Grammar for Writing (Effectiveness Trial)

Grammar for Writing (Effectiveness Trial)

Testing a programme of CPD and materials for primary teachers to improve pupils’ writing by increasing their effective use of grammar.

The project

Grammar for Writing is a way of teaching writing that helps pupils to understand how linguistic structures convey meaning, rather than teaching grammatical rules in the abstract. The teaching of the grammar is therefore explicit, but embedded in the context of teaching about writing genres (e.g. narrative fiction, persuasive writing). The aim is to improve pupils’ “metalinguistic awareness” – an understanding of the language choices they make when they write.

The EEF previously tested a very short version of the intervention. In this effectiveness trial, we will test a model whereby teachers will be expected to sign up to a year-long programme. This will begin with CPD days, interspersed over a term, which introduce the general pedagogy and theory behind the practice. Example activities will be introduced, and teachers will be expected to trial the activities and report back. Lessons plans for the two units of work – on narrative and persuasive writing – will be introduced. The teachers will be expected to deliver the unit to their whole classes.

University of Exeter will deliver the training alongside Babcock Education, in order to test a more scalable version of the model that is less dependent on the original developers. 

Why are we funding it?

Through the Literacy Catch Up Round in 2012, the EEF funded a trial of Grammar for Writing delivered in whole-classes and as small groups. The constraints of the funding meant it took place after Key Stage 2 tests in Year 6. Classes in 53 primary schools were randomised to be in the intervention or control groups. Within intervention classes, pupils who were expected to perform poorly on the KS2 tests were randomised to receive the Grammar for Writing class teaching alone, or to additionally receive small group instruction using the materials. We measured the impact through the informative and persuasive extended writing tasks from the GL Progress in English test. The results were inconclusive: the whole class impact was around 0.1 SD but with large confidence intervals. The small group effect was 0.24 SD, but it is hypothesised that this could be due to the small group itself, rather than content. However, this is not certain. There are previous developer-led studies on the intervention, focusing on Year 8 pupils. One class-level RCT in 31 schools showed an impact on independently assessed writing.

Primary schools in the North East will be encouraged to take part in this trial as part of our North East Primary Literacy Campaign, co-funded with the Northern Rock Foundation. Read more about the campaign here

How are we evaluating it?

The Institute for Effective Education at York University have been appointed as the evaluator. It will be an effectiveness study. Effectiveness trials aim to test whether an intervention can work at scale in a large number of schools.

The proposal is to recruit around 150 primary schools, willing to pay a sign-up fee for the intervention, and to randomly allocate schools into two groups. Schools allocated to the intervention group will then receive the training for their Year 6 teachers, while the control group will be expected to carry on with their usual teaching. Key Stage 2 writing scores from all Year 6 pupils in both groups of schools will be compared to assess the impact of the programme, alongside the English grammar, punctuation and spelling tests. The process evaluation will seek to assess intervention teachers’ fidelity to the programme. Before randomisation and at the end of the year, teachers in all schools will take a short grammar test, allowing us to see whether any improvements in outcomes are mediated by the teachers’ initial language skills. 

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Spring 2018.