A task-oriented learning group approach to teaching descriptive-narrative-expository writing to eleventh-grade students

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Marsh, Helen Unger, 1925-
Nixon, H. Kenneth
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The purpose of this study was to determine whether a task-oriented learning group approach to writing or a traditional, one-teacher, whole-class approach would be more effective in (1) teaching basic descriptive-narrative-expository writing skills to eleventh grade English students, and (2) producing a positive attitude change toward writing in these students.The experimental study was conducted from January to May, 1972, at Southside High School, Muncie, Indiana. Two existing classes of junior academic English students, 29 in the experimental group and 21 in the control group, were statistically equated by analysis of covariance because randomization was not possible.As preinstruction baselines of writing skills, the following measures were administered during the first week of the term: the better of two writing samples; the STEP Writing Test, Form 2A; and the Cooperative English Test, English Expression, Form 2A. The Lorge-Thorndike I. Q. scores were readily available as concomitant variables. Preinstruction attitudes were measured by the Tovatt-Miller "Composition and Literature Inventory."From January to May, 1972, both experimental and control groups were instructed in the English VI course designated by the Muncie Community Schools, the major emphases for which included American literature, and composition including description, narration, and exposition. Only the experimental group was instructed by means of the task-oriented learning group designs structured by the writer at the prewriting, writing, and evaluation stages of composition. These required students to interact with one another in the completion of tasks structured to pool information, divide responsibilities, and observe the responses of others. They included such techniques as brainstorming, role playing, generating original materials, and consensus seeking in the completion of writing tasks. The control group, meanwhile, wrote the same assignments and studied the same literature in traditional fashion.At the close of the instruction phase, alternate forms the the STEP Writing Test and Cooperative English Test, English Expression, were administered, two samples of essays were collected, and the same form of the Tovatt-Miller "Composition and Literature Inventory" was given. Efforts were made to control the writer, rater, and assignment variables; themes were judged by two qualified and trained raters.Conclusions of the analysis of covariance for theme of the obtained F ratios was statistically significant. Chi square analysis of the attitude measure revealed that only one variable, Meaningful-Meaningless, approached significance in registering a primarily negative shift in the control group. It was impossible on the basis of these analyses to conclude and test criterion measures at the .05 level were that none that either the task-oriented learning group approach or the traditional approach was better or poorer than the other in increasing writing ability or improving attitudes toward writing.Scores for both groups were also compared to norm tables for both the STEP Writing Test and the Cooperative English Test, English Expression section. In both of these comparisons, the experimental group showed larger mean gains in achievement than those recorded in baseline normative tables in the technical manuals for the standardized tests. The experimental group was also higher than the control group.Observed mean gains for theme ratings also favored the experimental group over the control group.The chi square analysis data also indicated that a larger proportion of the experimental group changed to favorable attitudes than did the control group, though both groups became more positive in attitude toward writing during instruction.While the task-oriented learning group approach to teaching narrative-descriptive-expository writing cannot be interpreted as having a differential effect on writing skills or change to more favorable attitudes, these findings recommend it as an effective alternative to the traditional classroom approach.