#LAK15 you’ve got style: detecting writing flexibility across time


Erica Snow, Laura Allen, Matthew Jacovina, Cecile Perret and Danielle McNamara

Writing is not easy! Aim is to better understand the writing process and build that understanding into interventions and strategies to improve writing. Focus on linguistic features that make up student essays and narrativity in particular, elements in text that are story like, actions, familiar places etc and this is commonly assumed to indicate good writing.

Strong writers have a flexible writing style that is adapted to the context. Traditional measures may not be able to capture the changes over time that are encouraged in students who are taking a flexible approach to their writing. Team use dynamic methodologies to see how students adapt content across multiple types of essays.. Use Natural language processing approach to get info on cohesion, emotion and readability. Also dynamic systems theory to focus on complex and fluid interactions, offers a unique means of characterising patterns that emerge across time (a peak behind the window). Wanted to use a technique that would allow tracking over time in quality of students’ writing without the need to get them to write lots of separate essays.

At what point does link between writing flexibility and skill become evident? Study took students and assessed baseline levels, conducted several writing assignments over 2 days, analysed different dimensions of the text to measure narrativity of the content. Students work was categorised on a narrative score range to see whether there were any differences for individual students across the different writing tasks. 

Approach allowed faster understanding of links between narrativity and flexibility in writing.

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About sharonslade

Dr Sharon Slade is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Business and Law at the Open University in the UK working to support both tutors and students on Open University distance learning modules and programmes. Her research interests encompass ethical issues in learning analytics and online learning and tuition. Project work includes the development of a student support framework to improve retention and progression and the development of a university wide tool for tracking students and triggering relevant and targeted interventions. She led the development of new policy around the ethical use of learning analytics within the Open University, UK.
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