Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

The Effects of Self-Regulated Strategy Development on the Writing Process for High School Students with Learning Disabilities

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

The Effects of Self-Regulated Strategy Development on the Writing Process for High School Students with Learning Disabilities

Article excerpt

Abstract. Many students with learning disabilities (LD) exhibit deficiencies in the writing process. In order to achieve an adequate level of writing competence, these students must apply strategies that enable them to effectively plan, organize, write, and revise a written product. Explicit strategy instruction involving a structured style of learning has been found to increase students' writing competence (De La Paz & Graham, 1997a). The current study examined the effects of the Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) model on the writing performance of 15 high school sophomores with LD. Students were taught to apply the SRSD model as a strategy for planning and writing essays and to self-regulate their use of the strategy and the writing process. The effects of strategy instruction were examined using a repeated-measures design.

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Writing is an integral part of the curriculum in secondary schools; indeed, written expression is the primary medium students use to demonstrate conceptual knowledge and communicate their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs (Graham, 1982). Within an accountability system, students in high school are often expected to compose narrative, persuasive, and informational essays for state-and district-level assessments. Moreover, displaying a minimum level of competence on state and district exams is increasingly becoming a mandatory requirement for students to advance from grade to grade as well as graduate from high school. Unfortunately, students with learning disabilities (LD) often have difficulty developing writing skills sufficient to satisfy these crucial benchmarks.

WRITING DIFFICULTIES EXHIBITED BY STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES

Students with LD often experience difficulty when asked to plan, write, and revise an essay. In general, these students lack a basic knowledge about how to approach writing and the writing process as a whole. Scardamalia and Bereiter (1986) identified five areas of competence that are particularly problematic for students with LD when developing an essay: (a) generating content, (b) creating and organizing structure for compositions, (c) formulating goals and higher plans, (d) quickly and efficiently executing the mechanical aspects of writing, and (e) revising text and reformulating goals.

Generating content for an essay typically begins with brainstorming. During this pre-writing phase, writers take time to reflect on their topic, select an audience, and develop ideas. Skilled writing depends, in large part, on a student's ability to plan before composing during this phase. MacArthur and Graham (1987) found that students with LD do not spend much time preparing to write. Instead, they often begin writing as soon as they are given an assignment with little or no preparation. Furthermore, students with LD tend to rely on an associative technique wherein they simply write whatever comes to mind (Thomas, Englert, & Gregg, 1987). Beginning to write immediately after receiving an assignment does not allow adequate goal setting or planning--two important techniques applied by successful writers. Subsequently, students with LD appear unsure of what to do when they are given time to plan (Burtis, Bereiter, Scardamalia, & Tetroe, 1983). Many students with LD do not regard strategies in the prewriting phase as valuable tools and fail to utilize meaningful techniques to become successful writers.

Students with LD also experience difficulty when attempting to generate content and organize a structure for compositions (Graham, 1990). This problem may be attributed to their under-utilization of strategies for retrieving useful information. Thus, these students frequently view a writing assignment as a question/answer task involving little preparation. In Graham's study, for example, when students with disabilities were given an opinion essay, they simply responded by writing "yes" or "no" (to agree or disagree), followed by a few brief reasons, and ended with no concluding statement. …

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