Improving Writing Skills Through Diagnosing and Treating At-Risk Writers


  • Richard A. McConnell
  • Mark Williams
  • Trent Lythgoe
  • Theodor Ihrke
  • Lisa Babin
  • Allyson McNitt
  • Kimberly Brutsche


In 2015, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC) developed the Pre-Command and General Staff Officers’ Course (CGSOC) Writing Program (PCWP) to improve students’ writing skills. This study examined how attending the PCWP affected students’ subsequent academic performance. Using a causal-comparative research design, the authors analyzed the academic performance of 720 CGSOC students, including 39 that attended the PCWP. The analysis found that attending the PCWP increased student performance on written exams later in the course. Additionally, this study found that the diagnostic essay used to select students for the PCWP is a weaker predictor of academic risk than a writing skills test and the Nelson-Denny reading test. These findings support recommendations for further study in Army communication skills, faculty development in writing evaluation, and curriculum changes throughout Army University. These findings also would be generalizable to other institutions of higher learning as well as leaders in business and government who might be interested in refining writing education through improved writing skills diagnosis.