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We are currently welcoming partnerships for professional and research collaborations. Such collaborations can benefit teachers’ instruction and students’ writing achievement. Further, such collaborations  advance the knowledge of the research community on “what works” in real setting and with real students long-term!

Studying in a library



The design research included three cycles of design, implementation, evaluation, and revision over 2 years (MacArthur & Philippakos, 2013).

The design research also included development of a measure of motivation for writing that assessed four aspects of motivation: goals, self-efficacy, beliefs, and affect (MacArthur, Philippakos, & Graham, 2015).


This study involved 2 colleges, 13 instructors (16 classes), and 276 students (48% minority, 10% non-native English speakers). The treatment was compared to control classes that received typical instruction for a full semester; classes were not randomly assigned but were comparable on demographics and pretest writing. The SSW curriculum had a large effect on quality of argumentative writing (ES = 1.22), but no significant effect on grammar. It also had a large effect on self-efficacy (confidence) and a moderate effect on mastery motivation.  (MacArthur, Philippakos, & Ianetta, 2015).

EFFICACY STUDY (2016-2017)

A rigorous experimental study was conducted at 2 community colleges with 19 instructors randomly assigned within college to treatment and control, and 207 students (62% female; 57% minority, 12% non-native English speakers). Instruction provided for a full semester. The SSW approach had a very large effect on quality of writing (ES = 1.75, equivalent to the average treatment student being at the 90th percentile of the control group). It also had a moderately large effect on a standardized writing assessment (NAEP) (ES=0.67). As before, we also found a positive effect on self-efficacy for writing.  (MacArthur, Philippakos, May, & Compello, 2019).

EFFICACY STUDY (2018-2019)

The most recent study investigated an enhanced version of the curriculum with a focus on writing using sources and, thus, more emphasis on integrating critical reading with writing. At two  community colleges, 23 instructors were randomly assigned within college to treatment and control; 243 students participated. Instruction was provided for a full semester. Preliminary analysis focused on the primary outcome measure – an argumentative essay using two source articles. A moderate effect was found on quality of essays with sources (ES=.58, p < .001). Complete analysis is in progress.


This quasi-experimental study evaluated an adapted version of the course that met 4 days a week for 4 weeks at the start of the semester, leaving time for an 11-week credit composition class. Five instructors (2 T, 3 C) and 65 students participated. The SSW approach had a large effect on the quality of argumentative essays with sources (ES = 0.97). The study was the doctoral dissertation of Eric Nefferdorf, one of the instructor-collaborators at the beginning of our research in 2010.

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