Andrew Duval

Liquid Interactive

What is it?

Writelike is an online platform designed to help students develop higher-order writing skills in analysis, persuasion and storytelling. It draws on a combination of experimental research, language theory and craft knowledge to create a unique approach to learning to write.

Why make it?

A good writer knows how to spot patterns in existing text and adapt those patterns to suit their own needs when they write. They do this so they can write effectively—with expressive power.

The problem is that we don’t have an established method to develop these skills. We do a great job of teaching students the basics of reading and writing, and we can provide lots of strategic advice on higher-order expression, but we mostly leave students to figure out for themselves how to get from one level to the other. This can work fine for students who already have text-rich backgrounds at home, but it’s pretty abysmal for those who don’t.

Writelike offers a solution by combining several areas of research and practice—cognitive load theory, genre-based pedagogy, systemic functional grammar, as well as the shopcraft of actual working writers—to create both a new instructional method, and a powerful online platform to help teachers apply the method in their classrooms.

What have the results been?

Writelike has been in development for nearly two years. Over that time we’ve been working with a small group of teachers, students and academics to craft a solution that works on many levels, and we’re only just reaching the point now where the platform is ready for a wider audience.

Early feedback from staff and students has been very positive, with teachers saying they can see students adapting text patterns they are learning in Writelike and retaining that skill over multiple semesters. Our hope now is to see if we can build on those results with a wider audience.

What can we learn from this?

But what is most interesting for a general educational audience is how Writelike approaches a complex domain and breaks it down into atomic units, then attempts to build up to higher-order skills.

This approach is conventional in areas such as sport and music, and clearly contributes to high-performance, but it’s not so widely used in complex academic domains like higher-order literacy. Writelike demonstrates how this approach has potential benefits, and provides a model for other educational designers to consider.