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Key LSIA research tackles writing as a national priority: Horizon Grant success

Learning Sciences Institute Australia (LSIA) is partnering with the Department of Education and Training Queensland to examine how to improve writing.

Results from the 2016 National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) have revealed that beyond Year 3, writing has flat lined. “The increasing number of students falling below the National Minimum Benchmark in writing is a significant problem in all Australian states and territories. Tackling this is critical to halt the impact of poor writing skills for future schooling success and subsequent workforce opportunities”, Professor Wyatt-Smith said.

The LSIA team of leading international scholars with expertise in literacy and assessment will undertake a one-year project that uses NAPLAN data from 20 schools in up to four Queensland regions.  With the support of the Department, schools that show upward trending results in writing will be invited to participate.

Titled ‘Research Partnerships and Improvement Science: Using data to inform the teaching of writing and assessment’, the project will address the critical knowledge gap in research, practice and policy about necessary interventions to reverse the increasing numbers of struggling writers.

The project includes a purpose-built Australian Writing Survey, developed by Professor Wyatt-Smith and Christine Jackson.  The online survey will provide a new database on the teaching of writing as well as teacher knowledge about language and writing standards. While the project focuses on the middle years, the Australian survey can be used from kindergarten through to Year 12.

Director of LSIA at Australian Catholic University Professor Claire Wyatt-Smith said it was critical to understand both what is working in classroom writing instruction, and gaps in knowledge and practice in order to arrest the decline.

“We will analyse the information we collect to determine such factors as how the structures of language are taught, the time spent on explicit teaching, the time spent on assessment, and the use of resources,” Professor Wyatt-Smith said.

The goals of the project are:

  • to identify the schools that have demonstrated improvements in writing (longitudinal upwards trends)
  • use a purpose-built Australian Writing Survey (AWS) to generate the first database on classroom teaching and assessment of writing
  • strengthen teachers’ knowledge of language features and structures
  • improve teachers’ knowledge and understanding of year level writing expectations and achievement standards to improve writing assessment
  • generate standards of quality writing for further classroom use
  • trial a Virtual Research Environment (VRE) to supplement site visits and other online support.

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