Analysis of the written products of sixth grade students: summary and synthesis

Submitted by: Andrea Trueba
Abstract: Reading and writing are two tools that allow people to access information and, therefore, to learn. The tasks that combine specific cognitive processes of reading and writing are the so-called hybrid tasks. Examples of these tasks are summaries, informative synthesis, argumentative essays from sources, etc. Several investigations have shown the relevance of hybrid tasks for reflection and content learning and how students follow several processes when faced with these tasks (Mateos et al., 2008, Segev-Miller, 2004). However, most of the studies of this field are carried out with participants of Secondary Education and university. Furthermore, few studies with younger pupils have dealt with the Social Sciences field (Martínez et al., 2015; Montesano et al., 2014). This paper addresses how sixth-grade Primary Education students perform two tasks with different levels of complexity: summary and synthesis. The objective was to explore how they carry out the two tasks and analyze if the level of performance differs between both. In order to assess the product quality, a series of criteria, based on the cognitive processes demanded, were used. Thus, we employed items such as: selection of the relevant information (both explicit and implicit), number or irrelevant ideas, addition of own information, and properly integration of all the elements, giving shape to a coherent final product. Forty students of the last year of Primary Education participated in the study, who elaborated the two hybrid tasks within the framework of their Natural Sciences subject. After coding the quality of the two written texts using a rubric, the results show that participants perform the summary task with greater success, although there is space for improvement. Furthermore, the level of quality of both tasks is not correlated, since synthesis task seem to be very difficult to participants. Based on its results, we point out to the need to train students in different hybrid tasks from Primary Education.

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.
Martínez, I., Mateos, M, Martín, E. & Rijlaarsdam, G. (2015). Learning history by composing synthesis texts. Effects of an instructional programme on learning, reading and writing processes and text quality. Journal of Writing Research, 7(2), 275-302.
Monte-Sano, C., De La Paz, S., & Felton, M. (2014.) Reading, thinking, and writing about history: Teaching argument writing to diverse learners in the common core classroom, grades 6-12. New York: Teachers College Press.
Segev-Miller, R. (2004). Writing from sources: The effect of explicit instruction on college students’ processes and products. L1-Educational Studies in Language and Literature, 4(1), 5–33

Reading, Writing, Summary, Synthesis, Primary Education