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New project to examine whether approaches to teaching 6-7-year-olds grammar can help their writing

23 January 2019

UCL Institute of Education (IOE) and UCL Department of English Language and Literature researchers are set to examine whether a new approach to teaching six- and seven-year-olds about grammar can help their writing.

Child writing. Image: Pixabay via Pexels

The new approach is informed by state-of-the-art knowledge about the English language, and was developed by Professor Bas Aarts and colleagues in the UCL’s Department of English Language and Literature. 

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the project will carry out a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) and in-depth Process Analysis to determine if the approach to grammar is effective in improving children’s writing. The research will examine the approach’s success in the context of primary education.

England’s knowledge-based national curriculum is epitomised by its requirements for the teaching of grammatical terms and their uses. The research project will enable the team to evaluate a key facet of the national curriculum that will have implications for primary teachers’ pedagogy, children’s learning, and for national curriculum policy.

IOE professor Dominic Wyse said: 

“Learning the grammar of a language is a fundamental part of human development. For nearly all children, learning the grammar of oral language happens naturally through interaction with parents and other people they are close to. However, the grammar of written language is a different story. Written language requires more explicit teaching and learning and our project will use the ‘gold standard’ of RCT and Process Analysis to evaluate if this new approach to teaching grammar for writing is effective.” 

The research team

The multidisciplinary research team is: 

  • Dominic Wyse (IOE's Department of Learning and Leadership; Helen Hamlyn Centre for Pedagogy 0-11) 
  • Bas Aarts (UCL English Language and Literature) 
  • Jake Anders (IOE's Department of Learning and Leadership) 
  • Ian Cushing (UCL English Language and Literature) 
  • Julie Dockrell (IOE's Department of Psychology and Human Development) 
  • Yana Manyukhina (Helen Hamlyn Centre for Pedagogy 0-11)
  • Carole Torgerson (University of Durham, School of Education)

Media contact

Rowan Walker, UCL Media Relations 
T: +44 (0) 20 3108 8515 / +44 (0) 7769 141006
E: rowan.walker@ucl.ac.uk

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