The effects of the use of writing as a teaching and learning tool on the achievement of freshman economics students

Michael Vern Kaul

Abstract

The primary purpose of this study was to determine if the use of directed writing assignments in high school freshman economics classes would improve academic achievement. A secondary purpose was to determine if the use of directed writing assignments would result in any improvement of students' writing capabilities. The 73 high school freshman students in four economics classes were from a public high school in suburban Detroit, Michigan. Each class received instruction from one of two teaching methods. The comparison group received instruction through traditional methods which utilized reading assignments from a textbook, lecture, worksheet, discussion, and cooperative learning activities. The treatment group received like instruction that also included 28 directed writing assignments. Both groups covered identical content and were administered the same tests. Students in both the comparison and treatment groups completed three writing samples for analysis. The writing samples were in the form of an essay question included in each unit test taken during the course of the study. Attitude toward writing measures were obtained prior to and after the study through the application of the Knudson Writing Attitude Survey for Students. Achievement in writing performance was obtained prior to the study through examination of each student's Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) score in writing achievement. The academic achievement of students was measured by the results of three unit tests during the course of the study. Each test consisted of 45 objective questions that were developed by Glencoe, the publishers of Applying Economic Principles, the textbook used as a basis for the freshman economics course. Content validity was established with the aid of a panel of experts. A qualitative measure in the form of a teacher survey was administered after the completion of the study. ANCOVA and ANOVA statistical procedures were used to discern the findings of the study. The results of these procedures demonstrated that the use of directed writing assignments in the teaching of freshman economics exhibited no significant difference in academic achievement nor in writing improvement. There was, however, a significant ($p<.03$) interaction between group and teacher. The qualitative dimension of the study, in the form of a teacher survey, suggested that teachers view the use of directed writing assignments as a valid and useful teaching technique. Directed writing assignments are particularly valuable as a beginning of the class activity, in providing students with a variety of learning activities during the class period, and in helping students prepare for an important part of the state assessment test in social studies. Further study is needed to overcome the paucity of research on the use of writing as a teaching and learning tool among freshman level students, and its use in the economics class.