Learning paths in synthesis writing: Which learning path contributes most to which learning outcome?
This paper presents a secondary analysis of data collected during an intervention study in which students learnt to synthesise pairs of texts presenting opposite views on controversial issues. The original intervention study included two treatments and examined the effects of two instruction conditions when instructional materials and tasks were held constant. The participants were 114 undergraduate psychology students. The object of the instruction was a guide on strategies for writing an argumentative synthesis text. However, the instruction varied between explicit strategy instruction, consisting of explaining each of the process’s four phases (exploring and identifying arguments and counterarguments, contrasting positions, drawing an integrative conclusion, and organising and revising the final draft), modelled via videos, versus self-study of the written strategy guide. After the initial instruction session, the students in both groups practiced collaboratively writing synthesis texts over two sessions with access to the strategy guide. The primary study compared the individually written pre- and posttest syntheses and found statistically significant differences favouring explicit instruction in both dependent variables: the argumentation coverage and the level of integration. The secondary analysis reported in the current paper involved scoring additional written syntheses produced during two practice sessions and then analysing the data for all time points (pretest, posttest, and the two practice sessions) using structural equation modelling (SEM) to test whether explicit instruction directly or indirectly affected the two indicators of good argumentative synthesis texts—argument coverage and integration—via the following collaborative practice. The results suggested two different learning paths for both dependent variables: explicit instruction is effective for both variables, while collaborative practice only has an additional indirect effect on argument coverage.