing.

Writing Next authored by Steve Graham and Delores Perrin, identifies 11 elements that are all supported by rigorous research and are effective for helping adolescent students learn to write effectively and to use writing as a tool for learning. These include practices such as teaching students writing strategies, summarization, and sentence combining. The report also verifies the importance of collaborative writing, prewriting, and studying models of proficient writing.

Please access the links to the evidenced-based practices for more information. Our hope at PaTTAN is that educators in the field will read about these evidence-based practices and seek more information and professional development that will lead to solid improvements and increased educational outcomes in writing instruction for their students.

The PaTTAN website offers educators additional resources on a Live Binder repository from the state-wide writing cohort series. Use access key – MTSS-W. Evidenced-based practices are included in the Live Binder resources as well as training materials such as power points and activity booklets. Please contact your local PaTTAN office with any additional questions that you may have regarding evidenced-based writing practices.

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