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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Argument Essays Written in the 1st and 3rd Years of College: Assessing Differences in Performance

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Building on earlier longitudinal studies and focusing on the concept of writing performance and the issue of transfer, this article discusses an assessment of thesis-driven argument essays written by students in their freshman and junior years at a large, urban, Hispanic serving university. The article addresses the question of whether students in the study were able to "transfer"what they had been taught in their first-year writing classes to writing tasks assigned in third year classes and indicates that modest gains did occur, particularly in the use of sources and evidence. It also discusses several factors contributing to improvement in student performance and to maximizing the possibility of transfer, in particular. Throughout, the emphasis is on process-oriented strategies and thesis-driven argument in the first-year writing class and the specificity and clarity of the writing prompts assigned in junior level classes. Examination of these paired essays, written in a similar genre by the same students reveals that improvement was greatest for students with less than adequate writing skills. The study thus suggests that "near transfer" of the ability to write a thesis-driven argument essay did occur between the first and third years for this student population.

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