I don't currently teach a writing course, but I did teach a freshman composition course for two semesters and we do teach writing in our EAP program. I'm always looking for solid research about writing and the Stanford Study of Writing appears to be just that.
Paul Rogers' dissertation seeks to identify key variables related to Stanford students' writing development across their four years of college and into their first year post-graduation. Especially interested in testing the hypothesis that two particular variables, audience awareness and rhetorical understanding of sources, are significant in students' writing development, Paul developed an original, 10 point rubric to score a sample of academic writing from 40 study participants. Twenty writing instructors participated in the scoring of a sample of academic writing from 40 study participants, achieving 86.6% inter-rater reliability. Paul also coded the nearly 150 interviews conducted during the five years of the study to gather further understanding of participants' beliefs about what most contributed to their writing development. Preliminary findings indicate:
Participants who scored high in rhetorical awareness of audience in their freshman year showed their greatest amount of growth in subsequent years, indicating this variable as statistically significant (p>.0001).
Writing development is non-linear; students develop at different paces, sometimes regressing across years, particularly as they are learning the nuances of genre-specific writing within disciplines.
Participants reported that conversations about writing with teachers, professors, teaching assistants, and post-doctoral fellows had the greatest impact on their writing development.
While positive feedback appears to increase student-writers' confidence, descriptive constructive criticism may be most salient to helping students move their writing forward.
Students valued feedback at all stages of the writing process, but especially early on in the process when feedback clarified teacher expectations, and clearly connected to writing and revision processes.