We’ve written this post because there has been a lot of discussion about the Writing Framework recently and this has caused some to romanticise the days of writing tests.
How the DfE/STA decides to assess writing tells you a lot about its philosophy and epistemology towards the craft of writing and its feelings towards apprentice writers. It also has profound effects on the ontology, methodology and writing pedagogy of the teaching profession. It influences the way things are taught. Therefore, what is deemed important in a test will inevitably lead the way teachers teach. So, you have to ask yourself, is it likely that a high-stakes test will test what should be taught? I ask this question because we as teachers know full well we willbe asked to do what needs to be done in terms of writing instruction and activity to produce good scores. I have no problem with this in principle, and indeed it can be the strength of any assessment system, but will a writing test encourage good writing instruction and activity? I have my doubts and I explain why below.
As teachers and researchers, we now have a very clear, convincing and consistent understanding of what makes effective writing teaching.
Below are some excellent reports, papers and research summaries which are all free to access. I’ll keep adding to this list as further research begins to emerge. Incidentally, if you feel something is missing from this page – let us know and we can add it.
Here is a brief outline of the key messages from the Education Endowment Fund’s summary on effective writing at Key Stage Two. The summary produced by the EEF uses a number of meta-analysis based research papers to draw its conclusions. It says:
Research clearly states that teaching children the writing process in an explicit way is the best way to improve their writing outcomes. So how is this done? As we have discussed briefly here, Frank Smith describes the two roles involved in writing as being: the author and the secretary.
When children are in author mode they are concerned with generating ideas, organising thoughts, and arranging selected words and sentences appropriately and effectively.
When in the secretary mode, the child is more concerned with the transcription of the writing (e.g. using correct spelling, capitalisation, handwriting and punctuation).
This article is based on the work of Graham & Perin (2007), The DfE (2012) and other influential research (Beard, 2000, Gadd, 2014, Education Endowment Fund, 2017). There is now a core of consistency to be found across a variety of studies in several different countries on what makes for good writing lessons. We also now know what causes poor writing outcomes – see here. In the case of Graham & Perin (2007), their meta-analysis comes from the largest collection of writing research ever pooled. It analysed all contemporary research into the teaching of writing and looked for significant patterning. You can find a more formal summary of how their and the DfE’s findings marry together to create these 13 strategies at the bottom of this article. This is what research analysis concluded: