Practice matters more than instruction: The relationship between typical writing instruction, student practice, and writing achievement in first grade

Practice matters more than instruction: The relationship between typical writing instruction, student practice, and writing achievement in first grade

First Author: David Coker -- University of Delaware
Additional authors/chairs: 
Austin S. Jennings; Elizabeth Farley-Ripple; Charles A. MacArthur
Keywords: Writing Instruction, Elementary
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose
A substantial body of research has demonstrated the efficacy of early writing interventions (e.g., Graham, McKeown, Kiuhara, & Harris, 2012); however, less is known about the effectiveness of typical approaches to classroom writing instruction. The goal of this study was to investigate if typical writing instruction and student practice predict first-grade writing achievement and if the relationships between writing instruction, practice and achievement depend on student factors.
Method
Assessments of students’ spelling, handwriting, vocabulary, and reading were collected in the fall of first grade (N=391). A latent profile analysis was conducted with the fall data, and the best fitting model identified three classes of fall literacy achievement—low, average, and high. Writing tasks were administered in the spring that yielded three outcomes: the Woodcock-Johnson III Broad Written Language cluster, and two factor scores (Quality/Length and Contextualized Spelling) derived from researcher-designed tasks. During the school year, four full-day observations of classroom instruction and student writing practice were conducted in 50 classrooms. The effects of writing instruction and student writing practice on spring writing achievement were analyzed using two-level, fixed-effects hierarchical linear models.
Results
No main effects of instruction were found. Generative writing predicted all three measures of writing achievement. Interactions between profiles of fall literacy achievement, instruction, and practice were also found.
Conclusions
These results point to the potential benefit of generative writing practice and indicate that efforts to differentiate instruction and practice may be beneficial for students. Additionally, the findings raise concerns about the effectiveness of typical writing instruction.