Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Effects of a Motivational Intervention for Improving the Writing of Children with Learning Disabilities

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Effects of a Motivational Intervention for Improving the Writing of Children with Learning Disabilities

Article excerpt

Abstract. Given that affective and cognitive processes interact in writing, it is important that interventions for developing writing ability focus both on strategies for developing motivation and cognitive processes. This article provides evidence for the efficacy of an instructional program that combines training in composition processes with strategies for developing motivation to achieve. Motivational training focused on multiple attributes: value and functional character, standards of performance, expectations, beliefs, self-efficacy, self-esteem and writing-related factors. Sixty-six fifth- and six-grade students with learning disabilities were assessed on a series of measures prior to and following the motivational intervention. Compared with a control group (n=61), trained students showed significant improvements in the quality of their writing (measured in terms of text structure and coherence) and in their attitudes towards writing. They did not, however, show significant changes in productivity (quantity of text produced), self-esteem, beliefs and expectations, or in writing-related attributions.

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Motivation is not exclusively a stable characteristic of a person, but also depends on situation, domain and context (Mayer, 2001). This provides some hope for teachers and school psychologists, since it suggests that if we modify and design curricula, lessons and schools in a different way, we can enhance students' motivation to improve their academic achievement (Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002).

In the past, writing processes in schools and the motivational factors associated with them received relatively little research attention (Alamargot & Chanquoy, 2001; Kellogg, 1994). However, there has been a recent boom in research in this area due, in part, to an increased educational focus on writing through the curriculum (Elbow, 1998, 2000; Gregg & Mather, 2002; Wong, 1996). Writing ability contributes substantially to general academic success. It is important, therefore, to explore factors affecting motivation to achieve in this specific domain.

Completing a writing task involves a complex interplay among cognitive, metacognitive and emotional processes, and performance is affected by individual differences in both intellect and personality (Alamargot & Chanquoy, 2001; Butterfield & Carlson, 1994; Garcia 2000a, 2000b, 2002; Hayes 1996; Kellogg, 1994, 1996; Rijlaarsdam, van der Bergh, & Couzijn, 1996a, 1996b; Torrance & Galbraith, 1999). Cognitive processes can be further divided into those that are considered to be low level (handwriting, spelling, developing syntax) and those that might be described as high level (the conscious decision making associated with setting goals and planning and structuring content) (Berninger, 1999; Brooks, Vaughan, & Berninger 1999; Graham, 1999a, 1999b; McArthur, 1999; Wong, 1998). Because of the ways in which affective and cognitive processes interact in writing (Hayes, 1996), it is important that interventions for developing writing ability focus on strategies for developing both motivation and cognitive processes (Graham, Harris, & Larsen, 2001; Klassen, 2002a; Mayer, 2001; Wolters & Pintrich, 2001).

Students with learning disabilities experience problems with writing that are rooted in both cognitive and motivational factors (Graham & Harris, 1999; Wong, 2000). Thus, compared to nondisabled peers, students with learning disabilities tend to have a less positive self-concept, lower self-efficacy, more negative motivational pattern (Tabassam & Grainger, 2002), less emotional support, lower self-esteem, more stress (Hall, Spruill, & Webster, 2002), less tendency to assume responsibility in their learning and higher academic frustration (Anderson-Inman, 1999). They tend to have a more negative general image of themselves, with dysfunctional attributional patterns and more maladaptive academic aims (Gonzalez-Pienda et al. …

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