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Portrait of Anna Liuzzo in her school classroom.

Published February 12, 2019

Improving writing skills across developmental grade levels

Measuring writing quality in elementary-aged students

Bridget Hier, assistant professor from the Department of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology, is partnering with elementary schools in two Western New York districts to develop effective writing instruction and intervention practices for elementary-aged students. The collaboration is part of the UB Graduate School of Education Faculty in Residence Program.

“Currently, there is little consensus in the field of education about what constitutes quality writing across genres and grade levels,” said Hier. “There are also questions about the best ways to identify students who struggle with writing and whether those struggles are due to performance or skill deficits.”

To address these concerns, this project has three goals: (1) assess teachers’ perceptions about writing quality and the role that writing mechanics plays in those perceptions, (2) conduct grade-wide writing screenings and use the data for instructional decision-making, and (3) examine how providing choice in writing topics affects students’ task effort and writing outcomes.

The intended outcomes of these goals will be an improved understanding of how quality writing should be measured, as well as the ability to better identify students who have problems writing and the cause of those problems. This information will allow school administrators and teachers to take a more systematic approach in curricular, instructional and assessment planning.

“If we can identify students’ writing needs at an early age, we can help create an environment where students can improve their writing skills,” said Hier. “Ultimately, this project will inform future instruction and intervention efforts by identifying important writing skills to target across developmental levels.”

The Faculty in Residence Program is an initiative designed to engage GSE faculty and local community-based educational institutions in site-based, mutually beneficial research-based projects. Projects must demonstrate clear benefits to the community and may include a wide-range of researchable topics.

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