University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
Students’ successes in first-year writing courses at the university level are critical to academic success and degree completion. Fostering students' engagement in first-year writing courses has proved challenging for institutions of higher education (IHE). Utility value interventions (UV) employing social psychological intervention (SPI) methods have been implemented successfully to aid students in understanding the value of course content and improve achievement. Utility value is the perceived usefulness of a task or content. Similarly, transformative experience (TE) interventions have been implemented with success. Transformative experience is a learning outcome achieved when students re-conceptualize their out-of-school experiences as a result of their experiences in school. However, these interventions have not been implemented in the domain of writing, including in the context of first-year writing courses. Using a quasi-experimental field-based intervention, this study tested the effectiveness of four interventions: utility value (UV) only, teaching for transformative experience (TTE) only, UV + TTE, and control condition. The conditions were created by varying writing and discussion-based prompts. In the context of first-year writing courses at a four-year university, I examined how these interventions work and for whom they are most effective using measures of utility value for writing, transformative experience with writing, and performance on a writing task. Measures of expectation for success, initial interest, and prior academic performance were used as controls when comparing conditions. Controlling for initial utility value and expectations for success, I did not find significant main effects of the interventions on the measure of utility value given at the end of the semester. However, I found that the combined condition interacted with the measure of initial utility value suggesting that the effectiveness of this intervention was dependent on students’ prior utility value. Controlling for initial interest and expectations for success, I did not find significant main effects of the interventions on the transformative experience measures given at the end of the semester. However, I found that the combined condition interacted with the prior interest measure suggesting that the effectiveness of this intervention was dependent on students’ prior interest. In addition, controlling for initial expectations for success and prior achievement, I found mixed evidence that performance on the writing task was significantly lower for students in the combined (UV+TE) condition compared to students in the UV only condition. These results suggest that, although UV and TE interventions have been effective in other domains, the effectiveness of these intervention may not transfer easily to the domain of writing. Further research is needed to understand why transfer to the domain of writing is difficult and what modifications are needed to foster effectively UV and TE within the domain of writing.
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