Students with Learning Disabilities and the Process of Writing

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NICHCY’s structured abstract 19 describes the following:

Title | Students with Learning Disabilities and the Process of Writing: A Meta-Analysis of SRSD Studies

Author | Graham, S., & Harris, K. R.

Source | In H. L. Swanson, K. R. Harris, & S. Graham (Eds.), Handbook of learning disabilities (pp. 323-344). New York: Guilford Press.

Year Published2003

 

Abstract
The Handbook of Learning Disabilities (LD) is an edited compendium comprised of contributions from over 55 of the leading scholars involved in LD research. Contributing authors were charged with reviewing the major theoretical, methodological, and instructional advances that have occurred in the field over the last 20 years. This particular article appears as Chapter 20 in the 3rd section of the book, “Effective Instruction.”

Background
In the last two decades of the 20th century, research on writing expanded from studies of mechanics and grammar to examinations of what good writers do and the strategies students can master to improve the content and quality of their writing.  Skilled writers spend time planning, monitoring, evaluating, revising, and managing the writing process.  Students with learning disabilities (LD), on the other hand, often do not employ any of these skills.

Self-regulated strategy development (SRSD) is a method designed to help students learn, use, and eventually adopt as their own, the strategies used by skilled writers.  SRSD is more than simply strategy instruction, however.  It promotes self-regulation skills, content knowledge, and motivation.

There are five fundamental characteristics of SRSD instruction:

  1. Explicit and extensive instruction on writing strategies, self-regulation, and appropriate content knowledge is provided.
  2. Interactive learning and active collaboration from the students are encouraged.
  3. Instruction is individualized to the student’s needs and abilities using feedback and support.
  4. Students are self-paced, but must meet certain criteria before moving from one stage of instruction to the next.
  5. New strategies and new ways to use previously taught strategies are continually introduced.
  6. This meta-analysis examines the use of SRSD methods for teaching writing to students with learning disabilities.

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Research Questions
This synthesis was done to examine the effects of self-regulated strategy development (SRSD) methods for children and adolescents with learning disabilities (LD). This meta-analysis sought to answer these questions:

  1. Do SRSD interventions improve the writing performance of students with LD?
  2. Does SRSD improve the revision skills of students with LD?
  3. Are students able to maintain and generalize their acquired SRSD abilities?
  4. Is SRSD more effective with younger or older children?
  5. Are teachers able to apply SRSD methods effectively?
  6. Are certain components of SRSD more important than others?

Research Design
Meta-Analysis*

  • Number of Studies Included | 18
  • Number of Subjects | N/A
  • Years Spanned | 1985-2002

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Research Subjects
Students with LD in 2nd – 8th grade.

Age/Grade of Subjects
Most participants were in grades 2-8. The median grade was 5th.

Specified Disability
In order to be included in the meta-analysis, subjects had to be diagnosed or described as having one or more of the following: learning disabilities (LD); dsygraphia; mild intellectual disability; LD/gifted; poor writing skills.

Intervention
Participants received self-regulated strategy development (SRSD) interventions.

Duration of Intervention
The number of weeks or sessions of SRSD instruction in each of these studies was not provided, however maintenance tests were reportedly given in 2-14 week intervals.

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Findings

  1. Self-regulated strategy development (SRSD) interventions improve the writing performance of students with LD, poor writers, and average students.
  2. SRSD had moderate to strong effects on improving the revision skills of students with LD.
  3. Students with LD strongly maintained their acquired SRSD abilities to make substantive revisions to their writing, but their abilities to make surface-level revisions were less well maintained. Both poor writers and students with LD were able to generalize the writing and revising strategies they learned during SRSD instruction to new writing genres and settings.
  4. SRSD is effective with both elementary (2nd through 6th grade) and middle school (7th and 8th grade) children.  SRSD had a greater effect on the average writing quality of elementary school students, and the composition length of middle school students, but there was no clear difference in writing elements/structure scores based on age.
  5. SRSD was effective regardless of whether students were taught by researchers or their regular classroom teacher. Students who were tested right after the implementation phase of SRSD instruction performed slightly better if they were taught by one of the study researchers.  However, students taught by their classroom teachers preformed better on maintenance and generalization of SRSD strategies.
  6. Components of SRSD related to self-regulation (i.e. goal setting, self-monitoring, self-recording, self-statements, and teacher modeling) significantly impact the writing performance of students with LD.

Combined Effects Size
The overall mean effect sizes for children with and without learning disabilities (LD) using SRSD were significant. When individual components of writing were tested separately, SRSD was found to be highly effective for improving writing skills in both average and LD students.  Effect sizes were broken down by the following writing components:

  • Writing quality (LD students = ES of 1.14, Students overall = 1.47)
  • Elements (LD students = ES of 2.15, Students overall = 1.87)
  • Story Grammar (LD students = ES of 3.52, Students overall = 3.52)
  • Length (LD students = ES of 1.86, Students overall = 2.07)

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Conclusion/Recommendations

For practice: The results of this meta-analysis support the use of self-regulated strategy development (SRSD) to improve the writing skills of students with learning disabilities (LD), as well as poor and average writers.  SRSD appears to be a very versatile form of writing instruction.  It is effective for both students with and without LD, a variety of ages, different teachers, and various writing genres.  Classroom teachers were shown to implement SRSD effectively, improving the writing performance of students with learning disabilities and average writers alike.

For research: The authors discuss several weaknesses within the current research base and suggest subsequent investigations that:

  1. Independently evaluate SRSD.  Harris and Graham were the authors of 14 of the 18 studies in this meta-analysis, and their former students and colleagues accounted for the rest.
  2. Examine how maintenance and generalization of SRSD skills can be further fostered and supported.

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