The effect of direct, in-class grammar instruction on the quality of student writing
Hadley, Timothy D.
The study behind this dissertation examines the difference in the quality of writing between two groups of students in freshman English classes at a large public university. The study compares one cohort of students, which met in traditional face-to-face class meetings as well as in an online environment and received direct grammar instruction in every class session, with a comparable group of extended studies students who took the same freshman English course but met only in an online environment, and so did not receive direct classroom instruction in grammar. The comparison between an onsite class and an extended studies class allowed an extensive analysis of the grammar-teaching factor and its effect on the quality of student writing. In addition, the study examines the issue of writing quality editorially, by looking at the number and types of errors, and stylistically, by looking at sentence structure, especially right-branching free modifiers, final free modifiers, and words per clause, criteria suggested by scholars as being essential to the stylistic fluency and maturity of college students' texts. Quantitative methods and results are balanced by qualitative analysis of students' writing reviews and interviews with composition instructors. A summarizing conclusion suggests ways that this study contributes to the knowledge base of the grammar-and-writing environment, and proposes areas that remain under-researched in the grammar-and-writing controversy even after more than 100 years of intense study.