Craft of Writing (CoW) is an intervention aimed at developing teachers as ‘writers’ and improving their own writing practice and their teaching of writing in order to develop pupils’ writing skills. It is delivered by the University of Exeter, the Open University, and Arvon, a creative writing charity. CoW consists of training for teachers, which takes place over two residential weekends and three follow-up continuous professional development days. The training, led by professional authors, focuses on learning to apply the CoW framework, in the classroom. The CoW framework is made up of five overarching elements: language choices, text-level choices, the reader-writer relationship, being an author, and the writing process.
This evaluation is part of a round of funding between the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Royal Society of Arts to test the impact of different cultural learning strategies in English schools entitled ‘Learning about Culture’. These projects have been independently evaluated by a collaboration between the UCL Institute of Education and the Behavioural Insights Team who have also produced an overarching report to draw together learning from all five trials within the round.
While some evidence indicate links between participation in cultural programmes and improved cognitive ability, research exploring the relationship between teachers’ writing abilities, including the development of teachers’ identities as ‘writers’, and pupils’ skills remain scarce. This study was intended to build on the limited evidence-base and explore whether participation in the Craft of Writing programme impacts pupils’ writing attainment, self-efficacy and writing creativity (ideation).
Children taking part in the Craft of Writing programme made no additional progress in writing compared to children in business-as-usual control schools. This trial also looked at the impact of the programme on pupils eligible for Free School Meals (FSM), finding no impact on writing or self-efficacy. However, findings seem to suggest that taking part in the Craft of Writing had moderate positive impact on ideation for FSM eligible pupils. This provides some indication that the intervention may be beneficial for increasing the creativity of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The EEF has no plans for a further trial of the CoW Programme.
- Children in the Craft of Writing (CoW) treatment schools made no additional progress in writing compared to children in business-as-usual control schools. This is our best estimate of impact which has a low to moderate security rating. However, as with any study, there is uncertainty around the result: the possible impact of this programme ranges from three months’ less progress to positive effects of two additional months of progress.
- FSM-eligible pupils in the CoW treatment schools made no additional progress in their writing or self-efficacy test scores as compared to children in business-as-usual control schools. However, free school meals (FSM)-eligible pupils in the CoW treatment schools made progress in ideation, on average, compared to children in the business-as-usual control group. This provides some indication that the intervention may be beneficial for increasing the creativity of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- 94% of surveyed teachers, who self-nominated to participate in the study, said that CoW improved their confidence as a writer and 67% said that the intervention had a‘very positive’ impact. However, surveyed teachers, reported a tension between using the materials they had been given and following the national curriculum.
- Teachers reported that the intervention challenged them to rethink how they teach writing and their own writing practice, which, if successful and useful, may only have an effect in a longer-run timeframe than measured in this trial.