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Effects of an argumentative writing intervention for middle school
By Susan Davis, Johns Hopkins University
A small-scale cluster-randomized controlled trial investigated the effects of the Triple Q writing intervention on middle school students’ argumentative writing skills.
Triple Q is a text-based argument writing intervention targeted at honing middle school students’ ability to discuss why they feel a certain way about an issue, and to present evidence supporting their viewpoint in an essay that is well-written, clear, and organized. It is comprised of 3 units of 15 lessons, 30 minutes a lesson, with each unit using two texts addressing issues of potential controversy that relate to students’ lives. It incorporates class discussion about the content of a text’s argument, analyzing the argument-related features authors used in the text, and the language choices authors used to further their stands. Students then take a stand and draft an essay, getting feedback, and then revising their essays.
Subjects were 494 students (n=220E, 274C) in 27 sixth and seventh grade classrooms (n=12E, 15C) in 13 schools in a large, urban district. Groups of schools were assigned to experimental or control conditions within school-level SES blocks for nine weeks, with experimental students receiving three Triple Q units, and control students receiving typical argumentative writing instruction.
Following differences-in-differences analyses, results showed that students in the Triple Q group made greater gains than control students (ES=+0.44), showing greater likelihood of supporting reasons with evidence, and citing specific sources.