You are here: Home / Research / Projects / MEWS


Measuring English Writing at Secondary Level


English writing is a key competence in a modern, globalized world where English is the lingua franca of science, business and higher education. Nonetheless, systematic research on this topic is scarce. MEWS is the first large-scale assessment in Germany and Switzerland measuring writing skills in English as a foreign language at upper secondary school.

The main goal of the study is the development of new methods for assessing writing skills and analyzing structural determinants of English achievement. Aside from effects of the educational system and the quality of instruction, individual differences of students (motivation, prior knowledge, social background) as well as out-of-school-activities fostering contact with English language are evaluated as predictors for achievement in English as a foreign language. Multi-level-analyses are applied to account for the hierarchical data structure (students nested in classes as well as classes nested in schools and schools nested in countries).

Research questions

The main goals of the study include the assessment of students’ English writing skills in upper secondary school as well as the collection of empirical evidence for determinants of optimal learning environments and teaching methods fostering English writing skills. Furthermore, the influence of English-related out-of-school-activities, such as online games, internet, television, blogs, etc. will be analyzed.
Thus, three central research questions are examined:
(1) How proficient are upper secondary school students in English essay writing two years before their graduation?
(2) What is the effect of individual factors (e.g. motivation, intelligence), family background and extracurricular activities on English essay writing?
(3) What is the effect of school and classroom factors (e.g. classroom instruction, graduation rate) on English essay writing?

Another main focus of the study is the implementation of modern evaluation techniques: The study is carried out computer-based using new software (ITEMS), specifically designed for developing and conducting computer-based assessments. Moreover, in addition to collecting judgments from trained raters we apply new software for automated essay scoring (e-Reader©; ETS).

Time frame

Data are collected at two time points: at the beginning of grade 11 in the fall of 2016 and at the end of the school year in summer 2017. At both times students are asked to write two argumentative essays. Additionally, standardized tests are administered measuring English reading and listening skills. Half of our sample is tested in Switzerland (N =1500), the other half in Germany (federal state Schleswig-Holstein, N= 1500).

Participating institutes

The project is headed by Prof. Dr. Stefan Keller (FHNW), Prof. Dr. Olaf Köller (Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education) and Prof. Dr. Urs Moser (University of Zurich).

FHNW School of Education

Prof. Dr. Stefan Keller
Maleika Krüger
Oliver Meyer

Department of Educational Research, IPN

Prof. Dr. Olaf Köller
Johanna Fleckenstein
Jennifer Meyer
Anna Lara Paeske