Developing students' writing in History: Effects of a teacher-designed domain-specific writing instruction


  • Jannet Van Drie University of Amsterdam
  • Johan Van Driel University of Amsterdam
  • Daphne Van Weijen



historical reasoning, literacy, writing instruction, writing processes, secondary education


Writing in history places high demands on students and is a skill that requires explicit instruction. Therefore, teachers need to be able to teach this in an effective way. In this study, the writing-instruction was designed by a teacher, instead of researchers, as part of a professional development program in the Netherlands. The lessons combined writing and historical reasoning instruction, based on principles of effective writing instruction, including strategy-instruction, modeling, prewriting, and peer-interaction. The effects of these lessons were investigated in a small-scale pilot study, which consisted of a pre-test post-test quasi-experimental design, in which eighty-nine 11th grade students participated (39 in the treatment condition and 50 in the comparison condition). Dependent measures included text quality, writing process measures, students' knowledge of writing and their self-efficacy. Students in the treatment condition wrote longer and higher quality texts, spent more time writing, paused more while writing and their knowledge of writing was higher at post-test than for students in the comparison condition. No effects were found for self-efficacy. Furthermore, significant correlations were found between text quality and writing process measures, but not for knowledge of writing and self-efficacy. Overall, the effectiveness of this teacher-designed intervention seemed satisfactory, as it resulted in greater knowledge of writing and better-quality writing in his history classes.


Applebee, A. (1984). Writing and reasoning. Review of Educational Research, 54, 577–596.

Bangert-Drowns, R. L., Hurley, M. M., & Wilkinson, B. (2004). The effects of school-based

writing-to-learn interventions on academic achievement: A meta-analysis. Review of

Educational Research, 74, 29-58.

Beaufort, A. (2004). Developmental gains of a history major: A case for building a theory of

disciplinary writing expertise. Research in the Teaching of English, 39(2), pp. 136-185.

Borko, H. (2004). Professional Development and Teacher Learning: Mapping the Terrain,

Educational Researcher, 33(8), 3–15.

Bouwer, R. & Koster, M. (2016). Bringing writing research into the classroom. The effectiveness

of Tekster, a newly developed writing program for elementary students. Unpublished

Dissertation, University of Utrecht.

Braaksma, M., & Rijlaarsdam, G. (2015). Introduction to the special issue on Writing-to-learn

studies. Journal of Writing Research, 7(1), 1-4.

Braaksma, M. A. H., Rijlaarsdam, G., & van den Bergh, H. (2018). Effects of hypertext writing and

observational learning on content knowledge acquisition, self-efficacy, and text quality:

Two experimental studies exploring aptitude treatment interactions. Journal of Writing

Research, 9(3), 259-300.

Clarke, D. & Hollingsworth, H. (2002). Elaborating a model of teacher professional growth.

Teaching and Teacher Education, 18, 947-967.

Coffin, C. (2006). Historical discourse: The language of time, cause and evaluation. New York:


De La Paz, S. (2005). Effects of historical reasoning instruction and writing strategy mastery in

culturally and academically diverse middle school classrooms. Journal of Educational

Psychology, 97(2), 139-156.

De La Paz, S. & Felton, M. K. (2010). Reading and writing from multiple source documents in

history: Effects of strategy instruction with low to average high school writers.

Contemporary Educational Psychology, 35, 174-192.

den Elzen, M., Oorschot, F., Visser, A., van der Leeuw, B. & Meestringa, T. (2018). Redeneren

en formuleren bij mens- en maatschappijvakken. [Reasoning and formulating in the social

science subjects]. Enschede, The Netherlands: SLO.

De Oliveira, L. C. (2011). Knowing and writing school history. The language of students’

expository writing and teachers’ expectations. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.


Emig, J. (1977). Writing as a mode of learning. College Composition and Communication, 28,


Expert Group Learning Trajectories (2009). Referentiekader taal en rekenen: De

referentieniveaus. [Reference framework language and arithmetic: The referential levels].

Enschede, The Netherlands: Ministerie van OCW.

Gillespie, A., Graham, S., Kiuhara, S., & Hebert, M. (2014). High school teachers use of writing

to support students' learning: A national survey. Reading and Writing, 27(6), 1043-1072.

Graham, S., & Harris, K. (2018a). Evidence-based writing practices: A meta-analysis of existing

meta-analyses. In R. Fidalgo & T. Olive (Series Eds.) & R. Fidalgo, K.R. Harris, & M. Braaksma,

(Vol Eds.), Design principles for teaching effective writing. Studies in Writing Series: Vol.

(pp. 13-38). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

Graham, S. & Harris, K. (2018b). An examination of the design principles underlying a selfregulated strategy development study. Journal of Writing Research 10(2). 139-187.

Graham, S., Harris, K., MacArthur, C. A., & Schwartz, S. S. (1998). Writing instruction. In B. Y. L.

Wong (Ed.), Learning about learning disabilities (2nd ed., pp. 391–424). San Diego, CA:

Academic Press.

Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007). A meta-analysis of writing instruction for adolescent students.

Journal of Educational Psychology, 99(3), 445-476.

Hajer, M. & Meestringa, T. (2020). Handboek Taalgericht Vakonderwijs. [Handbook Language

Oriented Content Teaching]. Uitgeverij Coutinho.

Harris, K. R., & Graham, S. (1996). Making the writing process work: Strategies for composition

and self-regulation. Cambridge, MA: Brookline.

Harris, K. R., Graham, S., Brindle, M. & Sandmel, K. (2009). Metacognition and children's

writing. In D. Hacker, J. Dunlosky, & A. Graesser (Eds), Handbook of metacognition in

education (pp 131-153). New York, NY: Routledge.

Hayes, J. R. (1996). A new framework for understanding cognition and affect in writing. In C.

M. Levy & S. Ransdell (Eds.), The science of writing: Theories, methods, individual

differences, and applications (pp. 1-27). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,


Hayes, J. R. (2012). Modeling and remodeling writing. Written Communication, 29(3), 369-388.

Hayes, J. R., & Flower, L. S. (1980). Identifying the organization of writing processes. In L. W.

Gregg & E. R. Steinberg (Eds.), Cognitive processes in writing (pp. 3-30). Hillsdale, NJ:

Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Hillocks, G. (1986). Research on written composition: New directions for teaching. Urbana, Ill.:

ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills, National Institute of


Kellogg, R.T. (2008). Training Writing Skills: A cognitive developmental perspective. Journal of

Writing Research, 1(1), 1-26.

Klein, P. D., & Kirkpatrick, L. C. (2010). A Framework for Content Area Writing: Mediators and

Moderators. Journal of Writing Research, 2(1), 1-46.

Koster, M., Bouwer, R., & van den Bergh, H. (2017). Professional development of teachers in

the implementation of a strategy-focused writing intervention program for elementary

students. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 49, 1–20.

Koster, M., Tribushinina, E. , de Jong, P. F., & van den Bergh, H. (2015). Teaching children to

write: A meta-analysis of writing intervention research. Journal of Writing Research, 7(2).



Langer, J. (1992). Speaking of knowing: Conceptions of understanding in academic disciplines.

In A. Herrington, & C. Moran (Eds.), Writing, teaching, and learning in the disciplines (pp.

-85). New York: The Modern Language Association of America.

Leijten, M., & Van Waes, L. (2013). Keystroke logging in writing research: Using Inputlog to

analyze and visualize writing processes. Written Communication 30(3), 358–392.

McCarthy Young, K., & Leinhardt, G. (1998). Writing from primary document. A way of knowing

in history. Written communication 15(1), 25-68.

McCutchen, D. (1986). Domain knowledge and linguistic knowledge in the development of

writing ability. Journal of Memory and Language, 25(4), 431-444.

McCutchen, D. (2011). From novice to expert: Implications of language skills and writing

relevant knowledge for memory during the development of writing skill. Journal of

Writing Research, 3(1), 51-68.

Moje, E.B. (2008). Foregrounding the disciplines in secondary literacy teaching and learning: A

call for change. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 52(2), 96-107.

Monte-Sano, C. (2010). Disciplinary literacy in history: An exploration of the historical nature

of adolescents’ writing. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 19, 539-568.

Monte-Sano, C. & Allen, A. (2019). Historical argument writing: The role of interpretive work,

argument type, and classroom instruction. Reading & Writing, 32, 1383-1410.

Mottart, A., van Brabant, P., & van de Ven, P-H. (2009). Schrijven bij diverse schoolvakken. Een

verkenning. [Writing in the disciplines; An exploration] Levende Talen Tijdschrift 10(4), 14-

Nokes, J. D. & De La Paz, S. (2018). Writing and argumentation in history education. In: S.

Metzger & L. Harris (Eds). International Handbook of History Teaching and Learning. pp.

-578. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.


Rijlaarsdam, G., Braaksma, M., Couzijn, M., Janssen, T., Kieft, M., Broekkamp, H., & van den

Bergh, H. (2005). Psychology and the teaching of writing in 8000 and some words. In P.

Tomlinson, J. Dockrell & P. Winne (Eds.), Pedagogy – Teaching for Learning. British Journal

of Educational Psychology Monograph Series II: Psychological Aspects of Education –

Current Trends, Number 3 (pp. 127-153). Leicester: The British Psychological Society.

Schoonen, R., & de Glopper, K. (1996). Writing performance and knowledge about writing. In

G. Rijlaarsdam, H. van den Bergh & M. Couzijn (Eds.), Theories, models & methodology in

writing research (pp. 87-107). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Schoonen, R., van Gelderen, A., de Glopper, K., Hulstijn, J., Simis, A., Snellings, P., & Stevenson,

M. (2003). First language and second language writing: The role of linguistic knowledge,

speed of processing, and metacognitive knowledge. Language learning, 53(1), 165-202.

Shanahan, T. & Shanahan, C. (2008). Teaching disciplinary literacy to adolescents: rethinking

content-area literacy. Harvard Educational Review, 78, 40-59.

Sendur, K. A., van Boxtel, C., & van Drie, J. (2021). Undergraduate L2 students’ performance

when evaluating historical sources for reliability. English for Specific Purposes, 61, 17-31.

Stoel, G. L., van Drie, J. P., & van Boxtel, C. A. M. (2017). The effects of explicit teaching of

strategies, second-order concepts, and epistemological underpinnings on students’


ability to reason causally in History. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(3), 321-337.

van Boxtel, C. & van Drie, J. (2018). Historical Reasoning: Conceptualizations and Educational

Applications. In: S. Metzger & L. Harris (Eds). International Handbook of History Teaching

and Learning. pp. 149-176. New York, Wiley-Blackwell.

Vandermeulen, N. (2020). Synthesis writing in upper-secondary education: From a baseline of

texts and processes to process-oriented feedback. Unpublished Dissertation, University

of Antwerp.

Vandermeulen, N., Leijten, M., & Van Waes, L. (2020). Reporting Writing Process Feedback in

the Classroom: Using Keystroke Logging Data to Reflect on Writing Processes. Journal of

Writing Research, 12(1), 109-140.

van Drie, J., Braaksma, M, & Van Boxtel, C. (2015). Writing in History: Effects of writing

instruction on historical reasoning and text quality, Journal of Writing Research, 7(1), 123-

van Drie, J., Groenendijk, T., Braaksma, M. & Janssen, T. (2016). Genrespecifiek schrijven in

de mens- en maatschappijvakken, Negen lesontwerpen onderzocht [Genre specific

writing in the social sience subjects]. Landelijk Expertisecentrum Mens- en


van Drie, J., Janssen, T., & Groenendijk, T. (2017). Improving writing in social studies through

professional development: Effects on teachers’ beliefs, classroom practice and students’

writing. European Journal for Applied Linguistics, 5(2), 273-308.

van Drie, J., Janssen, T., & Groenendijk, T. (2018). Effects of writing instruction on adolescents’

knowledge of writing and text quality in History. L1-Educational Studies in Language and

Literature, 18, 1-28.

van Drie, J., Van Boxtel, C., Jaspers, J., & Kanselaar, G. (2005). Effects of representational

guidance on domain specific reasoning in CSCL. Computers in Human Behavior 21(4),


Van Waes, L., Leijten, M., Lindgren, E., & Wengelin, A. (2015). Keystroke logging in writing

research: Analyzing online writing processes. In C.A. MacArthur, S. Graham, & J. Fitzgerald

(Eds.), Handbook of Writing Research, pp. 410-426. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Van Waes, L., Leijten, M., & van Weijen, D. (2009). Keystroke logging in writing research:

Observing writing processes with Inputlog. GFL-German as a foreign language, 2(3), 41-64.

Viera, A. J, & Garrett, J. M. (2005). Understanding Interobserver Agreement: The Kappa Statistic.

Family Medicine, 37(5), 360 – 363.

Wengelin, A. (2006). Examining pauses in writing: Theory, methods and empirical data. In K. H.

Sullivan & E. Lindgren (Eds.), Computer keystroke logging and writing: Methods and

applications (pp. 107-130). Oxford: Elsevier

Wineburg, S. S. (1991). Historical problem solving: A study of cognitive processes used in the

evaluation of documentary and pictorial evidence. Journal of Educational Psychology, 83,


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 Research 12(3), 601-623.



How to Cite

Van Drie, J., Van Driel, J., & Van Weijen, D. (2021). Developing students’ writing in History: Effects of a teacher-designed domain-specific writing instruction. Journal of Writing Research, 13(2), 201–229.