Instructing Adolescents with Learning Disabilities: A Component and Composite Analysis

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NICHCY’s Structured Abstract 37 describes the following:

Title | Instructing Adolescents with Learning Disabilities: A Component and Composite Analysis

Author | Swanson, H.L., & Hoskyn, M.

Source Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 16(2), 109-119.

Year Published | 2001

Abstract
Instructional components that positively influence performance of adolescents with learning disabilities are identified based on a comprehensive meta-analysis of 913 intervention studies for students with learning disabilities. While the majority of the intervention programs could be categorized according to 8 instructional factors, only 2 were found to contribute to high effect sizes. These were explicit practice and advanced organization. Instructional components that positively influence performance of adolescents are identified based on a comprehensive meta-analysis of intervention studies for students with learning disabilities. Explicit practice and advanced organization are basic instructional components in a number of successful intervention programs.

The purpose of this article is to identify the components of various instructional models that best predicted effect sizes for adolescents with learning disabilities. Three important findings emerged. First, eight instructional factors (Questioning, Sequencing and Segmentation, Explicit Skill Modeling, Organization and Explicit Practice, Small-Group Setting, Indirect-Teacher Activities (e.g., homework), Technology, and Scaffolding) captured the majority of intervention programs for adolescents with LD. Second, only the organization/explicit factor contributed significant variance (16%) to effect size. This factor included only 2 instructional components: advanced organization and explicit practice. Finally, the single most important instructional component related to high effect sizes was explicit practice (treatment activities related to distributed review and practice, repeated practice, sequenced reviews, daily feedback, and/or weekly reviews).

Background
Students with learning disabilities (LD) vary in terms of their individual strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles. Therefore, no single instructional model can be recommended for all of them. Nevertheless, one can assume that certain general principles for teaching students with LD exist and that effective interventions include components that capitalize on these general principles. These principles can be adapted for different students, in different content areas, and in different settings, and they can be used in designing effective programs for students with LD.

This meta-analysis sought to identify some of the general principles behind effective instruction for adolescents with LD, as well as the specific components most often found in effective programs for this diverse group of students.

Research Questions

  1. What instructional principles best predict positive outcomes in treatment studies of adolescents with LD?
  2. Which instructional components are most frequently found in successful interventions for adolescents with LD?

Research Design
Meta-Analysis*

  • Number of Studies Included | 93
  • Number of Subjects | 2,592
  • Years Spanned | 1963-1997

Research Subjects
Learning disabled adolescents with IQ scores above 84.

Age/Grade of Subjects
Subjects ranged in age from 10 to 18 years old. (Average age = 12.11 years, SD = 2.22; age range = 10.11 to 17.15).

Specified Disability
Learning Disabilities (LD)

Intervention
Intervention activities involved one or more of the following instructional components:

  • Questioning
  • Attributions (i.e., the teacher presented the benefits of the taught strategies)
  • Controlling the Difficulty or Processing Demands of Tasks (e.g., fading prompts)
  • Sequencing and Segmentation
  • Elaboration
  • Large-Group Learning
  • New Content/Skills
  • One-on-One Instruction
  • Explicit Skill Modeling
  • Reinforcement
  • Organization and Explicit Practice
  • Strategy Cues
  • Task Reduction
  • Small-Group Setting
  • Indirect-Teacher Activities (e.g., homework)
  • Technology, and Scaffolding

Duration of Intervention
A typical intervention study included:

  • 37.67 minutes of instruction (SD = 17.59),
  • 3.67 times a week (SD = 1.44),
  • over 20.90 sessions (SD =25.79).

Findings

  • The majority of intervention programs for adolescents with LD were based on 8 instructional factors – Questioning, Sequencing and Segmentation, Explicit Skill Modeling, Organization and Explicit Practice, Small-Group Setting, Indirect-Teacher Activities (e.g., homework), Technology, and Scaffolding.
  • Only the practices of teaching advanced organization skills and giving explicit practice contributed significantly to differences in effect size.
  • Explicit practice (e.g., review and practice, repeated practice, sequenced reviews, daily feedback, or weekly reviews) was the most highly effective instructional component.

Combined Effects Size

The mean effect size across the 93 studies was 0.80 (SD = 0.57; range = 0.11 to 2.76).

Conclusion/Recommendations
Of all the factors studies reviewed in this meta-analysis only the practices of teaching advanced organization skills and giving explicit practice significantly increased the effectiveness of instruction, with explicit practice being the most effective instructional component of all.

Explicit practice includes procedures such as:

  • review and practice
  • repeated practice
  • sequenced reviews
  • daily feedback
  • weekly reviews

Teaching advanced organization skills includes:

  • having students preview materials prior to instruction
  • directing students to focus on specific points
  • providing background information on the task
  • explicitly stating instructional objectives

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* Meta-Analysis | A widely-used research method in which (1) a systematic and reproducible search strategy is used to find as many studies as possible that address a given topic; (2) clear criterion are presented for inclusion/exclusion of individual studies into a larger analysis; and (3) results of included studies are statistically combined to determine an overall effect (effect size) of one variable on another.

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