In this meta-analysis of single-subject design writing intervention studies, 88 studies in which it was possible to calculate an effect size were located. Nine writing treatments were identified as effective. These were strategy instruction for planning/drafting, teaching grammar and usage, goal setting for productivity, strategy instruction for editing, writing with a word processor, reinforcing specific writing outcomes, prewriting activities, teaching sentence construction skills, and strategy instruction for paragraph writing.
Author: Leslie Ann Rogers & Steve Graham
Source: Rogers, L.A. & Graham, S. (2008). A meta-analysis of single-subject design writing intervention research. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(4), 879-906. DOI: 10.1037/0022-06126.96.36.1999
- Many children do not learn to write well enough to meet classroom writing demands.
- Concerns about writing are not limited to elementary and secondary schools; college instructors estimate that 50% of high school graduates are unprepared for college-level writing demands.
- At school, weaker writers are less likely than their more skilled peers to use writing to support and extend learning in content classrooms.
- Their chances of attending college are reduced, as writing is used to evaluate many applicants’ qualifications.
- At work, writing has become a gateway for employment and promotion.
- Why do so many students not write well enough to meet grade-level demands?
- One possible reason is that schools do not do an adequate job of teaching this complex skill.
- The National Commission on Writing (2003) offered the following recommendations: double time students spend writing, assess their writing progress, use technology to advance the learning and teaching of writing, and better prepare teachers to teach writing.
- The impact of these recommendations is likely to be reduced if teachers do not use effective instructional practices.
Need for a meta-analysis of writing interventions tested via single-subject design studies
- A practical approach for identifying effective writing practices is to conduct systematic reviews of writing intervention research.
- With meta-analysis, an effect size is computed for each empirical study investigating a specific treatment. It then is averaged across studies to provide a summary statistic on the intervention’s effectiveness.
- However, only two meta-analyses have computed effects sizes for treatments tested via single-subject designs, and they only examined a single treatment: teaching strategies for planning/revising.
- Thus, the primary purpose of this study was to conduct a more extensive meta-analysis of single-subject design writing interventions to identify effective writing practices for students in grades 1–12.
What is a single-subject design study?
- In single-subject design studies, each participant serves as their own control, with performance before and during or after intervention repeatedly measured to establish performance patterns before treatment and compare performance patterns across experimental phases (e.g., baseline versus treatment).
- One manipulation for establishing experimental control involves the introduction and withdrawal of treatment.
- A second manipulation involves the staggered introduction of the treatment. For example, treatment is implemented with one student to determine whether it influences their performance predictably. Then the treatment is executed with another student to determine whether the pattern is replicated. This systematic delay in introducing the treatment continues until all students receive instruction.
- Experimental control is established only if performance on the dependent measures is stable during each testing phase. There is no trend in the pattern of baseline performance in the direction predicted by the intervention.
- In addition, experimental control is not established until at least three demonstrations show that the manipulation had the predicted impact.
- Single-subject design examines the effectiveness of treatment at the individual level.
- External validity is established by systematically replicating effects across multiple participants, locations, and researchers.
Why a meta-analysis of single-subject design studies is important
- First, the meta-analyses of true- and quasi-experimental investigations of writing interventions have identified only 12 interventions that improve the writing of elementary and secondary students.
- A meta-analysis of single-subject design writing interventions has the potential to broaden current evidence-based recommendations.
- Second, a meta-analysis of single-subject design studies also has the potential to strengthen, undermine, or nuance the trust that can be placed in one or more of the 12 writing treatments identified as effective earlier.
- Third, most of the true- and quasi-experimental writing intervention research has been conducted with students representing the full range of writing ability in a typical classroom. In contrast, single-subject design studies often involve students’ experiencing difficulty.