Recently, a middle school in Los Angeles that implemented the essaypop writing program for the first time, allowed us to survey a group of seventh and eighth-grade students who used essaypop as their primary writing tool during the 2019 - 2020 school year. Needless to say, it was an unusual and challenging year, interrupted by a pandemic in March of ‘20 that caused, for this district, a complete school shutdown and an immediate and unplanned transition to distance learning for the final two-and-a-half months of the school year. This was a unique context for a case study and an opportunity to obtain student attitudes about a platform that was not only new to them but used in both conventional and unconventional settings.
For this study, we were primarily interested in learning about the experience of students who were using the essaypop platform. We wanted to gain insights into their thoughts regarding specific features such as the frame-writing interface, the interactive Hive environment, and the scaffolded help features embedded within the system. Did they like these features? Were they ambivalent? Did they dislike them or were they unhelpful? We also wanted to understand how writing with essaypop affected their attitudes about their own ability to tackle complex, academic writing tasks. Did the platform motivate them to write? Did they view themselves as more proficient writers as a result of using this tool? As much as possible, we wanted to get a glimpse into how these students viewed themselves metacognitively as writers.
At the end of the school year, the teachers distributed an anonymous, digital survey. In all, 592 seventh and eighth-grade students responded. The survey asked them to assess various essaypop features by responding to statements that they agreed with very much (a 5 rating) or didn’t agree with at all (a 1 rating). Here are the results of the survey:
essaypop has helped me become a better essay writer.
essaypop is more fun and engaging than traditional essay writing.
Composing my essay in separate writing frames or boxes helps me to
organize my thoughts better.
The sentence builders that pull down from each writing frame help me
express myself more clearly.
The “preview/export” feature is helpful.
The help cards that are accessed through the sidebar and which have examples and models are helpful.
Collaborating with others in the hive is helpful.
Collaborating with others in the hive is fun and engaging.
essaypop, in general, is easy to learn and use.
What is your overall impression of essaypop? (5 = I really liked it. 1 = I really didn't like it)
Would you recommend essaypop to other students?
Conclusions based on the study
The results of the survey are encouraging both in terms of the students seeing themselves as better writers as a result of using essaypop and the platform's tendency to make writing a more engaging experience for them. These are clearly results that allow us to move forward with purpose as we further develop the platform. Here are two other evidence-based articles that speak to the effectiveness of essaypop: