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December 6, 2021
Vol. 79
No. 4

Research Alert / Confidence Is Key to Motivating Student Writers

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    Social-emotional learning
    December 2021 / January 2022 Research Alert header image
    Credit: RIDOFRANZ / iSTOCK
      Some kids love to write and need little encouragement to put pen to paper. Others, as teachers know well, require ongoing guidance and assurance. New research explains one reason kids differ so greatly: confidence, or a lack thereof, in their own ability.
      Researchers from Boise State University and the University of Alabama worked with 48 middle and high school students at a private school, interviewing them about their own writing skills, their perceived ability to complete writing assignments, and the extent to which they viewed writing as a valuable task. Then they met with each student's English-language arts teacher and analyzed their academic performance. Comparing both sets of data resulted in notable, if not completely surprising, findings: A student's motivation to write is strongly correlated with their writing achievement. In other words, those who have already demonstrated competency and confidence in writing are more excited to keep doing it.
      Of course, believing in oneself isn't the only factor that informs student performance (there's a range of influences, including teacher writing ability, the researchers point out), but this finding still has big implications for educators. Creating assignments that are challenging but achievable—and that can gradually help students feel more self-assured of their own writing ability—is critical for helping them improve and fueling their interest further, the researchers argue.
      "As we demonstrate that writing outcomes are impacted by a writer's self-beliefs, students would benefit from writing tasks that develop their confidence and enhance their self-efficacy," they say.
      Some kids may never have a passion for prose, but if they can feel good about their own writing, the research shows, they're much more likely to give it a shot, and get better.

      Wright, K. L., Hodges, T. S., Enright, E., & Abbott, J. (2021). The relationship between middle and high school students' motivation to write, value of writing, writer self-beliefs, and writing outcomes. Journal of Writing Research12(3), 601–623.

      Noble Ingram is the Associate Online Editor of Educational Leadership magazine.

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