Explicit Writing Directions in an Elementary Setting: An Ex Post Facto Study

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Writing skills are an important part of students’ education, but, compared to math and reading, there is less research into the field of writing instruction and fewer curriculum options available. According to currently available research, explicit instruction of specific skills is the most effective method for improving students’ writing ability. Based on the theoretical frameworks of social learning theory and social constructivism theory, Step Up to Writing (SUTW) is a commercially available writing curriculum using explicit writing instruction, with some research showing success improving students’ writing ability. Most research into the effectiveness of SUTW has focused on middle school students and at-risk students. This dissertation attempts to address the gap in research by comparing the effectiveness of explicit writing instruction and SUTW in an elementary school to a control group. The experimental school for the study has been using SUTW for three years, while the control school, a sister school with similar demographics in the same district, did not. End-of-fifth-grade writing samples were collected from students from each school (control N = 53, experimental N = 27), anonymized, and scored by a collaborative team using a rubric. Results showed a statistically significant difference in the school mean scores in three of four areas evaluated: organization (effect size [ES] = 1.27), ability to express ideas with details (ES = 0.82) and use of language and style (ES = 0.67). No significant difference was noted in the final area of the rubric, neatness and use of grade-level conventions. Overall, total essay mean scores were significantly different (ES = 0.86). These results support current research which supports explicit instruction of specific skills as an effective curriculum option for writing skills, and SUTW as one viable curriculum option available for teachers to consider.
Ex Post Facto study on the efficacy of explicit writing directions using SUTW comparing end of elementary school writing samples from students at an experimental school with a control school.
Step Up to Writing (SUTW)