There is a research study that stands head and shoulders above other studies in the area of the contrast in benefits between instruction in grammarin this study, transformational grammarand no formal instruction in grammar. It is the Bateman and Zidonis study [Donald R. Bateman and Frank J. Zidonis, The Effect of a Study of Transformational Grammar on the Writing of Ninth and Tenth Graders, 1966, ERIC ED 018 424].
What makes this study so important is the degree of control that the researchers maintained over the experimental conditions. Both teachers and students were randomly assigned to classes; the instruction lasted for two whole years (the students were in their 9th and 10th grades); there were 21 students in the experimental class and 20 in the control class; and the writing samples contrasted (between those taught grammar and those taught no formal grammar) consisted of the first six and last six compositions by each student.
The writing of the experimental (grammar) group was superior to that of the control (no-formal-grammar) group in two important ways. First, the qualitythe “well-formedness”of the sentences of the experimental group was so much better than that of the control group that the difference was significant at the .01 level of confidence; there was only 1 chance in 100 that this difference in improvement was not due to the experimental treatment. There were strict criteria for determining whether a sentence was well formed or not. (Both of the examples of “malformed” sentences supplied in the report were overly complex run-together sentences.)
Second, and of great importance, is the fact that while 91% of the complex sentences of the experimental group were well formed, only 52% of the complex sentences of the control group were well formed. Though the researchers, by oversight, failed to report on the statistical significance of this difference, it is obvious that it must be at the .01 level of confidence or better.
Unfortunately, this study has been largely ignored in the great debate over the importance of teaching grammar as a separate subject in classrooms. (See the section on this in the article “A New Grammar That Has Clearly Improved Writing.”)
It is of interest that the average I.Q. of the experimental class was 118.2. (The average I.Q. of the control classthat is, for all but two of them for whom there were no recordswas 115.) This is of interest because the difficulty of teaching and learning transformational grammar has prevented this approach to teaching grammar from gaining acceptance by teachers. In contrast, Hunter’s Sentence Sense writing system is a far easier sort of grammar to learn and appears to have comparable power.