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Keys to Writing Smarter

Teacher viewing Writer's Key progress monitoring screen.

Project Title

Keys to Writing Smarter: An Online Writing Workbench for Students with High Incidence Disabilities


CAST is partnering with Arizona State University to develop and evaluate the impact of a writing professional learning ecosystem to support the needs of 7th and 8th grade teachers to provide more effective writing instruction to students with high-incidence disabilities in preparation for college and career. The project builds on a long line of CAST’s research and tool development to support improved student writing and instruction through the application of the UDL framework.

The Writer’s Workbench ecosystem for teachers will include both an online component and a face-to-face professional learning component. The online environment will support teachers in providing instruction around the four key factors in learning to write—skills, knowledge, strategies and motivation for writing. The Workbench environment will be supplemented by face-to-face professional development and professional learning communities for teachers, and will include supports and scaffolds for teachers that help reduce the time and energy required in the process of effectively teaching the diversity of learners in classrooms. Our aim is to support significant and meaningful improvements in teachers’ writing knowledge and their self-efficacy around writing instruction. We anticipate that these changes in writing instruction will, in turn, support improved student outcomes in two styles of writing—argumentative and informational writing—identified as critical areas of need.

Writer’s Workbench is a two-phased research project. In Phase 1, we will employ an iterative design process with schools and advisors to develop the writing ecosystem. In Phase 2, the team will investigate the overall impact of this instructional ecosystem in a randomized controlled trial to systematically and empirically analyze both teacher (proximal) effectiveness outcomes, as well as student (distal) writing outcomes.




US Department of Education, Institute for Education Science


Arizona State University
Andover Public Schools
Hudson Public Schools
Wakefield Public Schools
Worcester Public Schools

Principal Investigators

Tracey Hall, PhD, CAST (PI)
Karen Harris, EdD, Arizona State University - (Co-PI)
Steve Graham, EdD, Arizona State University (Co-PI)