The Effects of Choice Versus Preference on Writing and the Mediating Role of Perceived Competence

A. Angelique Aitken, Steve Graham, Daniel MCNeish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Many educators assume that choice in writing leads to better writing outcomes; however, there are few studies to support this belief. In the present study, we examined the effects of choice and preference on writing quality with college students. The students wrote two argumentative essays on controversial topics in special education. For the topic at time 1, half of the students were randomly assigned to choose a position to defend, and the remaining students were assigned their position. For the topic at time 2, student roles reversed. Prior to writing on either topic, students completed a knowledge measure on each topic and a measure of self-efficacy for writing. Before each writing task, students indicated their preference for which position they wanted to defend, and after completing their essays at time 1, they completed a measure of perceived competence for the writing task. Variance attributable to knowledge, writing self-efficacy, and race were controlled for in all analyses. The effects of choice were limited. The quality of students’ writing improved for students who did not choose a topic at time 1 but chose which position to defend at time 2. Quality of writing for students who chose a topic at time 1 and not at time 2 did not differ. Further, having choice at time 1 increased students’ perceived competence, which lead to improved writing quality at time 2. No statistically significant effects for preference were found. Recommendations for future research and practice were provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1844-1865
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Sep 15 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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