Grammar for Writing (re-grant)
This page covers the second (effectiveness) trial of Grammar for Writing, testing a scalable model under everyday conditions in a large number of schools. To read about the first (efficacy) trial - testing whether it could work in schools under best possible conditions - click here.
Grammar for Writing (GfW) is a way of teaching writing that is designed to help pupils understand how linguistic structures convey meaning, as an alternative to teaching grammatical rules in the abstract.
Testing a programme of CPD and materials for primary teachers to improve pupils’ writing by increasing their effective use of grammar.
The Institute for Effective Education
Staff deployment & development
Language and literacy
In 2012, the EEF funded a number of programmes, designed to improve literacy outcomes for pupils at the transition from primary to secondary school. Grammar for Writing was chosen for this because previous evaluations have found that grammar interventions can have a positive impact on writing skills.
The first evaluation found some evidence of promise. Despite its short duration (4 weeks), it had a small positive impact when delivered to the whole class, and a larger impact when delivered to small groups – although this second result may have been due to the small group work rather than the intervention itself.
Following these results, the EEF funded a larger evaluation of a scalable version of GfW. This second evaluation focused solely on the whole-class version of GfW and on Year 6 pupils rather than pupils at the transition. It was also delivered over 6 weeks rather than 4. It found no evidence of an impact on pupils’ writing outcomes.
The difference in results between the two evaluations might be the result of the differences in delivery described above. It might also be partly due to implementation problems during the second trial: while teachers were generally satisfied with the programme, many adapted or left out key components such as using classroom discussions to explore the effects of grammatical choices.
Given uncertainty around the impact in the first evaluation and the lack of impact in the second, the EEF will be removing Grammar for Writing from the list of promising projects. We continue to be interested in grammar-based approaches to writing.
The project found no evidence that Grammar for Writing improves writing attainment for children in Year 6, as measured by the bespoke test.
The project found no evidence that Grammar for Writing improves reading, writing or grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS) as measured by KS2 SATS. Indeed, it found a small, negative effect size (equivalent to one month less progress) for the GPS outcome.
Pupils that have ever been eligible for free school meals made a small amount of additional progress compared to similar pupils in control schools. This result is not statistically significant. This means that the statistical evidence does not meet the threshold set by the evaluator to conclude that the true impact was not zero.
Grammar knowledge as measured using a teacher quiz did not improve for teachers who had done Grammar for Writing, although there was some evidence that this quiz was not a reliable measure. In contrast, more than 90% of surveyed teachers agreed that they found the programme, training and materials useful in their teaching
Nearly three-quarters of intervention teachers indicated that they had adapted the programme for delivery.In addition,fidelity to two of the key programme principles, ‘connections made between grammar and effect/purpose in writing’ and ‘discussion used to tease out thinking and choice-making’ was regarded by the evaluator to be compromised in a number of the schools observed.
Full project description
Grammar for Writing is a way of teaching writing designed to help 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 and persuasive writing). The aim is to improve pupils’ “metalinguistic awareness” – their understanding of the language choices they make when they write. This study builds on a previous evaluation of Grammar for Writing funded by the EEF.
Teachers received three days of training to develop their grammar subject knowledge and to prepare them to teach two units of work using the Grammar for Writing approach. A fourth day of training covered future use of the approach beyond the two specific units. The units were delivered by the class teacher to Year 6 pupils (aged 10-11) in a whole class setting in place of existing writing lessons. The units were designed to be delivered in daily 1 hour sessions. The first unit lasted for four weeks and the second unit for two weeks. Training in the programme was provided by the Development Team, University of Exeter, supported by Babcock, LDP.
The evaluation was a randomised controlled trial involving 155 schools. The primary outcome was writing skills, measured using a bespoke test based on previous Key Stage 2 (KS2) assessment papers. Alongside the impact evaluation an implementation and process evaluation was conducted which involved a teacher survey and a visit to a sample of schools to conduct lesson observations and teacher interviews. The evaluation took place between October 2016 and July 2017.