Investigating Writing Style Development in High School

Stephan Lorenzen, Niklas Hjuler, Stephen Alstrup

In this paper we do the first large scale analysis of writing style development among Danish high school students. More than 10K students with more than 100K essays are analyzed. Writing style itself is often studied in the natural language processing community, but usually with the goal of verifying authorship, assessing quality or popularity, or other kinds of predictions. In this work, we analyze writing style changes over time, with the goal of detecting global development trends among students, and identifying at-risk students. We train a Siamese neural network to compute the similarity between two texts. Using this similarity measure, a student's newer essays are compared to their first essays, and a writing style development profile is constructed for the student. We cluster these student profiles and analyze the resulting clusters in order to detect general development patterns. We evaluate clusters with respect to writing style quality indicators, and identify optimal clusters, showing significant improvement in writing style, while also observing suboptimal clusters, exhibiting periods of limited development and even setbacks. Furthermore, we identify general development trends between high school students, showing that as students progress through high school, their writing style deviates, leaving students less similar when they finish high school, than when they start.

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