Writing Pal, a web-based software tool, was developed to provide a means of automatically scoring essays in the same way as a teacher might while also providing writing strategy instruction, game-based practice and individualized formative feedback to help students improve their writing proficiency. This system is not intended as a replacement for classroom instruction or homework, rather as a supplemental writing practice.
Although Writing Pal offers guided instructions, students are also encouraged to use it as a tool for extra practice in specific areas of essay writing where they are experiencing difficulty. Multiple past studies have assessed the usability of Writing Pal. These studies have consistently shown that students who have used Writing Pal experience an improvement in their writing scores.
In a series of nine strategy instruction modules, students learn explicit strategies for generating and organizing their ideas, drafting persuasive essays with a clear rhetorical structure, and revising their essays to express ideas in a more sophisticated and cohesive manner. Strategy instruction is provided via lesson videos presented by animated characters.
Practice games give students the opportunity to identify strategies that writing samples use (or fail to use), and to generate written work using strategies taught in lesson videos. Identification games help students understand and remember strategies, and generative games help students apply those strategies. Each game is designed to be replayable so that students can engage in extended, deliberate practice.
ESSAY WRITING AND FEEDBACK
Writing practice allows students to write entire essays based on the persuasive essay prompts provided by Writing Pal or on prompts entered by their teacher. After submitting an essay, students receive a score and formative feedback that provides individualized advice on how students can improve their future writing. Feedback messages align with the strategies taught in lesson videos. Students can also revise their essays, giving them an opportunity to apply the advice from the feedback messages.