A little glimpse into synthesis writing interventions from different nations: similarities and differences

Submitted by: Liselore van Ockenburg
Abstract: Thanks to modern media, information sources are numerous and readily available. One of the greatest challenges educators currently face is teaching students how to find, analyze and process information from reliable sources. These cognitively demanding, but essential, skills come together in writing a synthesis: a text that is a representative and at the same time well-integrated reflection of the information from sources. A synthesis task enables students to acquire and practice the aforementioned skills.
A considerable amount of empirical research has been conducted over the past two decades to understand the cognitive processes necessary to produce synthesis texts (Mateos, Martín, Villalón, & Luna, 2018, Spivey & King, 1989) and to find effective instructional and learning activities for synthesis writing (Barzilai, Zohar, & Mor-Hagani, 2018). Overall, earlier research has shown that there are multiple possible ways to compose a good synthesis, as well as multiple effective approaches to teach students how to write better synthesis texts.
This symposium aims to provide a picture of this broad spectrum of possible teaching approaches by exploring different types of synthesis writing interventions. Attention will also be paid to how differences in national contexts may entail specific requirements for synthesis writing interventions.
The symposium’s different papers describe intervention studies that focus on: (1) participation in oral discussions (Lidia Casado, UAM, Spain), (2) feedback on the writing process (Nina Vandermeulen, Belgium, UA), (3) modelling the synthesizing processes (Liselore van Ockenburg, The Netherlands, UvA), and (4) an aspect of teaching writing synthesis, a case from Vietnam (Thảo Trần Nguyên Hương, Vietnam).
Despite their varying approaches, the common goal of all these studies is to improve students’ ability to write synthesis texts. This symposium therefore offers participants a unique opportunity to discover what we can learn from each other.

Mateos, M., Martín, E., Villalón, R., & Luna, M. (2008). Reading and writing to learn in secondary education: Online processing activity and written products in summarizing and synthesizing tasks. Reading and Writing, 21(7), 675-697.
Spivey, N. N., & King, J. R. (1989). Readers as writers composing from sources. Reading Research Quarterly, 7-26.
Barzilai, S., Zohar, A. R., & Mor-Hagani, S. (2018). Promoting Integration of Multiple Texts: a Review of Instructional Approaches and Practices. Educational Psychology Review, 1-27.

Keywords: synthesis writing, intervention studies, teaching and learning of writing