An Exploratory Investigation of Structured Writing Strategy Training for African-American College Students with Learning Disabilities
Nicholas, Karen R., Menchetti, Bruce M., Nettles, Stephen M., Journal of College Reading and Learning
This exploratory study investigated the effects of a structured writing strategy on the quality of expository compositions produced by 36 African-American college undergraduates with learning disabilities. The strategy was structured to assist students in developing a topic sentence and main ideas into body paragraphs, and in using transition words throughout the composition. The strategy effects were compared for a group that received the specific, structured writing strategy training and a control group that received general strategy instruction. Students in the strategy instruction group significantly improved their use of supporting details in producing an expository essay. Although mean writing self-efficacy scores for both groups increased at the end of training, there were no significant differences between groups on a measure of writing self-efficacy.
More students with disabilities are attending colleges and universities than ever before (Horn & Berktold, 1999; Lewis & Farris, 1999), and post-secondary institutions have the responsibility to provide an environment for optimum academic success for students admitted. According to the HEATH Resource Center of the American Council on Education (Henderson, 2001), approximately two in five college freshmen with disabilities (40%) reported a learning disability. Furthermore, only 16% of freshmen reporting learning disabilities were students of color, 6% of which were African-American. Although this group may be a small percentage of students, exploration of the types of support services that may assist African-American freshmen with disabilities to be successful in college is essential. This study looked at improving the writing strategies of African American students with learning disabilities who were enrolled in a historically black college and university (HBCU).
Learning strategies have been applied to academic, social and behavioral learning goals for students with learning disabilities, as well as integrated into student support services programs, especially programs at the secondary and postsecondary levels. Although learning strategies for writing have been taught in postsecondary settings, it is interesting to note that in most cases researchers have simply adapted elementary and secondary strategies to postsecondary settings without critically analyzing the effectiveness of the strategies for postsecondary learners.
Most research in learning strategies for students with learning disabilities has been conducted with the general population of predominantly white, middle class elementary and secondary students. In the absence of a comprehensive research base, one instructional approach that seems promising to address writing deficits of African-American college students with learning disabilities is explicit writing strategy instruction.
In a review of the literature investigating the use of learning strategies with African-American college students with learning disabilities, the results were sparse at best. Researchers have investigated special counseling programs (Trippi & Cheatham, 1989), classroom environmental changes such as racial-development activities (Dawson-Threat, 1997), assessment trends of African-American college students with learning disabilities (Greenberg, 1986), educational achievement (i.e., measured by grade point average and/or retention), and employment (Adelman & Vogel, 1990; Muraskin, 1997; Vogel, 1982; Vogel & Reder, 1998)yet have not investigated a strategic approach to writing strategy instruction.
With regard to studies concentrating on the writing of African-Ameri- can college students, the focus has been on the integration of minority issues (i.e., reading black feminists' essays to facilitate discourse) in English courses (Comfort, 2000), collaborative learning (Eubanks, 1991), and educational support service programs (Hoy & Gregg, 1986; Vogel, 1982). …