Summary of “Teaching writing to high school students: A national survey.”

Even though effective writing remains one of the most important skills students can develop for future success, many students do not develop these skills in their classes. In order to get to the heart of why this occurs, Kiuhara, S.A., Graham, S. and Hawken, L.S. developed a national survey that they distributed to schools and teachers in many settings (language arts vs. social studies vs. science, rural vs. urban, teachers with B.A.’s vs. M.A’s, school size) and compiled the results.  Their findings helped confirmed that teachers felt that writing was a critical skill for life beyond high school, yet teachers were not as prepared to teach writing as they could be.  Surprisingly, in spite of the evidence for the need for continual improvements in the field of teaching writing across courses, there are very few efforts being made to reform. The researchers cited several other studies done in the past (Applebee, Cooper, Bazerman) as well as the National Commission on Writing as key voices in the field for more reform needed in our schools. The key areas for reform are to make sure that students are having the chance to write out longer responses and essay-length products in preparation for life beyond school.

The study also pointed out the importance of continuing to make remediation and improvement skills available and a priority for struggling students.  As teachers, we are responsible for ensuring the equal education for all of students, not just the ones who are good at writing immediately. In addition, student writing improvement has been shown to be directly related to how well their teachers have been trained to write, yet there remains a lack of research into the most effective ways of teaching teachers writing skills. This paper recommended that teachers not only continue to convey the importance of writing within their own discipline to students, but to continue to take on-going training and writing workshops as well as advocating for more content-related writing courses taught to incoming teachers.

I chose this article specifically because it comprehensively addressed teaching writing, a topic that I have been preparing lessons within.  I know that my own understanding and exposure has room for improvement and given the national concern for teaching our students how to write, I thought that a national study examining current practices and recommending improvements would be a wonderful study to benefit from.  Specifically, this article has helped my future teaching practices by empowering me to see the benefits of assigning longer writing projects to my students (with the appropriate support) and to be aware of the importance of connecting writing skills to different facets within the social studies field.


Kiuhara, S.A., Graham, S. and Hawken, L.S.  (2009). Teaching writing to high school students: A national survey. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101, 1. Pp. 136 – 160


1 Comment

Filed under Assessment

One response to “Summary of “Teaching writing to high school students: A national survey.”

  1. Many teachers likely understand that assigning longer writing assignments and giving constructive feedback is useful to students. The issue is the time it takes to provide feedback on writing. I wonder if schools will begin expediting this process by using self-generating reports created by programs like
    In my experience many teachers seem to spend too much time evaluating and recording grades for work that could be either self-assessed or done without assessment. The movement to actually only assess learners on the standards may help get rid of this “busy-work” and provide more time for teachers to give meaningful feedback on real writing. Try it and let us know how it goes!

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