Pragmatic cluster randomised controlled trial of contextualised grammar teaching and small group teaching to improve the writing skills of 11 year old children

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Introduction: We evaluated two interventions: a contextualised grammar teaching intervention – Grammar for Writing - to assess whether it improved 11 year old children’s writing skills; and a small group literacy intervention to assess whether or not this was effective.

Design and method: We used a pragmatic cluster randomised trial with partial split plot design. Independent concealed randomisation was undertaken at the class level, and, within the intervention group, children were also individually randomised to receive the whole class intervention plus a small group intervention or to receive the intervention in a whole class setting only. The main outcomes were writing and reading assessed by the Progress in English 11 (Long Form) test (GL Assessment).

Results: In 2013, 55 schools in England, each with two classes, were recruited and randomised. Within each school, the two classes were randomly allocated to receive either the intervention or the control condition. After randomisation, 2 schools withdrew, leaving 53 schools, 106 classes and 2510 pupils. We observed an effect size (ES) of 0.10 favouring the Grammar for Writing classes; however, this was not statistically significant (95% confidence interval (CI) -0.10 to 0.31). Pupils randomised to the small groups had an increased literacy score when compared with the control classes (ES = 0.24, 95% CI 0.00 to 0.49) and when compared with the intervention children taught in the whole class (ES = 0.21, 95% CI 0.04 to 0.38).

Conclusion: There is little evidence that this form of contextualised grammar
teaching had an effect on 11 year old children’s writing skills. There was some
evidence of an effect for small group teaching.
Original languageEnglish
Article number91
Number of pages37
JournalOnline Educational Research Journal
Publication statusPublished - May 2016

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